Just for the record, I don't wear glasses (rose-colored, or otherwise). I feel it's necessary for me to get that out in the open right off the bat, since my sanity was mildly questioned for picking the Astros to win their division .
Am I a fan? Sure. But I also no longer suffer from the sports delusions which plagued my youth (back when I mistakenly believed Glenn Davis was the best player to ever put on one of those ridiculous, orange-striped uniforms). Believe it or not, sometimes I find myself yearning for that unique sort of blindness but, alas, six years as a globe-trotting pseudo-journalist is enough to suck the passion right out of even the most diehard fanatic. So, dear readers (and John), argue the facts with me all you want, but please don't attribute any erroneous analysis on my part to blind loyalty toward the home teams. Because, for better and worse, that side of me began to die the second I set foot into the wacky world of sports journalism.
Now, as for those aforementioned "facts": You're right, John, there's a lot not to like about the 2007 Astros. They have holes within their holes. After all, there's a reason Vegas set the over/under for Houston wins this year at 77. However, I would contend that this club (as presently constructed) is capable of winning 85 games. And in this lackluster (some might even call it, "pathetic") division, that could (and probably will) be enough.
Let's start with last season's World Series Champions. St. Louis was a horribly flawed team as well; one which went on its title run immediately after a near-historic collapse at the end of the regular season. Yet, somehow the Cards won it all with a transcendent slugger, a Cy Young candidate and... what else? Spare parts filling out the rest of the rotation? An untested rookie closer? A bruised and brittle combination of aging, past-their-prime stars and slap-hitters? Keep in mind, I'm not trying to convince anyone that the Astros will follow a similar blueprint to a championship this year. I'm merely saying that if that St. Louis team could take home a trophy, then surely this Houston squad can win a division. And, oh yeah, the Cardinals appear to be even worse this season and their Cy Young candidate is already hurting .
Who else stands in the Astros' way? Well, you've got the free-spending Cubs who have the same questions as Houston in terms of their starting pitching and bullpen. Milwaukee is the chic choice, but the MLB highway is littered with the roadkill of teams who tantalized with potential and promise, only to fall far short of expectations on their way to oblivion. Can the Brew-crew take the next step? They're more than capable. But let's just say I want to see how they react to the increased pressure before I start proclaiming them the team to beat. Then you have Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, who appear to be the flotsam and jetsam of the Central (although the Reds won 80 games last year so dismiss them at your own peril).
So whither Houston? Just a hunch, but I think they'll end up on top. For what it's worth, I made that prediction in the same column in which I declared myself the heir to Miss Cleo's throneand nearly nailed the final score of the Florida-Ohio St. game. So there's that.
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But if witchcraft and wizardry aren't your thing, just remember baseball is a funny game that occasionally favors luck over logic. The numbers don't always add up (just ask the Cleveland Indians and everything you think you know now will probably turn out to be wrong come September.
One final bit of advice for the 2007 baseball season: Every morning, check out which way the "Writer of Wrongs" seems to be headed. Then run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
John, I'm sure even you will agree with me on that one.