“Next Year,” Coming Soon to a Houston Ballpark Near You
By Andy Brown
I’m 19 years old. The Houston Astros have a pretty proud history for such a relatively young franchise, but I haven’t been around for much of it. The only experiences I can hang my hat on happened during my first two years of supporting the team, 2004 and 2005, having only really discovered baseball in 2003. This team has averaged 69 wins per season since then, which has been the vast majority of my fanhood.
Needless to say, it’s been a pretty long time since I’ve been able to proudly proclaim my undying allegiance for the Houston Astros without getting some laughs. But after years of looking up at the rest of the league, I finally feel like that day is coming. I see a light at the end of this tunnel, and just typing that feels so, so good. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed, but when your limited sample size as a fan is as abysmal as mine is, you have to follow any semblance of light to avoid wallowing in sadness.
But boy, back in the day (“the day” being relative), being an Astros fan was something to be proud of. I remember bounding through the playground in fourth grade wearing my Roger Clemens jersey, bragging to my friends that my team was going to the World Series.
“Things are trending upwards. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.”
Most kids in Austin were “Astros fans” at that point, but I’m pretty sure I was the only scrawny fourth grader in town who cried in his bedroom listening to static-filled, commercialized ramblings of Milo Hamilton (sorry) while the Astros stunk up the joint through their first 45 games (15-30), and asking the Lord why He couldn’t let them be as good as they were in 2004. And, whaddaya know, the big man upstairs came through. This would set the precedent for my resolute faith in the Houston Astros that I somehow have never questioned.
However, dropping four straight close, gritty games in the franchise’s inaugural World Series just didn’t keep a whole lot of young kids interested. Gut-wrenching as those games were, I was still walking on thin air. There’ll be room for those kids on the bandwagon next year, I thought. Just wait and see.
Next year never came.
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
You all know how this story went: the Houston Astros went “gentle into that good night.” Much like the fall of the Roman Empire, there was corruption at the top of the totem pole. The front office kept trying to recreate the scrappy group that had brought home the ’05 NL pennant with washed up free agents (Mr. Anal Fissure himself) and horribly uneven trades (seriously, just look at the Jason Jennings trade), flushing draft picks down the toilet and gutting the minor league system. This was 2006-10, or as the Astros’ Wikipedia page calls it, “The Decline.” Shout outs to Tim Purpura, Ed Wade and of course, Drayton McLane.
But there’s hope on the horizon now. After finally hitting rock bottom in 2013, things are trending upwards. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. Just look at how aggressive Jeff Luhnow was in bolstering several areas of weakness this offseason. Look at the 2014 Major League batting champion who will be leading off this season. Look at Carlos Correa, the third best prospect in baseball, waiting in the wings. Look at a healthy George Springer coming back with a vengeance. Look at Dallas Keuchel’s complete transformation into a bona fide ace (who saw that coming?). Look at the fact that there will actually be Astros baseball on TV this season. This is the most exciting time it’s been to be an Astros fan since I was in elementary school, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
And even if everything goes wrong, my allegiance will never waver. Perhaps that comes from my persistence as an elementary schooler who never lost faith in my idols (except Roger Clemens, the steroids thing was kind of a deal breaker for me), or perhaps that comes from my pure hatred for the Texas Rangers. One way or another, I’m here for the long haul.
For years I’ve been saying that despite my sorrow, I still had faith that someday, somehow, the Astros would “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” It’s that faith that has kept me around, and will continue to do so even in dire circumstances. I always knew that somehow, someway, at some point in my lifetime, my faith would be rewarded … in some far off “next year.” But now, that “next year” doesn’t seem far off at all.