The Astros suck. On this I suspect we can all agree. Blamecurses
. Blame Drayton McLane, Tim Purpura, Phil Garner, the players or Junction Jack. Blame whatever or whomever you wish. The end result remains the same. Me? I choose to blame the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. After all, they’re the ones who showed the world that a mediocre baseball team can win a World Series.
I know everyone loves to bash the McLane, Purpura, Garner braintrust these days. No doubt, they deserve much (if not all) of the criticism aimed in their direction. You know their transgressions, so I won’t bother to expand upon them here. But turn back the clock to last October and put yourself in their shoes for a moment. You just watched the Cards win it all. Keep in mind, this is the same team that nearly authored the biggest regular season choke job in major league baseball history. Now take a closer look at their roster. The everyday line-up consisted of one big bopper, some aging, past-their-prime vets and a few scrappy role-players. Overall, it’s not terribly impressive. The starting rotation? Anchored by a single stud who was surrounded by career journeyman. As for the bullpen, it was decent yet hardly intimidating. Is any of this sounding familiar?
Obviously, the Astros’ brass took one look at that wild postseason and figured their players could just have easily been the ones wearing the magic slippers in October. Hey, if St. Louis could get meaningful contributions from the likes of Scott Spiezio, Chris Duncan and So Taguchi why couldn’t Houston receive the same from its power trio of Luke Scott, Jason Lane and Chris Burke? Of course, we all see the folly behind this line of thought now. I suspect most of us never fell for it in the first place. But make no mistake, the Cards played a big role in the debacle currently unfolding at Minute Maid Park. First, they gave us false hope by almost allowing the Astros to catch them at the end of the regular season. Then, they delivered a dagger to our franchise by providing that phony blueprint to winning a championship. And though the Cardinals are suffering through a miserable 2007 themselves, I’m sure the World Series rings and knowledge that they duped their rivals to the South are more than enough to keep the spirit of St. Louis burning bright throughout the season.
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Now speaking of Cardinal Sins against Houston, let’s re-visit the oft-discussed subject of Brad Lidge. Back in March, when the Astros’ former closer was looking worse than Rosie O’Donnell in a muumuu, I argued that Houston needed to wait before shopping Lidge because the club would not be able to receive anything of value in returnat that time
. Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, Lidge has returned to his lights-out ways since being demoted from the closer role. His ERA in that span is hovering around 1.00 and his strikeout to walk ratio is outstanding. Now is the time to strike a deal. Forget trading Ensberg, Lane, Everett or anyone else not named Berkman, Lee, Pence or Oswalt. They won’t fetch anyone worthwhile. But Lidge has value. Contending teams covet his arm and I have no doubt that the Astros can deal him for a much-needed bat. So get on the phone and salvage something from this wretched season, Tim. And better do it quick before Brad decides to try on that muumuu again. --Jason Friedman