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Anarchy in the Astros Clubhouse?

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During last night’s Astros game, there was a play late in the game that had me really asking some questions. A Texas Rangers batter popped up in first base foul territory near the Astros dugout. Brad Ausmus settled under the ball, and looked prepared to make the catch, only to almost lose his head when Lance Berkman came flying in to make the catch instead.

As Berkman trotted away, Ausmus turned toward Berkman and raised his arms in a questioning manner. Ausmus was wearing his mask, so his face couldn’t be seen. But it appeared to me that he was rather pissed off at Berkman and was trying to find out what happened. Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies laughed the play off, and I kind of wondered if I was reading something into nothing.

Then I read that before the game started, but after the Shawn Chacon/Ed Wade confrontation, Drayton McLane closed the doors and had a bit of a chat with his boys. “We can't have anarchy," McLane reportedly said. "You can't have rebellion.”

And that play started making sense to me. The Astros are a team descending into anarchy. Ausmus was there. Ausmus was set to make the catch. Berkman should have backed off, but Berkman risked injuring both of them to make the play.

Chron beat writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz also wrote that there are some players on the team who aren’t buying into the management strategy. And when players don’t buy into the strategy, anarchy starts to erupt, and chaos starts to happen on the field. Like Ausmus and Berkman almost colliding. Or players sitting on the bench and bitching about moves made by the manager.

Shawn Chacon should not have attacked Ed Wade last night. But reading Ortiz’s story and blog post on the matter, and having read what he and Richard Justice wrote last week about the toxic atmosphere in the clubhouse, it seems pretty clear to me that Shawn Chacon was just doing what several other members of the Astros wish they could do.

Chacon is gone from this team. And while the guys at the Chron are sure he’ll never pitch in the majors again because of his attack on Ed Wade, I doubt that – Sidney Ponson, after all, will be starting for the New York Yankees this weekend after being released by the Rangers for fighting with manager Ron Washington. But Chacon’s leaving will not solve the problems in that clubhouse.

There’s the Roy Oswalt problem after all. The problem which had Oswalt and Cooper arguing over whether Oswalt has been injured, and which led to Oswalt’s anger at Cooper because of the scrubs starting behind him for a game against the Yankees. Oswalt has already tuned out his pitching coach, and you’ve really got to wonder whether he’s also ignoring Cooper.

And despite Chacon’s actions, I’ve got to wonder, like Richard Justice, how much of this is really management’s fault. It’s being reported that Ed Wade escalated the situation by cussing out Chacon in front of his teammates. So if Drayton doesn’t want the team descending into anarchy, he better be having some meetings with his management staff tomorrow. If he doesn’t want his players getting out of control, then he can’t have his general manager getting out of control

I’m sure that a lot more about this situation is going to start coming out over the coming days. And I think the Astros are going to need more than Maxwell Smart to keep from descending into total chaos. And I just wish I could get a microphone in front of Roy Oswalt or Brad Ausmus just to let them talk. Maybe then we’ll find out what’s going on.

But I don’t think we’ll like the answers. – John Royal

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