Apr 6, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Fans cheer at Minute Maid Park during a game between the Houston Astros and the Oakland Athletics. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
For the last several years, the fan base of the Houston Astros has taken a beating. Numbers began to dwindle as the team first traded established stars such as Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, and Michael Bourn. Then the team was sold, and forcibly moved to the American League. The last four seasons have seen a cumulative record of 232-416 and finished a total of 152.5 games out of first place. As the team’s performance got worse, so did the attendance.
Season attendance dropped from 3.02 million in 2006 and 2007 to a recent low of 1.61 million in 2012. Oh, by the way, nobody was watching on television, either. Out of the 40% of homes in the market that could see the ‘Stros, viewership sunk to a never-to-be-surpassed low of 0.0 in both September of 2013 and twice this past season, in April and July. Coupled with the sparse attendance at games, it could be said that the Astros fan base had dried up.
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But is that still true? Are there any Astros fans still out there, and is it safe to come out of hiding?
If you are looking for a reason to reignite your Astros fandom, look no further than 2014. Performance on the field was better with a 19-game improvement from the year prior. Paid attendance was up a little, from 1.65 million in 2013 to 1.75 million in 2014. There is an actual television deal in place that will bring in both money to the team and availability for real viewership.
Young talent began to produce on the field last season, led by Jose Altuve‘s AL batting title and the emergence of George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, and Collin McHugh. General Manager Jeff Luhnow has signed two bullpen arms this offseason to solidify a previously hideous bullpen in Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. And, perhaps most positively, the Astros are now being linked in rumors to much better players.
Potential acquisition targets such as Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez look like more realistic possibilities. Chase Headley, Cole Hamels. and David Robertson rumors seem to be within the realm of semi-likelihood, and not mere pipe dreams.
None of this is to say that the Astros will pull a Kansas City and make the World Series soon, but Astros fans finally seem to have a real honest-to-goodnes major league team to root for again. So, what do you think? Is it time for the casual fan to climb aboard the Houston bandwagon?