The Year in Astros Baseball: Thank God That's Over
1. They finished with the worst record in team history, which was quite the accomplishment seeing as how the Astros were pretty damn bad for most of the 1970s.
2. It wasn't all bad. Drayton McLane finally found a
sucker buyer for the team.
3. Of course, Drayton announced in May that the team was sold but the sale wasn't actually approved until November.
4. That long approval time had a bit to do with Jim Crane being a kind of rotten individual who paid out some large fines to the EEOC and to the Justice Department for items like discrimination, sexism and war profiteering.
5. With the final approval of the sale came a slight condition, the condition being the Astros move to the American League at the start of the 2013 season where they will compete in a division with the Texas Rangers, Oakland A's,
Los Angeles California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Seattle Mariners.
6. The positive news continued when, shortly after the sale was made official, new owner Crane fired team president Tal Smith and
Tal's GM Ed Wade. Somehow, Pam Gardner, who handles the business operations of the team, held onto her job. That's probably related to Crane's misogyny issues and his desire to keep the EEOC off his ass. binkie
7. Still, EEOC aside, it's kind of surprising Gardner kept her job considering that in July, Gardner allowed Minute Maid Park to turn into Fenway Park South for a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox. The video boards featured Red Sox trivia and fans were encouraged to sing "Sweet Caroline," which, though a Neil Diamond song, has become a kind of Red Sox theme song and is played every night at Fenway.
8. Of course, Minute Maid Park did get a brand-new Big Ass Video Board, the better to distract the fans from the product on the field.
9. Jim Crane does appear to have the right idea when it comes to this team. That idea being it's going to take a long time for this team to get better. His first major hire as owner was the hiring of Josh Luhnow to be the general manager. The most shocking aspect of the hiring was the near universal acclaim from the baseball intelligentsia, who haven't said very many fond things about Astros moves over the past several seasons.
10. And as the Astros did in 2010 at the trading deadline, the Astros in 2011 made several deadline trades in an attempt to bring some talent into a depleted organization. So Ed Wade traded Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies and Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves. Of course, since Wade was still in charge, it appears that, once again, the Astros failed to get any of the top prospects from the Braves.
11. The final nail in Wade's coffin was probably the fact that Wade provided access to Business Week magazine during the Bourn trade. And, wow, did Wade come off looking like a fool.
12. It also didn't help Wade that the crown jewel of the Bourn trade to Atlanta, centerfielder Jordan Schafer, who had previously served a 50-game suspension for PED use, was arrested in Tampa after the season for possession of marijuana. 13. Luhnow's first trade was lauded by the baseball establishment as he was able to get a decent shortstop in Jed Lowrie from the Red Sox for a middling closer better suited to be a set-up guy in Mark Melancon.
Say goodbye Drayton.
14. And the long nightmare of Astros fans everywhere was finally ended when the Washington Nationals signed Jason Michaels to a minor league contract. While a nice guy, Astros fans were sick of seeing manager Brad Mills start Michaels multiple times a week instead of playing younger players. Especially since Michaels brought absolutely nothing to the table.
15. Mills's continued use of Michaels in the outfield necessitated the move of lumbering outfielder Carlos Lee to first base, which in turn necessitated the moving of rookie first base prospect Bret Wallace to the bench, then to the minors, and which in turn gave birth to the #freebrettwallace twitter hash tag.
16. So that he could continue tormenting Astros pitchers, Albert Pujols signed a 10-year free agent contract with the Angels so that, when the Astros move to the AL, he'll be there waiting for them.
17. Astros catching prospect Jason Castro started 2011 by tearing an ACL during spring training. He finished 2011 by injuring a foot in the Arizona Fall League and will not be back until probably the midpoint of spring training 2012.
18. Brandon Lyon got the season off to a great start when he imploded in game one against the Phillies, allowing them to come back from the dead in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was just one of the many saves the Astros would blow during the season.
19. The reputation of former Astro Jeff Bagwell was dragged through the mud on several occasions this past year. First came the run-up to the Hall of Fame voting when Jeff Pearlman let loose with a hit piece accusing him of steroid usage without offering up any proof or evidence. Things weren't helped when, during the criminal trial of Dr. Michael Brown, the Hand Doctor, for assaulting his wife, it became public knowledge that Bagwell was having an affair with the Hand Doctor's wife.
20. It wasn't all bad for Astros alumni. Lance Berkman and Octavio Dotel were key players for the World Series champs St. Louis Cardinals. Nolan Ryan's Texas Rangers made the Series for the second year in a row. Hunter Pence and Roy Oswalt were part of the NL East Champ Phillies squad. Former farmhand Ben Zobrist played for the AL Wild Card Tampa Bay Rays...well, you get the picture.
21. Roger Clemens had some good news as his trial for lying to Congress ended in a mistrial early on. The bad news is that the trial is on the books again for 2012.
22. It was long suspected that Ed Wade was secretly working for the Phillies, where he'd been the general manager before being fired and coming to Houston. So Wade taking a job earlier this week to be a Phillies scout played perfectly into that joke.
23. There was actually some excitement around the Astros once August hit. That's when the team began committing to some of the youngsters in the farm system, and while the team's play didn't much improve, it was much more fun watching kids like Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez and Brian Bogusevic get playing time.
24. And major props to Astros.com writer Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter), who endured the twitter wrath of fed-up fans all season and provided a much-needed sense of humor to ease the tension.
25. And hey, it's not all bad. There's only one year left on Carlos Lee's contract.
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