It occurred to me the other day that watching this year’s version of the Houston Astros is a lot like watching the Keanu Reeves cinematic classic The Replacements.
Granted aside from the Matrix Trilogy the words “Keanu Reeves cinematic classic” are rarely used but stay with me here.
In The Replacements, which came out in 2000, Reeves plays a “replacement” player who crosses the picket lines and leads a rag tag group of washed up players on the Washington Sentinels to victory during a NFL strike.
The movie is based on what occurred during the 1987 NFL season when the regular players walked out and replacement players were used for around a quarter of the regular season.
During the strike games the Washington Redskins, portrayed as the Washington Sentinels in the movie due to the NFL rarely giving permission to use real team names in movies, had a 3-1 record.
The Redskins would ultimately win the Super Bowl over the Denver Broncos. As a show of thanks and support for allowing them to get there each of the replacement players was given a Super Bowl ring by the Redskins along with the regular players.
So what does a movie based on actual events that occurred on a football field over 25 years ago have to do with the Astros today? I am glad you asked.
While there is not a strike in Major League Baseball this year the parallels to the movie ring especially true for the men in orange and blue. Much like the “replacement” players of old, the current Astros for the most part of serving as placeholders keeping roster spots warm until the real players return.
It is no secret that when the magic rebuilding project that the Astros have started is completed in 5-10 years very few, if any, of the current players will still be with the team. This is not to say that there are not some good ballplayers on the team but is more of a reflection on the focus on building prospects through the draft and building for the long term.
Of course, no team can just take 5-10 years off while it rebuilds so a roster of players was constructed to be just competitive enough to not embarrass the team while coming at a fraction of the cost of most other Major League rosters.
This is not to say that the team is incapable of winning.
Much like the 1987 Redskins and their replacement players, the chips will fall in the right spots and the ball will tend to bounce favorably now and then for the Astros.
In fact the team has already won more games this year than many thought they would despite racking up serious frequent flyer miles between Houston and the Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City with nearly daily roster moves.
And contrasting the preseaon predictions that the Astros would be the worst team in baseball this year the Miami Marlins actually have a worse record than the Astros despite having more so called Major Leaguers on the roster. At the time of this posting the Astros have two more victories than the Marlins. Time will tell who really gets crowned worst team in baseball at the end of the season.
Of course if the goal really is to stock the farm teams with the most draft picks the Astros best not get too good too soon and risk missing out on that number one draft pick.
That is not to say that the Astros, or any other team, would ever throw a game but only the team with the fewest wins gets to pick first. This year that battle will definitely be between the Marlins and the Astros with no other teams in the same zip code of futility.
It just goes to show that one can never truly be sure what will happen despite what all of the so called experts predict. There is still time for a flurry of roster moves between now and the end of the season and Bo Porter doing his best Gene Hackman impersonation could manage to field a competitive team but remember that these are not the players that the franchise is building the future on; they are just the replacements.
Of course that doesn’t mean that the Astros and the Marlins for that matter are playing any less hard than the players on the other 28 teams. It just means that the deck is stacked against them and they are swimming against a strong current.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it might be time to stage a mini Keanu Reeves film festival. Or as Bill and Ted would say, “most excellent” (cue air guitar moves).
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson