The Season As It Stands...
Well, quite a lot has happened since my last piece - in no order: Ken Giles spontaneously combusted once too many times; the Astros roster became a battlefield hospital; Kyle Tucker made an ‘inauspicious’ start to his major league career, now back destroying triple-A; Luhnow made a trade that has lately started paying dividends (Machete!), one which looks superb (Pressly) and another which threatened to rip the universe apart (Osuna); oh, and the AL West unexpectedly became one of the more intriguing division races in recent years.
The UK Movement
I’ll get back to the Astros but I write this whilst on the way to our latest #MLBMeetupsUK baseball fan event in London at Belushi’s Dugout in London Bridge. Whilst we’ve had an extraordinarily long, hot summer* here in Britain, at this moment the weather is so stereotypically grim, wet and rainy that I’m half expecting to see Hugh Grant pop up at Belushi’s, apologising for himself as he bumps into doors, chairs and tables.
I refer to #MLBMeetupsUK as a ‘movement’ and that is exactly what it is - we are pushing to develop, cultivate and further popularise MLB in the UK so that the game can grow organically. We are well aware that it will be a long and arduous road with triumphs and disasters aplenty. The initial goal is to build towards the MLB games at the London Stadium between the Yankees and Red Sox on June 29th and 30th 2019 - a massive opportunity for the game in these isles - but this is by no means the end goal or endgame. We want to enable baseball to stand up for itself in the extremely crowded British sporting scene on a par with what has been achieved with the NFL here. This will take a great deal of effort and no little time, however we are committed and will not give up until this is achieved. Bank on it.
I recently designed a new logo for #MLBMeetupsUK as a movement, check it out:
If you were wondering what #MLBMeetupsUK events are all about, please check out the below video. We mean business!
(*Check out the classic track ‘Long Hot Summer’ by The Style Council - that bass synth... my goodness)
The Division Race
Ok, so who saw the A’s as being a real potential problem this year? Didn’t think so. They’re where they are in the AL West on merit and deserve respect for what they’ve done. We must not be complacent as we head towards September. They give off an Astros 2015 vibe to me - exciting, on a roll, perhaps ahead of their curve though and beatable. The upcoming series against them is massive - we must take the opportunity to make a statement and I hope we beat the hell out of them. With respect. As for the Mariners, safe to say their presence has been a surprising annoyance too, though I have never believed they’ll last the distance and I still do not.
The 2018 Astros (Revisited)
Previously this year I asked who this year’s team really were. I think we’re much closer to an answer - this is a team of battlers and fighters who aren’t willing to lie down. Stunningly (and I write this now on the way back from our #MLBMeetupsUK event - sadly no Hugh...) with the sweep of the Angels we now move AHEAD of the 2017 Astros’ pace at this stage.
For me this is pretty mind-blowing - how many times have you heard this year that the Astros just aren’t quite the same team as last year?? The truth is: our starting rotation improved immensely (and stayed healthy from the get-go), while our historic 2017 offense made understandable regressions to the mean. Add in the plethora of injuries suffered this midsummer to Altuve, Correa and Springer and you see how good this group of guys is to keep fighting and winning enough of these games (plus check out how varied and nasty that Astros bullpen is now...). Yes we have lost some big, big ballgames this season to rivals and that is a legitimate concern, however if we’re healthy we’re not just making it to October, we’re flourishing in it. Here’s hoping. The 2018 Astros must not be criticised because the A’s and Mariners improved.
A million or more have had their say on the trade and a number of very poignant articles have been written on the ethics Jeff Luhnow and the Astros exhibited in pursuing it. All I will say is: 1. I wouldn’t have made the trade but 2. The Astros made the trade and I will never root against my team - from a purely baseball perspective I hope it works out well.
-The 2018 Astros are the most high-quality meme-able (word?) and gif-able (word!) team of all time. A shame that the brilliant Bregman stare celebration will be given the overkill treatment but we have easily enough material for a Top 50 come season’s end in late October.
-Those Players’ Weekend Astros jerseys... someone get me a napkin to stop me drooling. Alternatively please feel free to buy me one(!). Love them after last year’s ghastly effort.
-No more West coast road games this year! (High-fives all around as 3:10am first pitches become a distant memory).
I’ll be checking in again around the final week of the regular season - keep believing in our amazing ‘Stros and Never Settle. Ever.