Offensively, Michael Bourn could be the key to everything the Astros hope to accomplish. If he's the player Ed Wade thought he'd be when he made the Brad Lidge trade, he transforms the lineup.12 at bats over three games, and Bourne's batting average is .010 less than it ended up last year, and this is how Justice defines hot? Nevermind that Bourne is just above the Mendoza Line as an Astro, or that he seems to be struggling to understand the geometry of Center Field defense. Nope, none of that matters.
His has the kind of speed that can win games, fluster pitchers and put Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee into position to drive in a ton of runs. He would transform the Astros from an artistic standpoint as well.
Last season's original blueprint began with speed (Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui) at the top of the order. They bring a dimension of speed few other teams have.
Speed is out. Speed doesn't compute. But if you've got speed, if you can make running worthwhile, you've got a valuable weapon.
Last season's plan fell apart when Bourn didn't hit. He finished the season with a .229 batting average and 111 strikeouts. He started this spring very badly, with his averaging sinking to .167 a few days ago.
Maybe, just maybe, he's getting hot at the right time. He has been on base seven times in 12 plate appearances his last three games and raised his batting average from .167 to .219.
In order to understand this you have to understand how the ego of Richard Justice effects his sportswriting. Richard's been around a long time, and he does have a decent institutional memory of Major League Baseball. He's got a list of funny quips and stories a mile long. Richard also likes to be treated as if he's important, and he likes a certain style of player. Players learn quickly that catering to Justice's twin ideals of upstanding citizenry and catering to his ego (his "I am the media" explosion is still mocked) lest you fall out of favor, is a good way to gain a friend in the media. (being a UT grad doesn't hurt either)
What gets lost in all of this however is that Justice, while a good scribe, lacks the serious analytical ability to really offer any meaningful insight into the prospects of a team.
The point of all this background is to point out that the Astros, even IF Micheal Bourn stays hot, are probably not deep enough in starting pitching or on the bench to seriously compete this year for the playoffs. On top of that, after one and a half equivilent seasons Bourn's batting average is .237 and his OPS is a miniscule .612, expecting a turnaround of epic proportions is probably putting too much pressure on a man who's got good speed, but serious issues with the other four tools required to play baseball.
Blind optimism I can understand from the fans, but from journalists whose job it is to provide insight and analysis?
Houston should expect a little better than that.