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Gettin’ Miggy With It: Astros Buy First Class Ticket to Loserville

I usually do my best to avoid the topic of baseball, but I feel compelled to speak on the subject today. No, I don’t really care about the Mitchell report. What’s it going to tell us that we don’t already know? A lot of big leaguers used performance enhancing drugs? Really? What a surprise! Honestly, I would not be shocked by anyone’s inclusion within the Mitchell report’s pages. Actually, scratch that. If Adam Everett’s name shows up,

then

I’ll be shocked.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about the Miguel Tejada trade. Since I don’t want to talk baseball any longer than necessary—especially in the offseason—I’ll keep it short and sweet: Simply put, the Astros blew it. In dealing four young prospects (and Luke Scott) for an aging star in decline, new GM Ed Wade demonstrated a gross disregard for baseball economics in the 21st century.

The most valuable commodity in the game today is young pitching talent. It’s the baseball equivalent of Google stock. True, you have no idea whether it’s going to pan out long-term, but everyone wants it anyway. The reasoning is simple: With the price of established hurlers soaring into the stratosphere, it’s never been more important for teams to develop young, inexpensive arms. By giving up Matt Albers and Troy Patton, Houston gave up two of its best. And let’s face it, it’s not as if the Astros’ farm system is teeming with talent to spare.

So now what? The Astros projected 2008 starting lineup definitely has the look of a club capable of putting up plenty of crooked numbers on the scoreboard. And no doubt Tejada will benefit from the change of scenery. Numbers like .310-30-100 are not out of the question with Miggy rejuvenated from a change of scenery and a switch to the inferior National League. Throw in the expected offensive production from the likes of Berkman, Lee, and Pence and you’ve got—on paper—one of the better run-scoring teams in the senior circuit.

But as aesthetically pleasing as those numbers may be, who, pray tell, can be counted on to prevent opposing teams from producing even larger totals? Outside of Roy Oswalt, the starting rotation is in shambles (as anyone masochistic enough to watch the ‘Stros ’07 season can attest. Yes, I’m talking to you, John Royal). And, oh yeah, the bullpen blows, too.

In his blog for espn.com, Keith Law says: “It's hard to make sense of this deal for Houston, a club that continues to act like a contender despite going 73-89 last year.” I couldn’t agree more. To me, this move reeks of a team that’s either A.) Fooling itself, or B.) Fooling its fans. At the risk of sounding too much like my man Royal, I’m betting on “B.”

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Even if the move to Houston helps Tejada recapture his previous form, it won’t make a lick of difference if the Astros don’t fill the gaping holes in its pitching staff. Trouble is, at this juncture the best one can hope for is a series of band-aid solutions similar to the Woody Williams and Jason Jennings deals of a year ago. And you saw how well that worked.

Who knows, maybe this move helps the Astros claw their way back to the .500 mark next year. And maybe that’s enough to compete for the division crown in an NL Central still filled with far more questions than answers. Maybe, but I doubt it. More likely is the scenario which sees Houston continue to be a second-rate club in a second-rate division.

There’s nothing wrong with loading up for one big run if you’ve got the horses to make a true playoff push. But selling the future of the franchise for this group? Yikes.

Either way, the edict from above is clear: Win now. And for their sake, they better. Because three years down the line, when the Astros’ roster is aging and over-priced (isn’t it dreadfully close to that already?) and a barren farm system offers nothing more than a helpless shrug, those wins will be few and far between. - Jason Friedman

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