Friday, September 26, 2014

The Soft Coda

It seems somehow fitting that the Mets would be finishing up their season against the Houston Astros. The Astros, as we fondly remember, are the Mets expansion brethren, but through the machinations of Bud Selig and an ownership change have now found themselves stuck in the American League West. So, though it may seem very incongruous and weird for the Mets to be playing Interleague Games to close out their season, at least they're doing so against a team that used to be in the National League.

Not that you'd recognize many of these Astros. By now it's fairly common knowledge that the Astros are still in the midst of one of the most dramatic rebuilding projects in the history of Baseball. Faced with an aging roster and a barren farm system, the Astros strategy has basically been to tank it for 4 years now, dealing away basically every single Major League quality player in their system for prospects and fattening up on high draft picks. The result is that after middling seasons of 74-88 in 2009 and 76-86 in 2010, the Astros basically fell into the abyss, going 56-106 in 2011, 55-107 in 2012 and, in their first year in the American League last season, 51-111. But this season, these young guys, that have basically been plonked in the Major Leagues long before they were probably ready, are now starting to gel and tick upward. The Astros won't lose 100 games this season—they come in to Citi Field with a record of 69-90—and they won't finish in last place thanks to the Texas Rangers. Players like Jose Altuve, who's on the verge of a batting title, Jon Singleton, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Carter and Robbie Grossman, the sort of names you've never heard of (partiularly since their Chris Carter is not our Chris "The Animal" Carter who was so productive off the bench in 2010) now, but you might if you keep paying attention to this bunch and they continue to work towards respectability.

The Mets are in a similar position, we know that, although their rebuilding hasn't been quite as massive an undertaking as the Astros, but if nothing else, it makes for something resembling an interesting storyline in a weekend series between two teams going nowhere to finish off the season. Tonight, the Astros came out on top, 3-1, in a game that fell apart on the Mets primarily because Jon Niese, who capped off an annoying season, ended up exiting the game with an elevated heart rate in the 6th inning, and Carlos Torres ended up allowing 3 runs rather quickly thanks to hits from Altuve and Carter. The Mets, facing Brad Peacock, another one of these young Astros arms that probably is a year or two away from actually being well-equipped enough to pitch in the Major Leagues, also wasn't long for the game in spite of the fact that he only allowed a solo Home Run to Curtis Granderson. He departed in the 5th, turning things over to a quartet of relievers, Kevin Chapman, Jorge de Leon, Tony Sipp and Chad Qualls, who lack in name recognition (OK, Qualls has been around for a while, but the rest of these guys?), allowed nothing to the Mets the rest of the way, and so that was how the night went. An incredibly unexciting game played by two mostly unexciting teams, and yet you feel you have to watch, simply because the season is now down to just two games, and by opening pitch of Saturday's game, the season will be over in less than 24 hours (barring some sort of weather-induced issue or a 20-inning game, that might be too fitting for these two teams, and since I have tickets to Sunday's affair, maybe I should keep my mouth shut).

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