HOUSTON - At this point, the Houston have completed the one-quarter turn in the long MLB season. As of the time of this writing, they sit 31-21, 2 games back of division-leading Texas (as of May 28th). The team’s overall numbers are a mixed bag. They are among the league leaders in ERA, quality starts and other good pitching numbers. Yet, the offense is exploring new depths…the lowest depths of the statistical standings. Runs scored are in the bottom half of the league, as are team batting averages, slugging percentage, OPS, home runs…and all of those other statistical-type number measurement-thingys (and if we subtract the 6 games against the Lord-awful-soon-to-be-Las-Vegas-A’s…yeah, trust us, you don’t want to look). This was affirmed when we contracted the Rice University Mathematics Department to review the results. After running all of their high-flaunting calculations using a combination of gonkulations, abacuses and a dancing crawfish, they concluded “Yeah, the Astros’ offense kinda sucks.”
When we asked team leadership about how the season went, the team leadership took a sort of “shoulder shrug” approach.
“Look, we clearly would rather be undefeated, scoring 10 runs a game against not surrendering a single run of any sort. However, that just doesn’t work all that well in baseball.” Owner Jim Crane opined in a recent interview with us. “We are on a great run these past few seasons. That being said, winning all the time, like we did last season and in the playoffs…that whole soul-crushing dominant pitching and timely hitting thing...it doesn’t help with the whole drama thing. It is about the story-telling. Coming into the season, it had all the makings of being…boring. Returning most of the roster/lineup, with most of that starting pitching, with the hitters back and locked up under relatively nice financial deals for the next couple of seasons…it just looked like we would be on autopilot all the way to the title. Nice…but that makes for a stale plot-line. Might impact ticket sales/ratings. Hence: DRAMA!!!!.”
This certainly was not the expected answer, but as we dug a little deeper, it did become apparent that this team did indeed add some drama. This started rather quickly, as the team did not renew Jim Click’s contract as GM. Those negotiations did not go all that well, especially when Click pointed out that in his 3 seasons, Houston got to the ALCS each year, and improved all the way to a World Series win. Because of that, Click assessed that the team should maybe offer him a little more compensation than he got in Tampa Bay (i.e. more than the standard MLB per deim rate, some duct tape, and a DVD collection of MacGyver reruns). Crane briefly laughed, then proceeded to hit Click in the groin multiple times with a baseball bat before throwing him out of the office and shouting as Click writhed in agony that he would never work in this country again. Given that Click is now in the Toronto organization, Crane is a man of his word.
“Ok, so that whole thing with Click didn’t go well. Then again, the way our organization is set up, I figured that anyone could run it, so I thought I could run things while we waited to see if we could get a new GM in due course. With so few real roster concerns, what all did we have to worry about? Sure, we let Verlander go, which kinda sucked, but the dude is practically an AARP spokesman, and it was getting a little expensive to keep him around. Remember all of that pitching? Ok, so Dusty is in my ear nearly every five days or so about picking up a new pitcher or something, but I kept telling me, ‘Relax. We got plenty of pitching depth, and we will be fine. We always are. Just go back and whip up some new championship Chardonnay or something like that…anything I can give to that whiny punk Cashman when I see him next season as a gift for his 3rd ALCS-runner-up finish in 5 years.’”
“Besides, I could just turn to a Hall-of-Famer like Jeff Bagwell, who, because he played baseball real good nearly 20-30 years ago, absolutely knows everything to know about personnel decisions, contracts, free agency, and of course, the game as it evolved since his prime in the 1990s.”
We followed up with Jeff Bagwell later on:
“Yeah, I was always glad to help Mr. Crane out. He is quite the fanboy, but when a fanboy with a nine-figure bank account calls for advice, I am, of course, going to give it. I feel that the peak of baseball was the late-1990s because I was in my prime then. We just baseballed better then. All of those things they call ‘analytics’…well, I didn’t need them while I was hitting, so why should the Astros? This team will hit fine. Especially that experienced Jose Abreu. I was all on board, bringing a dude who won an MVP to play 1st base. It will work fine, trust me.”
When challenged about the concerns about Abreu being in rapid decline, Crane waved them away. “Look, he will be fine. Jeff said it would be fine. I don’t waste money, ok? See how Springer and Correa are doing this season? I could have been on the hook for over $350M just for those two underachievers. Don’t get me started on Cole. Would’ve been nice to keep around, but at $35M/year, and without so much as an ALCS win since he went to the Bronx? I rest my case.”
Just then, Relief Pitcher Rafael Montero (of the recent 3 yr/$34.5M extension and a 6.97 ERA) walked by. “Yeah, I heard Mr. Crane. Look, with more money comes more opportunity. Sure, I nailed the whole 8th-inning set-up man last season, but I want to diversify. Why be the 8th-inning guy, when I can branch out into being a 6th/7th-inning guy? Ya know, all that money is stressful. I am trying to lower the stress, and a big help will be dominating lower-leverage situations. The 8th inning thing in close games…that is SO 2022. New era.”
When we talked to Baker about Crane’s view of things, he just shrugged. “Hey, he’s the owner, and he can own any way he wants. I have a team to manage, and I am expanding my new championship line of wines. The World Series Sauvignon is especially glorious this year.”
Upon hearing Baker’s response, Crane just smiled. “That Sauvignon is damned good. Better than the bitter vinegar the Dodgers family tried to give me back in 2020. Our championship wine was allowed to age for a full season for real quality, not produced on a shortened timeline. Makes a big difference.”
We managed to speak with other players about how the 2023 season was going:
Yordan Alvarez (through a translator): “The hand is fine. Really. Honestly, I was all excited about Spring Training, but after all the playoff games, hitting a massive home run that doesn’t decide a tight playoff game or a championship…well, Florida in February is nice, but moonshots there…well, figured I would just be ‘safe’ with the hand, ya know. Sure, Mr. Crane wanted me to see if I could stretch out the rest time for ‘dramatic effect’, but I couldn’t sit out that long.”
Jose Altuve: “Hey, you think I wanted to miss eight weeks with a broken hand? Ok, so the pitcher that night couldn’t find the strike zone with a GPS. No hard feelings. Made me that much more pumped to get back on to the field. I’m happy Dubon has been raking for average, but we all know who’s the real lead-off king for this team. Besides, can’t have any challenge to my role as lead TOOTBLANer for the squad. Some things just can’t be delegated. Oh, and let the record show I hit my 1st home run this season before Tata Abreu.”
Alex Bregman: “Oh, it’s almost June, huh? Welp, time to start hitting again.”
Lance McCullers: We received this auto-reply when our reporters reached out via email “I will be out of the office (as per usual) until July. If you require assistance, please contact the Astros’ medical staff at [contact information redacted]. Hey, if this bothers you, at least I didn’t use a poop emoji.”
Our staff then went to talk to Jose Abreu and Catcher Martin Maldonado about why they suck at batting a baseball. For some reason, they didn’t like that question and immediately set upon our reporters. A lot of fists were thrown. However, between the two, for every 20 punches thrown, only about four landed, and most of them were of little power. Our reporters were fine…at least until Machete actually brought out an actual machete, at which point, they sprinted out of the building ala Carl Lewis in his prime.
Still, the season is quite young. It is a long season, and the Houston Astros know that while it is great to win as much as possible, it means so much more to win as the calendar turns to fall and cooler temperatures. Will there be more challenges? Sure. Injuries? Probably. Still, the Astros expect to be in the discussion of best baseball teams for as long as possible, especially if the other fanbases can’t stand the idea of Houston continuing to dominate. The more others rage, the more the Astros continue to feast on that rage.