Players questioning Williams' release
Berkman, Oswalt feel he's judged too harshly on bad '07, spring
HOUSTON -- Teams make bold and difficult decisions multiple times through the course of a Major League season, and it's safe to say about 90 percent of the time, those decisions aren't met with rousing approval from the players.
This especially applies when a well-liked and respected teammate is cut or traded. As the news traveled through the clubhouse on Saturday that the Astros released Woody Williams, the overwhelming reaction was one of sadness.
Chris Sampson, who beat out Williams for the last rotation spot, expressed mixed emotions when he received the news that his teammate was released.
"I love Woody to death," Sampson said. "He's a great guy, a great teammate. I hate that it had to be him that I was going up against. That's the way it was. I'm excited, but also, my heart goes out to him too."
Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt had hoped the Astros would first give Williams a chance to compete during the regular season, arguing that Spring Training numbers shouldn't always be taken at face value.
"I think it's unfortunate," Berkman said. "I think a veteran like Woody deserves the benefit of the doubt. We're talking about Spring Training and everyone knows it's a totally different ballgame when you suit up for real."
Oswalt echoed the sentiment.
"I think a lot of times they judge too much in Spring Training," Oswalt said. "If you went on Spring Training [stats], a lot of the superstars wouldn't be in the big leagues. I remember Jeff Bagwell told me after my first year, he said, 'If they judged me on Spring Training, I would never be here.'"
Still, Williams' poor spring numbers, coupled with his 8-15 season from a year ago, are hard to ignore. Williams' age -- he'll turn 42 in August -- didn't help either, and clearly, the Astros did not feel the veteran righty could help them this year.
"I do understand where the organization is coming from," Berkman said. "Certainly his age, his season last year, and his performance this spring left something to be desired. But at the same token, I probably would have given him at least a month of the regular season, especially since it's not like the guys we have behind him lit the world on fire during Spring Training."
True. Of the Astros' five starting pitchers, only Oswalt [3.42] had an ERA below 5.00 heading into the final exhibition game of the spring season on Saturday. The rest are well north of that benchmark, including Brandon Backe [5.59], Shawn Chacon [7.00], Sampson [9.17] and Wandy Rodriguez [7.30].
Oswalt believed Williams should be given a second chance and chalked his teammate's poor '07 showing to a down year.
"Fourteen years in the big leagues, you have one bad year...you can't really go on that," Oswalt said. "A lot of people have a bad year.
"I don't think it's right for Spring Training to be judged. But that's [management's] job. They're trying to put a team on the field and I guess they're trying to go a different way."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.