Success has been a long time coming for the Houston Astros, and it’s amazing what 10-game win streak, a huge lead in your division, and one of the best records in baseball will do for a team. The franchise is finally receiving some positive attention from the national media.
Since at least 2011 (possibly even further back) the Astros were easy to laugh at, make fun of, insult, and mock. They were historically awful and it’s easy to kick a team when it’s down. From everyone outside of Beltway 8 calling the team the “Lastros” to Jonathan Villar‘s facefirst slide into Brandon Phillips’ butt, Houston was treated as a source of comedic entertainment rather than a respectable ball club.
It wasn’t until 2014 that the Astros showed signs of improvement, and even with the AL batting champ on the roster, the club was still receiving little in the way of positive coverage.
During the offseason, Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane decided it was time for the Astros to be better. Much better. They hired a new skipper, made a handful of significant moves in free agency, and pulled off some big trades to bring in some major league talent. The 2015 version of the team looked much different than in years past and the front office was confident that the team would show marked improvement. However, the national media was still skeptical: The Sporting News predicted a last place AL West finish; Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports predicted fourth; CBS Sports gave an over/under at 75.5 wins. Hearts and minds had yet to be won over.
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A disinterested attitude persisted through the first few weeks of the 2015 season. The outlets were doing game recaps and news and notes posts, and providing very little in terms of analysis and praise. The skeptics were still out in full force.
However, given the team’s scorching start this April, the media had to take notice of that “small market” club with the bearded ace and the tiny second baseman with the big bat. Sure, the skeptics are still out there (ahem, Keith Law), but all of a sudden it became impossible to ignore the best team in the American League.
David Schoenfield of ESPN is calling Dallas Keuchel an ace. ESPN Stats & Info analyzed Keuchel’s proclivity for inducing the ground ball. Christina Kahri of ESPN is saying the Astros are performing as designed. Grantland’s Michael Baumann wonders if the Astros will divert from “the process” to continue pursuing wins now. Joel Sherman of the New York Post is disgusted by, but acknowledges the Astros’ strategy for success. In recent days, MLB Network programs have hosted Jake Marisnick and Collin McHugh, and aired the Jose Altuve documentary. This list is not all-inclusive, but it shows a trend towards the Astros getting recognition because they are doing good things on the field.
All in all, this is refreshing. It’s not fun rooting for the national piñata; it’s hard to stay positive and remain a fanatic. Watching a winner is enjoyable, and so is reading in-depth articles about why/how your team is winning or learning that your two best players were honored for their outstanding play. This team is fun to watch and interesting to read about again.
So enjoy all of this while it lasts- however long it lasts- Astros fans. It’s been a long time coming.