I’ll be the first to admit, coming into the 2012 season, if someone were to have told me that the Houston Astros would be two games below .500 on May 27 I would have laughed. While not completely ridiculous, it would have been highly doubtful this group of young players and veterans could have accomplished that, right? I guess it wasn’t so doubtful because we are right there coming into the 3rd game of the weekend series in Los Angeles. The Astros’ pitching has been very good, especially in May, and their offense has been pesky to say the least. So what happened to cause this abnormality that could be making quite a few smart people, including myself, look pretty foolish?
I still won’t quite say this is turning into something magical but when we see teams come out of nowhere to do something special it takes magical stuff to happen. Their good players become great and their average players turn into good ones without explanation or reason. The Astros do have something like that going, look at the cases of Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. Jeff Luhnow knew that both veterans weren’t meant to be here long and needed to have good seasons to squeeze every once of value out of them by the trade deadline. Well, not only have they pitched well but they’ve been fantastic, both pitching at a new level. Myers’ case has turned out better than even Jeff could have imagined and has created exceptional value as one of the better closers in the league. Wandy has gone from being a good pitcher to putting up all-star level numbers and also creating quite a buzz around him. Players like Bud Norris, Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie have taken their game to a new level as well and have helped the Stros not only become pesky but dangerous.
So the Astros are actually a competitive team to most everyone’s surprise. Be honest with yourself, even the most loyal Astros fan didn’t see this team being this good so fast. A dilemma, however, is beginning to brew a little bit among fans; what happens if the Astros remain competitive and in the race come July? The scenario is there, the Cards aren’t healthy and the Reds are good but not elite so the division itself may keep the Stros relevant most of the season. My expectation is this won’t come to pass and eventually everything evolves into how it should have looked all along. Thing is, I’ve been wrong already and the Stros have such a solid approach. By playing so well it has kept the Stros a factor but also increased most of the veterans’ trade value to very interesting levels. Would the Astros consider going for the division at this point in their rebuilding plan or stick to the script? If they move most of the primary suspects, they will indeed load up on high quality prospects. The farm system would get another shot in the arm to an already improving core but it would be at the cost of contending for something special in 2012.
The end result will be determined by a few more months of baseball but this might indeed turn out to be one hell of a game of chicken by Jeff Luhnow. Honestly, this is a great problem to have and the best of both worlds. The Astros have gotten exactly what they’ve wanted and now the hard decisions are going to need to start coming. Teams will be calling in the midst of what could possible be an interesting season and Jeff will have some tough choices a lot of people might not like his answers to.