Tag Archives: Houston Astros

Derek Jeter Farewell Tour Kicks off at Minute Maid Park

The salute to the retirement of Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off the other night at Minute Maid Park prior to a game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees.

In a way it is almost fitting that such a tour would kick off at the site of a former train station.

The season long farewell to Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off at Minute Maid Park located at the former home of Houston's Union Station. Photo R. Anderson

The season long farewell to Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off at Minute Maid Park located at the former home of Houston’s Union Station.
Photo R. Anderson

For those who perhaps had not heard Derek Jeter, the long time New York Yankee shortstop, is retiring at the end of the year to pursue whatever it is that a long-time Yankee does after hanging up his bat and glove for the final time.

So much like last year, when Mariano Rivera was having a year-long retirement salute, each of the teams to host Jeter and the Yankees this season will present gifts as a sign of appreciation for what he has done for the game of baseball.

Aside from being the player that they should have drafted way back when, Derek Jeter really does not have any ties to the Astros. There are other stops on the farewell tour where teams have even less of a “connection” to Jeter.

But just like clockwork each stop will feature pregame ceremonies with gifts and “grip and grin” photo ops for the fans of “insert city name here” to pay their last respects to Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter never wore the Astros uniform but the captain in pinstripes was bestowed gifts the other night anyway. Photo R. Anderson

Derek Jeter never wore the Astros uniform but the captain in pinstripes was bestowed gifts the other night anyway.
Photo R. Anderson

Gifts given by the Astros to kick off the bon voyage included custom made pinstripe boots, a cowboy hat and some golf clubs.

As far as the Astros go they have the distinction of being the last stop on the Mariano Rivera farewell tour last year and the first stop on the Jeter bye bye bonanza this year.

On the surface I have no trouble with teams saluting players.

In fact, I am going to see two former Astros, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, honored before the game tomorrow night.

While I am sure there will be some gifts given to them it will only be a one ballpark stop and will not feature a prolonged tour through the rest of the Major League Baseball ballparks.

Also, unlike the farewell to Jeter, the Berkman and Oswalt retirements will be occurring in front of the hometown crowd.

Despite being traded from the Astros a few years back, Berkman and Oswalt are scheduled to sign one-day contracts, say a few words and then ride off into the sunset as retired ballplayers for the team where they spent the bulk of their careers.

Lance Berkman spent Opening Day last season as a member of the Texas Rangers playing against his old team in Houston. Berkamn along with Roy Oswalt will retire together as Astros tomorrow night in front of the home town crowd. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman spent Opening Day last season as a member of the Texas Rangers playing against his old team in Houston. Berkman along with Roy Oswalt will retire together as Astros tomorrow night in front of the home town crowd.
Photo R. Anderson

I am a huge fan of the one day contract sign and retire approach as it allows fans to say a final goodbye to long time players while also giving the players closure on their career.

In fact I think the baseball collective bargaining agreement should be written to ensure that all retiring ballplayers are given a one-day contract to retire with the team where they spent the bulk of their careers.

I am less of a fan of the season long farewell tours where teams are “strongly encouraged” to honor players who may have spent very little time in that particular visiting ballpark.

Most players do not have a year-long farewell tour as the majority of players do not get to choose when to hang up the cleats.

In Lance Berkman’s case he retired after his body told him in the off season that it could not handle the strain of another season.  In reality it had been a few years since Berkman had played healthy all year so the signs were still.

Oswalt finally called it a career after a few subpar seasons where the “Wizard of Os” didn’t have as much zip on his pitches as he once did.

But aside from getting honored by the team where they played the bulk of their careers tomorrow night there were no gifts showered down from opposing teams to usher in the retirements of Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.

And there certainly were not Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt jerseys for sale in opposing team’s Ballparks as was the case this week at Minute Maid Park with Jeter merchandise available at the Astros team store.

Don’t get me wrong, Derek Jeter was a fine ballplayer who never seemed to get caught up in any of the performance enhancing drug scandals or any other issues that would tarnish his reputation or the reputation of the Yankees or Major League Baseabll.

One need only look to Jeter’s former infield partner, Alex Rodriquez, to see a player who seemed to do things the wrong way.

By all accounts Derek Jeter is one of those players for the kids in Little League to look up to and immolate but does that rise to the level of making his jerseys available in every ballpark and bestowing lavish thank gifts on him? I am not sure.

