The Astros: Where Pitching Careers Go To Die

Categories: Sports
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Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher
I don't know what Cecil Cooper has against pitchers, but it's really beginning to harm the team. The Astros put Wesley Wright on the disabled list yesterday. Chris Sampson, who recently came off of the DL, is pitching as if he's still injured, and he and Cooper had a closed-door meeting the other day where Sampson expressed his displeasure at how he's been used. Doug Brocail just went back on the DL. Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt, and Mike Hampton have been battling injuries.  

Then last night, in the midst of an Astros runaway win, reliever Alberto Arias got hit in the leg by a ball. Despite Arias' delivery looking a bit troubled, and despite catcher Humberto Quintero calling Cooper out of the dugout because of the injury, Cooper let him keep pitching. Now it's true that the bullpen is kind of depleted by overuse due to the general suckiness of Hampton, Brian Moehler, and the recently departed Russ Ortiz, but that's no excuse for Cooper to keep letting an injured guy pitch.

Jim Deshaies gave a half-hearted defense of Cooper, talking about how tired the bullpen was, and how the only rested reliever was LaTroy Hawkins. But Deshaies said that Hawkins was just off of the DL and Cooper didn't want to rush him back into action.

I know JD works for the team, but that makes no sense to me. What better way for Hawkins to get in some live action work against a major league team than to actually come in and pitch to some batters in a blowout? (Note, Hawkins did eventually come in and pitch in the ninth inning.)

Jose de Jesus Ortiz writes in the Chron that the bullpen is shot and that this is all Cooper's fault. And I think that's true. Sampson has looked nothing like he did earlier in the year, when he was the most consistent pitcher on the staff. Brocail never recovered from his overuse last season. Arias has been struggling.  

And his treatment of the starting staff hasn't been much better. Cooper and Russ Ortiz did not get along. Brandon Backe essentially accused Cooper of lying to him. The whole Shaun Chacon/Ed Wade thing last year happened because Cooper was too much of a coward to deal with Chacon and left it to Wade to tell Chacon of his demotion. Roy Oswalt has made his contempt for Cooper pretty obvious over the past couple of seasons.  

Not all of this is Cooper's fault, however. Ortiz doesn't note this in his story, but part of the problem for the bullpen's overuse is the fault of Ed Wade for sticking Cooper with a rotation consisting of Hampton, Moehler, and Ortiz -- all older guys who have not gone late in a game on a consistent basis this decade. And when three-fifths of your starting rotation is being beat around a consistent basis, there's a damn good chance that the bullpen is going to be overused.

There's no real solution to the problem for this season. But at some point, Wade's got to get Cooper some decent starters -- maybe Bud Norris who won his third straight last night will become a dependable guy to go with Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez. But Cooper has also got to learn how to handle his bullpen or he's going to become known as a career-killer, and good luck to the Astros trying to pick up pitchers then.

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