Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mediocre times

Well, the Astros have gone 3-3 since my last entry and currently have a record of 62-68. They are in fourth place in the division, 7 games out, and 5 games back in the Wild Card standings. Hmm. Maybe I should have been a little more specific about that staying-in-contention thing.

On second thought, nah. I'll just go ahead and make that charitable donation anyway.

I've thought some more about the "why's" of this year (an exercise in futility if there ever was one). There have been a lot of rumblings on message boards about the players being too easy going, not having that "killer instinct." I'd have to say in my opinion those rumblings are pretty valid. You look at the team overall, and certain players stand out as fierce competitors. Roger Clemens, for one--his start against Pittsburgh on Friday was a portrait of unrelenting determination, on all sides of the ball--from his 6 hits allowed (1 R) in six innings, to his two sac bunts, to his four fielding assists, including a 3-6-1 DP and what practically amounted to an open-field tackle of Jose Castillo in a run-down between third and home. Roy Oswalt also comes to mind--the mental and physical aspects of his pitching just astound me. In his start in Cincinnati on Wednesday, after giving up 2 runs, he simply made up his mind that the Reds were done. He extended his personal win streak against that team to 16. Andy Pettitte and Dan Wheeler are also strong competitors, although in a less flashy way. Everybody else on the team. . . hmm. Obviously, Berkman has been a very consistent performer this year, and without him, we're in Pirates' territory in the standings, or worse. But as much as I enjoy his sense of humor (after homering to put the 'Stros up 1-0 against the Bucs on Friday, he yelled to Clemens, "There's your one run! Make it stand up!"), he is well-known as being a low-key, easy-going kind of guy. Definitely the kind of guy you want on your team, but the kind of guy that gets you fired up to win? Maybe not. Maybe it's a role he can grow into, who knows.

So, yeah, I'd say that overall the team is lacking something mentally. And how do you teach that? If the attitudes of Roger and Roy haven't been contagious, where in the world is it going to come from? I think this issue, more than personnel questions or anything else, concerns me for next year's team. I suspect that the team taking the field in 2007 (with the exception of Clemens--I think he'll retire for good this time) will be little changed from this year's squad--I don't see Purpura making any earth-shaking deals, nor getting rid of any of his precious prospects. No wonder Oswalt has hinted that he wants to go elsewhere--it's like a friend of mine said, "I don't mind working hard as long as I'm not the only one. That gets a little unfair." I'm sure Roy sometimes feels like he's the only one working hard.

So what to do? Uh, I dunno. I do have one suggestion, though--the video that is shown at MMP before the Astros' lineup is announced has got to go. Last year's video had great clips of fabulous plays, stirring moments, drama, you name it, all set to a heavy metal soundtrack and interspersed with images of splashing red (evoking blood, I suppose). Talk about killer! This year's video starts with some feeble crap about a baseball being launched into space and taking orbit, and shows more pics of players from the rainbow jersey days than it does of this year's team. While I appreciate history as much as the next person, the overall feeling left by this year's video is one of mystifying (what-the-hell-was-that-crap?), boring (*yawn*) LAMENESS. No wonder the players don't have a killer instinct--they're lulled to sleep before every home game!

Oh, speaking of lameness--er, I mean, people who like the word "lame," (tee-hee!) redbirdbrain is coming to visit me! She has embarked upon a project that I aspire to--visiting all the MLB ballparks. I had extra tickets to the Cardinals' series in September, so now she will be adding MMP to her list of visited venues. Yippee! Not only will she get to see the stupid, lame line-up video in person, but maybe--just maybe--Larry Biggio will hit a HR to the Biggio boxes. While we're sitting there!

Good times!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cheers! A win at Miller

The Astros won today to split a four-game series in Milwaukee. Miller Park looks pretty fun, the sausage races crack me up, as well as Bernie (I think that's his name) the Brewer, who skims down the slide when the Brew Crew score (beats the train--I love MMP, personally, and I understand the historical significance of the train and all, but it looks like it's carrying freakin' pumpkins. Not cool).

Anyway, what with injuries to Oswalt, Nieve, and Backe, and the continuing anemic offense, all I'm hoping for now is that the team won't completely embarrass themselves over this last 6 weeks of the season. I hope that they act like the professionals that I assume them to be, and play hard in every game even after they are mathematically eliminated (which at the current clip of .476 ball, won't be too much longer). Ah well, at least we're not the Royals, with an E number of 9. That would suck.

One of my colleagues riffed on the first base coach (Jose "Cheo" Cruz) the other day. He doesn't like how Cheo comes up and always puts hands on the players. This colleague is a guy's guy and probably a little homophobic, I imagine. I teased him, "That's it! You've figured it out! The whole reason that they have no discipline at the plate is because they don't want to get stuck at first base and be 'pawed' by Cheo! Of course! If they can't get an extra-base hit, they don't want it!" We giggled, but it's probably as good an explanation as any for the more inexplicable aspects of this season. My BBF (that's Best Baseball Friend) Max and I talked for an hour yesterday about all the things that have gone wrong or were disappointing this year. Of course, always easier to see some things in hindsight. . . .

