Thursday, March 28, 2019

The View From Over The Pond

Loading - Astros vers.2019

So here we are once again. I write this with less than 90 minutes to go until the Houston Astros embark on their journey in 2019, one which we hope will end with us reclaiming that which we lost last October. 

The focus of this piece will be squarely on the future rather than the past, however it would be remiss if me to not mention 2018 at all. Especially as I couldn’t bring myself to do it after the ALCS defeat. All that needs to be said is that we had a phenomenal, record-breaking, season but we were beat up. Bad. We crumbled in under the lights in October and it hurt. We missed an opportunity but we have to move on.

Likewise we have to move on from legends such as Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel (extremely likely, regardless of the particulars concerning his bizarre present status) and Charlie Morton. They, plus others, will be missed - we move on.

2019 is about looking to improve, to take a great team and make them greater. Like others, for a seemingly interminable period I wasn’t so sure what Luhnow and his crack team of statistical genii (despite numerous personnel losses there too...) had planned for the club. 

Add in the Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly extensions off the back of Jose Altuve’s last year and it’s all too clear we are preparing on two fronts. Firstly, one which looks to set the foundations for a decade of contention with one of the strongest farms in all of baseball, littered with talent and boasting a scary production line of pitching talent; secondly, one that sees the next 3-4 years as the immediate window - seasons in which our front office expects and demands titles. Plural. 

I love this dual focus - we aren’t burning the farm down to risk it all on a tiny window, nor are we sitting on our hands. Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow want our Astros to become a lasting powerhouse in baseball.

As for the team, new recruits Aledmys Diaz (super-utility) and Robinson Chirinos (catcher) have big shoes to fill, particularly the former. However the greatest excitement must be reserved for seeing what Michael Brantley will bring to the offense in 2019. Despite the incredible winning record, the 2018 Astros never truly had that pop and spark with the bats that fuelled 2017. Brantley, if he stays healthy, could be a significant key to rediscovering that firepower. As a counter-point, genuine concern has to be noted over Carlos Correa’s present absence due to a sore neck - we need him fit and firing. No exceptions, no excuses.

Our pitching remains an immense asset for us despite the losses of Keuchel, Lance McCullers (out for the year after Tommy John surgery) and Morton. A starting rotation of Verlander, the superb Gerrit Cole, a returning Collin McHugh, newly-acquired Wade Miley and Brad Peacock is still a formidable prospect. I’ll be fascinated to see how Miley gets on in particular and we have phenom Forrest Whitley waiting in the wings for at some stage later in the year too.

My only concerns outside of Altuve’s knee and Correa’s everything relate to the back end of the rotation and whether Chirinos and Max Stassi are going to be dependable enough as our catching options for the year. We’re in a good place.

Roll on this opening series vs the Rays.

The UK Movement - #MLBMeetupsUK

A lot has happened since I last touched in. This very night we have a live watch event in Nottingham for the first time and on Saturday 30th March we have the first of our big live watch events at Belushi’s at London Bridge in London. These are always great nights and we are COMMITTED to bringing old and new fans along to get involved:

I really mean it too when I call this a ‘movement’. If you’re not familiar with #MLBMeetupsUK then please check out my thread as I explain what it’s all about and what our vision is - we want to cultivate and develop baseball fandom all over the UK. It will take years but we will succeed:

We have 7 events at Belushi’s this year booked, the centrepiece of course being 3 straight days of events(!) preceding and during the London Series. Ok so it’s not the Astros but this is THE shop window for getting baseball into the public consciousness of the UK - and to advertise the Astros as a team of choice.
UK Astros Fans
...speaking of shop windows, please check out the UK Astros Fans online store! There are 70 of us here now by my latest count and these designs of mine, hosted by @BalconyShirts on Twitter, are designed to give them something to wear and be proud of. WE ARE UK ASTROS FANS and we are looking to find and create more of our number. 25% of every purchase made will be going directly to GB Baseball & Softball, so this is also to help the wider UK baseball community too.

The future is now...

Sleeping is overrated. 

Other Thoughts:

Who knew Jake Marisnick had such comedic talents??

The goal in 2019 is crystal clear. Accept nothing less than success, we’re here for it all. TAKE IT BACK.