Five weeks ago I wrote about the fastest man in baseball, Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton, whose stolen base numbers at Single-A were crazy. And since then they’ve stayed every bit as crazy.
Hamilton stole four bases last night, giving him 67 steals in 56 games this season. Minor-league seasons are 140 games, rather than 162 games, yet he’s still on pace for 160 steals on the year. Seriously: One. Six. Zero.
He also stole 103 bases in 135 games last year and now has 232 steals (at an 84 percent success rate) in 303 games since the Reds made him a second-round pick in the 2009 draft.
And what makes Hamilton such an intriguing prospect is that he’s not just insanely fast, he can actually hit too. This year he’s batting .322 with 33 walks and a .410 on-base percentage in 56 games, and while 54 of his 74 hits are singles he has shown some power and … well, he turns almost every single into a double by just stealing second base anyway.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.