Q and A with Astros managerial candidate Phil Garner

The Astros will interview their final two managerial candidates on Monday when Boston Red Sox coaches Tim Bogar and Brad Mills visit Minute Maid Park. They will be the ninth and 10th men to interview for the job that became vacant when Cecil Cooper was dismissed on Sept. 21. One of the most popular candidates if former Astros manager Phil Garner, who was dismissed late in the 2007 season and replaced by Cooper.

Garner was let go less than two years from leading the Astros to their only World Series berth. He interviewed with the Astros on Saturday and met with the media afterwards. Here’s the transcripe of Garner’s question-and-answer session with the media:

Q: How did the interview go Friday?
A:  “It was enjoyable. You guys know that I’ve known Ed [Wade] for a number of years, but I’ve never know him in this capacity. It was important and I think vital to get an opportunity to see how he feels about the relationship between a manager and a GM and how the manager fits in the organization and his view of the ballclub and what their plans are and where they want to go and how they want to get there. It’s important for me to get to say that to him, too. It was a good starting process.”

Q: What is it like being in the mix in a manager search?
A: “It’s exciting. You probably have noticed in my voice this week. I was with some friends [Friday] night and the guy said, ‘Are you going to do this again?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m going to give it by best shot.’ He said, ‘Well, I noticed when I met you after you retired you were a little bit wound up. I’ve noticed how you sort of have kind of relaxed over the last couple years, and now you’re winding up again.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s because it’s a lot of fun.’ This is energizing and exciting and I’m happy and grateful to be one of these 10. There are nine other people that are very well qualified and I think it’s an interesting group. I think they’re going to make some good choices.”

Q: Do you think Drayton McLane’s and Tal Smith’s opinion about you has changed in two years?
A:  “Drayton was not in this process, so I’ve no conversations with Drayton other than to see him here at the ballpark a few times to chat wit him. First and foremost, being fired, there’s nothing wrong with that. It happens in baseball a lot. I did not have any ill feelings I do know I’ve made changes when the club is not going right and in ’07 things weren’t going right. You have to do things to shake up the ballclub. I don’t think Drayton had ill feelings towards me. He was looking at the ballclub, so sometimes you have to take your individual feelings out of this and get over those things. We’re looking at what’s right for the ballclub. If you go back and look at that time, it was probably the right thing to do. I don’t see any problems with that, so put that in its proper prospective. There’s a different scenario now. Given my past experience and what all I’ve done in baseball and how I fit into the picture, maybe it’s a good fit, so that’s how I decided to put my name in the hat to see if maybe there’s a fit here. I don’t think that what happened in ’07 is going to have anything to do with this. It doesn’t for me. I can’t speak for Drayton, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. And I didn’t sense that was an issue [Saturday] either.”

Q: Some Astros players like Doug Brocail and Lance Berkman have praised you recently. How does that make you feel?
A:: “I think the world of those guys and obviously both of those guys we had a great deal of success, and they were a big part of that. I’m grateful for players that say good things, but I’m also grateful for good players, too. Those are two good players. It does make you feel good when players say good things about you.”

Q: What do you think you could bring as a manager if you got another chance?
A: “I feel like No. 1, we can talk about experience and been there, done that. I can talk about a knowledge of the organization, the people that are in the organization. I think there’s a measure of importance to that. I feel re-energized, I always bring an energy to a ballclub. But I think at this point after being out a little over two years, I’m re-energized and I think that’s important to bring a can-do attitude to a ballclub and I can bring that. I’m always upbeat. You guys know that I can see a lot of good things even in a storm. That I can bring to the table: baseball experience and knowledge. I think there’s some things that need to be done with this ballclub and for whatever reason I don’t think it’s where it should be. I think there’s going to need to be a tough hand applied, and I think I’m very capable of doing that. I know I can and I think the players will respect that and will appreciate we need to be on a different path if we’re going to get back to where we need to be.”

Q: Have you talked much about the job with fellow candidate Bob Melvin, who’ s a close friend?
A: “Most people how this came about, but I’ll say it again. Bob called me last week and said he thought he was going to get an interview here and could I give him some insight on the organization and the city and if I would be so inclined to call on his behalf. Of course, I’m delighted to speak on Bob’s behalf. I think that he’s a terrific manager, he’s a great guy if you get to know him. Players love him. If you talk to anybody that’s ever played for him, they’re going to love him. He’ll do a fabulous job. I still would recommend Bob Melvin for the job. We spoke about that, but I called Tal [Smith] on his behalf. I actually called Wade first and Wade was in a meeting and I called Tal and I’m sure Tal probably saw my name pop up on his phone because the way he answered the phone, he said, ‘Hey, are you a candidate?’ That kind of stunned me a little bit. Every time there’s an opening in baseball you always think about it – Washington and Cleveland. I thought for a few minutes about those situations even though it doesn’t go anywhere. So when the opening occurred here I thought about it for a while and didn’t let it go any further than just thinking about it. When Tal said that, it all clicks back. I said, ‘Of course, if you guys think I’m a candidate, I’m a candidate’ and we dropped it at that. We continued the conversation by talking about all of Bo’s good points and why I thought he should be under consideration for this job, and Tal called me back the next day and asked if I would be interested in putting my name in the hat and feel comfortable going through the vetting process like everybody else. I’m comfortable with that and said I would. That’s how I got here. Bo and I had talked about the ballclub. I had spoken on his behalf to the ballclub and even as I think of things I think might be an advantage to him I would call him and pass those onto him.”

