It's tough being a Houston Astros fan, especially this year. Last year, as well. Before that time, there was often disappointment for fans of the team but there was never embarrassment. The team always played hard and played well and even when they lost, they could hold their heads up. And so could their fans. Now through a combination of stupid decisions by the owner and his managers, the team has fallen on very hard times and the worst thing is that they make far too many errors on the field as well, really boneheaded moves that a professional baseball team with professional coaches just shouldn't make. They are just no fun to watch any more.
That's not to say they don't have any good players. They do. Michael Bourn is certainly one of the premier center fielders in all of baseball. Hunter Pence may have fallen off a bit this year, but he is still a very good player. The two young pitchers they have in their rotation this year, Felipe Paulino and Bud Norris, show promise if they can ever harness their talent and learn to pitch instead of throwing. And then, of course, there is Roy Oswalt.
Oswalt has been my favorite Astro almost from the time that he first came up in 2001. The Astros only intended to keep him on the big league team for a short time and then send him back to the Round Rock minor league club for more seasoning, but Nolan Ryan insisted that he had nothing more to learn in the minor leagues and lobbied for him to stay in the majors. He won the argument and Oswalt never looked back. He's been one of the winningest pitchers in all of baseball since then, but for the last two or three seasons, he's been in a very unenviable situation. He pitches well enough to win, but a pitcher can't win unless his team scores runs and the team he plays with doesn't score many runs. He's also frequently left the game with a lead only to see the bullpen give it up. Over the last three years, it's entirely possible that he could have won 30 more games if he had played for a team that was able to score runs. It must be extremely frustrating to a pitcher of Oswalt's caliber, and, of course, like the rest of us, he isn't getting any younger. He sees his chances fading along with this team's prospects.
So, he's said that he would be open to being traded to another team. He has a no-trade contract and would have to approve any trade before it could be made. He wants to go to a contender. What professional ballplayer wouldn't?
I can't really blame Oswalt for wanting out. He's in a dead-end job on a dead-last team, as it is. So, I hope the Astros do find an acceptable trade, one that will fulfill his requirements and one that will help the team. In the meantime, this whole situation is a distraction to a team that, God knows, doesn't need any more distractions.
I'll always be an Oswalt fan and I'll always be an Astros fan, but this year that is very tough and getting tougher.