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Jason Stark Rips Uncle Drayton

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by RedRaiderRocket, Aug 28, 2007.

  1. RedRaiderRocket

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    I have always liked Stark as a writer, thought what he said was interesting.
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    Owner needs to let new hires do their jobs

    It was only a matter of time before somebody got tossed overboard by the sinking ship the 2007 Houston Astros have become.


    And that was so clear to one and all, you can bet your commemorative Jeff Bagwell tee-shirt that Tim Purpura and Phil Garner sure hadn't made any non-refundable deposits on their spring training condo rentals for 2008.

    Nevertheless, what exactly was the owner, Drayton McLane, trying to accomplish by canning both his manager and his GM on the same day with just a few weeks left in a lost season?

    Since buying the Astros in 1993, Drayton McLane has become known as a meddlesome owner.
    "To do the manager and general manager on the same day? I can't remember anything like it," said one NL executive Monday. "Not in this kind of setting, with this kind of timing."

    Actually, Garner was part of another in-season manager/GM axing just five years ago in Detroit. (Randy Smith -- who, coincidentally enough, happens to be the son of the Astros' new interim GM, Tal Smith -- was the GM portion of that tandem.)

    But that firing took place six games into the season, after the Tigers had installed Dave Dombrowski atop his GM seat on the flow chart. So it was already imminent, and the season still had 5½ months to play out.

    This firing, on the other hand, went down 131 games into a season that can't possibly be salvaged. Not by Tal Smith and the new interim manager, Cecil Cooper. Not by John McGraw and Branch Rickey. Not by anyone or anything.

    So what was the point of doing this now?

    Obviously, McLane's always-turbulent emotions bubbled over this weekend, when the Astros tumbled and stumbled past the Pirates into last place in the NL Central.

    Obviously, the owner's listening skills improved dramatically when Purpura got booed lustily during Sunday's ceremonies to retire Jeff Bagwell's hallowed No. 5.

    And obviously, these Astros need dramatic changes. They advertise that need with every addition they make to their ever-growing loss column.

    But when McLane marched to the podium Monday and spoke of the need for better leadership and new ideas, he forgot to mention that he'd be well-served to take his own advice.

    Why? Because he has done nothing lately to disprove the notion that he is as tough to work for as any owner in baseball.

    Yes, he cares. And yes, he aims high. Yep, he's always around. And yep, he has spent lots and lots of dollars in the name of winning.

    But his last GM, Gerry Hunsicker, up and quit three years ago because he'd had enough of McLane's meddling in the baseball side of the operation. And so little has changed since that day that it's difficult to evaluate Purpura's reign as GM, because we'll never know how many decisions were really made by the general manager.

    We do know it was the owner's doing, not the GM's, that the Astros weren't allowed to sign their top two draft picks this year -- because it was the owner who was determined to please his good friend, Bud Selig, and not pay "above slot."

    So if that's the philosophy, you lose the right to point fingers at the GM when the farm system starts to thin out. Don't you?

    And when McLane talks, as recently as Monday afternoon, about the "great club" he thought the Astros had put together this year, did he have any memory whatsoever of the desperate pleas from his baseball people all winter to give them a few million more bucks to fill out the rotation, the bullpen and the bench?

    We applaud McLane for allowing Purpura to sign Carlos Lee to a $100 million contract. But what was the good of that -- if the owner then handed the GM only another $10 million to plug every other hole on the roster?

    Nevertheless, Purpura made a number of debatable player-evaluation decisions that led him right to the unemployment line. And he can't pin them on the owner.

    Forcing Andy Pettitte out the door this winter doesn't appear to be all the GM's doing. But following that up with a trade of Jason Hirsch, Taylor Buchholz and Willy Taveras for Jason Jennings has turned out to be an official disaster.

    Other GMs have also second-guessed Purpura's work before the trading deadline. He had a potential stable of Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, Dan Wheeler, Mark Loretta and Mike Lamb to deal. The only trade he eventually made was Wheeler for Ty Wigginton. And the jury is still deliberating on that one.

    Purpura's major free-agent signings -- Lee and that Roger Clemens guy -- worked out great. But unlike Hunsicker, who did stellar work combing the bargain bins, Purpura mostly swung and missed on the likes of Preston Wilson, Woody Williams, John Franco, Rick White and The Artist Formerly Known as Richard Hidalgo.

    So was there plenty of reason for McLane to fire Tim Purpura? Of course. But if the working conditions don't change for the next GM -- whether it's Randy Smith or David Forst or Walt Jocketty, or even Bagwell himself -- we wish the new guy luck trying to fulfill McLane's mission of winning the World Series.

