So it's the All Star break, and the question at this point of the season, as it's been at this point of the season for the past several years is a simple one: will the Astros ever again be a good baseball team? The Astros once again have the worst record in the majors at 33-61, which means they're in prime position for yet another number one pick in next June's amateur draft.
The Astros have been a maddening team to watch this season -- for those who can watch the team. The team's looked extremely competent at times, especially when the starting pitching has been good. But the defense hasn't always been top notch (something that generally happens when you're loaded down with first baseman playing other positions, i.e. Brett Wallace at third base and Chris Carter in left field or Chris Carter at first base or Chris Carter with a fielding glove for any position.) The offense tends to be a strike out machine, once again, see Chris Carter.
But what's it mean? Are the Astros destined to become the next Kansas City Royals, a team that hasn't been relevant in the majors since the late-1908s and has been in rebuilding mode ever since? This was supposed to be a breakout year for the Royals, the year that team put everything together and contended for a playoff spot. But the Royals are foundering, with another losing record, and looking to miss out on the playoffs yet again.
The Astros don't appear to be in that same boat. There seems to be a plan in place, and while it doesn't yet look like it on the major league level, there is talent on the way up. It's just going to be miserable waiting for that talent to reach the majors.
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Fortunately, most of you aren't actually able to watch the Astros play. There's still no deal to put CSN Houston on the rest of the cable and satellite systems in Houston and Texas. Dwight Howard signing with the Rockets might be that final push that's needed to get everybody to sign on the dotted line. But would it really be that surprising if Les Alexander, having watched the Rockets get screwed on TV deals by the Astros last basketball season, turned around and screwed the Astros, making sure that there's no TV deal in place until it's time for the Rockets regular season to begin?
It's not all doom and gloom with the Astros. Jason Castro is showing real promise at catcher - he's the team's All Star representative this season. And while Chris Carter can't field, and strikes out an awful lot, on those occasions when he makes contact with the baseball, it goes a really long, long way - he leads the team with 18 home runs (and he leads the team with 123 strike outs). Matt Dominguez has shown promise at third base, his bat is still really inconsistent, but I can still remember how Ken Caminiti didn't learn how to hit the baseball until he was traded to San Diego (or started taking steroids).
Bud Norris, it would seem, is on the trading block, but the team did make a long term commitment to Jose Altuve, signing him to a contract extension on Saturday. Jarred Cosart looked fantastic in his first major league start Friday night, shutting down the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night - he needs to pitch like this a few more times before he can be named as the team's new savior however. George Springer and Carlos Correa both played in yesterday's Futures Game.
It can be difficult to feel optimistic about the Astros. There's the whole no TV thing. There's the fact that the team is still pretty bad and most of the talent's still in the minors. But if there's any one thing to make you feel good, it should be this, for all of the millions spent building a team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim still can't figure out how to beat the Astros on a consistent basis. And that's probably going to have be the high point for this season, unless the Astros can beat the Rangers a few more times and keep them out of the playoffs, and that would truly be something to almost make this season worthwhile.