12/27/10 10:00 AM EST
Youth is served: Astros ride kids to resurgence
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
In his first year as manager, Brad Mills saw his club stumble out of the gate, which led to the landmark trades of franchise icons Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. That was a clear-cut signal that the Astros were taking a huge step toward building for the future.
Shortly before bidding adieu to Oswalt and Berkman, the club said hello again to Jeff Bagwell, who along with Berkman and Craig Biggio are three of the greatest position players in team history. Bagwell, who retired following the 2005 season, put his uniform back on to become the team's hitting coach at the All-Star break.
With young players such as third baseman Chris Johnson, catcher Jason Castro and first baseman Brett Wallace playing key roles in the second half, the Astros surged and climbed back to respectability.
Perhaps it was the influence of Bagwell, the infusion of youth or the steady pitching of a staff led by veteran Brett Myers, but Houston went 59-52 after a woeful 17-34 start and made a run at second place in the National League Central before settling for fourth.
The future, albeit a brighter one for the Astros, grew somewhat uncertain in November, when owner Drayton McLane announced his intention to sell the team he's owned since 1992. McLane saw his team reach the playoffs seven times, including the '05 World Series, but likely won't be around to watch the team complete its turnaround.
The top five story lines from the season were:
No. 5: McLane announces the team is for sale
Despite finishing with a losing record in three of the past four years, the Astros have gone 1,500-1,350 under McLane's ownership, which is the fourth-best record in the NL over that span. The Astros have been to the playoffs seven times and won the '05 National League pennant since McLane bought the team.
No. 4: Bagwell becomes hitting coach, then decides not to return
Bagwell, the club's all-time leader in home runs and RBIs, returned to the dugout at the All-Star break as the team's hitting coach after Sean Berry was let go. The Astros surged offensively in the second half under Bagwell's tutelage, but the time and the travel demands of the job proved not to be right for the Astros great at this point in his life. After taking a couple of weeks to think it over, Bagwell decided not to return.
No. 3: Myers throws at least six innings in his first 32 starts of the year
Signed to a relatively bargain contract of a guaranteed $5.1 million in January, Myers left the Phillies for the first time in his career and became the Astros' top pitcher. He threw at least six innings in his first 32 starts of the season, setting a club record. He came one out shy of making it 33-for-33 in his final start, but finished the season with career-best numbers: 14-8, 3.14 ERA, 223 2/3 innings, 180 strikeouts in 33 starts.
No. 2: Kids lead second-half resurgence
Despite trading away Berkman and Oswalt and undergoing a youth movement, the Astros somehow managed to surge in the second half behind the youngsters. Houston went 40-33 after the All-Star break, which was fourth-best in the NL behind the Phillies, Giants and Reds, all of whom went to the playoffs. Houston was starting four rookies for the majority of their final 60 games and saw its average age drop to 27 from 31 at the start of the season.
No. 1: Franchise icons depart at Trade Deadline
With the Astros buried in the NL Central standings, the team did the unthinkable: It traded away long-time stalwarts Berkman and Oswalt in a span of 48 hours -- and netted five young players in return. Berkman (Yankees) and Oswalt (Phillies) both made the playoffs, while the Astros decided to go young in the second half. They were the last mainstays (excluding Wandy Rodriguez) remaining from the '05 World Series team and two of the greatest players in franchise history.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.