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astros-suckThis is the fourth installment in Bleacher Nation’s 2009 preview of the National League Central – specifically, how every team not named the Cubs is going to suck. Previously: Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates.

Welcome back to Bleacher Nation’s foray into the other teams of the National League Central, and their prospects for 2009 success. But, as it’s boring to just preview a team and predict their finish (boring/too hard), we do things a little differently here. It’s much more interesting (easy) to simply examine why they currently suck and are going to suck in 2009. So I guess the prospects we explore are the prospects for failure.

Up this week is the Houston Astros.

Tougher to write, no doubt, than the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Cincinnati Reds, but significantly more enjoyable. I don’t know what it is, but the Astros have always bugged me. I hope that doesn’t mean the venom spewed in the comments will be any more harsh than for the previous entries in this series – because man, people can be harsh when you dump on their team.

In case you’re an Astros fan getting ready to anonymously rip me or the Cubs in the comments, may I humbly suggest to you: 1.) we’re aware that the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in 100 (plus) years; 2.) that has surprisingly little to do with how the 2009 Houston Astros will perform.

Baseline for Suckitude

The Astros somehow managed to scrap together an 86-75 record, but that obscures how sucky they actually were last year. Their expected record was actually a full 11 games worse. That means they were lucky. Very lucky. How lucky?

By that metric, they were the luckiest team in all of baseball.

Sucky Offseason Moves

Sad Arrivals: LHP Mike Hampton (free agent), RHP Jeff Fulchino (waiver claim from Royals), C Lou Palmisano (Rule 5 selection from Brewers, via Orioles), LHP Gilbert De La Vara (Rule 5 selection from Royals), OF Jason Michaels (free agent), INF Aaron Boone (free agent), C Toby Hall (minor league free agent), RHP Jose Capellan (minor league free agent), RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent), C Ivan Rodriguez (free agent).

Happy Departures: INF Mark Loretta (free agent, signed with Dodgers), C Brad Ausmus (free agent, signed with Dodgers), LHP Randy Wolf (free agent, probably not coming back), INF/OF Ty Wigginton (non-tendered).

The Astros looks set to replace Randy Wolf with Mike Hampton. Hampton has thrown 78 innings… in the last THREE YEARS COMBINED. He is a guy that 29 other teams in MLB would be willing to take a flier on, maybe a minor league deal, and see what happens. The Astros? He’s penciled into the middle of their rotation. Good luck with that.

Even the best thing the Astros did this offseason was a crippling defeat: the failure to resign catcher Brad Ausmus. But he sucks. So the sucky failure to do something that sucks ends up being ok. Two sucks equal ok. Ivan Rodriguez might be an upgrade, but the Astros are about 10 years too late on him.

Their Very Own Blogoverse Thinks They Suck

You don’t even have to read the content of the post to know what the Astros Dugout is thinking about the team thus far in Spring Training: Astros Finding Suck-Cess In Spring Training 2009.

The Crawfish Boxes (yeah, that’s apparently an Astros blog) knows the Astros are in for a bowl of suck, but wishes they would just accept it and rebuild:

I don’t mind if the Astros suck by design.  If Ed Wade came out tomorrow and said, “We’re entering a rebuilding phase, expect us to be back up and running in 2011-2012,” I’d throw him a parade.

The Suckiest Part of Their Suck

It’s the rotation, duh. Oswalt is good but frail. I know, I know, he’s started 32 games each of the last three years, but he’s just got this way about him that screams shoulder explosion to me. Wandy Rodriguez was pretty good last year in a limited season, but before that he was nothing but terrible. Oh, and his name is Wandy. That’s like one letter from Wendy. Or Wanda.

Yes, Lidge is gone now. But he's also awesome now. So this picture is still an appropriate affront to the Astros.

And those are the best two starters. After those two, it’s a trainwreck. Maybe Hampton will actually pitch this year. Maybe Brandon Backe will hold down a 5.00 ERA. Maybe Brian Moehler won’t be terrible. Maybe Russ Ortiz will pitch in and come back from obscurity.

