If you look up “old school” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of me. Oh sure, I understand things like OPS and spin rate, but deep down inside, my past, relative to life and baseball, harkens back to values from youth. I came from a time period when it was a big thing for an Astro to make the All Star Game, an even bigger thing for him to get in the game and the ultimate big thing to actually perform well on the national stage. Many years we were represented by the minimum of one player with the gut feeling we would not have that one except for the rule mandating representation.
This was back in the days when the team was often out of the race by the ASG. The naming of the All Star team was a big thing for many years. Fans took it personally when someone like Bill Doran was bypassed in an ASG selection. There were years when Tommy Lasorda was booed every time he appeared in the Dome over some slight or another.
But things change, and perhaps my old school is out or even closed down these days. The Astros are a different breed in 2021. They have been in the pennant race the last seven years, though 2020 was mostly a regular-season stumble. They have been to the playoffs five times in the last six seasons, to the ALCS four times in a row and the World Series twice. They have well-recognized talent that has earned them Rookie Of the Year (twice), MVP and Cy Young (twice) awards in the last small sliver of the team’s history. And yes, this has included the All Star team recognition as they had six players earn that honor in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
So, the All Star game has not been as big a thing to the players, the team and frankly the fans, who would trade it all for another World Series crown to shut up the cheat shamers. This season the Astros had four players named to the All Star team – Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Ryan Pressly. Two of them, Pressly and Correa are missing to spend time with their pregnant wives and perhaps to protect them from something (COVID) they could pick up in a “foreign” clubhouse. Ironically, Correa might not see his wife as he is too sick with an undisclosed illness to play this weekend against the Yankees. Altuve will sit out due to a leg injury that is not keeping him out of the lineup. However, Altuve has been hitting .178 over the last two weeks, so maybe his leg is affecting his performance. Michael Brantley will be sitting out due to a hip injury that has not kept him out of the lineup, though he has been the DH fairly often recently. Brantley has been bad the last two weeks, hitting only .186, which has dipped to .105 BA in the last 5 games. Perhaps he is hurting.
Probably the Astros are sitting out for legit reasons. It has been suggested that they don’t want to face the national press that the ASG brings, though they faced that last year, especially in the playoffs. It has been suggested that they don’t want to be in the clubhouse with some of the complainers and accusers about “IT”. That is possible, but in some ways, when do you pull off that bandaid?
Any way you look at it, the Astros will not have a representative this year, and even more Houston fans will bypass the game than normal. It feels strange, but some of the old school heart tugs about my team getting the national spotlight they never used to receive. Perhaps, it is a good time for that spotlight to land elsewhere.