Sunday, October 30, 2005

Back-seat driver

The Texas Aggies have a yell that they use at basketball games when an opposing coach is arguing a call. Briefly, they say "Sit DOWN, bus driver!" It's a reference to the days when coaches drove the bus as well as coached.

The head coach of a Major League Baseball team is called "manager" for similar reasons, because it harkens back to a time when their duties were more encompassing. Accordingly, also, when a manager is publicly harsh with his players, it's called "throwing them under the bus."

There has been a lot of media attention given to Phil Garner's reaction after Game 3 of the World Series, in which he made such comments as "Absolute rotten hitting. . . . we might have played 40 innings and it didn't look like we were going to get a runner across the bag . . . .it's embarrassing to play like this in front of our hometown. . . . I'm really ticked off.''

So, did he throw the team under the bus? Opinions vary in the media. Tom Verducci certainly thinks so, and makes a strong argument that Garner's apparent lack of a sense of responsibility for the loss speaks volumes. The local sportswriters are divided, with one saying that Garner did throw them under the bus, and another disagreeing.

My personal opinion? Yes, he did. Granted, he didn't say anything that wasn't technically correct, but the Astros got where they were by unified, solid play, in which each player contributed what he could when he could. (The bullpen referred to themselves as "One Heartbeat," for crying out loud.) They all had a part in the successes of the season, and also in the failures both during the year and in the World Series, Garner included. And while Garner made similar comments back in May, before they turned their season around, somehow I don't think he was just trying to motivate them this time. I think he just lost it, especially since he also got into a shouting match during the game with Carl Everett and Joe Crede, and threw a fit after Brad Ausmus flied out in the tenth (Ausmus is the one whose improbable homer in the ninth inning in Game 4 of the division series kept the Astros in it for the eventual win. Does Ausmus do that every time he gets up to bat? Hell no. But who does?), and threw a chair in the dugout too.

So, he acted like an ass.

Not that I've ever done that, or any one else I know has ever done that.

And what do you do when you screw up like that? Well, most grown-ups I know apologize. With sincerity. So that's what I think Phil Garner should do, apologize to the team.

But then, that's just me. I'm not even a bus driver, just a back-seat driver.

Friday, October 28, 2005

World Serious

They took me off of suicide watch today.

Kidding about the suicide watch, of course. Although I was noticeably grumpy Thursday after only 3 hours' sleep, and still having to field all of the "What happened to your Astros?" questions.

What indeed? Nothing, is what. They're still the same team, the same guys who got to the Fall Classic mainly by pitching and defense and very little offense (seventeen regular season shutouts, remember?). The masses lamented loudly during the year that no big stick was picked up in the off-season (or by the trade deadline) to make up for Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran. I'm sure those same masses are patting themselves on the back right now, saying, "See? We can't win without a slugger."


What do you call a National League pennant, chopped liver?

(Hmm. Maybe I'm still a little grumpy.)

Like I was saying, the same team. The one that never made anything easy, but kept on plugging and grinding away. Yeah, it was frustrating for many fans, myself included, when their play, and results, were inconsistent. But they never stopped believing in themselves, even when others did. And it made it that much sweeter when they made the playoffs. "Eight teams, one champion" is the motto, and while they may not be the "one champion," they have much to be proud of. And many of their fans are very, very proud of them.

I'll have more to say about the Series and the whole experience in the next few days, but right now, I have to get ready for a Halloween party.

I'm going as a Killer Bee.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Printed gold

Guess what these are.

Give up?

Why yes. These are my WORLD SERIES tickets for Game 4, Astros vs. White Sox, Wednesday October 26th.

As you already know, I did NOT win the lottery.

Sister here coulda had a downpayment on a boob job, but nooooooo, I gotta go to a baseball game.

And even the thought of the upcoming overtime to pay for these bad boys can't wipe the grin off my face!

Go 'Stros!

Champions in our hearts

My poor boys.

I'm wasn't too upset that the Astros lost Game 1. It could have gone the other way sooo many times, but of course, as the team has done all year, they couldn't quite close the thing. But considering that Rocket went out after two, and Garner chose to turn to Wandy Rodriguez (a rookie! In Game 1 of the first World Series for the Astros, ever!), I think we did a good job to keep things close and stay in the game. Rodriguez pitched well. He was not always consistent over the regular season, but he did win 10 games in 22 starts and certainly showed last night why the organization thinks he has potential.