And maybe Lance Berkman will sprout little pink wings and fly off to the short porch in left. Get it? I called him pig. He’s chubby.

And in the End

They suck.

The bullpen is a strength, and any lineup with Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence hitting back to back  to back will score a few runs. But Miguel Tejada is on his last leg, Kaz Matsui is and always has been terrible, Geoff Blum is a mediocre career backup who’s going to be starting, and Pudge Rodriguez ain’t the hitter he used to be (and they overpaid in this market).

The rotation is simply going to sap the Astros of any chance they had to compete in the Central this year. Recall that even when the ‘Stros were trotting out Oswalt, Clemens and Pettitte (and had a superior lineup), it is not as if they ran away with anything.

Further, they’ve got what is roundly considered one of the worst farm systems in baseball (yeah, yeah, the Cubs’ is no peach), so even if they had the payroll flexibility to add an arm mid-season, they probably don’t have the pieces.

Could they make a show of things in the Central? Probably not if you’re talking about the top. They can probably play slightly better than .500 ball and maybe even play for second place. But the Wild Card is highly unlikely to come out of the Central this year, and they simply don’t have the constitution to challenge the Cubs.

  • CBMerling

    I agree with most points you’ve made and I’m an AVID Astros fan. I’m not looking for much this season as also.

    But I must admit that, although his last three years have been bad Mike Hampton had a strong end to his tenure with the Atlanta Braves. If Wandy Rodriguez can show he is healthy, he could have a breakout year. Ha, the Astros do have a TERRIBLE farm system with any prospects.

    Brad Ausmus wasn’t too stellar at the plate, but defensively has always been a SOLID SOLID catcher at his position. Catchers are looked more upon for their defense rather than offense, offense is just an incentive but you don’t see it alot from catchers.

    Judging from spring, Houston still has the offensive woes that only come in spurts. Roy Oswalt looked horrible in the World Baseball Classic, but Ivan Rodriguez was monstorous. Being real though, I’m not looking forward to those numbers from Rodriguez. His addition, though greatly approves the Astros at that position because I believe he could out-catch Humberto Quintero even if he decided to play another 10 years of ball.

    Nice column at the end, I do expect them to be around the .500 mark this season whether it be a few games below or above, but no postseason for sure.

  • Ace

    Thanks CB. Good to see that at least one other-team-fan can take it all in stride.

    • Gazu

      Astros FAILED to resign Ausmus ? ? ?

      ……..Lol what a joke……see you and your blog (?) @ the end of the season…..

      Regards.

      Gazu

      \=]

      • Ace

        Um, yes? The big loser (winner) in the Ausmus “sweepstakes” was the Padres as he dissed them in favor of the Dodgers, but my understanding (see, for example: http://blogs.chron.com/sportsjustice/archives/2009/01/what_i_remember.html) is that the Astros did try to retain his services.

        And there’s no need for the question mark after “blog.” This is, in fact, a blog.

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  • Dave

    I have and always will think the Cubs are the worst franchise in all of professional sports. And yes, I am aware the OKC Thunder exist. And I have also been a lifelong Astros fan. Having said these things – I can’t argue with the article. The Astros will suck this year. Ed Wade and Drayton are suffocating the team and traded away what used to be a solid farm system for a bag of magic beans. And the Cubs will probably win the NL Central this year, setting up their latest dismal fail in the playoffs. Going further, I don’t think the Astros will be a contender in the coming years. They’ve taken on the failed Yankees team building system of overpaying for has-beens. Didn’t work for the Yankees and it won’t work for the Astros. And Berkman is chubby, but that’s hardly a criticism because it doesn’t prevent him from doing anything whether its hitting, baserunning, or fielding.

    • Ace

      Thanks for that, Dave – comments like that make me feel kind of bad for writing the article.

      And I only call Berkman fat as a deflection for the fact that I secretly wish he was the Cubs’ first baseman…

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