If You Love Roy Oswalt, Set Him Free

Ed. Note: We mistakenly stated that Brian McTaggart was with the Houston Chronicle, which has now been corrected. We regret the error.

If you were watching the Astros lose on Wednesday night, then you probably recall that at one point, Albert Pujols hit a soft groundball right up the middle of the diamond that went for a hit because neither Miguel Tejada nor Kaz Matsui were in much of a position to get it, and it appeared that neither made much of an attempt to get to the ball. And you'll likely remember that Oswalt walked off of the mound and had a long heated conversation with Matsui and Tejada.

Then anybody who follows Astros.com writer Brian McTaggart on Twitter had the fun of reading his tweets from the locker room after the game, specifically those involving Oswalt saying the team had quit and that the problem came from the top. In the context of the tweets, Oswalt was calling out the likes of Tejada, Carlos Lee and Cecil Cooper. Especially Cooper.

I'm a big Roy Oswalt fan. I've been a big fan since he came up in 2001. I like that Oswalt actually seems to care about what happens in a game. I really like this in that it generally appears that guys like Tejada, Lee, and Lance Berkman rarely give a damn about what actually happens during the game. And the fact that Tejada has emerged as the clubhouse leader instead of a guy like Oswalt has always been a sign that most of the team just doesn't really care.

It's pretty obvious that there are going to be changes in this club come the off-season. Cooper will probably be fired. Tejada and Jose Valverde are free agents. And I'm sure the club will start listening to trade offers for just about everybody else on the team. Including Roy Oswalt.

For the sake of Oswalt, to preserve his sanity, and because he deserves it, the team really should make sure that he's one of those that get traded. I could never understand why Oswalt signed that big extension on his contract a couple of years ago. It was obvious then the team was headed in the wrong direction, and as a free agent, he would have been able to command big dollars from clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers -- teams that have shown a willingness to pay for pitching as well as teams that are using in contention for the playoffs.

Of all of the players on the Astros, Oswalt, to me, is the one who most deserves to be playing baseball when it really matters, and that's not something the Astros are going to be doing for a long, long time. So as soon as this season's over, the Astros should be on the phone to all of the other clubs telling them that it's open season and Oswalt can be theirs if the deal is just right.

And for Oswalt, the team's the Astros should listen to offers from are the Texas Rangers (Nolan Ryan seems to have the right ideas about pitching and winning and the farm system is in great shape and full of prospects), the Tampa Bay Rays (good young team in need of a true ace pitcher that will reunite him with his former pitching coach, Jim Hickey, and a team that also has a deep and talented farm system), the New York Yankees (lots of talent at all levels, they're always in contention, and they'll pay Oswald a lot of money), the Boston Red Sox (see the Yankees), the Los Angeles Dodgers (see the Red Sox), the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (see the Dodgers), the San Francisco Giants (stacked farm system and a ballpark built for pitching), and the Minnesota Twins (the farm system is always full of grade A talent for trading purposes, they're always good defensively, and they could use a true number one starter).

Sure. The Astros pitching will suck without Oswalt. But the pitching sucks with him here, as does the rest of the team, and there's no legit reason why he should continued to be punished. Send him to a team that cares, and that can win. And if the Astros can do this right, they'll get a lot of grade A talent for restocking the farm system so that, in about three more years, there will be somebody available to play with Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. Plus, by then, the team will be free of Lee, Matsui, and the rest of the slackers who just show up to collect pay checks.

It's the least the team can do for Roy Oswalt. He deserves it. After all, as the saying goes, if you love somebody, set them free. Free, free. Set Roy O. free.

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