News Forum Blogs Roster Players Schedule Depth chart Stats Videos Photos

Houston Astros News

News » Astros caught in nasty pinch

Astros caught in nasty pinch

Astros caught in nasty pinch
Giving up on the Astros before the live oaks have even stopped blooming has become a rite of spring every bit as common in these parts as Fiesta and Spurs playoff games.

Indeed, it's hard to gauge which development is causing more headaches for the team's fans these days - the yellow pollen coating cars and sinuses or the Houston hitters flailing at pitches.

The only difference between the two: At some point, the trees give our heads a break.

There's little evidence that the Astros will do the same.

And not just this season.

The early going has proven the franchise to be just as old, tired and unsteady as its most virulent critics suspected during spring training. Then, the Astros showcased an almost-alarming ineptitude, failing to win 19 of their first 20 exhibition games.

The start to the official campaign hasn't gone much better, and the result today is a harsh truth. Less than four years removed from a World Series berth, Houston is a second-division club boasting the eighth-largest payroll in Baseball but talent far south of that.

That development, on its face, would be acceptable. Every club has swoons, and sometimes no amount of financial swabbing can stop the bleeding.

But for the Astros , seasons of incompetent front-office and developmental moves have the franchise in an untenable tangle. Burdened with too many restrictive contracts tied to too many aging players, many of them reclamation projects, limited by a threadbare farm system and out of realistic options in free agency or trades, Houston can't afford to rebuild.

Unfortunately, it can't afford not to.

The solution, as a result, is playing out on the field even as it does in management offices. The Astros , like it or not, will have to make do with what they have.

For the short term, that means Houston must hope that its surprisingly anemic offense, even with lumber-wielding stalwarts like Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Ivan Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada, is simply having a tough time limbering up creaky joints in April.

It means hoping that Jose Valverde's back pain, Kaz Matsui's ailment du jour and Brian Moehler's troublesome knee are simply temporary annoyances.

It means hoping that Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz, who have something to prove in the twilight of their injury-ravaged careers, will prove something positive.

If all those intangibles fall into place, the Astros will be in contention late.

For the long term, however, the ifs, ands and buts are scattered like landmines in almost every direction.

Houston's farm system, decimated by poor drafts and trades, includes only a scattering of promising players, including hurlers Ross Seaton, Brad Dydalewicz and Jordan Lyles and hitters such as Jason Castro and Chris Johnson.

Overall, however, it's a shaky foundation. There's extensive work to be done.

Shoring it up will take something that owner Drayton McLane and the team's fans may not like.

Time and patience.

And lots of both.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 20, 2009

Houston Astros Photos
All the latest Houston Astros Photos Store photographs. Major League Baseball MLB.
The most recent photo
Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Add to Windows Live

Copyright ©, Inc. All rights reserved 2008.