How about Brad Mills for Manager of the Year?
If you haven’t noticed or quit paying attention in late May when the Astros were 17-34 and buried in last place in the National League Central division, the local nine has put together three solid months of baseball under manager Brad Mills and could finish .500 if they go 15-8 the rest of the way. The Astros are 49-39 since June 1.
Considering the Astros have won 13 of their past 17 games and have a favorable schedule down the stretch, finishing .500 is certainly very doable. And what an accomplishment that would be for the club, especially after ditching starters Kaz Matsui and Pedro Feliz in the first half of the season and later trading franchise icons Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt at the Trade Deadline.
Had the Astros began the season 49-39, Mills would be one of the front-runners for NL Manager of the Year. Mills should probably still get some serious attention for the award. He’s taken a team that had very little to play for after two months and has performed magic with a roster full of rookies and a few veterans who have bought into his beliefs.
Carlos Lee is playing harder than he ever has in Houston, Hunter Pence is having an MVP-caliber second half and Wandy Rodriguez has been dominant in the second half as the starting pitching has been as good as anybody, even without Oswalt. Then there’s the youngsters like Brett Wallace, Jason Castro, Tommy Manzella and Chris Johnson, who continue to grow before our very eyes.
San Diego’s Bud Black, Atlanta’s Bobby Cox and Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker are the leading candidates for Manager of the Year, and rightfully so. All three have their teams in the thick of a pennant race, and Cox will certainly get plenty of sentimental votes because it’s his final year.
But the job Mills has done shouldn’t go unnoticed and has been every bit as impressive in my book. No, the Astros aren’t going to the playoffs, but the evolution of the struggling Astros in April and May to the rock-solid club you see today is a credit to Mills and his staff.