April Phillie’s Joke

The Astros dropped their first game of the season with Brandon Lyon blowing a sure win.  Thanks for reading folks.  Tune in tomorrow to see if they can win the second game of the season.

That pretty much sums up what I felt after the game.  And I also said words like “yeargh!” and “ack!” Surprisingly, I didn’t say any curse words, but I think that is due to the performance of the team rather than the final score.

In yesterday’s post (“Opening Day 2011“), I said that there were three things we needed to see: Good Bat Speed, Confidence and No Errors.

Bat Speed

The Astros had 9 hits and several foul balls off of last year’s Cy-Young winner, Roy Halladay.  That is a very good showing considering Halladay is one of the most dominant pitchers of the last 10 years. 
Bad speed: check plus.

Confidence

This young team looked cool under pressure and determined to win the game.  It was a great show of how seriously they are going to take the season and how mentally prepared they are to make noise. And Brett Myers was a statue on the mound exuding stupendousness.
Confidence: check plus.

No Errors

The Astros looked great defensively.  Chris Johnson had two fantastic line drive catches at third and Brett Wallace had several good plays at first.  Michael Bourn and Jason Bourgeois (late defensive change) also had some good plays in the outfield. Humberto Quintero had a perfect throw to catch Shane Victorino trying to steal second base. The only mishap was a passed ball by Quintero, but it led to 2 runs by the Phillies. 
No errors: check.

All in all, the Astros played a good, solid game and they should have beat the Phillies. But Brandon Lyon had a rough outting and gave up the game. It wasn’t all Brandon’s fault.  He did leave the ball up, but the Phillies got three broken-bat specials and hit some very good pitches.  Though I did wonder yesterday if it is better to let your closer know that you are going to stick with him or is it better to win the first game of the season against the previous Cy-Young winner.

I would have liked for us to win that first game since we seem to always lose it.  It would be a nice way to start the 2011 season.  However, I understand why manager Brad Mills wanted Lyon to know that he is the closer.  It was just a tough game to lose.

Today’s Game

Wandy Rodriguez will be pitching against Cliff Lee in his long-awaited start.  The game is at 6:05 pm CT on Fox Sports Southwest.

Opening Day 2011

MLB Opening DayIt’s Opening Day for the Houston Astros and I am so excited.  I think of the time between the end of the Super Bowl and the start of the baseball season as the dead zone.  Not being a huge basketball fan anymore, it is a really boring time on television and on sports talk. Sure we have March Madness, but at this point, it’s more fun to do a bracket than actually watch a 3-4 week long basketball tournament.

But no more!  We now have seven months months of glorious baseball talk, stats, games and smack. Praise Cthulhu!

I am currently watching Baseball Tonight and they can’t say enough good thins about Brett Myers.  John Kruk in particular noted that Brett has one of the best breaking balls in the majors and if he has command today, the Phillies are going to be in trouble.

Blame It on the Rain…

Game time temperature is going to be around 42˚ with light rain.  In fact, it is supposed to rain during the whole game.  It’s going to be a miserable day and everyone is questioning not only why this game wasn’t played in Houston, but also how the Houston players are going to perform in such chilly conditions.

I think it is an appropriate question.  Even though we have several players who have experience playing in the colder cities, that doesn’t mean that they are acclimated to those conditions today.  This is going to be their worst handicap today and add Roy Halladay to the mix… yuck!

Just be glad the Astros aren’t playing in Cleveland.

What Do We Want to See Today?

We would love to see a win.  Starting the season with a Myers win against Halladay would be a great way to start the season.  However, we have to be realistic.  The first month of the season is always weird as the players get into the groove and get their rhythms figured out.

  1. We want to see good bat speed. No 0-for-4 performances unless you knock out several foul balls.  We want to know that the players can make contact.
  2. We want to see confidence. No cockiness. Quiet determination that lets the players and fans know this young team means business.
  3. We want to see no errors. Defense is the base for good baseball.  A strong week in defense will be something the Astros can build on.

