2005: Phil Garner
Aug 14, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox former playerRoger Clemens
walks off the field as part of the Red Sox Hall of Fame Class of 2014 before the game against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
You would not think I’d leave the most exciting Astros season off of this list right? Of course not! The Astros were in their second season with manager Phil Garner and things looked rough. The team lost Lance Berkman due to injury for the first part of the year, Jeff Bagwell was unable to play, Carlos Beltran went to the Mets, and Jeff Kent left for the Dodgers.
This team had no right being in the playoffs, much less winning a pennant. Phil Garner didn’t believe in just giving up. In a day of analytics, this team of nobody offensive weapons found a way to sneak into the playoffs. On the final day of the season the Astros won the Wild Card position with an 89-73 record, though the story is much juicier than that.
When Phil Garner came to the club midseason in 2004 there was a lot of high praise for his efforts. The unit came within one game of a World Series berth before the St. Louis Cardinals dashed those dreams. After a 15-30 start to the season the writers left the Astros for dead, the fans probably started to leave them for dead, but Phil Garner kept trucking.
Nearing .500 by the All-Star break the team had caught rapid momentum. Much of it had to do with pitching coach Jim Hickey‘s starting rotation. The Astros were a mix-and-match bunch offensively, but the pitching was outstanding. Roger Clemens had a sensational 1.87 era, while Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt combined to form a trio no other team had. This was also the second year of “Lights out Lidge” with Brad Lidge nailing the coffin shut day in and day out.
The guy that really held the glue together in 2005 was Morgan Ensberg. With almost no run production in this offense at times, somebody had to step up and be a leader. Lance Berkman certainly helped later in the year, but it was Morgan who may have saved this team with his consistent offense throughout. Ensberg never met these numbers again but his 36 home runs and 101 rbi were huge out of the 3/4 hole. Another surprise contributor was Jason Lane in his first full season starting. Lane cracked 26 home runs and was a guy who seemed to deliver more than enough key hits down the stretch.
On paper this certainly was not the best team the Astros fielded, but for the sole fact they found a way to win when it counted, Phil Garner has to be number one. We all know the rest of the story did not pan out, and the ending certainly could be re-written. The Astros ran out of steam falling to the Chicago White Sox four games to none in the World Series. The difference, however, is this team was not a World Series caliber team that made it to the World Series. 1998, 1999, and 2004 in my opinion were much better built for this run. When we talk pure managing, you have got to give it to Phil Garner
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