Wednesday, May 31, 2006

News du jour

Soon returning to Minute Maid Park--multiple stanzas of Elton John's Rocket Man! (Which, I actually like, by the way.)

The Astros and I may be on a "break" right now, but I'm neither blind nor deaf. Not only did I find out that Roger Clemens re-signed at around 9:29 a.m., I also subsequently paged and/or text-messaged over a half-dozen fellow fans with the info. (Funny--I didn't sign any of the pages, since I was using the hospital paging system for something that might not be considered a "professional" use, and yet every single one of the people I paged came up to me and said, "I got your page!" What's up with that?)

This article is certainly amusing--liked Lance Berkman's comment, especially.

A commenter on one message board said, "The swagger is back." If you judge by the above article, the players have known for a while that Clemens was returning. So where has the "swagger" been for the past month?

I hope Clemens' return signals everything that most fans want it to be--a turn-around in attitude, effort, expectations, whatever--and ultimately, a return to the post-season.

Just please forgive me if I'm not going to start saving up for my projected charitable donation just yet.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Oh, to be wrong

Back in March, after I had come back from attending a spring training game, one of the anesthesiologists I work with asked me, "So, how are your Astros going to do this year?"

I hedged. "Well, other than Roger Clemens they're essentially the same team, so there's no reason to think they won't do fairly well."

Hearing something in my voice, he raised an eyebrow. "But how do YOU think they're going to do?"

I looked him in the eye. "I think they're going to suck. I have no reason to think that, but that's what my gut tells me."

I'm not really one to make predictions, because frankly, I had to admit I'm wrong. But last week, when I started my "break" with the Astros, I groused to someone at work, "You watch. They're going to get swept by the Pirates [the Pirates!], they'll take one game at St. Louis--maybe the first one, getting everyone's hopes up--then they're going to hover around .500 the rest of the year and be out of the playoff picture by late August."

I hope I'm wrong.

And if I'm right, then I don't really understand it. Because honestly, what has changed? Yeah, we don't have Clemens, but our winning percentage in his games (I don't feel like looking it up) couldn't have been so great to make that huge of a difference (I do remember we got shut out 9 times in his starts alone). And Bagwell's gone, but he didn't play most of last year anyway.

So what is it? Is it a fundamental change in the chemistry of the team? Do they resent how the Bagwell issue was handled? Have they lost trust in ol' Scrap Iron? Are they tired of playing musical positions? Do they resent the fact that Lane is sitting and Wilson is not? Obviously, I have no idea what they are thinking. But I do know that I have seen more arguments with umpires this year (Garner is not so unusual, but even Ausmus and Berkman have been mouthy) as well as just more acting-out (I've seen Berkman throw his helmet and/or bat four times this year--big deal, you say, but it's still not like him).

I do hope I'm wrong. And unlike some people, I'm not going to take credit for turning the team around if I am wrong. What I will do, though, is put my money where my mouth is. If the Astros remain in contention (and the last two years, they have secured a playoff birth on the last day of the season, so we'll give them the entire season to do it again)--whether or not they make the playoffs (all they have to do is remain in contention!)--I'll donate $100 to either the Astros in Action Foundation or the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Time will tell.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Like Rachel and Ross

Ever been in a relationship that just didn't meet your needs, that was, for that moment, so fundamentally unsatisfying that you viewed it with an aching bleakness?

And then, like Rachel and Ross on TV's "Friends," you had to step away. Regain some perspective. Guard your sanity.

Like Rachel and Ross, the Astros and I are on a break, starting yesterday. (It won't last long, I have tickets to next Friday's game against the Reds--hee!) I do receive post-game alerts, so I will know if they win or lose, but I'm not going to watch any of the games nor spend--or waste, some would say--parts of my day reading about all the ins and outs of each game and each player's performance and stats.

I know that May is traditionally the club's worst month, that they are generally a second-half team, that we are still in much better shape than last year. I know all that.

