Monday, July 31, 2006


No trade. Nada.

Never thought I'd actually be glad to say that. Just when I was worried about the IQ of the 'Stros' front office, they do something smart, and actually look like reasonable people doing it.

Of course, maybe the whole trade-Oswalt thing was designed to get everybody's dander up, to cover the fact that no trade at all was forthcoming. No trade is certainly better than a stupid one, right?

Maybe they're even smarter than I think.

You're a loony

That's the famous line that King Arthur says to the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I would venture to say that it applies to the Astros' front office, and Tim Purpura in particular.

Honestly. What. The. Hell.

The Astros were thinking of trading ROY OSWALT for Miguel Tejada? Pardon the profanity, but you have got to be shitting me. Trade the ace of our pitching staff for a rental bat? (Yes, I know he's signed through 2009, but he can demand a trade in the offseason if traded mid-season, and if none is made, he becomes a free agent in March.)

And despite his friendship with Drayton McLane, if I'm Roy, my price for year after next just went up.

Way up.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Trade Roger

No, really. I mean it.

Obviously, I have not accepted the Astros' season fates as fully as I had thought, as their snatching defeat from the hands of victory today disgusted me.

An incredible performance by Roger Clemens (7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, and 9 K), in which he lowered his ERA to 2.09, was completely wasted by the combination of Chad Qualls and Brad Lidge. Clemens left after the seventh with a 5-1 lead, but Qualls allowed 4 runs in the eighth to tie the game, and Lidge allowed two more in the ninth to put it away (final score 7-6). Once again, Lidge only needed one more pitch--ONE!--to finish the ninth and send the game to the bottom of the inning tied. Given that Luke Scott and Adam Everett both doubled in the bottom of the ninth for our final run, the outcome could have been far, far different. But that one pitch was hit out by Conor Jackson for the D-Backs' final two runs.

The trade deadline is tomorrow. I sure as hell hope that the Astros don't make any moves, especially not if it means giving away the farm for some rental like Soriano or Tejada. What they should do, though, is send Roger Clemens to a team that has a shot--Yankees, Tigers, or my preference would be the Red Sox. Let him finish his storied career on a winner, so that he can have one last October, one last shot at the Fall Classic.

He deserves better than this.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fun times

No, the Astros didn't win last night, although they certainly did play well. Luke Scott put on quite the show, as I had hoped he would--first Astros' rookie to hit for the cycle, and first Astro to do so at all since Bidge in 2002. He did it in reverse order, too--homer (4th inning), triple (5th), double (7th), then single (11th). (Some call it hitting in reverse "natural" order, meaning that natural order would be single, then double, and so on. I figure there's nothing "natural" about it, or we'd see it more often. Too bad it's not like poker, for example, where a straight flush is worth more than a flush or a straight!)

Anyway, despite the loss, I had the best time of any game that I wasn't actually, um, at. The media personnel at MMP, as well as all the fun folks over at The Crawfish Boxes, ran with the whole 70's theme night. I haven't laughed so hard during a losing game since the plunk-night debacle against the Giants back in May.

Odd, in a way. Even though I accept that the playoffs are probably out of the picture, I'm starting to enjoy Astros' baseball again (hell, just bought tickets for two more upcoming games!). It's as if the playoff pressure is off of me as a fan, too, and now I can just sit back and enjoy the game.

Here's hoping the team can do the same.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Same old, lame old

Ah well. Another loss with Clemens on the mound. Yep, looking shut-outerish again (hee!).

I'm glad I'm in the acceptance phase of my grief about this season.

Especially seeing as how it's not likely to change any time soon.

I can live with the Astros not making a trade before the deadline. The mob majority seems to think we need to get Miguel Tejada from the Orioles, and most are willing to give up Jason Hirsh to do it.

Me? Not so much.

I think Tejada's probably a cheater (he certainly has the Rafael Palmeiro/Jason Grimsley stain on him), and his work ethic is questionable. I also was not impressed with his off-season grumblings about the Orioles--that stuff never plays out well in the media. And to give up our best pitching prospect, who is 11-2 at AAA with a 2.08 ERA and 106 strikeouts (and is on a 40-something-inning streak of not giving up a run)? PUH-lease! I agree with some people that the Astros take too long to bring up their prospects, but the same fans seem willing to forfeit the future just because it's not getting here as fast as they'd like.

