Free Brett Wallace
The Astros enter the All Star break with a MLB-worst record of 30-62. No team, not even the Chicago Cubs, is close to matching the team's ineptitude at this point. And if the Astros keep up this pace, they'll finish the season with a record of 53-109. (Feel free to insert your own joke about maybe it being time for Jim Crane to back out of another deal to purchase the Astros.)
Let Brett play.
And writing about this team is just getting discouraging. How many ways are there to rant about the team sucking? About Ed Wade being a doofus in over his head? There are only so many jokes to make about Carlos Lee and post-game buffets. And the joke about the Astros pitching staff being asked to pitch to the hitters in tonight's Home Run Contest is useless as of tomorrow.
There are some things that bug me which I just don't think are getting enough attention, though. And one of them really has me questioning rather Brad Mills should return next season.
It was always my thought, going into this season when it was clear the club would be sold, that the only person whose job should be safe was Mills. After all, there's only so much that can be done when managing one of the worst major league baseball squads of the past several decades. It's nice to bitch about the pitching staff, especially every time J.A. Happ trots out to the mound, but in fairness, who are the Astros supposed to replace him with? Have you seen the Oklahoma City roster?
It's not like Mills is stuck with much of a major league roster anyway. Jason Michaels? Carlos Corporan? J.R. Towles, Humberto Quintero? Happ? Bill Hall was about his best and only option at second base for over a month. There's just not much to be done with this team.
But there's the situation of Brett Wallace. Wallace is supposed to be the future of this franchise, the prize acquisition of the Roy Oswalt trade last season. But for some reason, Mills has decided that Wallace should only play when a right-hander pitches. When there's a lefty pitcher, Mills inserts Carlos Lee at first base and runs Jason Michaels out to left field.
There's some logic to this move. Wallace bats from the left side, and he's a rookie, and the thinking is that he's going to have trouble hitting lefties, so let's build his confidence while giving the team a better chance to win with a proven bat batting against the lefties. The problem with this logic is that, well, it is Jason Michaels that Brad Mills is running out there, and if Michaels is anything, a proven hitter isn't it. He's not even a mediocre hitter. And while Wallace is nowhere near the quality glove that Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman were at first base, he's still a ton (pun intended) better than Carlos Lee at the position.
Hey, Brad, you're not in Boston anymore
So the question now becomes: Why not just play Wallace fulltime? What's it going to hurt? The Astros are nowhere near contention. Hell, they're nowhere close to .500. What better time is there to find out if Wallace really is the future of the franchise? There's no pressure on Wallace to perform because he's not going to harm the team's chances for the playoffs. And there's nobody around to play first base that's better than Wallace, especially on the big league roster.
Like it or not, Mills's job isn't to get this team to contend. His job now, thanks to Ed Wade's assemblage of a roster that not even Harry Doyle could compliment, is to develop the young talent. It's not to make sure that Jason Michaels gets his bats so that he's not rusty when he comes into pinch hit. It's not his job to play Carlos Lee because Lee's making an obscene amount of money to stand around in left field. Mills is there to develop the youngsters. The primary youngster is Brett Wallace, and it doesn't appear that Mills is doing a very good job when it comes to nurturing Wallace, and if Mills can't nurture the young talent, should he have this job next season when the team might be even younger?
So come on, Mills, free Brett Wallace and let's see what he can do. What's the worst that can happen, the Astros lose a few games? How would that be any different from what's happening now?