A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. - Earl Wilson
With a start of a new baseball season brings a new sense of hope and excitement, unless you are the Houston Astros. It’s amazing how quickly that feeling can simply fade away and we’re simply left with that nostalgic moment of that time we won that game.
I love baseball. I really do. There isn’t another sport quite like it, but as an immense baseball fan and a die hard Astros fan it’s really getting hard to not only watch Astros games, but to simply enjoy baseball. Thank you Houston Astros. Not only did you ruin your games for me, but you have started to ruin baseball for me as a SPORT!
How screwed up is that? Very! I should be sitting on a couch somewhere screaming at my psychiatrist about seeing Chris Carter strike out on three pitches in a Rorschach inkblot test, but I’m not. I’ll simply stick to throwing my remote as my preferred method of psychiatric therapy.
I love the Houston Astros, but this team is just so boring to watch. You can feed me every statistically data driven metric in the book that shows signs of improvement and that the Astros are trending upwards, but how long is that supposed to hold our attention not only as Astros fans, but as fans of baseball? Obviously I’m not alone. The Astros scored another 0.0 Nielsen rating for their afternoon game against the Angels and it’s becoming impossible to tell the difference between pre-game attendance and actual in-game attendance.
When your product on the field has turned fans away from going to the games and watching the games on TV, then you’ve already lost the battle for 2014. Does this team lack star power? Maybe, but ask most fans what excites them most about 2014 and the majority of the answers that you will get in return are about prospects that we could potentially see during the summer. Prospects such as George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, Mike Foltynewicz, Domingo Santana, and possibly Preston Tucker could be promoted sometime this summer to help the Astros take the next step forward in this never ending baseball franchise remodel. Good lord! Where are Ty Pennington and the Extreme Makeover team when you need them?
For the love of God, move that bus Ty!
Can you imagine Ty moving that bus and boom there’s your remodeled 2014 Houston Astros! OMG! Jose Abreu is starting at first base for the Houston Astros? Masahiro Tanaka is the opening day starter for the Houston Astros? Are you kidding me Ty? George Springer is starting in right field on opening day? How did you know? I guess I have been leaving hints about that one quite a bit, but gosh you have really outdone yourself. Ah! That’s just want I wanted.
Now let’s come back to reality! None of that ever happened and we can argue all day long about if there ever was an actual possibility of that happening, but the fact of the matter is it did not happen. Sorry. Jesus Guzman is your starting first baseman. Someone in some office thought it would be a great idea if we ran Jesus Guzman out there as our everyday first baseman because his career wRC is 130 against LHP. Let’s forget that this is a small sample size and he’s never had more than 325 plate appearances in his four MLB seasons. The thing that drives me nuts about sabermetrics is that we tend to look for that diamond in the rough stat about a player rather than look at the product as a whole. It’s kind of like that girl that dated Ted Bundy and her girlfriends are screaming at her "HE IS A SERIAL KILLER", but she simply looks at him as the nice guy that buys her flowers.
You’ve heard Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow talk about their expectations for 2014 and how their goal as a team is to be the most improved team in baseball. Jim Crane even went as far as saying that he would love to get close to .500 this year.
Whoa Jim! Whoa!
Let’s pump the brakes. Aren’t we setting the bar a little high? You’re not doing Jeff Luhnow and the fan base any favors by setting realistic expectations for 2014. As of right now this team is ranked 30th in BABIP (.235), 29th in K%(25.4%), 23rd in wOBA(.294), and 23rd in wRC+(82) as a team according to Fangraphs. Unless Jeff Luhnow can somehow pull Allen Craig and another run producer out of his hat for this lineup I just don’t see that as being realistic.
This isn’t some random columnist ragging on the Astros because they typed "Houston Astros" into Google and found in their extensive research and analysis that this team hasn’t won more that 56 games in each of the last three seasons. I mean do you really need Google for that? I believe that a writer for CBS publishes that weekly Astros slam piece on a repeat schedule , Monday through Friday. The message is always the same. How Houston should be ashamed and should demand more. I hate to say it, but they're right. Well how about them apples. Our 2014 Astros slogan should have been "Houston! Let’s cry together."
Oh Sean! Your glass is always half empty.
You bet it is.
Why shouldn’t it be if you’re an Astros fan?
Yes. Yes. I get that Carlos Correa, George Springer, and their gang of misfit toys will soon descend upon Minute Maid Park in a fiery fury. I get that and I’m excited about it, but let’s not kid ourselves and think that there’s not going to be an adjustment period of these prospects. Even the best prospects go through an adjustment period and have to make adjustments either at the plate or on the mound.
Can anyone guess who hit .220/.281/.390, 87 wRC+, 6.7% BB and a .296 wOBA in his first 135 at bats according to Fangraphs? That would be the man, the myth, and the soon to be made-for-TV legend Mike Trout in his first MLB stint. He then went on to have a monster 2012 season as we all know, but even he didn’t hit the ground running.
Look, I’ll be honest. My secret guilty pleasure isn’t to go into each season hoping that we lose another 100 games. If it was I would be a very happy man. I would embrace being that arrogant fan who loves to mock other teams for not losing as many games as we do. "You guys might lose with class, but we simply lose and fall on our a**" would be my credo and I wouldn’t run away from it. I would embrace it! I can hear our cocky attitude now. "Oh Bro, your team is terrible. You guys only lost 65 games? Better luck next year."
It’s just not. I will throw fits on Twitter like a two-year-old child that doesn’t get his way when we lose and fail to make any moves that could possibly help this club. It’s not a pretty sight. I hate losing and what makes it even worse is when I hear other fans try to talk me down as an Astros fan and simply say that we should just be patient because the "PROSPECTS ARE COMING." Wow! So we’ve suddenly turned into a hybrid of a Cubs fan mixed in with the confidence of the Washington Generals fan. I love a good prospect like the next baseball fan, and to be honest as an Astros fan this is all we have going for us at the moment. With that said, baseball prospects are hardly a sure thing.
Don’t believe me? Go back and look at the Baseball America 2014 roster predictions from 2009 and 2010. Tommy Manzella was playing 2B, Jiovani Mier at SS, and staff ace was a retired Roy Oswalt. Prospects by definition are "the possibility that something will happen in the future." Not "you can take this check to the bank and cash it with a 100% return", but instead a check that is basically an IOU on something that may or may not happen. I think as fans with prospects we immediately create placeholders in our organization and on the MLB lineup for prospects that have not had a single MLB bat or pitched a single inning at the MLB level. That’s just simply not a smart approach. I think that organizations shouldn’t block a prospect that is close with another free agent, but shouldn’t be building your everyday lineup around prospects that may or may not be in the picture for the upcoming season. We see it all the time. Prospects never hit their ceiling either due to lack of growth and production or simply due to injuries that limit their growth.
Does this make me a bad fan? Maybe, but it also keeps us grounded throughout the season if we set realistic expectations for the season. As a fan, I’m tired of waiting. I hate losing and my patience is telling a two year old to wait in line while everyone else is playing on the playground. It’s just not going to end well and there’s going to be a meltdown. I know there’s a plan in place and this is simply part of the plan, but nobody gets the plan 100% correct on the first draft. There are always multiple revisions when writing a masterpiece.
Let’s be honest. The product that you’re putting on the field just isn’t that good and is reflected in the TV ratings and game attendance. It might be time for the Astros to break out that red pen and start making adjustments before its too late. The die hard fans aren’t going anywhere. It’s the fan that’s lost hope in your vision that you need to reenergize and motivate again. Remind them that this is a great game. The fan base has been patient, but it’s now time to reward them for their patience and give them something to believe in again and a product that they can proudly stand behind again. It’s time to take back Minute Maid Park! No longer will we cater to other team’s fans and their needs. You want a lobster roll? Why don’t you hop a plane to Boston and go get you one in BOSTON! Didn’t order your Derek Jeter jersey before you got to the park? Oh no! Tough Noogies! I hear there is this thing called Amazon that is pretty cool and oddly enough ships anywhere!
It’s time for the Astros to take this town back and it all starts with the product on the field. It might be time for the Astros to do something unorthodox as opposed to how this Astros front office normally operates. Take a chance! Don’t mortgage the farm, but at the same time go out and make a little bit of a splash. Show everyone in baseball that Houston has "cojones grandes " and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to bring this team back to being relevant again in Houston and in baseball.