But for the first time in a long time (even before last year's awful start), Astros' baseball just depresses me.

Someone at work today said, "So. . . does that mean you can go with another team, if you're on a break?" (Of course it was a guy, jokingly referencing Ross's liaison on the TV show.) I actually contemplated the idea for a moment, as the concept was pretty amusing. But I quickly discarded the thought--for one, what team would I "go with"?

The Cardinals? (Hell no, they're playing the 'Stros this week and I may need a break but that would be like going out with my boyfriend's brother or something.)

The Cubs? (Oh hell, no. Talk about depressing.)

The Mets?! (Not even EFFING going there.)

And anyway, in addition to not wanting to "go with" another team, I think I just need a break over all. I want to have a little absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder action. I want to look forward to the drive to Houston next Friday, to feel that acceleration of my heart rate as I settle into my seat and study the lineups, to gasp and sigh with glee at the sound of an Astros' bat making contact with the ball. Not to sound too freakish here (too late!), but I want the romance back with my team.

Here's hoping this little break is just the medicine I need.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

It's official

I am a boor.

I cheered when Russ Springer plunked Barry Bonds. It was an event that, in my mind, was well summed-up by a commenter at The Crawfish Boxes who said, "Springer is a veteran force on this team. He's in charge of the bullpen, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wielded some power over the younger starters. Pitching to Bonds and the number 714, as much as Taylor and Wandy won't admit it, got into their heads. So Springer pulls his best mama bear impression and targets the one guy that has been messing with his cubs. Even if Bonds wasn't directly responsible for the maelstrom of runs for the Giants, his presence was."

That's a sentiment I can identify with, and yes, I frankly and literally applauded his actions.

I've been amused by some of the follow-up. Russ Springer was suspended for four games, which most of the Astros thought was excessive. Some of his comments are priceless--"It's a little disappointing that people would think it would take me five pitches [to hit him]." (Well, I'll give him that. Unless he was just really trying to sell it as an accident, he should have been able to hit him the first time.) "The last hit-by-pitch [2004], I hit him in the calf-ankle area. If I'm going to hit him on purpose, I'm not going to hit him on the ankle." (Okay, so where would you hit him, then? The shoulder, perhaps? Hee.)

Less amusing are the comments from Felipe Alou--"'There's got to be some respect for the event,' said Alou, in reference to the game, and Bonds' chase for the career home run record." (Riiiiight. And Bonds shows so much respect for the game.) "'You can do anything you want as long as it's legally right,' Alou said. 'And if you do it illegally, you've got to pay for the consequences, right?'" (Dude, are you listening to yourself?)

Another gentleman who perhaps wasn't listening to himself was the Bay Area writer who called for retaliation, and hoped that an Astro would be injured ("bruised," at least) in the exchange. Yeah, I may be a boor, but I'm not a barbarian. I was glad Bonds was NOT injured by Springer. I would not have seen Springer's actions as anything but malicious if Bonds had been injured. I dislike Jeff Kent almost as much as I dislike Barry Bonds, and yet I was concerned for his recent concussion (which fortunately he came back from well, as evidenced by his work against us in the two recent series).

Anyway. Time to pack, heading to Houston tonight to catch Andy Pettitte's start this evening. I'm going to try to make it to the free concert before the game--Roger Creager is a personal favorite of mine. Here's hoping for sunshine, good music, cold beer, and another gem by Andy!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A study in contrasts

I got in late, so this will be quick.

How different were the last two games I attended! Sunday was a study in the art of baseball--I attended solo, focused on and scored the game and was blissfully in tune with the nuances of play and the ebb and flow and rhythm of the game itself.

Last night, not so much. I realized when it was 5-0 Giants in the middle of the first that last night’s game was going to be about beer, hot dogs, ambiance, and great companions. I had a blast.

Which is good, because the game itself? She was a travesty.

Like, not “holy crap,” but wholly crap.

