Astros at 2/3

35-73.

Like I posted before, I like to divide the season into thirds, a beginning, a middle and an end.

The end can't come soon enough.

After posting a 20-34 record through the first 54 games, the Astros have gotten worse. Dramatically worse.

15-39 over the middle third of the season. They've traded away any recognizable “star” talent that they could get rid of. They're saddled with overpaid and under-performing contracts.

And they're almost impossible to follow.

I took the time at the 1/3-mark to grade various areas of the team, but I don't have the stomach for it now.

This reminds me of my youth, growing up in Houston with the LAstros … or the Dis-Astros.

Oh how I long for Roger Metzger at shortstop.

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Astros at the 1/3 Point

The Major League Baseball season has a beginning, a middle and an end. Take 162 games, divide them by three, you've got 54 games per section.

So, with 54 games in the books for the Astros, we can look at the season so far and take stock in what we've seen.

Record: 20-34
Hmmm, last place in the NL Central, second-worst record in baseball (thank you Twins).
Grade: F

Offense: 15th overall
Middle of the pack in runs scored, 6th in batting average, bottom third in slugging percentage. Actually not as bad as I thought they were going to be.
Grade: C

Defense: 30th overall
Most errors in baseball. Worst fielding percentage in the majors. You figured the young players would struggle a bit, but some veterans are contributing more than their share here.
Grade: F

Starting Pitching: 27th overall
Zero complete games, fourth worst ERA, 28th in batting average against.
Grade: F

Guys who pitch late inning batting practice: 30th overall
Most blown saves, 27th in on base percentage, worst save percentage, 29th in batting average against. I refuse to call them relief pitchers. No lead is ever safe with this group.
Grade: F-

Manager
Brad Mills hasn't done anything to embarrass the franchise, and he obviously has an uphill climb when you look at his roster. But he also hasn't done anything to make people stand back and express thanks that he's at the helm.
Grade: C

Yeah, these are great times to be an Astros fan.

Prediction: 47-61 at the 2/3 mark. Surely things have to improve. A little. Defense and pitching can't get any worse. I wouldn't be shocked if they played .500 ball over the next 54 games. But I wouldn't be shocked if they were still below 40 wins at that point either.

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It’s All About the 82 Games You "Can" Win

A learned baseball man once told me …

In the major leagues, there's 40 nights where it's just not your night.

The other team's pitcher is going to be on. Your starting pitcher is NOT going to be on.

They're going to have three hitters who are hot and seeing the ball like it's a melon being lobbed at them. You're going to have two guys who have the flu and another guy who is worried that his girlfriend is leaving him.

Forty nights, you're destined to lose.

And for the same basic reasons, in reverse, there are 40 nights where you're going to win.

Somewhere in between, there are 82 games that you CAN win. These are the nights when both teams are on the same plane, when the game is close, when either team has a chance to pull it out.

Take the just-completed three-game series between the Astros and Cardinals. Houston wins game one, 6-5. St. Louis wins game two, 6-5.

These are both part of the 82 games.

Game three, though, was on of the 40's. The Astros go into the 6th with a 4-1 lead, but the Cardinals bust loose for nine runs, and it's all she wrote. The final is 11-7, but it was essentially over after the sixth.

Through 25 games, the Astros (9-16 overall) are 3-13 in games they COULD have won. But looking over their wins so far, I don't see a lot of nights where the Astros walked away with one of their 40 easy wins.

So maybe things will even out a little here for Houston, but I'm still not seeing them beating the Vegas over/under of 74 wins for the season.

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The Owners Have Lost

This NFL labor situation is going to drag out as seemingly every legal tactic and strategy is explored and played out.

Bottom line is this … the NFL owners have lost. They torpedoed any chance they had when they took the calculated step of negotiating lockout insurance with the TV networks three years ago.

At a point when they were supposed to be striving for the best TV deal possible, when they should have been negotiating in the best interest of the league and the players, they took less from the networks so that they would have money coming in if (when) there was a labor stoppage.

They were planning for a labor stoppage. They were making contingencies for a break in their income stream.

This might be good business. But it's bad faith.

They weren't operating in the best interest of the players. They weren't operating in the best interest of the fans.

They were operating in their own best interest. They were creating a cushion for themselves so that they would have cash coming in this fall even if there was no football.

No amount of legal maneuvering can overcome this. The players are not saints. There are legitimate issues that can be negotiated.

But the owners have lost.

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Great Sportswriting

This is not going to be a rant or a complaint about how the news business has changed and eliminated the opportunity for great sportswriting in today's 24/7, be the FIRST to “post it/Twitter it/announce it” news cycle.

I just recalled an old baseball story that I'd seen in a book, and then found the archive version on the New York Times website.

It's just a fun read, and makes you wonder what media consumers today would think if they clicked on this for a live game story.

Enjoy … Yankees Toss Game Away in Thirteenth

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Baseball Opening Day – Must Read

Twice a year, I read one of the finest pieces of literature ever produced … “The Green Fields of the Mind” by A. Bartlett Giamatti, former commissioner of baseball.

I read it on opening day, and I read it on the day when my Houston Astros are eliminated from further contention. (Hold all comments about the second reading taking place in May this year, please.)

You can find “Green Fields of the Mind” on many websites, I've linked to one below in the related link.

It's just an excellent read, and it's something that I find more and more relevant in my world with every passing year. It captures the spirit of hope, the crush of false hope, talks of lessons learned and lessons that we never truly want to have to learn.

Read it, at least once in your life. That's all I can really say.

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No Joy in Snowville

Our Colts pranced all the way to the Superbowl only to get whupped, and whupped hard. I’m not a rabid fan, and I don’t mind losing, but boy, it honks me to lose to a team called The Saints. First of all, with a name like that, shouldn’t they win every freakin’ game? And I know they were named before the Age of Political Correctness, but I’m sort of surprised the name has lasted this long. Sour grapes aside, there’s no question that they played the better game and deserved the win. It was nice, though, just to get that far and make it to the SuperBowl.

Another local team is getting some notice. The Butler University Bulldogs have won 12 in a row. In fact (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong), I believe they’ve made it to the Sweet 16 the last few years. I’ve got a soft spot for the team and the school – it’s Dad’s Alma Mater and the site of Mom & Dad’s meeting. So… Go Dogs!