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Still a giant cash hill to climb

Last Modified: Tuesday, July 08, 2014 10:29 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

It was just a few days ago that the baseball world was all over the Astros.

One sports magazine even proclaimed them the World Series champs in 2017.

The franchise was being applauded for showing great insight and making all the right moves over recent drafts.

Baseball experts believed it was just a matter of time before the club would start showing its bright future on the field this summer.

The Astros responded, winning seven straight with their young talent. There was even talk about maybe reaching the .500 mark sometime this season.

But since then it has been back to the growing pains that have left the club with three straight 100-plus loss seasons.

There is still a bright future with a lot of young talent in the system, but 2017 seems like it got a little further into the future.

That will happen with youngsters. The season is long and there are ups and downs.

Call them baseball growing pains, but once again the Astros are suffering.

Since climbing to 32-39 and raising the expectations of their fans, the team has won just four games in 20 tries.

Most of that is likely because their schedule flipped. The Astros have been playing teams battling for playoff spots recently and it has taken its toll.

Seattle swept them in three games last week and the Angels blasted them four times in Anaheim.

Bad weeks happen even to good, experienced teams. The latest seven-game losing streak will be another lesson for these young players to learn.

It is also a trip down reality lane.

Both the Mariners and Angels are in baseball’s best division, the American League West. Unfortunately for them, so are the Astros after switching leagues at the start of last season.

And we haven’t even mentioned baseball’s best team, the Oakland A’s, who lead that division and just went out and traded three of their top young prospects for quality veteran pitching.

The A’s are baseball’s best bean counters, a small market club that seems to have found the formula for winning. Now they look like they are willing to spend some bucks if they smell a championship.

Seattle spent wisely and wildly in the offseason to join the group, which is led by those Los Angeles Angels who play in Anaheim. When you add the Texas Rangers into the mix you can see everybody in this division is willing to spend dollars for victories now.

It has become baseball’s arms race and Houston is struggling in it. The Astros are a respectable 22-28 against the rest of the world but 14-26 in their division before opening a series in Texas last night.

And those are the guys they are going to have to one day beat to win that 2017 title.

That leaves the Astros as the little team that isn’t spending. It is a great story as the once elite franchise tries to rebuild the old fashioned way through its farm system.

This isn’t to suggest the Astros need to try and keep up with the Joneses of baseball when it comes to spending for new toys. They can’t win that way.

However, it does go to show you just what this franchise is up against. In a division where spending money is no problem, Houston seems to have a problem.

At some point they will likely need to buy a few patches through free agency to fix the holes their farm system can’t fill. Selective purchasing will be the key.

Maybe they will do so once or if they get close to turning the corner.

It’s just hard to imagine any of these other division teams putting away their wallets just because the young Astros have grown up.

2017 can’t get here fast enough for that to happen.

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