Friday, October 03, 2008

Update. . . or end-date?

Wow. No posts since July. That used to be unusual for me, but no longer. Ah well.

In my last post, I mentioned that I would describe how my trip to New York made me feel as a fan. To be succinct. . . um, inferior? Like a step-child, maybe? Or maybe, loser.

There were virtually no Astros' objects in the HOF. I kept looking. . .and looking. . .and looking. There was a mention of the Astrodome, Craig Biggio's 3000th hit, the occasional no-hitter or pennant ring. . . but that was pretty much it. No Astros objects in the gift shop, either.

Nothing like a reminder that your team has never won a World Series, nor has any members in the HOF, to make you proud of your fandom.

Going to Shea and Yankee Stadium was equally dispiriting. Even though I pretty much despise both teams, I have to admit I was jealous. I mean, fans that actually know their players' names? And actually pay attention to the game, and cheer for the players? What a revelation! Usually, when I go to Minute Maid Park, if I yell something along the lines of "Go, Berkman!", I get the look from other fans. You know--the look that says, 'Will you please be quiet?', or maybe, 'Who is Berkman?'

When you add in the Astros' miserable play pre-All Star Break, my enthusiasm as an Astros' fan took a pretty serious blow. It's embarrassing to admit it, because I think it makes me sound like a bandwagon-type, but it's true. Because of this gloom, I found it difficult to get excited about their late-season run, even though by mid-September, they were only 3.5 games out of the wild-card, and had won 14 of 15. I told myself, if they could get past the Cubs on September 12 - 14th, THEN I would get excited.

Hurricane Ike had other plans.

The Astros played only two of those games. In a total fubar, the Astros had to leave Houston early Sunday morning to get to Milwaukee to play two supposed home games with the Cubs at Miller Park. The Astros' owner, Drayton McLane, is as much to blame as Commissioner Bud Selig for the fiasco, but the most galling aspect for the majority of Astros' fans was the response of some Cubs' fans, and a couple of their players. The Astros had left their families in the dark, with no power, no water, and no idea when such services would be returned. Some were not even sure of the amount of damage to their homes, or the safety of their family or friends. Needless to say, they could give a crap about baseball at that point, and they played like it (like crap, that is). Instead of expressing sympathy for the situation, some vocal Cubs fans--as well as Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Dempster--basically said that the Astros were being whiners and crybabies. The fans at Miller (about 24,000, all but about 5 being Cubs fans) actually booed the Astros when they took the field, and at various points throughout the games.

Such self-absorbed arrogance is always startling to me. How difficult would it have been to have said, 'you know, you guys got shafted, and it sucks. Good luck with cleanup, and let's play ball'?

But hey. . .karma's a bitch.

The Astros looked like they had given up on the rest of the season at that point, dropping 5 games in a row. While I completely understood losing to the Cubs, the three losses to the Marlins did nothing to endear the team to many in the fan base. Many wondered if they were whining crybabies, who couldn't man it up enough to get over the Miller Park games. Others wondered if they were Black Soxing it, to protest the owner's handling of the Cubs' series. In any case, it looked like they were in for a dismal finish.

It wasn't quite as dismal as one might have thought. The Astros ended the season 86 - 75, a thirteen-game improvement over 2007 (the final game with the Cubs was not played), and 3.5 games out of the Wild Card. In the last game, the team said goodbye to long-time catcher Brad Ausmus, and for fan appreciation day, had bullpen members manning the entrances.

And so it ends.

The season, of course. But also a phase of my life, as I have decided to not renew my season tickets. While I'm sure I'll take in a few games next year, season tickets no longer seem like a good value. Part of it is the expense of concessions, as well as the expense, and time, and wear-and-tear of traveling three hours back and forth per game. But part of it is that going to games is just not a good entertainment value for me anymore. I can't change teams--that's not the kind of person I am--but I can put less money in Drayton McLane's pockets. I can watch games on TV, and save money on beer, food, gasoline, as well as listening to Brownie and J.D.'s scintillating repartee.

