Friday, April 9, 2010

Verducci choke slams the Astros

Tom Verducci brings it to the Astros today:

The Houston Astros are the official winners of the title of First Team in Trouble. Could the season have begun any worse for a team that lost 88 games last year and has lost half a million paying customers in two years? The Astros were swept at home by the Giants. How ugly was it? Houston was outscored 18-6, drew only two walks while striking out 22 times, never held a lead, never hit a home run, and lost reliever Sam Gervacio to the disabled list, where he joined first baseman Lance Berkman.

You say it has to get better? You haven't checked their schedule or their roster. Houston plays its next 12 games against the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs and Marlins, completing a welcome-to-2010 opening sequence of 15 straight games against teams that won between 83 and 93 games last year. Its roster continues to be curiously overloaded with older players for a team that is not a contender. Of the 23 players used in the Giants series, 16 are in their 30s and only two are younger than 27: Chris Johnson and J.R. Towles.

Brad Mills was an inspired choice as manager, a guy who ran an upbeat training camp. But he is being tested already: keep hope and faith alive for a little while longer, at least before schools get out in Houston for the prime drawing weeks when summer hits. Otherwise, as one former Astros coach might put it, it will get late early in Houston.

No, it's not "curious" how much the roster is full of older players. It's just that anybody who takes no more than a cursory glance at the Astros doesn't see that the Astros are full of no-trade clauses (except in the case of Moehler and Blum - which was just a terrible decision.) and Kaz Matsui. Want that "half a million" paying customer loss to double or triple? Then get rid of Berkman and Oswalt. Fair-weather Astros fans may be able to handle losing one or the other, but not both. Add to that the need to just let the contracts play out so that Heck's first two classes can advance, and the Astros won't be doling out contracts to big-name free agents who will clog up the ladder to the Majors.