Cooper voices travel concerns to Selig
Frustrated manager understands Commissioner's decision
MILWAUKEE -- Astros manager Cecil Cooper has a long-standing friendship with Commissioner Bud Selig that goes back 30 years when Selig, then the owner of the Brewers, traded for Cooper, who rose to stardom and became one of the best players in Milwaukee club history.
Because he feels comfortable speaking candidly with his old boss, Cooper didn't dance around the subject or mask his displeasure when he called Selig on Monday morning to talk about the events surrounding Hurricane Ike and the decision-making process that ultimately brought the Astros and Cubs to Miller Park.
"I just talked to him," Cooper said. "I told him how frustrated I was at the situation. I understand the things he had to deal with and go through. A lot of factors were involved that people don't understand. He and I talked it through, and he explained his situation and where he came from and the things he had to do. It makes a little more sense when you think about it. But I'm still not happy about it."
Apparently, Selig isn't happy, either.
"He didn't [explain his side] in a nice, easy, kind way, either, but he did it," Cooper said with a chuckle. "He explained it. He took time to explain it to me. I'm glad he did."
The Astros were unhappy -- furious, even -- that their "home" series with the Cubs was moved 90 miles north of Chicago to Milwaukee, where more than 23,000 Cubs fans packed Miller Park to cheer on the only team that could be considered truly "home" on Sunday.
Selig and Astros owner Drayton McLane have been roundly criticized for a myriad of decisions made in the past several days, including ruling out a more fair venue, even if it meant taking a chance on an open-air ballpark such as Turner Field in Atlanta or Dolphin Stadium in Miami. McLane was also criticized for his unwillingness to find a neutral site on Thursday and flying the team out before the hurricane hit. The perception is that McLane would not budge with his insistence that the games be played at Minute Maid Park.
For his part, Selig said playing in a ballpark without a roof was never an option. Because not all domed stadiums were available Sunday and Monday, the Commissioner felt he was left with few, if any, options other than Miller Park. "Minnesota was out because there was a football game there," Selig told MLB.com. "Take my word for it, because of weather and occupancy of domes, there was no other places available. We had to make sure we got these games in."
McLane acknowledged rejecting the idea to fly out Thursday, but said he made that call out of respect for the players. "I immediately said we weren't going to do that, because it's not right to ask the players to leave their family, their home," McLane said. "And when the hurricane was on the way, at that time, it was aimed dead center for Galveston and Houston. That certainly was brought up by Baseball, and when I rejected it, the Commissioner agreed."
Selig classified his talk with Cooper as a "very constructive conversation. I told him that there were no alternatives. That we had ruled them all out."
Travel was one of the Astros' key issues. The Astros spent the day traveling on Sunday before meeting the Cubs for a night game, while the Cubs drove to Miller Park in buses and had a much less-taxing experience traveling to the venue. The Astros deemed that as another unfair advantage. Cooper expressed all of his concerns to the Commissioner, who reciprocated with his views.
Said Cooper: "He wasn't happy. He's getting a lot of heat from a lot of different places, and understandably so. I think he expected that. I'm sure all this is frustrating for him."
That said, Cooper didn't soften his stance.
"He understands my frustration," Cooper said. "I told him, 'That's the last you're going to hear about it from me.' Today is the last time I talk about all that.
"We have a relationship that goes back a long time, with a lot of mutual respect. We always speak candidly and are open with one another, and it will always remain that way. We agreed to disagree, and we'll part as friends."
The Astros' decision to wear their road uniforms had nothing to do with a protest over where these games were played. The Astros travel with their road grays, and rather than go through the inconvenience of packing up an entirely different set of uniforms, they stuck with what they normally use.
The Astros also opted to occupy the visitors' clubhouse at Miller Park. That was solely for comfort reasons. They're in Milwaukee three times a year for regular-season meetings with the Brewers and are familiar with the surroundings. The players also cited the exemplary work of clubhouse manger Phil Rozewicz and his staff as a reason for wanting to stay put.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.