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World Series 2001
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10/12/2001 11:28 PM ET
Astros Notes: How many more chances for 'Stros?
By Alyson Footer
MLB.com
Craig Biggio sits alone in front of his locker after Friday's series-ending loss.
ATLANTA -- The Astros' continual playoff futility has left fans, team executives and players shaking their heads "why?" Before Houston's Game 3 loss to the Braves, General Manager Gerry Hunsicker addressed the growing frustration that has become old hat to Astros fans who watch baseball in October.

"It's very frustrating," he said. "I know it's certainly frustrating to the (players). All I can say is -- and I haven't done this myself yet -- but go back through the postseason, and come up with a list of guys that have done very poorly. Then come up with another list of guys that have had great postseasons. You'd come up with two very interesting lists.

"If you then held up the lists and said 'Which list of players would you like to form the nucleus of next year's team?' I guarantee you'd come up with a list of guys that have done poorly in the postseason."

In other words, can your team win enough during the regular season without career .300 hitters such as Jeff Bagwell (.303) and Moises Alou (.306) in order to even get into the postseason, despite their poor playoff results?

"When you condense a baseball season into a week or two weeks, any player, no matter how great he is, can have a bad stretch," Hunsicker said. "That's the only thing I know to try to explain what's happened.

"The question is, if you keep suggesting that there's a problem and a reason why we don't hit, then I challenge somebody to tell me, are you suggesting we should get rid of Bagwell, Biggio, Alou? Because those are the guys running out there every day. I would suggest to you that if any of those would be free agents -- and Moises will -- there won't be any lack of takers."

We'll never know what could have been
The Astros were confident that if they could just eke out a win over the Braves in Friday, super-rookie Roy Oswalt would have no problem handling Atlanta in Game 4.

A Braves sweep has left everyone wondering what could have been if the Astros would have just gotten over the hump. Instead, Oswalt will have to wait another four months to test what was finally deemed a healthy right groin.

"It's disappointing how we lost," he said. "Especially losing the two games at home the way we did. The first game, we had it all the way to the eighth inning and the game just kind of fell apart. Coming out here, we knew we had to play everyday, as hard as we can."

Although he's only 24, Oswalt sounds like a man far beyond his years. And his disappointment in the team's early exit from the playoffs -- according to Oswalt -- runs just as deep as it does for the Astros' veterans who have been through this old song and dance on three previous occassions.

"The biggest thing is, anytime you have a chance, you have to jump on it because you never know when you're going to be on a team that has a chance to get here," he said. "It's just as hard for us (young players) as it is for (the veterans). I've been playing baseball all my life and you don't get a chance very often. Hopefully next year we'll put a good year together and come back and do it again."

Most of all, Oswalt can't wait to be a healthy addition to the starting rotation.

"Last year, they had a bad year and to come back this year and win the division, that's proving something. Hopefully next year, we're go further. That's our goal, to get to the World Series next year."

Is time running out?
Although the Astros are proud to have won four division titles in five years, one has to wonder how many more chances the team will have to reach the World Series. Next year, Craig Biggio will be 36, Jeff Bagwell 34. Billy "the Kid" Wagner is by no means a has-been, but having turned 30 in July, he is no longer considered a young gun.

However, Lance Berkman, himself a relative novice to the big leagues, pointed out that a talented crew of up-and-comers ensures that the Astros' future is in good hands.

"This team right here was a good mix of veterans and younger guys," he said. "This was great experience for Wade (Miller), and for myself. A lot of the guys that we have out there, hopefully we're going to be around for a long time and this won't be our last run at it.

"We can look at the guys we have coming up, we have a rotation of maybe a healthy Carlos Hernandez, and a healthy Roy Oswalt and a healthy Wade Miller. I'd put those three guys up against any three young pitchers in the league. And (Tim) Redding is right there, and of course we have (Octavio) Dotel.

"That's a pretty good nucleus of young guys to start with next year, not to mention the fact that you have Baggy locked up for another five, and Bidge is going to be here too. I expect to be in this position every year and I'd hate to have to talk about yet another playoff loss, yet at least we were here and we had a chance. We just didn't get it done this year."

The veteraned Bagwell echoed the sentiments.

"I was very excited with this organization in Spring Training because I feel like we had a lot of young kids coming up that were going to give us a chance to win year in and year out," he said. "You saw some of our pitching staff of the future here. If our kids can stay healthy, then there's no reason why we can't get back to that situation again.

"That being said, you'd like to take advantage of your opportunities and obviously we haven't done that."

Wagner noted that the Braves' 10-year playoff run is not the norm in today's economically-conscious era of baseball, and that Atlanta's expendable payroll gives them the ability to fill needs easier than other teams.

"You've got somebody over there that will day in, day out go and get what you need," he said. "It's easy for the Braves, with a bigger payroll. With us, we're limited to an extent and it is scary. We've got a great nucleus right now, but nobody's getting any younger. It seems like for us, it's always a bigger uphill battle to go and get what we want. Then we get the Braves, and they win 88 games and go to the playoffs like it's no big deal."

Heading to the Big Apple
Third base coach Matt Galante, a native New Yorker who makes his home in Staten Island, will begin the three-day drive home on Sunday.

Deeply affected by the tragedies surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks, Galante hopes to eventually pay a visit to Ground Zero -- but he's not ready yet.

"I will at some point in time," he said somberly. "Probably not right away. I want to see my wife, and my grandkids and my kids too. But I want to see what the city looks like. Hopefully they'll get it rebuilt someday."

Galante, like the rest of the country, has growing concern about America's future.

Alyson Footer is the site reporter of astros.com.