And then Game 2. My boyfriend (Ensberg) finally homers, his first since September 20th against the Bucs. The Astros managed to grit it out to a tied game in the ninth, and appeared headed to extra innings. But unfortunately, the only reason that they weren't leading 6-2 at that point is because the usually reliable bullpen faltered. And the relief corps, specifically Brad Lidge, faltered again in the ninth, giving up a walk-off to Scott Podsednik, who didn't go yard a single time during the regular season.


I'm not like the fans I criticized a few entries ago. I don't think it's over, I don't think they're done, I'm not angry or upset or even frustrated. But I still feel disappointed for them for the loss in Game 2. They have always been considered such stepchildren in the league, you know, that they would have to totally mop the floor with the Sox to get any respect at all.

Wait, who am I kidding here? If you listen to the media, the only reason we beat the Cards was because they were riddled with injuries. I'm sure if we take the next game or next three or if we win the series, it will only be because the roof was open/was closed/the short porch in left field/the train was distracting/it wasn't cold enough/it was too cold/whatever. At least the Astros just say, "We didn't get it done."

A book came out this spring about the 1986 Mets (responsible for one of the most disappointing Astros' postseasons, by the way). It was called "The Bad Guys Won." Well, if the 1986 Mets were the bad guys, then the 2005 Astros are definitely the good guys. And no matter how the Series turns out, they are the true champions of Major League Baseball, for playing with integrity and guts and making no excuses. For sticking by each other no matter if the outcome is good or bad.

Yeah, so never mind. Forget that first sentence. There's nothing to feel sorry for or bad about. The Astros are the best team in the National League this year. And the next week will tell if they are the World Champions of MLB, at least as most analysts would judge it.

But the good guys already won.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

NLCS notes

I think Yadier Molina has a man-crush on Brad Ausmus. First this, and then the top of the third inning of game 6. Ausmus singles and advances to second on Adam Everett's hit. Taking a bit of a lead-off from second, Ausmus has to scoot back quickly as Molina (one of the Throwing Molina Brothers) tries to pick him off. Molina then shoots Ausmus a total shit-eating grin, and I swear almost winked. The lovely Bradley just grinned back. Maybe it's a catcher thing--I wouldn't understand.


Lord I felt sorry for Mark Mulder. Everybody has a bad day at work now and then, you know? But it's occurred to me lately, how would I feel about doing my job with a bunch of drunk, rowdy people watching me? That would be bizarre. And yet of course all athletes are expected to do just that, and the best ones excel in such situations. The look on Mulder's face, after the wild pitch (behind Craig Biggio) that allowed the Astros to go up 2-0, said it all.


Jim Edmonds is a class act (he might be insulted by this, but he would make a good Astro). He has always been gracious in both victory and defeat. Thanks, Jed, for the nice things you said after your team's loss. Good luck next year.


The St. Louis fans showed their class too, by giving the Astros a polite standing ovation upon the win. Somehow I doubt that Houston would be so charitable.

And now, enough looking back. Game 1 of the 2005 World Series starts in exactly one hour. Socks off! It's on!

Go 'Stros!

Friday, October 21, 2005

The road warrior

The Wizard of O's. Roy Wonder.

Once again, Roy Oswalt delivered in true big-league style. No more flying under the radar for the country boy from Weir, Mississippi, who has been called "the best-kept secret in baseball."

Secret's out.

At the MVP trophy presentation ceremony after the Astros beat the Cardinals 5-1 to take the National League Pennant and clinch their first trip ever to the World Series, Roy was reminded that Drayton McLane promised to buy him a bulldozer if he won the game. That's the first time I've ever seen the even-keeled Oswalt laugh out loud. The reporter interviewing Roy said, "What I want to know is, what are you knocking down?"

Roy blinked. You don't use a bulldozer to tear stuff down, unless you're planning to put something else in its place.

"No," he shouted over the din, mystified. "I need to build a road!"

And build he did, the road to the inaugural World Series for the Houston Astros. With Roy's cumulative stats in the 2005 NLCS at 14, 8, 2, 2, 4, and 12 with 1 HR allowed, the Cardinals' hitters were obviously as mystified by Oswalt's pitching as he was by the interviewer's question.

Late-night TV fans got an additional introduction to the reticent Roy as he recited last night's Top 10 list on Letterman:


• 10. Another two weeks of wearing a cup and showering with the guys.

• 9. Get to visit exotic, far-off destinations like Illinois.

• 8. More time to discuss with the team doctor if Cialis is right for me.

• 7. With the discount, beer is only 18 bucks.

• 6. It's fine and all, but the good news is, I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico.

• 5. Certificate good for one free groin pull.

