What's Left To Root For

added 9/4/2009 by Bob Hulsey

Give Drayton McLane some credit. As frustrating as it can be watching the Astros at times, he has rarely left fans with no playoff hopes in September. In 1994, of course, there was a strike so there was no baseball at all that September.

Other than that, the Astros were out of contention at the start of the month just three times in the past 15 years - 2000, 2007 and 2009. It might be quite difficult, then, to find reasons to care about what happens the rest of the season and, with a likely payroll contraction next year, enthusiasm for 2010 may also be difficult to muster.

But if you are a true baseball fan, you are resilient. You accept defeat with a stiff upper lip and soldier on (Yankee fans excepted, of course). There's always a sense that improvement is just around the corner (Pirate and Royal fans excepted, of course) and to be patient while adjustments are made.

So, while we're all waiting for those adjustments, what's left to root for regarding the 2009 Astros?

Second place is still a possibility. After losing two of three in Wrigley to close the season series, the Astros are 4-1/2 games back of the Cubs (five in the loss column). Fifth place is also a possibility though as the Reds start Friday just three games back of us.

Wandy Rodriguez needs three wins to reach 15 for the season, a positive he hopes to bring to the arbitration table this winter. He's already reached a career high of 12 this year. If he finishes with a record four or more games over .500, he'll end with a winning career record for the first time.

Roy Oswalt needs one win to pass Larry Dierker for second place on the franchise wins list. He'd need seven to tie Joe Niekro for the record. He also needs two wins to reach 10 wins or more for each of his nine Major League seasons.

Any success is welcome from the young pitchers who have emerged in the second half of the season. Bud Norris, Yorman Bazardo and Felipe Paulino all have a chance to win a starting job next year with a strong finish. For Bazardo and Paulino, it may be their last chance to impress the Houston braintrust.

Michael Bourn leads the National League in stolen bases with 49 and seems to have a comfortable lead now that runner-up Nyjer Morgan is injured. He would be just the second Astro in history to win the stolen base crown (Craig Biggio in 1994). Bourn also shares the league lead in triples with Philadelphia's Shane Victorino at eleven.

Carlos Lee needs 15 runs batted in to reach 100 for the sixth time in his career, all in the past seven seasons. He'd need to go on a tear of eight home runs to finish the year with 30 homers, making six of the past seven seasons.

Lance Berkman needs one home run to pass Ruben Sierra for sixth highest on the career list for switch-hitters at 307. He needs eight homers to jump past Reggie Smith for the fifth spot. It looks like he will miss 100 RBIs for the first time since 2005.

Then, if nothing else, you can root for Aaron Boone to be playing at all. He may not be back next year, so this is a good time to congratulate him for coming back from open heart surgery and making it all the way back to the big leagues in six months.

If any of the minor leaguers get a chance to play out the rest of the season in Houston, that's another thing to root for, particularly guys like Brian Bogusevic, Tommy Manzella or J. R. Towles who may be with the parent club next year.

Okay, that's not a long list but it's all I've got. To me, those are all reasons to stay interested, if not excited.