Tag Archives: MLB

Championships are Not Won in April but They Can be Lost in April

It has been said that championships are not won in April but that they can certainly be lost.

That is to say that a team’s early success does not always carry over throughout the course of a full season as many things can happen between Opening Day and Game One of the World Series to shape a team’s fortunes and in some cases misfortunes.

While a team winning the bulk of their games early in a season does not guarantee continued success, a team that loses most of their games early on will in most cases continue that trend throughout the season.

While it is certainly neither the time nor place for celebration or despair in any of the 30 Major League Ballparks this early in the season it is certainly worth looking at some early trends in terms of expectations met and expectations that have not been met.

In the American League East few should be surprised that the New York Yankees are leading the standings during the Derek Jeter Swan Song Tour.

With the  New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter's Farewell Tour. Photo R. Anderson

With the New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter’s Farewell Tour.
Photo R. Anderson

Some may go so far as to suggest that the baseball stars will align so that Jeter’s last game occurs as a World Series Champion. That is not to say that baseball is rigged but there are certainly odd occurrences now and then. I am looking at you Boston Red Sox.

The rest of the American League East offers a few surprises.

Few would have thought that the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox who famously healed an entire region last year with a title following a terrorist attack at a marathon would be in last place in the division.

The Tampa Bay Rays who many predicted as a World Series bound team are also struggling a bit due to injuries to their starting rotation but it is likely that they will bounce back from the early season struggles and become the playoff team that many predicted them to be.

While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons. Photo R. Anderson

While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons.
Photo R. Anderson

The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles certainly cannot be ruled out as well in what is often the most hotly contested division in all of baseball.

Traveling further down the geographic standings brings the focus on the American League Central where the usual suspects seem to be doing the usual things early on.

The Detroit Tigers will likely continue their reign atop the division while fighting off the advances of the Kansas City Royals who continue to improve each season.

The Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians will likely string together some impressive victories throughout the season but it is unlikely that they will rise to the top of the standings based on their early sample of work.

Out in the American League West the Oakland Athletics are in first place and the Houston Astros are in last place.

No real surprises there.

While the Texas Rangers will look to return to postseason play in the post Nolan Ryan era a more intriguing thing to watch in the division will be whether the Astros can break their streak of consecutive 100 loss seasons.

Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however. Photo R. Anderson

Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however.
Photo R. Anderson

Early indications certainly point to it being another very long season in Minute Maid Park but at least fans have a view of downtown again to entertain them during lopsided losses by the home team.

The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will look to get some bang from their hefty payroll bucks and should easily finish higher than the Astros but it is doubtful that they will break the grasp the Rangers and Athletics have atop the division.

With the American League shaping up with few surprises it is time to look at the National League and any potential surprises or unexpected trends from the early parts of the season.

The National League East has the Atlanta Braves in cruise control atop the standings. With their days in Turner Field numbered it would be nice to see the Braves give the Ballpark a final taste of postseason play before it is reduced to a pile of rubble.

The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East. Photo R. Anderson

The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East.
Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies will try to keep things interesting but the division does seem to have a heavy “tomahawk chop” feel to it with the Braves going the distance.

The Miami Marlins hold their familiar spot at the bottom of the standings showing that a Ballpark without payroll can lead to a very long couple of seasons.

The National League Central is shaping up to look like the division normally looks with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals near the top and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs near the bottom.

It is likely that the 100th Anniversary season at Wrigley Field will end like many of the previous years with the Cubs shut out of the postseason.

The Cincinnati Reds will likely hold their familiar spot in third place in the division although Billy Hamilton will certainly give the Reds’ fans something exciting to watch as he scorches the base path with his base stealing speed.

Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues  and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come. Photo R. Anderson

Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the National League West the Los Angeles Dodgers are leading the pack with the Arizona Diamondbacks currently having the worst record in all of baseball.

The Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres will keep things competitive but the West has a feel of Dodger Blue as long as they don’t implode down the stretch.

While the standings in all six divisions are likely to change through the course of the season early indications do seem to point to a postseason filled with the usual suspects.

Of course there are no guarantees in baseball. Teams will need to battle through injuries and other factors as they approach October.