Like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Jr. spent his entire career with the same team. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. Jeter is likely a first time ballot Hall of Famer. Photo R. Anderson

Like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Jr. spent his entire career with the same team. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. Jeter is likely a first time ballot Hall of Famer.
Photo R. Anderson

Cal Ripken, Jr. was another player who like Jeter did things the right way on and off the field. Like Jeter, Ripken spent his entire career with the same team which is becoming more and more of a rarity.

But even as much as I like Cal Ripken I still have issues with a season long farewell tour.

That does not mean that you cannot respect the player for being an ambassador for the sport.

Opposing fans should even feel that they can give a little cheer when said player is up to bat but creating an environment where teams are left to one up each other when it comes to bestowing gifts on opposing players is a trend that needs to go.

The Yankees last home game this year will be against the Orioles. In the spirit of season long tributes perhaps Cal Ripken, who spent his entire career with the Orioles, will be on hand in some way to send Jeter off into the sunset.

Barring a playoff run for the Yankees Jeter will end is career at Fenway Park against the Yankees’ bitter rival the Boston Red Sox. I can only imagine the parting gift that they will give him.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look for my Berkman jersey for the game tomorrow night.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Surprises can be Both Good and Bad

The other day I took my Jeep in for a routine oil change and alignment check.

While I try to be good about coming in every 3,000 miles or so I am occasionally tardy in my duties as a car owner and stretch things out to four or five thousand miles between oil changes.

This was one of those times where I was closer to the five thousand mark than three thousand but I figured the car was no worse for it.

Since the mechanic is within walking distance of my house I will often drop off the Jeep and walk home as opposed to sitting in the waiting room watching the History Channel, which always seems to be on when I am there.

A recent surprise flat tire got me thinking about some surprises I would actually like to see this year. Photo R. Anderson

A recent surprise flat tire got me thinking about some surprises I would actually like to see this year.
Photo R. Anderson

Don’t get me wrong, I love the History Channel but I figure there are so many more things that I can do in the comfort of my own home as opposed to spending time in the waiting room.

So as I was sitting at home on my couch watching the History Channel, the mechanic called to tell me that they would not be able to fix my flat tire since the bolt had gone through the side wall.

This news surprised me in many ways.

First, I had not been aware that I had a flat tire and secondly how exactly does a bolt manage to enter a tire at a 90 degree angle?

I mentioned to the mechanic that I was not aware of a flat tire and perhaps he had mixed up my chart with someone else’s. He assured me that one of my tires was punctured and it was time to look at the options.

After it was determined that the tire could not be repaired and would need to be replaced, I realized that my $20 oil change was going to be far more expensive than originally planned.

My first reaction at having to purchase an unplanned tire was of course one of anger since I never seem to get the full manufacturer’s suggested amount of miles out of a set of tires.

In fact the tire that was mortally wounded by the bolt only had around 6,000 miles on it which made it a tire teenager cut down in its prime.

While the surprise aspect of the additional tire purchase was certainly not what I had planned on, I was definitely happy to have the surprise of a punctured tire happen while I was sitting on my couch as opposed to driving down the highway and experiencing a blowout or other tire issue that would have caused more damage to the Jeep and/or me.

So, all in all learning about a flat tire in air conditioned comfort on a couch with someone else doing the repair was certainly a welcome surprise albeit an expensive one.

The surprise World Serie pairing that I want to see in October is the Tampa Bay Rays against the Washington Nationals. Photo R. Anderson

The surprise World Serie pairing that I want to see in October is the Tampa Bay Rays against the Washington Nationals.
Photo R. Anderson

The surprise flat got me thinking about other potential surprises that could arise with the pending starts of the Major League Baseball, NASCAR and Indy Racing League seasons over the next couple of weeks.

Of course if one knew what was going to happen in each of those areas ahead of time they would not be surprises but for the sake of argument here is one potential surprise and one dark horse surprise that I would love to see in each of those sports this season.

First up let’s look at the surprises for Major League Baseball.

With the Major League Baseball season just around the corner the biggest surprise I would like to see is the Tampa Bay Rays making a return trip to the World Series against the Washington Nationals.

While the Rays and Nationals are both loaded with talent this year they each face huge obstacles in their quest for October glory. The Rays have a slightly better chance at postseason play despite playing in the toughest division in baseball.

