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Springtime Storylines: Will the Astros ever rebuild?

Apr 1, 2010, 3:45 PM EDT

Colt .45s logo.gifBetween now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The ‘Stros. I’ll explain my use of the logo to the right in a moment.

big question: Will the Astros ever rebuild?

Houston has been treading water for a few years now, not good enough to compete and not bad enough to rebuild. Well, not bad enough to convince them to rebuild, anyway.  And not that they could effectively rebuild even if they wanted to given that the most marketable trade candidates — Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee* — all have full no-trade clauses and none of those guys have shown the slightest inclination to waive them. And not that the Astros have really asked them to do so, because Drayton McLane has a famous fetish for veterans. It’s a loyalty that, while admirable on some level, has really hamstrung this team.

As have years and years of poor drafting and scouting, leaving their system near the bottom of everyone’s organizational rankings.  Law says that things are slowly on the upswing, but he still has them at 28.  As a result there is very little help on the way.

Because they still have Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman the team will still portray itself as trying to win now — thus the pickups of Pedro Feliz and Brandon Lyon, each of whom could be spare parts on a contender but do not themselves a winner make — but with their current talent (more below) they’re not going to come close to winning anything.  They should have torn this thing down two years ago and started again, but that’s just something the Astros never, ever seem to want to do.  

*Lee isn’t marketable as-is, but if the Astros picked up loads of that salary of his he could bring something in the way of prospects. 

So what
else is
going on?

  • While the talent is declining the mood of the place should improve. Gone is Cecil Cooper, who lost the clubhouse approximately seventeen minutes after being hired and in comes Brad Mills, who is enthusiastic and apparently quite popular so far. The Astros may be one of those rare teams that lose 90+ games and gets lauded for having good chemistry.
  • The rotation looks like so: Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris
    and Felipe Paulino. I think Oswalt will bounce back after a poor 2009 and Wandy Rodriguez should be OK assuming is brutal spring was just one of those spring things and not evidence of an injury or something. Beyond that, ick. Myers is capable of excellence on one day and putridity the next. Norris is a power guy who strikes out a lot of guys but walks a lot of guys too. Paulino has an injury history and got beat up last season.  Whatever that amounts to, the rotation is the team’s strength, it would seem.

  • The offense is nothing if not ugly. The Astros were 14th in scoring in the NL last year and did basically nothing to get better offensively this year. Oh, and Lance Berkman is hurt. Given that they play in a hitters park, this is an attack that simply won’t play.
  • Check out the anniversary patches the Astros are wearing. Sweet! Except the franchise didn’t begin in 1965. It began in 1962 and played for three seasons as the Colt .45s. I realize we all hate gun violence and everything, but celebrating 1965 as the team’s anniversary is like my wife and I celebrating our wedding anniversary on the date she got her social security card with her new last name in the mail. Weak. Which is why I have decided to go with their old logo. Never forget, Colt .45s fans. Never forget.

are they gonna do?

It’s going to be an ugly season. If Berkman manages to get healthy there will come the time when it dawns on him that the team isn’t picking up his big option for 2011. If Oswalt bounces back he will be pestered to drop his no-trade clause. They won’t score, there aren’t many young players to get anyone excited and the only thing keeping them out of last place will be a terrible Pirates team which, perversely, will likely post a winning season before the Astros do.

Prediction: Fifth place, NL Central.

here for other Springtime Storylines

  1. Luke Scott - Apr 1, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Why are guns immediately assumed to equal violence? There are plenty of responsible gun owners out there that enjoy target shooting.

  2. adam - Apr 1, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    living in houston, this team would be absolutely destroyed from a fan perspective if they traded oswalt and/or berkman. attendance would take a huge hit until the astros rebounded, as opposed to if one of the two left b/c of free agency.
    you also failed to mention a few of the astros bright spots. hunter pence is a very good young player who’s put together some solid seasons. michael bourne has become a solid regular who can hit for average and steal an enormous amount of bases.
    and carlos lee, whatever you want to say about him, is a near lock for a 290/30/100 season every year. there’s a section of the park dedicated for his fans that’s full every home game.
    so while the team may not be primed for a run to the world series, mclane is doing what he needs to do to put butts in seats. can’t fault a guy for that, can you?
    oh, and wandy’s a beast.

  3. Old Gator - Apr 1, 2010 at 10:53 PM

    It’s as if the spirit of Enron still hovers over the stadium, especially the lack of power in that lineup.
    I suspect that the Feesh, arguably a somewhat better team this year, will nevertheless still have all kinds of problems with the ‘Stros. I don’t know what it is. I love Houston myself – great jazz, great food (try the stuffed peppers at Otilo from the Como agua para chocolate recipe book), good friends. Okay, the air is poisonous, but so are the tabloid covers at my supermarket checkout counter and my pet rattlesnake, Friendo. And yet the minute the Feesh set foot in that stadium – I forget what it’s called now; I can barely remember what Joeprodolsharklife refer to in its entirety anymore – they seem beset by invisible gremlins, harpies and akishra. Go figger.

  4. dc - Apr 3, 2010 at 2:04 AM

    Nice article! The bit about the Colt .45s anniversary got a chuckle outta me.
    I’m encouraged by the new manager and his coaches’ new emphasis on fundamentals and mental presence. Last year was just painful. It’s one thing when your team is an underdog; another when it’s also an underachiever.
    Fact is, there are few players better than MLB average on the team. The outfield can play, but in general Houston looks like Club Med to most teams. You can’t develop a Bagwell or Biggio without trading away a Larry Anderson or Glenn Davis.
    @ Adam, I’d love to see Oswalt and the Puma retire as Astros, but I’d rather see them traded than see them walk at the end of their contracts.
    game writer guy

  5. Grant - Apr 3, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Maybe we could pretend that Colt .45s refers to the malt liquor? Could even bring in Billy Dee Williams:

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