“Now, I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has great expectations.” -Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Mr. Dickens, arguably the greatest writer of the Victorian period, knew the 2012 Astros before you ever root, root, rooted for Jed Lowrie or had heard of Marwin Gonzalez. About 150 years before, in fact.
Maybe you didn’t like Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities (I’m more of an Oliver Twist kind of guy, myself). That’s okay. You’re watching this novel play out in front of your eyes this summer.
SIDE NOTE: Brett Myers might have a case against the legendary author. Looks to me like Dickens is guilty of plagiarizing the look of the potential All-Star closer. If it pleases the court, I submit exhibits A and B:
Anyway, Dickens built his literary classic around Pip — a destitute young orphan with a checkered legal record who falls into the grace of a mysterious and quite generous friend. Pip jumps at the once-in-a-literary-era chance to leave his shameful past in the dust and become a man of dignity and repute. As the story goes he has “great expectations” for himself.
The 2012 Houston Astros are a lot like Pip.
Coming off a calamitous season in which they dropped a franchise-record 106 games, the Astros had lost their way. They needed help. They needed someone who could see the good lurking underneath all the bad.
Enter Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow and whole lot of new leadership at Union Station. Crane gives Astros fans a voice; he listens instead of spinning. Luhnow brings thoughtfulness and creativity to the baseball side. The message from every source of leadership is clear: success follows attitude. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that this young team “…has great expectations.”
Look at the boys now: young, promising and getting better by the day. Off a sweep of the Chicago Cubs, the Astros are 21-23 as they hit the road for Los Angeles — where the Dodgers are the only National League team with more home wins than the local nine.
I’m sure it’s fun to be the Yankees or Phillies and know you’re going to be a factor every year. Can it possibly be as rewarding as proving everyone wrong? Maybe. But these first two months have been more fun that I could have imagined.
The big question is how will it all end up? Hard saying. We could plunge into a lot of history and data to try to find an answer — and I don’t think you’ll find the Astros front office running from those realities. At the same time, you can’t spreadsheet heart and hustle and attitude.
So I’ll settle for chapters 4, 5 and 6 of this fascinating story. And I’ll anxiously await every plot twist and new character development along the way. This book is too good to put down right now. Maybe a classic.
Fun with Numbers
• The Astros are 21-23 and in third place in the NL Central — only 4.0 games out. They are 16-10 at home this season. Last year they won 25 games at Minute Maid Park.
• A number of websites include a pretty cool feature which predicts the chances of any team making the post-season. ESPN, Baseball Prospectus and Coolstandings.com all use some variation of the same idea.
After last night’s win over the Cubs, Coolstandings.com projects a 26.8% chance of the Astros qualifying for October baseball. That’s up from a 6.4% chance on Opening Day.
• According to ESPN.com, the Astros payroll will end up around $60M this year. As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, they are closer to first place than the following teams:
Yankees — $196M
Phillies — $173M
Angels — $155M
Red Sox — $146M
Tigers — $119M
Giants — $118M
Brewers — $98M
Cubs — $87M
Speaking of Attitude
In the Brewers win over San Francisco yesterday, Ryan Braun was upset about the roof being open at Miller Park. At least that’s what I have to assume. With his team leading comfortably in the sixth inning, Braun led off against Giants reliever Steve Edlefsen. With a 1-2 count, Braun bunted foul to strikeout in an obvious display of petulance.
Now my personal disdain for bunting is difficult to hide at times, but it has nothing to do with my feelings on this specific matter.
Braun may not like the shadows at Miller Park. I doubt many hitters — or fielders for that matter — do. However, he owes more to his teammates, the game and THE PAYING FANS than to throw away an at bat like that. Fans certainly didn’t pay to see him pout.
That’s low-rent on his part. I’m surprised it wasn’t covered with more interest by the newspapers.
During the bottom of the sixth inning last night, Carlos Lee fouled a ball directly into the home radio booth. That bad boy got back in a hurry and skipped off the desk, deflecting off Milo’s chest. Fortunately, he didn’t absorb the entire blow.
Milo finished the game with the help of two ibuprofen and a bag of ice. Even better, he feels fine today and is running about town taking care of all his off-day errands.
As for Lee, it’s the second time he’s found our booth. During the previous home stand he drilled Milo’s blue-star neon, sending glass everywhere. The light was replaced and all is well.
A Special Treat
So I want to thank you all for visiting my new blog. This is entry number one. No turning back now. Please tell your friends or tweet it out to folks and let’s see if we can get some interesting conversation going in this quiet little corner of the internet.
As the Astros are in-transit today to Los Angeles, I wanted to give you something to help get you through the day. I saw a cool piece at Slate.com and had to pass this on. I dare you to watch the video of the Harvard baseball team and not feel a little better. Hard to explain, but it just makes me feel good to see people enjoying music and having fun.