Were the Houston Astros to somehow win the American League West title this season it would likely be the surprise of the year if not the century. Photo R. Anderson

Were the Houston Astros to somehow win the American League West title this season it would likely be the surprise of the year if not the century.
Photo R. Anderson

But for the record the Major League Baseball surprise I most want to see this year is a Rays against Nationals World Series.

Of course my dark horse surprise, that has almost no chance in the world of happening, would be for the Houston Astros to win the American League West.

That surprise is probably at least a decade away from happening but anything can happen I suppose.

With the Major League Baseball surprises written down my sights soon turned to NASCAR.

The Daytona 500 kicks off the 36-race NASCAR season this weekend (more on that in Friday’s column).

As in the past few seasons the powers that be added some tweaks to the points and other rules that teams will need to quickly get up to speed on.

Danica Patrick would surprise many people including Richard Petty were she to win a NASCAR race this season. Photo R. Anderson

Danica Patrick would surprise many people including Richard Petty were she to win a NASCAR race this season.
Photo R. Anderson

Perhaps no other sport enjoys messing with the rules each year as much as NASCAR does so they are certainly consistent with their constant changes.

My NASCAR related surprise that I would like to see involves the driver of the #10 car Danica Patrick.

After becoming the first woman to win an IRL race, Danica became the first woman to start on the pole and lead laps in the Daytona 500 last year during her first full year in NASCAR’s highest level.

My Danica related surprise would be for her to silence her critics in the Petty family and elsewhere by winning a race this year.

There are 36 opportunities for her to accomplish that and I feel that she very well could make history once again and make The King Richard Petty eat that feather on his hat.

In a perfect world Jimmy Johnson would let someone else win the championship this season. Photo R. Anderson

In a perfect world Jimmy Johnson would let someone else win the championship this season.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the NASCAR related dark horse surprise I would most like to see, that would be for someone other than Jimmy Johnson to hoist the Champion’s trophy at the end of the year.

I mean come on Jimmy you have six of them already it is time to share with the rest of the class and take some time off before getting that record tying seventh championship that no amount of rules changes can prevent you from eventually winning.

Lastly let us look at the big surprises I am predicting for the IRL this year.

With the series returning once again to Houston for a two-race weekend in June I would like to have the surprise of seeing both races run without any career ending injuries such as the one that Dario Franchitti suffered last year.

Dario Franchitti's racing career ended on a racetrack constructed in a stadium parking lot. Hopefully no other drivers face the same fate when the Indy Racing Series returns to Houston this June. Photo R. Anderson

Dario Franchitti’s racing career ended on a racetrack constructed in a stadium parking lot. Hopefully no other drivers face the same fate when the Indy Racing Series returns to Houston this June.
Photo R. Anderson

Hopefully with more time to plan race organizers can make sure that the track will be in better shape so the drivers can race each other and not worry about whether the track is going to cause them to lose control or take them out of the championship picture, or end their careers.

As for my dark horse surprise I want to see this year in the Indy Series, that would be for Juan Pablo Montoya to win the IRL Championship for Roger Penske after coming over from a few years spent in NASCAR driving for Penske’s bitter rival Chip Ganassi.

So there you have it several surprises to look out for over the next six months or so in MLB, NASCAR and IRL competition.

Of course if any of those surprises do end up happening you can always say that you read about them here first.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some surprises to get ready for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Berkman and Oswalt to Retire as Astros

As the Houston Astros approach the 1oth anniversary of their last trip to the postseason two members of their 2005 World Series team have announced their retirement.

While Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman were each traded from the Astros years ago as the team entered a youth movement, both men will be given the chance to be Astros for at least one more day in a sign and retire ceremony on April 5.

Over the past few years it has been commonplace for teams to hold these ceremonial retirements as a way for players and teams to reunite and allow the player to officially retire as a member of the organization where they spent the bulk of their careers.

The ceremonies also give a chance for the fans of the players to say one final good bye to players that they used to root for. And as a special treat the Astros have announced that a commemorative item will be given out at the gate to recognize the event.

Over the years I attended many games that Oswalt and Berkman played in and of the two I was a bigger fan of Berkman’s.

Even after he was traded I would still cheer for Berkman when he would visit Minute Maid Park and bat for the opposing team. Of course there were fans that would boo him as well which I never really understood.

