Roy Oswalt has made it official.
He has asked the Houston Astros to find a new location for him to pitch.
It will be a sad day for Astro fans when it happens. Since the 2001 season when he joined the rotation on June 2 because of an injury to Jose Lima, he's been almost an automatic quality start every five days. In fact, it was more often than not a dominating performance.
Roy's march to being a day-one starter wasn't expected. The Astros drafted him in 1996 out of Holmes Community College. They could have reached for him in the first or second round, but luckily he was still there in the 23rd. It is doubtful many of the 683 players picked before him have had better careers.
If Roy had been bigger, he'd have been picked much earlier. Most teams get worried about small, hard throwing, right handed pitchers. The Astros decided to take a chance in a late round and it worked out very well for them.
In fact, looking back at that draft, the only player to have a career on Roy's level is Jimmy Rollins who was taken before Oswalt. Rollins was picked up in the second round of the draft. Oswalt just had to wait for another 600 or so players to go before his name was called.
Once in the Astros minor league system he never struggled. He was great and dominating at every level. The only thing that slowed him down was some shoulder pain.
Luckily he cured himself of that while performing some work on his truck's engine. He gave himself a huge electrical shock when he touched a spark plug wire. If his foot hadn't slipped off the bumper, he may have died.
But afterwards, he felt no more pain in his shoulder. Sports Illustrated reported what he told his wife, "My truck done shocked the fire out of me, and my arm don't hurt no more." Have I mentioned Roy is from Weir, Miss. Well now you know.
In 2000 Roy started off in Class A with the Kissimmee Cobras. Injury problems at AA Round Rock got him a start there. He was supposed to pitch a game or two and then go back to Kissimmee. The club had given him a round trip ticket.
In his first start for the Express, he struck out 15 batters. Manager Jackie Moore tore the return ticket up. Nolan Ryan, yes the Nolan Ryan who pitched seven no-hitters, struck out over 5,000 batters and was Robin Ventura's nightmare, told the Astros that Roy should stay with them. When Nolan talks people listen, and Roy stayed in Round Rock, Texas for a bit.
His success in Round Rock led to being selected for the United States 2000 Olympic team. He and Ben Sheets helped Tommy Lasorda and the squad earn a gold medal. Roy twice beat South Korea in big games. This was a prelude to the type of mental toughness and big game ability he would show in the majors.
Once Roy made it to the big leagues he did what he always had done on the mound. Throw strikes, win a lot of games and never, ever back down. Roy isn't afraid of anyone.
That mentality is what has made him great. Well, add in the fact that he has very good control, changes speeds on his fastball, curve, and slider and can still hit 93-94 on the gun.
The team that decides to make a move for him is picking up a first line No. 1 guy. His record this season so far is 2-6, but his earned run average sits at a low 2.66. That is below his lifetime ERA of 3.21.
With his pitching style and control, I believe Roy can pitch for another three seasons at a high level. Age does increase the chance of injury, but he has proven to be very durable.
There is a smart GM out there who wants to win this year and will make the right move. If they already have a starter better than Roy Oswalt, then nobody is going to want to face that 1-2 combination in a playoff series.
Roy O., as he's known in Houston, will deliver quality start after quality start. On a team with an above average offense, he could easily have reversed his record this season. The Astros are anemic on offense and have given him no run support.
Oswalt won't come cheap. He will cost in salary and most likely two very nice young prospects. At the same time however, Roy O. will provide a great arm and a playoff/big game pitcher to their staff.
He may not be traded right away, but someone is going to need an arm sooner or later. Roy Oswalt might have the best one available. He's ready to work for a new company. Now we just wait to see who wants or needs him the most.
Oh, and if you're really interested Mr. GM, the Astros have a pretty decent switch hitting first baseman who is probably available. He'll come a bit cheaper in the trade department than Mr. Oswalt.
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