Our pitchers seem to be unconsciously trying to avoid forever being a trivia question, and while not admitting it, are evidently so afraid of giving up 714 and/or 715 that they can't freakin' pitch to anyone any more.

If that theory's true, I say effing give it up and get it over with. Move forward and effing PLAY, for crying out loud. Hell, the beautiful defense of Sunday has taken the last couple of days off too.

There was one particular high point of the game, though. I have mentioned before that Dan Wheeler is my favorite in the bullpen. I've had a soft spot for him since he plunked Derrek Lee in his first appearance with the 'Stros back in '04. Thought he had balls. Well, his doppelganger Russ Springer has even bigger cojones than Wheels, plunking Bonds and getting himself ejected last night. Luv ya’ Russ!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Oooh, aaah all over again

What a lovely day in Minute Maid Park, with the roof closed to shut out the nasty weather outside. A divine day for a divine performance by Andy Pettitte. The man was just ON from the beginning, but even so, his relief at the end of his complete game shut-out (9, 3, 0, 0, 1, 7) was evident even to those of us in the second-level seats. His game score was 87, which is not only the best among the Astros but also tied for best in the National League. Superlative work, sir. You've got to be happy with that one.

The pink bats didn't seem to particularly boost things much, although Berkman got his solo jack with one. The lovely Brad Ausmus used Chris Burke's for his first at-bat, as a courtesy to Burke (Burke is still on the DL). Said Brad: "I think it brings out my eyes."


The defense behind Pettitte was solid once again, with rousing plays at short (if Adam Everett doesn't get a Gold Glove this year I might have to picket Rawlings), and in right and center. Willy T. has really improved his reading of the ball, and Jason Lane has become solid enough in right that I think we fans (or at least I do) take him for granted.

Finally, I was reminded of the special charm of keeping score. Nothing else really allows you to feel the true rhythm of a game or to appreciate the nuances of each play. I was initially somewhat reluctant to drive to Houston yet again, but I'm glad I did. Scoring such a good game with such a phenomenal pitching performance reminded me of the beauty of baseball itself, the allure which first made me a fan.

Oooh, aaah, indeed.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ooooh! Ahhhh.

Was at Minute Maid Park last night for the 12-2 drubbing of the Rockies. Revenge is sweet indeed. Although, the score doesn't really tell the tale. It was like two separate games--the first, a tightly contested five-inning tie, and the second, a four-inning blowout. A bit of a schizophrenic evening in that regard, but nonetheless very satisfying in the end. And the park held the season's first Friday Night Fireworks--an actual display after the game (although eleven runs in three innings counts too). I've decided that I'm simply a sucker for fireworks. I've seen loads of them in my lifetime and yet I'm enchanted every time.

Lidge looked very good last night, retiring the three batters he faced in the seventh with 12 pitches, and he's being very gracious under scrutiny during his struggles. I may yet develop enough trust in him to be a fully sold fan. We'll see.

I'm headed back to MMP tomorrow for Pettitte's start. This will be a solitary jaunt, as all of my friends will be spending Mother's Day with their moms/wives/kids. That's just fine, as I haven't scored a game in ages (I don't keep score when someone else is with me because I don't multitask quite well enough). I'm no doubt quite rusty.

One of my friends asked me to go to the Giants' game on Tuesday, and I accepted. I don't usually run to Houston in the middle of the week, as I do dearly love to get a full night's sleep. But the two friends I'll attend the game with are smart and funny and so rarely available to spend time with that I couldn't resist. Now, though, it crosses my mind--what if Bonds gets 714 or God forbid 715 at MMP? Whether I'm there or not, it's possible that it will happen, but at this point I find the prospect of witnessing that event in person to be extremely distasteful.

Again, we'll see.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Larry Larry quite contrary

redbirdbrain is a Cardinals’ fan. (But, you know, she’s originally from St. Louis, and so you have to be a Cardinals’ fan if you’re from St. Louis. It’s the law.) So that’s why her allegiances lie where they do. But why, you might ask, do I have a link to a freakin’ St. Louis blog on my Astros’ site?

