Believe It Or Not, There Is Fan Interest In The Astros

The Astros season mercifully ends this weekend. Another 100-plus loss season. They are chasing the all-time strikeout record for a team -- a record held by the Arizona Diamondbacks. It's the only visit of the season by the New York Yankees and the final chance to see Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte before they retire.

The Astros a god-awful baseball team. The subject of national mockery. And there are members of the so-called baseball intelligentsia who are convinced the Astros are ruining baseball for all time.

That said, I want to go off on a bit of a rant...

The Astros/Indians game last Sunday had a 0.0 rating. Zero households watched the game. Zero. So says Deadspin. So says the Houston Chronicle. So say my colleagues here at the Press. It's a disgrace. Proof that nobody, nobody gives a damn about the baseball team. Proof that Jim Crane has destroyed interest in baseball in the city of Houston.

But there are a few problems with that thesis. For instance, buried in the Chronicle story on the 0.0 rating is this tidbit: the Dynamo game on Saturday had 0.1 rating. The Dynamo game was available on KPRC which is on every TV in Houston. The Dynamo weren't playing on the same day and at the same time as the Texans. Yet the Dynamo turned in a nearly non-existent rating. But the Chronicle ignores this tidbit to mock the Astros.

Never mind that the Astros, not available to most of Houston, had the same rating as the Dynamo on Saturday. Never mind that one didn't need cable or satellite to watch the Dynamo. It's the Astros who are mocked by the Chronicle while maybe the question should be asked to what kind of rating the Dynamo would deliver if it was instead they who played on CSN Houston on Sunday at the same time of the Texans?

And here's another issue that's been slightly ignored: the Astros attendance. Yes, attendance is bad. Yes it's fallen way off from the glory years. But here's the thing, by the time the season ends, the Astros will have sold nearly 1.6 million tickets this season. For a team losing 100-plus games for the third season in a row, and whose games can't be viewed by most of the city or state.

Do you want to know the real shocker? The Astros don't have the worst attendance in baseball this season. They had more people buy tickets than Tampa Bay, a team going to the playoffs. By the time the season ends the Astros will have sold more tickets than the Cleveland Indians, a team that's been in the playoff hunt all season. The Astros are not far behind Kansas City, another competing team. So the worst team in baseball, a team that hasn't been able to make its games available to most people with TVs, a team with nearly non-existent media coverage, has outdrawn numerous playoff teams.

The Astros aren't without blame. The fact that this team went an entire season without the cable network that it part owns not getting carriage on a majority of the cable and satellite systems in Houston and in Texas is a disgrace. Sure George Postolos is gone, but wasn't Reid Ryan supposed to have fixed this already? What's funny is that it appears the Astros, who torpedoed numerous deals that the Rockets negotiated last season, are now depending on the Rockets to make it all better and work out a deal. But seriously, if DirectTV, Dish Network, and U-Verse have gone a year with zero negative consequences from not carrying CSN Houston, then what's the big change now? Sure the Rockets now have Dwight Howard, but with NBA territorial rules limiting where the Rockets games can air, there's still no real urgency as long as CSN Houston and the Astros are insisting on carriage in Dallas, San Antonio, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

The Astros need to get their damn act together. The team needs to start fielding a competitive product -- hint, think about getting a legitimate bullpen next season and maybe throw in a few lessons on base running. The CSN Houston situation needs to be settled, and it needs to be settled soon. The Chronicle might not think so, but people do still care about the Astros. Maybe for not much longer, maybe that caring is on life support, but it's time the Astros gave those fans something to care about. Get the games on TV next season and maybe try aiming for a 70-win season.

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