• 4. I get to appear on my favorite late night program — The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

• 3. World Series MVP gets to throw switch on Saddam's execution.

• 2. Clemens used his AARP card to get us cheap hotel rooms.

• 1. If Steinbrenner wants me next year, my price is now a billion dollars.

Oh, yeah. To Astros' fans, Roy Oswalt is priceless.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The sounds of silence

"So, how quiet was it?"

One of the surgeons I work with posed that seemingly random question at work today. But I knew exactly what he meant. I sighed.

"So quiet, you could hear the hearts breaking."

Sports Guy addressed that very thing today. It is a truly eerie sound, one which I hope I never hear again.

No, wait, I guess I DO want to hear it. But this time, from Busch Stadium, sometime in the next couple of days. Although truly, it is hard for me to wish such a gut-wrenching emotion upon anyone else. But the Cardinals, and Cards fans, you've had your chance. Many times. It's the Astros' turn.

Coming out of the game last night, I was astounded by the fans' attitudes. People were tearing up tickets, I repeatedly heard mutterings of "Well, that's that." "We're done." Some fans almost picked fights with the few Cards supporters milling about. The bar across the street from the park, usually so full of people that the lines to the bar stream into two lanes of traffic, emptied as quickly and quietly as Frenchman Flat in 1951.

I found it infuriating. So much has been written about the Astros making Houston a baseball town. But it seemed to me to be more of what I was used to, the we-only-like-them-when-they're-winning mindset. What happened to all the "We Bee-lieve!" And what about the other two games to play? I felt in that moment that the Astros still deserved, and still would get, their shot. But I thought the city of Houston didn't deserve theirs.

But after reading the above-mentioned column on, I relented a little in my anger at my fellow fans. After all, I knew exactly what that sucker punch felt like, too. After the first two outs by Lidge, you finally give in, you finally let down your guard, you finally let yourself start feeling just a little bit giddy. . . then, wham. The disappointment was something you felt all the way into your soul; it made your soul palpable, something you could actually feel inside you as it knotted up. And then that door to your soul closed.

If my fellow fans have been through that more than once over the years, then they have my sympathy. I have not been a life-long baseball fan, so who am I to criticize? I'm guessing, for longer fans than I, that it had the feel of being teased and tempted by an old flame, only to be rebuffed upon the final commitment. If so, then I'll allow them a night of bitterness. That's fair.

But I still say, that if any Houston team in recent memory can get to the Fall Classic, it's this one. The one that has come back, time and time again, for six and a half months. The one that was supposed to be rebuilding. The one that was written off, with an article in the local paper accompanied by a picture of a tombstone, back in May. The one that played 18 improbable innings of history a mere week ago. The one that's taken 3 of the last four games at Busch Stadium. This one.

Go 'Stros!

Prince Albert? I think not

Oh Lord.

I probably shouldn't blog when I've only had 3 hours sleep, but anyway.

Just a quick one to say, give the Cardinals their due. They didn't have the best record in baseball for no reason.

However, whatever benevolent feelings I had for Pujols is gone. He seems like a nice guy in interviews, and does a lot of charity work. But that stand-there-and-watch-your-HR crap is just that, crap. I don't take it personally, because he does it to everybody. But you'll never see an Astro pull that crap. Hell, you'll never see Jim Edmonds pull that crap. To me it goes back to Ryne Sandberg's HOF induction speech, about respect for the game. And if you don't respect your opponent, you don't respect the game.

So last night was an adventure for all sorts of reasons, but for now (at 6:13 a.m.) it's off to work!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Focus on 4

Thoughts on yesterday's game: Jon Secada sang the heck out of the National Anthem.

I can see both sides of the Tony La Russa ejection. (Make no mistake, I'm not a La Russa fan, obviously he knows the game and he's got the numbers to prove that he's a good manager. But the glasses bug the shit out of me. Among other things.) As he himself says in this article, though, somebody's got to step up and say something. It's his job to do that. (And yes, the strike zone was all over the place. It wandered more than the 12 tribes of Israel.) But I think he set himself up a little bit for Phil Cuzzi's overreaction. I mean seriously, La Russa criticizing Wally Bell's strike zone before game 3 had even started? What was that about?

So anyway, I basically had no problem with La Russa protesting Cuzzi's calls, nor did I have any problem with his getting ejected. He certainly got his money's worth out of it. He did look a bit silly, yelling up to big Tim McClelland (crew chief), when McClelland stepped in between he and Cuzzi.

