Mills Gets the Guillotine

It took over four months, but the Houston Astros have thrown out the first manager of the year. They fired Brad Mills and two of his coaches–batting coach Mike Barnett, first base coach Bobby Meacham—Saturday, after losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 12-4.

Mills’ overall record managing the team designated as the team to be named later in the deal that sent the Milwaukee Brewers to the National League: 171-273. That includes 56-106 in 2011, the worst single-season record since the Astros entered the National League (as the Colt .45s) in 1962. He became the full-time manager starting in 2010, after Cecil Cooper (canned after the ‘Stros were 70-79) and Dave Clark (a 4-9 finish) managed the club in 2009.

Prior to that, Mills was the Boston Red Sox’s bench coach, including for both their World Series triumphs in 2004 and 2007.

General manager Jeff Luhnow—who announced Saturday’s executions in an e-mail around the organisation—is expected to name an interim manager and other coaches Sunday.

Did Mills take the Astros’ job with two strikes against him to begin with? Houston Chronicle writer Zachary Levine thinks it’s possible, in decent portion because of the Astros’ non-waiver trade deadline activities:

The fall guy?

Mills was arguably given the worst set of circumstances of any manager in Astros history—even the first—and of any manager in 2012. All three of his years saw a massive teardown of his roster in July as key pieces of that year’s team were shipped off for prospects.

In the bigger picture, he was hired by an owner on his way out the door in Drayton McLane and later worked through the biggest upheaval the club had ever seen.

Each of his year at the trade deadline, his best players were traded away, whether Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt in 2010, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence in 2011 or a host of talent including six big leaguers this year.

Through the struggles, he was as optimistic a public face as could be for the Astros’ rebuilding.

“I tried to do the best job I could,” Mills said in a brief conversation Saturday night.

There were criticisms, whether some aspects of bullpen management or smallball, but in the big picture, the losing in the organization largely took place at a level above him.

He wasn’t always the sharpest bullpen manipulator, and he often made dubious in-game tactical decisions otherwise, but Mills just might have been a decent manager in an impossible situation, a situation which enough Astros fans might liken to the Mad Hatter’s tea party . . . except that, at least, the Mad Hatter did have some tea now and then.

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