1. The Balking Dead
The Houston Astros’ recent move to the American League, after fifty years in the National League, still stings. They’ll now be forced to play the far superior Texas Rangers during the regular season, and they couldn’t even get Lance Berkman to come back and be their designated hitter. Instead, he signed with another team in the same division. The Rangers.
But right now, no one really cares all that much about the Astros-Rangers rivalry. What people want to know is if the Astros can make history—by losing more games than any baseball team in the modern era. They’re definitely on track—they lost 106 games in 2011 and 107 games last year. With new owner Jim Crane and new general manager Jeff Luhnow paring down the roster to youngsters and no-names, things could get even worse. The team will have an expected payroll of around $20 million—a paltry sum that’s less than the individual salaries of at least a dozen Major League stars. These Astros could lose 119 games, like the 2003 Detroit Tigers, or even 120, the contemporary record set by the 1962 New York Mets.
And that might be fine with Crane and Luhnow. Having the worst season in baseball history would, in a sense, be the best thing that could happen to the Astros, because the team’s real priority is to get the number one overall draft pick and the highest possible signing budget next season. Not for nothing was new manager Bo Porter hired from the Washington Nationals, which endured six years of misery to stockpile the young talent that helped the team get to the playoffs last year. Maybe Porter will be around long enough to see that happen. After all, three years after losing 119 games, the Tigers made it to the World Series. —Jason Cohen
2. The One-Question Interview: Ricardo C. Ainslie
A native of Mexico City who moved to the United States when he was seventeen, psychologist-psychoanalyst Ricardo C. Ainslie has always followed the news in the country of his birth. When the drug-cartel wars heated up in 2008, he decided to devote much of the next few years to traveling across the border and researching what was happening to the city of Juárez, ground zero for the horrific violence that has scarred Mexico. Ainslie, who lives in Austin and teaches at the University of Texas, took a dozen or so trips to Juárez and gained the trust of sources high and low (including numerous government officials and the mistress of one mid-level narco) to produce The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War (UT Press).
Q: What attitudes about the drug war that you had going into this project were overturned by your reporting?
A: Like everybody in the U.S., my assumption was that there was a high degree of corruption at all levels of government. And of course that’s partly true; in the seven or eight states where the cartels control things, they control everything. The idea that there could be individuals who were trying to do the right thing was something I had not been prepared for. So one of the surprises for me was the mayor of Juárez at the time, a man named José Reyes Ferriz. My assumption—my prejudice—was that this guy was probably in bed with the Juárez cartel. How else do you get elected mayor of Juárez? But over the course of a year and a half, I developed the conviction that not only was this man not in bed with the cartel, but he had actually put his life in considerable peril in his efforts to deal with the cartel. He became one of the good characters in the story. Though he’s not a man without flaws.
3. Goodnight to You
The weathered granite marker outside the sprawling folk-Victorian home says it all: “Charles and Mary Ann (Dyer) Goodnight: Together they conquered a new land and performed a duty to man and to God.” The “new land” was the Panhandle, where the couple built the region’s first permanent cattle ranch, in 1876. On April 13 visitors can celebrate that legacy with the public opening of the Charles Goodnight Historical Center, which includes