Is there really a great reason to get excited about the second half Houston Astros? Are they really good enough to make a playoff push? Can they overtake the Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers and Reds?
Glad you asked!
The questions can be answered this way: Juneberno. But there seems to be a growing giddiness that has overtaken some in the Astros fandom. Great, that is really what fans should do. Seriously. I’m in, I’m a fan first, I love watching this team play really well and take it to the Dodgers and Co-ards (the last being a semi-poser of a contender actually, but let’s not quibble about the pedigree here, they’re the frontrunners in the NL Central, so let’s leave it at that). This is awesome. Live for the moment because the moment is good.
But what happens when the moment is bad? Well, just like one can get giddy, one can also get a bit miserable because we allow it to be this way. Unfortunately for fans, the major league baseball season is a marathon, so you’re going to have these up and downs in a season. Right now, it’s up people, so get up! Here is the thing though, do you want the GM and Manager reacting to the season in the same manner as you and I?
Gosh, I hope not.
They could both take a page right out of the Jeff Bagwell book of cliches that make a ton of sense. Primarily, “never get too low after a loss, never get too high after a win”. Or “this is not football where you can use emotion to help you win, in fact it’s better to play relaxed than too pumped up”. So what is happening right now for the team is great from a positive standpoint of going out the ballpark. Heck, I want to see some steM destruction this weekend and will settle for nothing less! Woo-hoo. But back to the GM and Manager for a minute. This 2009 version of the Houston Astros are pretty good in terms of talent, no one has questioned that. But the question mark has been the age of said talent and the ability to stay productive consistently for an entire season (not just for several months). The other question mark was pitching.
I thought the defense was not an issue and neither the bullpen when the season started, but we all agreed that starting pitching… yes, a question mark for sure.
That Roy Oswalt started off slowly again was cause for concern. Thank you Wandy for providing good work early to keep this team hanging around. Now the starters seem to have hit a groove and hopefully the aged Ortiz and Hampton can be the same guys in a couple of months.
That’s left to be seen. Same with Moehler. Wandy is hovering around uncharted waters for him but maybe this is where a Hampton and Ortiz can help him… the mental aspects of being a starter who is the leader of the squad along with Oswalt.
Offensively, they’re performing where most of us thought they would and thank goodness Cooper came to his senses when it came to Bourn. Now he has that sparkplug that the team can rally around. Now if he just settles with Pence at the six hole and stops some of his madness with lineup construction, he’ll be fine. The minute a two game losing streak happens, you don’t want your manager acting like a fan and overreacting. If fact, as long as the Astros win, Cooper is held in check from doing what is his flawed managerial manuevers. “All I can do is change the lineup!”. Yeah, well here is hoping they keep winning (and no they won’t keep just winning – winning is as streaky as losing so expect some losing streak at some point as well). I know the Astros are a second half team, but two things you want from the GM and Manager is this:
Don’t be fans, be baseball men and react accordingly.
Help this team win more than lose and that requires looking at making moves in terms of trades or callups from the minors. It also requires putting your guys in the best position to produce, even when they’re losing (sounds strange I’m sure, but you cannot be fan-like and decide to make a bunch of moves to shake things up). I think one place for sure where the GM has to look to provide some serious help is in the bullpen. I know, Doug Brocail is coming back and all. Fine, but the reality we’re seeing lately is that we have a highly inconsistent bullpen. The next thing we’ll hear though is “who doesn’t have an inconsistent bullpen?”. True, but if you’re serious about doing something down the stretch, a consistently good bullpen… no, a consistently great bullpen is a must. Just saying.
So any way, the second half is on the way, everyone is noticing the good play of the Astros and are talking about the possibilities. Here is where you have to see just how good your GM and Manager are and also how good (consistent) this team is as well. Here is hoping it is all positive (and a stray hurricane doesn’t make a return engagement any time soon).
About this column: We had to do it folks, sorry. We just could not bear the thought of stuff like this appearing on the Talkzone any more. It was killing our bandwidth and some of you (you know who you are) were encouraging this behavior by our author. So we’ve given Noe his own little sandbox to play in and you can count on his ramblings to appear here from now on. You can thank us later. Plus, Noe is encouraging your comments on his thought here if you’d like. That is a dumb idea but it was the only way we could convince him to let go of the TZ.