The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal's Hill in center field. Photo R. Anderson

The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal’s Hill in center field.
Photo R. Anderson

The teams that peak at the right time are the ones that win it all in the end. For some teams that peak occurs on Opening Day and lasts the whole season long. Other teams are more slow burners and need to build up to their peak.

Then there are the teams who are stuck in the valley where the only peak they see is the pitcher’s mound or in the case of the Houston Astros, Tal’s Hill.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about peaks and valleys has me craving a mountain view.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Major League Baseball Takes Time to Remember a Trailblazer

We are a country that enjoys commemorating achievements in all shapes and sizes.

Some call it the American spirit while others might call it an attempt to ensure that the sacrifices of those that have gone before us are remembered long after they are no longer walking amongst us.

Memorials of all shapes and sizes can be found from sea to shining sea as a way of helping to ensure that history is not forgotten.

The number 42 hangs in all 30 Major League Baseball Ballparks in honor of Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947. Photo R. Anderson

The number 42 hangs in all 30 Major League Baseball Ballparks in honor of Jackie Robinson who became the first African American to play for a MLB team on April 15, 1947 when he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Photo R. Anderson

Tomorrow marks one of those occasions to remember history and honor those who have achieved against the odds.

Aside from being “Tax day” April 15 is also “Jackie Robinson Day” which a day sat aside to pay homage to an achievement of courage and determination in breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

While many fans may have only heard of Jackie Robinson following the release of the movie 42 his impact on the game of baseball stretches back nearly 70 years.

On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African American to step foot on a Major League Baseball field when he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The world of baseball for Jackie Robinson, and many other players like him, was far different from the world of baseball today.

I am not referring to jumbotrons and jumbo hot dogs or any of the other things that have found their way into the modern game. I am not even talking about the designated hitter.

Prior to 1947 there were no minority players in the highest level of professional baseball. It took an owner willing to do what others wouldn’t in Branch Rickey and a player willing to withstand insults from on the field and in the stands in Jackie Robinson to pave the way for those that came behind them.

Since 1997 when the number was retired players like Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros have all worn the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Photo R. Anderson

Since 1997 when the number was retired players like former Houston Astros right fielder Hunter Pence have all worn the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.
Photo R. Anderson

For people of a certain age, like me, it is nearly impossible to picture a segregated baseball diamond. From my earliest recollections there were people of all shapes and sizes and races on the field.

Look at the rosters of the 30 MLB teams today and one will find players from six continents.

None of that would have been possible without someone taking the first step to desegregate the diamond.

So it is fitting to take time to honor Jackie Robinson’s sacrifice and to ensure that generations who were not alive back in 1947 can learn the story and know that without the sacrifices of people like Jackie Robinson the world would be an entirely different place.

One of my favorite quotes is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It was first stated in the early 20th century by George Santayana, but the phrase is still as true today as it was when first spoken. Society must continue to learn from history so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

During the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson there are always a select few who will state in various outlets that the inclusion of Jackie Robinson in the Baseball Hall of Fame was based solely on him being first to break the color barrier and is not reflective of his playing ability.

For the first time since Major League Baseball ordered all teams to retire the number 42 in 1997 there are not any players who wear the number on any day other than Jackie Robinson Day.  Photo R. Anderson

For the first time since Major League Baseball ordered all teams to retire the number 42 in 1997 there are not any players who wear the number on any day other than Jackie Robinson Day. Mariano Rivera was the last player allowed to wear the number and he retired at the end of last season.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, a quick look at his career statistics show that based on the merits of his play alone Jackie Robinson is every bit of a Hall of Fame caliber player and is included as much for what he did as a player as well as what he did as a trailblazer.

As part of Jackie Robinson Day each player on every team wears the number 42 as a show of respect and solidarity.

In 1997 Major League Baseball retired the number 42 on all teams in honor of Jackie Robinson. As part of the number retirement players who were still wearing 42 were grandfathered in and allowed to keep wearing the number for the remainder of their careers.

Following Mariano Rivera’s retirement at the end of last season no player will ever again wear the number 42 in Major League Baseball.

