When the Houston Astros first started nosing around Palm Beach County for a new spring-training site a few years back, the news was met with interest but not the kind that has everybody talking, even the people who don’t follow sports.
For a real sensation you’d need the Yankees or Red Sox coming to town, or maybe a return of the Dodgers to Vero Beach. I mean, there’s baseball and there’s circus.
Anyway, the Washington Nationals and the Astros are coming to a spring facility near 45th Street and Haverhill Road in 2017, if all construction projections are met. That means a ton of new tourism money whether those teams are up or down at a given moment, but there’s a bonus in the way the Astros are playing lately.
Houston entered the weekend with the American League’s best record, which is difficult enough to get used to since the Astros were in the National League for their first 51 seasons of existence and only made the switch in 2013.
Far more startling is the notion that the team could be much good in any league, including Triple-A.
The Astros haven’t had a winning record since 2008. They’ve either been in rebuilding mode or demolition mode since then, depending on how kind you wish to be about it.
Worst record in the majors in 2011, 2012 and 2013, with an average of 108 losses during that stretch.
Made the Marlins look like kings.
So if the Astros are suddenly going to be contenders, and if Texans go as big in their bandwagon baseball fever as they do with everything else, it looks like West Palm Beach is getting a better deal than anybody knew.
Get this, too. Last summer Sports Illustrated ran a cover story predicting Houston would win the 2017 World Series championship. Whether it was a little tongue-in-cheek or not, the Astros have been stockpiling young talent for years now as a result of their pitiful progress in the standings.
Owner Jim Crane, the guy with the Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, has plenty of money to spend on locking up that talent and in chasing down some more.
Equally important, Major League Baseball’s amateur draft is tonight and the Astros own two of the top five picks.
To recap, in 2017 Palm Beach County will have St. Louis and Miami training in Jupiter plus Washington and Houston training in West Palm Beach. The way things are shaping up, the Marlins are in real danger of being the weakest link.