As the regular season winds down, many teams are already facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategy.
But we're not going to let them get off that easy. No sir. No way. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're giving a blogger from each team the opportunity to give a concession speech for this year's squad. Leading off our series is James Yasko of Astros County. He wrote "The 10 Best Things About Being an Astros Fan" for Big League Stew earlier this season.
My fellow Astros fans, all 10 of you:
We gather here in front of this construction site because of, you know, symbolism. It has been a long season, but it's time to concede.
Concede what, you ask?
We are conceding that the Houston Astros — for the second straight season — are the worst team in baseball. We are conceding that the Phillies won one fewer game in 2011 than the Astros won in 2011 and 2012 at the time of this speech. We are conceding that everyone is going to continue to laugh at the Houston Astros as we move to the American League West in 2013.
But we are also conceding that the laughter. Will. Soon. Cease!
<Applause from crowd of 10>
Mistakes were made: On May 25, the Astros were 22-23 following their fourth straight win. We wondered if we should be sellers or if we should double down on a team that looked patient, played with energy, and limited mistakes. We got our answer quickly. The Astros went 18-69 from May 25 to August 31, including a 38-game stretch where the team lost 34 of 38 games. It's amazing that no one called us out for tanking after seeing plays like this one.
<Stunned silence from crowd of nine>
But we didn't lose this race in 2012, Astros fans. We lost in 2012 because of years of mistakes that were allowed to accumulate. The house had started to fall down years before, and instead of making the necessary improvements, temporary fixes were attempted.
Oh, you thought the Astros' road uniforms were gray?
They were duct taped.
<Nervous laughter from crowd of eight.>
The sources of the faults and failures of the 2012 Astros can be found all the way back in 2007. The Astros lost their first two draft picks for signing Carlos Lee and Woody Williams. And then the previous administration got all slotty on the draft and then didn't sign the third and fourth-round picks. This means that the Astros' first signed pick in the 2007 draft was the 171st overall pick.
Then came a series of meaningless free-agent signings: Kaz Matsui, Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton, among others. When we did hit on free agents — and I'm looking at you, Brett Myers — we tragically extended them to fat contracts, instead of trading them when their value was at its highest.
<Booing from crowd of seven after one guy wandered off to watch the Rangers>
Mudslinging time: The jury is still out on Ed Wade. We have no idea the constraints the previous administration, yes, former owner Drayton McLane, made him work under. Perhaps it wasn't his idea to acquire players that made it look like he was playing Franchise Mode on MLB 2003. It's possible that he was, in fact, the only person who wasn't aware of the possibility that Miguel Tejada would be named in the Mitchell Report the day after he traded five players for him. Probably not, though.
It's hard to blast a guy that only wanted to win. Drayton McLane was that guy. He wanted to win so badly that he neglected the minors in order to sign free agents. Instead of reloading the gun, we sharpened our knives to get ready for a gunfight.
Drayton McLane, the owner that Bud Selig could count on to stay in line, did this. Yes, he can be credited with keeping Biggio and Bagwell in the fold. He can claim responsibility for the 2004-2005 playoff runs. But so can Gerry Hunsicker, the GM that McLane ran off. Drayton McLane wanted to win so much that he ended up running the franchise into the ground.
How's that for irony?
<Remaining six fans check to see if that was proper use of "irony">
Hope for the future: We stand in front of a construction site because it represents where we are. We started to tear this house down in 2010 by trading Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Then we traded Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn in 2011. And finally we traded Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, David Carpenter, Chris Johnson, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez in 2012. If you've seen our lineup lately, you know it's been the true definition of a gut rehab.
But it's all for the best. You know how much payroll flexibility we've gained? The Astros are committed to $5.5 million in payroll for 2013, and $5 million of that goes to the Pirates to help pay for Wandy Rodriguez. Sure, there are five players up for arbitration, with Jed Lowrie and Bud Norris among them. But gone is Brett Myers' foolishly bloated contract. Gone is the albatross that was Carlos Lee. This team is young and cheap.
With the trades made this summer, we brought in 16 baseball players and Francisco Cordero to a system that was the baseball equivalent of a cracked foundation. And that doesn't include the 2012 draft — the first under Jeff Luhnow's tenure. By gaming the draft we were essentially able to sign three first-round draft picks: Carlos Correa, Rio Ruiz, and Lance McCullers, Jr. — the latter two of whom slipped due to signability and financial concerns.
Need more hope? The Astros had seven of their eight minor-league affiliates finish 2012 with a record of .500 or above. Three affiliates made the playoffs, two made the championship finals, and one (the Lancaster JetHawks) won its league. We didn't have a single affiliate finish 2011 with a winning record, and it had been since 2006 that the Astros had more than two affiliates over .500 for the season.
A change is going to come: Changes have already been made. Jeff Luhnow is general manager and he has hired Sig Mejdal as director of decision sciences. He has hired Mike Fast and Kevin Goldstein. He also fired most of the front office, and is in the process of hiring a new manager. The Astros currently have one player making more than $1 million, and that's Jed Lowrie, who despite the predictable injury, has only played in 84 games and is second on the team in homers and still leads the Astros with 2.6 WAR. We promise to put him in a hyperbaric chamber wrapped in bubble-wrap this offseason. Changes have already come, you're just going to notice them more in 2013.
As we stand here on this construction site, you're probably thinking to yourself, "But there used to a house here!" And you would be right. What we did this season was not just clean house. We took a flamethrower to this house, and this organization is being built back up from a new foundation. The old Astros might as well have been a corporate partner of FEMA.
This organization will have amenities that the Astros of the last two seasons did not have. What new amenities? A new, intelligent front office! Young, good, inexpensive players! A rebuilt farm system! Not Carlos Lee!
<Wild applause from audience of four — two left to watch the Texans game>
We may stand defeated today, and we will most assuredly taste defeat again. We had the opportunity this season to undergo four years of necessary rebuilding in one season, to strengthen ourselves for the future. And we took that opportunity. Forward, friends. Rest yourself this offseason, because next year is a whole new ball game! No, really, because the American League sucks. <drops mic>