Gods, they bleed too

Alessandro Zilio
5 min readApr 23, 2024

Habits are a scary thing.

If you stop for a minute and think about your daily routine, you’ll find out that most of what you do, you’ve been doing for a long time.

Maybe you like to spice things up once in a while, go out for some drinks, watch a movie, try and cook something up if it doesn’t kill you, just to get that kick, that feeling that yes, you are out of your cozy comfort zone, you’re damn risking it this time.

Even in those cases, novelty tends to become customary: movies and pizza on Saturday, a beer with your pal under the Friday Night Lights reminiscing the good ol’ days and here you go, what was new is now part of your own Groundhog Day.

That applies to every single human being, from me writing this to you reading it, to baseball players too, even if we sometimes tend to consider them and all athletes as supernatural creatures.

Sure, they do things like throwing baseballs 95+ mph, and hitting those 450+ ft on occasions, and that stuff is incomprehensible for us mere mortals, but outside of that they are just like us, imprisoned in their daily lives, monotone as if not more than ours.

Everything you do for a long period of time becomes automatic, something you act on almost without thinking about it, a concept written in stone that you follow from start to finish in the most consistent manner, a script that gives you a procedure returning the same, expected result.

And such was the life of a Houston Astros player in the Golden Era, from 2017 onwards: come to the field, do your job, get the W, wait for the end of the season, then here come the Playoffs, a boring ALCS and the cruel flip of a coin that are the World Series.

Well, until now: for the first time in seven years, 2020 did not exist if someone asks, the Houston Astros suck.

Yep, they do.

I could bury you in numbers as to why each and every Astro is having a down season, from the embarassment that is Jose Abreu, time is undefeated, to the unlucky yet ungodly showings of what was painted as the new Dotel-Lidge-Wagner.

Even those off to a nice start have their scars: Altuve and Yainer Diaz can’t buy a hit with RISP, Yordan and Tucker have dramatic reverse splits, Rafael Montero is the luckiest Astro in ages and anyone not named Ronel Blanco, bless your soul old young man, is not exempt of critics.

I won’t go much further than the record though: as of now the Astros are 7–16, which would be a death sentence in some places but not in the AL West, where they are just 5 away from the lead…yeah this Division is putrid indeed.

They won one series, tied another and lost the remaining ones, with three sweeps, tying last year’s total in 20 games or so.

There are many reasons to be actually worried: as it was constructed in the offseason by Dana Brown, nominal GM of the Astros albeit a mere spokesman if you can read between the lines, this roster is lacking to say the least.

Depth is nowhere to be seen: while there are 5 starters in the IL, not even a meager innings eater was added to provide a fail-safe in case of injuries, relying on the likes of Hunter Brown, good stuff but no mental strength, JP France, bad stuff but grits to sell, and Blanco to bridge those gaps.

Even worse is the bullpen, one that lost 200 innings of quality replaced by $95M of closer in Josh Hader and nothing else, a pray to the gods that a mix of Seth Martinez, Montero and Tayler Scott could do the trick. They are doing it so far, the backend trio…not so much.

Lineup is doing fine, they cannot buy a knock with runners in scoring position, a situation where their power all but disappears, but almost everyone is average or better save for Bregman, not doing himself any favors in a contract year, Chas and whatever the 1B abyss is.

Did anyone really believe Abreu was going to be playable after his 2023 season, now a 37 y.o. first baseman with horrible peripherals and an inhability to hit gas since 2022? And why put his burden on a Jon Singleton or Trey Cabbage? I guess the back of a baseball card can tell things a Savant page can’t.

Most of all, the Astros look dead: this has nothing to do with numbers, stats, expected results or anything.

It’s what Jeff Bagwell loves the most: the eye test.

What that tells you right now is that Houston is a car with no driver, a luxury one at that. I didn’t expect new manager Joe Espada to be out there tearing the guys down but as things are going, someone should say something, and maybe they did.

JV, Bregman, even Altuve though he’s more of a silent leader, one of the big boys, those were fun days in hindsight, is bound to speak up and tell it how it is: as of April 2024, the Astros are playing disgusting baseball.

They score a lot or nothing at all, they are walking everyone and barely holding leads, they are the worst baserunners in the league and are equally pitiful at home and on the road.

As to why that is, in a small but consistent part if you ask me, let me go back to how fickle, dangerous and misleading habits are.

A good portion of this Astros roster has never known true failure: Yordan, Bregman, Tucker and many others have been part of a dynasty that has gone to 7 consecutive ALCS, 4 WS berths and two titles.

That is more October than what 99% of baseball players have and will ever experience.

As brushing your teeth, drinking your coffee, that pizza on Saturday, Playoffs became an habit for this Houston Astros team, and that isn’t helping at all.

They risked big time last year, when they went from out of the PO to Division winners in the span of a week thanks to legendary harakiris by the Rangers and Mariners, but this time they are digging a deeper grave.

Mind you, it’s still early in the season, but this might be the end of the Golden Era as we know it.

To get to 90 wins they need to play .570 baseball or so from now on, tough but feasible, and if they keep losing 2 out of 3 games they’ll be all but dead in a month according to FanGraphs projections.

Habits lull you to sleep, and Astros players are sleeping on what a terrible April could mean moving forward.

Regular season might have no meaning as long as you get into the Playoffs, but you need to win a game or two to get there and the Astros are not winning much these days.

While a freefall of historic proportions could be the wake-up call this team needs, it could also mean that the clock already struck midnight on the season, if they wake up too late.

If that’s the case, there are going to be departures, changes, occasions to savor the memories of what has been, and still could be, a run for the ages.

Hopefully, it won’t come to that.

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Alessandro Zilio

Italian baseball stathead. I’ll write about MLB, NPB and Korean dramas. A lot of Astros related content and obscure references.