Well, because she’s a great student of baseball, and I’ve learned lots from reading her site. (Although, she keeps changing the URL and not telling me, so I’m sort of getting a complex. . . hmm.) Also, she’s just a very creative and funny writer, so even though I’m sometimes fatigued by the constant Pujols worship (no, I’m NOT jealous! SO not! Why would I be jealous of somebody on track to hit like 83 freakin’ jacks this year? Puh-lease!), she’s definitely one of my bookmarks.

She recently had a link to a post that I missed at the time (during one of her trying-to-hide-from-me website changes, no doubt). While ethanol-influenced, it was nonetheless remarkably ambitious—she decided to see how many players she could name from each major-league franchise. (I myself was flabbergasted by the scope of this quest—I’m so stupidly Houston-centric that I’m not sure I could even name all of the American League teams without cheating. And yes, that’s very embarrassing to admit.) Not surprisingly, she could name several Astros, and I quote:

Andy Effing Pettite, Roy goddamn mother-effing Oswalt, Wandy Effing Something or Other, Chris Effing Burke, Lance Effing Berkman, Larry Effing Bagwell, Craig Effing Biggio, Orlando Effing Palmiero, Brad Lidge.
(Bwahahahaha—“Brad Lidge”—get it?)

But then I blinked.

“LARRY Effing Bagwell”???????


Needless to say, I felt compelled to point out this error to her. She was very apologetic and contrite (well, she is a St. Louis fan, after all), but she’s also very on-board with current social culture, and I quote:

Nothing like covering up your idiocy and obliviousness by pouring even more stupidity and ridiculousness on top of it.
Yeah, two can play that game. So, since she is insisting on calling all the Astros “Larry” (and as a tribute to her ambitious post that started all this trouble), I’ve decided that the least I can do is see how many Cardinals I can name. Here goes: Cy Carpenter, Agnes Pujols, Bam-Bam Edmonds, Damien Eckstein, Spot Rolen, JayZee Isringhausen, So No-I’m-not-Tadahito-Iguchi Taguchi, Scout Mulder, and Yadier I-Love-Brad-Ausmus Molina.

(And I wonder why she keeps changing her web site and not telling me. . . .)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Buyer beware

If any of you have considered purchasing an item from, I would advise against it. I paid for an Astros' mouse pad via PayPal and never received it. When I placed it in dispute, PayPal found for my side, but was unable to procure any funds for a refund. While it wasn't a particularly expensive item, it was certainly annoying to be basically conned out of the money.

Stay away.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Blue water, blue sky, Blue Angels

Returned from Pensacola yesterday evening. It was quite a wonderful vacation, with sand, surf, good food and friends, and lots of libations. We got to see an airshow practice by the Navy's Blue Angels—the aerobatics were astounding, and the thought of being pursued by an F/A-18 Hornet makes me a little lightheaded and queasy. Thankfully I don’t have to think about it.

I actually did get to watch one baseball game—our Thursday defeat of the Cardinals, which was telecast on ESPN2. My companions gave me no end of grief for wanting to watch the game, but hell, I was on vacation! Aren’t you supposed to do things you enjoy while on vacation? I didn’t really get it.

I was certainly glad that I was able to watch a victory, as they have been coming at a much slower pace lately. The ‘Stros suffered their first sweep of the season this weekend, at the hands of the Rockies. While disappointing, a commenter on The Crawfish Boxes noted that we are, at 19-12, far better off than the 12-19 we were at this time last season. And while Saturday’s game was a shutout, it was the first of 2006—in contrast to last season, when the Astros had six by this time. Small comfort, I suppose, but comfort nonetheless.

Back to work tomorrow, and a long day it shall be, therefore this abridged post. Closing with good thoughts for Roy Wonder tomorrow against the Giants!