It is likely that the Yankees will retire Rivera’s number as well based on his impressive body of work.  That will lead to the hanging of two 42 banners in Yankee Stadium with one for Robinson and one for Rivera. Then again the Yankees always did like to be a little different.

Fans gather during the 2011 Jackie Robinson Day at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Fans gather during the 2011 Jackie Robinson Day at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

While last year’s celebration of Jackie Robinson Day was marred by the cowardly act of the Boston Marathon bombers, this year the celebration can focus on the courage of Jackie Robinson along with the courage and determination of the bombing victims who have overcome their own set of odds since the events of last year.

Acts like the bombing of innocent bystanders at the Boston Marathon show that the world is still as full of hate today as it was on that April day in 1947.

But just as was the case in 1947, there are still people willing to rise above the hatred and do what is right. And that is something worth remembering every day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to watch 42 before the games start tomorrow.

Copyright 2014 R Anderson

Rangers Mark 20 Years in Ballpark Tonight

Tonight the Texas Rangers will mark the 20th anniversary of the first game played at the Ballpark in Arlington with a game against the Houston Astros.

The Houston Astros visit the Texas Rangers tonight for the 20th anniversary of the first game at the Ballpark in Arlington. Photo R. Anderson

The Houston Astros visit the Texas Rangers tonight for the 20th anniversary of the first game at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Photo R. Anderson

Aside from serving as the 20th anniversary game for the Ballpark, tonight will also mark the first game of the season between the two in state and, as of last season, American League West Division rivals in what is known as the Lone Star Series.

In recent years the Lone Star Series has been leaning heavily towards the Rangers but with both teams heading into tonight’s game with an equal amount of victories for the season anything is possible in the quest for the silver boot trophy.

While the teams have similar records heading into tonight’s game I tend to think the Rangers have the edge.

In a could not have planned it any better for the anniversary twist the Rangers will send their ace Yu Darvish out on the mound in a night honoring the past and the future of the team.

As far as the Ballpark in Arlington goes, it marked the 20th season with a new 10 year corporate naming agreement as it enters its third decade of service.

While the Ballpark may have a new corporate name as of this season for me it will always be the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Ballpark in Arlington replaced Arlington Stadium 20 years ago tonight. Photo R. Anderson

The Ballpark in Arlington replaced Arlington Stadium 20 years ago tonight.
Photo R. Anderson

While players have come and gone throughout the history of the Texas Rangers franchise the current Ballpark marks only the second home for the Rangers since they made the move from the east coast.

The Rangers begin their baseball life in Washington D.C. as the second team known as the Washington Senators following the exodus of the first Washington Senators to Minnesota.

Crowds over the last couple of years have seen two World Series come through the Ballpark in Arlington. Photo R. Anderson

Crowds over the last couple of years have seen two World Series come through the Ballpark in Arlington.
Photo R. Anderson

Like the Senators before them who became the Minnesota Twins, the second version of the Senators also pointed their wagons, err moving vans, west in search of greener pastures and more suitable Ballpark amenities.

The Rangers first stop in Texas was Turnpike Stadium, a 10,000-seat Ballpark which had been built in 1965 to house the AA Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs of the Texas League.

After it was announced that the Senators were moving to Texas, improvements were made to Turnpike Stadium which after being renamed Arlington Stadium served as the home to the Rangers from 1972 to 1994.

In 1991, two years into George W. Bush’s tenure as Managing General Partner of the Rangers, ground was broken on The Ballpark in Arlington.

A couple of years ago the Rangers got a new neighbor when the Dallas Cowboys came to town.  Photo R. Anderson

A couple of years ago the Rangers got a new neighbor when the Dallas Cowboys came to town.
Photo R. Anderson

The Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994 which was also the same year that Bush left the team after being elected Texas governor.

While George W. Bush went on to be President of the United States for eight years, the Ballpark he helped create has hosted two World Series among other notable events since it opened its doors.

While it currently is dwarfed by its new neighbor Cowboys Stadium the Ballpark still mixes the charms of an old time Ballpark with the conveniences of a modern Ballpark.

One thing that the Ballpark does not seem to have though is adequate air circulation in the hot Texas summer heat.

