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2009 Houston Astros: Spring Training

 

As a lifetime Houston Astros fan I have lived through some awesome moments in the team’s history, some memories were more special than others, one that comes to mind was the very first Astros home game I ever witnessed in person. My father had right field seats for my brother and myself in the ‘Dome. We were awestruck, caught in the shear immensity of the field, the lights and the noise. We saw Jose Cruz, Bill Doran and Glenn Davis defeat Mike Schmidt and the Phillies. It was my first taste of big league baseball and it was then that I fell in love with the game and became one of the Astros faithful.

Houston Astros hats & merchandise Through the years, we have watched the Astros put a consistently solid team on the field, although there were a few years where I was less than exuberant about the direction of the team and its players, I remained a fan none the less. Because I am a die hard fan, it is difficult to put aside the fan and become the indifferent sports writer. There is a part of me that wants to say that the Astros will contend this year and every year, but stats and personnel performances do not lie. Players don’t get younger and because of these reasons, I have had to take a more realistic approach in the way that I examine this year’s team, not only as a fan, but also as a writer.

The harsh reality to this team is that they are not young. The Astros are not old either, but the window of opportunity that is open to youth, talent and the will to win are starting to close to this group. Lance Berkman is the leader of this team and he couples that leadership with staff ace, Roy Oswalt, where both are entering their ninth season together. Both were brought up under the watchful eye of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell and now more than ever, these two have got to bring up the next generation of Astros players. Here in lies the problem. Drayton McLane and his revolving door of GM’s have yet to replenish the farm system, as trade after trade we have gone after more experienced players on the plateau of their careers, excluding Carlos Lee. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to see Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens and Jeff Kent in Astros uniforms, but their two year rental was not worth the degradation of the farm system. Miguel Tejada was most definitely not worth the pool of talent that had to be drained for his years of service either.

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So, here is what the Astros NEED to do this spring training. If I am Cecil Cooper and am aware of the need of a shot in the arm, I make these two things very clear in spring training. One; the third base job is currently open and Both Geoff Blum and Aaron Boone need to show that they can handle the everyday job on a consistent basis. Because the job is an open race, prospects like Mark Saccamanno and Chris Johnson need to be in serious consideration if they both continue to prove that they can handle big league pitching in spring training. Second; Jason Castro has proved to be a capable bat and plus defender behind the plate. You need to start the season with JR Towles and Jason Castro in a platoon situation behind the plate fighting for playing time. Humberto Quintero is not an everyday catcher, no matter what he says. If Cecil Cooper plays his cards right he can have two young players in the infield this year, getting a years worth of big league experience under their belts. He has to be aware that next season both Miguel Tejada and Kazuo Matsui will be gone and he does not want to start the 2010 season with possibly three to four rookies in the infield.

The youth movement in the Astros organization needs to happen sooner rather than later, and when Drayton and GM Ed wade realize that, this organization can get back onto the right path and become serious contenders again, year in and year out.

 

By: Jordan Fleck
MLBcenter.com Houston Astros correspondent


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