Similarly, it's unlikely I'll keep up with this blog much anymore (not that posting every couple of months can really be considered "keeping up"). I never say "never," but if the motivation to attend games is no longer there. . . yeah, I'm not seeing it.

For those few who have wandered here from time to time, thanks for reading, and accept my best wishes for your baseball team, whichever it may be, and for all the times of your life.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I will remember this for a long time.

My BBF (best baseball friend) Max uttered those words to me after I took him with me to Craig Biggio's final game in an Astros' uniform. It was indeed a very moving and memorable day.

That sentiment is apt for my recent journey to NYC. Really, I do not think I could imagine a more perfect vacation. As I have begun describing it to friends and family, a recurring comment from others is "trip of a lifetime."

You be the judge.

Arrived to LaGuardia airport early Saturday afternoon. With directions in hand, I navigated NYC public transportation (translation--I rode the subway!) to arrive at Miss J.'s place. We then headed out together to a Belgian bar (I recommend the Delirium Tremens from Huyghe Brewery, should you have the opportunity to partake) before heading across the street to feast on Thai food. Then, it was off to the August Wilson Theatre for Jersey Boys! What a great show--I was captivated from the opening lines. And of course, got to see Times Square in both daylight and dark (not that it's ever exactly dark there!).

Sunday was filled early with touristy things--visiting landmarks and taking photos at Grand Central Station, Central Park, and the Esplanade at Battery Park, as well as visiting another brewery/bar (hmmm. . .beer). We also spent a bit of time at St. Paul's Chapel, which is currently serving as a bit of an impromtu Ground Zero memorial while the "real" one is under construction. It was very touching, more so than I think either of us expected. Then, the day was completed with a visit to Shea Stadium, where the Mets were hosting the Rockies.

Hate the Mets. Loved Shea, though. We had great seats and the weather was perfect, high seventies and clear.

Monday morning found us arising early to embark upon a journey by car (which by this time was seeming like a bit of a novelty, having taken the subway or walked everywhere) to Cooperstown, NY. It was an arduous and yet astoundingly beautiful drive to midstate NY to the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, passing picturesque farms amid rolling green hills partitioned by crystal clear creeks. To drive down Main Street in Cooperstown was to feel that one was driving down such a street in the late 50's. While the HOF attracts fairly large crowds, the town itself hasn't succumbed to the drive to modernize. Its charm cannot be overstated, and I look forward to returning in 2012. The HOF and Museum proclaims to "preserve history, honor excellence, and connect generations."

Well said.

Tuesday morning found us returning to NYC, tired but anticipating the trip's piece de resistance, the MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. We considered trying to attend the Red Carpet Parade, but decided against it, heading out instead to the All-Star Fan Fest at Javits Convention Center. I was able to get basically all of my ASG souvenir requests filled here, which was very welcome as I did not want to fight the anticipated crowds at the gift shop at Yankee Stadium (also, as high as prices were at the Fan Fest, most were doubled at the stadium--crazy!) We then headed over to the House that Ruth Built, arriving as the gates opened at 5 p.m. The rest of the evening was simply taking it all in--first AL, then NL batting practice, preparation of the playing field, the lengthy but nonetheless lovely opening ceremonies, and the game itself. The game was actually a good one, going extra innings. After the 12th inning, nearing 1 a.m. local time (and having been at the ballpark for a full workday--going on 8 hours), me being the loser that I am, I lobbied to go ahead and leave. Miss J. graciously accommodated my request, and after a two-hour subway ride back to Brooklyn, I grabbed about three hours' sleep before showering and grabbing the subway for the ride back to LaGuardia and the flight home.

I'll post another day about the feelings this journey engendered in me as a baseball fan, but as I said before, I do not think I could imagine a more perfect vacation. Huge thanks and appreciation to redbirdbrain for making it possible!

