Cooper dismissal is oddly-timed, overdue

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Why Sept. 21? Cecil Cooper is no worse of a manager now than he was on June 21 or last Oct. 21. It’s hard to imagine that he was any less popular with the players, given that, according to pretty much every report out of Houston, he lost the team months ago.
Still, the Astros made the curious decision Monday to fire Cooper and replace him with third-base coach Dave Clark on an interim basis. The team enters the final two weeks of the season having dropped seven straight games to fall to 70-79 for the season. If the Astros like Clark as a possible manager of the future, why throw him into such a messy situation now? Roy Oswalt has already been shut down due to back problems, the lineup has big holes at three positions and neither Lance Berkman nor Carlos Lee is close to firing on all cylinders. The record will likely just keep getting worse.
Clark, who, like Cooper, is African American, was in his first year on the coaching staff after three years managing the team’s Double-A affiliate and one managing the Triple-A Round Rock club. It’s been known for months that he’d be the choice to take over when Cooper was fired, assuming that it happened during the season. It’s quite likely that he’ll be stripped of the interim tag and handed the job in 2010. So why risk the blemish on his record before he even really gets started?
Cooper, though, did need to go. He still had the acceptable 171-170 record during his time with the team, but it was a tenure filled with baffling decisions. His players seemed to have little respect for him. According to a Houston Chronicle report from May, they had taken to calling him “Hugo Chavez.”
Given that Cooper was presented with teams riddled with holes and overinflated expectations these last two years, he doesn’t deserve a whole lot of blame for the Astros’ place in the standings. However, nothing is more damning to his cause than the issue that his players simply didn’t believe in him. It’s hard to imagine him landing another major league managerial position.

Buyers and Sellers at the Trade Deadline: National League Central

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Manny Machado’s trade completed, the rest of baseball can now turn its attention to the non-blue chip players on the market.

Yesterday, in our look-ahead to the second half, we mentioned some of the top players likely to be made available. Today we look at each team to see who is buying, who is selling, what they’re seeking and what they have to offer. Note: almost every contender, always, needs relief help.

As a reminder, the non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31. Players traded after that date but before August 31 need to pass through waivers unclaimed before they can be traded. All players traded before August 31 are eligible to be on their new team’s playoff roster should they make the postseason.

Next up, the National League Central:

Cubs
Status: Buyers
Wanted: They could use a lot of pitching. They could get in-house help in this regard with Yu Darvish coming back, but they have no idea what they’ll get from him at this point. You have to assume they’ll be in the conversation for any starter out there.

Brewers
Status: Buyers. They were another of the finalists on Manny Machado.
Wanted: One of the few teams who does not need bullpen help, the Brewers could really use a bat, either at short or in the outfield.

Cardinals
Staus: I have no idea
Huh?  I mean, they just fired their manager which suggests the season is kind of a loss, but they’re only four games out in the Wild Card race which suggests that, no it is not. On one, vague level they’re like the Rays, who will likely seek good deals regardless of whether they are short term or long term. On another level they’re the Cardinals, and the Cardinals are almost always in win-now mode. If a pitcher can be had, figure they’ll try to grab one.

Pirates
Status: Sellers. They finished hot in the first half and are only 5.5. back in the Wild Card, but this front office does not strike me as one that’s gonna go for broke here.
For Sale: Assuming they fall out of contention, they’ll likely accept offers for any number of veterans, including Jordy MercerDavid FreeseCorey Dickerson and Ivan Nova.

Reds
Status: Sellers, because that awful start kind of buried them, though can we tip our cap to them for the run they’ve been on of late? *tip*
For Sale: They’ve done a pretty good job of making Matt Harvey look respectable, so flipping him seems to make sense. Any number of relievers would make sense. Billy Hamilton seems like a good change-of-scenery candidate who could be a lethal weapon for a playoff contender if judiciously deployed.