One of the problems that rooting for a perennial Wild Card contender comes with is that the good is taken with a grain of salt, and the bad is a signal of the collapse of the world.
On the Astros’ MLB.com message boards, not a single article can be posted without someone proclaiming it the end of the world, usually under the generic “commenter” title. I suspect that this isn’t because they’re trolling the Internet, revelling in their anonymity, but rather because they aren’t regulars on the board, and just saw the article while checking on the Astros one day, and didn’t have time to add a username.
I understand that this is a “benefit” of Web 2.0 – everyone is encouraged to voice their own opinions, and since the Astros haven’t won the Central Division since 2001 after a long period of near-dominance where we won 4 times in 5 seasons, some fans are getting very antsy.
But the sky, my dear friends, isn’t necessarily falling.
Bobby Heck and Ed Wade are a pretty darned good team to have at the top of the organization. Heck was largely responsible for the turnaround by the Brewers franchise, and Wade built the most significant parts of the reigning world champion Philadelphia Phillies. The pieces in place at the top of our organization are good pieces, and I have a lot of faith in Wade to rebuild our farm system.
I won’t say that this Spring Training has been highly encouraging, but you simply can’t translate it into a terrible opening season. There has been a lot of competition among pitchers for our #5 rotation spot; we’re getting heavy looks at a lot of young guys like Chris Johnson and Drew Sutton, as well as older guys like John Gall, Jason Smith, and Reggie Abercrombie, who are trying to make the team. A lot of people getting regular work are not going to be on our team at the end of camp.
Meanwhile, it seems like we continue to face other teams’ Opening Day lineups. Spring Training is for working on things. Pence hasn’t had a good spring, true, but he’s been working on being more patient at the plate. He’s shown some very good at-bats this year. We’re getting solid looks at Clay Hensley, Russ Ortiz, and Bud Norris.
Last year, Philadelphia finished third-to-last in the Grapefruit League. Only two teams finished worse, and one was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who of course played the Phillies in the NLCS. The point is – you can’t assume that if a team has a bad Spring (and for goodness sakes, there’s still almost a month left!) that they’ll have a bad season.
The sky isn’t falling, Chicken Little. Say it with me.