Results tagged ‘ Phil Garner ’

Garner remembers Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner was Phil Garner’s guy. Garner didn’t all the physical tools of Willie Stargell or the stature of Dave Parker, but he had heart and determination. Much like the city of Pittsburgh itself and the manager who guided the Pirates to the 1979 World Series title.

Tanner passed away Friday following a long illness at age 82, and Garner – a member of the 1979 Pirates team – took some time to reflect on their relationship.

“I’m sad, but I am going to take Chuck Tanner’s advice. I’m going to celebrate his life,” Garner said. “Without Chuck, I’m another bench player who never made it. Chuck believed in me, and I certainly hope I had a chance to pattern my managerial career after Chuck and I hope people will say being around me they enjoyed it as much. I was just as optimistic as Chuck Tanner. That would be the highest compliment I could have.”

When Garner was managing the Astros from 2004-07, Tanner was a fixture in the visiting clubhouse before Astros games in Pittsburgh.

“He’s always come in and say hello and I always invited him to come say hello,” Garner said. “Once we got caught up, he always wanted to ask about Carol [Phil’s wife], the children and mom and dad, and then we’d get down to baseball. He was absolutely the best. You just could not find a better man.”

Garner played for Tanner with the Oakland A’s in 1976 before being traded to the Pirates in spring training 1977, reuniting him with Tanner. He was traded, along with Chris Batton and Tommy Helms, to the Pirates for Dave Giusti, Doc Medich, Doug Bair, Rick Langford, Tony Armas and Mitchell Page.

Garner hit .500 in the 1979 World Series and was a favorite of Tanner for his hard-nosed style of play, which ultimately earned him the nickname “Scrap Iron.”

“He never met a day he didn’t like,” Garner said. “His famous deal was you could get beat 15-0 in the worst conditions under the sun – snowing, sleeting and hailing – and he’d come in after the game and say it was great. He’d say, ‘Just think what else we could be doing? Nothing else is as good as playing baseball.’ We’d say, ‘Yeah, right, Chuck,’ but his attitude permeated everybody’s spirit.

“Chuck loved life every day. You know when you saw Chuck Tanner there wasn’t going to be any sourpuss. No matter what he was doing in his life, he put it aside and was happy to see you.”

As a result of winning the 2005 National League pennant, Garner got to manage the NL in the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh and named Tanner as the honorary coach of the game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. Tanner was in uniform and threw out the ceremonial first pitch, with he and Garner soaking up every moment along the way.

“It was one of those things that turned out to be better than I even thought it would,” Garner said. “I thought it would be wonderful for Chuck to be able to do that and for me to do it for Chuck. In the end, it was gratifying for both of us. We couldn’t shut him up. He was talking and telling stories and it was the absolutely best experience I could have had at the All-Star Game.”

Garner kept in touch with Tanner through the years, though he admits he became harder to reach the past few months while Tanner’s health deteriorated. But like many who came in contact with Tanner, Garner said he will never forget how great it was to play for him.

“The other thing remarkable about Chuck was his players were his guys,” Garner said. “He would end all his scouting reports – and we could be playing really good teams – and he’d say, ‘If these guys were any good, they’d be on our team.’  He always pumped guys up. He loved every player, no matter what.

“If you put on a uniform and played for Chuck Tanner, you were part of his family. Chuck loved everybody. It will show. People from all walks of life will come to pay tribute to Chuck Tanner.”

Garner still in mix

Former Astros manager Phil Garner confirmed for on Monday he’s still in the mix to be the next manager. Garner interviewed on Oct. 17 and went more than a week without hearing from the Astros, but general manager Ed Wade finally got back to him on Monday and told him he was still in the running.

Astros owner Drayton McLane said Monday as he was traveling to Temple from Austin that a manager will be in place by the end of the week, which is later than his earlier prediction of Wednesday. Still, it appears the Astros will likely have a candidate in place by Wednesday at the latest.

Garner is one of three finalists, joining interim manager Dave Clark and Boston bench coach Brad Mills. Mills and Clark were due to arrive in Houston on Monday and interview again with McLane on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Garner has not been asked in to interview again.

