b The Longhorn Mafia <$BlogRSDURL$>

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Astros: Opening Day 

It doesn't feel like six months have passed since St. Louis scratched out a Game Seven win, denying the Astros of a trip to the World Series.

A lot has happened since then. Carlos Beltran took his power and speed to New York, while Jeff Kent took his moustache to Los Angeles. Wade Miller relocated to Boston General, while Dan Miceli relocated to the land of the Rising Sun. And Roger Clemens told Drayton McLane to "show me the money," while Lance Berkman showed his church congregation why he plays baseball, not football.

Add it all up and you're left with a club that most talking heads say can't compete for a return trip to the postseason. It's true that the question mark could replace the star as Houston's official team logo this season...

Can Andy Pettite's arm hold up? Will Morgan Ensberg's power numbers bounce back? Can an outfield of two rookies (Willy Taveras and Luke Scott) and an unproven guy (Jason Lane), whose finally getting a shot, hold down the fort until Berkman returns in a few weeks? Will Roger Clemens come close to repeating his 2004 magic? Has Roy Oswalt's groin finally healed? Is Brandon Backe the answer in the rotation's four-spot? What about a fifth starter?

...but some of these questions have to have positive answers, right?

As the curtain lifts on 2005 I'm reminded of the 1992 Astros. A rookie-laden team that few thought would win 70 games surprised the baseball world with an 81-81 season. Jason Lane and Luke Scott don't have to be the next Biggio and Bagwell for the Astros to similarly surprise folks this year. Good pitching and minimizing mistakes should keep the team at least withing striking distance. If they're still in contention come July, then who knows what GM Tim Purpura might pull off to bolster the club.

Meanwhile the euphoria of last year still lingers, at least for me. There's a lot of baseball ahead in the next six months, and I, unlike some of the Chicken Littles in the Astros fanbase, look forward to it. Play Ball!


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?