Astros Have the Weapons

Last season the Houston Astros drove a jalopy with two hubcaps missing to the World Series and won it. In 2018, they will be riding in a limousine the way champions do these days. Will it make a difference? In the day of zillionaire ownership and multi-millionaire hired help, will these guys be hungry again?

 

The La Mirada Angels just completed an off season that has scouts, pundits, and ordinary average guys thinking they might give the champs a real challenge in their own American League West division.Every other team in this division looks like wankers in comparison. One thing is certain: the Oakland Athletics with Billy Beane will once again lead the league in unabashed bullshit.

Jose Altuve, who will turn 28 in May, is the kind of baseball player that every player, every scout, every manager, and every fan who works in the yard every Saturday wants on their team. Does he remind people of Joe Morgan? Yes, except he’s a nicer guy. He’s plenty mean on the field, and he just signed a contract that will keep him from worrying about losing his Green Card and getting separated from his family and deported to Venezuela. Maybe, if he keeps it up, he can buy Venezuela.

With Carlos Correa , who is 23, at shortstop and George Springer , who is 28, in center field, Houston appears to be strong up the middle for some time to come. Brian McCann and Evan Gattis are serviceable at catcher, and most of the Astros hit well now that Marwin Gonzalez has joined the party as the left fielder. They missed Jake Marisnick‘s outfield defense in the playoffs last fall, and Yuli Gurriel will need to continue to hit well to make up for his defense at first  and offensive dugout behavior.

It was not a great show of confidence last summer when Dallas Keuchel whined about the bosses not getting help, but he pitches better than he talks. Of course, the bosses did come through with obtaining Justin Verlander, so the whole staff is better. So it all looks good, but let’s remember that a year ago everyone seemed to agree that the Chicago Cubs were the new dynasty. Stuff happens. Injuries occur, some players slump, others come from out of nowhere to become the next big thing. That’s why they make the schedule.

As for those Knotts Berry Farm Angels, it looks from here as though they just got a new batch of familiar names to become disappointed about. Yes, we have good new defense with Ian Kinsler at second base and Zach  Cozart at third, and Mike Trout has definite help up the middle with catcher Martin Maldonado and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, but who is going to pitch? Shohei Otani could be the next Frank Tanana or maybe the next Ricky Nolasco or Tyler Skaggs. We don’t know yet. They’ll finish fewer than 20 games out.

The Seattle Mariners are trying to get by again with some fairly good veterans like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Jean Segura and they have added an interesting player for the top of the lineup in Dee Gordon, who is making strides at a new position in center field. They have been flirting with contention in recent seasons but it is looking as though age and inconsistency are relegating them to a .500 record at best. They used to have pitching but little offense but now it’s more like the opposite and, in that yard, defense should rule. They are deep at catcher but should consider signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia since they have Marc Rzepczynski in the bullpen.

The once fearsome Texas Rangers are gathering rust on their stars and  the jeeps are losing tread on the tires. They have once impressive lefties on the mound like Cole Hamels and Matt Moore and the admirable but aging Adrian Beltre at third base but boy howdy they sure strike out a lot. Manager Jeff Banister gets a lot out of them but everyone should keep their bags packed.

The Oakland Athletics have some good young players but fans who have followed them the past decade or so have to be wondering , “For how long?”  The baseball fans of Oakland are being conned by the management into thinking that these promising players are going to be ready to win it all when that new stadium gets built but guess what? They don’t even have a site to build on yet and the revenue sharing dough seems to be enough to keep ownership content. It’s a sad tale to tell for the once proud franchise.

 

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