The Houston Astros on Saturday became the first major league team this season to fire its manager, dismissing Brad Mills in a late-night shakeup of their on-field staff.
UPDATE: The Astros on Sunday named Tony DeFrancesco interim manager. He had been skipper of the club's Triple-A Triple-A affiliate.
Houston also dismissed first base coach Bobby Meacham and hitting coach Mike Barnett.
The team said in a statement that general manager Jeff Luhnow will introduce interim replacements for all three men on Sunday.
The rebuilding Astros announced Mills' firing after their 12-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Minute Maid Park. Houston has the worst record in MLB at 39-82.
âI love the players, I love the effort they gave every day. Theyâve been great to me and how theyâve gone about everything and I love our fans," Mills told reporters, according to the Astros' website. "The fans we have here in Houston are the best and theyâve been great to me as well and I appreciate them an awful lot and I wish the best for the players and the fans as we move forward.â
Mills, 55, was in his third season as Houston's manager after being hired away from the Boston Red Sox in 2009. He compiled a 171-274 record (.384 winning percentage) with the Astros.
âEvery day we tried to get the players the best they possibly could, and that was the goal every time out,â Mills said. âWe wanted to get them better, we wanted them to play well. Sometimes it just didnât work out and if Iâm going to sit here and point fingers, thatâs not right. Thereâs some responsibility on my part as well.â
Mills said he felt "horrendous" and "terrible" about Barnett and Meacham also getting fired.
âTheyâre a couple of coaches that have done a great job, they know what theyâre doing, theyâve worked hard and prepared the players and done everything they could," he told reporters.
After losing 106 games last season, the Astros got off to a rough start again this year, but they really went into a tailspin during the summer after trading several high-priced veterans mostly for prospects. They have slashed almost $40 million from their opening-day roster and have a remaining payroll of just $21.3 million.
Francisco Cordero and Jed Lowrie, two of Houston's three highest-paid players, are on the disabled list. That leaves Ben Francisco as the only active player making more than $750,000.
Luhnow traded Carlos Lee to Miami on July 4 as the Astros went all in on their rebuilding effort under new owner Jim Crane. They have gone 7-32 since that deal, including a franchise-worst 12-game losing streak.
Lee was only the first piece to be jettisoned, however. After that, Houston got rid of pitchers J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez before wrapping up a busy month by sending third baseman Chris Johnson to Arizona.
The trades left Mills in a compromised position with the youngest roster in the National League. He talked often about trying to get the inexperienced players to "do the little things right." He hoped that if they could start doing that it would lead to more wins.
But instead the losses continued to pile up, including a 4-34 slide during one stretch, and after Saturday night's particularly embarrassing loss in which the Diamondbacks scored nine runs in the fifth inning alone, Astros executives decided it was time to move on.
Crane bought the team from Drayton McLane last fall for $615 million in a transaction that requires the club to move from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013. Crane realized that things would probably get tougher after all the deals, but he wasn't necessarily prepared for what transpired.
"We made a lot of trades and once we made that decisionâ"Jeff started moving some of the talentâ"we knew we might slide back a little bit, but we didn't think it would be this bad," Crane said recently.
Mills was hired by the Astros after serving as Boston's bench coach for the previous six seasons. Houston offered the job to Manny Acta first, but he turned it down to become Cleveland's manager.
Mills managed in the minor leagues for 10 seasons before becoming Terry Francona's first base coach with Philadelphia in 1997. The two played together in college and again with the Expos.
Though Mills remained positive as things got worse this season, he acknowledged recently that all the trades had made things even more difficult for him.
"When we first got here it was kind of a slow transition. Now all of a sudden with the new regime changes and things we decided: 'Let's do the whole thing now,'" Mills said recently. "It definitely puts things in a situation where wins are tougher because you're dealing with a lot of inexperienced individuals."