Embracing the nadir (Astros 2013)

After two consecutive "worst in franchise history" seasons, it appears the Astros, despite their stellar performance on Opening Night, are poised for a third. This is not a good thing: no one wants to see their team lose, and no one wants to see their team at the bottom of the league standings, the laughing stock of others, the perpetual target of every sportswriter's "incompetence" musings. But it's not necessarily a bad thing either, if losing paves the way to future victory. And that's the promise, from the leadership of this team, that holds a lot of fans today.

Rebuilding is the name of the game, and in the process, there will be losses. There will be trades and there will be minor league success. There will be #1 draft picks. There will be times where every hack makes a joke about the players who get paid more than the entire Astros' roster. There will be embarrassing games. There will be times where Marwin Gonzalez is interviewed in the same vein as he would be for a walk-off home run in the playoffs, all for getting a single hit in the bottom of the ninth to break up what would have been a perfect game. And then one day, there will be wins.

But before those wins come, I recommend embracing the nadir. Take pride in our team, knowing that they will probably never again be as bad as they are now. There's something to be said there. Something proud about losing so badly that you lose better than you've ever lost before. This team doesn't have much hope this year, and that's been admitted. But if they have to lose, let's, as fans, ask them to lose in glorious fashion. And that means breaking "unbreakable" records.

Unbreakable records are those that, thanks to changes in the game or the fact that the level of science or talent has shifted, are no longer reachable. Of course, there are only a few actual unbreakable records, such as Old Hoss Radbourn's fifty-nine (or possibly sixty) wins in one season. But there's a large number of records that seem unattainable, such as Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game, but are not actually unbreakable. These are the ones that this Astros team should reach for.

  • Team Season Strikeout Record (1529) – Currently held by the 2010 Diamondbacks, this seems to be the easiest to break thanks to advances in the science of pitching. The Astros are currently on pace for 2322. This should come down a little, but 1530 is certainly in sight.
  • Team Single Game Strikeout Record (20) – This one will be really hard to break, but there's even more of an incentive to do so: currently the '98 Astros hold the record but are tied with the '86 Mariners, '96 Tigers, and '12 Mariners. It's time to break ahead of the pack and hold this solely. In a typical home game, the Astros will face at minimum twenty-seven at-bats, so twenty-one strikeouts is not unattainable. Just difficult.
  • Most Consecutive Scoreless Innings (56) – The 1903 Pirates hold this record and it doesn't look like it'll fall any time soon. It requires at least six consecutive shutouts, plus an additional three shutout innings to break. The Astros are currently working on this, with eighteen, but that's not even close.
  • Most No-Hitters Against a Team in One Season (2) – Two no-hitters suffered in one season has happened fifteen times, most recently the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays. No team has ever been no-hit three times in one season though, and now's as good a time as any.
  • Most Consecutive Losses (26) – The 1889 Louisville Colonels managed to put together the worst skid ever, and it has stood for 124 years. But the time is ripe!
  • Most Grounds-Into-Double-Play (174) – This one, currently held by the 1990 Red Sox, is probably the least likely for this team to break, as it requires actually getting to base in the first place. There have been no GIDPs for the Astros this year. Don't count on this growing too fast.
  • Fewest Intentional Walks (10) – The 1961 Kansas City Athletics only received ten intentional passes, the record by far. Can the Astros break this? Certainly seems possible: if there's no base runners, there's no reason for a pitcher to intentionally add one.

While some of these records may seem daunting, they're worth breaking, or attempting to break. On the surface, there's no pride in being the worst. But there is an investment of pride. Imagine, when the rebuilding has found success and the Astros aim for a title, how much more impressive it will be in the face of record-setting failure only a few years prior. When your children ask if you were there for that nadir, you can say you were there, you remember it, and you embraced it.