So, when exactly do you start caring about baseball again? That is a serious question, and not in a condescending, judgey kind of way either. Part of my reason for asking is strictly selfish. I love baseball, but MLB is a touchy topic in Houston because either people do not care anymore or the ones that do just cannot handle the stress and sadness. The other part is just curiosity. How much can a fan take and still remain a fan?
I get it. Your Astro hearts have been broken, repeatedly. It is really more like a dagger to the chest, followed by bare hands reaching in and yanking your heart out of your body, and then stomping on it in brand new cleats. Top it off with said battered and bruised heart being used in BP thrown by Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. (Sorry, just pulled those names out of thin air. I hope that was not too painful to relive.)
I know this city still loves baseball somewhere deep down. I could hear you getting excited when baseball writers were crowning you World Series Champions 2017,
and when the Astros drafted Brady Aiken as the first pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. (Too soon?) Then, in the Astros fashion you have become all to accustomed to, the front office uses a lame, “he might get hurt one day” excuse not to sign him, and in turn were unable to two other players tied to Aiken’s deal. Essentially, they wasted the draft, but you have gotten used to that as well. I will be kind and not bring that laundry list of names up now.
They did this to you after going 51-111 last season. The most losses in franchise history, and the third straight 100 plus loss season. The same season they implemented the ultimate betrayal, the most sacrilegious act against the church of baseball possible. They joined the American League.
Who could blame you for not going to games? As a fan, where you spend your money is your only vote. You went from a World Series in 2005 to squeaking out two winning seasons since, 2006 and 2008. Your last losing season before that was not that long ago in 2000, but the Astros were in the playoffs three straight years prior. More importantly, they bounced back the very next season tying for 1st in the NL Central and back in the playoff in 2001. Granted all four years were first round exits, but the playoffs of any kind are better than what you are dealing with now!
The point was not to rub salt in the deep wounds that your beloved team has left on you. Actually, it is amazing that there are any of you left now that a rough outline of your sorrows are laid out in black and white. The question remains, after all you have been through, when do you let yourself care again?
Would it be a healthy or promise of a healthy George Springer for 2015? Was it last week after the team surpassed 2013’s win total on August 15, and got the first ever Astros win at Fenway Park? Was is Monday, August 18 when Chris Carter was named AL Player of the Week for his 4 home runs, .321 batting average, and 9 RBI last week? Was it Tuesday, August 19 when you loved, then hated, then fell in love with Chris Carter again? (That is a rocky relationship. He is definitely all or nothing, as evidence by the golden sombrero he earned at Yankee Stadium, but followed it up with a three run homer in the ninth for the win. Just another Tuesday night, I suppose.)
For many of you, the moments above are just enough to make you angry, and remind you of all things not on the list. So, for you, what has to happen for you to want to talk baseball? This is not about when you will be at Minute Maid for 81 games. There are a lot of wins for a lot of seasons for that to happen. The question is when do you let yourself get excited about the possibilities. Would it matter if the Astros finish 2014 on a 34 game win streak finishing 88-74? (Save the calls, tweets, texts, etc., it is an unlikely example used to paint a picture.) What if they just show improvement? In July the Astros won a whopping 8 games, but they have already won 10 in August. Would it be enough to go .500 for the next 34 games? Is getting to 63 wins, avoiding another 100 loss season, enough of a race to pay attention to?
After the Brady Aiken debacle, it looked as though Houston had hit rock bottom and started digging. There have been glimmers of good solid baseball like the win at Fenway and the come from behind win over the Yankees. That is not enough, but would signing Brady Aiken change your outlook?
Yes, the above paragraph references the Brady Aiken debacle AND the possibility of signing him. (This story began before the Aiken rumors, hence the length.) Jim Crane has denied rumors that negotiations are ongoing, but there are reports that the Astros could reach a deal with Brady Aiken around the same time as Jacob Nix‘s grievance hearing. Why would Aiken sign after all the apparent hard feelings, and why would the Astros waste their breathe?
The critical error the front office made was tying Nix’s deal with Aiken’s and pulling it off the table. The deals were tied because Nix’s contract by itself would have put Houston over the draft pool limit based on the picks they signed. Aiken’s deal, even before the controversy, was below the amount allotted for the pick. Money unused money can be used on other picks, if the initial picks deal goes through. (This would be confusing had you not heard it 1.5 million times already.) The penalty for overspending is losing picks. Jeff Luhnow and company pulled the Nix deal in order to receive a compensatory pick next year for not signing Aiken and avoid the possibility of losing more draft picks.
The MLBPA filed a grievance on behalf of Nix, and if he wins, the above scenarios would be set in motion. The deadline for a deal with Aiken is September 1, but an extension can be filed.
If this deal gets done, and Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix are Astros, are you excited about baseball again? These are only questions you the Houston Astros fan can answer, and hopefully, for both our sakes, you find the answers you are looking for soon. Until then, I will be here when you are ready to talk.
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