The 2014 Houston Astros open up the regular season next week, and I don't give a damn. Seriously, that's a hard admission to make because I love baseball. But I can't even begin to muster any enthusiasm for the band of rejects (mostly) that will trot out onto the Minute Maid Park grass next week and get their asses handed to them by the New York Yankees.
Intellectually I get what the Astros are doing. Burn it all down and start from scratch. But after three years of 100-plus losses, I'm tired of the intellectual arguments -- arguments I've made myself for many, many years. Because if you're going to charge major league prices, then there should be some effort to field a major league roster.
Once again the Astros payroll is the lowest in the majors.That's not too big a deal because whenever all of the great kids in the minor league system are finally deemed ready to graduate to the majors they'll be paid comparatively little money. The big deal is that, for the most part, I'd far prefer to pay major league prices to watch the minor league teams play than I would to watch this collection of stiffs wearing the Astros uniform.
Yes, there's some talent on this team. But not much. Brett Wallace finally ran out of chances and was sent packing, but the team's remaining first base options are so bad that Jeff Luhnow's still trying to pull off a trade for someone to play the position -- apparently self-diagnosed drug addict Jonathan Singelton's not yet ready to play on the big stage.
Also apparently not yet ready for the bright lights is last year's minor league player of the year George Springer who couldn't hit his weight in spring training this year. Though even then you can't expect me to believe that L.J. Hoes and Robbie Grossman are better outfield options.
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But don't worry too much, come about mid-June Springer will magically appear, and despite his spring struggles, if he would've signed a new contract offered up late last season, he'd be starting in right field for the Astros on Tuesday.
I've listened to the podcasts, read the blogs and print reports, seen the projections. The Astros are going to be a better team this year than last. It's hard to top last season's team for awfulness, but even the best of these projections have the Astros losing over 90 games and getting the first draft pick again. And while that's good for the overall health of the team and farm system -- say hello to probable number one pick, NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon -- it's just depressing to keep watching the ineptitude on the major league level (here's hoping that Bo Porter has finally realized that every team in organized baseball had his signs last season). I admire what Jeff Luhnow and his crew are doing. It's just that I want the success in the minors in the minors to finally start showing up here in Houston. I want to go to MMP to watch a major league baseball team play a competitive game against a worthy opponent. And I want the ballpark to again be full of Astros fans, not people wearing Rangers jerseys or those coming out to pay homage to Derek Jeter.
In all honesty, I just can't think of any reason for anybody to waste their money by attending a game at Minute Maid Park this season. Just invest that money into MLB.TV and watch some legitimate major league teams play while sitting in the comfort of your own house. It'll be a much more pleasant experience (and speaking of which, perhaps we should all just be thankful that CSN Houston is such a mess that most of us can't even watch the games on TV even if we wanted). And if you must watch baseball in a real live ballpark, then head out to UH or Rice where two of the nation's best college baseball teams are playing.
The Astros are doing what must be done. Maybe if Drayton McLane wouldn't have ignored the minors for so long and wasted so much on big contracts for the likes of Carlos Lee the current regime would not be taking such drastic measures. But what's happening is ugly, and no, it doesn't in any way make you a bad fan if you don't want to watch this year. Just make sure to come back in 2015.