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Drayton Mclane knew mills’ job would be impossible


Last updated 8/22/2012 at Noon

Manny Acta must be thanking his lucky stars today that he said no three years ago when Houston Astros’ owner Drayton McLane, Jr. asked if he would manage his baseball team. Acta politely refused McLane’s offer to become the manager of the Cleveland Indians, a job he still holds today.

Consequently McLane’s second choice was Brad Mills, who had served six years and had a hand in winning two World Series as the bench coach of the Boston Red Sox.

Mills managed 10 years in the minor leagues before becoming Terry Francona’s first base coach with Philadelphia in 1997. The two played together in college and again with the Montreal Expos.

It wasn’t long after Mills left Boston for Houston that the Red Sox hit a slippery slope and his buddy Francona was let go by the Fenway Park hierarchy.

At 11:01 p.m. Saturday night after a horrendous 12-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the same thing happened to Mills as he was told by new general manager Jeff Luhnow that his services were no longer needed at Minute Maid Park in Houston and he became the first manager to get the axe this season.

However, because newspaper deadlines and the 10 o’clock news were over, this news was kept quiet—even from the 25 Houston Astros players—until Sunday morning when Luhnow called a press conference to announce that Mills was out and that Triple-A Oklahoma City manager Tony DeFrancesco would be the interim manager for the remainder of the season.

Actually it makes a lot of sense to bring in a minor league manager because a majority of the roster played for De Francesco at some point the last two seasons.

Mills didn’t have a chance from the get-go to be successful in Houston. McLane had been trying to dump the team for the past five years and he had a hot prospective buyer about the time he replaced Astros manager Cecil Cooper with Mills.

But one of the stipulations Jim Crane insisted on before agreeing to buy the Astros was that the payroll be pared from the $100 million vicinity to about one-fourth that number.

McLane’s first move before Mills could even utilize a competitive major league-caliber team was to get rid of ace pitcher Roy Oswalt and slugger Lance Berkman.

His general manager Ed Wade still had connections with his old team so Oswalt was gladly scooped up by the Philadelphia Phillies for a couple of minor league prospects. Berkman was dealt to the Yankees, again for minor leaguers.

Last year the same thing happened as McLane instructed Wade to trade outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourne. Again Wade dealt his pals in Philly Pence and sent Bourne to Atlanta for—you guessed it—more minor leaguers.

Mills never showed his frustration at losing all that offensive punch from the Astros’ lineup over the two trade periods. He merely utilized the players Wade chose for the 25-man roster.

The sale of the Houston Astros by McLane to Crane was submitted to Major League Baseball for final approval. It took longer than usual and Commissioner Bud Selig told Crane he would lower the selling price to $615 million if he agreed to play in the American League beginning in 2013.

Crane jumped at the offer to the dismay of the long-standing, dyed-in-wool Astros fans who love the National League and know most of the players who show up at Minute Maid Park to compete against their Astros.

And while this deal was being closed, Mills’ watered-down team was losing games at a horrendous pace and finished 2011 with the worst record in the majors. But Mills was rewarded with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft.

One of Crane’s first moves for 2012 was to fire Wade and bring in Luhnow with marching orders to get rid of the remainder of the high-dollar players.

As the July 31 trading deadline approached, Luhnow sent Carlos Lee and his $18 million contract to Miami and then in rapid-fire order he dumped pitchers J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Brett Myers and ace Wandy Rodriguez and wrapped up the month by sending promising third baseman Chris Johnson to Arizona.

According to an article in Sunday’s New York Daily News, the Astros slashed almost $40 million from their opening-day roster and left Mills to win with a remaining payroll of just $21.3 million, which was just a bit more than the Astros were paying Carlos Lee. Houston obtained 15 minor league prospects, with 10 being pitchers.

The remaining Astros’ players, after hearing about Mills’ firing, felt bad that they weren’t able to play well enough for their manager to keep his job. Also dismissed from their jobs were first base coach Bobby Meacham and hitting coach Mike Barnett, who were replaced on an interim basis by Dan Radison and Ty Van Burkleo, respectively, both from Oklahoma City.

The 49-year-old DeFrancesco was an All-American catcher at Seton Hall and when he was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the ninth round of the 1984 draft, he was replaced behind the plate at Seton Hall by a young freshman named Craig Biggio.

DeFrancesco has managed more than 2,300 minor league games in his 17 seasons and has been at Oklahoma City since 2011. His only major league coaching experience came when he was Oakland’s third base coach in 2008. He caught for nine seasons in the minor leagues, appeared in 567 games, but never advanced past Triple-A.

DeFrancesco should have the inside track for being named as the permanent manager of the Houston Astros after the season ends. After all, what major league manager in his right mind wants to compete in the majors with a minor league team???

KWICKIES…It is really surprising to this Korner that the 2012 West Orange-Stark Mustang football team is NOT found anywhere in the Associated Press’ top 20 preseason rankings. Since dropping down to Class 3A, the Mustangs have never missed making the state playoffs and have won the district championship in every year but one. And this season they have seven starters returning on their Chain Gang Defense and four on offense. If Nederland could vote, it’s a sure bet they’d have the Mustangs in the state poll after being stymied by the defense in Friday night’s 14-7 Mustangs scrimmage victory.

The Seattle Seahawks secondary was voted the best unit at the end of training camp after the team upped their exhibition record to 2-0 with a 30-10 victory over the Denver Broncos Saturday night. The four players named included 2011 Pro Bowl starter Earl Thomas of Orange, strong safety Kam Chancellor, cornerback Brandon Browner and cornerback Richard Sherman.

The Pittsburgh Pirates scored three runs in the top of the 19th inning to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 Sunday in the longest game of the season in innings and tied the longest game in time (6:07). The winning pitcher was former Astros ace Wandy Rodriguez, who was scheduled to start Monday’s game but instead pitched the last two innings of relief.

For the second week in a row, 5-5 special teams’ standout Trindon Holliday ran back a punt 87 yards for a touchdown that helped the Houston Texans defeat the tough San Francisco 49ers 20-9 Saturday night to the delight of 71,196 fans at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Holliday had a 90-yard return for a TD in last week’s win over the Carolina Panthers. The great defensive effort that stymied the 49ers needs to be as good or better in Saturday’s 7 p.m. exhibition game against the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome that will be televised on CBS.

The Dallas Cowboys’ first unit did a good job at San Diego against the Chargers Saturday night, whipping their first unit 13-7. However the Bolts scored 21 unanswered points against the Cowboy reserves and downed Dallas 28-20.

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter hit his 250th home run last weekend joining Willie Mays as the only players in major league history with 3,000 hits, 250 homers, 300 steals and 1,200 RBIs.

San Antonio, the representative from the Lone Star State in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., had little trouble advancing past Indiana Sunday 13-3 to remain undefeated.

JUST BETWEEN US…There hasn’t been much progress made at this writing in the labor dispute between the National Football League and its game officials.

NFL vice president Ray Anderson said the league has offered raises of 5 to 11 percent which have been turned down by the refs.

The league is headed into its third week of the exhibition season using replacement officials, most of whom are college officials including the first female ref, and another from the Lingerie Football League, whatever that is.

“At this point it’s very likely replacement officials will start the regular season,” Anderson said.

The two sides are roughly $2.2 million apart for the 2012 season and $16.5 million over five years.

The referees point out that the NFL is a $9.3 billion industry.

And there have been several gaffes made by the replacement officials so far this exhibition season.


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