This might not qualify as a breaking news, but your 2013 Houston Astros are as bad as advertised.
As Jay Sherman might say, “They stink.”
That, however, seems to be the plan in Houston, as the Astros transition to a) a new owner b) a new-ish general manager c) a new league and d) yet another series of uniforms. (Outside of the Diamondbacks, has a team come up with more uniform combinations over the last decade than the Astros? Red, black, gold, pinstripe, yellow, now orange with a nod to the Colt 45s … pick one and stick with it, preferably these.)
This weekend I watched four Astros games (honest!) since they were playing the Tigers. It wasn’t pretty. After scrapping out late wins on Thursday and Friday, the Tigers won the final two games of the series by a combined 26-2 margin, dropping the Astros record to an AL-worst 8-24. Houston’s run differential is a whopping -75 which is 28 runs worst than the nearest team, Toronto.
Here’s a quote from manager Bo Porter after Sunday’s loss:
“You just have to wipe the slate clean each and every day. It doesn’t matter if you would have won today, you still have to come back Tuesday with a clean slate,” he said. “I know everybody is going to come back here looking to win baseball games.”
This is the first week of May. It should be fun to compare and contrast if he’s able to keep that level of zen calm come July or August when the Astros start hearing comparisons with the 1962 Mets everyday from opposing broadcasters.
Even if you sleep with the 2013 Baseball Prospectus under your pillow, you’d be hard pressed to recognize anyone on the Astros’ roster save for Carlos Pena, Rick Ankiel, Bud Norris and one-time perfect game hurler Philip Humber, who was rocked by the Tigers on Sunday and now sports an 0-7 record and 8.82 ERA.
There’s seemingly a plan to this. The Astros have pared down to a $21 million payroll — less than what Alex Rodriguez makes to sit on the disabled list or the check Floyd Mayweather cashed for boxing Roberto Guerrero Saturday night. Houston’s payroll is even $14 million less than the Miami Marlins.
For all intents and purposes, the Astros under the guidance of GM Jeff Luhnow seem content to throw away the 2013 season (and beyond) as they strip the team down and try to start anew. Luhnow, who took over for Ed Wade in 2011, made his bones scouting in the St. Louis organization and has dealt nearly everyone on the Astros’ roster with a Major League pedigree, leaving the team with — as my friend Scott texted me Friday — a group of “Billy Bullpens” and “Richie Righthanders.”
Luhnow’s plan to basically hit the reset button on the franchise makes sense to a degree. Whether or not Houston kept a guy like Wandy Rodriguez around wasn’t going make all that much of difference, so why not get a couple prospects for him? Teams have realized to stay competitive they’ll have to develop their own talent internally instead of shelling out for free agents. Houston is wisely stockpiling players in the minor leagues, but it could be years before any of them pan out.
The Astros already had the No. 1 pick in the 2012 First Year Player draft, taking 18-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa. They’ll have the No. 1 pick again in June and should have it again in 2014 unless the Marlins are somehow more inept.
Since the inception of the draft in 1965, no team has selected No. 1 overall three straight seasons. Recently the Rays and Nationals went back-to-back years with the No. 1 pick. The Rays landed reigning American League Cy Young winner David Price in 2007, then picked high school shortstop Tim Beckham in 2008 (yet break through on the Major League level). The Nationals famously picked Stephen Strasburg followed by Bryce Harper in 2009-10.
Houston has to hope it nails the picks like Washington did, although Strasburg and Harper were no-doubt, sure-fire No. 1 picks.
What strikes me is the Astros are at minimum two or three seasons away from being competitive, that’s if Luhnow’s massive overhaul pans out.
Is it really worth pissing away nearly half a decade of baseball at Minute Maid Park with some distant hope, maybe, on the horizon? What incentive does a baseball fan in Houston have right now for rooting for the Astros other than second baseman Jose Altuve? Aside from sheer boredom, why would you spend money on the Astros this summer? (This guy clearly couldn’t get enough Thursday night.)
This weekend, based on audio evidence, there seemed to be more Tigers fans in the yard than one(s) rooting for the hometown team.
Realistically that might be the 2013 Astros only selling point: we’re in the American League now, come watch the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers beat up on our collection of nobodies, stay for the fireworks!
Apathy breeds quickly and Texans season is right around the corner in Houston.
[photo via Getty Images]