The Houston Astros won’t go down as the worst team in MLB history, already beating four teams on that notorious list with a record of 39-82 deep into August. But while it isn’t exactly surprising that they’re the worst in the league, no one expected it to be this bad, despite all the changes made since Jim Crane took over.
Slash and rebuild, that was the motto. The Astros traded away pretty much everyone, slashing their opening day salary by $40 million and leaving it a league low $21.3 million, getting prospects through the deals. With that kind of material to work with, how could anyone expect Brad Mills to succeed?
But Mills got fired, nonetheless, after a 4-12 loss to the Cardinals, taking the Astros record in August to 4-12, a shy better than their abysmal July, going 3-24 over that month. They’re 28th in the majors in runs scored; They’re 26th with a batting average of .240; They’re 27th in the majors in power hitting with .374 slugging.
The pitching isn’t much better – 27th in ERA with 4.68; They’re 28th in the league in allowed batting average, with opponents hitting a .273 against them; They’re also one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to closing, ranking 28th in the MLB with only 57% when it comes to capitalizing on save opportunities.
Mills knew things were going bad – He’s been with the Astros since 2010. He began with a 76-86 in 2010, followed by a 56-106 season last year. No one expected it to get much worse than 2011, but the tailspin began during the summer and still hasn’t been stopped. Along with him being let go, the Astros sacked Mike Barnett, the hitting coach, and Bobby Meacham, the first base coach. Mills became the first manager in the majors to get fired this season.
Things really took a turn for the worst after the Carlos Lee trade, sending the first baseman to the Florida Marlins, later also sending pitchers J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez and leaving Mills with the youngest roster in the NL, and currently with only one player making $750,000 not on the DL list. The Astros have been 7-32 since the Lee trade.
No one’s saying Mills did a great job, no matter the lack of talent under his hands, but still, giving him the axe for something that probably no manager in the majors could have handled is a little rough. Jim Crane gave his first year GM Jeff Luhnow the go ahead to cut back on everything as they head into the AL next year, leaving Mills in a no-win situation. He didn’t do well as the manager, but no one really put him in a position to succeed.
What’s to be expected of the next man in the position? The Astros will set a new franchise record for their worst season ever, with last year’s 56 as the lowest win total so far. I guess reaching 44 wins, and not setting the decade low (currently belonging to the Detroit Tigers from 2003, 43 wins) will also be something.