With the All Star Game now in our rear view mirror, the second half of the 2011 season looks like an interminable drudge to the finish -- one where the only thing that the Astros will be competing with is themselves: Will they or won't they be the worst Astros team EVER?
Please do not call think of me as a traitor, but I actually have money on this question: An $18 bet with my sister Elizabeth (the one who has braved Kissimmee with me twice) that the Astros won't win 65 games this year. I actually offered to go lower than that. I was willing to put down money that they wouldn't hit 60. I'm not being negative or unfaithful, just honest: That's how bad this team seems to be. At 94 games, they have a 31-63 record. So unless something happens to drastically improve the team, they are on pace to win about 53 games. Record book stuff indeed.
One could point out that the Astros have often been a late bloomer, with a big bang finish to the season. But there's really no reason to think that's going to happen this year. If anything, it's possible that the Astros' in-flux owners will sell off any of the "stars" who can command some value, reducing the winning rate even further.
Given that I had expected this to be a losing season, I'm actually more cheerful than I sound in this blog. I'm pepping myself up with phrases like:
Hope for the Future...
It's what it takes to get through a season that looks like Spring Training for six months. But there are some ominous things floating around that worry me and threaten my longer-term loyalty.
First and foremost is the rumor about moving to the American League. My dad has been advocating this move for years -- he's a retired engineer and likes things to be well designed and balanced, so the lopsided leagues annoy him. But I'm one of those people who think that the Designated Hitter ruins the beauty of the game. Moving the Astros to the AL could be ammunition for moving me from mlb.tv to the Nationals Ballpark. I'm not kidding.
The other ominous thing is the possibility that some of my team favorites may be traded. Yes, I know that change is the nature of the game. Players come, players go. Players are stars, then they aren't. Players retire, players are traded. For a Fan in Exile, even more than a home town fan, continuity is important. When you only get to see the team at Spring Training, and maybe for a few games when they're playing an away game where you live now, you need some continuity of players to keep up your connection and loyalty. For years, Bagwell and Biggio were the poster boys for that continuity. (Literally -- I have a Bagwell/Biggio poster giveaway from 2004 in my office.) Then they retired. The pennant winning Astros players from 2005 started to disappear. Then fan faves Oswalt and Berkman were traded last year.
Now rumor has it that the management is looking to see what they can get for Hunter Pence. Underpants! He's the face of the team, the nice guy everyone loves! The only All Star on the team! Well, duh -- that's why he has value to the other teams who would presumably trade away their prospects to get his bat and his outfield assists to bolster their race to the pennant.
Who else may be on the trading block? Michael Bourn? Wandy?
Now if we could unload El Caballo, I wouldn't quibble.
Change is good. I keep reminding myself that. I keep telling myself that even the worst team in the Major Leagues won't lose all the rest of the games of the season. So I'll keep watching the games, hoping to catch a win once or twice a week. And I'll keep popping up on Twitter, hoping to catch some other Astros fans to commiserate with. But recently, it's mostly been the people who are paid to watch games and talk about the Astros. If you're reading this, please post a reply. Being an Astros Fan in Exile has gotten to be a very lonely pasttime.