I don't get it.

On the other hand, I had a depressing thought yesterday while watching the game. (Well, actually I had a few depressing thoughts, one of which was how bad Adam Everett really can look at the plate. His strikeout in the fourth, with Luke Scott at third and only one out, was pretty mind-boggling. The pitch he swung at for the K was so far out of the zone that I swear he shut his eyes. I love watching him play short--his athleticism and grace in the field are mind-boggling in the best way--but I'm starting to agree a bit with those who view him as one of the black holes in the offense. Even considering runs saved, I'm starting to question his overall contribution. And I hate that.)

Um, right. Back to the other depressing thought. You know, everybody--right now I don't feel like linking to all of the citations I've read, but we're talking coaches, managers, players, and most of the blogosphere--seem to feel that the Astros are a much better team than they're showing at the moment. "Not playing up to their potential," they call it.

But. . . what if they are?

What if for the last two years, they were playing way BEYOND their potential? Maybe they're just not that good, you know? Maybe the last two years were the "magical seasons" in more ways than one.

Talk about depressing.

[UPDATE: Okay, okay, okay! Now I feel sufficiently chastised for questioning Adam Everett's value. My bad!]

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Have a little Faith

Hill, that is.

Some girlfriends in Houston had made plans months ago to attend the Tim McGraw concert last night at the Toyota Center. I'm not as much a fan as they are, but when one of the girls bailed, they asked me if I wanted to go. Sure, I said. A Tim McGraw concert sounds fun. And that's all I've heard about for the last couple of months--going to Tim, going to Tim. . . .

At work last week, someone asked, "Hey, isn't that the Soul2SoulII tour, with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill together?"

Confused, I said, "Well, I don't think so, they've never said anything about Faith Hill."

Little did I know I had such single-minded friends.

Anyway, the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill concert was simply fabulous--a great show, magnificent seats, good food beforehand, and a hotel room within walking distance of the venue, so no beverage-related driving worries. There were some misadventures, of course, but what happens in Houston, stays in Houston. . . .

Speaking of Houston, the Astros managed to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Mets, who looked like they underwent a role-reversal with us (errors, failure to hustle, etc.). While it will take more than one well-played game and well-deserved win to change my prediction about the 'Stros season outcome, it was certainly a refreshing change of pace for their "faith"-ful fans.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tee hee!

Since Astros' baseball doesn't really amuse me particularly at the moment, I thought I would post something that does.

This is my new doormat.

It is self-described as "perfectly fine, if not certainly adequate," and contains the following warnings on the label:

"Do not use mat as a projectile. Sudden acceleration to dangerous speeds may cause injury. When using mat, follow directions: Put your right foot in, put your right foot out, put your right foot in and shake it all about. This mat is not designed to sustain gross weight exceeding 12,000 lbs. . . . If coffee spills on mat, assume that it is very hot. . . . Do not glue mat to porous surfaces, such as pregnant women [I'm not making this up, lakeline!], pets and heavy machinery. . . . Do not taunt mat. Failure to comply relieves the makers of this doormat, Simply Precious Home Decor. . . of any and all liability."

Love. It!

Onward and downward

Well, the Astros are now 4 games under .500, and 8 games back of the Cardinals (not 8.5, because the Cards were off today--thank heavens for small favors). The Cubs, losers of 14 of their last 17 home games, took 2 of 3 from the 'Stros, with Andy Pettitte taking the loss today. I didn't get to watch the game, as I was working, but looking at recaps, sounds like Andy wasn't particularly strong today. Damned old Zambrano continues to own the Astros, though.

So now it's on to New York, to face the best team in the National League. I continue with my prediction of a sweep at the hands of the Mets, but I do hope the Astros at least make it interesting--they do tend to play up (or down) to the caliber of their opponent, quite often.

A friend called last night, and we briefly touched on the subject of the 'Stros. He no longer really follows the team, and reiterated to me something he has said ever since he discovered that I was a fan--"They'll break your heart, you might as well give up or get used to it."

I dunno. I was actually kind of offended by that. Obviously, this season has been very disappointing, and I do not anticipate that the team will turn things around in time to make the post-season. But I certainly plan to make as many games as possible for the remainder of the year. And a poor showing by the team this season should decrease ticket demand enough for me get a seat upgrade next year, as I already mentioned. And, finally and most importantly, how much sweeter will the winning be, when it finally happens?

