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Astros, Again

PITTSBURGH - MAY 09:  Blake Hawksworth #53 of the St. Louis Cardinals flaps against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on May 9, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
PITTSBURGH - MAY 09: Blake Hawksworth #53 of the St. Louis Cardinals flaps against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on May 9, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Michael Bourn is one for his last 13. This isn't a huge problem for Michael Bourn—he led the league in stolen bases last year, he's on his way to doing it again this year (should Yadier Molina's newfound love for base theft continue to increase linearly, and not exponentially), and as a center fielder his .366 on-base percentage remains more than sufficient to keep him in starting lineups for years to come.

It's bad news for the Houston Astros. It meant that when Baseball-Reference updated its OPS+ numbers Monday morning, the only player with a league-average number, a number over 100, was Felipe Paulino, a starting pitcher the Cardinals' pitching staff will just miss having to face. 

The Astros, having been built like a better team than they were for a while now—they're the team the Cardinals might have become had their MV3 strategies continued to drift listlessly down the path where Mozeliak was dropped off in 2007—have a strange, difficult route back toward year-to-year solidity. They're reliant on cheap players who are neither all that young nor all that good—Jeff Keppinger, et al—cheap prospects who have not met expectations—J.R. Towles, Hunter Pence—expensive players who are either not good enough to build around or simply not sufficiently built-around—Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Carlos lee—and expensive players who, Kaz Matsui, seriously? Pedro Feliz?

I'm 23. The Astros were my Mets. I didn't like them as a team, or their dopey ballpark, or even the players I'd otherwise have loved—Craig Biggio, Bill James's idea of a perfect baseball player; Jeff Bagwell, an inexplicably fleet-footed slugger; Billy Wagner, the create-a-player version of a closer. I didn't get excited about it when the Cardinals were going to Houston, or the Astros to St. Louis; I wasn't especially happy to see them on TV. They (my ineffable hatred of they, really) made my baseball life incrementally worse. I'm calmer, now, and the Cardinals have since won a World Series in my lifetime; it's probably the first and last real rivalry I'll experience as a baseball fan. And even now, with all that firing subconsciously whenever I catch a glimpse of their ugly uniforms, I am distressed to see them in this state. 

Our SBN sister site, Crawfish Boxes, have of late been going unenviably through a lot of trade-related scenarios, which are definitely worth a look. It seems like the Astros of 2010 have left themselves with three choices: blow up the team and trade its stars; don't trade the stars and then blow up the team when their contracts run out; or throw Bud Norris at the Cardinals three times a series and trade him to the Cubs for Starlin Castro after he goes 17-0. 

Something interesting at the Globe-Democrat yesterday, re: player numbers.

Just why would Jay, who had worn 68 in spring training, be assigned a number previously worn by one of the greatest Cardinals in recent memory?

"We're just trying to squeeze them in at this point," Rowan said. "Tony (La Russa) will say something if a guy is in the 60s. He has said it before to me and we have had to change guys out. So I try to solve that in the beginning and go ahead and change them. Jon Jay at 68, I just don't think it looks good. Me personally, I don't like having guys in the 60s out there."

Player numbering is an arcane process, and one that has not been altogether amenable to my favorite players over the last several years—16 has bounced around the starting lineup, and 15 went briefly to Matt Holliday in the year Jim Edmonds was actually retired. But it was a weird feeling to get a look behind the curtain of things that had been pressed upon me subliminally: 

"That's quite a few numbers that aren't available," Rowan said. "You look and see what you have left. Certain numbers like 30, 31, we always consider those pitchers numbers."

No, no, no—I consider those pitcher's numbers! I alone, through my own mental processes! It's difficult to learn I'm not a unique and delicate flower in so public and final a way, but I suppose I had to learn it somehow.