"I love Woody to death," Sampson said. "He's a great guy, a great teammate. I hate that it had to be him that I was going up against. That's the way it was. I'm excited, but also, my heart goes out to him too."
Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt had hoped the Astros would first give Williams a chance to compete during the regular season, arguing that Spring Training numbers shouldn't always be taken at face value.
"I think it's unfortunate," Berkman said. "I think a veteran like Woody deserves the benefit of the doubt. We're talking about Spring Training and everyone knows it's a totally different ballgame when you suit up for real."
Oswalt echoed the sentiment.
"I think a lot of times they judge too much in Spring Training," Oswalt said. "If you went on Spring Training [stats], a lot of the superstars wouldn't be in the big leagues. I remember Jeff Bagwell told me after my first year, he said, 'If they judged me on Spring Training, I would never be here.'"
Still, Williams' poor spring numbers, coupled with his 8-15 season from a year ago, are hard to ignore. Williams' age -- he'll turn 42 in August -- didn't help either, and clearly, the Astros did not feel the veteran righty could help them this year.
"I do understand where the organization is coming from," Berkman said. "Certainly his age, his season last year, and his performance this spring left something to be desired. But at the same token, I probably would have given him at least a month of the regular season, especially since it's not like the guys we have behind him lit the world on fire during Spring Training."
True. Of the Astros' five starting pitchers, only Oswalt [3.42] had an ERA below 5.00 heading into the final exhibition game of the spring season on Saturday. The rest are well north of that benchmark, including Brandon Backe [5.59], Shawn Chacon [7.00], Sampson [9.17] and Wandy Rodriguez [7.30].
Oswalt believed Williams should be given a second chance and chalked his teammate's poor '07 showing to a down year.
"Fourteen years in the big leagues, you have one bad year...you can't really go on that," Oswalt said. "A lot of people have a bad year.
"I don't think it's right for Spring Training to be judged. But that's [management's] job. They're trying to put a team on the field and I guess they're trying to go a different way."