Now that the Astros have reached the 100 loss mark, I have finally admitted to myself that the math can only lie for so long. I concede that the Astros might not make the playoffs. (No, my name is not Drayton.) So, I have to try and find baseball related ways to entertain myself since I really don't have much interest in football anymore. One sleepless night, not so long ago, I started to think about how my favorite franchise would have been affected had there not been a few key injuries over the years. I am just going to worry about the period of time after 1990, since that's about when my real baseball awareness started.
They are ranked in order of least important to most important. I don't remember the exact details of every injury, and I can't find a source online even though I am sure one exists. Join me on this trip down a painful memory lane.
10) Jeff Bagwell: This one is really dependent upon another what if: what if there had been no strike in 1994? Bagwell was first in RBI second in BA and second in homers when he broke a bone in his hand. I doubt he would have been able to catch Gwynn for the batting title but he did have 39 home runs to Matt Williams' 43. If he had had a full season and had been healthy, he may have been able to at least get 2 of the 3 triple crown categories. The Astros may have even been able to make it to the playoffs that year too. This injury would be a lot higher on the list except the strike nullified a lot of its impact, and Bagwell still won the MVP.
9) Jason Castro: I have to wonder these days whether or not we lost our catcher of the future...forever. If his injury hadn't been to his knee I wouldn't be nearly as worried. Even though it would be a set back in his development to miss a season, missing THIS season would not be much of a big deal. Obviously if he has lingering effects from his knee and the Astros next playoff appearance is delayed because they lack a real catcher, this injury could become a bigger what if.
8) Craig Biggio: In 2000 Biggio injured his knee and afterwards he never seemed to be able to steal bases the way he had. I suppose it's hard to know how much the injury affected him because he was also getting to the age where he might lose a step or two. Anyway, for me this injury marks the point in Biggio's career where he ceased being a great player and became an above average player. Maybe he could have squeezed out a few more years of being elite had he not messed up his knee and maybe he could have affected the 2004 and 2005 playoffs a little more.
7) Wade Miller: He didn't seem like he was going to be Cy Young canidate, but he was entering his prime and was fitting in very nicely behind Oswalt to form a solid 1 2 punch. Then he injured his shoulder opted for rehab over surgery and never was even close to the pitcher he had been. The later signing of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens is what makes this one hurt for me. Clemens, Oswalt, Pettitte, Miller...Yes please, I'll have that rotation.
6) Carlos Hernandez: This might be the one that I personally regret the most 17 Ks in 17.2 innings as a flame throwing lefty back in 2001 at the age of 21. I remember how excited I was when he first came up and dominated. He is the reason that I started following the farm system in fact. I keep staring out at the horizon...farm system... hoping for our savior to come. I thought Hernandez was that savior. At the time I looked to the future and saw him as the ace, not Oswalt. Hernandez, Oswalt, and Miller...that's how good he seemed. As you can see when you add this one to the Wade Miller injury the pain increases by a magnitude of 10. I tell myself that if they he hadn't gotten injured Drayton may not have accidentally signed Pettitte and there would have been no World Series, but I like to torture myself, so I imagine Clemens, Hernandez, Oswalt, Pettitte, and Miller all together and healthy. And it really sucks that Hernandez injured himself sliding into a base...why couldn't we have been in the AL back then and be moved to the NL now? If he had been more proven this would have been number 1 or 2 or 3 due to the number of pennant races it would have affected.
5) Roy Oswalt: I don't exactly know when Oswalt's back started acting up and affecting his performance, so I'm not sure where this should be ranked. I don't think it really affected any pennant races since the Astros weren't serious contenders after 2006, and Oswalt was pretty damn good in 2006. The reason that Oswalt's back trouble ranks this high for me is based on his trade value. Had he been a 100% healthy ace, we would have landed a lot more for him, and our future right now would be a lot brighter...or he may not have been traded at all and we might still be pretending to compete.
4) Lance Berkman: His 2010 knee injury has a lot of the same effects as the Oswalt back injury. I rank it higher just because I like Puma more on a personal level. Like Oswalt the haul we got for him would have been much better had he not suffered his injury and had had a solid season in 2010, and like Oswalt had he performed he might still be here, which for me wouldn't be the worst thing in the world since he might be ready to retire by the time that Singleton is ready. Also if the Astros had picked up his option and decided to trade him this season the haul would have been better than what it was in 2010.
3) Billy Wagner: I think it was 1999, and I don't think it was anything too serious, but Wagner's injury gets a high ranking because it happened in the playoffs. I remember the Astros playing the Braves and late in the game when trouble arose, Wagner was not there. I believe it was Bagwell who was looking down at the bullpen wondering why Wagner was not warming up. If you don't think the Astros had a chance in this playoff series then you can move this one up the list, but if the Astros had won that game they could have taken the series.
2) Andy Pettitte: In his first season with the Astros, Pettitte looked very good, but he was limited to only 83 innings. Like the Wagner injury this one has such a high ranking because of it's playoff implications. Clemens, Oswalt, and Pettitte may have been able to make sure that the League Championship Series didn't even need a 7th game, and even if it did, I would have felt pretty good with Pettitte out there or a more rested Clemens or Oswalt. Forgive me while I go and bang my head on the table.
1) Jeff Bagwell: This ranking is for his chronic shoulder injury. I give it the number one rank because had it not happened it means several things may have happened. Bagwell would obviously have had even better career numbers. When Frank Thomas hit his 500 HR I thought to myself, "This is when Bagwell would have hit it...." I doubt he would have had 600 but you never know, and since my purpose behind writing this is to make myself feel bad, I will assume he would have hit 600. But milestones aren't enough to get the number one ranking. It's up here because a fully armed and operational Jeff Bagwell possibly...however unlikely...could have been the difference between no World Series rings, and three. Yes it's a big jump. Bagwell was good in 2004, but if he had a little more in the tank he could have helped push the team into the World Series. Then he was mostly nonexistent in 2005 when the team made it without him. And you know what that team really needed? A guy that could hit 28 to 30 homers and have an OBP of .370 or so batting in front of Berkman and Ensberg. 2005 alone is enough to make this the biggest injury for me. I doubt that he could have helped too much more than he did in 2004, and it would have been foolish to count on a healthy Bagwell as a difference maker in 2006 given his age...but what the hell...that's what the Astros did. That team had the pitching to get the job done and a healthy, yet aged, Bagwell may have been able to get them into the playoffs since they finished 1.5 games out, and then anything could have happened.
So that's my 'What if it hadn't happened list." I bet there are some injuries that I have forgotten about that others will bring up as worthy of making the list. Also, many of you can offer up some pre-1990 examples. Larry Dierker...I hope I was able to add to the frustration of this season. Has the game started? It was in a rain delay.