Astros focused on four candidates

Now the second round of interviews appear to be over — with Manny Acta and later Brad Mills making repeat trips to Minute Maid Park to meet with owner Drayton McLane — the Astros remained focused on four candidates: Acta, Mills, Phil Garner and Dave Clark.

None of these four have been rule out by the Astros, who would like to get something done before the World Series starts. Major League Baseball frowns on major team announcements taking place during the World Series, which starts Wednesday. So it’s of no surprise the Astros could try to get something done before the Fall Classic.

Acta, the former Washington Nationals manager, is also a finalist in Cleveland, which could complicate matters. Mills is the veteran Boston bench coach who is looking for his first job managing in the Major Leagues. Garner and Clark are well-known to Astros fans, both having managed the team.

Garner managed the Astros for more than three years and led them to the World Series in 2005, and Clark was named interim manager when Cecil Cooper was dismissed Sept. 21. The Astros have ruled out neither of the four candidates.

Who would you pick to manage the Astros?

All the interviews and public press conferences are finished, and we know the Astros’ next manager will be one of 10 people. Some have extensive experience in the Majors, some have extensive experience in the Minors and all bring something different to the table.

The Astros were open with the first round of interviews, but now things change. Club officials are taking the search underground, with the next public announcement likely to be the hiring of a manager. GM Ed Wade has set no timetable and MLB doesn’t like announcements to coming during the World Series, so we might have to wait until November to find out who the manager is going to be.

No matter who the Astros pick, don’t expect a quick fix next year. The bottom line is it’s a broken roster that will take a few years to correct. There are too many older players — and  maybe even declining older players — making the lion’s share of the money without many young players coming up. That will change in a few years, but a new manager isn’t going to fix that.

What a new manager can fix is clubhouse chemistry. He can get everyone on the same page. He can get rid of the losing air that took over the clubhouse last year and get the Astros playing inspired baseball again. Let’s be honest. The final two months of the season, every Astros game was the same. They were down by five or six runs early and they’d hit into about three double plays. It was tough to watch.

I wasn’t in the interview room with Wade, president of baseball operations Tal Smith or assistant GMs Ricky Bennett, David Gottfried and Bobby Heck, so I don’t pretend to know how the interviews went or what they thought of certain guys. I can only tell you what I learned from my research about each guys’ background and what I heard in the 10 minutes I spent with the each candidate.

The Astros are definitely looking for a manager with experience, and I think we’re going to see one with Major League experience. After all, they want a manager who will relate well with younger and older players, and I think you need an experienced MLB manager to deal with star players. So I’ve broken down the candidates into three groups. The leaders, the contenders and the long shots.

Again, this is in no way indicative of what the front office is thinking, but it’s what I think. And sometimes I get things right. Now I want to know what you think. Who should be managing the Astros in 2010 from this group?


Bob Melvin: The Astros have to love the fact he managed veteran players to 93 wins in Seattle and a younger Arizona team to the NLCS in 2007. He seems to be the exactly what the Astros want.  

Manny Acta: No one in the group seemed to have as much knowledge about the Astros than Acta, who was signed by Houston at 16 and spent 16 years in the organization as a player, coach and manager. He’s young, bilingual and this would be his dream job. 

Phil Garner: The fact that Garner, the former Astros manager, even got an interview leads me to believe he’s a serious candidate. If anyone can rally a team and fire them up, it’s Garner. He’s been there, done that. Whether that helps remains to be seen. 

Ned Yost: He took a struggling Milwaukee franchise and led them to the playoffs as they got younger and better. Sure, he was fired at the end of the 2008 season, but that was his team in the playoffs.


Pete Mackanin: The lasting image I took from Mackanin was him walking off the podium after the interview shocked at how few members of the media there were in attendance. But he has tons of experience doing different things and was highly recommended.

Dave Clark: No one would be shocked if the Astros hired Clark, who got the endorsement of the players after his 13 days as interim manager at the end of the season. But I see him staying on the staff and getting another look during the next go-round. 

Brad Mills: Who doesn’t like Brad Mills? He has a great personality and has tons of experience as a Minor League manager and as a coach in the Majors. He spent six years working under Terry Francona, a person Ed Wade respects mightily.


Tim Bogar: Bogar is still young and up-and-coming, which could hurt his chances here. I think he’s going to make a good manager someday, but the experience handling star players just isn’t there.

