Fond memories will prevail for Astros

Schlegel: Fond memories will prevail

HOUSTON -- It's a question that should have an easy answer, even if it might take be a little difficult right now for some Astros and some of their fans to comprehend.

Question: How do you look back on a season as the best in franchise history when you finish on a four-game losing streak?

The easy answer: Fondly.

When you're one of two teams left in all of baseball, playing on the game's grandest stage in the World Series, that's the only way to look back on a season, even if it ended with four losses in the final week of October.

And, despite the sweep at the hands of the White Sox, there's no question this will go down as the finest season in the 44-year history of the Astros organization. Sure, they have won more games in the regular season than the 89 they won this year, topping out at 102 in 1998, but this is a season without peer.

This team was the first in the franchise's history to make it this far. These players were the first in the franchise's history to make it this far.

Jimmy Wynn didn't do it. Nolan Ryan didn't do it. Mike Scott didn't do it.

But Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell did. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte did. So did Chris Burke and Wandy Rodriguez.

All these guys did, and they'll always be the first Astros team to have made it to the World Series.

"A lot of good times, a lot of good memories," Biggio said. "It'll probably take a while to put it in perspective."

Some in the Astros' clubhouse already had, however.

"Certainly nobody in this clubhouse or in the organization has any reason to hang their head," catcher Brad Ausmus said. "Yeah, we didn't win the World Series, but we were a team 15 games under .500 in May, and we brought to the city of Houston not only the World Series but an electricity here that I have never seen in all the playoff teams I've been on in this city."

The deafening buzz surrounding the Killer B's might have subsided a bit as the White Sox danced on the infield at Minute Maid Park, but as time goes on and perspective deepens, it will return.

The night before, manager Phil Garner couldn't possibly take on that perspective. He was "ticked off" about the Astros' inability to cash in on scoring opportunities -- their downfall in this series, more than anything else -- and he went to far as to say it was embarrassing.

Embarrassing? Clearly, Garner was speaking out of frustration, for that's really much more the emotion that should be felt.

Embarrassing is losing 100 games. Embarrassing is making your city look bad. Embarrassing is making baseball look bad.

The Astros did none of the above.

Granted, this wasn't a pretty performance, and you'd like to think they're capable of a lot more. They weren't nearly as sharp against the White Sox as they were against the Cardinals in the NLCS, and as much as you have to give credit to Chicago for its part in that, the Astros certainly have to absorb plenty of the responsibility for their fate of being swept.

And, after Game 4, Garner made it clear that he meant just that by his comments the night before -- make that the morning before.

"Embarrassing, meaning I don't like losing," Garner said. "Let's go back and clarify me being ticked off. I don't like to lose. I thought I made it clear today that I wasn't pointing fingers at anybody. I don't like to lose. "

Nobody in the Astros' clubhouse liked losing this one, or in this way. Who would?

But with so many moments to savor in 2005, dwelling on the last four games' worth of losses just isn't worth it.

Closer Brad Lidge, who had as many rough moments to brush aside as anyone in the clubhouse this postseason, was doing his best Wednesday night to step back from it all and appreciate 2005 for what it was.

"This is an amazing experience, and there's definitely a lot to learn a lot from it," the 28-year-old closer said. "For this organization, we take a step further with each year. Obviously, the only thing left for us to do now is work hard this offseason and think about taking the next step when we get to Spring Training next year."

When they do get to Spring Training, they'll be doing it as the defending National League champions. That's something no Astros team has done before.

Surely by then the pain of losing four straight will have subsided for everyone, and everyone will remember this season the way it should be remembered.

Fondly.

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.