2011 Houston Astros Preview
Next up in my 2011 National League Central Division preview is the Houston Astros. James at Astros County eventually caved into my cyber-bullying and agreed to answer some questions for me:
The 2010 Houston Astros finished almost-last in nearly every offensive category last season, yet they finished only 10 games under .500 (one game ahead of the Cubs and one game behind the 3rd place Brewers). Do you believe the Astros can put up a fight in the NL Central in 2011, or have the Brewers and Cubs created too much separation?
On paper, the Brewers and Cubs have created too much separation, but I’m not so sure. Of course, it’s easy to be optimistic when Opening Day is within spitting distance. They should be better offensively with Hall and Barmes over what the Astros were working with in Tommy Manzella, and even with a career year from Jeff Keppinger, and while Carlos Lee isn’t likely to get any MVP votes in 2011, he’s simply not a .250 hitter…yet. So I think they can put up a fight, and I don’t buy into the 100-loss predictions.
It sounds like your second baseman (Bill Hall) won’t be inviting Cole Hamels over to watch Dancing with the Stars anytime soon. What are your thoughts on players calling out other players/teams (something the Reds have some experience with)?
I doubt Hamels took it very seriously, but I’m for whatever it takes to get a player fired up. I think it was 2004 that the Astros were not even thinking about the post-season, and then they got into a random fight with the Expos, and finished strong enough to get to the NLCS.
Is it smart for Hall to make himself a target? Probably not, but if he gets drilled by Halladay, Lee, or Oswalt, at least he’ll be on first base.
The Cincinnati Reds clinched the NL Central against the Astros on September 28. That’s not a question – it’s more of a reminder.
What are your feelings on the overall state of the Houston Astros? Do you like the direction this team is heading?
I’m more okay with the direction that the Astros have taken than anything. There is talent in the farm system, it’s just a couple of years away. So it seems like Ed Wade is trying to catch lightning in a bottle, and hope for the best with Barmes and Hall. There’s a good group of young players that, ideally, will get better. If they can match the way they ended the second-half last season, it will at least be a fun season if only in terms of preparing for what lay ahead. The 2008-2009 Astros weren’t very fun to watch.
From year to year it almost seems like the Astros are built to finish somewhere in the middle of the division, with luck (either good or bad) being the only determining factor whether the team finishes somewhere else. Is that a fair observation?
To quote Harvey Dent (I just watched whatever Batman movie that was), they created their own luck. In 2004 and 2005 they were lucky that Pettitte and Clemens wanted to recreate Brokeback Mountain in Houston, and unlucky enough to sign Carlos Lee to the huge contract (or trade for Miguel Tejada the day before the Mitchell Report came out). But the real issue is the ignorance/unlucky disaster that were the drafts, prior to 2008. Not counting Hunter Pence, it’s been a while since the Astros produced their own superstar from the farm system. With the expected arrival of 20-year old pitcher Jordan Lyles, hopefully that streak will come to an end, but as you well know with your own roster, a viable farm team can help in so many way.
I was recently interviewed by a Cubs blog (Ivy Envy) and they asked me to pick the final standings of the NL Central. Does it bother you that I completely forgot to mention the Astros?
Not at all. I told a recent acquaintance that I was an Astros fan, and he asked if that was Houston’s MLS team. A single tear rolled down my cheek.
My blog is named after a somewhat-iconic piece of equipment worn by a somewhat-iconic former Reds player. If you had to rename your blog using the same criteria for a former Astros player, what would it be?
Jeff Bagwell’s Goatee comes to mind. I actually kind of like that better than “Astros County.”
Lastly, please pick the final record and division-standing for the 2011 Houston Astros.
77-85, 4th place
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