Yesterday was the last day of the regular season in baseball, the last game for my beloved Houston Astros. They won't be going to the post-season again this year. The fact is, they ended the season with the worst record in baseball - 55-107.
This is the second year in a row they've earned that dubious distinction. The good news is that it makes them eligible to make the top draft pick again next year. For a team mostly stocked with 20 - 24-year-olds, that could be important. They are rebuilding from the ground up and the more talented young players they can latch on to, the better their chances of catching lightning in a bottle.
You might think that a team with a 55-107 record had a deadly boring season. You would be wrong. April and May were good for the team. They played well and showed what they were capable of. Unfortunately, those two good months were followed by three mostly bad months which wiped out the gains they had made. But throughout it all, the kids - and they are mostly kids - played hard, played with enthusiasm and never gave up. The mistakes they made were mistakes of eagerness and inexperience, but they were never dull.
In late August, they changed managers and the team responded by playing some of its best games of the year over the last six weeks of the season. The last week of the season, their last road trip of the year to Milwaukee and Chicago, saw them win four out of six games and their pitchers pitch three shutouts. Surprisingly, they also hit about 15 to 20 home runs in those games. It gives their loyal fans hope for the coming year.
If we need further encouragement, we need only look at the lineup of teams in the playoffs this year, teams that also were mostly built from scratch. It's heartening to see teams like the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, and the "Moneyballing" Oakland Athletics get their chance to make it to the World Series.
The most amazing post-season team has to be the Oakland As. At one time in the season, not so very long ago, they were 13 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West. They came all the way back to tie the Rangers for the lead and, yesterday, in the final game of the season, they beat the vaunted Rangers 12-5! They are the American League West champions!
The As are a team of nobodies, has-beens, never-wasses, and rookies, but they had a vision, starting with General Manager Billy Beane all the way down to the greenest rookie in the dugout. They believed if they played hard, played right, they could win. They did.
See that, Astros and Astros fans? It is possible.
Go Oakland! Go Atlanta!
Countdown to 2013 season: 180 days.