Friday, July 11, 2008


I leave tomorrow for New York City! The slate is full, with a Broadway show tomorrow night, Mets/Rockies on Sunday, Cooperstown on Monday, and (drum roll please). . .

The All-Star Game on Tuesday!!

I was starting to freak out a little bit because I didn't receive the tickets until Wednesday of this week. The folks at StubHub were very nice every time I called. . . and I called alot. But the tickets finally arrived safe and sound, and I was very relieved.

Interestingly, redbirdbrain had almost an opposite reaction, as she didn't get excited until the tickets were in hand. Apparently, she didn't realize until I texted her, the day the tickets arrived, that we are actually going. To. The. Game.


Yeah. . . not sure how I failed to communicate the plan there, but at least she has something to look forward to now, other than dragging this ol' redneck around the big city. Yay!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

All righty then

What a difference a couple of weeks can make. The Astros have now been playing like the team I know and hate to love. They suck. They are currently a game under .500, tied with the Pirates (the Pirates!) for fifth in the division, and ten games back of the division-leading Cubs. Lance Berkman is leading in All-Star voting at first base, as he should, since he is still on a pretty fierce run. Everyone else has cooled down considerably, although Miguel Tejada is showing some signs of life again. The rotation is living up to expectations, which were not good. Astros' pitchers are on pace to set a new MLB record for home runs allowed.


It was fun while it lasted.

In other news, I went to the lake yesterday to ride the bike trails. They are one-way, single-bike-width trails. I remembered why I don't like to go first, when I rode straight into a full-body spider web, head first. I spotted the little bastard right before I hit him, but he had the last laugh.

Have I mentioned that I hate spiders?

The involuntary, convulsive, body-wide spasm that occurred next left me bleeding from an accidental scratch on my face and with all my possessions--helmet, bike, fanny pack, camelbak--scattered over several feet. It looked like a yard sale. My friend caught up with me at that moment and declared, "You're such a girl."

I was too tired to even flip her off.

Amusingly, I ran across the link to this later that day. Laughed my ass off, as I can totally relate.

Monday, May 26, 2008

29 - 23

Went to a couple of games this weekend, including this gem that ended with a walk-off 7 - 2 double play. I've been watching the replay over and over again, it just amazes me. It also helps make up for Sunday's crappy 15 - 6 loss, in which our two worst relievers gave up 11 runs over two innings. When Nieve came out, I figured we were done, even though we had a two-run lead. After he gave up 5 runs and they replaced him with Borkowski, I just left. Which means that I thankfully got to miss the 6 runs given up by Borks. He was decent in '06, but this year he pretty much guarantees a loss when he's in a game. Amazingly, Oscar Villareal didn't give up any, as he finished out the game. Good for him, I guess, although it only seems to emphasize that he can't pitch well when there's any pressure.

Overall, still, I'm just amazed by how well the team is playing. I wasn't there Friday, but Jose Valverde won over even more fans with his performance that night. Thankfully he was okay after getting hit, as was the umpire that got hit on Sunday. A commenter to a blog at the Houston Chronicle summed up this team's vibe the best:
The vocal leadership of Miggy Tejada,the boyish enthusiam of Hunter Pence,the personality and talent of the Big Puma,the toughness of Brocail and Valverde,the speed and defense of Bourn and Matsui,the consistency of Carlos Lee, the professionalism of the Wise men [our bench calls themselves the five Wise Men] and the patience of Cecial [sic] Cooper make this one of my favorite and most enjoyable Astro teams in my over 40 years of being an Astro fan.

Well said!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Almost three months since I've posted anything.

Opening Day came and went. The Astros have played 36 games and are 19 - 17, 3 games back of the division-leading Cardinals (meh. Who saw that coming?). The 'Stros haven't been at or above .500 in a year, so obviously a "winning" record is welcome.

