"Level Up": Houston Astros Unveil New Team Slogan, Apparently Just For the H of It
What hath the PR team's conference room Wordle whelped?
Let’s face it: “For the H” was a dutiful horse, and in fractured cowboy parlance, was “rode hard and put up wet.” Freed from its PR padlock smack dab between a major scandal’s punishment announcement and a stunning pandemic shutdown, “For the H” has been put out to pasture. It had a good, but harrowing, two-year run.
That team slogan was unveiled three weeks after MLB levied fines and firings on the team, and stripped draft picks from the Astros for their 2017 video-aided cheating scandal.
“For the H” debuted quietly on February 4, 2020, some six weeks before a merciless pandemic would change the world as we know it.
Related: Astros’ 2023 Slogan Revealed:
A Win For the H’s?
Only 60 games managed to be squeezed into 2020, while a full 162 were played in 2021. The Houston Nine acquitted themselves well, though, falling just short of the World Series trophy, but are now able to hang an AL Championship banner from the Minute Maid rafters for their ‘21 efforts.
On March 10, mere hours after MLB and the Players’ Union finally came to an agreement on a new CBA, ending an imposed 3-month lockout, the Astros unleashed “Level Up” as the new team hype slogan for 2022.
For the uninitiated, each team’s slogan is displayed prominently at the top of the team website’s home page. If you don’t see one at the top, it can be presumed they don’t have one, and in this word-lover’s view, aren’t one of the “cool kids.”
Short of slapping it up on Twitter, and pasting it at the top of a home page, there’s very little fanfare at a team revealing its new slogan. Pity really, because a lot of thought and planning, presumably, went into the small handful of letters that make up a team slogan.
A PR department doesn’t just scramble a bunch of words around in a hat, and yank out a couple….or, do they?
But first, before we poke around to see just what the Astros want us to do, exactly, as we “level up,” one more salute to the ole gal going out before we delve into the one coming in.
Ardent fans will recall the incessant use of the 2019 season sobriquet, “Take It Back,” throughout the year and postseason, making it easy to see the weight the organization places on these annual unveilings. It’s not just a throwaway phrase at the top of an official website.
It was clear that “Take It Back” referred to the World Series trophy, won in ‘17, and was taken by Boston the following year.
The team also made it clear from the start that “For The H” was designed to mean “We play for our city. Our home. We play for the H.” Fans found it easy to appreciate the community and heartfelt commitment those sentiments assert.
It never happened, but at the time, a logical conclusion might have been drawn that the phrase could be altered slightly by a crafty headline writer after, say, a 14-game losing streak: “What The ‘H’?” A look back:
What Up, “Level Up”?
In the sparkling new hype video, a couple things stand out. In all the exciting clips of recent game footage, there’s no shot of Carlos Correa. Oh, there might be a quick glimpse in a crowded celebration scene, but certainly no lingering focus on his famous “It’s my time” wrist-point, or a wizardly play in the field.
By the time you read this, Houston’s shortstop of the last seven years, who averaged .277 at the plate with 19 homers, will be pulling up another team’s britches. Or, at least, that’s the message sent (and quite apparently) to the video editor by owner Jim Crane and/or GM Jim Click.
Sigh of the Times?
Plus, the carefully-crafted (and deeply-intoned) narration subtly hints at a bit of a “re-build,” that dreaded word no fan or organization dares utter:
“It’s about the growth mind-set. We know the goal, but to get there, it’s about the process. Aiming for the pinnacle, but focusing on the next step (apparently, the ‘next step’ isn’t the pinnacle). That drive pushes us to the next level. To be the best, we need to be better…to evolve. To level up.”
In other words, don’t expect another serious march to the playoffs; at least, maybe don’t bet the farm on it. We may know the goal (of winning it all), but this year may end up being a time when we just go to “the next step, the next level.”
After all, even after a 95-67 2021, and beating the Red Sox to claim the AL flag in six games, uncertainty awaits in ‘22: Can Justin Verlander bounce back, at 39, from Tommy John surgery? Can the Astros find a suitable and consistent answer at short? What about the bullpen? A reliable center fielder?
“Level Up?” I wonder if “Come to Grips” ever circled the conference table. And, you can’t very well communicate a complacent shrug into the words of a call-to-action. Well, at least they’re…uh, leveling with us.
Related: All Team Slogans From Across MLB:
Behind the Astros Dugout is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.