Let’s take a quick trip in the Way Back machine. It is 1998, and the Houston Astros are rolling. The lineup is filled with Killer B’s, and the clubhouse is filled with Jose Lima‘s merengue music. The starting rotation is led by Lima, Shane Reynolds and Mike Hampton. GM Gerry Hunsicker believes his team needs a true ace. And he goes out and gets one.
The trade deadline brought Randy Johnson to Houston for three prospects, and he did not disappoint. He struck out 116 batters in 84.1 innings after coming over from Seattle while posting a 1.28 ERA. He was nearly unhittable. The Astros marched into the playoffs with 102 wins and, promptly got rolled by the San Diego Padres, losing both games Johnson started. And, then, just like that, he was gone, signing with Arizona as a free agent.
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Don’t like Ancient History? No problem. Let’s look back, all the way, to last year’s surprise team. The Kansas City Royals, winners of 89 games and owners of a magical trip through the postseason. They were led byJames Shields
with 14 wins each. They also had a bullpen that knew how to put a foot on the other team’s throat and finish the game. Conventional wisdom said they shouldn’t have been able to do it. After all, there were teams that made deals to bolster their staffs and put themselves over the top.
The Tigers had made a deadline deal to get David Price to add to their rotation which already had Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. The A’s? Billy Beane made two deals getting Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester. They were both tossed from the postseason without their mid-season additions helping them much at all. The Tigers being swept aside in the opening round by the Orioles and the A’s losing the wild card playoff game.
Next: Do the Astros Really Need a Trade?