They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. For the Houston Astros the darkness swallowed them whole for years and maybe, just maybe, has spit them back out. False hope, poor play, and a previous poor ownership has plagued a fanbase to near extinction. With a 2015 season approaching that offers more hope than the previous five seasons combined, lets take a look back at how the Houston Astros got here.
A Foundation That Never Was
After the events of the 2005 World Series, the Astros possessed a roster set to develop into something special. As much as it hurt to get swept in that series, things did not look horrible. The team was young, fun, and had a dominant pitching staff that rivaled every rotation in the bigs. Morgan Ensberg had completed a 36 home run season, Lance Berkman was in his prime, Jason Lane appeared to be a clutch run producer, and Chris Burke looked to be a solid replacement for Craig Biggio at second base. Then 2006 happened. 2006 was an 82-80 season for the team, which in my opinion was the biggest failure of the decade. Sure that is extreme when it is one of the only winning seasons, but it may have been the last year this team truly had a chance.
Morgan Ensberg is the first that comes to mind. After a monster 2005 campaign, many of us expected it again. The production did not happen with his 23 home runs and 58 RBI being less than what we’d hoped for. But with a .396 on base percentage, Morgan was a valuable guy in the middle of the order. However general manager Tim Purpura did not agree, when he traded Ben Zobrist for Aubrey Huff.
This was one of the most wasteful trades in Astros history, with Huff offering little to no improvement over Ensberg’s game. To make matters worse Jason Lane completely collapsed, new acquisition Preston Wilson struggled, and Chris Burke was shielded from getting good playing time. The pitching was hit or miss, with Andy Pettitte having a huge downfall and the offense being unable to supply starters with wins. Oh and then there was Brad Lidge who was a shell of his former self. Had the team just had a few things go their way, they may have slid into the NL Central crown. Instead it was a lost year, and with that, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens were out the door.
Next: The End of the Biggio Era