Best Area Team (2001)

Houston Astros

Being an Astros fan is never easy. If the team breezes to a division title, it gets knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. (If it struggles to a division title, it gets knocked out just as early.) The team seems inherently incapable of taking the big step to the next level. Last year, fresh off a series of playoff appearances, they moved into a stunning new stadium, filled each night with enthusiastic standing-room-only crowds and...they had an absolutely hideous season, flirting with the 100-loss mark. They've rebounded this year but remain frustratingly inconsistent. It's that frustration, though, that makes them the Astros. Even when they're winning, they tend to do it by winning two and losing one, never quite putting together a dominating streak. No fan will ever be truly confident until the last out of a clinching World Series game, but until then, it's enough to suffer along with the flashes of brilliance from Billy Wagner, Jeff Bagwell and Moises Alou.


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