Randy Ready: I just can’t see the Astros hiring someone with so much lack of experience at the Major League level when they have so many other experienced candidates. His time will come eventually. 

Al Pedrique: The Astros’ Minor League field coordinator knows the organization well, but will players listen to him?  


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.”


Get to know Phil Garner and Pete Mackanin

Six Astros managerial candidates have interviewed and there are four left, beginning with former Astros manager Phil Garner and bench coach Pete Mackanin today at Minute Maid Park. He’s a closer look at each one of those men:

     Phil Garner
     Age: 60
     Hometown: Jefferson City, Tenn.
     College: Tennessee.
     Most recent job: Manager of the Astros
     Previous Major League managing experience: Garner managed for more than 14 years in the Majors, spending eight seasons in Milwaukee (1992-1999) and two full seasons in Detroit (2000-01) before being dismissed six games into 2002 season. He took over the Astros at the All-Star break in 2004 and led them to the NLCS and a year later to the World Series. He was let go with 31 games left in the 2007 season and has been out of baseball since.
     Major League managing record: 985-1,054.
     Minor League managing experience: None.
     Minor League managing record: None.
     Playing experience: Spent 16 seasons in the Major Leagues with Oakland, Pittsburgh, Houston, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco and hit .260 with 109 homers and 738 RBIs in 1,860 games. He helped Pittsburgh to the 1979 World Series title by hitting .500 in the World Series.  He played with the Astros from 1981-87 and appeared in more games with the Astros than he did with any other team.
    Did you know: Garner became a candidate after calling Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith to recommend Bob Melvin for the job?
     What GM Ed Wade said: “I’ve known Phil since we crossed paths in 1981 when I went to the Pirates and he was there. I’ve been a big fan from afar in Detroit and then here his record speaks for itself. He’s a tremendous candidate.”

     Pete Mackanin
     Age: 58
     Hometown: Chicago.
     College: Illinois.
     Most recent job: Currently the bench coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.
     Previous Major League managing experience: Has been interim manager twice, with Pittsburgh in 2005 and Cincinnati in 2007. He went 12-14 in the final 26 games with the Pirates in ’05 and 41-39 in the second half of the season two years later with the Reds, who had the worst record in the Majors when Mackanin took over.
     Major League managing record: 53-53.
     Minor League managing experience: Managed in the Minor Leagues for 13 seasons and won championships in 1995 (Ottawa of the International League), 2002 (Lynchburg of the Carolina League) and 1990 (Nashville, Eastern Division championship of the American Association). Mackanin has also managed in Venezuela League, Dominican winter league and Puerto Rican winter league. He also has seven years of Major League coaching experience with Pittsburgh and Montreal.
     Minor League managing record: 917-849.
     Playing experience: Played for nine years as an infielder in the Major Leagues with Texas (1973-74), Montreal (1975-77), Philadelphia (1978-79) and Montreal (1980-81). He hit .226 with 30 homers and 141 RBIs in 548 career games.
      Did you know: Mackanin has been succeeded twice by Jim Tracy as a manager, with Class A Peoria in 1986 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006? He succeeded Tracy as manager at Triple-A Ottawa in 1995.
     What GM Ed Wade said: “Pete served as interim manager it Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and had great results taking over in Cincinnati. I talked to Wayne Krivsky, who as the GM [in Cincinnati] at the time, and he was a really big advocate of Pete’s. He has managing experience in winter, extensively in the Minor Leagues and on two Major League club. He has a great personality and a good sense of humor.”

How Garner became a candidate

Upon hearing the Astros were in search of a full-time manager with plenty of experience, Phil Garner last week called president of baseball operations Tal Smith to give an endorsement of Bob Melvin, who had coached under Garner in Milwaukee.

Before Garner could even mention Melvin’s name, he became a candidate himself.

“All of sudden on the caller ID it showed Phil Garner was calling and I picked up and said, ‘Are you a candidate?'” Smith said. “I was being facetious. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t mind it, but it’s up to you guys.'”

And that’s how Garner, one of most popular managers in team history and the only one to lead the Astros to the World Series, found himself back in the mix to return to the team that dismissed him with a month remaining in the 2007 season.