To be or not to be

added 6/2/2009 by Scott Barzilla

Put yourself in the shoes of Drayton McLane and you have a huge decision to make. We come to the 50 game mark in the season and the Astros are where they usually are: near or at the bottom of the standings looking up. You have to face pundits like that Barzilla guy and Bob Hulsey at Astrosdaily wondering if you are going to sell and pundits at the Chronicle saying you should. Oh by the way, should I fire Cooper.

Those of us who love baseball don't have to worry about the things McLane has to worry about. Sure, you say, I'd love to have his problems. Yet, in terms of running the team he has to worry about more than the diehard fan. We care about the Astros and only the Astros. We want the Astros to win a championship at some point and we know it won't be this year. We'd rather win one sooner rather than later and some of us are thinking trading some veterans would make that happen.

Someone on the boards mentioned the Texas Rangers. Two years ago they dealt Mark Teixiera and Eric Gagne and managed to stock pile 20 percent of their big league roster. All five guys are paying dividends while Teixiera signed a huge deal in New York and Gagne is doing whatever. The Rangers stand in first place in the West for the first time since Pudge squatted behind homeplate in Arlington. Funny how these things work.

Player development and youth movements worked in Tampa Bay, Las Angeles, and Florida to a lesser extent. The Astros roster looks a lot more like a casting call for Cocoon 3:Back in the Big Leagues than a youth movement. It seems simple enough doesn't it? Trade off some old guys and be ready to compete in 2011. Rebuilding isn't what it used to be. You don't have to wait five years. Sometimes you may only have to wait one.

That's easy for us to say because we simply look at the baseball side. McLane has to look at marketing and he is looking at an imperfect storm of marketing factors. First, you have the recession that appears to move closer to Houston all the time. People just don't have the money to watch a young baseball team learn. Second, you have the Rockets and Texans growing in popularity. Even in good financial times, people usually don't have the money to follow all three. You combine those two factors and you get a real problem. If he rebuilds now he may lose some casual fans forever.

More importantly, McLane is 73 years old. No one should talk about throwing him in a casket yet, but he has to have a sense of his own mortality. The infamous George Streinbrenner is only five years older and already out as the day to day leader of the Yankees. How much longer can McLane do it? Do you want to watch a rebuilding club during your last years running the club? Who knows, maybe a part of him realizes that this charade can't go on too much longer. Then again, if he can buy another year or two beyond this year then maybe he'll be ready to hand the keys to the kingdom over to a younger McLane.

So, at the 50 game mark we ask the same questions. Are we selling, buying, or just hoping for the best? McLane has all of those considerations to keep track of. In light of all of them one can hardly blame him for holding out hope. It just makes the baseball purists among us bite our nails when we see tradeable commodities wither at the vine.

On a personal note, I hate to advertise, but I am having a book signing for my latest book Combating Ignorance: Inside and Outside the Classroom at Half Priced Books on Nasa Road 1 on June 13th from 12-3. The book can be found on