Later today, at Minute Maid Park -- a facility that is one-third of the way towards obsolete at 30 years old -- the Astros begin their new season.
We have not noticed any tidal wave of demand for them to do so, but it seems they are contractually obligated.
It's hard to remember a recent pre-season that offered less in the way of excitement. Look at Spring Training -- the team at one point was something like 3-18 (we're too depressed to look it up) and manager Cecil Cooper was furiously thundering about all the mental errors, lack of energy, absent leadership and (probably) bad clubhouse food.
The biggest off-season transaction was the team's star shortstop pleading guilty to lying to Congress. He got probation, which means he made a better deal than any Astros GM since Gerry Hunsicker left.
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You do not want to look at the starting rotation, which consists of Roy Oswalt and four guys who will have the bullpen warming up before they've finished their first in-game coffee.
Any help from the farm system? Forget it -- the Astros have decimated a once-proud farm system into an awful joke that leaves them hyping guys who hit .340 for a month in Double-A.
It's baseball and all, so it's still enjoyable going to the game, but we're betting that by mid-August, plenty of good seats will be available. And owner Drayton McLane will still be roaming the halls, peppeing intimidated staffers with endless barrages of "Are you ready to be a champion day?!?!"
In the case of the 2009 Astros, the answer is decidedly no. Not even in the NL Central, and that's saying something.