Astros players support Clark for manager
Interim skipper will be a candidate for full-time spot in 2010
NEW YORK -- If it were up to Astros veteran first baseman Lance Berkman, interim manager Dave Clark would be back in a full-time role next year. And Berkman isn't alone in his beliefs.
Ace pitcher Roy Oswalt also wants Clark to get the managerial job in 2010, and up-and-coming outfielders Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence are behind Clark, too. Whether support in the clubhouse has an impact on hiring a full-time manager remains to be seen, but the players are convinced Clark is the right man.
"I think Dave would do a good job," Oswalt said. "He knows the game well. I think the biggest attribute is he demands a lot from the players. He sticks with what he does best, and I think he would be great for this team."
Clark, who took over when Cecil Cooper was dismissed Sept. 21, is a candidate for the job, but the Astros plan to interview others outside the organization. General manager Ed Wade has already given a preliminary list of candidates to owner Drayton McLane, and the search will begin in earnest this week now that the season is over.
"I think he's got the right type of demeanor and presence," Berkman said. "I like him. I think he would make a great choice. We'll see. I don't know who the other candidates are, but if they ask me my opinion, I would say that Dave would be a great candidate. Nobody in here would have the least bit of problem with him being the next manager."
Cooper was an unpopular figure in the clubhouse, primarily because of the lack of communication with his players. Clark, who has managed in the Minor Leagues, was in his first season as third-base coach when he was given the job with 13 games remaining. The Astros went 4-9 under Clark.
"There's an overall demeanor and overall atmosphere a manager helps create, and I don't know that you'll get a real, real accurate read on that until you get a guy in there for a full season, but certainly for the small window of opportunity he's had, he's created a good, positive attitude around here, and guys are responding well to him," Berkman said. "Even though our record is not great, guys are playing hard. I don't want to say you dread coming to the ballpark, but he definitely has a lively presence about him. That's something as a player you appreciate."
Clark, 47, said he's noticed a different atmosphere, too.
"I'm not trying to knock anything that happened before, but I did see more energy and better effort and guys running out ground balls and trying to make every play close -- really just coming out there and having fun," Clark said. "There's just a right way to play the game, that's all. It makes you look good and the organization look good. People pay money to come out and see you play, so give them what they're playing for."
Clark will make the 10-hour drive from Houston to his home in Memphis, Tenn., on Monday and wait for the Astros to make their next move. He's admitted he's had some sleepless nights, and the process of finding a full-time manager could be a lengthy one.
"I'm rooting for him," Pence said. "He's a great guy. I've played for him before [at Double-A Corpus Christi] and just really like the way he handles everyone, the way he communicates and the way he leads. He's a leader. I'm hoping he gets the job."
Bourn believes the Astros played more loosely and were more relaxed under Clark.
"Whether we're up or down, he stays the same and keeps us intense throughout the game," he said. "He hasn't forgotten how the game goes. He knows how hard the game is at times. He knows when to do little stuff and he has experience at doing it.
"He's a good man for the job. I'm not the man to make the call, but I'm pretty sure a lot of the players feel the same way. They like him and respect him and want to play for him, and that's what you want. You want somebody you want to play for. I would want to play for him any day of the week, Sunday through Sunday. Hopefully he'll be back, and we'll look forward to it if he is."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.