Before the season began,
Cooper's dismissal is not surprising but it is instructive, just another example of the hot-coal walk that is managing in the big leagues. Even if you make it across to the other side, you're bound to get burned, and Cooper was. Burned by a poorly constructed team that never had a real chance to compete in its division. Burned by financial limitations that kept the Astros from being a player in the free-agent market. And burned, most significantly, by a clubhouse that included several players, it's been reported, who either didn't respect him or his decisions as a manger.
It is this last factor that may have been Cooper's ultimate demise. According to a report on Monday in the
Had the Astros been winning, such instances might have been overlooked. But aside from a two-week stretch in July that saw them pull within a game of first in the NL Central, they were never a serious threat to reach the playoffs. After peaking at 50-46 on July 24, they've amassed the second-worst record in the National League, going just 20-33 while their season slipped away. Without clubhouse support and without a winning record to take some of the heat off him, it was only a matter of time before Cooper's tenure as Astros manager came to an end.
To be sure, this was not an easy situation for any manager to be in, especially one as unseasoned as he was. Cooper inherited an underwhelming team late in the 2007 season upon the dismissal of then-manager
If Cooper was not necessarily a great fit, neither was this team. The Astros are old and it shows. They have only two position players younger than 29, and when veterans like
Their payroll is north of $100 million, but they don't have much to show for it. They spent less than $8 million total on five free agents last winter, and the biggest names added were
This year's manager couldn't get a team this ill-fitting to win in 2009. It's doubtful anybody will be able to any time soon, either.