Results tagged ‘ Dave Clark ’
In the 13 years I’ve been around the Houston Astros, I cannot remember a coach ever getting a contract that extended beyond a one-year deal. I checked with a couple of people who have been here a lot longer than me — Bill Brown and Greg Lucas, to name two — and they, too, could not recall any instances from the past where a coach was granted a multi-year deal.
Even Ed Wade, who has hired plenty of managers and coaches over the years as the general manager for the Phillies and Astros, can’t remember an entire coaching staff being offered two-year contract extensions at one time. In other words, multi-year deals for coaches are saved for a very select group and don’t happen very often. That the Astros handed out five such extensions in one day speaks volumes about the job the staff has done this year and the continuity the club is creating as it attempts to separate itself from a playoff drought that is now going on five years.
Five extensions were awarded, but the Astros are hoping to add a sixth. The decision rests solely with Jeff Bagwell, who was offered the same two-year extension as his colleagues but is still undecided on whether he wants to continue as the hitting coach. He’s still torn between the job and his family, and while he has enjoyed his time in his current role, I’d still put his odds of returning next year at no greater than 50-50.
Wade is hoping Bagwell takes the extension but understands there’s a chance he won’t. When Bagwell took the job in July, he gave no false pretenses — this was absolutely an interim position, a trial period of sorts where Bagwell would find out if a) he was good at the job and b) wanted to make this a more permanent gig.
“You have to be all in,” Wade said. “This isn’t a job where you can dabble.”
And that’s the sticking point. Either Bagwell commits a minimum of 7 1/2 months (8 1/2 if the Astros make the playoffs) of his calendar year to the Astros, or he commits 12 months to his kids, ages nine and seven. He won’t let this linger through the winter, and I would expect a decision to come within a couple weeks of the season’s end.
I was sincerely glad to hear that the rest of the coaches were given such generous extensions. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you might recall me talking a few weeks ago about what an eye-opening experience it’s been to watch this group work this year. It’s not that the Astros haven’t had good coaches in the past — they have — and maybe it’s because I’m simply paying more attention to this group this year, but I can’t remember a staff that was quite this on the ball and dedicated, both with their time and their knowledge.
After the coaching shakeup last winter, I said that the Astros took the field 162 times in 2009 and rarely were they the most prepared team on the field.
This season has been a complete 180. The Astros certainly didn’t win every game — heck, they didn’t even win most of their games. But as far as scouring scouting reports and spray charts, watching video and being completely prepared for any and all scenarios that might come down the pike during a game, these coaches were always two steps ahead. Good for them.
The extensions of the coaches naturally prompts the question, “What about Brad Mills?” Mills is signed through 2011 with an option for ’12, and I would look for the option to be picked up soon after the season ends. Wade said he’ll sit down with Mills and discuss the manager’s “situation,” but this is all a formality. There is no way Mills will have to start next season waiting for the option to be picked up, and it wouldn’t shock me if he was extended far beyond ’12 in the very near future. Said Wade: “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve hired my last manager.” (And no, that doesn’t mean Wade is going anywhere, save the snarky responses.)
Keeping the coaching staff intact through ’12 at the very minimum is all part of the grand plan to create continuity, which contributes to an organizational flow that affects every level, from the big leagues to the lowest levels of the Minors. Mills’ first order of business as soon as the season ends is to go to Florida to watch the Astros prospects in Instructional League, in an effort to familiarize himself with the younger talent coming through the system.
It’s important for Mills to be able to manage the 25 players he has at any given time on the big league level, but it’s also extremely helpful to be familiar with the kids coming up through the system. Soon, he’ll have those players in Spring Training, including many who will be sent to Minor League camp but will eventually appear at the big league level. This all goes back to continuity — having one group of leaders, all on the same proverbial page, teaching one overall organizational philosophy.
When Fred Nelson, the new farm director, and Dick Scott, the club’s Minor League Field Coordinator, search for the club’s next Triple-A and Double-A managers, they will stress the importance (especially at the Triple-A level) of creating the same atmosphere in the Minors so that the transition to the big leagues will be as seamless as possible.
Winning teams are built from the ground up, and the Astros certainly appear to be preparing for long-term health, from top to bottom. In April and May, the Astros appeared to be years away from being legitimate contenders. Their second-half turnaround suggests that a winning season could happen sooner than we thought. Creating stability at the very top, in the leadership positions, is a good place to set the foundation.
