The Port Arthur News
Coming off one of the worst five records in major league history, the lowly Astros figure life in 2012 has to get better.
When it comes to Houston’s total of season wins, it actually could get worse — or lower than last year’s embarrassing number of 56 victories and 106 losses.
The 2011 Astros began the year with a warped illusion that they could contend in the weak National League Central.
After flopping 40 games off the pace, the newer and cheaper 2012 version enters a season with no such delusions of grandeur.
New owner Jim Crane has one high paid player and if anyone is willing to take Carlos Lee’s $18.5 million salary off Houston’s hands, the Astros eagerly will oblige.
Crane and new GM Jeff Luhnow plan to build from the ground up with youth and a heavy accent on scouting and player development.
That’s an area which ranked lower on previous owner Drayton McLane’s totem pole and eventually led to the franchise’s demise.
Houston figures to be several bricks shy of the load, especially with Wandy Rodriguez as the mound ace.
The 33-year-old overpaid lefty has compiled a mediocre (73-75) major-league record but Wandy will get the ball Friday when the Astros open the season with the Rockies at 6 p.m. It will mark the first time after 50 years that the Astros ever have used a lefty as their starting pitcher.
Brett Myers had the honor last year but he’s been converted to the bullpen. Righties Bud Norris, Kyle Weiland and Jordan Lyles likely will crack the starting rotation but their erratic performances hardly qualify any of them to begin the year as staff aces.
Erratic form charts fill virtually all of Houston’s regular positions, too, and job security easily could become an issue for third-year manager Brad Mills.
The uncertainty begins of all places at shortstop where former Red Sox farmhand Jed Lowrie likely will not be ready for opening day due to a right thumb sprain.
By no longer having either Michael Bourn (Braves) or Jason Bourgeois (Royals), the Astros likely have an enormous defensive problem with covering the vast caverns of Minute Maid Park’s center field.
Brian Bogusevic or Jordan Schafer may play the position but neither would own enough speed to snag balls in the gaps.
Defense also should be an issue at third base too, because slugger Chris Johnson can hit in stretches but likely hurts the team on defense.
Problems are quite likely on the other side of the diamond, too, where Carlos Lee and youngster Brett Wallace are the likely occupants at first base and diminutive (5-7) Jose Altuve is the guy at second base.
Without Humberto Quintero (Royals), the catching could be worse on defense, too, with Jason Castro and Chris Snyder.
Do not get your 2012 World Series tickets right here. They won’t be on sale.