The Houston Astros – A New and Surprising Team

brenemil
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The Houston Astros may be in first place, but a surprising number of people don’t know about it. The Astros have been so bad for so long that people just assume nothing has changed. Many that tuned out during the lean years are beginning to find out about the new and surprising Houston Astros.

“So you’re a fan of the Lastros,” said my friend Joe.

“I’m a fan of the Astros,” I countered.

“Why do you root for a last place team?”

“Uh, apparently you haven’t been paying attention lately.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the Astros are in first place.”

“First place? In what?”

“You really should get out more, Joe. The Astros are in first place in the American League West.”

“No. Are you sure?”

“I’ve been a fan of the Astros for a long time. I tend to notice stuff like that.”

“How is that possible?”

“They have good players.”

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“You’re saying Jason Michaels, Brett Wallace, Jordan Schafer and those guys have suddenly gotten better?”

“No. I mean those guys don’t play for the Astros anymore.”

“Really?” said Joe. “So who is there now?”

Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Jr., and a bunch of other good, young players.”

“I never heard of those guys. You say they’re winning?”

“They’re winning big time. They have the most wins in the American League, and the second most in all of baseball.”

“American League?” said Joe. “The Astros are a National League team.”

“Not since the team was sold, and Bud Selig forced them to change leagues.”

“Some things never change. Not until Bud quits or dies, anyway.”

“Actually, Selig did quit. He retired last year and was replaced by Rob Manfred.”

“I can’t believe Selig finally quit,” said Joe. “I was sure he would outlive us all. The city of Houston should declare a holiday.”

“I know. Selig is not welcome in Houston, and fans have long memories.”

“Seems a shame though to make the Astros move. More than fifty years of tradition in the National League.”

“Yeah, well, as it turns out, it’s not such a bad thing. Because they’re winning.”

Joe stared at me with a slight smile. “You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?”

“No, really.” I pulled my iPad out and showed him the standings.

“And all of the old guys are gone? Carlos Lee, Tyler Greene, J.R. Towles, Lucas Harrell? Happ, Lyles, and all those pitchers named Rodriguez?”

“Yup,” I said. “All gone and replaced with young guys that are way better.”

“I can’t believe it,” said Joe, shaking his head. “You stop paying attention because they suck and suddenly they get rid of the old blood and bring in a bunch of superstars.”

“Well, they’re not exactly superstars, at least not yet. But these guys can sure play winning baseball.”

Joe snapped his fingers. “Qualls – Chad Qualls.”

“Okay, well, Qualls is back.”

“I knew it. I knew the Astros couldn’t change completely.”

“He’s a throwback to dark times.”

“Yeah,” said Joe. “They really went through a long dry spell, didn’t they? I mean they must have lost more than a hundred games at least once.”

“Three years in a row,” I told him. “Then they lost 92 in 2014. Then it all changed.”

“What happened? What made the difference?”

“They traded some big names, like Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn and got a bunch of minor league prospects in return. Then they started paying more attention to the amateur draft and worked hard on developing players in the minor league system. The result was they came up with a bunch of guys who are turning into incredible talents.”

“Yeah,” said Joe. “I remember when they traded Pence and Bourn. That’s about the time I stopped paying attention.”

“A lot of people did,” I said.

“What about Ed Wade? The General Manager that wasn’t very popular?”

“Long gone; replaced by Jeff Luhnow. He worked for the Cardinals in their scouting department.”

“He wasn’t a GM or Assistant GM before?”

“No.”

“Wow,” said Joe. “Seems like a risky move to hire a guy as GM without much experience.”

“Yea, he’s not a traditional baseball guy. He’s a businessman, and he’s brought those skills to the Astros and he seems to be the right guy at the right time.”

“They’ve gone through a bunch of managers in recent years, haven’t they?”

“They sure have. The new guy is A.J. Hinch, a former player, D-backs manager, and VP of scouting for the Padres. He even has a college degree – in psychology.”

“Oh no,” said Joe. “A baseball team needs a real baseball guy in the dugout.”

“Hinch really is a baseball guy. He knows the game and he knows how to deal with players and the front office. He seems to be the perfect guy; exactly what the Astros needed.”

“Big changes from the old team.”

“For sure,” I said. “It’s been a major turnaround.”

“I guess it’s time to pay attention again.”

“It sure is Joe. These new Astros are for real.”

“Wow,” said Joe, still shaking his head. “The Astros are really surprising.”

“They sure are. The Astros are a new and surprising team.”

Next: The Houston Astros are on top of the American League

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