As this post goes up, the Astros will have played a week's worth of spring training games. Some guys, like JR Towles, Matt Lindstrom, Jason Castro and Kaz Matsui, have impressed thus far. Others- Michael Bourn, Wandy, Chris Sampson, haven't fared as well in extremely limited action.
That's the thing about the spring: small sample sizes leads to every performance being placed under the microscope. This is just the nature of the beast for writers, bloggers and fans. We would all like to seize on certain topics and occurrences and draw out some sort of long lasting effect from them. Baseball though, does not lend itself to being judged in one at bat increments.
The same can really be said for organizations as a whole. Consider the Astros. Their 2005, 2006, and 2007 drafts yielded two players, Tommy Manzella and Bud Norris, who figure to play prominent roles in this year's club. Needless to say that for a team that can't spend like one of the top tier clubs, this sort of production can and often times will lead to lean times on the big league level.
While other clubs have succeeded in planting seeds for the future, the Astros have struggled to replicate the sort of success they achieved from 1997-2005. Did the organization as a whole lose its way and forget how it came to the success it did? I doubt it. Perhaps Drayton McLane became so focused on "being a champion" at the major league level that he forgot the underlying reasons for his team's achievements? Or was his mistake in hiring a GM like Tim Purpura, whom McLane may not have had the confidence in that is necessary for a strong owner-GM relationship?
For whatever the reasons, and despite the fact that McLane is the common denominator, the Astros ship appears to have been righted in recent seasons. Now, I don't want this to necessarily be a post that unduly praises Ed Wade, because in all honesty, I don't know if he is the reason why the organization has been on the upward swing. What I do think is that it is fair to argue that while Wade may not ever turn our heads with an out of this world trade or free agent signing, he is at the very least competent. Now the Astros' goal shouldn't be competency, because that's surely not how the team rose to the heights of professional baseball. For the time being though, competency might be just what this organization needs.
So my poll question for this Saturday, is this: how confident are you in the Astros going forward? I don't just mean the Lance and Roy led guys with the stars on their hats. I mean:
- From the major league club to the minor leaguers on the cusp of big league-dom, to the 18 year old in our Dominican Academy. Questions that beg to be asked: Will the 2008 and 2009 draft classes progress as much as we hope? Can the Astros discover this century's Johan Santana, Richard Hidalgo and Carlos Guillen in the Dominican Republic? As for our Astros, did Wade do a good enough job to add talent while simultaneously cutting payroll?
- The front office. Drayton will be Drayton, and as long as he's our owner, we know it's less than likely that the Astros will pay over slot for top line draftees, and there will always be the temptation to think in the short term rather than into the future. Does Ed Wade have his ear so that these tendencies of McLane can be mitigated?
- Scouting and player development wise: Bobby Heck is certainly a favorite around here, but the criticism is that he has been too conservative in his first two drafts with the Astros. As I alluded to earlier, will those '08 and '09 classes make Heck look like a genius? Further down the development totem pole there are a lot of issues to shore up for the Astros to begin to have a consistent pipeline of youngsters going up to the majors. Do you think the organization will invest sufficiently in those people that we will never see, and whose names we will likely never learn?
So look at this team with as objective an eye as you can and tell us: