Out With The Crowd: "That one stung"
Mets fans know a fellow terrible team when we see it — and the Astros are shaping up to be a legendarily awful club in 2013. But not according to John Yarbrough, a lifetime fan who's resolutely viewing this year's campaign as an opportunity, not a slog. …Okay, it might get a little sloggy.
We spoke to Yarbrough earlier this week about fire sales, Altuve bobbleheads, and the prospect of 70 wins.
Sarah D. Bunting: Both our teams have 1.000 records! Go Class of '62!
John Yarbrough: Yes! Well, the bats were alive for Opening Day, that's for sure.
Against the Padres. Every success accompanied by a boulder of salt.
Who's your favorite new Astro this season?
That's a great question. First I'll say that I'm a big fan of what the Astros' front office did during the offseason, despite the negative attention some of the moves have received from some journalists and baseball people across the league. For me personally, the addition of Chris Carter is really exciting. It has been a while since the Astros had that type of intimidating power threat in the lineup.
Well, if people are thinking the idea is to win right now, they're not going to "get it." (We're in the same boat. "MARLON BYRD?!!" Guys, give it a minute.)
Who's your least favorite new Astro for 2013?
This one is easier for me: Carlos Pena. He seems like a solid clubhouse guy but it's hard to see much value there other than off-the-field leadership, particularly given he doesn't play a premium defensive position or have a bat that is going to strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers.
Anyone you were happy to see leave over the winter?
Honestly, they didn't have much left after trading everyone with a pulse (minus [Jose] Altuve) during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Whose pulse is so small and fluttery, they may have overlooked it. Like a little bird!
When the Astros do an Altuve bobblehead night I'm fairly sure they actually have to scale up his torso to get it the right scale.
I didn't love seeing him go but the Jed Lowrie trade was good for the team. He's relatively young and has had success at a high-value position but his injury concerns always make you wonder how long it will last. And I think [GM Jeff] Luhnow and the Astros front office got a pretty nice return for him.
The next one should be easier, given the fire sale: anyone you were sad to see leave?
I was a huge Hunter Pence fan. That one stung. That said, it was great to see him succeed in a Giants uniform.
What's your biggest worry for the team this season?
In my opinion the nightmare scenario for the Astros this season is having all of the young guys underperform or fail to develop any type of identity under the tutelage of Bo Porter. After all of the trades the Astros farm system is actually fairly well stocked, but as is always the case with young players — they are only prospects until they aren't.
Second to that, Houstonians are also worried [Jim] Crane and company won't be able to come to terms with cable providers over CSN, which owns the Astros TV rights. Right now, hardly anyone can actually watch games…of course the cynical view on that is perhaps we're better off…heh.
Heh, I was just reading about that deal. But in-person gate receipts in a Houston summer are perhaps not going to get it done financially.
Right…short of a miracle, there are going to be a lot of empty seats in Houston this year.
I hesitate to ask this, but as it's part of the standard set of questions…where do you see the team finishing this year in the standings? Or, since that's a bit obvious (…sorry) (well, maybe not…the Mariners did just sign J. Bay), how many wins are you seeing for the club in 2013?
Thanks for making me pick between my Astros homer self and my Astros realist self!
You can answer as both, we're not that formal around here.
It pains me to say this, but I do anticipate the Astros finishing the season in last place in the AL West. That said, I don't see the "historically bad" season predictions coming to fruition. I think you'll see a modest improvement over last year to somewhere in the 62-67 win range.
Most diehard Astros fans would be thrilled with that. It's starting to sink in this will be a looong season.
Yeah, you're playing the Angels a lot now. At least most of our division also sucks. …Any surprises so far in 2013? Pleasant or unpleasant.
It's obviously very early but the biggest and probably the most exciting surprise for Astros fans is the re-emergence of Rick Ankiel. He's getting a ton of attention after the big 3-run HR to seal the deal against the Rangers, but he really played lights-out all spring and forced himself onto the roster. He's really one of the best stories in baseball and almost impossible not to root for.
If you could tell Porter one thing, what would it be?
Assuming they are giving maximum effort, be patient with the young guys but don't let them flounder. This season should be about experimentation and finding out what works and what doesn't, even if that means shuffling the MLB and AAA rosters mid-season.
Anything else bugging you? Opposing players? Ongoing stories? Here's mine: the "Johan blew out his shoulder during the no-hitter" narrative.
Soooo with you on that. I think the Strasburg "Inning-gate" narrative is pretty tired too.
From an Astros perspective, the two biggest stories that are obnoxious are the "gap between haves and have-nots" and the ongoing debate around how much to rely on sabermetrics. Personally, I don't care about the Astros payroll at all so it's laughable when national pundits call it a disgrace to the integrity of the game. It's especially ironic since the same writers blasted the team for having a roster full of underperforming, highly-paid old players 4-5 years ago.
Oy. Why is this still a debate! Joe Morgan is gone! Ha ha, VORP sounds funny, GET OVER IT.
Thank you! And sabermetrics shouldn't even be called that anymore — it's all just baseball.
I mean, if you found out your favorite team's GM didn't know what UZR was at this point, wouldn't you be scared shitless for the future of the franchise? This is how Carlos Lee's 6-year, $100M contract happens.
This is how Jason Bay happened.
Watching the Wilpons bumble against everything Alderson is trying to do has been very frustrating.
I can imagine. Crane is clearly cheap, but he doesn't appear to be a meddler.
That's actually a great owner combo. Then you don't end up with Alex Rodriguez at age 50.
I mean, if Magic Johnson owns your team and you have a TV contract until 2035 I guess it doesn't matter. But no one likes to be an embarrassment.
And if Loria owns your team…become a Rays fan. Or a vodka fan.
You probably need something stronger than vodka. That guy should invest in football where they celebrate liars, cheats and profit-whoring.
Dad, husband, and lifelong 'Stros fan John Yarbrough lives in Austin; he's into gadgets, craft beer, and good music.
Tags: Alex Rodriguez Bo Porter Carlos Lee Carlos Pena Chris Carter Fire Joe Morgan RIP Houston Astros Hunter Pence Jason Bay Jed Lowrie Jeff Luhnow Jeffrey Loria Jim Crane Johan Santana John Yarbrough Jose Altuve Los Angeles Dodgers Marlon Byrd New York Mets Out With The Crowd Rick Ankiel Sandy Alderson shut up Wilpons Stephen Strasburg