By Daniel Sardinha – 3/11/2010
Brad Mills has a major league challenge ahead of him. The former Red Sox bench coach was named the Houston Astros manager in October. He will be asked to take the Astros back to October baseball and that will not be any easy task.
Last year, the Astros had their worst division finish since 1991. If that does not seem like too long ago consider this. In 1991 George H. W. Bush was president, the Soviet Union officially dissolved and the Hall of Fame voted to ban Pete Rose for life. History aside, for Mills to get the team back on track, it comes down to two simple things.
“I think the pressure’s there to do your best and do what I can and have the players play to their capabilities, ” Mills said.
One of the players Mills will count on most is first baseman Lance Berkman. By most players standards Berkman had a good year with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs. But compared to his 2008 campaign it was a disappointing season. If Mills is going to reach his goal of a post season berth, he’ll need Berkman and other veterans to play at the highest level.
“They’re a veteran for a reason. It’s because they’ve been able to put up numbers in the past. They’ve been good players over a period of time. So anytime you have guys like that you hope they pass that along to the other guys,” said Mills.
Berkman is 34 years old and is entering the last year of his contract and believes that a good year could keep him in Houston for the rest of his career. The Texas native would love to stay with the team because he believes his new manager’s intensity and passion could make a big difference this season.
“He has a winning pedigree. He’s been a part of some championship teams in Boston,” Berkman said. “He’s a high energy guy, a guy that sets a great tone and you’ve got to have that in a managers office. So far he’s gotten A pluses across in the board.”
But as Mills would be quick to admit, pluses in spring training will not be enough to get the Astros back to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Although many expect him to be a carbon copy of his friend and Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Mills reminds people that not everything translates from one club to another.
“I’d be remissed if I didn’t do a lot of the things that they (Boston) do and bring some things over. This is a different franchise some things are different. Plus some things that Terry did might not work out here,” said Mills.
Mills will not have too long to prove that he can manage a big league club. He gets a shot at his first managerial win on opening day when the Astros host the San Francisco Giants on April 5.