The Houston Astros are not particularly good at baseball. Their record stands at 36-74; if they won half their games the remainder of the season, they would still lose a hundred games. Whatever it is you call losing in baseball, whether it be tragedy or drudgery, has clung to the walls and seats of Minute Maid Park. It is buried deep beneath that little hill thing they have out there.
As a form of penitence for some unknown or as yet uncommitted crime, I decided to watch the Astros perform their Astroness last night, and was rewarded grandly by the Baseballing Gods. By now, I’m sure, the series of lights and colors that eminated from the top of the 11th inning have taken their permanent place in the back of your retinas; if not, go ahead and watch the highlight four or five more times.
Rather than focus on the play itself, I’d like to look at the carnage from another angle, show some pictures that speak to the heart of Houston baseball. Think of it as a human interest story. Specifically: I want to talk about Pleased Guy.
(note: all pictures are, as you may have suspected, capable of embiggenation.)
This first picture takes place in the bottom of the first, when anonymous individual Marwin Gonzalez sends a 3-1 fastball toward the right field seats. Take a look at those fans behind the screen, who represent the gamut of human emotions: there’s Cynical Guy, Thinking About Checking His iPhone Guy, Men Waiting Patiently For Death, Distracted Boy, and Genuinely Interested Woman. Right there in the middle of them all is Pleased Guy, hands already up; he doesn’t know if the ball will clear or not, but that doesn’t matter. It has a chance, and he’s ready to believe.
Pleased Guy has seen a lot of baseball. He remembers the days of Cesar Cedeno and Mike Scott, and sometimes, when the losing starts to get to him, he misses those days. But he also loves Jose Altuve, and believes J.D. Martinez will be a fine ballplayer. He doesn’t have to watch Brandon Lyon anymore. All in all, things are pretty good. They could be worse.
Pleased Guy is vindicated; Gonzalez rounds the bases and the Astros take the lead for a while. After that, nothing really happens for ten innings. In the top of the 11th, Roger Bernadina singled, and then, as mentioned, madness. But first, another glimpse at the stands as Suzuki prepares to bunt:
Most of the fans have cleared out, but Pleased Guy remains, still pleased. He knows that his team only has a 41.8% chance of winning, but the Nationals seem willing to give an out away, and forty-odd percent is still a pretty big percent. Fifty-two games is still a lot of games and who knows, if the kids start getting their feet under them and they learn how to win games like this then
Two minutes later, the Astros are still playing baseball; their young talent is only infinitesimally older. Chris Snyder returns to his squat, his existentialist dilemma momentarily pushed aside for the needs of the moment. He is a baseball player, he is an Astro. This is what he has to do.
But not Pleased Guy. Pleased Guy is gone. The human soul is not limitless.