Maybe I'm not as much of a fair-weather fan as I worried that I might be.

[A post-script: let's hope Alyson Footer is an employee of and not the Houston Astros, as this type of article {UPDATE--article has been changed since original posting} surely won't win her any points in the front office--as Alan Ashby found out, it is possible to be TOO honest around the Astros' management, unfortunately. A quote:

The outlook for the Houston Astros worsened on Thursday when they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Chicago Cubs -- those same Chicago Cubs who are in fifth place in the division and own the worst home record in baseball. Now the Astros are off to New York, where they will meet the Mets, a team far superior than the Cubs, as evidenced by their 57-38 record that has made a mockery of the word "race" in the NL East. If the Astros play this poorly this weekend at Shea Stadium, they have no chance to beat a team that is better than them in every area -- pitching, speed and defense. And winning.]

Monday, July 17, 2006


I'm eerily calm.

Actually, it's not even eerie.

Just calm.

I didn't see any of the weekend games with the Marlins (on call Friday, and in New Braunfels--at a condo with NO CABLE--on Saturday and Sunday). I was really excited to hear, while listening to the middle of Sunday's game on the radio on the drive home, that we had won on Saturday 12-0.

Then of course, Sunday's 3-0 lead came undone.

I turned the radio off.

At work today, when the usual suspects started giving me grief about the Astros' performance over the weekend, I didn't argue or hedge or counter. I just shrugged and said, "Yeah."

I've already gone through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. I'm at acceptance.

I predict that the Cubs will enjoy a brief resurgence at our expense, taking 2 of 3, and that the Mets will sweep us out of town and out of the division race. I think the 12-plus game hole that we find ourselves in by the end of this road trip will likely knock us out of any real chance at a wildcard berth as well.

At least in the off-season, I should be able to get really good seats for next year!

Friday, July 14, 2006

It's a start

Haven't had time to weigh in on all the All-Star break machinations by the Astros, but after Aubrey Huff's 3-run homer to give the boys a 5-1 win against the Marlins last night, I'd have to say that at least at this moment, Tim Purpura looks like a genius.

We'll see.

Other things remain to be fixed. I didn't actually see Huff's homer, I turned off the game when Chad Qualls came in to relieve Oswalt, because I got that same old sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. While checking my email, I flipped to the Astros' website to see how many runs Qualls gave up, and at first read the boxscore as if the Marlins were ahead (my mindset right now). As I kept staring at it, realizing that WE were up, I rushed back to the TV and flipped it back on. I got that same nauseating sense when it came to the bottom of the ninth and I realized that Brad Lidge was coming in.

Fighting the urge to turn the TV off yet again, I called my friend Max. He talked me down off the Lidge ledge, I watched the end of the game, and the Astros won. (Lidge didn't look particularly sharp but he didn't allow a baserunner, thank heavens.)

Ensberg was put on the DL and Luke Scott has been called up. Hope Luke can put on a show this time, although it might mean his being traded by the deadline for middle relief.

Anyway, it's a start. Go 'Stros!

Monday, July 10, 2006

It's true, Redbirdbrain--they ARE lame

"I just don't think I can stand it anymore."

Those were the words coming over the phone in the O.R. lounge at ten minutes after 7 this morning. The gal at the scheduling desk had hollered that the call was for me, so I picked up the extension. Seeing on the caller ID that it was coming from one of the other hospitals, I just figured it was one of my colleagues, probably trying to dump some overtime.

The voice on the other end wasn't another anesthetist. It was the top cardiothoracic surgeon in the area.

I blinked. "What?"

He repeated himself. "I just don't think I can stand it anymore. Was that not the most miserable series of baseball you've ever seen?"

I had to agree that it was, and told him how much MORE miserable it seemed from the ballpark, as I had attended all three weekend games. We commiserated briefly, but before concluding the conversation, he said it a third time.

"I just don't think I can stand it anymore, and I just had to tell somebody."

Yeah. I know. We all have our ways of dealing with grief.

Last night's game was excruciating. I thought briefly about not attending at all, as I had driven home Saturday night in order to do something productive with my weekend. The friends that I planned to meet for the game had already been given their tickets, so it wasn't like they wouldn't be able to go if I opted out. But this was an annual trek that the four of us make to celebrate their birthdays (the tickets are my present to them), so I felt compelled to go.

