6 Key Moments/Moves That Caused the Demise of the Houston Astros
To say the Houston Astros franchise is struggling would be an understatement. It is on pace for its second consecutive 100-loss season and is trying to dig out of a very deep hole.
These results though have been a long time coming since 2005, when the Astros made their first and only World Series appearance. This was a flawed organization and GM Jeff Luhnow is doing all he can to turn this team around and get it back on track.
Luhnow has the task of trying to correct roughly seven years of mistakes and it won't happen overnight. These are the top six moments that have led to the situation the Houston Astros are in right now.
Jason Jennings Trade
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One of the biggest mistakes the Astros kept making since the World Series was continually trading away prospects and young players for veterans. These moves didn't work out in the short term and set the team even further back in the long term.
In 2007, the team traded center fielder Willy Taveras and pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh to the Rockies for Jason Jennings and Miguel Asencio. All three players played well for the Rockies in their first season, the same year the Rockies went to the World Series.
Jennings, on the other hand, struggled in his short time with the Astros. In his only season with the team, he went 2-9 with an ERA of 6.45, giving up 19 home runs in 19 starts.
Carlos Lee Contract
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The same year the Astros made the trade for Jason Jennings, they signed Carlos Lee to a six-year, $100 million contract. At the time there was no denying that Carlos Lee was one of the better hitters in the league and was an RBI machine.
The issue many people had when they heard the news was the length of the contract. In his first three seasons with the Astros he hit over .300 and 100 RBI, creating a pretty good one-two punch with Lance Berkman.
The final two-and-half seasons with the Astros he didn't hit over .280, and his power numbers took a drastic downturn to only five this season. He became a liability in outfield and had to make a switch to first base two seasons ago when Lance Berkman was traded.
Kaz Matsui Signing
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Kaz Matsui was signed by the Astros before the 2008 season to a three-year deal worth $16.5 million. He was a good role player but was not worth a salary of over $5 million a year.
He was injury-prone, spending substantial time on the disabled list each of the first two seasons before being released in the middle of his third and final season with the team. In 255 games with the team, he hit .259 with five home runs and 40 stolen bases.
Miguel Tejada Trade
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The Houston Astros repeated a mistake they made not even a year prior in 2008 when they traded for Miguel Tejada. This one hurt the organization much more on a number of different levels.
First thing has to be what they had to give up to get the shortstop. The key pieces the Astros gave up were OF Luke Scott, SP Matt Albers and Troy Patton who at the time were young key prospects for the Astros. They have all gone on to be decent players at the major league level.
This was way too much to give up for an aging veteran; Tejada was 33 years old at the time. He also had a lot of money left on his contract, $30 million to be exact according to Richard Justice of SportsJustice. Like Justice points out, this contract really hindered the team from making any additional moves.
Let's not forget this move became a PR nightmare because the next day the Mitchell Report came out and Miguel Tejada was one of the players named in the report.
Tejada was a two time All-Star but the team only had a record of 160-163 over his two seasons with the team.
Hiring Ed Wade as GM
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In September of 2007, Ed Wade was hired as the new GM of the Houston Astros and the man given the task to get the team back to the World Series. Sadly, it did not work out that way and Wade's moves set the team further back.
Wade was not responsible for the Jennings trade or the Carlos Lee signing, but he did give the green light on the Miguel Tejada trade. He was not able to bring in any quality free agents and unfortunately had to trade fan favorites Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence over his final couple of seasons to jump start the farm system.
Drayton McLane Selling the Team
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The process of selling the Houston Astros is one of the key, if not biggest, reasons why the Astros are in their current situation. Drayton McLane was a good owner for a number of years, but reports started to surface that he became too involved in team personnel activities, like this article from 2007.
It seemed like McLane was looking for an exit strategy for a few years. Brian McTaggert of MLB.com wrote back in 2009 that Jim Crane and McLane had agreed in principle to a deal that Crane would have bought the team. However, Crane backed out at the time due to the economy taking a downturn.
From that point on you could see the Astros starting to become very financially stringent in terms of free-agent signings. In 2005 Jeff Bagwell and Roger Clemens were making $18 million each, the same year the Astros went to the World Series. Compare that to right now where the Astros total player salaries is a little under $17 million.