added 5/12/2011 by Bob Hulsey
I hear the grumbling from Astros fans. The team looks to be headed for another losing season or, if nothing else, a slow start to the season that takes them out of contention before the campaign is even a third of the way finished.
Losing's not fun but it can also be a necessary stepping stone. It took years for the Astros to dig themselves into this hole and it will likely take a few years to climb out of it.
There are two competing dangers for a team in the Astros' position. One is to accept losing and get into bad mental and physical habits that prolong losing. We've all seen clubs where losing became such a way of life that players, management and eventually fans expected to lose. Such thinking is never healthy.
The other danger is to go for the quick fix - to sign a top-dollar free agent when the rest of the squad isn't good enough for the new savior in town to make a sizable difference.
With new ownership expected soon to take over the Astros, a new tv network to sell and a lot of empty seats at the ballpark, the temptation is high to grab some big free agents and quickly rebrand the ballclub in order to bring back disenchaned fans. That can be a huge mistake.
This won't be popular, but what Houston fans need right now is patience. The new ownership group will make their mark soon enough - as they should. But the owners will need time to evaluate the management just as the management will need time to evaluate the players and the younger players will need time to develop.
Don't expect any big changes right away. Special players are rarely available this time of year without some baggage (like a bad contract or declining skills) coming with them.
Yet, as the season continues, it will be a healthy sign to see more young players getting a chance to shine. Veterans like Bill Hall, Clint Barmes and Jason Michaels may get traded away if the Astros continue to lose like this. It's a longer shot but productive veterans like Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Hunter Pence or Michael Bourn could be dealt in July if the offers coming back are good enough. There's nobody on this team that's untradeable but that doesn't mean we should discard players who are still contributing.
Whether Ed Wade is calling the shots or another general manager replaces him, they'll need to take the long view and avoid the shortcuts until the team has developed much further.
Jim Crane and the new ownership team will get a honeymoon phase where their actions will be given the benefit of the doubt. Show them patience and help them see that Houston fans are bright enough to wait on prospects to develop into the next generation of stars rather than insist on signing every hot shot free agent that hits the market. If Crane hires savvy baseball people, that will likely be their approach.
Wade and Bobby Heck have done a good job of laying the foundation for a good team to emerge by 2013-14. If we don't panic, we should have a team worth rooting for in a couple of years led by guys like Jordan Lyles, Delino Desields Jr, and J.D. Martinez. But it will take time to get there,
Patience is indeed a virtue. But for good baseball organizations, it's also a necessity.