Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Wake

Well, it's over. The fact that this was perhaps the most competitive World Series sweep in history does little to salve the wounds. The Astros accomplished far more by reaching this point than anyone thought--more talented Houston teams of the past never reached this point. So all I can do is take solace in the fact that the 'Stros finally broke that no-Series barrier. Losing to the Cards again would've hurt worse than losing to the Sox.

One thing that's particularly frustrating, however, is that the Astros were probably one good batter away from making a contest of things, and possibly winning it all. Had they hung onto Jeff Kent or Carlos Beltran, they win at least 96 games during the regular season, give the Cards a real fight for the Central Division title and maybe even get a hit or two during the playoffs with runners in scoring position. The irony, of course, is that last year they were a pitcher short of winning the pennant.

I have no idea what next season holds. Roger Clemens will probably retire for good, which means the rotation is an ace short again. Pettite, Oswalt and Backe (wow, did Backe come up big again for the team last night!) make a solid three-man core, but losing Clemens would leave a sizeable gap. Bagwell will probably never become a power threat again, and you have to wonder if he will ever be more than a situational utility player. As much as I love the guy, his salary is a drag on the roster. Will Berkman's knee improve by next year, or is he doomed to be a gimp with a decent stick the rest of his career? I broke my knee 20 years ago, and it still gives me trouble. Biggio's proven his worth again, but he's only got a few years left in him. I'm really encouraged by the emergence of younger players, like Burke and Taveras, so there's a solid next generation ready to take the mantle. But return to the Series next year? Not realistic unless McLane is really, really enthused by being in the spotlight this year and gets aggressive pursuing some key free agent additions in the off-season.

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