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Here's your comprehensive 2023 Houston Astros season primer

Here's your comprehensive 2023 Houston Astros season primer
It's that time of year again! Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

What the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson meant to say, or at least should have said, was … “in the spring training, a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of baseball.”

It seems like only yesterday that Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker was racing into foul territory down the right field line and snaring Nick Castellanos’ pop fly to clinch the 2022 World Series title. Time sure flies when you’re picking up trophies and celebrating another championship because …

In two short days, Astros pitchers and catchers report to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for spring training and another season of wrecking the American League. Wow, that was fast.

Position players report for duty next week and the Astros first spring training game is Feb. 25 against, thank you Mr. Schedule Maker, the New York Mets. You know the Mets, the team that Justin Verlander left the Astros for $86 million of fool’s gold. More precisely, one fool’s gold. How’s that song go? Money can’t buy you love. Or a World Series ring.

The spring training opener will be televised on AT&T SportsNet SW. First pitch is 12:05 p.m. Houston time. AT&T SportsNet will air several spring games, including March 8 against Team Venezuela. The entire Astros TV crew is back: Todd Kalas, Geoff Blum and Julia Morales.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, 5454 Haverhill Road in West Palm Beach, Fla., is home to both the Astros and the Washington Nationals for spring training. The stadium will be even-Steven this year: the Astros finished 2022 with the World Series title and best record in the American League (106-56), while the Nationals were dead last in the National League (55-107). If you’re going to a game in West Palm, you might want to check the schedule to make sure you get an Astros day.

Spring training used to be a bargain for fans and families who were in Florida on spring break. Not so much anymore. Depending on the opponent, Astros tickets on the secondary market can range from $36 for the Banana Boat Lawn to as high as $151 behind home plate. This isn’t your grandfather’s spring training anymore.

This should be the calmest and most carefree spring training for the Astros. No one can deny they are the best team in MLB with their second World Series championship in six years and multiple World Series and League Championship Series appearances during that span. Their legacy is unchallenged.

The roster is pretty much set, with their last slot appearing to be filled by Matt Gage. Manager Dusty Baker is back to turn toothpicks into splinters and All-Star Jose Abreu joins the fold for another charge to the World Series. All is good, and under budget, in Astros World.

The Astros have a new general manager this season, Dana Brown. Let’s describe his job, at least for the near future, this way: he’s driving a Tesla.

Here are the rules if you’re attending a spring training hoping to have Jose Altuve sign your Astros cap. MLB dictates no autographs during a game, even if Altuve is done after three innings and heading to the clubhouse. Better to show up before the game and catch your favorite player at a practice field outside the stadium.

The Astros will play 28 pre-season games, wrapping up their Florida stay against the Cardinals on March 26, before heading north (technically north by northwest) for their first game of the 2023 season March 30 against the White Sox at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros need to beat the Pale Hose that night or they won’t be able to sell beer the rest of the season. (They will have lost the opener - thank you Highlights Magazine in my dentist’s office.)

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The Braves blew the game open against Hader on Monday night. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

When the Astros signed Josh Hader to anchor the back of the bullpen with Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu, we thought the club might have the best 'pen in MLB.

But at this early stage in the season, nobody is confusing these guys with Octavio Dotel, Brad Lidge, and Billy Wager.

Heading into the ninth inning on Monday night, the Astros handed the ball to Hader trailing the Braves 2-1. Instead of keeping the game close and giving the Astros' offense one more chance, the Braves teed off on the closer putting the game out of reach and ultimately winning 6-1.

Hader has one save on the season with an ERA over nine. Which has us wondering, do the Astros have a Hader problem?

Don't miss the video above as ESPN Houston's John Granato and Lance Zierlein weigh in!

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