Don’t Worry Be Happy

Meet my friend Benito. Benny (as we call him) is a life-long Astros fan. He was born in Conroe and has lived in the Houston area his entire life. He attended many games in the Astrodome during the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, and when he starts telling stories of the great Astros teams of the past (yes they did exist), you can really see his passion for his team come out in his storytelling. The Astros hired him about ten years ago, and his passion turned into a part-time job that allowed him to watch his team up close and personal on a semi-daily basis. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s his team was one of the best in baseball and arguably was the most consistent team in the National League for a 5-7 year period. Why did I introduce you to Benny? Benny is a loyal fan and even though the Astros are in a bad way right now, they are HIS team and he won’t quit being a fan of a team he has rooted for through thick and thin just because they are down right now. The fickle nature of Ranger fans (myself at times) really came to a head after the “collapse” last Friday night against the Orioles as many threw their Rangers to the birds. It’s easy to get caught up in the melodramatic nature of the final weeks of a season or playoff baseball, but we often forget to step back and look at the big picture. The other day Benny sent me a text trying to make me feel better about the plight of the Rangers.
“It’s painful being an Astros fan right now…it’s really painful knowing we are going to the American League West. Winning over 90 games three years in a row isn’t easy plus the Rangers are built to win for several years. Keep your chin up.”

The text made me realize that the gloom and doom atmosphere that our city and the Ranger fan base have felt recently is understandable, but we have a lot to be proud of. If we take a second and look at that aforementioned big picture, we still have a great management team, a manager players love playing for, and a superb core coming back. There is no telling what will happen this off-season, but up to this point Jon Daniels hasn’t handcuffed his team by signing a superstar to a mega-deal that limits the flexibility of the roster. The Josh Hamilton dilemma looms and Napoli’s return is up in the air as well, but that is what happens every year for all teams. Each year there are key personnel decisions that must be made and those decisions are what make and break a franchise. The Yankees built their team around the Fantastic Four (Jeter, Posada, Petitte, and Rivera) and used big free agent money to supplement the roster in order to keep them competitive year in and year out. The Rangers believe they can maintain the same type of consistency through building a strong farm system and adding key pieces through free agency when needed. The farm system will be the main source of talent and next year, with Profar and Olt, we should get to see the fruits of that system for much of the season.

The other thing that kills a playoff streak sometimes is building a roster around aging veterans. When their age catches up to them it almost always sends that franchise in a tailspin for several years. The Philadelphia Phillies are beginning to feel the effects of that strategy and that is also what happened to the Astros several years ago when their downfall began. This management group has done an excellent job of balancing the veterans with the young kids, which will hopefully sustain the success for several years and maintain a competitive team forever.

So, just like my pal Benny reminds me of quite often, enjoy the fact our team has been one of baseballs best year in and year out recently. They put a great product on the field that fans can be proud of and they appear to be built for the long haul. Once the pain from this season subsides, put your Ranger gear back on and get ready for an exciting 2013.

Jeff Johnson is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Jeff.Johnson@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @Houstonhog.

Jeff Johnson

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