I truly regret that there weren't blogs or message boards back over most of the last century. How much inane baseball nonsense was lost? How much pointless yabbering about pointless lineup moves vanished into the ether the second after it was uttered? So sad.
I want to know what we would have said about the 1985 Giants as they were happening. Jack Clark was gone. Dan Gladden and Jeffrey Leonard stopped hitting at the same time. The young pitching was mostly disappointing; the veterans apart from Mike Krukow were mostly disappointing. At the time, I was too busy sticking those wooden malt spoons up my nose to care. But it must have been a gloomy season. Sample headlines from McCovey Chronicles Retro:
What Does Ron Roenicke Have To Do To Win a starting gig?
Hey, Morons, Start Ron Roenicke
Why Trading Jeffrey Leonard To Make Room For Ron Roenicke Can't Backfire
The Flowers I Think Ron Roenicke Smells Like
Roenicke, see, had a .408 OBP in limited at-bats. Pretty sure he would have been the champion for short-sighted goobers on the Internet, of which I'm currently the chapter president. But mostly, I think the overall mood of a place like this in '85 would have been doom and gloom. They lost 100 games, after all. Robby Thompson was a 23-year-old hitting around the league average in double-A. Will Clark didn't show up to A-ball until June, and even then he was still three levels from the majors. It's not like the Giants had a lot of sure things banging down the door. It was a tunnel without another side, much less a light coming from it.
So when I think about hopeless teams, I think of the 1985 Giants. That's my orange-and-black standard. Which is all a long-winded way to introduce the 2012 Houston Astros. Before the season began, I had them pegged for 10 wins. Three of those wins were supposed to come during forfeits. I had three teams holding "Jagermeister And Ex-Spouse Night"s during the same road trip for some reason, but I think I was just trying to be optimistic on behalf of the Astros. I though they were going to be terrible. Beyond terrible. Hopeless.
It's not like they're good -- they're 26-34 -- so this isn't a total Orioles mea culpa. But they aren't hopeless. They are not devoid of hope. They have their Will Clark. They have their beacon of hope. And he's 65 inches tall. Jose Altuve is coming into San Francisco, and I want to go to the airport to greet him, screaming, like Paul McCartney just stepped off the plane in 1964. Oh, Jose Altuve.
This isn't a uncommon obsession. The good folks at Productive Outs built the bandwagon from scratch, tiny brick by tiny brick. Here are what should be the salient points about the rise of Jose Altuve:
- He's 22, which is quite young for a guy to be hitting as well as he has been
- He's doing this after skipping AAA and getting just 144 at-bats in AA.
- He plays second base
Sounds like a guy with a future. But here's all you can think about when you think of Jose Altuve:
There are a couple of dudes crouching, and there's Jose Altuve standing up. He's the shortest hitter in 30 years, and back then, they didn't even have the same chemicals and hormones in the milk, so there's even less of a reason for Altuve to be that short. But he is. And he's awesome.
Again, Altuve isn't just some utility player. He's probably a deserving All-Star this year. And he's 22. And he's the best and I want one.
After all of the histrionics I would have mashed into a keyboard in 1985, the Giants were good in 1986. They were damned good in 1987. It looked like a hopeless franchise from afar. But a lot changed in two years. I pegged the Astros to have nothing worth watching this year, and a bleak future that would depress people who didn't even care about the team. But they're alright. And they have some smart cats running the place now, along with an improving farm system, so they could be even better.
But they have an Altuve. It all starts with Altuve. He's just the best. And I politely ask that he be nice to us for the next three days.
Hitter to watch
Uh, let's see. Jose Altuve is like a summer day. I mean, he's obviously more lovely and more temperate. But I digress …
Other than Altuve, though, it looks like the answer to the great shortstop carousel of '12 was Jed Lowrie. Sorry, everyone. The answer was Jed Lowrie. Thanks for playing. Jed Lowrie.
Pitcher to watch
Bud Norris is kind of a mashable object colliding with the Giants' immashable force. He's always been able to strike hitters out, but he can't keep the ball in the park. The Giants have struck out fewer times than every team in the NL other than the Phillies, but the last Giants player to hit a home run in AT&T Park was Dan Ortmeier.
Say, that gives me an excuse to unveil the Dan Ortmeieriest GIF of all-time:
Back to the point: Norris allows dingers, but the Giants don't hit dingers. Whose flaw will win out? By which I mean lose out. Hell, I don't even know what I mean anymore, but that dancing mouse cursor has you distracted, so I can write anything I want right now. I'm thinking the Giants should trade Sergio Romo for Jeff Francoeur. See? You don't even care. And now you're throwing up because you stared at the GIF for too long. Great, just great.
Altuve does something that makes us say, dammit, Altuve, stop that. ❤ u altuve