2017, Part One: Houston, we have a (sort of) problem . . .

The Astros own baseball at the All-Star break, but . . . but . . . but . . .

The Astros own baseball at the All-Star break, but . . . but . . . but . . .

If you predicted entering spring training that the Houston Astros would be a) the team to beat, and b) next to impossible to beat, they would have wrapped you in a straitjacket and sent you on a one-way trip to the Delta Quadrant. But when not rubbing its eyes over the Astros’ 1986 Mets-like ownership of the game thus far, baseball spent the first half of 2017 wondering about certain rule changes actual or to be, wondering whether the baseballs themselves were given shots of rocket fuel (total Show home runs in May and June: 2,161; or, one homer plus per game of Lou Gehrig’s former consecutive-games played streak), and wondering whether the unwritten rules needed to be overthrown post haste.

The DH in the NL? No. But just suppose . . .

You can all relax. For now. The National League adopting the designated hitter is mere speculation. For now. Even Commissioner Rob Manfred, a man who seems decisive one moment and hesitant the next, particularly on very serious issues, says the “most likely result on the designated hitter for the foreseeable future is the status quo.” For now.

So it won’t be the Royals v. the NL after all, but . . .

Cain will be an All-Star starter; Infante (thank God) won't.

Cain will be an All-Star starter; Infante (thank God) won’t.

As regards the final All-Star voting—fans, players, etc.—minus the Last Man online vote, a few sobering thoughts:

1) Four Royals turned out to be voted as starters, after all, compared to eight Reds voted but six left remaining in the 1957 ballot box stuffing scandal. (Then-commissioner Ford Frick, we repeat, removed Wally Post and Gus Bell from the starting lineup in favour of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.) Apparently, the Kansas City stuffers just didn’t quite have what it took to set a new record for voting perfidy.

Golden Trout, Golden Rookie (and yes he SHOULD be the MVP . . . )

An angelic Trout of many colours . . .

Maybe the one thing absolutely guaranteed about 2012 was that Mike Trout would nail the American League’s Rookie of the Year honours, which was made official with Monday night’s announcement. It wasn’t even close.

Trout landed every last first place vote possible as the unanimous pick. Nobody else in the running—not Yoenis Cespedes, not Yu Darvish, not Wei-Yin Chen, not Jarrod Parker—got any higher than 45 percent of a share of the voting. Bryce Harper landed the National League’s Rookie of the Year honours in a slightly tighter competition, with five more votes than runner-up Wade Miley and 70 percent of a share to Miley’s 66. The remaining National League contenders—Todd Frazier, Wilin Rosario, Norichika Aoki, Yonder Alonso (now, that’d be a name, if he had more than a little long ball power), Matt Carpenter, Jordan Pacheco—fell well behind Harper and Miley.