GAME 35 - May 9: Reds 6, Astros 1
GAME 36 - May 10: Reds 7, Astros 3
GAME 37 - May 11: Astros 4, Reds 3
GAME 38 - May 13: Mets 6, Astros 4
GAME 39 - May 14: Astros 7, Mets 3
GAME 40 - May 15: Mets 7, Astros 4
The Astros have been up for sale for a while, with Uncle Drayton reportedly looking for around $800M for the team. Given the state of the franchise -- in the cellar this season with a farm that's widely ridiculed -- that didn't really seem likely. But wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles -- it seems that McLane will realize nearly what he was looking for, between the sale price of the team and his take on the regional sports network. Sources are reporting that the team will go for $680M, with over $90M for the communications deal. That's a whole lot more than recent predictions for the franchise value, which were more in the $500M range. Looks like a nice return on McLane's $117M investment when he bought the team in 1992, not to mention all the fun he's had over the past 19 years.
The new owner will be Houston businessman Jim Crane, who will reportedly make George Postolos the CEO after the sale goes through (despite some wistful suggestions from fans to bring Hunsicker back to Houston). It will be interesting to see what kind of changes these gentlemen make. The Astros are having the horrible season that was expected, although it's been more entertaining to watch than last year's team. Perhaps that's just an issue of expectations: With the "rebuilding" label on this year, we expected to lose a lot of games. Kind of like my fantasy (and players' nightmare) of Spring Training Heaven, where March's meaningless games just go on forever. Will the new owner get rid of Ed Wade right away or wait till the end of the season? Will he keep Mills? Will he trade our more lucrative players (Wandy, Myers) for prospects? Can he unload Carlos Lee?
Ah, El Caballo. His 2000th career hit in yesterday's game was cause for a rare standing ovation for the player who has lost his popularity in Houston. Poor season last year, bad start in April... Lee has picked up a bit in May. I've been hoping that he'll go on a power streak long enough for some AL team to get suckered into picking him up as a DH, so we can be done with this albatross of a long-term contract.
This week the Astros were pretty much the same as usual. Bad news: Two series losses. Sucky pitching. Good news: No shutouts. (That will be my measure of hopelessness for the year.) Near miss, rescued by a timely late-inning solo homer. Nice lead squandered by the bullpen. Walk-off double by Pence for a win. The usual. Not a lot going on that warrants a real game write-up, unfortunately.
As we are around the six-week mark, I'll drag out my usual barometer of badness: How does this year compare to the 2005 Astros -- the team that lost 30 of their first 45 games, earned a RIP tombstone from the Houston newspaper, and then went on to win the Pennant? The 2011 Astros record is marginally better -- 15-25, percent-wise. But, for a change, this year you won't hear me using that as a reason to believe in a miraculous happy ending. The 2005 team had an inexplicably bad start by a power house roster; the 2011 Astros are... well, rebuilding. Let's hope that Mr Crane understands that not every renovation problem is solved with a hammer.
But a whole lot of baseball problems can be solved with pitching.