Go Astros!!!

Astros Wave Their Magic Wandy

The Astros beat the Washington Nationals yesterday 6-5 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score makes it seem. If the Nats hadn’t scored 4 runs in the 7th inning, the win would have been a blowout.

With the Astros having bad luck so far in the standings, the story wasn’t the win (it is Spring Training after all). The real story was a good outing from Wandy Rodriguez.

He pitched four strong innings giving up 4 hits and one run. This did result in a high pitch count of 72 pitches (25 in the first inning), but in mid-March, this isn’t as big of a worry as it would be in early-May.

It does bring up a long-standing concern about Wandy’s routine in a game. He tends to be at his worst in the first few innings of a game and then be unhittable in the later innings. However, if the pitch count is already high, he won’t make it past the fifth inning (if we are lucky) and we could be looking at another early hole in the standings.

I would be more panicked if it was early-May, so I stay optimistic that as his strength builds, Wandy will finally overcome the early inning blues.

******************

Richard Justice wrote a great article yesterday (when does he write a bad article?). Check it out: 50 Reasons to Watch the 2011 Astros

First Cuts Are Nigh

Astros' First CutsThey say the first cuts are always the hardest. In a few days, the Astros will have to cut their roster from 63 to a much more manageable number. It’s basically a really awkward moment for everyone.

The Coaches

The coaches have to be sympathetic and encouraging while still being professional. They know that the player probably isn’t ready for prime time or that they just didn’t have a shot against a veteran, but to the player, they have to be a rock that has a few flowers on top.

“You played good, kid. Go down to the minors and really work on hitting a fastball.”

“It just wasn’t your time, but if someone goes down, you are going to be at the top of the list to come up to the bigs.”

And the hardest to say of all…

“We just don’t feel that you have a future with our organization.”

The Players

The other players have two faces.  One face is sympathetic and tells the player that they know they will see them again soon.  As wrong as it sounds, the other face is relieved. They know that they have another week to try to make the team.  The veterans have it the hardest. Because their job wasn’t in danger, they have to reach deep to not seem aloof or overconfident. And I am sure it breaks their heart a little too.

The Fans

As fans, we like to get to know our team. It’s always crushing to have a favorite player get cut. Your joy deflates and you get mad at the team for not asking your opinion before making the decision. Luckily, we now have the internet — a very public forum on which to vent our displeasure.

The Player

I’ve been laid off twice and while the first time was much worse than the second, both of them were demoralizing and upsetting.  You can’t help yourself from feeling inadequate.  For a newly cut player, it’s even worse.  This is your dream.  You’ve worked hard since t-ball to make it to the major leagues and now it has come crashing down.

Nobody can say anything to make you feel better. You don’t want to call your wife or parents. You don’t want to look for an apartment in a minor league city. You don’t want to feel the claps on your back as you hang your head and walk out of the locker room. It’s a pretty rotten, embarrassing, sad, upsetting, angry, humiliating time.

Like I said, the first cuts are always the hardest.

That Tears It

It’s amazing how badly you can injure yourself when your feet touch a base.

Geoff Jenkins had the misfortune of finding this out on June 17, 2002 when he was lunging back to third base and dislocated his ankle. Even though the injury was horrific (see horrific photos), it was the reason for one of my favorite sports quotes.

“That was the worst thing I’ve ever heard and seen,”
Geoff Blum said after he got a front row view.

Jason Castro didn’t mimic Jenkins, but he did get an injury while rounding first base on Monday. He tore the meniscus muscle in his right knee when his foot landed awkwardly on first base.

Initially it was thought that he would be out for 4 to 6 weeks.  However on Thursday night, doctors realized he also had a torn anterior cruciate ligament and he will probably not be ready to play until September, at the earliest.