Enough preaching. Picture time:
This clipboard that hangs on the cage during batting practice and spells out who’s hitting in what group and who is the designated BP pitcher.
When you see players gathered in the dugout before BP talking amongst themselves, there’s a pretty good chance they’re talking about fantasy football. The more animated players are usually the ones faring the best in the standings.
Catching up with Brian Esposito, Jason Castro.
Humberto Quintero, Michael Bourn.
From the photo vault…
We take you back to 2001, when the Astros clinched the NL Central division on the final day of the season in St. Louis.
First up: Octavio Dotel and Jose Cruz, with Moises Alou peeking over in the background.
Also, that same night…third baseman Chris Truby and shortstop Adam Everett, both in the very, very, very early stages of their careers.
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Every Friday through Spring Training, we ran a feature called “Touching Base” in an effort to let the fans get to know the Major League coaching staff, from the four newcomers to the two returnees.
Coaches duties extend far beyond what you see them do on a field once the game starts, and we hope this gives you a little insight into what they do from day to day.
We end the six-week series with third base coach Dave Clark.
They say the best way to age 10 years in half that time is to a) be the President of the United States or b) be a Major League Baseball manager.
But you can probably add one more to the list: third base coach.
They hear the boos, the cheers, the jeers, the suggestions (“Squeeze! Send him! Hold him!”) and the constructive criticism (“you stink!”). It’s a thankless job, where you’re pretty much darned if you do, darned if you don’t.
Such is life for Dave Clark, who chuckles at the reactions he sometimes sparks from the fans sitting on the third base side of the field.
“You hear all kinds of things,” Clark laughed. “You either love that third base coach or you hate him. Most of the time, people hate me, hate them, hate that guy.”
(Quick commentary: I’m of the opinion that every fan of every team experiences at least two of the following three sentiments, and often, all three, multiple times in a single season: 1) they want their GM fired; 2) they think their third base coach is the worst third base coach in the history of baseball; 3) they think their team is the very worst of the 30 teams at scoring from third with less than two outs. It’s pretty much universal).
Clark prides himself on being aggressive with his baserunners but also tries to be conservative in the right situations. With only a few seconds to make what can be a key decision between winning and losing a game, a third base coach has no time to mull over the “what ifs.” They do that after the game, and sometimes several times through the night.
“Heck yea,” he said, asked if certain decisions kept him up at night. “There were a few times last year I’d see a play in my head, I’d go to bed, I’d wake up with the same play. It goes over and over in my head, Did I make the right decision? Most of the time, I think I did.”
Coaching third base is Clark’s most visible duty, but it’s not his only one. Behind the scenes, Clark is in charge of positioning the outfielders and making sure they’re ready for any and all conditions that they’ll come across over the course of a season.
“Fly balls, ground balls, sun balls,” Clark said. “There are so many little things people don’t realize and don’t see that we have to work on. We try to hit every area there is: the wind, the sun, the playing surfaces. We go into every series knowing how hard the outfield is, if it’s fast, if it’s slow.”
Clark is entering his second season as the Astros’ third base coach, although he left that post briefly in September of last year to manage the club in the wake of Cecil Cooper’s dismissal. Prior to joining the Major League club, Clark spent six seasons as a Minor League manager from 2003-08, winning two league titles while twice being named Manager of the Year. As a player, he was an outfielder, patrolling both right field and left field for 13 years.
Teams assign duties to their coaches depending on their areas of expertise, which is why it made sense for the third base coach to be in charge of outfielders this year. In the past, Jose Cruz, himself a former left fielder, oversaw the outfielders in addition to serving as first base coach.
Defensive alignment is one of the coaching staff’s most important jobs, but from a public standpoint, Clark realizes he’ll be judged by one thing only: waving the runners home.
“I love being aggressive,” Clark said. “There are certain times in a game that you have to be aggressive. There are certain times when you have to be conservative. And that’s just from being around the game long enough to know.”
As for the hecklers behind third base…
“They’re out there, having fun, paying money to watch the game,” Clark said, adding with a laugh, “but they could cool off on me a little bit.”