Lance Berkman, who spent last season with the Texas Rangers, will sign a one day contract to retire as a Houston Astro on April 5 along with former teammate Roy Oswalt. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman, who spent last season with the Texas Rangers, will sign a one day contract to retire as a Houston Astro on April 5 along with former teammate Roy Oswalt.
Photo R. Anderson

If you like a player it should not matter what color his jersey is since he is still the same player you once cheered for under it and many players do not get the choice of where they are traded to.

Speaking of trades, I was actually at Minute Maid Park on the day that Lance was traded to the New York Yankees.

This was the start of the Astros trading away all of their players to get younger but for some reason it felt like Berkman would be safe. After all he was a hometown player who went to the local university and had played his whole career with the Astros.

But on that day as the texts started rolling in, and the whispers that he had been traded turned to screams of disbelief it was apparent that the Astros were entering a new era where no player, no matter how popular, was safe.

It was also the day when the college kids who spent every game dressed up in their puma suits in honor of Berkman’s nickname, the “Big Puma,” took them off for the last time and tried to make sense of what had happened.

I had envisioned Berkamn getting to be like Cal Ripken Jr. who grew up in Maryland and played his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles before retiring on his own terms.

Of course, Ripken was a first ballot Hall of Famer from a generation of players that we just won’t see repeated.

In fact Derek Jeter, who has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, very well could be the last player to spend his entire career with a single organization.

Baseball is a changed game and even players with dedicated fans who dress up in puma suits are not spared the trade deadline ax.

Of course on April 5 those puma suits can be dusted off as the “Big Puma” comes home for one last time.

They will be honoring a player in Berkman who after graduating from Rice University, played a dozen seasons in Houston before spending the final three years of his career with the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers.

Of course getting traded away from the Astros was not a completely bad thing as Berkman earned a World Series ring during his time in St. Louis but something tells me he would have preferred winning it with the home town team.

Berkman was voted to the All-Star Game six-times and hit .296 with 326 home runs and 1,090 RBIs over his 12 seasons with the Astros. He led the National League in doubles in 2001 and again in ’08, while also leading the NL in RBIs in ’02, when he finished third in NL MVP voting.

As for the all-time Astros records Berkman ranks first in slugging percentage (.549), second in home runs, third in RBIs, walks and runs scored, and fourth in games played.

Sharing the retirement stage with Berkamn will be Roy Oswalt who was the ace of the pitching staff for the Astros for many years and had the honor of being the de facto Opening Day starter for most of his years with the club.

I never really followed Oswalt in the same way that I followed Berkman and will admit that his being traded did not affect me in the same way. But, I am sure that for many Astros fans at the time there was a great sadness felt when the announcement of Oswalt being shipped to the Phillies was made.

Of course the Phillies was not Oswalt’s last stop of his career. After spending his first 10 big league seasons with the Astros, Oswalt spent  the last four years bouncing around with stints with the Phillies, Rangers and Rockies.

Roy Oswalt helped guide the Houston Astros to the World Series in 2005, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors after going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the six-game series victory over the Cardinals. That performance also earned Oswalt the gift of a bulldozer from then team owner Drayton McLane. Oswalt will make one more appearance at Minute Maid Park before calling it a career. Photo R. Anderson

Roy Oswalt helped guide the Houston Astros to the World Series in 2005, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors after going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the six-game series victory over the Cardinals. That performance also earned Oswalt the gift of a bulldozer from then team owner Drayton McLane. Oswalt will make one more appearance at Minute Maid Park before calling it a career.
Photo R. Anderson

Oswalt finished in the top five of the National League Cy Young Award voting during five of his 10 seasons with the Astros.

Oswalt recorded back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2004-05 and finished 143-82 with a 3.24 ERA during his time with the Astros.

As for that last trip to the postseason for the Astros,  Oswalt helped guide Houston to the World Series in 2005, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors after going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the six-game series victory over the Cardinals. That performance also earned Oswalt the gift of a bulldozer from then team owner Drayton McLane.

Oswalt finishes his career as the Astros’ all-time leader in win percentage (.636) and ranks second in both wins and strikeouts.

There is little doubt that the time for both men to retire has come. One could probably make the case that they should have retired at least a season or two ago as injuries turned both men into a shell of their former selves where performance at the plate and velocity on the mound just wasn’t what it used to be.

Of course it is hard to decide when to hang up the glove for good when playing baseball is all one has ever known.

