As I was sitting in my seat Wednesday night at the Astros game I kept trying to convince myself that even bad baseball was better than no baseball. After the second Ian Kinsler bomb I started to doubt myself. The Astros are now 3-13 at home this month and at the halfway mark of the season they sat at a lowly 28-53 and were on pace for 106 losses; the previous worst is 97 losses. So two questions arise to me, how did they get this bad and what needs to be done to fix it?
A small part of this is just a by product of winning. Signing and trading for big names like Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran cost you prospects and draft picks and eventually that catches up. In my opinion the larger reason rests on the shoulders of Drayton McLane. Over a number of years McLane made cuts in scouting, made cuts in the Caribbean camps, put way too much faith in marginal players like Chris Burke and Jason Lane, and resisted rebuilding in favor of signing mediocre players like Woody Williams and Kaz Matsui.
I wouldn't trade the 2004 and 2005 seasons for anything (except a ring of course), those were the two most exciting seasons in team history. Unfortunately McLane and his puppets let that excitement blind them and fool them into believing that they had a great team instead of a flawed team that got hot at the right time. At that point you needed to make big improvements to contend again, they did not. After the 2006 season, the writing was on the wall. Their minors were drained and most of their starting roster was over 30; they needed to start rebuilding.
Instead they threw away money on players that weren't going to make them contenders and continued to drain the minors with trades (Jason Jennings), free-agent compensation (no 1st rounders in 2003, 2004, 2007), and worst of all not signing draft picks like Drew Stubbs. Since then McLane has either been too stubborn to admit his mistakes or believes we, the fans, are stupid enough to believe that signings like Pedro Feliz and Russ Ortiz are signs of them striving to be Champions.
How To Fix It:
The Astros, while certainly not broke like the A's and Pirates, can't compete dollar for dollar with the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, and Phillies. They have to build through the draft and win with home-grown talent. I believe the best way to do this is all at once, just like pulling off a band-aid. Not only will you receive a huge influx of talent that can contribute soon, but you'll also get a couple of really high draft picks by bottoming out. It's going to hurt, no doubt, but by being aggressive in rebuilding and making bold moves for prospects, I believe you can shorten your down time.
In conclusion, bad baseball is still better than no baseball. The Astros have a great ballpark and I'll continue to support them. In fact, I was at the game last night.