Hunsicker greatly improves odds
Gerry Hunsicker brought in the Big Unit six years ago, but Carlos Beltran means much more with time running out.
There are natural comparisons between Hunsicker's deal last week to get Carlos Beltran and the one six years ago to get Randy Johnson. The similarities, in Hunsicker's view: both were very dramatic trades, involving All-Star caliber players, and somewhat shocking considering the Astros weren't regarded as a frontrunner in either derby to obtain the high impact, free-agent-to-be. In fact, the noted Antigua-based wagering Web site, betWWTS.com, listed the Padres as 7-2 favorites to win the Beltran sweepstakes, followed by the Yankees at 4-1, Red Sox 6-1, Marlins 8-1, Dodgers 10-1 and Mets 11-1. Even the White Sox were given a 15-1 chance of diverting Beltran within the division, and the 12-1 odds he wouldn't be traded at all were better than the Astros' chances, but Hunsicker beat the odds again.
But there are far more differences than similarities, the most notable of which to Hunsicker is that in 1998, the team was in first place and he was looking far enough ahead to envision Johnson matching up against the Yankees' lefty-laden lineup. This time the deal was not only before July rather than at the deadline, but also with Houston scuffling, making it in Hunsicker's eyes, "riskier" and possibly more important than the Johnson deal. While the core of the "Killer B's", Bagwell and Biggio, are still around, their contracts are now an impediment to the future, and with Roger Clemens on loan possibly only for this season, the Astros may be facing a dramatic facelift as early as 2005. While Houston had hopes of retaining Johnson in that offseason, especially after going 10-1 as an Astro, Hunsicker acknowledges it's unlikely Beltran can be retained.
Another major difference, Beltran is represented by Scott Boras. You can't do more than Beltran has in his first week with a new team, but the Astros have still lost more than they've won in spite of his heroics. Hunsicker declares he's not an advocate of changing managers when things aren't going well, even in the face of a growing chorus to replace Jimy Williams in Houston print, and radio talk show circles.
Gary Miller is a reporter and play-by-play announcer for ESPN's major league baseball coverage.