It must irk major leaguers to no end when a media twerp like MLB-TV’s Bob Costas ? the type who has never worn a protective cup ? makes snarky, disparaging remarks about their playing abilities.

The Houston Astros have been getting a lot of that lately. Costas and many of his curt contemporaries have been predicting ? and not in a respectful way ? that this year’s Astros team will end up being the worst team in MLB history.

Houston, coming off back-to-back seasons of 106 and 107 losses, is rebuilding with young prospects and retreads.

They are so inexperienced and unheralded that the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez has a higher salary ($29 million) than all of the Astros combined ($26.6 million).

Plus, Houston has also moved from the National League to the American League West, one of MLB’s toughest divisions.

Granted, it could be another rough year for the Space City ballclub. But Costas and a lot of other punk pundits, who have never advanced beyond Tee-Ball, seem to enjoy poking fun at the Astros rather than merely saying things look bleak for the Houston squad.

They employ wisenheimer put-downs and say the Astros are so bad they’re candidates to break the New York Mets’ long-standing record for losses in a season ? 120, set in 1962 when the Mets debuted as an expansion team and were much-ridiculed.

The never-played-a-lick lot also revels in snidely comparing this year’s Houston club to the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who lost 119 games and narrowly missed equalling or breaking the Mets mark by winning five of their last six games.

For his part, Costas ? a grown man who still carries in his wallet a Mickey Mantle bubble gum card from his youth (How sad is THAT?) ? couldn’t resist taking a weak jab at the Astros on TV recently while the ‘Stros were coming close to being the victims of a perfect game at the hands of Texas’ Yu Darvish.

“Well, if you’re hoping to pitch a perfect game,” Costas said with a irritating smirk, “then the Houston Astros present a great opportunity.”

I swear, if MAS had been wearing shoes at the time, he would have thrown them at the smarmy pipsqueak’s face on the screen.

Later, after Houston broke up Darvish’s perfecto bid, Costas snickered: “Had he thrown a perfect game, it would have deserved an asterisk.”

How dare Costas or anyone else of his unaccomplished ilk take such cheap shots at a big leaguers.

Surprisingly, though, the Houston players MAS spoke with merely consider the source and shrug the disrespect off.

“The guys in this dugout are still professional players and you can’t take that away from them,” offered highly touted Astros outfielder George Springer, a former No. 1 draft pick.

“We feel we can compete with anybody. We’re gonna play the game the right way and we’re gonna play it hard and fast.”

Doug Brocail, Houston pitching coach and a former longtime MLB hurler told MAS: “We preach every day, ‘Who cares about what’s being said outside the walls? If we listened to what was said, why should we even go out and play ? let’s just throw our gloves on the field and quit.’ “

“We’re a young team,” continued Brocail, “the new owners came in and said ‘We’re gonna tear it down and start over’. And they’ve done a good job of that.

“We’ve had two solid drafts and made some very good trades (for a sprinkling of high ? character vets like slugging first baseman Carlos Pena who will be a good influence on the youngsters as they develop).”

In the long run, though, like a lot of clubs currently rebuilding ? Seattle and the New York Mets for example ? the Astros envision hard-throwing pitchers being at the core of whatever future success they have.

“Our theory is to develop the pitching throughout the minor leagues and build around guys who pitch off their fastball,” explained Brocail.

As expected, Houston is suffering growing pains. The Astros are presently last in the rugged AL West but are not as awful as the dorky doomsayers predicted.

The Astros are on a pace to finish with fewer losses than those aforementioned Mets and Tigers.

Said Brocail: “We told the kids, ‘You’re gonna have some ugly days. But if we learn something when we lose, we’re gonna be winning the battle’.’ “

The Texas Rangers’ Lance Berkman summed it up best after an 8-2 loss to Houston: “Hey, they’re professional baseball players and anything can happen on a given day.”

For his part, Costas needs to wise-up to this big league reality instead of always trying to crack wise.

Costas’ lame attempts to tickle funny bones are more like groin punches ? they make you groan in agony.

Would be know-it-alls like Costas are really victims of their own ignorance ? in this case, of not really understanding the tremendous amount of athletic talent needed to JUST reach the highest level of baseball.

ALL big leaguers deserve our respect, if not admiration, for making it that far.

Now, millionaire baseball players certainly don’t need MAS feeling sorry for them. Or taking up for them. But there’s a principle involved here.

Before taking uncalled for potshots at highly skilled pro ballplayers over their hitting, pitching or fielding failures, Costas and anyone else ? loudmouth fans included ? should ask themselves this question: “Could I do any better?”

If the answer is “No”, then they should just shut their pie holes ? and, if they do, be forgiven for unduly opening them in the first place.

Contact Man About Sports at: davwigg@gmail.com

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