July 14, 2004
Say goodnight, Jimy

Looks like the era of Jimyball is ending.

Astros manager Jimy Williams and his coaching staff will learn their fates at 1 p.m. today with former Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers manager Phil Garner set to become the franchise's 14th manager.

The Astros have scheduled a news conference at 1 p.m. today to make it official.

"I just got fired," hitting coach Harry Spilman said this morning.

As reported by the Chronicle last week, Astros owner Drayton McLane reiterated Tuesday he will decide Williams' fate in a meeting today.

"After we get in the office, we'll all talk," McLane said. "But I have two (meetings) before that."

After McLane signed premier pitchers Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens this winter, the Astros entered the season with more excitement than anybody involved with the club could remember. The starting lineup also returned intact, but the Astros are fifth in the National League Central, 10 1/2 games behind the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.

I'm no fan of Jimy's - I was rooting for the Stros to promote Tony Pena from their New Orleans affiliate after they ditched Larry Dierker - and I agree with all of Jimy's critics at Baseball Prospectus that his quirks - Orlando Merced over Jason Lane, Geoff Blum over Morgan Ensberg, his obsession with the sacrifice, various weird pitching decisions - at best did not help and at worst actively hurt the Stros' playoff chances during his tenure. Getting rid of him was a necessary first step.

That said, I'm not thrilled with a retread like Phil Garner. He probably won't be any worse, but I sure don't remember him as being a creative thinker while he managed Milwaukee. Maybe he's learned, I don't know, but this feels like a sop to me.

And to be honest, for all of Jimy's eccentricities, the Astros' problem is as much one of roster construction as anything. They're too dependent on players in the decline phase of their career, and unless they take a truly critical view of their assets and liabilities, they're going to be in a real world of hurt next year. For a team that whines constantly about cash flow, they need to be a lot smarter about how they use their limited resources.

Rafe says this:

I consider the midseason firing of the manager to be the ultimate acknowledgement of failure, not just of the team on the field but of the team's entire strategy for winning.

He's right, but in this case at least, better now than never. It's up to Drayton McLane and Gerry Hunsicker from here.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 14, 2004 to Baseball | TrackBack

The reason McLane hired Garner is that he considers Garner to be a drill instructor/in-the-player's face-type manager. I doubt Garner's the answer to Houston's problems.

I'd suggest the Astros have some serious team chemistry issues.

Posted by: Jadegold on July 14, 2004 1:35 PM

Jimy needed to go, as did the staff (particularly the hitting coach, as there's NO excuse for this team, with this lineup, to score as infrequently as they have). But yes, as to be expected, it's the usual get-some-retread-with-experience approach to finding a new skipper.

There's usually a reason why these retreads have been fired two or three times. Jack McKeon's success last year with the Fish was an anomaly as far as retread managers go, and my fear is that it will embolden GMs and coaches to go get that "experience" (even if the experience was bad).

Posted by: Tim on July 14, 2004 2:14 PM

I'm thankful that Jimy's is out. I always got the impression he did things (substitutions, pitching changes, sacrafices, etc.) in an effort to show you just how smart he was and just how dumb you were. But Jimy and Harry Spilman look pretty foolish now that Hildago has refound his stroke as a Met due in part to a coach tip from Don Baylor.

Phil Garner may not have been my first choice but he'll do. He's fiesty guy who played hard and doesn't try to be too cute.

And I would disagree with Rafe. The firing of a manager alone does not suggest that the entire strategy for winning is wrong. It may be that management feels they are one clubhouse change away from being a contender. I would use the Florida Marlins as an example. They switched managers in the middle of last season, brought in a guy with a different style and went on to win the World Series.

Posted by: Patrick on July 14, 2004 2:29 PM