The End of Biggio and Start of Stopgaps
Apr 1, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros former playerCraig Biggio
waves to the crowd before a game against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Stopgaps may very well have been the biggest reason the Astros lost 100 games in three straight years. Owner Drayton McLane at some point stopped seeing the value of a farm system, in my opinion to save money. Regardless of his choices, some teams can still win without great farm systems. The only way to do that is to gamble on spending high dollars, by locking free agents in to lucrative deals.
He did that in 2007 with the addition of Carlos Lee for $100 million. The move was heavily criticized, and for good reason. I refuse to accept that the Lee deal was the worst thing in the world, but it was the spending. Drayton did not understand the value of building a complete team. He would spend money to keep the Astros kind of relevant, and then slack off doing enough to get the team to the promised land. His willingness to bank off of the Biggio and Bagwell success, had come to a crashing halt.
The Astros fielded one of the worst rotations in the game in 2007, leading them to only 72 wins. The additions of pitchers Woody Williams and Jason Jennings were wasteful. Outside of Wandy Rodriguez, the Astros seemed doomed in terms of young pitching help. The only way for the Astros to acquire that help at the time, would be to blow the whole thing up. Under Drayton that just was not going to happen. 2007 would lead to the dismissals of Chris Burke, Jason Lane, Morgan Ensberg, manager Phil Garner, and general manager Tim Purpura. 2008 was the dawn of a new team, but with the same problems.
Under new general manager Ed Wade, the Astros re-tooled a stale roster for the 2008 season. They acquired Miguel Tejada in a blockbuster trade, traded for Jose Valverde, signed Kazuo Matsui, and acquired Randy Wolf midseason. The deals reeked of desperation, but did help the team succeed for one year. In my opinion the Houston Astros completely maxed out at 86 wins, finishing third in the NL Central despite being outscored. This would be the last of the success in Houston, and last time the fans even had a glimmer of hope.