Anyway, like the good fans that we are, we made plans to attend several more home games before the season ends. With any luck, the weather will be fair and somewhat cool for the last homestand against the Cardinals. The roof will be open, and the long, golden light of late summer will burnish the season's end with the luster of next year's hopes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Calling all psychiatrists


I must have masochistic tendencies. I keep spending money on the dang Astros when they've done nothing to earn my trust and support.

Well, okay, sweeping the Pirates was nice (but of course, it was the Pirates). And obviously it kept my little fantasy universe alive for a few days longer.

But overall, attending and/or watching games is just painful right now. As redbirdbrain has noted, why am I continuing in an activity that stresses and depresses me? IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN, for crying out loud.

And yet, not only do I continue to watch, I continue to throw money at them. I just exercised my post-season option, even though I've thought for some time now that the Astros wouldn't advance this year. So now I'm guaranteed 2 seats (good ones, at that) to every home postseason game, including all three potential World Series games.

Talk about a fantasy universe.

But hey, while the psychiatrists are around, maybe they can help some of the team members. Like Morgan Ensberg, for one. Dude was my favorite player last year, now I just think he's mental. (And yes, I can be a little fickle. But seriously? What is up with him? He's turned more OCD than Nomar Garciaparra, and he just looks wild-eyed at the plate, like he doesn't have clue one. Not to mention lying about being hurt earlier this season [and yeah, he said he knew others who "played through pain," but it's easy to put an honorable spin on something after the fact]. And the show-boating that got him injured in the first place is annoying, although certainly to be fair, he was only hitting .216 in May before the injury occurred in June.)

And what about Lidge? I do NOT think Pujols got to him, he had his struggles last year before the playoffs had started. But he keeps singing the same song-and-dance about how he doesn't understand how he's getting hit. I don't understand it either--how can he be dominant one outing and ridiculously easy to hit the next? But somebody needs to figure it out, and if it takes a shrink, so be it. He's already lost the closer's job, and I predict he'll be traded in the off-season.

I could go on and on, with Jason Lane, poor P-Dub (good luck, sir), Orlando Palmeiro, and everybody else who is underperforming this year. But what's the point?

You know, earlier this year I was good with the Astros not making the playoffs. Of course, processes such as grief are never fully linear, explaining my current recrudescence of depression and anger. Then again, maybe I should blame my recurring flicker of hope on the NL in general. Since all the teams have sucked at some point this year (only the Mets are above .550, and they've lost their last two--not that they've really sucked this year, damn them), it has kept the Astros in the hunt--and coasting in their mediocrity--for far longer than might otherwise have been possible.

Ah well, forget the shrink. Just get me some Prozac.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I'm still here

And I'm still watching baseball.

I just haven't felt like blogging about it, or about much of anything, actually.

I've been really busy the last week or so--I'm on vacation this week, which was very welcome, but had a friend come visit for the first few days of my off time, so spent all last week trying to get my house ready. I've only owned this place since the first of the year, and hadn't quite finished doing things like hanging pictures, buying furnishings, etc. (I knew if I didn't get it done before the season started, that it would end up languishing for a while.)

Anyway, my house isn't finished, but it does at least look like I live here. And my friend and I had a wonderful visit. I dropped her off in Houston yesterday, and had gotten myself tickets to the game as well as the ballpark tour. The tour was fun. I learned some interesting trivia, like it takes about 13 minutes to open (or close) the roof at Minute Maid, and that the Coca Cola company (owners of Minute Maid brand and therefore the name license holder) owns the name license through 2030. It costs about $1000/hour to air-condition the Park when the roof is closed (to a temperature of 75 degrees). The seats right behind home plate are licensed to individual tickets holders for a one-time $20,000 fee per seat, and then sold as season tickets at $375/seat/game (in other words, first year investment of about $50,000). The turf is a type called Seashore Paspalum, which is from Argentina and only requires about 2 hours of sunlight a day, and there is over 6 acres of it on the playing field.

Good tour, good game, yucky crowd--listless, disinterested, booed a lot at the least provocation. Most of my friends could be described similarly right now, I think--I haven't been able to get anyone to go with me to the games this weekend. Some people legitimately have to work, but others are like, "No, I don't want to fight traffic and parking and the crowd and pay $7 for beer." While on the one hand I can relate, I also know those same folks will be vying to join me at any playoff games, should the 'Stros make the postseason.

Makes me feel a bit like the Little Red Hen (and obviously, I need this vacation, as I first put "Chicken Little"--I've mixed metaphors before, but not folktales!).

Anyway. I got a crazy whim and invited folks over for dinner tomorrow night, so now I have lots of stuff to do AGAIN. See ya'!