As for their post baseball lives Oswalt is going to work for his agent as a vice president and Berkman has been mentioned as a possible successor to Rice Owls coach Wayne Graham.

In the meantime there is one more plate appearance at Minute Maid Park awaiting both men so that their careers can end where they began. Chances are there won’t be a dry puma eye in the house.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get some tickets for the farewell to Berkman and Oswalt game.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Fan Fest Shows View is Back

This past Saturday the Houston Astros hosted their annual Fan Fest.

Fan Fest is a time when fans can go to Minute Maid Park and take in the sights and sounds before the team heads off to Florida for the start of Spring Training.

There are games for the kids and opportunities to take batting practice or run around the bases like a Major League Baseball player.

It is also a time when fans can purchase player autographs, past promotional items and other things with the proceeds all going to the team’s charity.

Fans line up to take batting practice at Minute Maid Park during the Annual Astros Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson

Fans line up to take batting practice at Minute Maid Park during the Annual Astros Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

I have attended around five or six Fan Fests through the years but this was the first one that I had attended since the new ownership took over the team.

While I am sure there are still growing pains to address I was really not too impressed with what I saw.

Instead of letting fans move throughout the whole ballpark with activities spaced out this year featured a more compressed Fan Fest.

This meant that there was less elbow room than in past years and made for a bit of a claustrophobic situation.

I am sure that there were many nice activities but with so many people in such a small space it was hard to tell.

In the future I would recommend spreading the activities out a bit more to avoid the packed sardine feel.

Of course with no heat in the Ballpark and a colder than normal Houston day perhaps they packed everyone in on purpose in hopes that the close quarters would help warm the fans through shared body heat.

Milo Hamilton, former broadcaster for the Houston Astros, was one of many legends that were availible to sign autographs during the Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson

Milo Hamilton, former broadcaster for the Houston Astros, was one of many legends that were availible to sign autographs during the Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

Another disappointment came in the annual garage sale of past promotional items.

In previous years I have been able to get many team hats, shirts, and bobbleheads at the garage sale while doing my part to help charity.

The selection this year was very slim and led to a far reduced haul than previous years and also a smaller charitable donation.

Of course the team did not really give that much out last year in terms of promotional items so that would help explain the lack of items at the garage sale.

The promotion schedule released for the upcoming season looks equally thin meaning that there will be little of value at next year’s garage sale as well.

Of course, with the roster in a constant state of flux and players going up and down to the Triple-A club like they were on an elevator it stands to reason that the team would not want to invest in bobbleheads for players that were likely to be traded by the time their bobblehead day arrived.

Of course not everything about Fan Fest was disappointing.

While there were limited items at the garage sale and too many people confined to a small space there was a glimmer of hope in the outfield.

Photo R. Anderson

After blocking the view of the outfield train and the Houston skyline with ugly Minor League baseball style billboards last year it appears that the team is restoring the view since the billboards were gone during Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

After blocking the view of the outfield train and the Houston skyline with ugly Minor League baseball style billboards last year it appears that the team is restoring the view since the billboards were gone.

I never understood why they were there in the first place since the view of the downtown skyline was one of the unique perks of Minute Maid Park.

With the signs removed fans can now once again look out into the sunset when the on field action is too unbearable to watch.

Off course with the construction of apartments outside the Ballpark underway it will remain to be seen how long the view lasts.

It very well could be that the signs were removed to give the people buying the apartments a better view inside the Ballpark.

I am sure those units will fetch quite a nice price.

Of course I will take a view of a high rise apartment building outside the Ballpark over Minor League billboards any day.

Of course the completion of Fan Fest means that the Baseball season is that much closer to becoming a reality.

With one more football game to go this season baseball cannot arrive soon enough.

It is definitely beginning to look a lot like baseball and I could not be any happier about that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make some plans to catch some games.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Astros Looking for Elusive Victory in Court

Few can argue that the Houston Astros on field performance last season was abysmal at best and criminally negligent at worst with a group of unproven young prospects being thrust into the roles of Major League Baseball players and proceeding to lose more games than any other Astros team before them had done.

To be fair it was not the fault of the players that they were put into the situation of being over matched throughout much of the 162 game Major League Baseball season and the past few seasons have each included over 100 losses.

The players fought hard and are certainly to be commended for how they handled the cards they were dealt and while there were certainly many cringe worthy moments there were also a few moments that helped give hope for things to come.

