Saturday, October 17, 2009
Astros interview ex-manager Garner
HOUSTON -- Phil Garner didn't need to bring a resume to his interview with the Houston Astros on Saturday.
He just wore his National League championship ring.
Garner met with the Astros to talk about becoming their next manager, just over two years after the franchise fired him. His successor, Cecil Cooper, was fired on Sept. 21, two weeks before Houston finished the season 74-88.
Garner didn't intend to chase his old job. He got an interview after calling president of baseball operations Tal Smith to put in a recommendation for former Arizona manager Bob Melvin, who interviewed for the job on Friday. Melvin previously worked as Garner's bench coach.
Smith told Garner that he could be a candidate if he wanted to be, and Garner said he was interested. He said he never harbored ill will toward the team after he was fired in August 2007.
"When you go back and look at that time, it was probably the right thing to do," he said. "This is a different scenario now. That's why I decided to put my name in the hat and see if there's a fit here.
"I don't think what happened in '07 is going to have anything to do with this."
Garner only had to flash the garnet and gold ring on his finger to remind the Astros of what he accomplished before things turned sour.
Houston made its only World Series appearance under Garner in 2005, when Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte anchored the pitching staff.
Garner took over the Astros in the middle of the previous season, after Jimy Williams was fired. Houston went 48-26 the rest of the way, earned the NL wild card and pushed St. Louis to seven games in the NL championship series.
The Astros won their second straight wild-card berth in 2005 before they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
"It has worked before, and maybe it can work again," Garner said. "We've gone there as an organization and I was a part of that. I'm proud of that."
Houston went 82-80 in 2006, finishing 1½ games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central, then slumped in 2007, after Clemens and Pettitte departed. The Astros were 58-73 when Garner and general manager Tim Purpura were fired.
Garner said the team needs another fresh start.
"So many times in baseball, we're so resistant to change," he said. "It's hard to get ballclubs to turn and go in a direction. But this is a good opportunity to get the ballclub turned philosophically, and then you've got to apply it on the field."
Garner hasn't spoken to Cooper about what went wrong last season. From a distance, Garner said the Astros seemed to lose sight of team goals.
"We all have our opinions from the outside looking in. That doesn't mean I'm right," he said. "You sensed a little bit of no team camaraderie, not certainly like you would like to have. Were we lacking in a team effort? It looked like that, at times. Those things need to be addressed."
Garner managed Milwaukee from 1992 to 1999 and Detroit from 2000 to 2002. He has a 985-1,054 record as a major league manager, including 277-252 with the Astros.
After two years out of baseball, Garner said he's re-energized by the chance to manage again.
"There's going to need to be a tough hand applied and I think I'm capable of doing that," he said. "I know I can, and I think the players will respect that. I think they'll appreciate that we need to get on a different path to get back to where we need to be."
Philadelphia Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin met with the Astros later Saturday. Boston Red Sox coaches Brad Mills and Tim Bogar were due to meet with the team on Monday.