Unlike Minute Maid Park, and many other Ballparks built after it, the Ballpark in Arlington does not feature a retractable roof.

While the lack of a roof would not be as big of a deal in places such as Minnesota where the original Washington Senators turned Twins recently left a domed stadium behind for the open air comfort of Target Field, the lack of a roof in Arlington is definitely noticed on most game days.

Some times you really don't want to know hot hot it is as day games in Arlington often prove. It is likely the actual temperature was much hotter than 99 degrees. Photo R. Anderson

Some times you really don’t want to know how hot it is as day games in Arlington often prove. It is likely the actual temperature was much hotter than 99 degrees.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, studies were done to look into the feasibility of placing a roof over the Ballpark in Arlington to help protect fans from the blistering heat and frequent thunder storms that the area is known for.

The study found that retrofitting the Ballpark with a roof would cost more than the cost of building an entirely new Ballpark so the issue was tabled leaving fans to continue to be exposed to the elements.

It is likely that in 10 years when the current team lease on the Ballpark is up there will be more studies looking into the options of building a retractable roof Ballpark in the Dallas area.

In Atlanta the Braves are abandoning Turner Field after only 20 years so it would not be unheard of to trade in a 30-year Ballpark for a younger model.

Despite the battles with the elements I hope that the Rangers do choose to stay in their current facility since it really is a nice place to catch a game and a tan.

It is likely that fans coming to see the Rangers in the coming years will still see the sky as a study down by previous team owners showed putting a roof over the stadium was cost prohibitive. Photo R. Anderson.

It is likely that fans coming to see the Rangers in the coming years will still see the sky as a study down by previous team owners showed putting a roof over the stadium was cost prohibitive.
Photo R. Anderson.

As a word of advice though if one does decide to venture out to see a game in Arlington I would suggest drinking plenty of water before the game and definitely wearing light colored clothing.

You can also try to schedule your visit around one of the t-shirt giveaway days which will give you something dry to change into for the drive home.

And try not to pay too much attention to that thermometer in center field.

It may say it is only 99 degrees in the shade but it will definitely feel a lot hotter when you are shoulder to shoulder with 30,000 of your closet friends.

Needless to say this is one anniversary game that I will be catching from my couch where there is plenty of elbow room and the temperature is always a pleasant 72 degrees.

Now if only I could find a hot dog vendor to avoid having to go to the kitchen it would be just like being at the Ballpark.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to watch.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Many Situations in Life Would be Better with Walk up Music

Go to any baseball game from Little League to Major League, and odds are that when a batter is coming up to the plate they will be serenaded by walk up music.

The type of walk up music selected varies depending on the player.  Players often alternate their walk up music between the guitar driven hair band standards as well as pop music depending on their moods. Other players may even select country music or hip hop for their walk up theme.

One of the best players for walk up music that I have seen in person was former Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence.

For one whole season Pence walked up to the sounds of Katy Perry’s California Girls proving that sometimes walk up music, like baseball, should just be fun.

Former Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence took walk up music to the extreme a few years back when he chose Katy Perry's "California Girls" as his go to jam. Photo R. Anderson

Former Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence took walk up music to the extreme a few years back when he chose Katy Perry’s “California Girls” as his go to jam.
Photo R. Anderson

Whether the music selected is hard rockin’ or bubble gum poppin’ it serves a key purpose when it comes to the battle between the pitcher and the batter.

Or as Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh from Bull Durham would say the players use the music to “Announce their presence with authority.”

Granted it would be hard for a batter to announce their presence with authority by walking out to the pop styling of Carley Rae Jepson but it could be a good call maybe if it made the pitcher laugh so hard that he couldn’t throw a strike.

While there is not an exact Archimedes stepping into the tub and shouting “Eureka” moment when it comes to the invention of walk up music, most baseball people point to the 1993 Seattle Mariners as the fathers of the walkup.

While certain individual players had used walk up music before, the Mariners were the first team to come up with a song for each of their players in the lineup.

It seems fitting that the city that brought flannel and grunge to the world of music would also be the city to bring music to the batter’s box.

While the Seattle Mariners are one of only two teams to never appear in a World Series they can at least lay claim to being the champions of the walk up.

