Overheard and Understood: Astros' Mills Surviving Drop From the Top
"Stay positive," Mills tells Pedrique every day.
"You do the same," Pedrique replies.
But Pedrique knows Mills doesn't need to be told.
Mills, thanks in part to his relentless positivity, has seemed to handle well the transition from perennial contender to second-division team.
For six seasons as Red Sox bench coach, Mills watched his team win 58 percent of its games, averaging 94 victories a season and taking two World Series.
This year, he has watched his team go 25-39.
"I have no hair to pull," Mills said last week, thinking back to Houston's 9-21 start. "That was definitely an advantage of being bald."
General manager Ed Wade said the way Mills, 53, has handled his first losing experience in a while has validated the Astros' hire.
"When we hired him, we were excited," Wade said. "When we saw the way spring training went, we were excited. I'm more certain today than I was back then that he's the absolute right guy, because of the way he's handled the start that we got off to.
"It would have been very easy for him to sort of wear it on his sleeve: 'Oh my God, this is my first chance, and this is what's happening.' And none of that occurred."
Said Pedrique: "He never lost his temper. He kept working. He's very, very strong about doing the little things right."
Mills says he focuses on the process as much as the record.
"I know we're in here to win games, and that's what we're trying to do," he said. "But we're in a situation we're trying to change some things with this ballclub -- the culture, a lot of times; how we think; how we go about our work; and how we do those things. Sometimes when you do that in a changeover, before it's grasped or taken a hold of, you have to go through a building time. I think that's what we've gone through.
"You can look at one side and say, 'You've struggled winning some games.' I'm not going to deny that point. But at the same [time], working with these guys, and seeing the improvement in different areas, has been very good."
And Mills apparently refuses to pine for Boston, or at least the wins there.
"If that's run through his mind, he has not said it," Wade said. "He's not said it to me in private. He certainly hasn't said anything like that publicly."
Around the Majors
• A union official said that effect of the "Super Two" rule is of concern and should come up in negotiations when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2011 season.
In a span of three days this month, prospects Stephen Strasburg, Mike Stanton, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana, Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata (right) were called up for their debuts. The timing was such to keep those players from being eligible from arbitration after the 2012 season as "Super Two" players -- and that keeps fans from seeing exciting young players sooner.
• In the Pirates' past 24 games, their starting pitchers are 1-13 with a 5.10 ERA. The win by a Pittsburgh starter since May 18 was by Paul Maholm on June 5.
• A person who knows Roy Oswalt guessed Oswalt could end up traded to the Dodgers. Oswalt (who has a full no-trade clause) is friends with ex-Dodger Brad Penny, who could help sell Oswalt on L.A. -- if the Dodgers can find the cash to pay Oswalt. Or -- as they have done in other recent trades -- the Dodgers could give up significant prospects and have Houston pay much of Oswalt's future salary.
• Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick loaned part of his baseball card collection to the Hall of Fame for an exhibit, including Topps rookie cards for Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax; a rare Bowman 1954 Ted Williams card; and a T206 Honus Wagner card once owned by Wayne Gretzky.
Now Kendrick can start collecting effective relievers. Or players who don't whiff so much.
• Since Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez lined up in the Seattle rotation to go back-to-back, they have started consecutive games four times -- and the Mariners have won both just once. Since Lee came off the disabled list in late April, there have been nine times through the rotation, and in none of those nine did both Lee and Hernandez get a win.
• By sweeping Toronto, Colorado kept alive its streak of having never lost a homestand under manager Jim Tracy, who took over May 29, 2009. The Rockies lost three of four to the Astros before taking three straight from the Blue Jays to preserve Tracy's mark.
• The Twins have doubled in 26 straight games, the longest streak since the Yankees doubled in 28 straight July 21-Aug. 18, 2009.
• San Diego has not finished with a winning interleague record since 1999.
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees had five six-game winners at the 62-game mark for the first time since 1939.
But ace CC Sabathia, scheduled to face Roy Halladay Tuesday night, has four of his six wins against the lowly Orioles. Sabathia is 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA against Baltimore, but in his other nine starts has gone 2-3 with a 4.69 ERA.
• Speaking of Halladay, Florida's Josh Johnson -- the losing pitcher in Halladay's 1-0 perfect game -- is 2-1 with a 0.44 ERA in three career starts against Halladay.
• Five players drafted after the fourth round have made the Hall of Fame: Nolan Ryan (12th, Mets, 1965); Goose Gossage (ninth, White Sox, 1970); Andre Dawson (11th, Expos, 1975); Wade Boggs (seventh, Red Sox, 1976); and Ryne Sandberg (20th, Phillies, 1978).
But no No. 1 overall pick has (yet) made the Hall. Reggie Jackson was second in the 1966 draft, and Robin Yount ('73) and Paul Molitor ('77) were No. 3 picks.