Just the facts: Dave Clark
Born: Tupelo, MS
Resides: Collierville, TN
Drafted: First round by the Cleveland Indians, 1983.
Major League debut: September 3, 1986
Final game: September 27, 1998
Little known facts: He was inducted into the Jackson State Sports Hall of Fame in November of 2000, joining the likes of Walter Payton, Jackie Slater and Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd; his brother, Louis, played seven years in the NFL with Seattle and Green Bay; He was 26-0 as a Golden Gloves boxer while in high school.
The clubhouse was a little livelier than usual Wednesday morning, probably because it was the last day of workouts before the Grapefruit League games begin. It’s not that players get overly excited about Spring Training games — in fact, after about 15 of those they’ll be itching to get finished with the schedule and start playing some “meaningful” baseball. But after nearly two weeks of throwing side sessions, taking batting practice, practicing pickoffs, rundowns, pop flies, plays at the plate and hitting the cutoff man, it’s probably not a stretch to assume the players are ready to mix things up a bit.
Manager Brad Mills posted his lineup for the Astros-Nationals game on Thursday:
I’ve already had some questions about the decision to catch J.R. Towles and use Jason Castro as the DH, but I wouldn’t read too much into it. Mills said that most of the DH playing time will go to the catchers, which will allow for Humberto Quintero, Towles and Castro to continue to receive at-bats even when they’re not behind the plate. Considering the starting catcher position is wide open this spring, that’s a sound move.
Lance Berkman’s bruised left knee is feeling better, but the first baseman won’t play in Thursday’s game and his status for Friday is still TBD. Mills said he’s waiting to see if Berkman can DH for that game in Lakeland, or if he can play his position. Mills has Towles on the radar to DH, while Quintero will DH during the “B” game in Lakeland. Felipe Paulino, a sixth candidate for a starting position, is slated to start that game.
The clubhouse wasn’t the only lively place Wednesday morning. The coaches’ locker room was jumping as well, mainly because of the addition of Jeff Bagwell (along with some interesting story-telling by Enos Cabell, parts of which regrettably filtered into the hallway where I was eaves-dropping).
Bagwell will be with the Astros for three days and will return again at the end of March for about a week. He’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and other than going completely out of his mind not being able to work out, he seems to be doing well. He spent most of the morning shaking hands with people with his left hand, to avoid any unnecessary tugging of his right arm which could irritate the shoulder.
To avoid any mishaps, he held a coffee cup in his right hand for most of the morning. Here he is having a coffee toast with Hunter Pence around 9 a.m.:
The Astros played an intrasquad game Wednesday as a final tuneup before Thursday’s Grapefruit opener. This was mainly for the pitchers, which is why most of the regular position players didn’t play. Instead, several Minor League players and non-starters comprised the rosters for “Meacham’s Mashers” and “Clark’s Crushers,” named after the two coaches who managed this game — first base coach Bobby Meacham and third base coach Dave Clark.
The wind was blowing out at about a 20 mph clip, which might explain why the final score was 16-13 (in favor of Meacham’s Mashers.)
For a behind-the-scenes peek at the Intrasquad “draft,” click here. You’ll find footage of a lot of banter between coaches as Meacham and Clark picked their teams.
Thanks to the more than 500 of you who have hopped onto our Astros Witticism Twitter account, aptly named PumaOneLiners. As the season goes on, we hope to use that as a landing spot to showcase the more humorous side of baseball players, even though we also plan to use it as a way to communicate postgame quotes once the regular season begins.
Images from spring training workouts on a cold, windy Wednesday morning:
Puma, Blum, Sean Berry.
Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt
Bagwell with minor league field coordinator Dick Scott.
Back in the old days (10 years ago), I never could remember which train to take to get to Shea Stadium. It’s one of those things where you think you’ve got it memorized, but then in the year that passes between trips, inevitably, it fails to stick in the memory.
Then the 2000 offseason arrived. Braves pitcher John Rocker went on his now famous tirade to Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman about everything he didn’t like about New York. He was mean, bigoted, fierce…and, turns out, strangely helpful.
Obviously, I’m not condoning Rocker’s behavior, which I found offensive and deplorable, and embarrassing. But he started that famous line of hatred with “Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark…”
And from then on, I never forgot which train to take to Shea. All thanks to Rocker, who was rightfully booed out of just about every ballpark he appeared in after his tirade and thankfully has been out of baseball for years.
