So what does a 58-73 record (with only 1 NL team with worse credentials) get you these days? It gets a shake up at the top as "Timmy" and Phil Garner were let go. Gerry Hunsicker left a pretty good nucleus of players for "Timmy", a couple of "experienced" veterans (and probable Hall of Famers) in Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, a good young stud of a pitcher, the rarest of rare's, a true number 1 starter in Oswalt, and a possible NL batting champion/MVP type in Berkman. All "Timmy" had to do was fill in some pieces here and there, and we were set. And we were, with the heartbreaking loss in the World Series 2 years back. But a GM has to develop talent to step in when the veterans break down (or at least keep what he has; see Pettitte and Clemens), as only the Yankees and Mets can build a champion team through free agency. Where is our talent? What we had ready in the minors was called up, and Hunter Pence might be the real deal if he can stay healthy. But what about his big offseason moves? 3 young guys (Hirsch, Taveras, and Buchholz) go to Colorado for Jason Jennings expiring contract and his 2 wins. And the FA signing of Carlos Lee, which I believe because Lee was an upper echelon FA, cost the Astros' some high draft picks (the only way to restock the farm system). But hey, "Timmy" signed Chan Ho Park to a contract, that took something, right?
I can arm chair GM until I am blue in the face. Tim P. had a shot and failed to deliver. In 3 years we went from World Series to NL Central bottom dweller. Heck, if the Pirates keep whuppin' us, they are 9 wins vs 3 losses against us so far, we could be holding a death grip on the cellar.
Notice how I have neglected Phil Garner in this rant? There is a reason, you can't make chicken salad from chicken $#!t. A manager can impact a team significantly. He can provide a calming influence (Garner when he took over), and attitude change (Leyland with the Tigers), or a master tactician (LaRussa last year). But what he can't do is compete day in and day out with out the talent provided by the GM. Phil got wronged, and I hope his contract had enough money to enjoy retirement, because he deserved the chance to enjoy managing for at least another year.