Garner asks for second shot in Houston
Former Astros skipper promises to re-energize club
HOUSTON -- Standing at the same podium where he stood hundreds of times during his three-plus years as manager of the Astros, Phil Garner made a compelling case before the media about why he should get an unprecedented second chance to manage in Houston.
Garner, who was let go in 2007 less than two years after leading the team to its only World Series berth, several times referred to the Astros as "we" as he spoke about the club's apparent lack of chemistry last season and what he would try to do to fix it.
"I think there's some things that need to be done with this ballclub, and for whatever reason I don't think it's where it should be," Garner said. "I think there's going to need to be a tough hand applied, and I think I'm very capable of doing that. I know I can, and I think the players will respect that and will appreciate we need to be on a different path if we're going to get back to where we need to be."
The Astros dismissed Garner with 31 games remaining in the 2007 season when the club was 58-73. He was replaced by bench coach Cecil Cooper, who was let go with 13 games left this season. Houston has not made the playoffs since Garner led them to the National League Championship Series in 2004 and the World Series in 2005.
Garner and Philadelphia Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin interviewed with the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday. Houston will conclude the first round of interviews on Monday by bringing in Boston Red Sox coaches Tim Bogar and Brad Mills.
"It's exciting," Garner said. "You probably have noticed that in my voice this week. I was with some friends last night and the guy said, 'Are you going to do this again?' I said, 'Well, I'm going to give it my best shot.' He said, 'Well, I noticed when I met you after you retired you were a little bit wound up. I've noticed how you sort of have kind of relaxed over the last couple years, and now you're winding up again.' I said, 'Well, that's because it's a lot of fun.'
"This is energizing and exciting and I'm happy and grateful to be one of these 10 [candidates]. There are nine other people that are very well-qualified, and I think it's an interesting group. I think they're going to make some good choices."
Mackanin, 58, flew to Houston for an interview on an off-day in between Games 2 and 3 of Philadelphia's National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He brings a wealth of experience, having managed at every level in the Minor Leagues, as well as interim stints as manager in Pittsburgh (2005) and Cincinnati (2007). Mackanin has also managed in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico and has served as a scout.
A full-time managerial job would complete his resume.
"Other than the fact it would be my first managing stint taking a [Major League] team from the get-go, the fact is the Houston Astros have a very good team right now," Mackanin said. "I think we need a few ingredients and this team will become very competitive. When we played them at the end of the season this year, I liked what I saw. I liked the energy the guys played with. Like any team, you need one or two ingredients to put them over the top."
Garner, 60, managed for eight seasons in Milwaukee (1992-99) and was dismissed six games into his third season in Detroit in 2002. The Astros hired him at the All-Star break in 2004, and he led them to a stunning second-half charge and a playoff berth.
"I feel like No. 1, we can talk about experience and been there, done that," he said. "I can talk about a knowledge of the organization, the people that are in the organization. I think there's a measure of importance to that. I feel re-energized, and I always bring an energy to a ballclub.
"But I think at this point, after being out a little over two years, I'm re-energized and I think that's important to bring a can-do attitude to a ballclub and I can bring that. I'm always upbeat. You guys know that I can see a lot of good things even in a storm. That I can bring to the table: baseball experience and knowledge."
Garner said he has no bad feelings about being dismissed two years ago, and the fact that the Astros have granted him an interview indicates the feeling is mutual. He became a candidate when he called president of baseball operations Tal Smith to endorse former D-backs manager Bob Melvin, who interviewed Friday.
"If you go back and look at that time, it was probably the right thing to do," Garner said of being let go in 2007. "I don't see any problems with that, so put that in its proper prospective. There's a different scenario now. Given my past experience and what I've done in baseball and how I fit into the picture, maybe it's a good fit, so that's how I decided to put my name in the hat to see if maybe there's a fit here.
"I don't think what happened in '07 is going to have anything to do with this. It doesn't for me. I can't speak for [owner] Drayton [McLane], but I'm pretty sure it doesn't. And I didn't sense that was an issue [Saturday] either."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.