It's a sad day around these parts. Despite the Astros' comeback win against the Cards yesterday, times are not good with our Astros. There are still 30 some odd games left in the season, but little chance that these games will mean much of anything.
Wednesday night after another one loss to St. Louis, Roy Oswalt spoke out against not only the recent poor play, but the overall mood of the team:
The team atmosphere is dead. There's no fire. When you get on a streak, you come to the field expecting to win. When you're dead, you come to the field just hoping to get by. That's what it feels like around the clubhouse — just a dead feeling. We've got so far behind it seems like we're going through the motions as a team. You've got to play it out. You've got to play all the games.
For anyone who's followed the Astros for any extended period of time, you'll know that this is an extremely rare occurrence for an Astro team. I can't speak to the teams pre-1996ish, but as long as I've been a fan, this has been a veteran club with quality people who don't point fingers, don't name call, and just play the game. No glitz, no glamor, no selfishness or pouting. The Astros would turn on their collective miner's hats, take the elevator down into the mine and go to work.
This attitude/atmosphere of the team emanated from the top down in the past. Maybe not form the tippy top, but at least from the manager down to the team leaders down to the rest of the team. Not having access on a day to day basis, I cannot say exactly how this team feels about Cecil Cooper. In a perfect world, the manager has the respect of his players, and that respect translates into a good attitude, togetherness and hard play. Sure, we knew going into this season that the Astros were deficient in terms of talent. What we thought we knew was that a veteran club like this one would stick together through tough times, and emerge better for the adversity on the other side. That hasn't happened.
A leadership void exists, and it's painfully obvious. Lance Berkman called a team meeting on Thursday to address Oswalt's comments. After the meeting was adjourned, Ed Wade had some semi-pointed comments of his own for the Wizard:
He should name names, Wade said. If he feels that way he should name names, either that or address the players privately. I just think that it's something that if he feels strongly about that, so strongly that he feels compelled to make public, I think he specifically should point out players who he feels aren't giving 100 percent. Because otherwise it's an indictment of the other 24 players on the club. I prefer for those things to be dealt with in private. I think players, particularly a veteran club, should be able to police itself in that regard. If there are guys that they feel that way, then I think they should address one-on-one or address it in a group.
Wade speaks the truth in what he said and wasn't out of line in making those comments yesterday. It still shook me a little bit, that our GM would have to make a statement like this at all. It speaks to the dissension that appears to be going on, and also the malaise that has swept over Camp Astro.
At a time like this, it is easy to point out where the team fell short, and how ill fated our June-July hot streak was. Maybe the Chronicle folks are making a bigger deal out of this than the situation actually merits. RJ and JJO admittedly were on the Astro playoff wagon just 30 days ago. They both seemed nearly convinced that this was going to be another magical year. The vibe around TCB wasn't as optimistic, but maybe we could see something they couldn't...ok, there's no maybe about it.
Now that the local paper has called the Astros out, Drayton McLane is sure to have a bee or two in his bonnet this morning. He may not understand baseball that well, but McLane knows business, and he knows that cohesiveness is a major factor to having a productive and successful outfit. Right now, his baseball team is lacking in both of those areas, and everyone knows it. The fans that he thought would come out to see good ol' Mike Hampton and Ivan Rodriguez know it. The fans who vowed to stay away until the Astros were serious about contending know it. Now hopefully Drayton knows it. Their needs are many: better players, a younger ball club, a more astute manager, the list goes on. Perhaps what this team needs most of all, time, is exactly what the Astros have the least of. There may only be 35 games left in this season, but with all the question marks surrounding the team, 2010 is right around the corner and it's doubtful that many of those questions will have answers by then.