Empty seats and losing records are both common these days at Minute Maid Park. Photo by R. Anderson

Empty seats and losing records are both common these days at Minute Maid Park.
Photo by R. Anderson

In fact the hope for better things to come and be patient with us as we rebuild lines became the mantra that the Astros front office repeated time and time again.

Tired of watching the Astros lose? Be patient with us as we rebuild and hope for better things to come management would reply.

With abysmal performance on the field, and the lowest payroll in all of baseball, one would think that the sole focus of the team’s management during the offseason would be improving on field performance. They would be wrong.

Instead of focusing on the on field issues that made the baseball team representing the nation’s fourth largest city a laughingstock, the current ownership is suing the former ownership for breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation or omission and civil conspiracy.

As part of buying the Astros two years ago the current ownership group also purchased a 46 percent share in CSN Houston from the former team ownership group.

Once upon a time under the old regime there was a Ballpark with a train and a grand view of the Houston skyline. Photo R. Anderson

Once upon a time under the old regime there was a Ballpark with a train and a grand view of the Houston skyline.
Photo R. Anderson

CSN Houston is the channel that airs all of the Astros games as part of the team’s regional sports partnership.

Currently CSN Houston is still only viewed by about 40 percent of the Houston market. This is an issue when one takes into account the new nature of baseball where teams count on revenue from television deals to help fund the day to day operations of the franchise.

The more money a team receives from television, the more money they can spend on players who then appear on the television. Or so the business model goes.

During a news conference at Minute Maid Park last week the current Astros owner stated that the ball club has lost tens of millions of dollars and “perhaps hundreds” of millions because of a business plan for the television network that was based on what they feel are “inflated numbers” by the former Astros owner and others involved in the ownership group of the network.

Now it has been awhile since I owned my own company but I am pretty sure that running a business has not changed that much in the last decade to the point where one could not tell if they were losing tens of millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars.

If the current ownership of the Astros cannot tell the difference then boys and girls the problems at the ballpark built at the old train station are bigger than we all thought.

And of course in the return volley between feuding millionaires the former Astros owner countered by saying that his representatives dealt “fairly and openly” with requests for information going on to say that “Any suggestion otherwise is absolutely false.”

For his part the current owner has said that his team went deep into the books of the team prior to purchasing the team.

Under the current Astros leadership the view of the skyline has been replaced by billboards that seem better suited for the side of the road as opposed to a Major League Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Under the current Astros leadership the view of the skyline has been replaced by billboards that seem better suited for the side of the road as opposed to a Major League Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

So if the books were looked at and the team was still purchased it would seem to me that the new ownership was happy with what they saw.

Two years after the fact when things are not going their way under the current watch it seems counterproductive to blame issues on prior management.

Of course this is exactly what seems to happen these days. Take for example the world of college football.

Coaches usually have a two or three year window where they can blame poor results on the previous coach since the players on the field were recruited by a previous regime.

In Washington D.C. it is common to blame things going poorly on a previous Presidential administration.

Of course, in the event that a new coach wins with someone else’s recruits or a new president finds success with the policies of their predecessor credit is really given to those or set them up for success.

So it is with the current situation the Astros find themselves in.

Time after time I have heard the current ownership group say what a mess the farm system was left in by the previous owners. And yes, an argument could be made that after years of neglect an overall of the farm system was needed.

But had the farm system been left in a pristine condition it is highly unlikely that any credit would be given by the current owners to the former owners.

Indeed it is far easier to blame issues on others than to look in the mirror and see that perhaps the issue lies within.

After two years under the new ownership group the Astros really are in no better shape than they were under the former regime.

In fact one could argue that they are actually in worse shape with drops in attendance and 60 percent of the fan base unable to watch any of the games from home.

And of course for those fans who do make it to the ballpark they are greeted by increased ticket prices, dynamic ticket pricing for the popular games, and an obstructed view of the Houston skyline thanks to billboards that look better suited for a Minor League Ballpark than a Major League Ballpark.

I am not qualified to pick sides as to whether the owner of Astros past or the owner of Astros present is to blame for the current state of the team.

It very well could be that the former ownership group is to blame for the current state of the franchise.

It could just as easily be that the current ownership has bit off more than they can chew and feels that blaming the former owners is the best way to draw attention away from that.

I do know that unless something changes soon the owner of Astros future will be brought in and no one will get a holiday goose.

