Astros County has an incredibly detailed breakdown of the winter Carlos Lee signed his huge contract, one that will be coming to an end soon.â†µ
It's a great read, with quotes from 2006 and putting you back in the head space of that offseason. It's telling that neither Tim Purpura nor Phil Garner were employed by the team the next winter. That's not the biggest commitment to winning you are going to find.â†µ
Ultimately, the Astros made too long of a commitment at too high a price. But that's what we know now. Sure, there was the pre-diarrhea feeling that things were going to go badly, but at the time, from a major-league standpoint, Lee made the Astros better. And after the run the Astros had since 1994, standing pat would upset the fan base.â†µ
As they say at the end, context is important. If you want to point to the most damaging moments Drayton McLane's influence had on the Astros, this winter was one of them. Forcing the Lee contract through was bigger than letting Jeff Kent walk after 2004. It was bigger than not offering arbitration to Andy Pettitte. It was even bigger than letting Randy Johnson go after the 1998 season.â†µ
Drayton was responsible for a lot of Houston's success and it wasn't guaranteed that the Astros would rebuild in 2007 with Biggio going for 3,000 hits. Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane and Chris Burke failing to pan out also hurt the team just as much in this period. But, refusing to restock this team in many areas and signing Lee to that long-term deal can't be completely ignored.