From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tom Timmermann.

In retrospect, maybe the Astros didn’t need to re-sign slugging center fielder Carlos Beltran.

The team lost Beltran, who had 38 homers and drove in 104 runs in 2004 and was an overwhelming offensive force in the postseason last year, to free agency. In the offseason he signed a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets.

“Well, first and foremost,” Astros manager Phil Garner said, “I didn’t necessarily think it was a big loss. One of my things that I feel is, if you put so much of your capital in any one player, it’s going to hurt you in my opinion. … So I applaud our owner for going the extra mile and trying to make that happen, but I think it probably was a blessing in disguise.”

The Astros instead banked on Willy Taveras being ready to play in the majors. Taveras had a good season, hitting .291.

Uh, yeah, the same Willy Taveras whose OBP percentage was .325? If Taveras was such a viable replacement for Beltran, why was Chris Burke starting in center last night? Might it have something to do with a a leadoff hitter that strikes out four times as often as he walks being a liability?

I’m in awe of what Houston have accomplished this season, especially after their miserable start and considering how much playing time they’ve given to guys who’d have spent the entire season in Round Rock otherwise. But unless you’re a Roger Clemens’ accountant, there’s no way you can ignore the fact that the Astros struggle to score runs and very often, provide their pitching staff with the smallest margin of error.

Houston are a win away from the World Series and the Mets are playing golf (or sudoku) right now, so it is hard for me to accuse the Astros of mismanagement. But if Garner’s Gang somehow blow their 3-1 NLCS lead, it might be fair to assume that Beltran would’ve made a difference.