In 1993 the city that brought the world grunge music brought walk up music to Major League Baseball when the Seattle Mariners became the first MLB team to have walk up music throughout their lineup. Photo R. Anderson

An idea that some felt was stupid turned contagious in 1993 when the city that brought the world grunge music brought walk up music to Major League Baseball when the Seattle Mariners became the first MLB team to have walk up music throughout their lineup. Soon the idea was in bloom throughout all levels of baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course theme music is not limited to batters. Pitchers, especially closers, have also gotten into the act of having music introduce them.

Retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera famously walked out from the bullpen to the sounds of “Enter Sandman” from Metallica.

And of course who can forget Charlie Sheen as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn walking out to “Wild Thing” in the Major League franchise.

The cinematic walk up music predates the Mariners walk up trend by about five years and is also often pointed to as being instrumental in the evolution of walk up music.

As with everything there are rules to the walk up music. The songs chosen need to be family friendly and the music is supposed to stop once the player enters the batter’s box.

Of course a really good walk up song can lead to players lollygagging their way to the batter’s box to hear more of their “theme” before facing the pitcher.

While mostly found within the confines of a Ballpark sometimes walk up music occurs beyond the bleachers.

The other day while eating lunch at a local Cajun inspired chicken restaurant named after a spinach loving cartoon sailor I experienced my own version of the walk up music.

I had just gotten up from my table when the perennial theme for the underdog Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky started playing.

As I walked to throw away my trash there was an extra spring in my step as the music blared, (bop, bop bop bop, bop bop bop).

Heading to refill my iced tea the music continued as I found myself filling the tea more forcefully than usual (bop, bop bop bop, bop bop bop).

As I left the restaurant humming along to the song I was inspired to tackle the day with vigor as I headed out to my car.

Of course while the music may have inspired me to find the nearest outdoor flight of stairs to run up while air boxing, I was reminded that I had just eaten lunch and should probably wait at least 30 minutes before jogging and air boxing.

Still, the musical interlude got me thinking about why it is that only baseball players should get walk up music.

Just think how much more exciting life could be if all of our big moments were preceded by music.

Just picture the boardroom scenario where someone says the following. “Now up to present the quarterly earnings report, Joe Smith” (cue the music).

After a few bars of (insert song here) Joe knocks the earnings report out of the park while his coworkers serenade him with Queen’s “We are the Champions” and fist bump each other on the way out of the conference room.

Of course different situations in life would require different music.

While some situations might call for some Pearl Jam, others may require heavy organ sounds of Bach.

Pearl Jam and Walk up music are two Seattle originals still going strong for over two decades and counting. Photo R. Anderson

Pearl Jam and Walk up music are two Seattle originals still going strong for over two decades and counting.
Photo R. Anderson

There will even be situations where one might take the Hunter Pence route and walk up to a situation with some pop music even going so far as nodding their heads like yeah.

With the invention of large capacity MP3 players it would be very easy to carry around all of the possible walk up music one would need for any situation.

Just cue up the appropriate song for whatever situation comes up and one is ready for anything that life throws their way.

The trick would be the trial and error of finding a truly unique walk up song since not everyone can walk out to “Enter Sandman.”

While it is unlikely that the walk up song idea outside of the Ballpark will catch on any time soon it is certainly something to think about the next time one is listening to the radio, or filling out that dreaded TPS Report.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some walk up music songs to pick out for my next big event right after I put the new cover page on this report.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Visit from Berkman and Oswalt Reminds of What Was, Points to What Could be Again

Once upon a time the Houston Astros were a yearly visitor to a magical land known as the Major League Baseball Postseason.

Looking at the past few years that statement may seem like a fairy tale but I assure you it is true. One need only look in the record books to see for themselves.

From 1997 to 2005 the Astros only missed the postseason three times and captured the National League Pennant in 2005.

Long Time Houston Astro Lance Berkman retired during a pregame ceremony Saturday night at Minute Maid Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Long Time Houston Astro Lance Berkman retired during a pregame ceremony Saturday night at Minute Maid Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Granted, it has been eight years and counting since the last postseason appearance by the Astros but during those heydays of yore men like Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt gave the fans something to cheer about as they packed into Minute Maid Park shoulder to shoulder.

