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Even in spring, not much hope for Astros, Marlins

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2013 at 6:06 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

Certainly, both teams can expect to play before lots of empty seats.

Last season, the Marlins drew 2.2 million to their retractable roof stadium, which was the third-highest total in franchise history but ranked only 12th in the NL and was far below expectations. Not surprisingly after the offseason purge, season-ticket sales have slumped badly and Miami won't come anywhere close to drawing that many fans in 2013.

Houston's attendance plummeted to a NL-worst 1.6 million last season, its lowest total in 17 years, and the lack of major moves during the offseason is likely to send it dipping even more.

Redmond doesn't think the ill will toward Loria will have any impact on the players. After all, it's not their fault Miami traded away anyone making a significant salary.

"Players are a lot more resilient to that stuff than people think and give them credit for," he said. "When you get in the flow of the season, all you're focused on is playing the game and doing what you're in control of, and that's how you play. I don't foresee any distractions."

Then, he added, "Would it be nice to have 40,000 in the stands every night? Absolutely. But we can't control that."

The Astros reached the World Series for the first time in franchise history just eight years ago, but that came as a winning era led by Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell was winding down. Suddenly, those guys were gone, and Houston's farm system fell on hard times. The bottom fell out two years ago, and the ownership decided to rebuild with youth rather than go for a quick fix.

That may be the right decision long-term, but it's painful to watch at the moment.

Last season, Houston's active payroll dipped as low as $21.3 million at one point. This year, it won't be much higher. Not with a rotation that has only one pitcher coming off a year with double-figure wins (Harrell, at 11-11). Not with a lineup that includes no one who hit even 20 homers a season ago. Not with a new closer (Jose Veras) who is on his fourth team in four years and had all of one save in 2012.

It certainly looked like the Astros had thrown in the towel on another season when shortstop Jed Lowrie was dealt to Oakland just before the start of spring training, yet another payroll-cutting move.

Even so, Harrell said he looks forward to going against the AL West powerhouses.

If nothing else, it will show the Astros just how far they have to go.

"It's one of the best divisions in baseball, and we're moving into it," the pitcher said. "We want to kind of see where we're at, who can make it, who can stick. It's a great division to be in. Either we'll have success or not."

Bet on the latter.


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