Astros Prospect Attachment Syndrome

Wayne Schields on Nov. 17, 2018

Hello. I’m Wayne, and I have Prospect Attachment Syndrome as an Astros fan. It started over three years ago.

July 30, 2015, was a rough day. My upstart Houston Astros were in a position to make a playoff run, and the MLB trade deadline was all aflutter with rumors.

I was simultaneously excited that we were about to possibly trade for a big-time bat, a legit veteran starting pitcher, and do so without severely mortgaging the promising future of the organization.

Then, news started trickling in. The Astros were getting Carlos Gomez. I threw up a little in my mouth. “I hope we didn’t give up too much,” I thought to myself. Then, I heard we were also getting Mike Fiers.

I didn’t mind getting Fiers, as the rotation definitely needed another piece. However, my next thought proved correct. I believe it was something similar to what Ralphie said on the side of the road. For the record, I didn’t think “fudge” either.

I knew immediately that acquiring Fiers meant more was going to go back to Milwaukee than I was going to be happy with. Again, I fudging proved correct. Going to the Brewers were four of my favorite Astros prospects: Domingo Santana, Adrian Houser, Josh Hader, and the one that caused me the most heartbreak, Brett Phillips.

I wasn’t alone, either. Several Astros Twitter mainstays also were distraught. Moreover, like me, they were distraught over the same guy, Brett Phillips. Losing a future bulldog on the mound? Meh. Losing a 30-homer outfielder? Bummer. Losing a potential Chris Sale type of lefty? Yeeesh, but okay. Losing a damn good dude that interacted with fans on Twitter and has the best laugh in sports? Oh, hell Nah fam! “Not Brett! Oh dear god, please not Brett!” However, of course, it was him.

Fudge fudge fudgitty fudge fudge fudge!

The rest is history, as we now know. Santana did develop into a 30-homer outfielder. Houser made his big league debut. Hader became arguably the most dominant reliever in the game. Phillips, my first prospect love, has since been dealt with yet another team and has yet to live up to his (actually, mine!) promise on the field. I still miss him and want him back. I cry sometimes.

So why bring this up? Well, a couple of reasons. First, this regrettable trade introduced me to Prospect Attachment Syndrome or PAS. No, the American Psychiatric Association has not deemed PAS worthy of addition to the DSM, but it is real. Second, with suddenly six to seven spots to fill on their 40-man roster this winter, Jeff Luhnow should be busy over the next month or so. This means that there’s a distinct possibility that some of the organization’s top prospects will no longer be with the Astros. In other words, my attachment to prospects Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley, and Yordan Alvarez, among others, will be tested.

However, with any malady, there are usually precipitants to full-blown PAS. These warning signs are often overlooked and dismissed as “male menopause,” “irrational emotional outbursts,” or, in its more nascent stages, “onset prospect dysphoria.”

Through my experiences, research, and perusals through social media, I have been able to identify three early identifiers that sufferers of PAS often have before their symptoms become acute. My hope is that I can bring awareness to Astros fans before Luhnow goes to the Winter Meetings in December and trades away our sure-fire future Hall of Famers.

Unusual Knowledge of Minor Leaguers Below Double-A

PAS sufferers tend to know when a minor league player was drafted or signed, for how much, for how much below or above slot they were, what round they were taken in, what hillside village they are from, and how much they’ve improved since joining their country’s baseball youth academy at age 13. This is all important information to the PAS afflicted. When combined with some of the more advanced metrics, it paints a picture that allows our man to lay awake at night furiously typing on their Notes app the projected Opening Day roster for their favorite team in 2025.

Our poor subject will also have an updated organization positional depth chart, for when the inevitable moment a friend wants to know how many people Cody Bohanek has to leapfrog to get his chance to prove what you already know about him, that he’s a freaking stud! In more severe cases of PAS, sufferers also have an unusual knowledge of other team’s low-level minor league players. In this case, they may also be recluses and/or sociopaths.

The Belief That Other Fans Know What the Hell You’re Talking About

You know how this plays out. You see a fellow fan at your local Academy store and immediately bypass the traditional greetings and delve right into the exciting news you wish to share:

You, the PAS Sufferer, wearing a Jon Singleton jersey: Man, did you see Carlos Machado on the MiLB stream last night? Dude is raking, am I right?

Them, the normal fan that actually spends time with his family: Um, yeah, I guess so.

You: Bro, if he keeps this up, he might crack my personal top-50 prospects rankings in the system by July and get promoted to High-A.

Them: (stares bewildered at you)

You: (grins and nods head repeatedly like a used car salesman closing the deal)

Normal-Fan: He related to Manny Machado?

You: Pffft, and you call yourself a fan. Embarrassing, bro.

Those with PAS are also likely to have limited skills in reading social cues. In this case, the PAS sufferer mistakes his friend’s blank stare for what it is, and instead, interprets the reaction as, “yeah, you feel me, bro!” Instead of the actual meaning of, “oh my god, he needs help. I bet this is how Jeffery Dahmer started out.”

The self-aware sufferer of PAS will identify quickly that they may have a problem. A quick inventory of meaningful relationships, for instance, could be helpful in early recognition. If their closest friend is @alsohasnolife, then the self-aware will be able to identify that they are heading in the wrong direction and seek early intervention, such as psychotherapy or support groups, where the sufferers can mingle with other in recovery and develop healthier coping skills.

The Belief That EVERY Prospect in Your Favorite Team’s System Will Make It to The Show and be All-Stars

Associated with this trait is the belief that you, the Uncle Rico of your family, are a capable baseball scout, and that if you could only walk away from your family obligations, you would be the next Jonathan Mayo. After all, based on the six YouTube videos you watched of him, you predicted in 2016 that Josh James would eventually be a top-100 prospect in all of baseball and take every opportunity to tell fellow fans that, “Man I told you! I called that!”

You also know with 100% certainty that the 16-year-old infielder from Venezuela with the name you can’t pronounce and hadn’t heard of the day before is the next Jose Altuve. The harsh reality is that only a ridiculously low percentage of current minor leaguers will ever make it to The Show. However, for our undeterred man, this really only applies to other teams, not their beloved organization. The problem here is obvious. That is if every prospect will make it, how do they eventually find a spot on the MLB roster?

The resulting conundrum is that our sufferer will perform mental gymnastics to lay out HIS plan for the organization which will allow all of the prospects a chance to shine without having to part with any of them. Here, the thought of losing any of these players causes anxiety and depression. To cope, our man looks ahead to the 2021 draft and maps out the organization’s priorities and which players should be targeted.

Another aspect of this trait is the fallacy of scouting statistics, not the player. PAS sufferers love statistics and can predict a player’s future performance based on how they perform in the Gulf Coast League. The PAS sufferer imagines himself in “A Beautiful Mind,” deriving meaning from connected the dots with elaborate formulas and video game statistical projections, drawn out on any random scrap of paper, window, or company letterhead while he sits in a redundant work meeting.

There are, of course, many other traits associated with PAS but the above three are the most common. You may be taking a personal inventory at this point. You may have noticed that you, too, are suffering and require immediate intervention. You may also have identified family members. Acknowledging PAS is the first step. Seek help now!

The timing of this public service announcement cannot be minimized, as soon we will witness on social media the depths of PAS when the Astros acquire J.T. Realmuto, for instance. I will caution those that seek to intervene on behalf of loved ones. Provide them with love and understanding. Let them share of their grief of losing their favorite prospect. There will be other prospects to follow, and in time, the pain subsides.

Stay strong my friends. PS, the Astros just traded Trent Thornton to the Blue Jays for Aledmys Diaz, I’ll see myself out.

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