FLB: Astros preview
Coming off their first World Series appearance in their 44-year existence -- they were unfortunately swept by the Chicago White Sox -- the Astros enter 2006 with questions surrounding two of their oldest players, both potential Hall of Famers. On one hand, the Astros would love to have Roger Clemens, 43, back in uniform for another chance at World Series glory. On the other, they've spent the past few weeks doing everything possible to not have back Jeff Bagwell, 37, even going so far as to attempt to declare him disabled, so they can collect insurance on his $17-million 2006 salary.
Whatever happens, it's clear Houston can no longer count on either veteran to contribute as much as he did in the past. Clemens, a free agent, can't re-sign with the team until May 1, making retirement or joining another team likely, while Bagwell was limited to just 39 games a year ago because of career-threatening shoulder problems. Losing both is significant, Bagwell's 2005 injury woes aside; these were two perennial All-Stars. You don't simply make that up overnight, as evidenced by the team's drop in runs per game from sixth (4.96) to 11th (4.25) in the National League from 2004-05 despite playing in what most consider one of the better hitters' parks in the game (Minute Maid Park).
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