Okay, perhaps that was a bit too much Charles Dickens for one night.

Victorian literature references aside, it will be up to the courts to decide whose side is the most truthful in the tale of two owners and whether it will be the best of times, or the worst of times.

Until then the offseason for the Astros will be as muddy as the regular season with finger pointing, accusations and pleas for fans to be patient and to temper their great expectations.

There is of course a shelf life on patience and for many fans who have watched beloved traditions fall by the wayside that expiration date is quickly approaching and one does not need to be visited by three spirits to see that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to read some Dickens for some reason.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Journey to 30 Ends Tonight

Tonight at Minute Maid Park the New York Yankees will face the Houston Astros for the first of three games to end the regular season.

Minute Maid Park Photo R. Anderson

Minute Maid Park
Photo R. Anderson

Having been eliminated from the postseason Wednesday night with a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays the Yankees will end their season Sunday afternoon and prepare for next year.

With losses at an all-time record setting pace the Houston Astros will end their season Sunday and will most likely prepare for more of the same next season.

So with two teams facing off with really nothing to play for tonight it makes for an interesting combination of seasons that did not go as planned.

On a personal note when I take my seat for the game tonight it will complete a 12-year journey to see all 30 Major League teams in a single ballpark.

While many in Houston have complained about the Astros moving to the American League the change in scenery allowed me to cross off the Mariners, Athletics, Orioles, Twins, Angels, and Yankees this season.

Although I had already seen all of the National League teams and some American League teams during Inter-league play over the years it would have taken many more seasons to be able to see all 30 teams had the Astros stayed in the National League and I waited for the teams to come through on the regular Interleague schedule.

Tonight the New York Yankees come to Minute Maid Park for only the second time to take on the Houston Astros. When the first pitch is thrown it will complete my quest to see all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Tonight the New York Yankees come to Minute Maid Park for only the second time to take on the Houston Astros. When the first pitch is thrown it will complete my quest to see all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

So from a purely selfish perspective the Astros moving to the American League served me well in my quest to see all 30 teams at least once at Minute Maid Park.

It seems fitting in a way that the final team to cross off my list is the New York Yankees since they are both respected and despised among the baseball world.

The Yankees are making only their second trip to Minute Maid Park. I cannot recall why it was that I missed their last visit to town but I definitely knew I would not be missing this one despite the price gouging committed by the Astros.

My ticket that would normally cost $5 was “dynamically priced” to around $26 since the Yankees were coming to town and the front office knew people would likely pay more for the privilege of seeing them.

Of course with that ticket I will get to see the last game pitched by Andy Pettitte as well as one of the last three games pitched by Mariano Rivera assuming that the Yankees are not too far ahead of the Astros by the time the ninth inning rolls around for it to still be a save situation.

I missed the Yankees first trip to Minute Maid Park but I did not miss out on the souvenir cup. Photo R. Anderson

I missed the Yankees first trip to Minute Maid Park but I did not miss out on the souvenir cup.
Photo R. Anderson

Ironically near as I can tell this will be the first time that I have seen Pettitte pitch in person despite his two and a half seasons playing for the Astros.

I saw many Astros games during that time frame but never seemed to time those visits with nights he was pitching.

So making my first game to see Pettitte pitch correspond with his last scheduled career start seems that much more special. Of course since he has already come out of retirement once it will be interesting to see if the Deer Park, TX native stays retired this time or is urged to give it one more try Brett Farve style.

It is estimated that over 30,000 fans will attend each of the three games against the Yankees which would be more fans than have attended any games this season.

That tells me that there are way more Yankees fans in Houston than Astros fans. Of course it could also just mean that there are Astros fans that waited until the last week of the season to attend a game since all of the previous weeks were too painful to watch.

While the start of the end of the regular season begins today for the Yankees and the Astros it also marks the start of the Tampa Bay Rays last series in Toronto as they push to maintain their hold on the top Wildcard spot.

If all goes to plan I will be rooting for the Rays all the way to the World Series which would certainly make myself and DJ Kitty very happy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to get ready for.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Tampa Bay Rays Join My Triple Double Club

Tonight around 7:30 or so I will be at Minute Maid Park watching the Tampa Bay Rays play the Houston Astros in the third game of a four game series.

While the night will include postgame fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July, it occurs to me that it will mark another milestone as well.

