Exercises in Optimism (Starring Richard Justice)

“Why hast thou forsaken me?” wonders Astros beat writer Richard Justice.

*Note: As commenter sgardner notes, Justice has actually been sensibly critical of the Houston front office, leading one to imagine that Justice’s tongue is firmly in his cheek here. That said, it’s still interesting to consider how a regular reader might respond to Justice’s post differently than a casual one, like myself.

Life can be scary. Starting around 21 or 22 years of age (generally speaking), one is tasked with the responsibility of feeding and clothing oneself — a not-unsubstantial chore, indeed. Not long after that (again, generally speaking), one is asked, in addition, to feed and clothe other, smaller people, as well. This is particularly burdensome, as there are laws against ignoring or throwing off bridges these smaller people — laws that could force one to spend the rest of his life in prison.

On top of all this, there’s also the sense that — in addition to providing enough in the way of financial compensation — that the work one chooses ought to be fulfilling in some way. “If I’m going to spend 40 hours a week doing something,” goes the reasoning, “it ought not to be something that represents a constant assault on my values and/or taste.”

Understanding this — i.e. that life is fraught with all manner of difficulty — helps us feel sympathy for each other. Certainly, it’s something that a reader should keep in mind when approaching the most recent dispatch from Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle — an article that begins with this headline:

It’s impossible not to be excited about the 2011 Astros

At the risk of descending too deeply into analysis, here’s some information: the Astros were pretty awful last season. Depending on where you set replacement level, they were a 69-72 win team by WAR and and only a 67 win team by Base Runs (in both cases, ahead of only the Pirates).

Furthermore, they’re likely to be pretty bad in 2011. Though Carlos Lee is due for some positive regression, Pedro Feliz’s -1.5 WAR is unlikely to be repeated by anyone on the roster, and their young talent (Jason Castro, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace) is semi-interesting, their offense is unlikely to improve substantially. Furthermore, without starters Roy Oswalt and Felipe Paulino (responsible for 4.3 WAR in 220 IP), they are currently looking at a rotation of “Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, and pray for consecutive nights of rain.”

As would be the case for most anyone, though, Mr. Justice’s mind seeks out the faintest pretense for optimism.

Boom, entire blog post:

I was at Minute Maid Park Wednesday afternoon, and I can tell you the excitement is starting to build. If you think Drayton McLane doesn’t want fans to have a great experience, think again. They’re putting these high def ribbon screens beneath the suites, and that’s entertainment.

They’re also clearing space for the huge video board that’ll be up soon. They’re also building a new press box, removing me from my adoring fans, but let’s not get into that at this time.

If you love baseball, you’ll love the two high-def video boards and the beautiful grass and all that stuff. I encourage you to let the Astros know how impressed you are with the work they’ve done, and to buy as many season tickets as you can afford.

This is going to be a great baseball season. There may be other teams that win a couple more games, but there won’t be any fans that have a better experience. Great video boards. Great nachos. Great cold beers. Charge!

Question: Does baseball offer other worthy pursuits besides just cheering for a winning team? Like the warm glow of a perfect spring day? Like delicious food and Good Times™?

Answer: Absolutely yes.

Other Question: Is there a scenario in which it’s possible — owing to the fact that they’re less talented than other clubs and feature a front office that’s demonstrably sans plan — is there a scenario in which it’s possible not to be excited about the 2011 Astros?

Answer: Yes times two.

Of course, for some readers, the instinct might be to persecute Mr. Justice for what appears to be unfounded optimism. I can’t stop you in this endeavor; however, allow me to appeal to your humanity first. Consider, reader, how Mr. Justice — a person who probably grew up loving baseball, who must food and clothe himself (and maybe other people) — has to write daily stories about the Astros without descending into an abyss of self-pity.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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11 years ago

Methinks Mr. Justice is using absolutes like “impossible” to flash his ascerbic wit (which I enjoy) to point out all the offseason “progress” the Astros have made.