Houston Astros or Baltimore Orioles?

It's the offseason, but not quite, since the World Series hasn't finished yet. The hometown nine have hired a manager, meaning the only reshaping they will do between now and the start of spring training is a few free agent additions and possibly a trade.

Basically, we've hit the point in the year when news is going to slow down. But, in the absence of games or transactions or the like, my mind wandered to a pretty interesting comparison. Are the Houston Astros the NL version of the Baltimore Orioles?

Think about it: The Orioles went to two straight American League Championships and followed it up with 12 straight losing seasons. Baltimore columnist Peter Schmuck also doesn't see hope for the team next season. Sound familiar? The Astros followed up an NLCS and World Series appearance with four straight seasons of missing the playoffs. Sure, they finished over .500 in two of them, but if you don't make the dance, does it really count?

Both teams paid 100 million for aging left fielders who had some attitude issues and were more known for their hitting prowess than their actual fielding ability.

Both teams were part of lopsided trades with each other involving borderline Hall of Famers (The Astros sent Mike Cuellar to Baltimore for nothing; the Astros got Curt Schilling for an aging Glenn Davis).

Both teams have had pretty barren farm systems of late; it should be noted, however, that the Orioles are considered to have a pretty decent minor league system now.

Both teams play in divisions with two of the best players in baseball (Pujols and Kate Hudson's boyfriend).

Both teams were once covered by none other than Richard Justice.

Both have had five different managers since 1997. The list could go on and on with these minor similarities, but the major one, the one that got me thinking about this in the first place is the owners.

Peter Angelos is a louder, more boisterous Drayton McLane.

Think about it. Both micromanage their employees. Both have final say over contracts, trades, etc. Both routinely mess up potential deals to keep players they like personally. Each is independantly wealthy and can spend money like the top teams in baseball, but both choose not to do so consistently. Both overvalue "splash" moves, like signing Miguel Tejada or trading for...Miguel Tejada.

Each got nice, new ballparks built that were supposed to dramatically increase their revenue streams, but both have threatened that by alienating fans. Neither enjoy dealing with Scott Boras, though Angelos seems to have learned how to at least tolerate him.

Lest this be considered a flattering comparison, I should note that until Andy McPhail was hired and given a de-facto carte blanche to remake the team, Angelos was considered one of the most meddling owners around. It was hard to do business with them because no one knew whether the big guy would ultimately approve certain moves. Sound familiar?

I hope the Astros aren't headed for another eight years without making the playoffs, but the comparisons with the two owners are hard to miss. The worst part is, you can trade bad players, you can fire bad management, but you can't do a damned thing about the guy who owns your favorite team. You just have to hope a messy divorce forces him to sell.

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