Still haunting the Astros.
And as much as I look forward to seeing what the youngsters are able to do this season, there are just some things about the past several years that I can't let go of it. I'm not ready to forgive those responsible for the destruction of the franchise. I'm especially not ready to forgive, despite the pleas of some of my media colleagues, Ed Wade.
The argument made on Wade's behalf is that what happened to the Astros wasn't his fault. That he was just the good soldier following the orders of his commanding officers. And the orders Wade was getting from his commanding officers were to cut payroll, and that, if given half the chance, Wade would've made sure the Astros fielded a competitive franchise.
There's some truth to that argument. Some. But here's where it falls apart: Orders to cut payroll or not, Wade still failed at his job. And his failure was of an epic nature.
What Wade's supporters always fail to point out is one very simple thing: the Astros were not then, are not now and never have been the only team having to deal with cheap owners looking to cut payroll. Yet, before he started to believe the press clippings about his brilliance, Billy Beane was able to keep the A's competitive though they were, and still are, in much worse shape than the Astros. Same with Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins have done a good job with a low payroll. The Rangers might spend like "drunken sailors" now, but a lot of the building of that current team was done when Tom Hicks was chopping the team to pieces before putting it in bankruptcy.
But here's where the argument really falls apart. Despite Wade's supposed orders to cut payroll, he still found a lot of ways to waste lots and lots of money on contracts that no legitimate GM would ever consider. Like a three-year $15 million contract to Brandon Lyon, a supposed closer with injury issues who couldn't keep his closing job even when he was healthy. Or that three-year, $16.5 million contract to the light-hitting, injury-prone middle infielder Kaz Matsui. And don't get me started on the likes of Bill Hall and Pedro Feliz and Ivan Rodriguez.
Need further proof of Wade's failures as a GM? Anthony Gose is seen as one of baseball's top prospects who should make the majors for the Toronto Blue Jays this season. Gose was, briefly, an Astro, part of the Roy Oswalt trade. But Wade flipped him to the Toronto Blue Jays for Brett Wallace. Now it's not known for sure that Wallace has completely failed on the major league level -- special thanks must be extended to Brad Mills, who last year felt that giving Jason Michaels consistent playing time was more important than seeing if Wallace could actually hit on the major league level -- but the guy who was moved from third base to first by the Cardinals when they had him in the minors because he made Chris Johnson look like the second coming of Ken Caminiti at the hot corner has been moved back to third base because they're convinced he can't play first base. (Making the Wallace trade look even worse is that Chris Johnson, who can't play third base either, is playing at first base during spring training.)
Don't forget that J.A. Happ, another key component of that Oswalt trade, spent most of last season in the minors because he has a penchant for giving up home runs. Then there's the Michael Bourn trade with the Braves last season, where it appears that not only did Wade not even try for Atlanta's top prospects, he refused to listen to offers from other teams.
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And as the trade deadline rolls around this year and Josh Luhnow tries to see if there's any way to improve this team through further trades, there's only person who can be thanked if he's unable to do so. The Astros don't have many pieces left that other teams would be interested in, but about the only two that might have once been able to net a prospect or two are pitchers Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez. But not only did Wade refuse to trade them, he saddled them with big contracts that, in essence, make them untradeable for prospects, especially Myers, a mediocre middle-of-the-rotation starter for a decent team who got a contract that no middle-of-the-rotation starter would ever make (and who has now been moved to closer because, well, because Brandon Lyon is awful).
So goodbye, Ed Wade. Don't look to me for forgiveness because your stupidity as GM did as much damage to this franchise as did Drayton McLane and his desire to cut payroll, no matter what your supporters might say. Just because he's an easy scapegoat doesn't mean he should be the only one to receive blame.