2012 does not represent a banner season in the long, storied history of the Houston Astros. While most Astros fans and watchers spent much of the winter steeling themselves ahead of what was sure to be a tough go, the last 50 games or so represent the darkest ends of the “worst case scenario” spectrum.
The Astros are bad. So bad. So bad, in fact, that rookie GM Jeffrey Luhnow penned a letter to Astros season ticket holders, assuaging their fears and promising brighter days ahead. He’s right, and not just because of entropy.
While Luhnow went to a well very familiar to fans of otherwise underperforming baseball teams, referencing the continuous cycle of success and steady pipeline of talent — code for “no more expensive old guys.” From Astros.com:
“We want the Houston Astros to be a winning franchise that can compete for division titles year in and year out and ultimately bring multiple championships to the city of Houston,” Luhnow wrote. “We have made significant progress towards this objective in 2012 and that progress will accelerate in 2013.”
Improving the on-field product is Job One for the Luhnow and his team of deep thinkers, restocking the farm system and giving young players every opportunity to prove they can (or cannot) compete at the highest level. A tough sell to fans more accustomed to a winner, the same fans that saw much of the top talent shipped out over the last few seasons.
With a move to the American League in 2013 looming, the Astros are looking to “reset” not only their team but their brand (as predicted by our own Chris Creamer!) Tyler Kepner of the New York Times wrote an in-depth piece about new Astros owner Jim Crane and his vision for the future of the ‘Stros. In addition to hiring bright minds like Luhnow, Mike Fast and Sig Mejdal, the plan includes revamping the uniforms and, thankfully, removing some of the hideous gimmicks from their tricked-up ballpark. See you later, pointless hill in center field!
Houston has some interesting pieces in place now, players who might just be part of the next good Astros team (namely starting pitcher Lucas Harrell and other guys who aren’t Lucas Harrell.) The team figures to have the top pick in the draft for the second consecutive year in 2013, not a bad idea when your front office is lousy with player development gurus.
The growing pains are difficult and many traditional fans will find the addition of the DH one of the toughest aspects of the move to swallow, but this team certainly looks to be in good hands. As Crane points out to Kepner in the NYT piece, Houston is a massive TV market with considerably local wealth. If the Astros can build a winner with their heady approach (great read here with insights into the Astros draft day strategy), I hazard a guess the Astros won’t be the most featured team in the I Watched This On Purpose series next season.