added 9/4/2008 by Scott Barzilla
Some people are glass half full people and some people are glass half empty people. Then again, others are afraid the glass will break and cut their hand. I have always trended towards the pessimistic in life. I choose to look at it as expecting the worst and allowing myself to be pleasantly surprised. The past five weeks have definitely fallen into that category once again.
The Astros finished the month of August with the most wins in baseball. Of course, they played the most games in baseball, but who's really counting at this point. Their 21-9 mark didn't gain much ground on the Cubs and Brewers, but it has brought them within an eyelash of the Cardinals. Before the month, simply finishing in front of the Reds and Bucs seemed like a solid finish. After sweeping the Cubs to start September, some fans are thinking a whole lot more.
You can already hear murmurs from fans talking about 2004 and 2005. Those teams were more pedigreed, but the parallels in performance are unmistakable. Obviously, the diehards want to hold hope in any season, but even the most realistic of fans have to admit that it is possible. Still, those same fans are denying one of the key ingredients from those runs: someone else had to falter in order for it to work.
In 2004, the Cubs and Phillies went belly up at the worst possible moment. I can still remember the complaints from Phillies fans about the Astros playing the Rangers in interleague play. These complaints were comical considering the Phillies 0-6 record against the Astros. However, it was the Cubs implosion that made it all possible. It was so obvious to everyone outside of Chicago, but Steve Stone got canned for making the suggestion. The man that put up with Harry Caray for all those years deserved a lot better.
2005 was more of a group effort. The NL Central became the Comedy Central where even the mediocre had a shot at the brass ring. The Astros were just a shade better than mediocre and came within a well-placed four or five runs of wearing championship rings. Astros fans out there will say, "we know all this already." The problem is that we easily forget every August and September (save 2007) when the Astros make one of these runs.
The sweep of this week notwithstanding, the odds are long against another choke job by the Cubs. The same could be said of the Brewers. As usual, any conversation of the wild card completely ignores the NL East where the Phillies still appear to be the favorite if Milwaukee folds. So, when I say another playoff run isn't in the cards it isn't an indictment of the Astros as much as a vote of confidence in the rest of the league. You can only use the Heimlich manuever so many times before paramedics come out and revive you.
So, what is an Astros fan to do? First, you should enjoy what you are watching no matter the final outcome. Victories are victories whether they be for a third place team or first place team. Eight game winning streaks are exciting for every club. Furthermore, watching hitters like Ty Wigginton and Hunter Pence catch fire is a blast. Seeing 14 home runs next to Geoff Blum's name makes me want to go back to Texas State Optical. Heck, I've even grown to enjoy Jose Valverde's antics.
As for me, I continue to expect it all to come to a crashing end and then enjoy my warm and happy feeling when it doesn't. It might seem like a distorted view on life, but the pleasant surprise is a good way to end my day. Most of all, I enjoy each game knowing full well that the off-season will bring countless days of hashing and rehashing the state of our rotation and lineup. Win or lose, the raging debate over how to make this team better will come. The big picture is way too big to focus on right now.