To celebrate.

Problem was, none of us felt like celebrating after Saturday's fiasco. We were just kinda going through the motions. Added to that, there was a heckler in the section next to us who shouted things like "Okay, Andy, it's almost the break, you can start pitching any day now!" He finally was kicked out in the seventh after people complained. (Hell, I would have complained in the first if I'd known it would help!)

Andy DID pitch (7 IP, 7 H, 3R [all earned], 1 BB, 8 K). His performance was the bright spot of the evening, and I was pleased for him.

As for everyone else, where do you start?

Lamb's error in the eighth (at which time I packed it up for my hour-and-a-half drive home) allowed Damien Eckstein to score from third, tying the game at 2-2. Dan Wheeler then allowed Spot Rolen a 3-run jack, which I heard overhead as I was exiting the gate. To top off the miserable evening, I slipped and fell on the concourse before I actually got out of the park (no injuries, thankfully). It was apparently premonitory, as Jason Lane later tripped over his own feet off second base during the eighth, eliminating the benefit of Morgan Ensberg's sac fly. As I continued to listen to the game on the radio, Eric Munson got picked off at first by one of the Throwing Molina Brothers (Yadier really seems to have a thing about trying to pick off fellow catchers--unfortunately, this time it worked). The disgust in Milo Hamilton's voice about the Astros' performance in that inning was barely containable. It got worse in the tenth, when--with the bases loaded and only one out--both Preston Wilson and Jason Lane struck out to strand the runners. At that point, I turned off the radio.

I just couldn't stand it anymore.

Got home, expecting to catch a final score on ESPN, only to find the game still on. My TV was only on for about 15 seconds--long enough for me to realize that Lidge was in with two baserunners and two outs. I didn't need to actually see the conclusion to know how the game would end.

Yeah. I need this All-Star break as much as the players, I think.

I just don't think I can stand it anymore.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Weekend notes


Went to the game Friday night. I was with some marvelous company, which was a good thing since the game sucked. I had Crawford Box seats, and you can see me just briefly in the video of Ensberg's 19th homer (the July 7th link). I'm sitting in the fourth row up, right next to the fence that keeps fans from falling into left center field (seat #1). I'm standing up just as Brownie's saying, "They're getting up in the Landry's Crawford Boxes," and you can see me pump my right fist right before the camera angle cuts me out of the picture. Tee-hee! This amuses me a lot.

I'm easily amused.

Also amusing that day was Berkman's Jeter impersonation, falling into the stands after a catch of a foul ball by Pujols. What's most entertaining is that you can see that he's about to blow a gum bubble as he comes running up for the catch, and not even the fall deters him from this activity. Pretty cool customer. (But how the hell did he get the nickname "Big Puma"? I don't get it. I do, however, get Mike Lamb's--the Killer Silent B--alternate nickname: "Lambo." At MMP, they show a picture of Sylvester Stallone's body from the Rambo movie, with Mike Lamb's head, any time "Lambo" gets a hit. Hee!)

I also attended yesterday's game. What is there to say about that? The company was again stellar, but the Astros continue their predilection for scoring when I'm in the bathroom. I even spent most of the 7th inning in the bathroom to assure our retaking the lead (successfully, I might add). I attempted the same in the ninth, but apparently Brad Lidge's bad mojo is more powerful than my bathroom mojo. Who knew?

That loss seemed one of the more depressing I've witnessed. But I'm not quite sure if it's the loss so much as simply a reflection of my current mood. I'm reading Joan Didion's latest, The Year of Magical Thinking, which is a memoir of a difficult time in her life (freakin' understatement!), but also a study of grief. I haven't finished this lovely tome yet (I adore her writing! It's like reading words, but hearing music), but she seems thus far to be making a case that grief is a form of mental illness, almost.

Well, hell. If magical thinking denotes psychosis, then probably all baseball fans (or at least us Astros' fans) are certifiable.

I believe I'll be staying out of the bathroom unless absolutely necessary, from here on out.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Happy 4th!

Yeah, I know.

I've been busy.

