Astros coaches put in tough position
Decisions ahead as staff makeover expected in offseason
HOUSTON -- The final 10 games of the regular season figure to be rather excruciating for the Astros' coaches, who were informed by general manager Ed Wade on Monday they were free to pursue other opportunities in case they weren't asked back for 2010.
The Astros are beginning a search for a full-time manager after they dismissed Cecil Cooper on Monday and named third-base coach Dave Clark interim manager, and Wade wants to give the new manager a chance to bring in his own coaching staff.
That leaves bench coach Ed Romero, hitting coach Sean Berry, pitching coach Dewey Robinson, first-base coach Jose Cruz and bullpen coach Mark Bailey in a difficult spot. Do they look for new jobs at season's end? Or do they wait until a new manager is named, knowing nothing is guaranteed?
Wade said the Astros might not have a manager in place until November.
"It's a tough time for us, because of the uncertainty," Berry said. "It's a tough time on your families and stuff like that. That's the worst part about this game."
The coaches are on one-year contracts that expire at the end of October. Cruz is the senior member of the coaching staff, having served as first-base coach for 13 seasons. The franchise icon figures to be likely to return, considering his popularity among Astros fans.
Still, Cruz, 62, is taking nothing for granted and made it clear he has no interest in managing the team.
"I'm going to wait just like everybody else and see what happens," he said. "I've been here 13 years [as a coach]. This is a tough job, and I'm just happy doing what I'm doing, coaching the outfielders and coaching first base."
Robinson, 53, is in his second year as pitching coach and 13th in the Astros' organization. He spent two years as director of pitching development and also has served as a professional and amateur scout. He joined the organization in 1997 after 10 seasons in the White Sox system.
"I guess it's just part of the business," Robinson said. "There are rewards for having a job like this. It's very rewarding, but at the same time, you know it can be very temporary, so you just try to take the good with the bad. All I'm trying to do is get my name out there in case I don't come back, so that I do land on my feet. I've got to pay bills.
"I hope I get a chance to come back, but I also understand the uncertainty of things where the manager should have the right to hire his own pitching coach and hitting coach, because those are very important positions. I'm very thankful to Ed and [president of baseball operations] Tal [Smith] and Coop for giving me a chance in his position."
Berry, 43, is in his fourth season as hitting coach after taking over on July 12, 2006. A veteran of 11 Major League seasons, including three with the Astros, he spent 2005 and the first half of the '06 season as the club's Minor League hitting coordinator.
"This is a pressure cooker up here," Berry said. "That's the unfortunate thing. You work to get to the top and over the years, there's probably been some warranted and some unwarranted decisions that are made, but that's the nature of the business. The problem is there are so few jobs. It's one of the tough things."
Berry, who underwent surgery for kidney cancer earlier this year, would like to return to the Astros.
"I grew up with some of these kids that are now men, from Hunter [Pence] to all these guys, really," he said. "I would rather stay here the rest of my career, but that's tough to do. There are few situations in baseball where it happens, and those are some of the most successful situations."
Bailey, 47, has been bullpen catcher for eight seasons and has been with the organization for 11 years and has spanned four managers. Romero, 51, is in his first year as bench coach after being hired by Cooper, his former teammate with the Milwaukee Brewers.
"We just have to hang in there and see what happens," Romero said. "They told us we have to wait, so we have to wait. Hopefully all the coaches, if not some of the coaches, will have a chance to come back."
The only thing that's for sure is nothing is certain.
"I'm glad my wife has a full-time job," said Robinson, whose wife, Cindy, is a nurse in Sarasota, Fla.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.