|Bagwell walks back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth.
ATLANTA -- It's going to be a long, long flight back to Houston.
Sure, in actual time, the trip takes only about two hours. But those two
hours began what will be four months of
"what ifs" as the players, coaches, manager and front office executives try
to figure out why the Astros continue to falter
in the first round of the playoffs and have not even come close to reaching
the World Series.
On Friday, the Astros lost to the Braves, 6-2, suffering their second
division series sweep to Atlanta and falling to 2-12
in postseason games since since 1997.
"It's a recurring theme, no question about it," Jeff Bagwell said.
"It's tough. We got down in a hole and never dug
ourselves out. We had a few chances but we couldn't come up with any big
"Obviously we're very disappointed. Very frustrated. There were a lot
more expectations coming into this playoff (series).
We thought we were a lot better team than we showed. It's a disappointing
day, no question about it. I felt like even when we
got here, we could actually pull this thing off. We just didn't have it."
Forgive Bagwell, and his veteran teammates, if they are starting to sound
like a broken record. But since their first
division championship in 1997, the names may have changed, the cast of
characters tweaked a bit, but in the end, it's just
the same old story. No LCS, and no World Series.
And they still don't know what it will take to reach that next level.
"I don't know. I don't have an answer for you," Bagwell said. "We get
here every year, we have good seasons, we win over
90 games, over 100 games once, and then we have a tough time when we get
here. So I don't know what the answer is. I really
don't have one for you right now. Hopefully one of these times we can get
back in and that all can change for us. We've got a
tall order to do that again."
Craig Biggio also has no magic solution that will get the Astros over the
hump, and quite frankly, prefers to leave roster
issues up to the Astros braintrust.
"It's not for me to make that decision, it's for (owner) Drayton
(McLane)," he said. "I'll let him make that decision. All
we can do is go out and play the game. I think you saw this year that it's a
team game. That's how you win, that's how you
lose. That's just the reality of baseball."
For the players who have been with the team since it won the first
divison title, patience is understandably wearing
"It gets awfully old to hear the same expression, 'We'll get 'em next
year' when every next year ends up as a first round
exit," Billy Wagner said. "It gets to the point where it's frustrating to
even deal with it. It's tough to be around it right
General Manger Gerry Hunsicker, who orchestrated of all four
divison-winning teams, agreed.
"It's kind of ironic," he said. "I think a lot of people were rooting
against having to play Arizona in the first round.
Maybe we would have been better off. The Braves certainly have our number.
The cast of characters changes and it doesn't seem
to matter. We're just never on the attack. We never put the pressure on the
Many in the Astros' clubhouse tried to maintain an optimistic look toward
the future of the franchise, but taking a sunny
approach to an otherwise dismal situation was a little easier for the
"For a lot of us, it's our first playoff experience and if we get back
here, I think we'll be better for it, from an
experience standpoint," Lance Berkman said. "That's something that the
Braves had on us, their main guys have played in the
World Series and have played in 10 straight playoffs.
"You win the Central (division) enough, we're going to win one of these
series. It's not going to go on like this forever.
We had a good team and I think it's great what we accomplished this
Berkman hopes that fans don't write the Astros off as a team that never
will be able to get to the promised land, although
so far, they have done little to help their cause.
"People are going to paint us as chokers, or (say) the Astros choked
again and they couldn't get it done," Berkman said.
"This series especially -- and you'll just have to take my word for it
because I'm in here among these guys every day over
the course of a whole season -- there wasn't a man of us that choked. We
weren't so nervous that we couldn't take good swings
or couldn't play good baseball. It just didn't work out, and that's all I
can say about it."
"The season's over, and we won 93 games," Manager Larry Dierker said. "I
talked to the guys after the game and I told them
that I was really proud of them. To be able to win 93 games with the
injuries we had and some of the young players that we
played, I couldn't be happier with the way we played in the regular
But the postseason is a different story.
"I mentioned before the season even started that I felt like (the Braves)
were the best all-around team in the league,"
Dierker said. "I also said going into the playoffs that I felt like they
were a better team than their record shows. I'm sure
they feel that way now."
Alyson Footer is the site reporter of astros.com.