Edmonds? Now, that's another story. If you believe Edmonds' side of the story, and there's no reason not to, then that was just arrogance on Cuzzi's part. A batter should be able to question a call, it's part of the game. As much as I hate to see Edmonds up to bat (he's not known as the Astro-killer for nothing), I hated more to see him go under those circumstances. Stupid.

So, I guess the NLCS has had its share of umping controversy, along with the ALCS. What was not controversial, which I have watched a dozen times this morning on the video archives, is the amazing, impossible-but-true double play which ended the game by cutting short St. Louis' last scoring threat. Eric Bruntlett, the largely unheralded bench player who has made sooo many key plays this year, fed a perfect throw of John Mabry's grounder to Adam Everett at second, who in turn whipped a textbook throw over a sliding Reggie Sanders to get Mabry at first. Incredible.

Brad Ausmus says that "Bruntlett" means "great player" in Norwegian.

If that's true, then maybe "Astros 2005" can translate into "National League Champions."

Go 'Stros!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. . . .

Ah, bliss.

The Astros won Games 3 and 4 of the NLCS this weekend, and I was there. They now have a 3-1 lead in the series, with three games remaining. They only have to win one of the remaining three games to capture their first World Series appearance in franchise history. Let's hope it will be tomorrow, when I make a return trip to Houston for the final home game of the NLCS.

Saturday's game was especially sweet for me, as I was in the company of some wonderful friends that I see too seldom, due to geography. With them, it doesn't matter how long it's been, things seem to just pick right back up where they left off. I had such an incredible time.

Then, damn.

I get home and realize that I didn't win the ticket lottery, meaning that I can't buy (at face value through the Astros, anyway) tickets to the World Series. Not happy.

You realize, of course, that this means they're a lock.

Because, naturally, it's all about me. . . .

Friday, October 14, 2005

The pride of Weir


Last night rocked! Obviously, I'm glad the Astros won (duh), but the thing that made me happiest was the awesome pitching of Roy Oswalt. It was one of the most dominating performances I've seen from him this season, certainly since this game when it took him only 88 pitches to throw a complete game, 2-hit shutout of the Blue Jays. It set a new record for shortest game ever at Minute Maid Park (hey! I've been to the shortest game, and the longest game!), 1 hour and 50 minutes. Roy Oswalt (pronounced OWES-walt) seems to be very genuine, a country boy from Weir, Mississippi (ask him where that is, and he'll tell you it's about 20 miles from Possum Neck). He is often overshadowed by his more media-genic teammates, the ageless Roger Clemens and the beautiful Andy Pettitte. Around Astros' country, Roy's known as the Wizard (of O's). Sports Illustrated called him Roy Wonder, and I couldn't agree more. I couldn't have been more proud of the way he stepped up last night if I were from Weir myself.

And it's back to Houston this weekend, for Games 3 and 4 of the NLCS. I'm especially excited about tomorrow, with another chance to see the Rocket before he quite possibly retires, and with the fabulous bonus of going with great friends, including one fellow on loan for the weekend from the Marine Corps.

Go 'Stros, and Semper Fi!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Random thoughts

This entry shall be rather haphazard, as my brain is still enfeebled from the 18-inning marathon on Sunday. (Yes, "enfeebled" is a word. You could look it up.)

Minute Maid at dusk, with the roof closed. So lovely.

To the Braves' fan sitting behind me on Sunday: Sir, you are either one of the most obnoxious human beings I've ever been around, or perhaps the most socially oblivious. Like, ever. Did you not notice all the people turning around to look at you as you kept up your constant cacophony of comments? Dude, I'm as big a fan as anybody, but I wouldn't dream of going into Turner Field and giving a running commentary about how much better my team is than yours. When Brian McCann hit his 8th inning home run off of Wandy Rodriguez, you shouted (among other things), "You gotta like this guy!" I turned around and said, "Well, I like him better than you." I dunno. You didn't look drunk. But last weekend's Cubs' fans, with their reputation for rowdiness, were positively genteel compared to you. Soooo glad that you left after Berkman's grand slam.

Apparently there was a nun at Sunday's game. She said she did a lot of praying during the contest. Well, the Bible does say to "pray without ceasing." I think the Astros just misread it as, "play without ceasing."

Jim Deshaies had some great comments about the game. I had to agree with him--my favorite moments were Clemens' three innings of relief (yeah, a long moment, I know) and the swing-for-the-railroad-tracks he took in the top of the 18th. J. D. is right--that swing defined Clemens as a competitor even more than his three shutout innings from the mound.

The Brushback does it again. (Almost made me need Depends, that is. So funny!)

