Saddled with the worst run support in the National League, a frustrated Oswalt essentially told the Astros to take his no-trade clause and shove it.
So much for the Craig Biggio-Jeff Bagwell Be An Astro For Life program.
In theory, at least.
There are two important things to understand here:
1. Just because Oswalt has requested a trade doesn't mean he'll get one.
2. Whatever happens, owner Drayton McLane, working on running his own organization into the ground, likely will screw it up.
How can I be so sure about that last point?
The Astros, in the process of going toes up in 2006 following their surprise World Series appearance in '05, were close to trading Oswalt to Baltimore at the '06 July deadline in a deal that would have brought them what they really needed at the time: A bat.
Specifically, Miguel Tejada's bat.
This was back when Tejada was still playing 162 games a season, slugging 25 homers and knocking in 100 or more runs.
But McLane, with a personal affinity for Oswalt, frustrated the Orioles by pulling Oswalt off the table. The Astros wound up finishing second in the NL Central that summer (82-80) and have not finished higher than third in the division since.
That's just one example of McLane's mostly tone-deaf stewardship of the Astros, a run that's led to the bottoming-out of the club in 2010. I mean, really. Cecil Cooper as manager? Practically within minutes of Commissioner Bud Selig publicly suggesting it?
They've got the worst record in the NL. And their offense going into the weekend ranked last in, among other things, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, home runs, doubles and total bases.
Against that backdrop, it's easy to see why Oswalt, 32, is throwing up his hands.
Problem is, in no small part because McLane allowed his emotions sway decisions, the Astros waited too long to deal Oswalt.
To get that big package of prospects in return that McLane no doubt will require now, the Astros should have dealt him well before he turned 32 ... or before they signed him to the monstrous five-year, $73 million deal they awarded him.
Which McLane bestowed upon him roughly a month after Oswalt's feelings were bruised at the '06 deadline when word leaked that the Astros had included him in trade discussions.
Fact is, even though Oswalt has started the season with nine consecutive quality starts (he's 2-6 with a 2.66 ERA), he's no longer a $15 million pitcher (his 2010 salary). And next year, he's not going to be a $16 million pitcher.
All told, if a team takes on Oswalt, they'll be responsible for roughly $25 million through 2011 (including a $2 million buyout clause for 2012). Unless you've got deep pockets (hello, Mets), that's far too much dinero for many clubs that can really use starting pitching now.
Texas? Forget it. Creditors are nipping at the franchise's heels.
The Dodgers? Forget it. The McCourts are preparing to tee it up in Divorce Court later this summer.
Oswalt is not going to win that World Series ring in Houston, but at least he has that bulldozer McLane gave him as a reward for that memorable '05 postseason run.
Oh, and one other thing: Houston, by the way, did end up acquiring Tejada a little more than a year later, in December, 2007.
Which means they acquired him too late ... and now they face trying to trade Oswalt at the wrong time as well.
It's a game of timing, friends. And the Astros' is miserable.