Before the 2012 season began, I was pretty confident that the Houston Astros would be the worst team in baseball. Well, it’s nice to be right about something once in a while.
Given that Major League baseball began in 1876 with the formation of the National League, it’s too rash to say that the Astros are historically bad. With the 1962 Mets, the Pirates of 1952, and the Tigers of 2003 in the discussion there’s just too much competition right there to contend for the title of Worst Team Of All Time. But there is no question the Astros are a terrible baseball team right now. Next year they are moving to the American League, but really they’re lucky they’re not being asked to move to the International League, demoted to AAA, as is done in European soccer when bottom feeders are dropped a classification for the next season.
The Astros unraveled pretty quickly. In 2005, they represented the National League in the World Series, albeit a losing appearance against the Chicago White Sox. Fans in Houston were giddy about the club’s first Series. Now you have to wonder if they even remember it. That seems so long ago in terms of Astros achievement that it could have been 1905. Jeff Bagwell, 44, has been retired long enough that he has already appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot–yet it’s possible he could start for this club right now.
After Wednesday’s play the Astros are 40-90. That’s a .308 winning percentage. Any team that dips below the .300 mark does deserve special mention for pathetic play and the Astros are closing in fast. Those 1962 Mets finished 40-120, those Pirates 42-112, and those Tigers 43-119. Houston trails the NL Central Division Cincinnati Reds by 39 games. As far as Houston is concerned, the Reds have the title clinched.
It’s not as if the Astros are improving either. They are on a 1-9 streak with four straight losses. They can’t win at home, where they are 27-37, and they almost never win on the road, where they are 13-53. It seems as if betting on the other team whoever the Astros play when they are traveling should be a lock to increase the bank account.
Houston has scored 474 runs this season and allowed 664. They have scored the least number of runs in the majors, but they are only second worst in runs allowed. Colorado is at the bottom and it’s probable that the Rockies’ high altitude location has contributed to that. The 1952 Pirates scored 515 runs and allowed 793. Those dismal Mets scored 617 runs and allowed a staggering 948. With 210 errors, they were also one of the worst fielding teams since World War II. The Astros only have 90 so far. Bright spot!
The lack of run production is pretty much a team-wide Houston disease. The Astros do not have a .300 hitter. The team leader in homers is Jed Lowrie with 14. The team leader in RBIs is outfielder J.D. Martinez with 54, and he was sent to the minor leagues. The Astros also have almost no one on the pitching staff with a winning record. Lucas Harrell, sitting on 10-9 with a 3.92 ERA is the team’s Cy Young Award nominee.
Clearly, the Astros need an overhaul. But where to start? It’s not as if the roster is loaded with untouchables. Needs are so glaring and so widespread that it’s difficult to lay out a road map that will add the personnel needed for success in the foreseeable future.
Major League realignment calls for moving the Astros from the National League to the American League in 2013 after spending 50 years in the NL. American League teams will be happy to have the Astros. Not because they will be a good drawing card, but because they will represent easy wins on the schedule.
The 1951 Pirates trained catcher Joe Garagiola as a funny man. The 1962 Mets had manager Casey Stengel to make people laugh. All the 2003 Tigers did was cry. Sadly for Houston fans, the 2012 Astros resemble those Tigers. Nothing to laugh about at all.
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