added 1/1/2015 by Bob Hulsey
One story journalists never seem to get tired of is the "year-ender", a look-back through the previous 12 months to discuss what has changed. It's a quick and easy column to write which is why I won't bore you with one except to say that 2014 was the year the Astros finally moved forward.
On the field, they won 70 games and off the field, they finally got the CSN monkey off their backs that guaranteed the Astros would suffer some of the worst disasters the majors have seen since Nickel Beer Night.
2015 may be the year the Astros can spread their wings and fly just a little. No, not to the World Series and probably not even to a playoff spot but they have the ingredients now to win a good share of their games and restore the fans' interest.
The AL West promises to be a dizzy year, what with the Angels and A's weakening themselves due to budget issues over the winter while the Mariners and Rangers should be much better. The M's might even capture the division since they have been the most aggressive in purchasing the means to do so.
Everything would need to break right for the Astros to come out on top. Dexter Fowler and George Springer would need to stay healthy. Jon Singleton would need to add 80 points to his batting average. Matt Dominguez and Jason Castro may need bounceback seasons. Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh will have to match their success of 2014 while another starting pitcher emerges and the bullpen shows consistent effectiveness around newcomers Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek.
Jose Altuve, don't change a thing.
Jeff Luhnow, despite the contract extension, has a lot to prove this year. This is largely his club with his manager and his players. Once Carlos Correa and Mark Appel settle in, this will be the team he designed.
There is still a little over a month before pitchers and catchers report and there could still be some moves left in the winter although the blockbuster kind look less likely. Fowler and Castro are still here and there are some areas where the Astros have surplusses they can use to shore up weaknesses. That may be a project for next winter though.
The new year always begins with a nod to yesteryear and one wonders if the BBWAA will find more reasons this year to keep a player with 3,060 hits out of the Hall of Fame. As each year goes on, my contempt for the writers only grows.
The latest stupid assertion is that Craig Biggio is "just a compiler". Yeah, like he hung around for 20 years and then one day rolled out of bed with 3,000 hits and more doubles than any righthanded hitter the sport has ever produced but he didn't really earn them, you see. No, he was just "a compiler".
If someone like Biggio is not worthy for the Hall, then it's the Hall that has lost its credibility, not Biggio. That it has taken this long is an insult to our once-great game. One more reason the voting members of the BBWAA should be stripped of any responsibility for choosing the game's greats.
Incidentally, should Biggio inch above the 75% threshold for induction this year, it will not change my opinion of the voters. They've proven to be clearly incompetent and a few votes one way or the other does not change that belief.