What Do the Houston Astros Need to Do to Get Back into Contention in 2012?
The 2011 Astros season has been an unmitigated disaster.
On the field, the club will lose 100 games for the first time in its history and obviously shatter the mark for the worst winning percentage in history. They currently stand nine games out...of 29th place.
They have the top draft pick sewn up already, and are working on avoiding history. Their current target is to avoid losing 110 games.
Most fans already have their sights set on next year. This is where the rest of the mess comes into play. Who is going to own the team next year? Who will be making the decisions? How much money will be available to spend on free agents and in arbitration?
These are all questions that have to be answered, and they won't come easily.
Get the Ownership Question Answered
Jim Crane is still awaiting approval as if Bud Selig is waiting for mana from heaven.
So much of what has to be done is based on this decision. The budget for 2012 is set by the ownership. The decisions are made by those whom the owner hires. McLane isn't about to fire anyone when he isn't going to be around. Yet he may end up being around a little longer than he'd like.
Fire Ed Wade
I used to be an Ed Wade apologist. No, he doesn't use numbers and no, he isn't good in free agency or trades, but he was given a heap of crap and expected to make an organization.
Wade is renowned for building farm systems and the Phillies are definitely reaping the awards. Yet the organization is now devoid of any of the stars and familiar faces it once had. It is unclear as to whether he got enough.
While minor league records are less important than we think, none of the affiliates had a higher winning percentage than .440. The club had the worst organizational record in baseball. Add to that the worst record in the big leagues and you are left wondering what he did exactly. Sure, we can explain some things, but if you have to spend your time making excuses for why the crap you see isn't really crap then you have to move on.
Jettison Needless Veterans
There is nothing quite as maddening as watching a team forty-plus games under .500 play someone who isn't going to be a part of the team's future. A couple of years ago, Jason Michaels was dubbed "tartar sauce" by some in Houston. The implication was that he was as important a part of the rebuilding plan as tartar sauce is to a steak dinner.
This season he has been hitting around the Mendoza line and yet he gets to start against lefties. Sure, he has a history of good play against lefties, but what are you learning by playing him? Are you watching Brian Bogusevic and T.J. Shuck to see how they react to an inferior player play in front of them?
I'm sure guys like Jason Michaels, Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon can help someone in 2012, but it won't be the Astros.
Don't Sell Wandy Rodriguez for Magic Beans
The Astros tried to deal Wandy Rodriguez in July and again in August. In short, there is no reason to be desperate.
He is a better pitcher than Ubaldo Jimenez, and Jimenez netted the Colorado Rockies four prime prospects. Unless you get a package similar to what you got for Hunter Pence, there is no reason to give him away. Even if a team pays for his whole salary, the Astros aren't in danger of overspending.
Look at the number of pitchers who are producing Wandy's numbers since 2008. It's a much shorter list than you think. He doesn't have the big win numbers, but in case you haven't noticed, the Astros haven't exactly been setting the world on fire since 2008.
He is an excellent pitcher, no matter what statistic you use. If someone is willing to give you a couple of grade-A prospects then consider it, but don't give him away.
When in Doubt Play the Kids
There is a saying that you should "go with the devil you know over the devil you don't know."
The person who said that wasn't a baseball fan. When a group of veterans land you in the second division, I don't want to see those same veterans out there the next season. Sure, you can't man every position with rookies, but if there is a capable young player at the position, he should get an opportunity. Furthermore, the Astros shouldn't give up on them after a few struggles.
Mike Schmidt, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and others looked horrible in their rookie seasons. Every once in awhile you find a gem.
The Astros wasted too much time with guys like Jeff Keppinger, Geoff Blum and Jason Michaels. You won't find a taker for Carlos Lee, but you shouldn't let his $18 million mandate a spot in the lineup. If Brett Wallace proves he is up to the challenge at first and J.D. Martinez shows he can still hit in left, then Lee should sit his happy butt down on the bench.