Astros opt to stick with birds in hand

Astros opt to stick with birds in hand

HOUSTON -- The odds of the Houston Astros making a deal dropped to about 20 percent on Sunday, and general manager Tim Purpura wasn't surprised when the 3 p.m. CT trade deadline came and went without any activity.

The closest the Astros ever were to acquiring a player was late Friday night, when they had a deal in place that would have brought Seattle left-hander Jamie Moyer to Houston. Moyer invoked his 10-5 rights and vetoed the trade, which essentially left the Astros with few options to tweak their roster. And ultimately, that's just fine with Purpura.

"I'm not really disappointed," he said. "I had hoped to improve our club. There wasn't really anything out there that made a lot of sense. We had some things yesterday that we talked about that I thought could have helped us, but there wasn't a whole lot out there."

The Astros held "Family Day" at Minute Maid Park on Sunday morning, and Purpura made small talk with the players as their kids wandered around the field two hours before the start of the Astros-Mets finale.

"I was talking to some of the guys just casually about the fact that we feel good about things," Purpura said. "If you can do something and not hurt this group and not hurt the future, we'll do it.

"Everyone feels good about this club. We're producing enough offense clearly now, we've got great starting pitching, we've got great relief pitching, and we've got the best closer, I think, in baseball. Now, we just have to keep it up."

The Astros finished their 6-1 homestand as the Wild Card leaders, having compiled a 42-18 run that jettisoned them from last place in the National League Central to nine games over .500 at 57-48.

While the talk in April and May surrounded the fact that the Astros desperately needed a hitter or two to spark the offense, the general attitude in the clubhouse and in the front office these days is, why mess with a good thing?

"Some would argue, after seven [wins] in a row and 12 of the last 13, what do you need to improve?" Purpura said before Sunday's game. "But you're going to have injuries, and there will be guys missing time for whatever reason."

With that in mind, Purpura and his troops will keep their eyes on the waiver wire in the coming weeks.

"We've looked at who may be out there, and if we do have injuries and other things that do come up, we'll have to see what's available," Purpura said. "The biggest concern -- and it's not a concern yet -- but you always prepare for the health issues. What could happen if somebody gets hurt? [Brandon] Backe's on the [disabled list], Roger [Clemens has] had some back issues.

"They both may be fine and get through the season with no problem, but as we analyzed our rotation and particularly the top four, up until Backe got hurt, they were all on pace to pitch 200 innings each. In some cases, far in excess."

But as he looks for backup help, Purpura has no problem with the notion that the club could look largely the same in two months as it does now. While clubhouse chemistry is considered by many to be an overrated intangible, there's no arguing that the 2005 Astros are one tight-knit group.

They aren't outwardly boisterous about it -- you won't hear the team calling themselves a bunch of "idiots" as some sort of bonding ritual. This club is simply made up of professional players who respect each other, took their lumps together earlier in the season, and believe they have the parts to reach the playoffs.

"The makeup of the team is tremendous," Purpura said. "The way these guys go about their business is exceptional. They talk about one heartbeat, and that's what they really have.

"But as far as the components, whether it's offense, pitching, defense, I am [pleased with the makeup of the team]. We're very productive right now, and have been very productive for the better part of two months. To me, that's progress."

Purpura pointed out that the Astros made essential adjustments after the first two months of the season, which produced nothing but abysmal results. Purpura also realizes there is plenty of baseball left to be played.

"There's a great deal of confidence right now," he said. "Confidence, but it's not overconfidence. We know we had a bad third, we know we've had a great third and now we must have two great thirds if we're going to be where we want to be."

The players were fine with the club standing pat on deadline day.

"We can win with what we've got in here," Russ Springer said.

"There's probably a little bit of relief," Jason Lane said. "Everyone's hearing this, hearing that, not knowing. We were in a good situation, not really having to go out and get anyone. We're on a roll. With what we've got and the way we've turned it around, we've done it with these guys, and there's no reason that we can't continue."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.