August 2007

Shameless plug

We’ll be talking Astros and the recent developments today on XM Satellite Radio’s Solamente Pelota, on the MLB en Español channel (174) at 4 PM Central/5 PM Eastern. See you there!

ASTROS REPLACE GARNER, PURPURA

Cooper, Smith to serve as interim manager and  GM, respectively

HOUSTON, TX ? The Houston Astros announced today that the club has replaced manager Phil Garner and General Manager Tim Purpura, effective immediately.  Astros bench coach Cecil Cooper will serve as interim manager and Astros President of Baseball Operations Tal Smith will serve as interim general manager for the remainder of the 2007 season.  The announcements were made by Astros Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Drayton McLane.

The manager position will be evaluated at the end of the season, while a search for a new general manager will begin immediately.  Both Garner and Purpura?s contracts, each of which run through the 2008 season, will be honored fully.

?I feel it was time for the Houston Astros to embark upon a new direction,? said McLane.  ?The bar and standards have been raised in Houston, and our great city is now a baseball town.  With that status comes high expectations from our fans, and I felt a change was necessary to get our organization back on track toward our mission, which is to be a World Series champion.?

The 57-year-old Cooper is in his third season as the Astros bench coach, and he is the 16th manager in Astros history (including Salty Parker, who was 1-0 as interim manager in 1972).  During his career in baseball, Cooper has been an All-Star player as well as a minor league manager, coach, player development director, and player agent.  He previously served as the bench coach for Milwaukee in 2002 and spent both 2003 and 2004 as the manager of the Triple A Indianapolis club in the Brewers organization.

Cooper was named to five All-Star teams as a player and hit .298 (2192×7349) with 241 home runs and 1125 RBI in 1896 career Major League games with Boston (1971-76) and Milwaukee (1977-87).  He earned two Rawlings Gold Glove Awards at first base (1979, 80) and helped lead two clubs to the World Series (1975 Boston, 1982 Milwaukee).

The 2007 season is Smith?s 50th in the game of baseball.  He started his baseball career in the Cincinnati Reds farm department in 1958 and came to Houston in 1960 when he was named assistant to general manager Gabe Paul for the new National League expansion franchise that would become the Colt .45?s.  He was named farm director for the Colt .45?s in 1961, assistant to the president of the Houston Sports Association in 1963, and vice president and director of player personnel for the Astros in 1965, a position he held for eight seasons.

In 1973, Smith left the Astros to become the executive vice president of the New York Yankees, serving in that capacity until his return to Houston as general manager of the Astros in August 1975.  He was named president of the club in 1976, serving in that capacity until 1980.  The primary architect of the 1980 NL West
Division Champion, the first division title-winning team in franchise history, Smith returned to the organization on Nov. 22, 1994, when he was named president of the team once again.  Since 1981, he has also been the owner and operator of Tal Smith Enterprises, a firm which has provided consulting services to 26 of the 30 Major League clubs, with particular emphasis on the preparation of arbitration cases, and operational reviews.

In 1999, Smith was chosen by Baseball America as one of 25 panelists to provide an overview of baseball in the 20th century, and the publication also recognized him for his career of achievements and innovations in December of 2005 with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Winter Meetings in Dallas.

Garner, 57, led the club to a 277-252-1 (.524) record as the Astros manager from July 16, 2004 through August 26, 2007.  In 15 seasons as a Major League manager, Garner owns a 985-1,054 record (.483).  His teams advanced to the postseason twice during his tenure as Astros manager, including an NLCS appearance in 2004 and the first World Series team in franchise history in 2005.  Garner also played in the Majors for 16 seasons, including seven with Houston from 1981-87.

Purpura was the 10th general manager in franchise history and spent 14 years with the Astros organization.  He joined the team in 1994 as assistant director of minor league operations and director of player relations.  From Oct. 24, 1997 until being named general manager on Nov. 1, 2004, Purpura was the assistant general manager and the director of player development, directing the operation of the club?s player development system and its six minor league affiliates.

Garner, Purpura dismissed

Capt71a85cc532614403aa74442da4ea4902astrOne of the things we certainly noticed from the announcement we brought you earlier was that it was going to be done by Astros CEO Drayton McLane… by himself. And that’s what we got.

In a bit of a surprising move, McLane has informed us the dismissal of both Astros Manager Phil Garner and GM Tim Purpura. Cecil Cooper will be the new skipper while Smith will perform as interim General Manager.

Does this have something to do with the sad spectacle seen during the ceremony in which the Astros retired Jeff Bagwell’s number? Probably so, but the only thing it did was to push forward something which was written on the well a long time ago.

We still have time to gather our reactions and we will probably tell you about it on astrosdehouston.com. However, if one thing is certain is that Cooper, Smith and whomever comes after him will face quite a difficult outlook, with a decimated farm system, a drought of quality starting pitching and an offense which has always been at the NL cellar.

And that’s what made McLane pull the trigger. Yesterday’s fiasco just made it intolerable. Both Garner and Purpura had their share of highlights and low moments (Garner took the Astros to their first World Series, Purpura was always regarded as a talent builder) but it was time for a change.

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Media has been called for a press conference regarding a "major announcement" today at 2 PM at Minute Maid Park. We’ll tell you all about it as soon as we get details.

MEDIA ALERT
HOUSTON ASTROS TO HOLD 2:00 PM PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY (MONDAY, AUGUST 27)

            WHO: Drayton McLane, Houston Astros chairman and CEO

            WHAT: Press Conference – Major Announcement

            WHEN: TODAY

            Monday, August 27, 2007

            2:00 p.m. (CDT)

            WHERE: Press Conference Room, Minute Maid Park

            Media should enter through the media entrance on Texas Ave ? South Home Plate gate. The press conference room is located on the service level across from the home clubhouse entrance.

Encounters and farewells

Captc2e87158c36a4c4b8bd19266c0701e0apiraI know my friend Bernardo is going to laugh when he reads the title to this post. But it encapsulates what we lived today in Houston, when the Astros finally retired Jeff Bagwell’s number 5, going with this involuntary tone of nostalgia set on the 2007 season, first saying goodbye to the great first baseman, who always epitomized the best and brightest the Astros could be; and then seeing Craig Biggio calling it quits after batting his 3,000th hit.

Bagwell wasn’t quite fond of the spotlight in his playing days, and that’s why he looked a bit uncomfortable being the center of attention at Minute Maid. But it was certainly deserved nonetheless. It was the least thing that could be done for such an important career.

This is a time in which the Astros seem to come full circle, in saying farewell to Biggio and Bagwell. A new era is beginning, and this is a time at a crossroads. Times for trial and error, see some young and talented players work the kinks out and see how things could be in 2008.

Personally, I’d love to see Jason Jennings coming back from surgery in top shape. Next year, that is. If he comes back in an Astros uniform, all the better. There are plenty who would love to throw stones at him; but in all truth, he tried to do his best in such adverse circumstances. It just simply didn’t work out. Despite the fact that, personally, I thought too many chips were dealt in the Jennings trade, we knew it was a very risky gamble from Day One.