Houston - The Aug 2nd trade deadline has come and gone. The Houston Astros, currently sitting atop the AL West by a double-digit margin and holding the #2 seed also by double digits, made a series of moves to shore up deficiencies in the outfield, catcher, and pitching positions. “Made some quality moves, I think,” noted Dusty Baker, sitting in his office sampling his latest summer Cabernet Sauvignon.
When the dust settled from all the activity, the Houston Astros picked up Trey Mancini, who can play at the First Base/Outfield/Designated Hitter Positions. Current O’s GM and former Astros executive Mike Elias was reportedly happy with the prospects they picked up. He was also checking in from an undisclosed location, as there was some, uh, discontent from Baltimore about the move, and he made this decision out of caution. They also picked up Boston catcher Christian Vasquez, in an attempt to shore up the hitting, or lack thereof, from the catching position (update: Vasquez, in his first at-bat for the Astros, grounded out, so most would say he is fitting right in). To shore up the relief corps, Houston picked up Will Smith from Atlanta “Can’t beat ‘em, steal ‘em from the champs,” opined an unnamed staffer from the Astros.
With all of these moves, the Astros would appear to be setting themselves up for another long post-season run. Yet, there was a sense of more immediate urgency from the Astros’ brain trust.
“Well, ok, we are thinking about the post-season and all. Yes, there is the potential to try to maybe catch the Yankees for home field. Maybe, just maybe, we can win a few home games in a key playoff series or something like that,” noted Astros’ GM James Click “Yet, we weren’t sure we were going to make all that many moves. Coming into the the All-Star Break, we were sitting in a good position for the division and playoff seeding. We’d even run the gauntlet of the New York schedule and crushed it. Going with a 6-man starting rotation and possibly upping it to 7 with Lance [McCullers] coming back. A lineup that is starting to find the range…yeah, life is good.”
“However, we saw a huge problem right as we came out of the All-Star Break. When we played the Yankees and the white-hot Mariners, we ran the table, going a nice 5-0. Then, we take a nice trip to Oakland, to play the dead-last As. Then we get swept. [Expletive Deleted] swept by those guys. After they took 2 out of 3 from us right before the break. Ok, maybe we were tired and just wanted to get to the off-time for that first one, but we lost to them. Good grief, [at the time of this interview] we are 0-5 against teams with a non-winning record since the break, 0-5!!!!!” raged Click.
The Click diatribe continued: “Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon for the Astros. We all remember last year when this squad simply could not get past those pesky, dangerous last-place squads. Detroit gave us so, so much trouble. Good grief, the Baltimore Orioles, who’ve held on to the #1 pick in the draft for at least the past half-decade, swept us at home. They were the worst team in baseball, and they up and swept us. At home. It wasn’t even the World Series.”
“There were some signs that we were better about this in ‘22. Been handling the Rangers just fine, and the Angels. We even swept the A’s the first time we played them this year. Yet, since June, we’ve had some of those issues again. Lost a home series against Miami, then lost our last two series against the A’s...and we have a ton more games against them this year. Heck, the Red Sox, who are last in the AL East, have won the season series against us. Ok, if they are over .500, maybe, just maybe, we have a chance.”
The unnamed exec continued “Look, I don’t want to panic, but while a 8-1 record against teams with a winning record after the All-Star Break is great, that 0-5 number is not looking so good. If we can’t beat those last-place teams, especially with the acquisition of Mancini and Vasquez, we are in deep, deep trouble.”
While some personnel remained worried, others took a more serene approach.
“Look, I don’t like the fact that we are struggling against the A’s, but in the bigger picture, I think we will be just fine.” observed owner Jim Crane. “Besides, I’ve been enjoying life and rubbing it in every time I see [MLB Commissioner Rob]Manfred and [New York Yankees General Manager Brian] Cashman about how the all-mighty fightin’ Judges, er, the Yankees, struggled against us, a team that struggles against the A’s. I am not worried. Now, if we once against have home field in the World Series, then I’ll show some concern. Until then, it’s all good.”
Only time will tell if the recent acquisitions will pay off for the Astros. Will they help solve the biggest current crisis of the Astros struggling against their biggest foes: Last place teams? We will have to wait and watch. If they can get past that major roadblock, then we shall see what the Astros will do in the post-season. Until then, we shall wait and watch, just like the rest of the world.