Is it sad when fans are more interested in their team’s off-field dealings than what they’re doing on the field? I believe that it is sad, and yet such is how I find myself feeling. Such it will likely continue until this week is over.
When last we spoke, Roy Oswalt had just recorded career win #143, the All-Star Break was looming, and Cliff Lee had just been dealt to the Texas Rangers. Now the All-Star Break is over, Dan Haren has just changed addresses from Arizona to Anaheim, and Roy Oswalt still has 143 career wins. More significantly, he’s still in an Astros uniform. Whether that last will still be true come Sunday is the cause of much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, by Roy himself, by Astros management, and by seemingly all Astros faithful.
Astros team president Tal Smith said yesterday that he expects Oswalt to be gone from Houston by week’s end, and he expected things to start heating up today. According to the reports, the Dodgers, Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals were all in town to scout Roy’s outing on Saturday, so those four at least seem to be interested. Now that Dan Haren is off the market, more clubs may be interested as well. With all of the many, many rumors (or Roy-mors) floating around in the past week, it would seem that a deal could happen any minute, and yet the reports are so conflicting that it seems like nothing may happen at all. Welcome to life on a “seller” club before the MLB trade deadline.
Roy wants to go to St. Louis. The Astros seem to prefer Philadelphia, if the Phillies can come up with suitable prospects, perhaps by dealing Jayson Werth to the Rays. The Rays apparently don’t want Werth. Roy seems to not want Philadelphia, and Houston really, really does not want to deal with St. Louis – their farm system is even worse than ours, and the very thought of Roy O in a Cardinals uniform is abhorrent to almost every Astros fan. The Dodgers reportedly “kicked the tires” on Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers before starting to focus on Roy, but the Astros reportedly would need to be “overwhelmed” to deal either Wandy or Brett, so how much moreso for Oswalt? The Astros may be looking at Houstonian James Loney from L.A., but where does he fit with Lance Berkman still on the team? Or is Berkman soon to be dealt too? And the Yankees… well, they came out of nowhere to almost land Cliff Lee, so why shouldn’t they be players for Roy too? Speculation is that NYC may be too “big time” for quiet country boy Oswalt, but old pal Andy Pettitte is there, and Andy talked Roger Clemens into the Astros before. Couldn’t he talk Roy into the Yankees?
It’s a mess. A certified, grade A, first class mess. But at this point, I really do think that Roy needs to go. His not-so-secret desire to go to St. Louis is damaging his standing with Houston fans, and I suspect with Houston teammates and management too. It seems he’s starting to burn bridges. He’s scheduled to start again on Friday night, for his last shot at tying Joe Niekro’s club wins record, but wouldn’t it almost be fitting now if he finishes one win shy? As a symbol of why he’s so frustrated with Houston, a symbol of the championship he couldn’t quite achieve as an Astro, and so he wants to pick up his toys and move to a different sandbox. It’s a symbol of the sacred place in Houston hearts that he could have had, did have, as the greatest pitcher in pitching-rich Astros history… but now he’s alienating himself from the fans that loved him so long, so will they ever love him the same? It’s not nearly King James to South Beach, but it’s approaching a Houstonian version of that.
I want to wish Roy well wherever he goes. Brad Lidge’s story with the 2008 World Series champ Phillies is the closest thing to redemption that the 2005 Astros may ever see, but I’d love to cheer Roy onto to a championship elsewhere if he can’t get one here. Roy to St. Louis, though… I don’t think I could do it. I would wish him well individually, but I could not cheer for his team. Roy to Yankees would only be slightly less easy to swallow than St. Louis, but by this point… I don’t hate Roy. I don’t think I ever will. But he needs to be gone. It’s better for both Roy and the Astros in the long run if he’s not here after this week, almost regardless of what they get in return. Certainly I want to see Houston get the best deal they possibly can for Oswalt, but if they come down to Saturday evening and still haven’t been “overwhelmed,” then the best possible less-than-ideal deal is better than no deal at all. Roy is not going to help the Astros back to the World Series while he’s still playing, so any young players who might help towards that end would help more than standing pat.
Which is why I’d also like to see the Astros deal Brett Myers and/or Wandy Rodriguez for prospects if they can, too. Likewise Lance Berkman, or I think there’s a strong chance that Lance will walk away in free agency this winter. Keep the young core guys that you already have – Pence, Bourn, Johnson, Castro, Lindstrom, Paulino. But really everyone else should be fair game.
Maybe that’s asking too much. At least start with Roy, and both sides will be happier in the end. There’s a game tonight, but I’m more interested in watching my RSS feed reader for any new trade news. This is Astroland 2010.