Despite winning their last two home series and going 4-2 over the last week, the Astros woke up this morning 10 games behind the Cardinals, in third place in the division with 38 games left in the season.
But, hey, great tickets are still available.
Even the die-hard in me, the one who sat through the entire 7-5 loss to MLB’s most tatted-up team, the Arizona
Douchebags Diamondbacks, has called it quits on the 2009 season. At 61-63, the Astros have a chance to finish with a winning record. Okay, mathematically, they have a chance to win the division or the wild card, or Miss Universe or whatever, but realistically, they have a chance to finish the season over .500.
Someone in the front office apparently noticed this little bit of news, as Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, was dealt to the Texas Rangers a week ago. The move was for a guy who’s playing second in AAA and a 22-year old pitcher currently in low Class-A Hickory. Not the Hoosiers Hickory. Because if the Astros had dealt for Jimmy Chitwood, that would be awesome. Even if it was Norman Dale, that’s a deal you can set your watch by. Or something. It’s a move that looks for all the world to be a white flag, although surrendering would imply that the Astros had been in a fight for the last few weeks. How else do you categorize dealing your starting catcher? Other than under ‘I’ for “It’s over Johnny.”
Since winning the opener of a series against the Mets, the Astros had gone 7-15 and dropped 9 games in the standings prior to the latest home stand. That’s more of a slaughter than a fight. Almost overnight, injuries and curious moves turned one of the hottest teams in baseball at the middle of July to a icy shell of a franchise in mid-August. Mathematically, there’s still a chance, although even the most optimistic, brick-colored glasses wearing die hard would be hard pressed to tell you how it could happen.
Normally, at this point, in this type of season, you’d want to look to the future, talk prospects. You would be “waiting til next year”, but there would be something to talk about. That may be the most frustrating part of this season and 2010. The immediate future for this team is already in Houston. Bud Norris, Yorman Bazardo, Sammy Gervacio have all made their Houston and/or Major League debuts in the last couple of weeks. Felipe Paulino is up as well. Unfortunately (or fortunately based on your view of their performances to date), that may be it. Next year, you might see Brian Bogusevic, Chris Johnson or Tommy Manzella up, or not, as they haven’t really distinguished themselves in AAA. Maybe Edwin Maysonet gets some much deserved playing time. But that’s it. As you know if you’ve taken a Bus Ride, the talent in this organization is, with very few exceptions, below AA this year. This is the hole that Tim Purpura’s drafts left the organization.
As has been covered, barring any moves in the off-season, the Astros will open with definite, undeniable holes at short, third, catcher, three of the rotation spots and just about half the bullpen. Pray for some moves, because there is nothing in the organization that could be moved up to address the majority of these positions.
Even if all of the prior rambling was fact instead of FACT!, this team isn’t a lot of fun to watch. For that, I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of one Cecil Cooper. The Astros’ manager, who appears to be auditioning for a job on the deck of the Titanic every time he pulls a pitcher, is at his personal end of days. Like Sherman’s march to the Sea, Cooper appears to be intent on setting fire to as many pitchers as he can get his hands on. Is there ever a reason to use 6 pitchers in a 4-2 victory? No. Stop thinking about it. Just like Cecil.
There have been a couple of telling quotes in recent weeks from Mr. Cooper. The first, in reference to his regular visits with Commissioner Bud Selig, most recently in mid-August went something like, “He likes to sit and talk baseball,” Cooper said. “If you go in his office, he could get pretty riled up about umpires and stuff like that. He’s just a guy that loved the game and loved to win. He’d get pretty upset if you didn’t win. He’s a good baseball person.”
He’d get pretty upset if you didn’t win. He’s a good baseball person. You gotta wonder if his little mood swings are actually based on the games, or have they become something he thinks he’s supposed to do.
The second little quote, which Cooper has reiterated a number of times in the last couple of weeks, “We need something to shake us pretty quickly,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “Time is beginning to run out on us. We need to get a streak going.”
The Astros are the only team in baseball that hasn’t had a winning streak of at least five games this year. (When I say baseball, I’m only talking about the National League, because fuck them.) The Pirates have done it, the Reds have done it. Hell, the Nationals have done it.
The quote in and of itself is harmless, innocuous even. But Cooper says “streak” like it’s something that just happens without effort or thought, like Lindsay Lohan showing cooter, and that the Astros are owed one. You want a streak Cecil? How about this: learn how to manage a bullpen. Stop warming up and using (or not) 5, 6, 7 pitchers a game. Stop burning out your effective relievers. Stop jerking around your starting pitchers. Stop shuffling your batting order. Stop playing your older players (especially your shortstop and catcher) every single day because you’re afraid to sit them down every now and then. Streaks happen because teams play consistently good baseball for extended periods of time. It is impossible to play consistently good baseball for an extended period of time when you’re experimenting on players like you’re John Harvey Kellogg. When your hitters don’t know what the expectations are, when you have more lineups than Paris Hilton has sexually transmitted diseases, when starters know you don’t have their back, when your bullpen is extra crispy at the end of July, there will be no streaks. You get nothing. Good Day sir!
Did You Know?
A disappointing season isn’t new territory for Astros fans (or any fans of any baseball team, for that matter). There have been plenty of seasons that the team tanked, or started bad, or was never really in contention, or needed a miracle to win 80 games. The faulty memory of Houston sports fans will tell you that the Astros always underachieve, always produce dogs of teams. The reality is a little bit different.
To date, the Astros have completed 47 seasons of play, about to be 48. Overall, they’re 3799-3810, which is pretty impressive if you consider that the Houston franchise didn’t have a winning season until 1972, or eleven seasons in. Houston won at a .429 clip in the 60’s, and .493 in the 70’s. 12 of the franchise’s 19 losing seasons occurred before 1980.
Since 1980, Houston has had 21 winning seasons. The Astros won at a .522 rate in the 80’s, .523 in the 90’s and so far .518 in the oughts.
Overall the franchise has had 24 winning seasons, 19 losing seasons and 4 .500 finishes.
On a Personal Note
Thanks to everyone who was able to show up to my little birthday shindig. I very much appreciate it. And thanks for the gift. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the picture, but the desk set was very nice.
Also, sorry this thing is a rambling mess. I have no real excuses other than the Astros make me crazy. Add to it that the upcoming months have me looking forward to A&M and Texans football, and, well…I’ll be spending a lot of time with my kids this fall.