Jonah Keri asks the question, how do you choose your favorite player? Is he an Astro? Have you followed his career path from riding a stinky bus in Single A to finally getting the hurried call to the majors to replace an injured regular? Maybe he's a fantasy stud who led your team to a strong finish, vanquishing your buddies and causing your heart to warm at the mere mention of his name?
My favorite current Astro has quickly become Michael Bourn. As much as just about everyone (myself included) gave up on him in 2008 combined with Brad Lidge becoming sainted/knighted/deified in Philly, Bourn's resurgence in 2009 has made people think twice and reconsider their opinions of just 12 months prior. Michael is a native Houstonian who didn't get drafted straight out of high school, but went on to play baseball at the University of Houston- which like it or not, has had it's own share of image problems. Few Astros bring the sort of enthusiasm, athleticism and awe inspiring talent that Bourn does. It's become easy and fun to be a fan of his.
The more I follow the minor leagues though, I can tell that I will quickly become a fan of guys like Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino, Jason Castro, T.J. Steele, Danny Meszaros, Jordan Lyles and Jiovanni Mier. These players are going to be the next generation of performers for our hometown club, and for me, they are the first "generation" of professional athletes who are by and large all younger than I am. It will be different watching them than it was watching Biggio, Bagwell and even Oswalt and Berkman.
I think I can appreciate what it takes to perform on the major league level better as a young man than I could as a child or teenager. It takes a certain amount of disappointment, adversity, triumph and satisfaction in a job well done to even begin to understand how a professional athlete treats his work on a day to day basis. I'll never be able to say I know how Jio Mier felt when he struggled or excelled in pro ball, but I do know a little better what hard work means, and I can hopefully appreciate our Farm Stros on a higher level than I could in years past.
Could Kaz Matsui be headed back Japan? It's a possibility, says RJ. That would ease the load a bit on our payroll entering 2010, but it wouldn't make up for the raises that Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez are sure to get in arbitration this offseason.
Justice wonders openly if Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt still love the game, which is indeed disheartening. As some of us have pointed out lately, two veterans who are used to competing in September aren't going to exactly be thrilled to play out a string of meaningless September contests.
Changes are afoot, and a new manager, younger supporting cast, and refreshed atmosphere are just what the doctor ordered. Lance and Roy are wandering around aimlessly, like a person waking up from a deep sleep. A cup of coffee wakes us when we're groggy, and the Astros aren't all that different. Although caffeine isn't what they need-a jolt of excitement via new faces in the clubhouse is what they need to wake up. A fresh, healthy start in 2010 wouldn't hurt either.
Lance has spoken candidly on the subject of his future in an interview with Brian McTaggart. He seems realistic about the difficulties associated with bringing in a #3 starter, but is optimistic about the guys that may make up 4/5 the rotation in 2010:
The one thing I do like about our team next year is the fact I think we're going to have Roy [Oswalt] and Wandy [Rodriguez] and Bud [Norris] and then [Brian] Moehler in the rotation. I think we have four pretty solid starters that give you a chance to win. That's where you have to start. That's the whole foundation to the team.
Berkman is positive that these four will go a long way in determining whether or not the Astros can avoid a fifth consecutive season of not playing October baseball. In general though, he isn't so sure about the rest of the team:
It's hard to prognosticate for next year when you don't know what your personnel situation is going to be like, he said. You don't know who's coming back and who's not. I think until you know that from a personnel standpoint, it's hard to say what's going to happen.