Early in spring training, some cockeyed optimists probably opined to one another about how if things went just right for the Astros this year, well dad gummit, we could have ourselves quite the little season. And then reality kicked in.
The Astros ended their season last night with their 106th loss, tying them for thirteenth most in MLB history. They are one of only three teams to lose 106 or more games since the New York Mets lost 113 in 1962, nearly 50 years ago.
But losses are just one part of the disaster that is the 2011 season.
The team traded away Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, who were both integral parts of a dramatic game that ended the Atlanta Braves' playoff hopes yesterday. Bourn was caught stealing in the third inning, though replays showed he was safe. Had he been on base when the next batter hit a home run, the Braves might have won and forced a tie-break game with St. Louis. Instead, they played into extra innings where Pence's bloop single for the Phillies scored the winning run.
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Pence is on his way to a deep playoff run and maybe even the World Series. Bourn is part of a solid, young, up-and-coming team in Atlanta. And did we mention Lance Berkman is going to the playoffs...with St. Louis? But that still isn't the most depressing news.
While trades did net the team some promising young prospects, one is left wondering how they will be handled and what is next with the franchise in limbo. Jim Crane, the man who purchased the Astros from Drayton McLane, appears less and less likely to be approved by MLB owners, leaving McLane as a lame-duck owner trying to find another buyer, undoubtedly for a lot less cash than Crane was offering.
It's bad enough the team was horrible and traded away their best players in the hopes of starting over with young talent and a replenished farm system. Fans can live with the losses if there appears to be a silver lining. But, with many of those prospects still several years away from the big league, team ownership completely up in the air and maligned General Manager Ed Wade still calling the shots, it's hard to be excited for a future that likely includes a lot more losing and, worse yet, instability at the top where leadership is needed now more than ever.
Of course, it could be worse. We could be Red Sox fans.