Last Modified: Monday, March 31, 2014 12:29 PM
It has been a long, long road filled with potholes and wrecks.
Yet maybe, just maybe, there is a light at the end of the dark, dark tunnel the Astros seem to have been riding through.
Three consecutive 100-loss seasons leaves little doubt a championship is not in the cards this summer.
Babies don’t drive cars before they can crawl.
Clearly, the Astros are in the infancy of any building process.
They will start this season with bigger names and brighter stars in the minor leagues than those roaming Minute Maid Park.
That is part of the plan, or process if you prefer. Either way, they are hoping their fan base can stay patient for a few more years.
Still, there is hope this team might be getting better, even if the record won’t be showing it.
The Astros didn’t help their cause any by moving over to the American League West last year. The Mariners are improved, defending champion Oakland is better as are both the Angels and the Rangers.
Only one team in the division didn’t spend to get a big-name help over the winter months and that was the Houston Astros.
So on paper this team has all the looks of being another 100-loss product.
But even with that the club just might be better. Let’s face it, the Astros can’t be much worse.
So here is going out on a limb. While everybody is going to tell you who they think will be baseball’s best, I just want to point out why Houston won’t be baseball’s worst.
One simple fact: they aren’t the Chicago Cubs.
While the Astros try not to reach the century mark in losses, the Cubs are well into their second century of not winning a championship.
We all know it has been since 1908 since the Cubbies won a World Series title and 1945 since they even played in one.
Those numbers are years before the first World War and just around the time its sequel was wrapping up.
They are before Babe Ruth was playing professional and before his death.
Think about that for a moment. Forget the goat or Bartman, just think about how long it has been since the Cubs won.
At least now they have a mascot.
So if the Cubs can start year No. 108 in the rebuilding process, suddenly the Astros don’t seem to have it so bad for so long.
But what about this year, you ask?
Well, the two used to be in the same division, which would have given the Astros a true measuring stick as to just where they are on the rebuilding ladder.
Better record than the Cubs and it is a start. Worse record and, well you can figure that out.
However, this might be the year. The Astros appear, and we use this term loosely, to be on the right track. Or at least the right side of the road.
Last few years you wondered if they even owned a car.
We are not saying the Astros are Pittsburgh of a few years back looking to make a move. Nor are the Cubs a lock to lose 100. It just seems both clubs are heading in that direction.
You hope they don’t collide. We have seen enough wrecks out of both these franchises already.
Yes, it would be great if the Astros spent a few bucks here and there to make the product of the field better. They probably owe that to those fans who have stayed with them during these dark days when all hope is lost before the first pitch is ever thrown.
A well-placed free agent would at least show the club cares about those still buying their tickets, but that’s not the plan in Houston.
The front office has a blueprint for what it believes will win in the future and at least for know that is an improvement from the last few seasons, when there seemed to be no vision.
With that, at least we can say we have an idea as to what the future looks like.
Maybe it’s because they are so young and we don’t know enough about them, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say the Astros are likely the second-to-worst team in baseball this year.
That might not be saying much, but it is a start.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org