Baseball season is a mere 224 hours away (as of 3/28 at 11am), and my excitement has started to turn into worry. Not “oh no, what if we don’t win the World Series” worry. I’m not Lou Holtz talking about Notre Dame football; I have semi-realistic expectations. Worry because I’m scared of disappointment and just how far away we are from fielding a competitive team for 162 games. It’s like watching your child compete in a wrestling match when you know they’re outmatched. You want them to succeed so badly and yet you know, deep down that they don’t have a chance. The other wrestler outweighs your kid by 40 pounds and has been wrestling since he could walk. Would you ever tell your son or daughter that they’re going to get pummeled? That you’re just going to stay at home and watch Game of Thrones (Season 3 premiers Sunday night. I went to an advanced screening last week and I assure you it’s not something you want to miss. Be sure to record it to watch after the Astros game) because you don’t want to waste $5 on a ticket to see a poor performance? Of course not. You sit in the stands with a knot in your stomach at every single match, though every single loss, hoping that they don’t get embarrassed (or injured), can learn from the experience, and build on it to get better. I know the Astros are going to be bad this year, but I’m full of hope (we’ll know if it’s false hope probably by mid-April) that they can come out and surprise everyone this year. Nobody expected the A’s to win 94 games last season or the Orioles to win 93 and yet they did. They didn’t listen to what the “experts” told them they were capable of, they played their own brand of baseball, won a lot of games, and made the playoffs.
Which brings me back to my original problem – I am full of hope. What do I do if my already-low-but-still-hopeful expectation of a 65-win season ends up being a 45-win season? I’ve already explained how I’m never giving up on this team, but that doesn’t mean a 120-loss season won’t be tough to watch (or even think about). I’m an active member of a couple of different Astros blogs and fansites (namely Astros County and The Crawfish Boxes) that think exactly like me: The Astros are going to surprise some people and be better than expected. But every “unbiased” opinion in the baseball world claims that it’s unfair that the AL West automatically gets 3 playoff teams because they get to play the lowly Astros so much. I think that they might be getting a little ahead of themselves (see, my hope is already showing again). There are 162 Major League Baseball games in a season for a reason: baseball is a game of averages. Batting average. Earned run average. Weighted on-base average. If the Astros beat the Rangers on Sunday night (7:05 CT ESPN), will they become the favorites to win the AL West? Of course not, one game means nothing and they’ll be expected to regress to the mean. But that works the other way too. The Astros roster is still full of 25 major league players (albeit barely) that are very good at a sport they’ve been playing all of their life. They are bound to catch some teams on off-nights and win some games they shouldn’t win. Here are all of my final division standings predictions and I’ll make a few more general predictions at the end.
1) Washington Nationals (96-66)
2) Atlanta Braves (90-72, Wildcard)
3) Philadelphia Phillies (84-78)
4) New York Mets (79-83)
5) Miami Marlins (70-92)
1) Cincinnati Reds (94-68)
2) St. Louis Cardinals (89-73)
3) Milwaukee Brewers (82-80)
4) Pittsburgh Pirates (81-81)
5) Chicago Cubs (70-92)
1) San Francisco Giants (92-70)
2) Los Angeles Dodgers (90-72)
3) Arizona Diamondbacks (83-79)
4) San Diego Padres (81-81)
5) Colorado Rockies (64-98)
1) Toronto Blue Jays (94-68)
2) Tampa Bay Rays (93-69 Wildcard)
3) New York Yankees (89-73)
4) Baltimore Orioles (83-79)
5) Boston Red Sox (79-83)
1) Detroit Tigers (89-75)
2) Chicago White Sox (82-80)
3) Kansas City Royals (81-81)
4) Cleveland Indians (80-82)
5) Minnesota Twins (68-94)
1) Los Angeles Angels (93-69)
2) Texas Rangers (86-76)
3) Oakland A’s (85-77)
4) Seattle Mariners (81-81)
5) Houston Astros (65-97)
Some final predictions in “quick hit” form:
-The Dodgers beat the Angels in an all-LA World Series
-Cardinals OF Oscar Taveras wins Rookie of the Year
-Clayton Kershaw wins NL Cy-Young
-Felix Hernandez wins AL Cy-Young
-At least 1 all-star caliber player is suspended for using PEDs
-The NL wins the All-Star Game
-Giancarlo Stanton wins the HR Derby
-Mike Trout plays worse, Bryce Harper plays better
-Nobody wins the triple crown again for a long, long time
I’ll leave you all with my favorite George Will quote: “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”
Let’s play ball.
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