When It Comes to the Astros, Reporting the News Doesn't Mean Forcing a Negative Narrative
It appears the Astros will win 70-plus games this season. It appears the Astros won't finish with the worst record in Major League Baseball for the fourth season in a row. It's possible that Jose Altuve will be the MLB batting champ and that Chris Carter will the MLB home run champ. The starting pitching is better. George Springer is the real deal. Hell, it's possible the Astros might even get that whole stupid TV thing finally worked out.
Those are the positives upon which Astros fans should focus. But just focusing on the positive doesn't provide the complete story. For the complete story, one also needs to know that the manager was just fired. And that No. 1 draft pick Brady Aiken was not signed over a supposed, undocumented injury, or that the Players Association has filed a grievance over the failure of the Astros to sign Jacob Nix, another draft pick.
It's important to know of the rift between the front office and former manager Bo Porter and it's important to know that not all of the coaches or players buy into the front office's perceived lack of commitment to fielding a competitive Major League club. A fan needs to know that players and front offices across the majors believe the Astros care not about the players but only about numbers. And yes, it's a big deal that a group of supposed geniuses couldn't keep their state-of-the-art database from being hacked.
That this information is reported on by local and national media does not mean that the media is forcing a negative narrative. It means that news about the team is being reported. Reporters are not hired PR flacks for the team. It's their job to report what they see, what they hear. To inform readers of news that affects the team, that affects the play on the field.
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The Astros are conducting a rebuild of the type that's never before been seen in MLB. The roster was blown up. The minors are being rebuilt from the bottom up in the hopes that the players will mature and form a fantastic Major League roster. It's been made known that dollars will not be wasted for mid-level players who will really not mean much to the team's overall record. This approach has drawn a lot of interest. There's that Sports Illustrated cover story proclaiming the Astros as the 2017 World Series champs. The stat geeks and baseball intelligentsia have adopted the Astros as the poster boys for the proper way to build a baseball team. But there's nothing wrong in noting that the Astros have yet to accomplish anything. It's not forcing a negative narrative to question whether Jeff Luhnow is really as smart as he thinks he is. If a major magazine article discusses a brand-new internal database, then the team better be damn sure that it's not hacked. If that same article goes in-depth into the decision-making process behind the drafting of Brady Aiken, then that team better be prepared to face a lot of heat for not signing him.
There are many Astros fans who are not happy with the reporting of Evan Drellich and Jose de Jesus Ortiz, the Houston Chronicle beat writers assigned to the team. Drellich and Ortiz aren't helicoptered in for a short time to write a magazine story. They're not Michael Lewis, hanging around the GM and the front office for a season while crafting a narrative on the maverick, misunderstood genius. They're instead chronicling a season a day at a time, a story at a time, without the ability to look back over the entire season and create a narrative. No person not employed with the team or with MLB has the daily, all-around access that they have. To think that they're forcing some negative narrative about the team is ridiculous. They're doing their jobs, reporting from the scene daily so that those without that access can better understand what is happening with the team.
The fact is that the Astros are a better team this year than last. It's also a fact that not everything is perfect. The complete story of the 2014 Astros cannot yet be written -- it might not be able to be written until Michael Lewis shows up in 2017 and writes the followup to Moneyball. That's when the narrative gets forced. What's written now, on a daily basis, that's what provides the background for that forced 2017 narrative, and it's kind of hard to force a narrative if it's not really known what's happening at the time.