Astros 2011: It Ain't Going to Be Pretty

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Bad news: The Astros are actually playing baseball this season.
The Astros are probably opening up the season tomorrow -- they're scheduled to play, but the weather in Philadelphia might not cooperate. And if the stories that have been kicking around are true, this might be the last opening day that will see the team owned by Drayton McLane.

And frankly, I've never been more depressed about the start of a season. Ed Wade's attempts at improving the club this off-season included trading with the Colorado Rockies for injury-prone middle infielder Clint Barmes, who would take the place of injury-prone middle infielder, and former Colorado Rockie, Kazuo Matsui. Then he went out and signed free agent journeyman infielder/outfielder Bill Hall to play second base. And to round things out, he signed pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith to a free agent contract despite Rowland-Smith having been totally awful with the Seattle Mariners the year before.

As we go into the season on Friday, Rowland-Smith has been designated for assignment, Hall is trying hard to not be a strikeout machine and error-prone second baseman, and Barmes is, well, Barmes is hurt. Carlos Lee is still holding down the left field corner and Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence are patrolling the rest of the outfield. Jason Castro, who was supposed to be the future at catcher, is hurt and out for the season. That means that J.R. Towles, the past future of the team at catcher, is once again supposed to be the primary catcher, only he's suffering back problems, which leaves it all, once again, in the hands of Humberto Quintero, who will once again not hit and who will once again put everybody to sleep with his throwing down to first base after every pitch.

Brett Wallace is going to make a go of it at first base. He was a hyped prospect last year when he joined the team as part of the Roy Oswalt deal, but he didn't quite hit on the major league level last season, and all of sudden, those people who talked so highly of him last year are talking about him as a bust. And returning at third base is Chris Johnson, who had an outstanding rookie season once the Astros finally gave up on the failed Pedro Feliz experiment.

Angel Sanchez returns yet again. Jason Michaels is back. Carlos Lee might play first base if Wallace doesn't hit. That is, if Lee hits. Jeff Keppinger will be back once he returns from injury. Except for Hall and Barmes, this is almost the exact same lineup that the team ended last season with.

Hey, at least the Astros have a solid pitching staff. Don't laugh, there are some people who believe that. Brett Myers moves up from number three starter to number one starter on the basis of a career season last year. And by career season, this was something that Myers, who has been around for a long time, has never come close to matching. And the odds are that Myers will not come close to matching it this season.

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Guess what, the injury-prone shortstop is injured.
Then there's Wandy Rodriguez, the aging lefty who is still getting by on the basis of his potential, and J.A. Happ, the injury-prone pitcher the Astros obtained from the Phillies as part of the Roy Oswalt trade -- and guess what, he's injured. Don't forget about Bud Norris, who would be on the way to the Hall of Fame if he pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals every time out, but unfortunately, he doesn't get to face the Cardinals every time he pitches. And rounding out the rotation is Nelson Figueroa, another former Phillie -- yeah, Ed Wade loading up his roster with guys who played with the Phillies is kind of like Gary Kubiak signing every guy who used to play for the Denver Broncos.

This isn't a good team. This isn't even a bad team of eager young guys trying to prove a point. This is, again, a team of aging vets biding time until Drayton McLane finds a sucker to purchase the team from him. Still, as bad as things seem, I'm just not buying into some of the predictions that I've seen, like the Astros finishing in last place because that means the Astros finish with a record worse than the Pirates', and I'm just not believing that, no matter how bad the Astros are, they're worse than the Pirates.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal