Happy Allergy Season to all and welcome to my new TCB feature, Critical Theory, which will run every Thursday (except on the rare occasions I am ill, institutionalized, on vacation, out of material, hopped up on Claritin-D, hung-over, fired, fleeing my southeast Virginia home from hurricanes, emotionally fragile, literally hanging from a ledge, on the lam, or just can't be bothered.)
Every week I'll use this space to balance my spiritual chakra, seek personal peace and enlightenment, and acquire what is rightfully mine by critically examining those who have been critical of some aspect of the Houston Astros over the last week. Houston's front office - in particular owner Jim Crane and General Manager Jeff Luhnow - have taken a lot of consistent heat since taking over. The targets have run the gamut, including The Plan in general, the tandem pitching experiment, the Great Data Leak of 2014, the failure to sign 1-1 Brady Aiken, all the way down to the cost of a stadium hot dog. It has been and promises to remain a fascinating ongoing set of controversies. This feature will take a look at the latest complaints, trying to A) judge them fairly B) have fun and C) offend people, almost certainly not in that order of importance. The complainers addressed here will generally consist of outside media analysts, both local and national; former and current players; and TCB commenters.
My methodology will likely consist of introducing the controversy, perhaps with a few representative articles or tweets for illustration; stating my basic case; and then descending down a spiraling rabbit hole of pop culture references (relying especially on Bill Murray, Game of Thrones and Gilmore Girls), emotional pleading, uncalled for jokes at the expense of my fellow writers, bastardized and invented Nostradamus quatrains, implicit cries for help, and baseless predictions.
So for those of you who thrive on controversy, complaining, complaining about complaining, or just general crotchety-ness, this will be as good a place as any to waste your time in between games. And for that much smaller subset of you interested in the Astros, controversy, Game of Thrones and the Gilmore Girls, this really is the place for you: welcome to your Sweet Spot! Here's an incomplete, hastily taken photo of a not-to-scale shoddily constructed Venn diagram, totally free of charge, illustrating the potential sweet-spot appeal of this feature.
Now on to the inaugural episode, the Palpable Panic, inspired by the crescendo of gnashing and wailing that began during and shortly after the third game of the season, when the Astros found themselves at 1-2 with a record-breakingly inept offense. And it continues to date: at this writing, the Astros are a not-so-hot 3-5 after dropping the first two of their series against the A's. The game threads are getting even more ornery than usual. My latest foray into a comment thread indicated that fans are especially frustrated with and mad about the slow start in general, the lineups, about Gattis, about Chris Carter, about strikeouts, and about Jim Crane's ongoing failure to harness the power of the sun for the good of humankind.
To which I respond: Pish. As I say to my kids, when we've run out of blueberries and clementines: calmest thineselves. Relax. Have another beer. (Well, that part's not for my kids.) I suggest something not overly hoppy, which is all the rage with Kids These Days. Perhaps something in the 25-40 IBU range would do well. Why not come to Norfolk and try my local favorite, the O'Connor Brewery pale ale, Norfolk Canyon? Because that would probably be cheaper, more achievable, easier, mentally and psychologically healthier, and less time consuming than expecting these Astros to make you truly happy with consistent play. This team is expected by most observers and estimations to win something shy of 81 games. I predict they'll wind up not that far north or south of .500. In other words, they're now, after several years of record-breaking awfulness, a more or less regular team. And this is what regular teams do. They frustrate their fans with excessive strikeouts, futility, losing streaks, under-performing free agents. And then they go and totally redeem themselves and elate their fans with just the opposite, depending on the day, week or month.
Get used to it already. This mess is exactly what we've been waiting for.