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Look Back in Anger?
by Derek Smart
Every once in a while I'll stroll through the archives of my ancient writing history, just to remind myself of what I was thinking at a particular time, and as luck would have it, I happened across a vitriolic little ditty I scribbled comparing the rivalry with the Cardinals to that with tonight's opponent, the Astros. Here's a bit to chew on:
Falling to the Cardinals is bad, of course, but I can handle it because it's part of the story. The Redbird rivalry is an epic tale, one with victories and setbacks, an ebb and flow over games and seasons that may be painful at times, but feels natural. There is the respect of equals that is part of the combat, a wink shared between old gladiators as if to say, "Good to see you old man. I hate to kill you, but it's my job."
There is none of this in the confrontations with Houston. I noted in my pre-season coverage of the Astros that Craig Biggio strikes me as the quintessential schoolyard bully. This holds for the entire team, but it goes a step further.
The Astros are New Money, but not with the egalitarian sense one sees in movies, a la Trading Places. The Rocket Men do not spend their days breaking down societal barriers, showing the stuffed shirts how empty their lives have been as they sit in their penthouses, trapped in their stratified class system, thinking they're better than the hoi polloi and everyday riff raff.
I'll admit that in retrospect this might not be entirely fair - perhaps it's even outright inflammatory - but while it may not be an apt description of the team in general, it does accurately reflect my feelings toward the club: I hates 'em.
The emotions are akin to the ones that come up when thinking about the Mets of the mid-eighties to early-nineties. There's a similar swagger and attitude endemic to both teams, and that combined with their success and seeming disdain for those perceived as inferior - a category that invariably included the Cubs - is tailor-made to put my nettle peddle to the metal.
But if things don't change soon for Houston, they may be mirroring those Mets more than they would like. After coming in second in the 1990 NL East with a record that would have earned them a wildcard birth had it existed, they became in successive years a mediocre team, a bad team, and finally, an execrable team, finishing 1993 with their worst record and winning percentage since 1965.
Once this Met decline was in full swing, I found that I no longer felt the ire toward them that I once did. The men who rubbed me the wrong way were no longer there, and even if they had been, the team had become so harmless that the player's demeanors which so enraged me in the past would have been laughable in the present.
Now, as the Astros roster ages, they are in dangerous lockstep with their twins in temperament, and if they don't turn things around - and quickly - I may soon find myself feeling pity for those I used to despise.