Spring training begins for Major League Baseball next week, and that means the Astros will be reporting to camp in Florida and prepping for the upcoming season -- yes, despite whatever happened last season, the Astros are still considered a major league team.
Now that there are people who believe that I'm always negative when it comes to the Astros, and that I'm full of hatred for the organization -- that's probably why they don't invite me to fun things like they do some of the other Astros bloggers. That's okay; think that way if you must. I just see myself as a person who, no matter his feelings for the team, can't sit back and watch them make screw-up after screw-up after screw-up and remain silent.
But this is a new season. That time of year when optimism abounds among fans of all ages. Thus, while the Astros should be a bad team this season, I thought I would present a number of positive things that will help you to make it through this season.
25. Just one more year on Carlos Lee's contract.
24. The team doesn't have to worry about pitching to Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder this season.
23. Jim Crane has started a revolutionary approach for the Astros: he's putting some really smart guys with nice track records in control of the team. You can see the results already as new general manager Josh Luhnow failed to provide any huge contracts this past offseason to washed-up middle infielders or long relievers.
22. The return of the J.D. and Brownie show. I watch a lot of baseball, and I subscribe to MLB.TV and MLB Extra Innings, so I hear a lot of different TV broadcast teams, but none can top Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies in terms of keeping the viewer involved in the game, even when the Astros are being blown out.
21. Hey, in just one more year it'll be safe to listen to games on the radio again.
20. After this season, there's no reason to fear the ballpark being overrun by douchebag Chicago Cubs fans several times every season.
19. The Astros have caught up with the rest of major league baseball and will now allow fans to bring their own food items into the ballpark.
18. Jason Michaels is gone, so we don't have to worry about Brad Mills putting him into the lineup on a consistent basis.
17. Remember the heartbreak of watching Brandon Lyon blow multiple saves last season before he went down with an injury? Well, even though Lyon's back as the closer, there probably just aren't going to be that many games for him to blow.
16. If he stays healthy, new shortstop Jed Lowrie promises to be the team's best all-around shortstop since the pre-injury days of Dickie Thon.
15. The Astros management appears to be following the pattern of the Tampa Bay Rays. It's useless to spend millions of dollars on fringe free agents (Bill Hall, Kaz Matsui, Pedro Feliz, etc.) just to win 65-70 games a season instead of 60-65. Use that money to draft and sign good players who will move up to the majors and make the club good that way.
14. Here's a great new game to play at the ballpark throughout the season: at the end of the season, which number will be higher, Jose Altuve's height or the number of walks he collects for the season.
13. For those of you worrying about the Astros finishing with the worst record in the majors again, remember this: the Astros will be playing multiple games against the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates this season, and those two teams are just as bad as the Astros.
12. This year's club should be more exciting than last season's. The roster at the moment is full of youngsters who are eager to show they're in the majors. I'm particularly interested in seeing how J.D. Martinez progresses throughout the season.
11. There's still one year left of Bud Norris shutting down the St. Louis Cardinals at every opportunity. And beating the Cardinals is always a good thing. 10. I'm going on the record with this: the Astros do not lose 100-plus games this season. I believe they'll get at least 70 wins, which will be a big improvement over last season.
9. The Boston Red Sox aren't playing at Minute Maid Park this season. So there's no reason to worry about the place becoming Fenway Park South like it did last season.
8. With Jason Michaels gone, who becomes manager Brad Mills' new binkie, that one guy he uses for every single double-switch? I'm putting money on Jack Cust getting that job, though I will entertain arguments for Matt Downs.
7. Hey, Brett Myers is back for another season. That means those people with outfield tickets will once again have a fantastic shot at catching a home run ball.
6. With Jason Castro's injury history, and Humberto Quintero's general suckiness, there's still a chance for the catching combo of Chris Snyder and Chris Wallace. This would mark the first time in MLB history that two former Houston Cougar catchers would be on the same major league roster at the same time.
5. Since the team's bad, the odds are that you can still go out and buy a cheap ticket and then move down to the great seats later in the game.
4. Ed Wade's gone, so now fans don't have to worry about the team getting screwed over by the Phillies at the trade deadline.
3. Then again, there's really nobody on the roster that the Phillies would actually want.
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2. Tal Smith's gone. Now if they'll just get rid of that stupid hill.
1. No more Drayton McLane.