Q: How did this year’s Astros team compare to the ’07 team?
A: “We weren’t playing well in ’07 and I think any time your club is playing poorly it’s hard to determine if the club’s better than you’re actually playing or it’s about what you have. And so, I’ll have to leave it up to the people that are evaluating and some p the personnel they’ve watched closer than I have the last couple of years. You can always use a year like the Astros have gone through as a good bounce-off point. You can go to all players, key player son your ballclub and you can say, ‘How’d that work for you?’ So whatever it is that was going on it hasn’t worked too well. It’s a good time to promote change a good time to say ‘Hey, you’ve got to get back to some of the things you know work and some of the things you think are important for a ballclub.’ I think it’s a good opportunity right now to approach those things. Certainly you would start that in the winter, but when you go into Spring Training it’s a great opportunity to say what we were doing wasn’t working so we have to do things differently. I say it that way because so many times in baseball we’re so resistant to change. You guys know how that is. It’s hard to get ballclubs to turn and go in a direction. But this is a good opportunity to go in a direction philosophically and then you have to apply it to the field.”

Q: Billy Martin had five different stints as manager of the Yankees. Could you be the Billy Martin of the Astros?
A: “Was it five times he was fired? I don’t want to go through five firings, but I wouldn’t mind a couple of firings. That would be alright. It has worked before and maybe it could work begin.”

Q: Did you have your World Series ring inside your resume?
A: “That’s one thing that we’ve gone there as an organization and I was part of that and I’m proud of that.”

Q: Have you talked recently with Cecil Cooper?
A: “I have not talked to Cecil yet. As a matter of course, I usually wait when things like this happen to good friends, but I will give him a call. I want to check with him and see how he’s doing.”

Q: How has going for the same job affected your relationship with close friend Bob Melvin?
A:  “That’s baseball, that’s what I would say. This is a most unusual sport in the sense that you could have guys that are working for you for a while and you might end up working for them for one stretch. It’s a totally unusual situation. We’re very close. We became close when we were working together in Milwaukee. I watched him grow as a coach and as a manger and become a very good manager. I have the greatest deal of respect for him. From my standpoint, it has not strained us. I will have to admit it was a little unusual phone call to tell him, ‘Hey Bo, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is I spoke to Tal and he says you are going to get an interview and they think very highly of you and the bad news is I’m going to interview also.’ That was strange, but it’s the way things happen in this game sometimes.”

Q: Bob Melvin was fired this year just two years removed from being NL Manager of the year, and you were fired two years removed from going to the World Series. What do you think of that?
A: “That’s what happens. I don’t quibble wit that. That’s the way it’s happened. I can only refer to what I’ve done in terms of what’s happening on the field. When things aren’t going the way you want to you make changes. You change the lineup or try to set some people down. You try to make a trade sometimes. The same thong goes for the personnel and when it’s not going the way you want you, you make changes.”

Q: What did you see in the Astros last season?
A: ” It is tough when you’re hometown team is not playing to what you think they’re capabilities are. And I say that, but you never really know until you’re with these guys on a daily basis what you think a guy’s capable of. We all have our opinions on the outside looking in. That doesn’t mean I’m right about that, but we all have our opinions on it. At times, I thought there were a couple of things said [in the media] from my standpoint as a coach or a manager, I would have though it’s better to keep those things in the clubhouse. That would be one thing. Were we lacking in a team effort? It looked like that at times. I think those things need to be addressed. I don’t know if that was a fault of anybody, but that’s the way it appeared to me. I think those are the things that would need to be addressed. We need to get back to the team concept. Baseball is unusual from the fact of individuals play to get it done, but you need a team effort and you need to get where you’re going. It appeared to me at times we weren’t really sure we were playing for a team, for a single goal.”


1 Comment

Should have asked: “How do you feel you’ve changed your strategy as a manager. It’s no secret that you were terrible at managing the pitching staff and basically flew by the seat of your pants while making in-game decisions. Have you decided to be a bit more intelligent with your moves, or do you plan to do things the old and foolish way you did before?”

I’ll never forget hearing Garner say one time that he played someone because he thought he was “due.” Ugh. Can we PLEASE have an INTELLIGENT manager for once? PLEASE?

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