So, Uncle Drayton. You have some 'splainin' to do! What's up with this "lottery" bullshit for World Series tickets? Because y'all want to allow all fans an equal opportunity to buy Series tickets?!? Yeah, right. Where the hell were all these fans during the April and May nadir? Sister here was a season ticket holder and has spent innumerable pesos at your park. If you want to limit me to only having an early option on a single game, I can accept that. But to say that I have no better odds of getting a seat to a World Series game, should the Astros play, than Joe "I-only-like-them-when-they're-winning" F***ing Blow, just really pisses me off.

Should I tell you how I really feel?

And what about that guy who caught both Lance Berkman's grand slam ball and Chris Burke's walk-off homer? How can any single Homo sapiens have that kind of good fortune? Amazing.

He better not get World Series tickets or I'm gonna be some kind of wound up.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I'm speechless--well, almost


Just. . .wow.

I just got home, from history.

From the longest playoff game in Major League Baseball, ever. (Eighteen innings. That's two whole games! Those who thought Houston would win the Division in 5, were sorta right.)

From the first playoff game to have 2 grand slams.

From the first appearance by the Rocket out of the bullpen in 21 years. Three shut-out innings to take the win.

Wow. Just. . . wow.

See you in St. Louis!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Same song, 164th verse

Well, the Astros continue to play as they have all season--brilliantly one game, inanely the next. Thank heavens we took the first game from Atlanta.

This won't be a long post, as I must finish preparations to head to Houston for the games this weekend. (I have pretty good seats for both games--yay!) But WTF? is this crap about possibly moving the Sunday game? Yes, I realize that there is very little interest in Astros' games outside of Houston, but the people who are going to watch the game are going to watch it regardless of the time it's broadcast. In fact, I think MORE people would watch it during the day, instead of potentially putting it up against Desperate Housewives. I find it a little irritating that TV advertisers' bucks speak so much more loudly than mine, considering that I've been giving Uncle Drayton and the boys my money all year long. So now, since I much prefer a day game (to avoid a 90-minute-plus drive at 10 at night), I have to pull for the freakin' YANKEES to even out the AL series so that their game will be broadcast at night instead. Gaaaaaack!

Did I mention how popular I've become since the Astros made the post-season? Everyone is my friend now, and I get lots of forced-casual "hey, if you need anybody to go the games with you. . ." sort of comments.


Go 'Stros!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Yes. . . and no

Things I liked about this weekend:

Getting to see some friends from graduate school at the wedding I went to in Arkansas.

Northwest Arkansas—it’s quite pretty there.

The Astros made the playoffs!

Roy Oswalt getting 20 wins for two years in a row.

A two-baseball-game weekend!

My flights being on time, and the ease with which one can sail through the whole airport process these days.

My new binoculars and radio headset, acquired just in time for the post-season.

The Astros made the playoffs!

Things I didn’t like about this weekend:

Our win meaning Greg Maddux’s loss—he’s always been a class act, a guy I admire.

Staying up way too late Friday; I was kinda stuck, waiting on my ride.

Derrek Lee beating out Albert Pujols for the batting title—I hate when we play against either gentleman, but I was pulling for Pujols for the same reasons I like Greg Maddux.

The Astros almost gave me a heart attack several times.

A two-baseball-game weekend, with just a minor little trip to Arkansas sandwiched in between (very tiring!).

Having to take my shoes off to go through security at the airport (icky floors!).

Missing a baby shower to go to the Astros’ final regular season game (yes, sister here is a weasel).

Things that surprised me this weekend:

The Astros made the playoffs! (There. I said it.)

That there are lots of Cubs fans in Houston, and they’re very LOUD!


Well, a good weekend means not too many surprises, right?

Everyone seems to be joining the prognostication game right now, except me. I tell you what, this. Cracked. Me. Up. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Atlanta, here we come!


I've suspected several times over the last few days that I was going to need an electrophysiologic cardiac ablation to treat the palpitations that the Astros have given me recently.

First, the loss Thursday night. Then, Lidge's blown save on Friday, which I was there for (isn't Minute Maid pretty at night with the roof open?). Next, having to miss what may be Roger Clemens' last regular season start (I was out of state, with no game broadcast), receiving updates via textmessage from some great friends. And finally, the see-saw lead of today's game. I had to stop scoring when the Cubs took the lead in the sixth because I was getting such a stomach ache (a stomache?).

It hasn't been a pretty season, and many of the wins were downright ugly, but the Astros repeated as Wild Card winners.

And I was there.

Time to bask in that glow, even if it turns out to be brief.

Go 'Stros!