Is Being 14 Games Over .500 an Astros Ceiling?

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Is being 14 games over .500 an Astros ceiling? They got there for the second time this season on August 2nd, but they may have bumped their heads so hard that they immediately came crashing back to earth, having now stretched what we Astro fans all hope is no free fall into despair into another painfully nightmarish road strip. After a dead bat 3-game sweep by the Rangers in Arlington, the Astros took flight to Oakland, where they rallied to win the opener before the return of the dead bats and some timely early runs by the A’s twice that have cost them two more losses thru Saturday, with both their two biggest winners, Keuchel and McHugh, going empty handed on offensive support.

In the top of the 5th inning of Saturday’s game, as the Astros again settled into their “no hitting” malaise, Alan Ashby and Geoff Blum got into an entertaining exchange on the very question that carries this column on early Sunday morning. In fact, I have to give our ROOT TV road broadcasting crew all the credit for even bringing up the specific question – is being 14 games over .500 an Astros ceiling?

They guys did a very good job of dancing all over the field of possibilities as they dissected the subject through another ho-hum unproductive time at bat for Houston. It’s hard for me now to recall who said what – I recognize their different voices when I am dedicated to paying 100% attention, but as per usual for most guys with shingles who are plopped down at home for a Saturday afternoon TV game, I was not required to give 100% of my attention to anything. As a result, their voice patterns sort of blended together.

That never happened when Bill Brown, Jim DeShaies, and Greg Lucas were doing the TV games for FOX.  Those guys were just total professionals, with Bill Brown being then, as he is now, one of the finest play-by-play guys in the game. – He just no longer does road trips, God Bless him. Greg Lucas was also a terrific play-by-play guy, when he got the chance, but his role with FOX was to use his knowledge of the game, social media, and his intuitive awareness of limited audience attention spans to plug in colorful facts, questions, and insights as delicately and precisely as a doctor uses an eye dropper on a patient with tired, dry eyes. Jim DeShaies, was both knowledgeable and one of  most wryly funny guys to ever add color to a broadcast before he left us for the Cubs. The cartoon on these guys that helped us adult ADD types is one in which JD tells the jokes, Brownie does the laughing, and Greg brings the eye-dropper when it’s time to get back to the game.

I like Ashby and Blum – and I also like Julia Morales. I just don’t watch Julia because I think she’s going to bring us some inside baseball knowledge, but, dare I say it, because she is an intelligent, warm and attractive female, and she does an incredible job of getting the Astro players to open up and be a little more human and less “baseball-speak” in their interviews.

Now back to the subject at hand. – Have the Astros found their ceiling at 14 game up on .500? Are they now in free fall? And why can’t they win on the road? (See what happens with ADD? – That big paragraph, two units back, was about the TV broadcast crews, not the column headline topic.) All of the following paragraph points were covered by Ashby/Blum in the top of the 5th at Oakland yesterday, August 8th:

The media brings it up. Players don’t think about things of this nature until the media brings it up. Then, once it’s been suggested that the club may be stuck on 14 wins over .500, the players can no longer avoid thinking about it and just start losing every time they reach that number. – No Sale. This is just another variation of “the devil (the media) made me do it.”

Numbers and Superstition. Baseball people are very superstitious  as a sub-culture – and that includes us fans. – Numbers, for good and bad, take on a powerful importance in the minds of most, if not all of us. There was a time when we thought that Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs might be a record that would stand forever. We’ve since had two other men come along to prove that wasn’t true. Many us still feel that Cy Young’s career total of 511 pitching wins will last forever. And it probably will. A pitcher could start in the big leagues at age 20 and win 20 games a year for 25 years – and still fall short of Cy Young by 11 wins.

How do players explain their good club’s inability to win on the road? The general drift from Ashby/Blum was: “The honest ones cannot explain their club’s inability to win on the road. – The ones who can explain it are lying.” Interesting to note, when the Astros had their recent terrible season stretch, no one asked them why they couldn’t win on the road. We could watch them lose with the same regularity at home and get the answer to the road losses.

Is 14 wins above .500 a ceiling for the 2015 Astros? In reality, that remains to be seen.

Are the Astros in free fall? That also remains to be seen. If we had no more home games left on the schedule, some of us might be afraid that we were.

Murphy’s Law (My Own Two Cents): Most people are familiar with Murphy’s (So-Called) Law:

“If anything can go wrong it will!”

I’ve been telling people for years in my “day job” to be very careful with their use of that Murphy’s Law phrase. So much of what we do, or fail to do, is controlled by literal messages that have been programed into the unconscious mind as exactly as we might program software operational plans into the hard drive of a computer.

If a child gets either no feedback, or just a steady stream of “can’t you do anything right?” when he or she is growing up, it often becomes a short trip for that statement to be owned by the child as “I can’t do anything right” – and that’s the set up for Murphy’s Law. After all, Mom and Dad, if you don’t think I can do anything right – and I don’t think I can do anything right – what happens to the odds of Murphy’s Law proving true again – anytime I try to do something.

That’s the gist – and merely the gist of it. Nobody’s perfect. And nobody gets to be the best at anything without the lessons of failed effort. – Not failure – but failed effort. And the ones that hurt the most are also the ones that have the most to teach us. – Maybe this is a year in which our young Astros will startle baseball by winning the World Series. Or maybe this will be one of those years in which we get to learn more about what has to change for the Astros to get there.

Have a nice Sunday, Everybody!


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