The Diehards

added 7/15/2006 by Daniel Cohen

As most AstrosDaily readers will know, the Diehards are different from the Fair-weathers. A Diehard will cringe with every out and leap with every hit, actually screaming at their TV or kicking an old box as Albert Pujols dumps yet another slider into the Crawford Boxes just as the beloved Bees of the Bayou pull within striking distance.

A Diehard fan also remembers the low point of the season with crystal clarity, though “low” is in the eye of the beholder. In the eye of this beholder, June 16th was the worst day of the year for the home team. Having the good fortune of landing tickets sitting next to the ballboy on the third base line was counterbalanced by a lopsided 7-2 decision in favor of the one of the worst pitchers on one of the worst teams in baseball. It’s bad enough Scott Elarton can’t crack most 25-man-rosters. It’s far worse that he’s an Astro reject with an ERA big enough to anchor anything but a rotation. It’s like being the victim of a rare contemporary stretch of Lima time.

A Diehard fan also throws a chips and beer party over even the mildest midseason pickup. Aubrey Huff is better than chips and beer but no Carlos Beltran or Randy Johnson. We sent two darn good prospects packing for a consistent blue chip. Huff isn’t here to bash. He gives Garner unique lineup options and an upgrade in most scenarios.

This year’s offensive floundering has produced a variety of lineups that accent the ability of different Astros. The speedier and more defensive lineup includes Adam Everett and Willy Taveras while Mike Lamb and Preston Wilson can be used for a little more pop. With Huff, he can rotate the corners and outfield without having to sacrifice quite as much on the defensive end. While Ensberg is on the DL, he can step in at third or move into left for an aggressive southpaw lineup featuring Lamb in his best year in the box and a true second half baseball player in Huff. Imagine a fully healthy team with either Lamb, Ensberg, Burke or Huff coming off the bench to take hacks against a generic major league relief journeyman. Eddie Guardado might throw up on the mound.

If only we could teach one of these bats to play shortstop.

The Astros are probably worth about 82-85 wins without Huff, so the acquisition is strong enough to give them a fighting playoff chance in the so-so NL Central. The results will heavily affect the grade. The short track record is almost as good as it gets so far; Huff hit the game-winning dinger on day one. Still, the Diehards know a season is 162 games.

Of course, the Diehards know of this magical left-handed bat named Aubrey Huff and all of the things he can do to power a lineup already. They also know of the lesser known man meant to replace the great Gary Gaetti as hitting coach. Sean Berry is one of the more classic and lesser known Killer Bs. He rounded out the third base platoon with Bill Spiers to complement the power in the lineup provided by Bidge, Bags and Derek Bell from 1996 to 1998. Berry knows how to hit and he has been coaching in the minor league system since March of last year. His task is to teach some on-base percentage to a struggling staff and to help Morgan Ensberg remember how to turn on some of those high fastballs to get his average up.

(Side note: Notice how little we truly appreciate Morgan Ensberg for his pure offensive value.

	   BA  HR RBI   R   OBP  SLG
Ensberg  .236  19  44  49  .390 .500
Dunn     .241  28  62  64  .372 .550

The Diehards know the value of a .390 on-base percentage.)

At this point, most of us want the Astros to win one any way they can. I remember Berry once driving in the winning run in a day game by getting plunked on the shoulder with loaded sacks.

As of today, most of the Diehards would consider that acceptable.