Here are the nine Astros story-lines for the 2013 calender year in no particular order.
Another 100-loss Season Expected
As much as I disagree with this sentiment, there is very little literature within the Astros community or the national baseball community taking an optimistic approach to the Astros 2013 season. A 40-man roster devoid of star names and premium prospects has it's work cut out for them this season. Throw in the move to the American League West, arguably the best division in baseball, and some are predicting a 40-50 win season.
Bo Porter And The New Coaching Staff
If this team is going to lose 100 plus games again, what does that say about Bo Porter and the new coaching staff Jeff Luhnow has assembled? In firing Brad Mills and hiring Bo Porter the Astros are taking a step forward, right? And that should at least show up in the record. A lot of people recognized Brad Mills got a raw deal with the roster the Astros gave him but the fact is he was at the helm of the team when the Astros lost 100 games not once but twice. If we were to evaluate Mills record vs his Pythagorean record, which gives a team a record based on a teams runs scored and runs allowed (a dangerous comparison I know), we see that Mills' teams under-performed.
Can Porter take a dismal roster and turn it into something decent? I hope so, in fact I'm banking on it.
Hiring A Radio Team
Currently the only member of the radio team ready to go is former University of Houston quarterback Crawford Jones who won the You Make The Call Contest, and that is pretty much it. Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month and games begin at the end of February. Spring Training is as much preparing for the season for broadcasters as it is for players especially if they are new to the team. I expect someone to be in place before the season starts but I wonder if how they handled the previous team of Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan and how the organization has been handled as a whole the past year if some people are declining to come work in the radio booth.
Something has to get done soon, because the radio team may be heavily relied on to fill in Astros fans who don't have CSN Houston available to them.
Currently, only about 40% of Houston households have CSN Houston available to them through their cable provider. Very little news regarding the negotiations to make it to the public. The news that has is not good for CSN Houston and fans of the Astros or Rockets. First, Jeff Balke at the Houston Press recently had an article about a deal that would have brought CSN Houston to DirectTV at the beginning of the basketball season. The only problem was the Astros wanted a better deal and so blocked the deal, according to a source.
Shortly after the Houston Press article came out David Barron at the Houston Chronicle came out with his own article regarding the CSN Houston situation. Essentially, the Astros deny blocking a deal and then join in on the finger pointing. Direct TV is saying the system is broken and the Astros/Rockets are saying they want fair market value. Caught in the middle are sports fans who just want to watch their team but have to suffer because the two sides can't seem to work together. There is a very real possibility that
the finger pointing negotiations will carry into the baseball season.
How Will The Astros Fans Respond To The Designated Hitter
Now we're getting into some actual baseball (or gimmick ball as I've heard it called) discussion. I've never had a problem with the Designated Hitter. I think it improves the play on the field while sacrificing some of the strategy.Ultimately, it's only one position out of nine and how baseball fans in Houston, a National League fan base, handles the new dynamic will be interesting to see.
Which American League Team Fan Base Will Become The Most Hated
Obnoxious Chicago Cub and St. Louis Cardinal were not very much liked by Astros fans when they came to Minute Maid Park. Moving to the American League means no more Obnoxious Cub or Cardinal fans, yay! Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that another fan base will take those fan bases place.
Texas Ranger fans already have a leg up on the competition for the most obnoxious fan base with their yearly interleague visits. A's fans are constantly having to defend the Moneyball approach so I can't see them burning bridges by pissing off another teams fan base. That leaves the Mariners and Angels fan base and considering the state of the team I've got my money on Angels' fans being the more obnoxious. The Angels also have Albert Pujols which gives them a leg up on obnoxiousness.
With The First Pick In The 2013 MLB Draft The Houston Astros Select...
One of the very few positives of having the worst record in the Major Leagues is getting the opportunity to pick first in the June draft. Last year it was Carlos Correa this year who knows. Unlike previous years when their was clear number one selection in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper the Astros again will have a pool of candidates to pick from with the first pick. If last years draft was any indication it looks like this years draft will again be one of the highlights of the baseball season.
Even with a 50-game suspension, and barring injury, Jonathan Singleton will at some point make his Major League debut with the Astros in 2013 and there are several other intriguing names expected to make their debuts as well. Jarred Cosart has a chance to break camp with the big league club, either as a starter or reliever. Jonathan Villar is another name expected to appear at some point this season. Then there are guys like George Springer and Delino DeShields who are non-roster invitees to the big league camp but are expected to start the year in AA, however, If they play well enough they could see some time in Houston near the end of the year when rosters expand.
Who Is Getting Traded This Year?
When should a team stop trading players for prospects? The Astros will have to start building a foundation at some point but the feeling among the Astros community is that Jed Lowrie, Bud Norris, Wesley Wright and Lucas Harrell are all players that could be traded for a package of prospects. I still think all four are young enough to be contributing to this team when they're ready to compete, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them moved if the deal is right.