So You Guys Are Talking About the Astros, Right?

What Royal fails to take into account is Carlos Lee's ability to eat the competition.

Yes, I know that all of you are sick of me harping on Houston's leading information source. You know what, I'm sick of it, too. But there are just sometimes that a guy's got to comment. And this is one of those times. So, to steal a quote from Elvis Costello: "

No, don't ask me to apologize, I won't ask you to forgive me


I feel compelled to write because the Chronicle's beat writer for the Astros, Jose de Jesus Ortiz, picked the Astros to win 93 games this season. Not only that, but picked the Astros to win the World Series. Now, I've heard of rose colored glasses, but he must be wearing brick-red and black colored glasses.

And, to play fair, I should note that my fellow blogger, Jason, also picked the Astros to win the division. But there's a difference between winning the division and winning the World Series. And I wish that I had some of the drugs that these guys must be taking, or else they'd let me borrow those cute little brick-red and black glasses. Because I'm just not buying it. Nope, not gonna do it.

I'm a native Houstonian. I used to work for the Astros. I don't want them to lose. But there is such a thing as reality. And the reality is that this is not a very good baseball team.

Let's look at the positives. Roy Oswalt may be the best starting pitcher in the National League. He's not fully appreciated by the people of Houston because he's not the raving egomaniac that is his former teammate, Roger Clemens. But Oswalt was the last major league pitcher with back-to-back seasons of 20 or more wins.

Then there's Lance Berkman. Lance is not the world's best first baseman. He's probably not even the best first baseman on this present Astros team. And anybody who had the joy of watching Jeff Bagwell turn the 3-4-3 double play knows that Berkman is rather mediocre when it comes to the defensive portion of his game. But he can hit. I think that he can fall out of bed and get a single.

That's it for the positives.

Let's look at the negatives.

First, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are gone. I'm not the world's biggest Clemens fan. But the rotation is harmed by his absence. In their place, the Astros have recruited Jason Jennings and Woody Williams. Not exactly standouts. Jennings has a mediocre record and a mediocre ERA. However, he's been pitching for the Colorado Rockies, and mediocre numbers are actually probably pretty good. Then there's Woody Williams, the UH grad. Woody's about the same age as the Rocket, but he's got nowhere Clemens's career record. And Woody has spent the past several seasons pitching for the San Diego Padres in Petco Park. Woody's numbers, like those of Jennings, are mediocre. But unlike Jennings, this is a bad thing because Petco Park is a pitcher's paradise.

On the plus side, Jennings and Woody are from the Houston-area, just like Roger and Andy.

Then there's the number four starter, Wandy Rodriguez. If this guy wasn't a left-hander, he wouldn't be on a Double-A roster. As it is, he's made the Astros roster again, and he's once again the four starter. I'm pulling for Wandy, though. I really want him to get an ERA that's under five for this season. The fifth starter is one Chris Sampson. He's 28, and quite the story. You see, he retired for three seasons. Gee, this kind of makes one long for Jeriome Robertson.

Don't get me started on the bullpen. Did you know that Brad Lidge is still closing? That he's already blown one save this season, and that the season's only one game old? Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls have talent, but their not anything special. Trever Miller's on the roster because he's left-handed. And every bullpen needs a left-hander. He doesn't offer much else.

But forget about the pitching. The Astros signed Carlos Lee this season. So the offense is really going to mash and the pitching won't matter.

Uh, okay.

Let's see. Leading off is Craig Biggio. Bidge is on his quest for 3,000 hits. He generally starts off fast, then fades. Chris Burke's playing centerfield this season so that the team can get his bat in the lineup. Trouble is, his bat only looks good when compared to Biggio's. Morgan Ensberg's back starting at third base. But let's face it. Ensberg's living off the first half of his 2005 season. The rest of his career stats stink, and there's nothing to indicate that he's going to improve. Luke Scott showed promise in his half-season in the bigs last year. Trouble is, he showed nothing in his trips to the big leagues. So, no one's really sure of what the team's going to get. And if Luke or Chris falter, Jason Lane's sitting on the bench. Yeah, that's not too comforting.

Oh, and did I mention that Brad Ausmus and Adam Everett are still in the lineup. People are going to tell you that the defense provided by Ausmus and Everett will make up for the inability to hit. There is some truth to that. When the rest of the team is providing offense. Which the Astros offense, excepting Berkman and Lee, isn't going to do.

The conventional wisdom is the Astros play in the worst division in baseball. Which may be true. But I think that the Brewers have the ability to run away from the rest of the NL Central. There's nothing to indicate that the Astros can keep up.

I don't know where the 93-win prediction comes from. I don't know where the Astros win the Series comes from. Yes, the Detroit Tigers shocked the experts last season. But honestly, I just don't think that the 2007 Astros have what it takes to be the 2006 Detroit Tigers. — John Royal

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