While it did not occur to me at the time when I purchased my ticket, tonight’s game will mark the second time that I have seen the Rays play in Houston. Add that to two games at Tropicana Field and two games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and the Rays become the first member of my Triple Double Club.

Fresh off their first World Series appearance in 2008 I visited the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 for a long overdue trip to Tropicana Field. Photo R. Anderson

Fresh off their first World Series appearance in 2008 I visited the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 for a long overdue trip to Tropicana Field.
Photo R. Anderson

There have been numerous teams that I have watched come and go through Minute Maid Park through the years.

But with the exception of seeing a few of them for Spring Training games, there have not been many that I have seen in multiple Ballparks so the Rays induction in the Triple Double Club is sort of a big deal.

The fact that the event will be met with post game fireworks is sort of a happy coincidence.

Okay so the Triple Double Club may be something that only matters to me but I thought that it was pretty cool.  Considering that I have only made it to four of the 30 Major League Ballparks so far the fact that I saw the same team twice at three of those ballparks is nothing to sneeze at.

I have seen the Baltimore Orioles play at three stadiums during the regular season but only once at each ballpark so they are in the Triple Single Club. Of course seeing them play in two different Ballparks over a four day period gives them bonus points. And I have seen them play in three ballparks over the years during Spring Training.

A second ballpark viewing of the Rays was added in Arlington when I saw them take on the Texas Rangers. Photo R. Anderson

A second ballpark viewing of the Rays was added in Arlington when I saw them take on the Texas Rangers.
Photo R. Anderson

The Texas Rangers are in the Double Double Club as I have watched them at both their home Ballpark and Minute Maid Park. It stands to reason that they would be a strong candidate to join the Triple Double Club as all it would take was a trip to an additional ballpark when they were in town to get them there.

The Toronto Blue Jays make it into the Double Single Club as I have seen them play at both Tropicana Field and Minute Maid Park.

The Houston Astros are the team I have watched the most due to the close proximity between my house and the Minute Maid Park.  I have probably seen close to 100 games at Minute Maid Park over the past decade but ironically I have never seen them play a regular season game at any other Ballpark.

I’ve made numerous trips to Florida to see the Astros play in Spring Training games but during the regular season it seems that the desire to see them play far from home just doesn’t exist. In that way the Astros closeness is both a blessing and a curse.

Minute Maid Park became the third ballpark to watch the Rays in when I saw them take on the Houston Astros in 2011. Photo R. Anderson

Minute Maid Park became the third ballpark to watch the Rays in when I saw them take on the Houston Astros in 2011.
Photo R. Anderson

There have been years where I thought about making the four hour drive to see them play the Texas Rangers in Arlington but those thoughts were usually quashed quickly at the thought that I could just wait until the Rangers came to Houston.

But there are certainly worse places to watch games than Minute Maid Park.

With the Astros move to the American League this year the odds of me completing the Single Thirty Club of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park is pretty high.

I do not have the number in front of me but it seems highly likely that I am less than five teams away from reaching that goal of seeing all 30 teams from the air-conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park.

Off of the top of my head I know I have yet to see the New York Yankees play there but the other teams that I am missing escape me at the moment. The Oakland Athletics seem like another team that I have yet to see play but with them sharing a division with the Astros that is an easy team to cross off of the list.

Tonight will mark the sixth Tampa Bay Rays regular season game that I have attended and the second at Minute Maid Park earning an inaugural induction into the Triple Double Club as I have seen a pair of games at Tropicana Field, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Tonight will mark the sixth Tampa Bay Rays regular season game that I have attended and the second at Minute Maid Park earning an inaugural induction into the Triple Double Club as I have seen a pair of games at Tropicana Field, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

I suppose it is entirely possible that the Yankees and Athletics are the only missing teams but I will definitely have to look into that.

I do know that the National League, and in particular the National League Central, is well represented in my list of teams that I have seen multiple times there.

While the focus tonight will be placed firmly on enjoying the Rays and the induction of the first member of the Triple Double Club the festivities will be short lived.

Tomorrow afternoon I will start my way towards the Triple Triple Club as I will be catching a matinee game between the Rays and the Astros.

I guess that means I need to plan road trips back to Arlington and St. Petersburg to complete the Triple Triple Club for the Rays.  I don’t think my arm will be twisted to hard to make that happen.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide which Rays shirt to wear to tomorrow’s game.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson