Sunday, October 08, 2006

¡Hasta luego!

This will be my last post for a while, possibly for good.

Don't worry, the Astros' dismal season didn't dim my love of baseball. Quite the contrary--I've been looking at next year's schedule, and was delighted to note that the good guys play several out-of-town weekend series, including Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, San Diego, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Arizona, among others. So my options to be able to visit other ballparks next year are looking pretty good! Plus, I'm going to a meeting in Denver in August, and while the Astros aren't playing the Rockies that week, Colorado is at home, so I'll probably make a visit to Coors as well. Fun times!

It is the end of the season, though, and as always at this time of year, I feel the need for a little break. The thing is, I've felt for a bit now that my life is a little unbalanced. I used to be a very well-rounded person, I thought, but it seems like I've let baseball take over (my own fault, of course). I've found myself so many times this year facing the question, "So, what did you do this weekend?" only to hear myself answer, shrugging, "Baseball."

It feels like there's just something wrong with that.

It would take something major--I don't know what--to make me walk away from being a baseball fan altogether. It's probably not possible. But, in an effort to find that balance again, I can choose to spend my time differently, and I probably will. The easiest thing to change, and to give up, is blogging about baseball. I've questioned for a long time whether I actually added any value to the blogosphere with my efforts--I don't live-blog games, I don't post after every game like some sites. I just, now and then, throw an opinion out there about my team. I've amused myself a bit, and I've made friends with some terrific folks, including redbirdbrain, lakeline, and the kind gentleman over at Astroday. But I've also found myself in a bit of a fan's no-man-land. I live in such a football-centric state and town that I am commonly labeled a "freak" just because I like baseball. When people find out I sometimes keep score, they start looking at me askance and backing away. No one I work with knows that I blog about baseball, and even my BBF Max, when I told him, said, "That's weird." (Needless to say, I didn't share the URL with him.) On the other hand, I routinely get flamed on message boards and websites because I'm not a sabermetrician. How is it that I can be too into baseball on one hand, and yet not enough on the other?

I don't get it.

But I do get this, and the wonderful sentiment it captures. I know I can keep up with the friends I've made without ever posting again, and I know that next spring I'll be looking forward to that first National Anthem, the first feel of sunshine on my face (roof open, of course!), that first swig of cold beer, and the first crack of a bat as the ball rockets toward the Crawford Boxes.

Here's to balance--cheers!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thoughts on a season

A friend recently sent me an email that started out with, "I don't usually send these types of things on, but this was so moving. . . ." (Uh-oh.) Anyway, it turned out to be a poem:

It's cold as shit.
The End

In that vein, I have composed a similar piece:

Sometimes it sucks.
The End

Most people at work the past week have offered their condolences (a bit tardily, I think, since for me this season had been over for awhile, but whatever). Many asked if the Astros had "sucked me back in" with the late run.


I was glad that they ended up over .500, but I certainly hope management doesn't take that as a sign to stand pat in the offseason. But I just didn't see the Astros making it to the postseason (a gut-feeling thing), so no, I didn't get sucked back in. I will say, however, that I was probably on the verge. Had they won the first game in Atlanta? Oh yeah, much suckage would have ensued. (You know what I mean.)

I will also have to say that I still found the end of the season a bit sad, especially since I came home from out of town--having found out about the final loss to Atlanta after getting off a plane--only to find my post-season tickets on my front doorstep. *Sigh.*

Those WS tickets are huge, y'all!

Anyway. A few brief comments about the season overall. Phil Garner will be returning as manager, which I think is probably appropriate. Do I think he's the best out there? No. Did some of his decisions make me crazy? Yeah. But has he had enough success in his brief tenure to merit staying with him a bit longer? Yeah, despite this year's mediocrity, I think he should stick for a while. I was surprised but not unpleased that they fired Jim Hickey. Apparently he has been around the organization for a while on several levels, to which I was oblivious. He has had success at various levels as well. However, I didn't think he really accomplished that much in his 2 years here. I mean, when you have Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Oswalt, how much coaching do you really do? So just looking at the rookies, I felt that Hickey didn't really get the job done. Some of the stat gurus would argue otherwise, but as someone who attended a couple dozen games in person and probably watched 150 games of the whole season, my overall impression is that, well, I'm not impressed. And the simple fact that Hickey didn't pick up that Lidge was tipping his pitches (it took our acquiring a career minor-leaguer to find that out)--shouldn't that have been HIS job? Obviously, Lidge has other issues as well, but to miss something so fundamental, and easy to fix. . . .

As for the rest of the team, looks like Biggio will probably be back. I would like to see Huff re-signed, but Mike Lamb is cheaper, so I don't know if that will happen. I expect Lidge to be traded, although I wouldn't mind if he stayed (as long as the leash is shorter than it was this year). I would be perfectly happy if Chad Qualls were traded, simply because I don't like his attitude, but I expect he'll still be around next year. I hope Berkman works out in the offseason this year. I hope Luke Scott sticks around, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he were traded. I hope Jason Lane is traded; he seems like a nice person, and I hope he is successful, but I just don't expect that to necessarily be in a big-league uniform. To me, last year seems an aberration. They say his problems are all confidence--if last year didn't build it, what will? Morgan Ensberg is a conundrum. He's obviously talented, but has certainly made some poor choices this year (like hiding the fact that he was injured). And he seems to panic so easily at the least slump. If he stays, good; if they trade him, okay. We absolutely should keep Adam Everett, I don't care if he stays above the Mendoza line or not. However, that begs the question of Ausmus, since the bottom of our order is so weak. Someone suggested transitioning Ausmus to a player-coach role (which he's done a bit of this year already), letting him catch either Clemens or Pettitte if they come back, and getting a catcher who can hit to partner with all the other pitchers. Not a bad idea.

Which brings us to Clemens and Pettitte. I was totally bummed when I read reports that their names were among those redacted in the Grimsley affadavit, just as I was when it was reported that Albert Pujols' trainer Chris Mihlfeld was mentioned. Now, it seems, maybe none of that is true. I spent a lot of time mulling those reports and the fallout afterward. I certainly hope that neither pitcher used, and I would be especially surprised to find that Pettitte had. (And I sure wish Clemens didn't rely on the Bondsian "I've never had a positive test" line!) Some in the blogosphere are saying that if they both retire, or sign elsewhere, that it's an indication that they did use, and that the Astros will quietly purge that particular pestilence from the clubhouse. (I for one don't think the Astros are necessarily so noble.) So of course, just like with Pujols, Clemens and Pettitte can't win for losing. If they retire because of the impact the late-season rumors had on their families, then they quit because they were using. If they continue to play, and have any success at all, then it's because they're using. Such a nightmare. If it weren't for the fact that Barry Bonds actually admitted using steroids (albeit allegedly unknowingly), I might actually feel sorry for him, for he's had it far worse (and I helped). I personally would like to see both pitchers return, but I do NOT want to see the Astros holding up any other acquisitions while playing the waiting game--been there, done that. However, a line hidden in the article about Garner's extension would seem to indicate that neither will be back: "[Garner and Purpura] anticipate the pitching staff looking much different next year. . . ."

As always, it's a waiting game.

I started this post with a "poem," so I think I'll end it with one:

A Haiku
Winter has arrived
Baseball is a game of hope
I am such a fool

(Guess I'll keep my day job. . . .)