The baseball season is over. All 162 games are in the books. My Houston Astros won't be going to the playoffs. Again. But at least this year they didn't end up in last place in their division.
In fact, the team made considerable improvement. Last year they won only 51 games. This year they won 70. Still not .500 but getting closer.
More importantly, all of their (very) young players got another year under their belts and they form the nucleus of what could be a very good team in the future and for years to come. The core of that nucleus is their talented second baseman, Jose Altuve.
Altuve played 158 games out of 162 this year, including the last one. For that last game with the Mets, the brain trust of the team debated keeping him out of the lineup. He was leading in the batting title race by a few points over Victor Martinez of Detroit. If he didn't play, there was a good chance that he would back into the championship. If he did play and had a bad day and Martinez had a good day, there was always the chance he could lose the batting title on the very last day of the season. In the end, he played which was the way he wanted it. He got two hits. Martinez played, too, and didn't get a hit. Altuve won the batting crown with a .341 average, the best not only in the American League but in the major leagues.
That .341 average was earned with 225 hits, also the best in the majors. He had 660 official at-bats with 36 bases-on-balls. Of all those times that he walked to the plate, he struck out only 53 times. That means that his bat made contact with the ball 607 times! In other words, he almost always hits the ball.
In addition to all those hits and walks, when he got on base, he stole base 56 times, and when in the field, he rarely made an error. He is the sparkplug of the team, the main reason for their nineteen game improvement this year and if he doesn't get the Silver Slugger award for second base this year, it will be a travesty.
He really should also get strong consideration for the Most Valuable Player award. True, that award usually goes to one of the players on one of the winning teams, but if one judges MVPs by where their team would be without them, it is hard to see how any player could be more valuable than Altuve.
So, now, all we Astros fans get to wait'll next year and hope. I think 2015 may be much better still than 2014 or any recent year. It would be even better if the team could resolve its television coverage issues so that most of us fans could actually follow the team on television once again. (Oh, for the days of Brownie and J.D.!)
Meanwhile, the playoffs are about to begin and Astros fans do have some skin in those games. Our old favorite, Brad Ausmus, the long-time Astros catcher and all-round good guy, in his first season as a manager, took the Detroit Tigers to the title in their division. Now, they get to play the Baltimore Orioles in the first round of playoffs. I know who I'll be pulling for to go all the way.