Fandom: once you’re gone, can you come back?

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Rob Neyer has a very good — and uncharacteristically personal — post up today about the Royals.  He was a fan dating back to 1976. Then, six or seven years ago they lost him through mismanagement, contempt for their fans and overall misery. And now he wonders: is it too late to come back?

Is my love for my Royals gone, or merely dormant? I don’t know. I will be checking the minor-league stats for all those prospects Dayton Moore has assembled. Maybe that means I’m already there. But checking stats for a few minutes every week is one thing; investing three hours of baseball time every night is quite another.

When the Royals’ hot prospects begin joining the big club, I suspect that I’ll tune in, for curiosity’s sake. Will I stick with them through 2012, when they’re fighting to avoid 90 losses?

That will be the real test, and I don’t have the slightest idea. For most of my life, I was a Royals fan, that particular shade of blue coursing through every vein in my body. Today, I don’t know what I am.

I don’t know that you can come back once you’re gone. Sports mean a lot to us, but once we lose that connection — be it to a certain team or to a sport as a whole — we also realize that the connection is tied up in sentimentality and irrationality and all kinds of things that we realize, ultimately, we can do without if forced to.  In some ways it’s like love: you don’t fall into it consciously, via some studied decision. And when you fall out, you can’t decide just to fall back into it again.

Which, in Rob’s case, is probably OK. He’s immersed in baseball every day and has obviously learned how to find joy in it without an active rooting interest. And of course, because of what he does for a living, he’s not going anywhere.

But your average fan can decide to move on if they find themselves in Rob’s shoes vis-a-vis the Royals.  It’s probably a good thing for those who own and run sports teams to remember that there’s no law of nature that keeps us watching, rooting and buying.

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.