    Garner, meanwhile, is a man who is eminently familiar with what it feels like to be fired. This was his third trip to that guillotine -- every one of them in midseason.

    He was a genius in 2004, when he took over in July and rode a 36-10 finish to the brink of the World Series. He was a magician in 2005, when he turned around a 15-30 start and finally made it to the World Series, for the first time in the history of the Astros franchise.


    Drayton [McLane] can point fingers at Phil [Garner] if he wants. But he was given that club, and that's just not a championship club. ... I don't know anybody but the owner who thought it was.
    --Anonymous baseball man

    But two years later, he was a scapegoat for a team that was 15 games under .500 -- and just 140-153 over the last two seasons. Thanks for everything, Phil. Now get outa here.

    "Drayton can point fingers at Phil if he wants," said one baseball man Monday. "But he was given that club, and that's just not a championship club. That's the bottom line. I don't know anybody but the owner who thought it was."

    It was that owner who was going to make Garner walk the plank in five weeks, anyway. So McLane decided Monday to let him take that stroll immediately.

    "I wanted to get to know Cecil Cooper better," said McLane. "It's an opportunity for Cecil to show us his leadership."

    But Cooper has long been viewed as the heir apparent. So unless he royally screws up what McLane called those "important 31 games left," it would be a surprise if he isn't invited back.

    Cooper is a bright guy, with terrific people skills. But he also is a fellow who has managed just two minor league seasons (combined record: 130-156). So who knows if he's the next Bobby Cox or the next Lum Harris?

    What we do know about the Astros is this: Drayton McLane created the monster that led two very capable baseball men -- not to mention two wonderful human beings -- to the gallows Monday. So if he sincerely wants to inject more "invigoration" and better leadership into this organization he cares so much about, then firing his manager and GM isn't the only change he should be prepared to make.

    This time, he should try hiring good people and actually letting them do their jobs.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=2993768
     
  2. geeimsobored

    geeimsobored Contributing Member

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    So basically McClane is complicit in all of this and deserves much of the blame.

    What else is new?
     
  3. BigM

    BigM Contributing Member

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    i'm fine, even happy, with both the firings, but i do worry about drayton's continuous involvement in the baseball side of things. if he's ultimately the gm himself then it doesn't matter who his puppet is. he needs to turn this thing over to someone who has complete control but can work within a budget. or he needs to sell.
     
  4. ThePrivate

    ThePrivate Member

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    I don't put to much stock what starks has to say, he is the same person who said nolan ryan is the most overrated pitcher of all time!
     
  5. dskillz

    dskillz Contributing Member

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    Under Drayton's ownership, the Astros went from playing in front of 12,000 a night at the Astrodome to playing in front of a packed Minute Maid Park. To blame Drayton for Tim's failings is BS. Garner was getting heat around Houston even during the World Series season because of his weird decisions. Stark is doing what most ESPN columnists do, try to get attention as not to be seen as "just one of those ESPN guys".
     
  6. RIET

    RIET Contributing Member

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    I predict about 5 pages defending Drayton as the greatest owner in Houston history.

    "....But he's light years ahead of John McMullen"......
     
  7. RIET

    RIET Contributing Member

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    It's started.
     
  8. H-Town Info

    H-Town Info Member

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    drayton has done a good job turning this city into a baseball town now. I think that you can blame 90% on Poopura giving some crap to work with for Garner. I wouldn't had mind keeping the Garner but Poopura had to go. He had 2 years to shape up the team after the world series run but he sat on players that weren't producing at all (lane, iceberg, everett, Jennings).
     
  9. msn

    msn Member

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    He is the greatest owner in Houston history.

    Purpura was failing as a GM--in two and a half years, the team was worse, the farm was worse--the whole organization was worse. Garner was failing as a manager.

    But Stark has a point. McLane has much room--and need--for improvement. I don't pretend to know the inner workings of the situation, but with all the commentary from all sides (not just fans) that McLane has a Jones-esque smothering presence on his baseball people, there must be some fire where that smoke is coming from. And the Astros won't be able to return to form in this condition--much like the Cowpokes can't seem to get back to their former glory.
     
  10. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    The whole thing is up to Drayton.

    He can easily hire another lackey who he won't allow to give big money to draft picks, won't allow to make a big signing unless he's a GOB (good ol boy), or accepting a discount, and he'll be involved in every trade, every promotion, and every aspect of the club like he always has been (thereby eliminating any GM candidate, with an established track record, from seeking employment here).

