Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 4/5/12
HOUSTON -- Although baseball is not a game of dumb chance, there is a certain hammer of mathematical reality the Houston Astros can use to knock the crud off the way things feel around here, now that Astros are getting picked last by just about everybody. "Well, somebody's gotta be last," second baseman Matt Downs said. "They gotta pick somebody." Indeed. Somebody has to be first, which means somebody has to be last. Which means don't take it personally, it's just that everybody else is better than you. That's how the Astros are taking it. Now for a little bookkeeping. FoxSports.com has the Astros ranked 30th out of 30 in its power rankings. So does ESPN.com. So does Sports Illustrated. So does CBSSports.com. I could go on, but the point is that as the Astros prepare for Friday's opening day, pretty much everybody expects them to be the worst team in Major League Baseball. The Astros won't score much this year, but at least they'll give up a lot of runs. Nobody on the team seems to have deluded himself about this. Mostly the Astros talk about how maybe some of the young guys can learn quickly and how some of the veterans might be able to help them. The playoffs are not much of a topic, so psychologically the Astros hunker down into that place athletes have to train themselves to go. That place where yesterday is only a vapor and tomorrow is only a theory. "On any given day," manager Brad Mills said. "That's the kind of motto I'm looking at." In baseball, that given day comes about one out of every three. That's how it went last year, when the Astros went 56-106, which makes for a winning percentage of .346. The team might be even less good than it was last year, but one out of three seems to be right at about where the game and its math have settled the bedrock for bad baseball. The Astros may be the worst team in Major League Baseball, but these guys are getting paid, too, you know. "On any given day, these guys can do things to really just play maybe a lot better than people are thinking they are," Mills said. In other words, tickets are still available. The good news for the Astros is, that's OK. For now, at least. The diner is under new ownership, and it's going to take a while to get the mold out of the ceiling tiles and restore some confidence in the menu. A few years, maybe. But everybody seems to understand that. The Astros have been good recently enough, and ownership is new enough, that they can be forgiven for a rough rebuilding period. Maybe that hurts a lot of people. It probably does. Sports and personal identity are deeply intertwined in so many cases, that being a fan of the worst team can sort of make you feel like the worst yourself. But take it from somebody who's actually on the team. They gotta pick somebody. "It just happened to be us this year, again," Downs said. "Maybe we can prove them wrong."
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