What's really welcome is how they've played--which is to say, like they actually give a crap. I'm amazed, honestly. The last two seasons have been agonizing, and not just because of all the losses (although losing certainly wears on us fans). For two years, it seems that my favorite team has just been going through the motions--show up, take the field, stand in the batter's box, maybe swing at stuff, try to field stuff, jog some on the basepaths, lose, shower, go home. Really difficult to justify all the money it costs to attend games when watching was so frustrating.

But this year, I don't know--it's just fun.

Even when they lose.

Miguel Tejada has been a revelation--his defense is better than advertised, his bat is just as good as advertised, and the dude just gets excited. He plays like he's ten, only with a better attention span. Michael Bourn has a woeful .274 OBP, yet he has 16 SB. He's incredibly fast--watching his acceleration in center field is amazing, and defensively he reads the ball very well. And Lance Berkman--man, what an amazing start that guy's having. I've always criticized Puma for what I considered a lackadaisical attitude, but this year he obviously came to play. Is it Tejada's influence? Or is Berkman finally blossoming into his full potential on the field and in the clubhouse since Bagwell and Biggio are both gone? Who knows. Maybe he's just lucky or blessed, but whatever it is, Berkman currently leads all of baseball in SLG and OPS, and is second in HR, RBI, and AVG, and third in OBP. In-freakin'-credible.

I hope this play continues. If it does, I think the team can be competitive this year. With our pitching, we need every tangible and intangible we can get!

Here's to a fun year at Minute Maid Park--cheers!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What's that saying?

Oh, yeah, I remember--"politics makes strange bedfellows." Of course, "bedfellows" probably has a different connotation now than it did back in the day that this phrase originated, but the sentiment is still valid.

Take my friend redbirdbrain and me, for instance. We became acquainted through a love of baseball and beer, but we couldn't be more different.

She's young. Me? Not so young.

Her politics are left-leaning, shall we say. Me, I'm a redneck.

She's a vegetarian. Me, well. . . not.

She graduated from Missouri and received her post-graduate education in Europe. Almost all my fancy book learnin' came from that bastion of conservatism, Texas A & M University.

She's a Cardinals' fan. I, obviously, am not.

And yet, though we differ, we still manage to get along. . . at least, until now.

As part of my quest to visit all the MLB ballparks, I am planning a trip to redbirdbrain's neighborhood this summer, a quaint place known as New York City. We will be taking in a Mets/Rockies contest at Shea, and we will also attend an event at Yankee Stadium.


In chatting with young Miss Brain about this upcoming event, I discovered the one difference between us that could have been a deal-breaker:

me: Hey! did you get my email? I got us tickets for the Mets game!
redbirdbrain: Oh my gosh I did get that email and thank you so much!!!! I'm sorry I didn't respond yet - but I can't WAIT for july!
me: Me either!
redbirdbrain: it's going to be a blast, I'm not taking a vacation this year but it should be like one
me: I'll say so! I'll probably need a vacation just to get over this vacation!
redbirdbrain: haha! I haven't looked at the link you sent me today yet, maybe I will do that now
me: I am watching "Chocolat." I don't like Johnny Depp but this is such a lovely movie. Enjoy the link!
redbirdbrain: you DON'T LIKE JOHNNY DEPP?
forget it, you can't come to ny
me: Uh oh.
redbirdbrain: I've never heard of a woman who doesn't like johnny depp!
me: So, I think he's ok in this movie
redbirdbrain: well that's something
me: I bet you don't like Matthew McConaughy
redbirdbrain: that's true actually
me: Hahahaha!
redbirdbrain: we'll just have to agree to disagree on this I suppose
me: Yay! Works for me. I mean, if we can handle the 'Stros/Cards thing, and the A&M/Mizzou thing, we can deal with this, right?
redbirdbrain: heehee, at least we have beer in common!
me: There you go

All I can say is, thank God for beer.