Astros 2020: What we are looking for

There are a lot of things that will happen in the 2020 baseball season that none of us has seen before and even four months ago could not have imagined ever happening:

  • A regular season consisting of only 60 games.
  • A regular season where your American League team will play more National League teams (5) than American League teams (4).
  • A regular season where your favorite team has a 30 man roster to start….and then cut to 28 two weeks later….and then cut to 26 two weeks after that.
  • A regular season where there will not be a whole set of minor league teams playing every day developing the youngsters at multiple levels.
  • A regular season where there will be two separate ILs – one for normal injuries and one for folks that have the COVID virus.
  • A regular season and subsequent playoff series where all 30 teams will utilize a Designated Hitter.
  • A regular season where it is unclear despite what the Astros owner Jim Crane wants (https://ftw.usatoday.com/2020/06/astros-owner-jim-crane-fans-stands-pandemic-coronavirus-mlb-season) whether there will be any fans in the stand.
  • A regular season where MLB takes an ancient term from the NFL and each team has a 20 man taxi squad on top of the 40 man roster.
  • A regular season where if teams go to extra innings, that they will start each inning with a runner on 2nd base…..say what?

But beyond all this absolute weirdness, there are things we can and should look forward to as Astro fans:

  • First of all the Astros have an opportunity to be the first team to ever win 100 games in four consecutive seasons. What? Huh? Oh, skip that one…..
  • It will be interesting to see how new manager Dusty Baker handles this situation. Folks biggest concerns about Baker revolve around a history of burning out young arms. Well, that hopefully will not happen in a 60 game season. The key thing here is that Baker is a player’s type of manager and carries a lot of weight in the game. He may be the perfect person to help his team navigate the media storm that will follow them throughout this season after the “it” scandal.
  • It will also be interesting to see how Baker’s new work buddy, GM Jim Click navigates this not so brave new world of sand shifting lineups and taxi squads and number morphing active rosters. He will be getting to know what he has on this club, especially youngsters who may have to take the place of future free agent outfielders and starting pitchers. He may have to make trades, releases, signings or whatever the team may need to win a very short sprint to the playoffs.
  • The Astros had the most explosive rookie in the history of the franchise appear on the scene in 2019, Yordan Alvarez. Fans want to see if his knee is doing better and if he is truly who he appeared to be in 2019….a hitter for the ages.
  • The fans really want to see Lance McCullers Jr. on the mound again. The last time he appeared in a game he was giving up the last run to the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS. He was also pitching through an injury that would result in Tommy John surgery a few weeks later. Can he be the bulldog pitcher in the 3rd spot in the rotation?
  • It seems like forever ago, but only one month of regular season games have passed since Justin Verlander put up the 3rd no-hitter of his career. Fans can’t wait to see him leading the pitching staff again in 2020. Is a 4th no-hitter possible?
  • Lost in the seventh game meltdown against the Nats was a brilliant start by Zack Greinke, entering the 7th inning having given up one hit. Yes, he gave up a home run and a walk-in that inning before being fatefully pulled, but along with the “What if they brought in Gerrit Cole instead of Will Harris” is the other question, “What if they had let Greinke work out of the inning”?
  • Fans want to see who the 4th and 5th starters are for the team, assuming Verlander, Greinke and McCullers are up top. Will it be Jose Urquidy, who showed well in a short time up in 2020? Will it be Brad Peacock, who has swung into the starting rotation before? Will Josh James, Bryan Abreu, Forrest Whitley, Cristian Javier, Framber Valdez, Cy Sneed and Cionel Perez have shots at those spots? Will they go with a 6 man rotation as other teams are doing? Will they do some tandem pitching? Yes they will have more players on the roster to start the season, but that number will go down in a hurry.
  • Fans want to see if Kyle Tucker is a prospect, who will earn the hype that has been heaped on him since his drafting.
  • What about all the familiar things we have missed? A George Springer Dinger to lead off a game? Jose Altuve squaring up a high pitch? Alex Bregman preening for the cameras after a home run(OK – I don’t really miss that)? Ryan Pressly tossing an unhittable breaking pitch? Yuli Guriel slashing one off the left field wall? Michael Brantley and his oh-so solid swing, sending the ball to all fields? Myles Straw streaking around the bases like a human blur? Josh Reddick stealing a home run souvenir from a waiting fan?

Those are some of the things this fan has been waiting for, how about you?

The Dome vs. Enron Field/Minute Maid Park

The Houston Colt .45s/Astros have spent their 58 seasons in three ballparks. For the purpose of this post, we will ignore the original Colt Stadium the temporary home of the Colt .45s for their first three seasons (1962-64) as the Astrodome was being built. It is best remembered for cementing the need for a domed stadium between its combination of heat, humidity, rain and mosquitoes. The stadium remained abandoned in the parking lot of the Astrodome for the better part of a decade before it was sold to a Mexican league team. It was moved and used in two different cities in Mexico ending up in Tampico where it was finally demolished, last being used in 1985.

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