How the Astros keep getting better and better

There are a number of teams in baseball right now that are between contention cycles, to put it euphemistically. The actual figure is a matter of debate -- somewhere between eight and 11 -- but it's hard to say for sure because some of the "rebuilders" are actually in fringe postseason contention.

Still, even if we go with the low end of that estimate, that's a good chunk of the MLB landscape for which the leading 2019 storylines are entirely about the future. Oh, game stories are still produced each night, and players on these teams are discussed and profiled. Even so, all of those daily happenings are tinged with the possibility of, and the hope for, better days to come.

For those who cover those noncompeting teams from February through September, with a little winter meetings action and some hot stove rumblings mixed in, it gets tedious. Every day becomes an exercise in rewrapping the same newspaper. So when the regular season comes around and the Houston Astros come to town, they arrive bearing the gift of the obvious narrative: The Astros typify what Rebuilding Team X hopes to become.

This isn't that narrative, but it's worth asking: What did the Astros hope to become?