Richard Justice is still optimistic about the Astros. Just that it's the 2012 Astros he's optimistic about:
And there's your optimism, or at least some of it. In Norris, Paulino, Manzella and Johnson — and in Jason Castro, Jordan Lyles, etc., in the minors — the Astros have kids who have a chance to get better. That's the difference between this team and the over-the-hill gang they've thrown onto the diamond the last few years.
Mainly, though, my optimism is based on the fact the Astros appear to be doing a lot of things right as an organization and appear to have the right people in place. That hasn't been the case since Gerry Hunsicker walked out the door and Phil Garner was canned.
They've force-fed the 2008 draft class through the minor leagues and could have a half-dozen of those players, especially outfielder T.J. Steele and righthander Lyles, on the threshold of the major leagues this time next year.
In an odd way, the nation's economic problems have forced Drayton McLane to do the right thing. With revenues in free fall, he hasn't had the stomach to write another big check.