But he did leave one lasting impression, inadvertently so.
Trying to not lose my cell phone and coat while pulling my computer bag behind me was challenging enough, but at the same time, I also attempted to snap a couple of shots of the outside of Citi Field, the brand new home of the New York Mets. You can see MLB.com writer Brian McTaggart and radio announcer Brett Dolan in the shot, and you’ll notice they’re not waiting for me to catch up to them.
Inside, the ballpark is pretty impressive, and not just because anything would be a gigantic upgrade from the eyesore that was the old Shea Stadium. Citi Field has all the charm of a new ballpark — nice field and scoreboard, plush accommodations in the clubhouse and club levels — and overall, I give it a thumbs up, although I’ll spare you my whining about the ridiculous guessing game I had to play trying to get to the press box.
More random shots:
Dave Clark, who hopes to have a shot at the permanent manager’s job once the season ends, chats with pitching coach Dewey Robinson.
Chris Johnson says hello to Steve Sparks, who is filling in for Jim Deshaies in the TV booth this weekend.
I have no idea what Aaron Boooooone was doing in this shot but it always cracks me up that he cannot resist giving some kind of strange pose when there’s a camera around.
Hunter Pence grants a pregame interview to FS Houston’s Greg Lucas.
Roy Oswalt is one of the most bored men on earth right now. It’s one thing to be a starting pitcher with nothing to do for the four days in between starts. It’s quite another to be shut down for the year because of a bad back and having NOTHING to look forward to, other the pending opening of his new steakhouse this fall.
You’ve heard us talk/write plenty about Assistant GM Bobby Heck, who was brought on staff a couple of years ago to take over the Astros’ scouting department. Now you know what he looks like. That’s him on the right, talking to TV announcer Bill Brown.
From the Twitter files:
Why is Blum still starting over Chris Johnson? I can see Tejada over Manzella, he has a shot at 200 hits. But Blum? Really?
I’ll be honest — I have no idea. These days, when I post the lineup on Twitter, I cringe, because I know I’m about to be hit with a stream of responses wondering why the kids aren’t playing.
I understand that Dave Clark wants to give Tejada every chance to reach 200 hits on the year, and I grudgingly agree.
I’m not suggesting Clark bench the veterans indefinitely. But in a three-game series, I see nothing wrong with simply mixing in Tommy Manzella or Chris Johnson or Edwin Maysonet for just a game here and there.
The current regular Astros lineup has contributed to a likely fifth-place finish. I seriously doubt one or two kids are going to mess up that chemistry.
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Jeff Fulchino had an interesting couple of hours after he was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. He met the Astros in Chicago Thursday night, and because he didn’t travel with them from Denver, he had to bring his equipment bag with him from the hotel to Wrigley Field Friday morning.
He hopped in a cab with a couple of teammates, but once they paid the cab fare, the driver took off — with, unwittingly, Fulchino’s equipment bag. So the relief pitcher had to borrow shoes and a glove from a couple of teammates. The glove was no problem — he swiped one, temporarily, from Roy Oswalt. The shoes, on the other hand…well, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Fulchino wears a size 15. Not a whole lot of that just hanging around in the clubhouse.
LaTroy Hawkins was the closest, with a size 14. That’s close, but maybe not quite close enough. No wonder Fulchino was walking a little funny when he headed to the field for stretching before Friday’s game [which was eventually postponed].
But there’s a happy ending. A clubhouse worker received a call from the cabbie, who, upon discovering the equipment, headed back to Wrigley to deliver the goods.
Michael Bourn and his solid production continues to be a hot topic each day. But manager Cecil Cooper takes no credit for the center fielder’s emergence.
“That’s all Sean Berry,” Cooper said, referring to the Astros’ hitting coach. Cooper also included third base coach Dave Clark as a major influence.
Speaking of Berry, he’s back with his family at his California home, where he’ll spend about a week. He’ll then return to Houston for another examination by his doctor, and if he’s given the “all-clear,” he’ll resume his coaching duties soon after.
It’s been about a week since Sean had surgery to remove a cancerous kidney, and he’s anxious to rejoin the club. He is, of course, glad the team is hitting well in his absence, but he’d prefer to see it up close and personal — and who can blame him?