I haven’t written about it in a while, but I’m an Astros fan. Please, hold your applause until the end.
As a team, the Astros are in the awkward tween stage right now, lurking around the punch bowl at the edge of the MLB dance floor after the jettison of two of their long-time icons, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.
The core of young Astros (if a blob of Jello like this team can be said to have a core), includes third baseman Chris Johnson, first baseman Brett Wallace, and catcher Jason Castro, none of whom are highly anticipated prospects anymore, and they are the likes of which only an Astros fan could invest much effort in watching develop.
That said, an Astros fan could, a few days ago, muster some excitement about this campaign. This would have been the first year when the three youngsters from Ed Wade’s rebuilding process were to be chucked onto the field from day one to prove it in practice over theory.
And then Jason Castro blew out his knee, and will likely miss the year.
The only solace of Astros fans this year–with the playoffs so unlikely and barring a miracle–will be to watch to see if some big leaguers emerge from the pool of wannabes. When Castro’s knee gave out, 33 percent of that potential pleasure pool spiraled down the drain.
As quick as I could read the news that morning, Astros Spring Training transformed from a place of youthful optimism to a purgatory of scrap heap catching talent and aging retreads.
Watching a team like the Astros, you spend more time hoping against disaster than celebrating success. Much of the pleasure of young players comes from learning that they can hold their own, and that they are as good as you hoped they would be. Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles, the most likely to fill Castro’s new shoes, have failed numerous times to pull that sword out of the stone. Castro’s turn had come, and now it’s another year of waiting.
I shouldn’t be so pessimistic, even if, when it comes to the Astros, the rest of baseball is. Nobody knows where the next surprise will come from. Anyone can make an educated guess, but there were 15 teams that overlooked Lance Berkman in the first round of the 1997 draft (Pick #15? Jason Dellaero), and 22 rounds passed before Roy Oswalt was drafted in the same year. Pessimism didn’t foresee Jose Bautista’s explosion last year, and who knows what 2011 may hold.
Instead of moping, I should just wait around and hope for some kind of Texas miracle, like an oil geyser spouting up from beneath the flagpole in center field, or Nolan Ryan coming out of retirement.
There’s one lesson in spring: cliches are easily busted, just as quickly as a ligament snaps. Or maybe cliches aren’t busted, maybe one simply gives way to another. The youngster trying to make his mark on the game quickly becomes the promising young player whose chance to make his mark is cut short by a chance injury. If the fragmentation of cliches is infinite, do cliches exist at all?