The Curse of the AstroTurf refers to a long-running combinatorial streak of bad decisions, bad trades, and bad seasons that the Houston Astros Major League Baseball organization has encountered since their move to the artificial turf (known as AstroTurf) in . While some attribute the Astros failure to other organizational problems such as salary and "bad luck", the continued lack of success in the light of other, newer MLB teams winning World Series titles only serves to reinforce The Curse of the AstroTurf.
While reference and talk of the curse is relatively new (starting in 2005 with the Astros' 0-4 loss in the World Series), long-time Astros fans have always seen possible blockbuster seasons turn out to be another dud. This constant streak of lackluster performance from players that often come to the Astros having tremendous numbers has contributed to the belief in a curse surrounding the Astros.
It can also be argued the Houston Oilers of the National Football League also suffered from the same curse during their 29 seasons (1968-96) in the Astrodome. The Oilers never reached the Super Bowl and won only three playoff games at home during their years in the stadium before relocating to Tennessee in 1997. In the Oilers' final playoff game in the stadium following the 1993 season, Houston entered on an 11-game winning streak, but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.
They curse may also affect the Houston Rockets and Houston Texans to a degree.
The lore of the curse
While some myth about the curse cites some strange conceptions - a popular one being that the painting of the Astrodome roof to black, which then killed of all the grass inside the stadium, was foreshadowing for the Astros success as an MLB team - most of the lore about the curse comes from artificial surface's injury-inducing properties and just general poor performance by the team in pressure situations of any kind.
Minute Maid Park, where the Astros currently play, has a dark history as well and has only helped contribute to a curse. Some actually refer to the curse on the Astros as the "Enron Curse", though the problems were highly prevalent before Enron entered the Houston Astros scene. Minute Maid Park was originally dubbed "Enron Field" by the popular energy corporation based out of Houston that eventually filed bankruptcy after one of the largest corporate scandals in history was discovered and prosecuted.
Results of the curse
* In , Ken Johnson became the first player in MLB history to achieve a "failure" record by losing a nine-inning no-hitter 1-0 against the Cincinnati Reds.
* In , the Astros had their worst MLB season, winning only 64 games and losing 97.
* In , J.R. Richard, one of baseball's outstanding pitchers of the time, suffered a stroke during a light workout on a day in which the Astros did not play. Richard never pitched another big-league game.
* The team took 19 seasons before making it into its first postseason appearance in with what could only be described as a rocky playoff start for the team. Entering the final weekend of regular season play against the Dodgers, Houston needed only one win in a three game series to win the NL West division. Instead, the Astros were swept by their opponents and then forced into a one-game playoff where they were able to win 7-1 against the Dodgers and win the NL West division title. In the NLCS that followed against the Phillies, the Astros' star pitcher, Nolan Ryan, pitched a magnificent fifth game in the series and left in the 8th inning with the Astros leading 5-2. The Phillies eventually won the game in the 10th inning with a score of 8-7.
* In , the Astros became the first team in baseball history to lose three games in a row after winning the first two in a five game NLDS series against the Dodgers.
* In , another bright prospect for the Astros was claimed by the curse: Dickie Thon. A pitch to the head quickly changed his career forever, leading it into a dark direction.
* In , despite having a 3-0 lead in the 9th inning against the New York Mets (with ace pitcher Mike Scott slated to start in Game 7), the Astros blew the lead and lost Game 6 of the NLCS in the 16th inning. The Astros had a chance to tie the game in the 16th after the Mets scored, but Kevin Bass struck out to end the game. Kevin Bass had also previously made an error in the 14th which had allowed the Mets to score runs, the first time either team had done so since the 9th.
* In what could be considered the Babe Ruth-equivalent loss by the Astros organization, John McMullen had referred to Nolan Ryan as being too old to play for the Astros MLB team. Nolan Ryan went on to record 300 wins, 5000 strikeouts, and enter the Hall of Fame as a Texas Ranger.
* In , Kenny Lofton would be traded to the Cleveland Indians for Eddie Taubensee and Willie Blair. This was the worst trade in Astros history according to most. (Nolan Ryan wasn't traded, he simply left after McMullen offended him.)
* In the off-season of , the Astros were scheduled to be sold after their stadium, the Astrodome, was renovated for the Houston Oilers team in a major way. They only remained in Houston after the other MLB team owners did not approve the sale.
* In , the Astros came even closer to leaving Houston. With the deal to sell them in its final stages, other MLB team owners again stepped in and stopped the sale. The Astros are one of the few teams to ever be put up for sale twice (to move to another city) without leaving.
* Despite winning four NL Central Division titles in a stretch of five years (-, ), the Astros managed to lose in the first round of the playoffs every year.
* In , inside of their own Minute Maid Park, Astros mananger Jimy Williams was booed by the home town crowd. This came as a result of the high tensions surrounding the "all-star" caliber team that was only able to reach a 44-44 record at the 2004 All-Star break.
* In , the Astros finally reached an NLCS (for only their third time) but lost to the St Louis Cardinals in the sixth game to a walk-off home run hit by Jim Edmonds. They went on to lose Game 7 in St. Louis.
* In , the Astros made it to their first World Series in franchise history. This feat took 44 years to accomplish for the team, the longest in MLB history among active teams. The Astros were not completely shut down by the Chicago White Sox, but still lost the World Series four games to none in what is known as the closest World Series to end in a sweep.