    Or, he can take a page from Jerry Jones, take a step back, and see what an outside/established influence can do for the team. Gerry Hunsicker had some of that when he first came here (after Drayton's initial signings of Drabek-Swindell backfired on him, and soured him on FA spending till the 2000's)... but ever since the Jeff Kent signing, Drayton has become more and more involved again (every Biggio re-signing, the Berkman-Oswalt extentions, the decision to let go of Kent, the Pettite-Clemens signings, the Troy Patton signing, the Drew Stubbs not-singning, etc.)
     
  11. macalu

    macalu Contributing Member

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    i wonder if the boos were the last straw.

    anyhow, i'm glad both are gone just not too happy about how it went down. here's to NO Randy Smith!
     
  12. Blake

    Blake Contributing Member

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    Yeah, Drayton has been a great owner IMHO. He has helped to keep us in the upper rung of the NL for a decade, but he does need to step back and let baseball people run the ship (if the allegations of his constant meddling are indeed true)

    The only thing that concerns me is that he really might believe that this club is only a piece or two away from truly contending
     
  13. Major

    Major Member

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    Here's an interesting snippet from Sportsline (more at the link, but it's basically the same as above):

    http://www.sportsline.com/columns/weblogs/entry/10276693


    The second part of it -- the delusional thinking that the way this Astros team was set up was good enough to win even an eminently mediocre NL Central -- should make Houston fans afraid, very afraid.

    By not making it an either-or deal, by firing both Purpura and Garner, McLane obviously thinks this Astros team has underperformed badly.

    If he didn't think it was a very good club to begin with, then you fire the GM and hang onto the manager who salvaged the wreckage from the Jimy Williams years and maneuvered the Astros to within one game of the World Series in 2004 and followed that up by leading the Astros to their first-ever World Series appearance in '05.

    If he thought it was good enough to win but didn't, then you hang onto the GM and can the manager.
     
  14. Nero

    Nero Member

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    It's funny to see all the Drayton apologists keep sticking to their guns.

    McLane is the equivalent of a used-car salesman. He is always trying to 'fool' the fans into coming to the ballpark to watch his sub-par product and overpay astronomical prices for snack bar crap that is about a half-step up from what you would be served in prison.

    Aren't there any more rich oil billionaires in Houston who want to own a baseball team?

    What are the Top Ten Best Drayton Moves as owner of the Astros? Seriously. ARE there even ten? (And I would have to define 'best moves' as moves made which were designed specifically to help this team win a World Series, and not first and foremost to line Daryton's own pockets.)

    Anyone?
     
  15. Major

    Major Member

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    That's an interesting argument, except it falls apart in that over the past 10-12 years, the Astros haven't been a subpar product very much at all. In fact, they have one of the best records in the NL over that period (behind only Atlanta, I believe).

    People aren't being fooled into coming to the ballpark. The come because they have a good time and generally have gotten to see a fun, winning team.
     
  16. Blake

    Blake Contributing Member

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    Signing Carlos Lee
    Signing Roger Clemens
    Signing Andy Pettite
    Signing Jeff Kent
    Berkman Extension
    Oswalt Extension
    Trading for Randy Johnson
    Trading for Carlos Beltran
    Not getting pissed when Timmy P didn't make any 05 trades
    Pushing for a new stadium


    There's 10 things right there. If he is so hands on, then he had a part in all of them
     
  17. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

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    Drayton's stewardship has been mixed. If he could let his BB people work essentially independently then the crowds he built may be rewarded with The Big W.
     
  18. Major

    Major Member

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    For starters:

    Clemens
    Pettitte
    Beltran
    Randy Johnson
    Alou
    Kent

    Outside of Alou, that's all in the past 5 years or so - 5 major moves that were huge pluses for this team in 5 years. Outside of the Yankees and maybe Red Sox, can you name any other team that brought in that many impact players over that period?
     
  19. NJRocket

    NJRocket Contributing Member

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    Well....given that all these "baseball" guys and anonymous GMs/executives around the league are saying the same thing...which is that Drayton doesn't understand baseball and wont let his GMs do what they need to do....its obvious that they know something...whether or not anyone on here is willing to admit it.

    Bottom line is that if he doesnt let the next GM do his job the way it needs to be done....then we will end up hating whoever that is within a couple years as well.

    I dont blame Purpura as much as I blame Drayton here.
     
  20. NJRocket

    NJRocket Contributing Member

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    Impact players meaning "stars" who didnt help you win a world series and were, for the most part, not resigned due to monetary issues??

    Braves, Orioles, Dodgers, Cards, Cubs, BlueJays...
     

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