Okay, you know how I operate. Unless I’m talking about Hunter Pence, I’m not really going to say nice things about the Astros. Or about the Astros chances to win the NL Central. And I’ll tell you the truth, when I sat down to write this post, that was the plan. I was going to tell you it didn’t matter that the Astros won two of three from the Pirates. That just because Brad Lidge saved those two games it didn’t mean Brad Lidge was back. I was going to tell you it didn’t matter that the Astros had moved up to fourth place in the NL Central because they still stink. I was going to tell you Hunter Pence injured his wrist yesterday. And that Roy Oswalt is going to miss his next start on Wednesday because of an upper chest strain.
But I can’t do that.
Drayton McLane changed my mind.
I think Drayton explained it best with this little statement to the Chron: "I've said all along, if you look at our team, we basically have a good team. Carlos Lee has delivered everything we wanted. He's a superstar. Lance Berkman is a superstar. Hunter Pence has exceeded all expectations. We have three superstars and I think Roy is the best pitcher in baseball, I believe."
I don’t know how I haven’t seen this. I don’t know how I’ve just totally missed that the Astros are a good team. Never mind that an aging old man occupies second base. Or that Hunter Pence was only called up because the team’s original plan for centerfield blew up. Or that once again Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett and Jason Lane and Brad Ausmus fail to hit their weights. Or that superstar Lance Berkman ain’t exactly playing like a superstar. Or that Roy Oswalt aside, the rest of the rotation consists of Jason Jennings, a Baylor boy who looks like he couldn’t handle a Division Two college team, and Wandy Rodriguez, who can only pitch in MMP, and Chris Sampson, a guy who quit baseball for several seasons because he couldn’t hack it, and Woody Williams who, yesterday aside, has been god awful this season.
This is a damn good team. Never mind that the Astros are 42-56 and 13 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers with only 64 games remaining in the season. The Astros have Hoss Cartwright, oops, Carlos Lee, Mr. God-is-his-co-pilot Lance Berkman, Mr. Rookie of the Year candidate Hunter Pence, and Mr. Bulldozer Roy Oswalt. The Astros don’t need anything else. “I think we have the best (nucleus) in baseball,” Drayton said.
(Never mind the Fielder-Hall-Hardy-Braun-Sheets nucleus in Milwaukee, or the Ramirez-Ortiz-Crisp-Youkilis-Schilling-Dice-K-Papelbon nucleus in Boston. Or the Reyes-Wright-Beltran-Wagner-Maine nucleus in New York. Or the Jones (Chipper and Andruw)-Smoltz-McCann-Johnson nucleus in Atlanta. Or the Mauer-Morneau-Hunter-Nathan-Cuddyer-Santana nucleus in Minnesota. Or the Bonderman-Verlander-Granderson-Sheffield-Guillen nucleus in Detroit. Or…hell, you get the point.)
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And don’t worry about Brad Lidge because Drayton tells me that I’ve just been making a mountain of a molehill: “Brad has kind of had a rough spot this year, but that's behind him,” Drayton said. Well, it might have been a rough spot this season, but it’s that same rough spot he’s been in since October 2005.
But forget about that. Drayton wants us to look at the positive. He wants us to know that this team is so good there’s no need to rebuild, because, you see, Drayton says rebuilding is only for crappy teams that have never won, like the Devil Rays. (I guess Drayton doesn’t realize the Astros have never actually won anything either. The Astros were swept in their one opportunity to actually win the only thing in baseball that matters.) The Astros only need to retool. The Astros, Drayton says, just “need to fill in some of the areas where we have not had good performances.” Like first base. And second base. And third base. And short stop. And catcher. And right field. And spots two through five of the starting rotation. And every spot in the bullpen.
The nucleus is there people. And thank God for Drayton McLane. For once while I was blind, now I can see. And the future’s so bright, I’ve got to wear shades. Of course, that brightness could be the result of MMP being blown to smithereens as Drayton goes about with his retooling.
Oh, and the Astros return to action tonight for the first of a seven-game home stand. Tonight’s action has Chris Sampson taking the mound against one of the best teams in the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers. – John Royal