Inception has fooled everyone into attempting to pay more attention to their dreams, but on rare occasion I can actually remember dreaming about feeling. Anxious. Saddened. Mystified. As the movie rightly points out, I can also remember an specific idea that I had. Study for this test. Mend this relationship. Whether or not I carry this idea out isn't of note, but it does exist. Drayton McLane needs a kick -- he's lying in that oddly snowy third level of the subconscious as we speak. And in this world, Astros fans have the guns. They're protecting their Fortress of Oswalt. The idea? A king's ransom to enter. So far, Drayton is buying it.
The fear of this idea actually taking real, true world form has willed me into a baseball column. Good old fashioned, cut 'n dry, cold potatoes analysis of the Roy Oswalt trade saga. Because I'm scared.
I'll go by what my brain is telling me first. The Astros had better find a way to get rid of Oswalt before July 31. At this point, it's no longer "cash in on" but rather just plain find a taker.
Under the direction of Ed Wade or McLane or whomever is running the show, this feature film ought to have some sort of ending. Doesn't matter how good the ending might be at this point - whether it's two blue chip prospects or just one blue chip prospect. It desperately needs to end. Unlike Inception.
In referencing an end, I refer to Oswalt's career in Houston. Fourteen long years after the Astros drafted him out of Holmes JC, his stint in Southern pinstripes needs to end by Saturday. Hop to it.
Oswalt is not to fault for still being around. Dan Haren's front office and Cliff Lee's front office found ways to send them to contenders without demands or a sense of gratitude and duty. That report claiming Oswalt didn't want to play in Philadelphia? Totally false. All he is doing is pitching and taking care of his wallet, each a privilege he has duly earned. Breaks my heart to hear his Cardinal wish, but who is he to turn down a ring run for the cellar?
The contract stinks. It's the elephant in the
room two-door Tahoe. But there are ways around it. Obviously, opposing teams are interested in discovering those pathways and believe that a trade is possible. The Astros, on the other hand, have yet to take notice of the figures and appear to be looking for relatively equal talent instead.
This, among everything else, is what needs to change. This is the idea that McLane and Co. need to get into their heads. Equal talent isn't on its way to Houston. It's not.
McLane is trying. So is Wade. The first and most logical step in this process was to try. In Drayton's mind, his efforts are all for Roy, his beloved prospect-turned-superstar pitcher. McLane loves loyalty, unless it comes packaged with prospects. This is a philosophy that worked with a farm system. But that's gone thin as his hair.
Drayton also not only likes to win, but to win now, period - for both the franchise and for his public perception. But this isn't 1998. "Now" has come and gone and turned into at least five years. It could get worse if McLane's ego wins out.
From Wade's perspective, it's about getting value, and rightly so. The Phillies would be a nice target, primarily because he has always looked there first, age be damned. This time, it appears that youth is finally in the picture. Given Wade's temporary break from my doghouse, I'm assuming that he has been the level-headed one in negotiations. But who knows.
When does this get ugly? Try August 1, when Oswalt is still in an Astros uniform and the level of impatience has blown through Minute Maid's retractable roof.
Think about the options five years down the road: young prospects that could boom or bust... or nothing. Oswalt won't mean anything at that point. He'll be history, and as gushy and cuddly as historical achievements and memories are, this is a big chance for the franchise to improve their club. The talent of the prospects, though critical, doesn't matter nearly as much as their plain existence in the organization. Even if a deal includes only one Top-100 player instead the two that the Astros have reportedly asked for, it's something to cling to for the time being. There won't be a better chance to make a future-oriented Oswalt trade than the one currently staring the Astros dead in the face.
Trade Roy Oswalt, look ahead. Keep Roy Oswalt, look behind. Either way, a message will be sent.
McLane needs to understand that winning takes losing. He may think that holding out like a tough, sturdy, fans-first owner will make him admirable in Houston, but it won't, not now nor in the future. When we look back at this upcoming week, will MLane be the villain? Or will he save us the energy, discover which idea makes the most sense and act on it?
As much as I've enjoyed Roy Oswalt in Houston, he can't be here anymore. He's no longer a trade chip, but instead a must-deal. Blame the Astros for putting themselves in this position.
Blame them even more if they drop the ball this time.