When the world turns black, when petty politicians think more about their own reelections than the good of the country and the world, when madmen turn their guns on innocent children attending summer camp and their cheering section on right-wing radio tries to excuse them, when the earth continues to heat up and all hope seems futile, there's always baseball. During the dog days of summer - and they all seem like dog days this year - the most perfect ballgame ever invented by humans offers respite and relief from days of unrelentingly bad news. This season, though, for Astros fans like myself, even baseball hasn't given much relief.
The Astros as of today and for most of the season are and have been possessors of the worst record in Major League Baseball. Their current record is 33-69. They are 36 games under .500. This is territory that this franchise has not been in since John F. Kennedy was president. They could well finish this season with the worst record ever recorded in MLB.
Baseball's trading deadline is July 31 and the vultures are circling my team, hoping to pick some viable parts off the dead bones of a once-proud franchise. Teams are hoping to grab Hunter Pence or Michael Bourn or Wandy Rodrigues or perhaps one or two others that have value for teams that are trying to go to the playoffs this year. They've already taken Jeff Keppinger, a serviceable second baseman. We Astros fans will be holding our breath, hoping that our favorite player will not be playing for another team by August 1.
But this is baseball. And in baseball, unlike Washington politics, there is always hope. Our hope at the moment is for the future and it resides in the three aforementioned players as well as some new guys recently brought up from the minor leagues.
Jordan Lyles looks like the real deal as a right-handed pitcher. He doesn't have a win yet although he has pitched 10 games. His record is 0-5, but only one of those losses is really his fault. In the other nine games, he has pitched well enough to win if he were playing for a team that was able to score runs. He's only 20 years old so he has the potential to be a very good pitcher for a very long time.
And just last week, after Keppinger was traded, Jose Altuve was brought up from AA-Corpus Christi to play second base. He was batting .387 in the minors. So far in the majors, he's batting .412! He is 21 years old, 5'5'' tall, and he appears unawed by major league pitching. He looks like a keeper, too.
There are about two-and-a-half months left in the regular season, no time for the Astros to really make a move, even if they had it in them - and they don't. It's statistically unlikely they could even get back to .500. The most they can hope for is to be an irritant to the teams that are in contention and to give their best effort to every game. After all, on any given day, any team can beat any other team. It's a game of inches and it all depends on the way the ball bounces. If they play the game the right way, maybe good things will happen.
But even on the worst days, it is still baseball and that is still good.