Believe it or not, but pitchers and catchers are reporting for the Houston Astros on February 19, 2010. Yes, the Astros are going to suck this year, but it's baseball, and I love baseball. That said, I realize that some of you might want some more specific reasons to get excited about the Astros this season.
1. Cecil Cooper's gone. So the number of head-scratching in-game strategic moves should be much, much less.
2. I don't know if you noticed, but GM Ed Wade added a few more ex-Philadelphia Phillies to the roster -- Wade and the Phillies is kind of like Gary Kubiak with the Denver Broncos. So there's always the chance that the Astros will throw out a starting nine consisting entirely of Phillie rejects.
3. But Ed, buddy, if you're going to keep doing deals with the Phils, is there any chance of maybe getting some of their good players? You know, like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard?
4. Speaking of ex-Phillies...I'm going to enjoy watching Gold Glove centerfielder Michael Bourn roam MMP's vast outfield stretches again. If you don't enjoy watching Bourn in the outfield, there's something wrong with you.
5. And will the number of ex-Phillie ace Brett Myers starts match his age? Considering his recent injury history, the answer is probably no.
6. Then there's going to be the guessing game of which Wandy Rodriguez is going to show up this year? The 2009 Wandy who was somewhat decent, or the sucky Wandy who has pitched for the Astros the rest of his career?
7. Will Roy Oswalt return to being the pre-Cecil Cooper-era Roy Oswalt? For the Astros to have any chance of success, the answer better be yes.
8. And will Lance Berkman return to being the Big Puma, or will it be another season of Fat Elvis?
9. I'm looking forward to whether new manager Brad Mills will the first manager to ever find a way to get Carlos Lee to hustle for something other than the post-game buffet.
10. Speaking of hustle, since the Astros refuse to buy out the rest of Hunter Pence's arbitration years, expect Pence to have a monster season.
11. Miguel Tejada is gone. Expect the number of ground-into-double-plays to decrease dramatically.
12. I don't know about you, but I'm hoping the sound guys turn down the MMP music volume a bit so that it's possible to really enjoy the great Bob Ford -- the best stadium PA guy in sports.
13. Will Drayton finally sell the team? And if he does, will the new owner immediately demand a new stadium to replace the aged and decrepit Minute Maid Park?
14. I'm still waiting to find out how many various Craig Biggio days there are going to be this season.
15. The big question is going to be: what day in May will the Astros officially fall out of contention?
16. Then there's the return of Bill Brown and Jim Deshaes. These guys have ruined televised sports of every kind for me because they're just so damn good and so much fun.
17. Speaking of broadcasters, I wonder how many fake names the PR staff will stick in Milo Hamilton's copy for him to read out as special guests -- I've heard him announce Vincent Chase and Ari Gold on several occasions as being in attendance.
18. And then we'll have the annual visit of the New York Mets where we will get the inevitable and unjustified booing of Carlos Beltran.
19. Will Kaz Matsui make it through a complete season, and if not, what bizarre injury will knock him out this time?
20. I'm looking forward to a complete season of Bud Norris in the rotation. Hopefully he builds on the promise that he showed at times last season.
21. Get to the ballpark early, get a hot dog, enjoy the smell of the freshly cut grass, and watch batting practice.
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22. How many times will Richard Justice write a blog post or column blasting the Astros, only to change it hours later into a positive piece?
23. And come rodeo time, I'm sure we'll get the annual story of how Carlos Lee is just a regular guy because he goes to the Houston Rodeo -- not stressing of course, that he considers buying cattle to be more important than working out with his teammates in Florida.
24. There's the anticipation behind Jason Castro and whether he'll make the major league roster at some point this season, and just how good is he?
25. Who needs a reason? It's baseball. That should be enough, even if it is the Astros.