Mikey Lamb hit a solo HR in the first inning of tonight's game (in which the Cards have just gone up 2-1 on Jim Edmonds' 2-run jack), helping to cement the Killer Silent B's place in my "affections." His assuring that there'd be no shutout tonight was second, though, to his pre-game interview, in which he talked to Greg Lucas about hitting in the second hole.

When he said it enables him to use his speed, I snickered.

Love ya', man, but you're not really known as fast.

We all have our dreams. . . .

Go "Stros!

(Oh, final note--my friend Max is using my game tickets tonight because I couldn't make a weekday trip. They are giving away an authentic NL pennant ring tonight. My friend Max is the luckiest SOB I've ever been around. If he wins it, I think I might vomit that I didn't go.)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Big surprise!

We won!

The Astros beat the Rangers 7-0 behind the brilliant (there, I said it) performance of Taylor Buckholz and the firepower of Mike Lamb, who was 3-5 with a HR, triple, and a double. Lamb was robbed of a second home run by Gary Matthews Jr., who made a Jackie Chan catch up and over the center field wall to prevent what would have been an additional 3 runs.

How lovely is the win. Maybe the players will start having a little fun now, as Oswalt hoped.

You know, I haven't had a "favorite" player for a while now. Last year it was Ensberg, who impressed me with his wit in interviews and his interaction with fans as much as his bat. This year, however, Ensberg tends to ignore the fans before games, and hasn't really put together anything consistently at the plate (okay, sure, he has 18 jacks, but none since June 4th, and it drives me crazy that he changes his stance every time he gets up to bat). I mentioned a couple of weeks ago at work that Mike Lamb might be my new favorite this year, only to be met with incredulity. But now, I think it's pretty hard to argue with his numbers, and plus, he seems to be such a nice guy. He always comes across in interviews as a guy who still thinks he's so blessed to get to play, and last year, when talking about Houston fans and his experience with the club, he actually teared up a bit. (And yeah, that stuff gets to me every time. Including when Frank Robinson cried.) And given Mike Lamb's response to the catch made by the Rangers' center fielder, it's now official.

My new favorite player, by a landslide score of 1-0 (hey, my vote is the only one that counts!) is Mike Lamb, a.k.a. Lambchop!


Lost again.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series to the Rangers, 3-1. Unfortunately, with Roy Oswalt on the mound, this was probably our best chance to win one of the three on tap for the weekend. Today's game and tomorrow's contest feature Taylor Buckholz and Wandy Rodriguez, in that order. Taylor was pretty freakin' close to brilliant in his last outing in Chicago and would have had the win, in all likelihood, had Chad Qualls not given up the granny to Joe Crede. If he performs as well today, we'll have a chance to at least be IN the game. However, his season has been marked by inconsistency so far. Wandy, on the other hand, has never been a pitcher that I've characterized as brilliant, yet he got the job done--for the first two months of the season. He was 2-3 in June.

I found Roy Oswalt's comments after the game to be fairly revealing of the club's current mental status:
"We need to pick it up for sure. . . . The team's just not playing together at all. Everyone's worried about somebody else doing something wrong instead of just playing their game and having a little fun. Nobody's having fun. Everybody's worried about losing. You can't go into a game worried about losing. You've got to have fun."

Yeah, I've worked in place like that, where everybody is more worried about how others do a job instead of doing their own. It's not a fun place to work, and not much work gets done.

I've been resisting jumping on the trade-somebody-or-send-people-down-and/or-bring-people-up bandwagon, just because I'm not sure that there's anybody out there, trade-wise, who would help us much, nor am I convinced that Hirsh is ready to make the jump to the bigs. I would like to see Luke Scott get another chance, but it's a bit of a double-edged sword--he's done well at AAA again this year, but even he noted that his performing well there gains him nothing--it's expected. But if they bring him up again and he doesn't do well at the major league level, then he loses potential as trade bait, as well as in expectations from his own current club. Regardless, given Roy O's comments after last night's loss, something needs to change. (And don't you love Roy? People who "tell it like it is" are never considered media-savvy, but it sure is a refreshing change from hearing the same refrain over and over again--"we're just not swinging the bats well." Well, no shit.) Last year, inaction from the front office proved to be the correct move. But despite the similarities on paper, this is not the same team as last year, and the same stand-pat attitude will probably not succeed, in the opinion of many in the blogosphere.

Are you listening, Mr. Purpura?