Now that Biggio has reached 3,000, what's next?
Web Posted: 06/29/2007 12:19 AM CDT
San Antonio Express-News
The moment came, as we all knew it would.
Craig Biggio uncoiled bat toward ball and laced it to the outfield — and that was that.
The Astros veteran has 3,000 hits, cementing his place in the Hall of Fame and opening the door for someday ruling the city off the field as mayor of Houston.
As Biggio dug a cleat into first base, adding the exclamation point and period to a storied career, flashbulbs flared, fans erupted and, for a heartbeat, a moribund season enjoyed a flutter of new life.
And then, shortly afterward, Houston manager Phil Garner likely looked around and wondered what every Astros fan is thinking.
Already, he has heard suggestions on the topic from the populace, and they're as predictable a part of the business as cups and caps. First they want to give you a piece of their mind, and then they want to tear out a piece of your tail and then they want to take your job.
The underachieving Astros are in the kind of free fall that raises questions about far more than talent, and popular consensus has Garner poised to be run out of town on the back of Junction Jack.
With Houston on pace to lose 95 games, en route to only its second losing campaign in the past 15 years, it's understandable that Garner is feeling the heat on his bushy moustache.
It's also misdirected.
Garner is no more responsible for the Astros' tumble than Roger Clemens.
No, the burden for this one rests squarely on owner Drayton McLane. He has lorded over a franchise that, according to the Houston Chronicle, has revenues of roughly $200 million and a payroll of more than $95 million.
Those are healthy figures that usually add up to contending. Instead, they have produced the third-worst record in baseball this season. McLane can now look back over the past two seasons and check off the reasons why — and his hand is in the lot of them.
With his team set to make the turn toward inconsequential, right about the time Biggio makes his turn at first base, the owner surveys a remaining foundation full of more fissures than a sun-baked parking lot.
A threadbare minor-league system. Only a scattering of marketable players. Questionable deals, including the baffling offseason decision to ship fleet outfielder Willy Taveras and a couple of promising arms to the Rockies for right-hander Jason Jennings, who now appears to be a one-year import of middling importance.
In 2004, in an apparent clash of egos, McLane jettisoned general manager Gerry Hunsicker in favor of Tim Purpura. The jury, out to stew over that one for a while, is back today and looking a bit constipated.
In damaging stretches, Purpura has looked out of his element.
Largely as a result, Garner works today with a roster short on pitching and defense, historic hallmarks for past Astros' excellence, and consistent offense. Garner couldn't win with the club if he slathered his lineup card in Barry Bonds' cream.
That hasn't stopped the second-guessing, however. The guy who directed Houston to its first World Series only two years ago appears to have gone from dynamic to dumb faster than Vince Young taking a Wonderlic exam.
The only thing dumber would be for McLane to believe it.
The owner instead should be concentrating on what happens after Biggio doffs his cap and disappears into the dugout. Fittingly, at that moment, the Astros will get markedly younger.
Indeed, Houston needs to start making moves with an eye toward next season and beyond. It likely will involve shipping out some familiar names in order to bring in some unfamiliar, fresh prospects.
It will involve rebuilding from the inside out. It will require admitting that the decision-making of recent months has failed miserably, and fixing it the right way.
Biggio has his historic hit, so now the franchise can get moving on its makeover.
McLane can answer what everyone else is thinking. What now?
That time has come.