Astros & Rangers going in opposite – but right – Directions


The most interesting and unusual thing about me besides the lack of success with the ladies and liking A-Rod  is probably my dual fandom between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros.

I’ve lived in Dallas most of my life and absolutely prioritize local teams but as I got older my flux capacitor for sports was about to burst. So I decided to pick up secondary teams in each sport to root for and follow. For the NBA I picked the Utah Jazz, who’s fan base and stylish uniforms always got my attention. Then to further this they drafted one of my favorites, Gordon Hayward, in the 2010 draft and acquired the favorite, Devin Harris, in a trade seven months later.

In the NFL I chose the Jacksonville Jaguars. Still not sure why, just want to see them succeed outside of my way-too-easily obtained Madden Super Bowl rings. Might have something to do with @EdTheSportsFan, one of the first to give me the time of day in the sports journalism world.

For baseball I had been following many teams closely for a long time mainly for fantasy baseball and minor league baseball purposes. Also baseball is the most complex, multi-dimensional, “what if” and “oh ****” sport there is. People don’t want to believe it. They want to believe the pre-season football headlines ESPN gushes over, but no, baseball rocks.

Not until my late teens when I moved to Houston for just over a year did I come to really. love. the. Astros.

I love underdogs and I love how fan bases show their true colors when the team isn’t running off wins and winning the public image game. I spent many, many nights at air-conditioned Minute Maid Park with my score book in hand (doing my best @TurnerSportsEJ) interacting with die-hard Astros fans who were still coming out to watch their team through the thick and/or thin.

My understanding of the game and knowledge of the players combined with my frequent requests to go to MMP ignited a fandom that none of my other secondary teams had. I really, really liked the Astros.

Of course they weren’t a direct threat to the Rangers and were dipping their toes into total rebuild (years late) but before this past season — in case you haven’t heard — they moved to the American League West to become division mates with my Texas Rangers.

Years down the road the Astros will be contenders and the Rangers will be perennial ones and I will very likely be cheering for the Rangers (as I post this to an Astros site… I’m fired) but that decision is not one I want to think about in the present — or the near future or a little after that.

As we progress through the 2013 Major Puig Baseball season, the Rangers just swept the Astros  in Arlington after the taking all four in the Space City series last week. Losing is never fun but winning Rangers baseball is needed right now and the Astros are in prime position for a third consecutive first overall draft pick.

One of my favorite quotes ever that didn’t come from a Jedi Knight or Kelly Clarkson is…

If you ain’t in first, you’re in last.

This may not hold true in the Olympics or the totem poll at work, but in pro sports (hell, even T-Ball!) it cannot be any more on point.

So the Rangers have established themselves as legitimate World Series threat in the past several years, a change that ensued after a front office overhaul headed by Jon Daniels and his young minions.

Since, the Texas Rangers have become one of baseball’s model franchises. They scout globally and they develop, draft, develop, spend carefully, draw huge crowds (even though many spend the game App’ing) and from top to bottom resemble a balanced and steady organizational structure few others (STL, TB, ATL, DET & PIT also come to mind) have.

Rangers Principal Owner and CEO Nolan Ryan has ties and connections all over both Texas baseball franchises. His son, Reid, was hired as Astros’ team President in May.

After former management held the Astros hostage in a state of baseball limbo — not a contender (or pretender) and not focused on rebuilding to once again become one, finally the Houston Astros organization got the front office overhaul in 2010 that similarly started the turnaround for the Texas Rangers franchise back in 2005.

I simply call him ‘Baseball Jesus,’ but his name is Jeff Luhnow and since becoming Astros General Manager in the winter of 2011, he has taken a video game like approach to rebuilding the Houston Astros baseball organization.

Any asset considered, well, an asset to another team, was available for trade. And new drafting, scouting, and analytic departments had the ‘Stros in the right direction in every facet of the game.

Organizational depth is arguably at an all-time best from the recent debuts of young pitchers like Cosart and Oberholtzer to the lower minor league levels where scouts are drooling over names such as Vincent Velasquez and Lance McCullers, Jr.

Not even scratching the surface of what the Astros future holds, with top prospects like Singleton and Springer waiting in the wings and the past two first overall picks, Carlos Correa and Mark Appel, impressing and eyeing higher levels, and eventually Houston.

So, yes, the product that the public sees — the MLB squad — is pretty bad. Only five players have remained on the big-league club each day this season. (Bedard, Castro, Carter, Altuve, Dominguez)

MLB Network had a segment likened to a  ‘Bad News Bears’ montage that recapped an 11-run bottom half of the 3rd inning for the Rangers that featured only one extra base hit and two walks, two Houston errors and perhaps above all else, a Wade LeBlanc sighting (DFA’d for the 2nd time the next day). Also infielder/sometimes outfielder Jake Elmore played both catcher and pitcher in the game, becoming just the 13th ever in MLB history to do so.

On the other side, Texas reached 20 games over the .500 mark (73-53 as of Tuesday, 8/20) for the first time all season, undoubtedly fattening up on the Astros part of their schedule. But the contenders they are, additions like Matt Garza and Alex Rios have strengthened a team that was only starting to find their second half stride.

And the Astros continue to struggle, but as opposed to being caught between mediocrity and terrible, they are the latter… but with hope. In sports, hope and the proof of hope residing in the minor leagues, front office, coaching staff, and beyond is enough to power through the hard times.

Because the pieces are in place for the future.