Let’s be honest.  Even if the Astros play in October this season, Castro isn’t going to be with the team.  Starting a catcher in September is like turning on the air conditioning at the end of a hot, summer day in Corpus.

After successful surgery onFriday, a lot of fans are panicking in regards to the catching position.  I had a friend earlier who texted me that the “Astros are toast.”

That’s just crazy-talk.  Quintero is more than capable of handling the backstop.  The season hasn’t even started.  Why is everyone panicking already?

Spring About to Be Sprung

Today is the first day of the rest of our baseball season.  Why, you ask?  Because today is the first game for the Astros in Spring Training.

While some may not see it as a day to remember, true baseball fans like myself see it as a phoenix rising from the ashes.  A time when every team has a chance to win the World Series and every pitching lineup is the best in the league.

It’s a chance for rebirth and the spring season is the perfect time to get out your glove and throw a ball to your child just like the ace of your team is throwing to a fresh-faced, young whippersnapper of a catcher.

Last year was rough.  No doubt about it.  But there were glimmers of hope especially in the second half of the season.  We had a bunch of youngsters on the field and they not only excelled and impressed, but they made me happy to be a baseball fan.

I can’t wait to see what they do this year!

McClane Doesn’t Like Nolan Ryan

At least that’s what I have to assume. Drayton McClane put the Astros up for sale a couple of months after Nolan Ryan & Company purchased the Rangers. A decision like this would take months to make. I can’t believe that Drayton thought he was going to retain the team in October. Nolan would have done great things with the Astros including keeping the Round Rock Express an Astros franchise rather than moving it from 10 minutes away from me to 10 hours.

Of course, I kid.  Both guys are way too classy to pull off a huge conspiracy like this.

But where do we go now? The first thought is going to be in Dallas: Mark Cuban. Say what you will about Cuban; he’s a great owner. He’s not afraid to spend money on his team and he goes to as many games as he can. (Which can also be said of Drayton. He went to almost every home game.) Cuban is also energetic and treats his players and fans like they are family.

MLB isn’t giving him a franchise because the baseball owners are a bunch of stuffy conservatives, but I think Cuban would be a great addition to the organization. If anything, the baseball games would be entertaining and he would create more press for Houston. I don’t even remember that much about the Mavericks before he bought the team.

Plus, would it be so horrible to put some new life into the owners? He would be one of the youngest owners in MLB; only three years older than the new owner of the Texas Rangers.

Ted Lerner – 85
Peter Angelos – 81
Mike Ilitch – 81
David Glass – 75
Jerry Reinsdorf – 74
Fred Wilpon – 74
Lewis Wolff – 73
Larry Dolan – 71
Ken Kendrick – 69
Robert Castellini – 69
William DeWitt, Jr. – 69
Jeffery Loria – 69
Bill Neukom – 68
Arte Moreno – 67
David Montgomery – 62
John Henry – 61
Frank McCourt – 57
Jim Pohlad – 57
Dick Monfort – 56
Jeff Moorad – 56
Hank Steinbrenner – 53
Mark Attanasio – 53
Mark Cuban – 52
Charlie Monfort – 51
Stuart Sternberg – 51
Chuck Greenberg – 49
Robert Nutting – 48
Thomas Ricketts – 44

And he is an intelligent guy. You don’t get that wealthy without being smart and business savvy.  Maybe he would even rehire Gerry Hunsicker.

What it boils down to is that for some reason, the owners don’t think Mark would be a good owner and that’s moronic.  Sure he has been written up for questioning the officials, but if an owner doesn’t question some of the play calling, then are they a good owner?  He had an issue with racism when the Denver Nuggets played the Mavericks, but that really wasn’t that big of a deal when we got the real story and it was the fault of the fans being ignorant bigots.

If baseball is unwilling to accept someone who will spend money, has a great zeal for the game, treats his players like family and supports his team by going to games as much as he can, then it is going to be a long century for the Pirates, Royals, Nationals, Mariners and Orioles.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.