Astros have a terrific manager in Mills
Any speculation that Astros manager Brad Mills is in any sort of danger of losing his job in the midst of the Astros’ ownership change is downright silly. Sure, Mills’ record in his 1 1/4 year with the Astros is 11 games under .500, but you have to step back and look at the bigger picture. You have to see what he’s had to work with as a whole.
Mills took over a team in 2010 that had an aging core and very little young talent on the way up. Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Bud Norris are still younger players on the upswing, but he had a disgruntled Roy Oswalt, a frustrated Lance Berkman, an injured Kaz Matsui and and what seems at times to be a content Carlos Lee.
As last season progressed, Mills had to blend in newcomers Jason Castro and Chris Johnson, and that was before the trades of Oswalt and Berkman. He suddenly had a new first baseman in Brett Wallace, who was suffering growing pains, and a pitching staff that had undergone some upheaval.
All the Astros did was go 59-52 to finish the season following their 17-34 start, earning Mills some much-deserved recognition in the NL Manager of the Year voting.
Astros owner Drayton McLane trimmed payroll entering this season, which led to the trading away of Matt Lindstrom from a bullpen that could use him. They signed Bill Hall on the cheap and traded for Clint Barmes with hopes of bolstering the offense, but it hasn’t happened. Mills’ young and inexperienced bullpen has been shaky, and players like Johnson and Brett Myers haven’t duplicated the success they had last year.
Is any of this on Mills? Sure, he’s the manager and plenty of responsibility falls on him, but he’s not responsible for the budget constraints that have kept him from putting a more competitive team on the field, and he’s not responsible for the lack of talent in the farm system. Given time and the proper tools, Mills has what it takes to manage a winner.
He’s a smart baseball man, has put together a terrific staff and learned under close friend Terry Francona while with the Red Sox. When Astros general manager Ed Wade fired Francona as manager of the Phillies (and Mills as first base coach), he later called it the biggest mistake of his career. Francona went on to win two World Series with the Red Sox and could be in line for a third.
Here’s hoping the Astros’ new ownership doesn’t some day look back and say the same thing about Mills.