HOUSTON The only thing Houston Astros jerseys fans got to celebrate this season was Craig Biggio’s quest for 3,000 hits and his emotional march toward retirement.
The rest of the year was pretty forgettable, as the Astros jerseys sank to their second losing record since 1991 just two years removed from their first World Series. The nosedive culminated in the firings of manager Phil Garner and general manager Tim Purpura on Aug. 27.
Cecil Cooper became the first black manager in team history, Ed Wade replaced Purpura, and Cooper shook his coaching staff on the final day of the season.
So where does the franchise go from here? Wade, the former Philadelphia GM who had a hand in building the team that won the NL East on Sunday, said there’s no easy answer.
“Work has to be done,” Wade said. “You don’t have the type of disappointing season we had this year and not have things that need to be done.”
The biggest questions start with the pitching rotation. Ace Roy Oswalt, signed through 2011, finished 14 7 with a 3.18 ERA this season. The order behind him is anyone’s guess.
Big money signees Jason Jennings and Woody Williams flopped in 2007, going a combined 10 24. Jennings dealt with elbow problems all season and is a free agent, unlikely to return. Williams, 41, is signed through next season.
Left hander Wandy Rodriguez showed flashes of potential, leading the Astros jerseys with 158 strikeouts. He won two of his last 11 starts and finished 9 13, but he’s the most experienced, dependable left hander the team has coming back.
Rookies Chris Sampson and cheap Matt Albers jersey looked good at times, combining for 11 wins. Brandon Backe approached his old form late this season after coming off Tommy John surgery, winning his last three starts in September.
Cooper also got to look at several young pitchers in the final month, including Juan Gutierrez and Felipe Paulino, who pitched six scoreless innings in the season finale. Left hander Troy Patton will also vie for a spot next year, though he missed the last three weeks with a sore shoulder.
“These guys have a chance to make an impact at this level,” Cooper said. “Whether it’s 2008, the beginning, the middle, the end, I do think they have a chance to make an impact.”
The Astros jerseys’ bullpen was a weakness in 2007, blowing 25 saves, the third most in the NL. Houston traded away setup reliever Dan Wheeler, but hung on to cheap Chad Qualls jersey and Brad Lidge, who both looked shaky at times and powerful in others.
Dennis Sarfate, acquired in a trade with Milwaukee, gave the bullpen a late boost, allowing only five hits in 8 1 3 innings.
“With what the veterans on this team have accomplished and what the young guys can accomplish, there’s no way we’re that far away,” said Lidge, who’s having offseason knee surgery. “We think we’re better than we played this year and next year could be tremendous for us.”
The Astros jerseys averaged 4.4 runs per game, ranking 22nd in the majors. Now without Biggio, the franchise’s all time hits leader, the offense still has a potentially powerful nucleus.
Carlos Lee, signed to a team mlb jerseys from china record $100 million contract last offseason, produced a career high 119 RBIs and hit 32 home runs. Lance Berkman, despite a slow first half, had 34 homers.
cheap Hunter Pence jersey shined in center field, setting rookie records for extra base hits and doubles. A fractured wrist late in the season cost him a shot at the NL rookie of the year award, but the 24 year old led the team with a .322 average and became a fan favorite with his infectious enthusiasm and hustle.
Now, it’s up to Cooper and Wade to find offense.
Adam Everett, regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, recovered from a broken leg but hit only .232. Catcher Brad Ausmus hit .235. Chris Burke, expected to take over for Biggio, hit .229.