In the champagne-colored haze that followed the World Series, the top story was the championship team in Atlanta, of course. But there was also some news from the opposing side, as Brent Strom held a post-game scrum and announced that he will not be returning as the Astros’ pitching coach next season. (Links from Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle and Mark Berman of Fox 26.) A few weeks ago, Strom had hinted that he was considering this path, before making it official after last night’s game.
The 73-year-old isn’t committed to a full-on retirement necessarily, but seems confident about the role he won’t have. “There may be another opportunity for me somewhere else. I may look at that. I may just go lie on a beach in Mexico,” Strom said. “But I need to enjoy my life a little bit. I haven’t had a summer in a long time. So we’ll see. I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I know I won’t be back as the Major League pitching coach here. Yeah. I know that for a fact.”
Strom made 100 appearances over five seasons in his playing career, from 1972 to 1977. He logged 501 innings with an ERA of 3.95 over his time with three different clubs. Since then, he’s been coaching in different roles for various organizations, including the Royals, Nationals and Cardinals. But his most consistent stretch at the big league level has been his most recent tenure with the Astros, running from 2014 through 2021, which coincided with their emergence from a lengthy rebuild into a consistent powerhouse club, including the now-infamous championship club from 2017.
Strom’s departure opens up an important position in the dugout, and he seemed to imply that the torch will be passed to someone already within the organization, listing bullpen coach Josh Miller and assistant pitching coach Bill Murphy as options. “I really think this organization’s in a really good position with these two young pitching coaches that we have, and I’m sure had I stayed there would be teams coming after these two guys,” he said. “I think this organization deserves these two young guys, Murphy and Miller, to stay. How they work that out is up to them.” Miller has been with the organization since 2011, working in various roles over the past decade, but has been the bullpen coach for the past three seasons. Murphy signed on to work with the Astros’ minor leaguers prior to the 2017 season and then worked his way up to the big league team for the 2021 campaign.
It’s unclear if the Astros’ front office perceives the transition as smoothly as Strom does, but he made it clear that Miller and Murphy already deserve much of the credit for the current Houston pitching staff. “If you look at all these pitchers that we have right now, most of them came up through those two guys. Outside of Lance [McCullers Jr.] that I had as a holdover, all my guys have kind of moved on.” With that framing in mind, it seems like Strom has already been gradually relinquishing some duties to Murphy and Miller. But it remains to be seen how the organization will divvy up the job titles and responsibilities for next season, or if they plan to consider external hires.
Elsewhere on Houston’s coaching staff, there will also be a vacancy in the manager’s seat with Dusty Baker’s contract now expiring, although it’s possible that matter will be settled in short order. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that Astros’ owner Jim Crane “plans to sit down with Dusty Baker in the next few days to iron out a one- or 2-year contract.” The return of Baker would not come as a huge surprise, given how his time in Houston has gone so far. The club was mired in the aftermath of the scandalous sign-stealing revelations when Crane personally hired Baker as the new skipper, and he has guided the club through a pair of successful campaigns, making it to the ALCS in 2020 and the World Series in 2021. Crane discussed the matter about a month ago and didn’t say anything definitive, but spoke positively of Baker. Dusty himself seemed to indicate that he wanted to return, when discussing things a few weeks ago, making it seem like there’s enough mutual interest for an extension to potentially come together fairly quickly.