Thursday, March 30, 2017

Astros Baseball: Remembering the Dark Ages

As we look forward to a new age of Astros baseball, Friend of the Blog John Burgess (aka @StrosDude9) reminds us of just how far the Astros have come and some of the missteps along the way.

Ah! 2005 was such a great year—I was in my first senior year in college, the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie was released in theaters, and Mariah Carey finally admitted that We Belong Together. In the sports world, the Texas Longhorns won that thrilling National Championship over USC (Hook ‘Em) and…oh yeah, the Houston Astros went to the World Series for the first and only time. Sure they were swept by the Chicago South Siders, but that was still such a magical season. As you remember, the Astros overcame a 15-30 start to take the wild card spot and eventually claim their first pennant. Unfortunately, the Astros organization came tumbling down that mountaintop to settle in a rocky ravine for a decade. But with the arrival of the 2017 Opening Day comes expectations that the Astros haven’t had since that 2005 season. So, being the negative Nancy that I am, I’d like to take a look back at many of the awful Astros-related events that have taken place since 2005.

Prior to the 2007 season, in an effort to stay relevant, Uncle Drayton McClane pushed then GM Tim Pupura to sign and trade for some C-Level players with a name. The Astros were losing Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte and decided to replace those guys with 40-year old Woody Williams and followed that by making one of the worst trades in Astros history: trading Willy Tavares, Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh for Jason Jennings. Woody started 21 games that season and ended 8-15 with a 5.27 ERA. Jason Jennings ended the season with a 6.45 ERA and made just 18 starts in his Astros career—one of those starts may have been the worst start in Astros history (11 ER in 2/3 inning and only 39 pitches thrown).

Prior to the 2008 season, the Astros signed Kazuo Matsui to a 3 year, $16.5 million contract. He only played in 96 games in ’08 season thanks to anal fissures…

Also in 2008, Hurricane Ike and Bud Selig ganged up to crush any hopes of an Astros postseason berth. As the hurricane hammered Houston, Selig thought it would be prudent for the Astros (who had won 14 of their prior 15 and were just 2 games out of the NL Wild Card at the time) to play their home series against the first place Cubs in Milwaukee…just 90 miles north of Wrigley. As you may remember, Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros in the first game and then the Astros could muster just one hit the following afternoon. They finished the season winning just 6 of their last 14 and ended up 3.5 games out of the Wild Card.

In 2011, the Astros played an Interleague series against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park. It was no surprise that the ratio of Red Sox fans to Astros fans was around 4:1 for that series. It was a major (and unpleasant) surprise that Minute Maid Park blared the Red Sox anthem “Sweet Caroline” during the game and tens of thousands of Sox fans, as well as a few thousand oblivious Astros fans chanted, “So Good! So Good! So Good!”

The Houston Astros spent 51 seasons in the National League and had some great rivalries with the Cardinals, Cubs, and Braves in the recent years. Despite that, Bud F$#&ing Selig forced the team to move to the American League in 2013 before finalizing the sale of the team to current owner Jim Crane. Bud wanted to balance the schedule by moving one of the 16 National League teams into the 14-team American League. Sure there were teams that had far less history in the National League like the Diamondbacks, Rockies, or Selig’s beloved Brewers, but how would he have been able to strong-arm them?

During the time between 2005 and 2017, we’ve seen many of our favorite Astros players come and go. During the necessary, complete tear-down that Ed Wade started, we had to say our goodbyes to a couple of Astros legends in Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. In 2010, Oswalt was traded to the Phillies and Berkman to the Yankees. While that in itself was tough to cope with, the sight of those two in Texas Rangers blue in consecutive seasons (2012 and 2013) was downright nauseating.

The year was 2013. Nolan Ryan’s son, Reid Ryan, was just named the Astros President of Business Operations. And what was his first act as Astros President? Having to fire a snow cone vendor for sitting his tray of snow cones next to him on the restroom floor while he dropped a deuce. But what President of Business Operations hasn’t had to deal with that?

There were so many other events that happened during the Astros Dark Ages, but I’ll spare you the look back at Bo Porter’s illegal pitching change, the Cardinals hacking scandal, and Jarred Cosart’s misguided tweets. It’s time to put all of this behind us and look to the bright future of Astros baseball. The Astros window is just opening and looks to be wide open for the next 5 years or so, so hopefully the worst thing we’ll have to overcome for the next decade is Florida Georgia Line releasing several more of their rubbish albums.

- John Burgess

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