By Will Martin
Exciting times indeed now approach the Lone Star State. You’ll have to wait until later this week before the cowhide shall roar into right centerfield here in Arlington with the Angels April 5th.
Having just driven by the ball park here’s the first hint that a season is about to start: Seeing all 30 pennants flying with the wind. American and National League!
For many years there was an imbalance of teams in favor of the National League by a 16-14 count. In 2011 it was decreed that an A.L. West would give birth while the N.L. Central would a team with over half a century of history. That team is the Houston Astros!
History was made in more than one way when the Rangers and Astros played in the inaugural game on ESPN Easter Sunday. Now what was The Battle For The Silver Boot will be a rivalry of a different sort. Think back to that 1980 Steely Dan classic, ‘Hey 19’.
I can already hear all the gloom and doom of what is going to be predicted for the 2013 Astros in their 1st season in the A.L. West. The 1962 Mets and 2003 Tigers revisited. A bunch of bumbling kids bound to lose 110 games. Three more than 2012. Bo Porter will get eaten alive and completely mismanaged by Ron Washington, Mike Scioscia, and Eric Wedge. Get that Keystone Kops music ready for a silent season for a new team.
I LOVE IT!
To know that yours truly gets to cover the Astros (among other things) excites me. To be a part of something new. To remember the half century that befell Houston prior to the switch. To try converting a slew of fans who may not like the thought of a designated hitter in their park or the new style of play. To be able to learn and observe how the trio of Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, and Phillip Humber do in pitcher friendly parks like Oakland and Seattle.
You realize Houston that when Norris and Harrell pitch at home their ERA is right at 2.35? That’s pitching. With a projected lineup that will look something like:
1. 2B: Jose Altuve
2. 1B: Brett Wallace
3. LF: Chris Carter
4. DH: Carlos Pena
5. CF: Justin Maxwell
6. C: Jason Castro
7. 3B: Matt Dominguez
8. RF: Rick Ankiel
9. SS: Ronny Cedeno
Here’s the 25-man roster:
Starting pitchers (5) — Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Brad Peacock and Erik Bedard.
Relief pitchers (7) — Jose Veras, Josh Fields, Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno, Wesley Wright, Rhiner Cruz, Alex White.
Catchers (2) — Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan.
Infielders (6) — Brett Wallace, Jose Altuve, Ronny Cedeno, Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Dominguez, Carlos Pena.
Outfielders (5) — Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell, Rick Ankiel, Brandon Barnes, Fernando Martinez.
2013 will be anything but boring. These kids will try hard for Bo Porter and Jeff Luhnow. This eternal optimist here thinks this team in 2013 can win 74 games. Only 16 games off the pace when Oakland wins the West with 90 followed by Seattle with 86 and Texas with 83. We will in all probability see Sophomoric tests or jinxes in the West for Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes, and Mike Trout. Jose Altuve will be your Rookie of the Year.
There I said it!
In case Rangers fans wonder their Opening Day Lineup looks as follows:
1. 2B: Ian Kinsler
2. SS: Elvis Andrus
3. DH: Lance Berkman
4. 3B: Adrian Beltre
5. RF: Nelson Cruz
6. LF: David Murphy
7. C: A.J. Pierzynski
8. 1B: Mitch Moreland
9. CF: Leonys Martin
Starting rotation of Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Alexei Ogando, Derek Holland, and (we believe) Nick Tepesch.
Yeah, great pitching is going to be needed with Josh, Michael, and Napoli gone. Yet to the Boys of Arlington there is a mission statement with only one goal.
Back to Houston. Once you get past the anger of switching leagues and learning a new way to play keep in mind there is a slew of great younger talent going to work their way through Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. Names like Singleton, Correa, Springer, Cossart, McCullers, DeShields, Foltynewicz, Tropeano, Ruiz, Peacock, Fontana, Villar, Santana, Velasquez, Stassi, and Perez.
Alas we get ahead of ourselves. In using that 1962 Mets team as an example yes, they were the laughing stock and yes they lost 120 games. They also grew a fan base because of that Little River Band ‘Lonesome Loser’ quality they look to have. It only took 8 years to bring a title home against all odds and after a tragic Cubs collapse.
I remember when attending Rangers games from 2001-2007 was a form of hazard pay. It cost little to come watch before the playoffs, World Series, renovations, and bandwagonning took center stage. Now that you see what happens after you climb the mountain and fail to reach the top…a pebble starts to gain earth and mud.
For the Astros it’s an uphill climb with underdog rooters cheering until success clouds the fun. Happy to be on board. Happier to be in Houston in person for Opening Day. With Lyle Lovett and Houston Texans JJ Watt handling the anthem and first pitch duties.
Oh by the way, the 1st Houston win in 2013 will be their career 4,000th! How’s that for a little incentive? That, and 19 meetings with the Rangers with welcomes to the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, and Indians.
I have always loved Houston. These are now more reasons. Again. Welcome to the American League. This displaced Yankee has officially adopted you for 2013, and onward. Nowhere did I mention an angle with Nolan Ryan (smile).