Saturday night the fans were once again chanting for Berkman and Oswalt as both men retired from Major League Baseball as members of the team that drafted them by signing one day contracts.

The ceremony was certainly bittersweet for many of the long time fans who donned their Berkman and Oswalt shirts once more as they watched the two men ride off into the sunset during a pregame ceremony.

During much of his time in Houston Lance Berkman's biggest fans the Little Pumas stood in the outfield in their furry puma suits. Saturday night the suits came out of the closet for one more time. Photo R. Anderson

During much of his time in Houston Lance Berkman’s biggest fans the Little Pumas stood in the outfield in their furry puma suits. Saturday night the suits came out of the closet for one more time.
Photo R. Anderson

The Little Pumas, a group of fans dressed in puma suits in honor of Berkman’s nickname, “the Big Puma” even dusted off their furry puma suits and took their place in the standing room only area in center field for one more time to say farewell.

In addition to standing ovations and tributes from the fans both men were presented with Stetson hats, a rocking chair and perhaps more importantly framed jerseys from the 2005 World Series.

After being traded from the Astros to the Yankees Berkman went on to win a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals before playing for the Texas Rangers last year.  Although Berkman is a World Series Champion I am sure he would have preferred to do that with the Astros.

Oswalt also played for a trio of teams after leaving the Astros but time with the Phillies, Rangers and Rockies did not produce a World Series title for the “Wizard of Os.”

Roy Oswalt joined Lance Berkman in retiring as members of the Houston Astros Saturday night. Photo R. Anderson

Roy Oswalt joined Lance Berkman in retiring as members of the Houston Astros Saturday night.
Photo R. Anderson

During the ceremony notable accomplishments for both players were recited and it was clear that they had successful careers but despite that success both men were quick to point out that the success did not come without sacrifice.

During his remarks Oswalt thanked the fans for their support along with his family who “had never missed a game he played since he was four.”

While the Astros will likely return to the postseason at some point watching them lose over 100 games year after year can harden even the most diehard of fans.

Very much aware of this fact, Berkman used a portion of his time at the podium to encourage the fans in attendance to “make the rafters shake” not for him, but for the current roster of players, many of whom were not even old enough to drive the last time the Astros were in the Postseason.

Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt threw out the ceremonial first pitches after a pregame ceremony honoring them for their time with the Houston Astros. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt threw out the ceremonial first pitches after a pregame ceremony honoring them for their time with the Houston Astros.
Photo R. Anderson

While the fans cheered for the new guys it was clear that for many of the fans their hearts still belong to the players they grew up watching.

Perhaps no where was this fact more evident than from a woman a couple rows up from me who squealed like a preteen at a Justin Bieber concert when highlights of Berkman’s career were shown on the ballpark screen known as El Grande.

For the record I have never heard a preteen scream at a Justin Bieber concert but I am guessing the sounds are pretty comparable to what I heard at the ballpark.

Berkman, Oswalt and I pretty much all arrived at Minute Maid Park at the same time so they were two of the players that I followed when I first became a fan of the Astros.

As mentioned before I was at the Ballpark the day that Berkman was traded to the Yankees and while I know players are traded all of the time the Berkman trade seemed different since I had fully thought that he would be given the chance to retire as a member of the Astros.

Roy Oswalt was presented a framed jersey from the 2005 World Series during a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park Saturday night. Photo R. Anderson

Roy Oswalt was presented a framed jersey from the 2005 World Series during a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park Saturday night.
Photo R. Anderson

In the end after playing for three other teams Berkman came back home if only for a day to retire with the Astros but I can’t help but think that his presence the last couple years around the young players would have greatly benefited the team.

But roster turmoil is part of the game and very rarely do fan favorites get to stay with their team for their whole careers. Craig Biggio, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Derek Jeter are certainly the exception more than the rule.

Players come and go. Logos and team colors change but the game goes one just as it has for generations as each group of players and fans contribute a stanza to the baseball sonnet.

After throwing out the first pitches to a pair of former teammates Berkman and Oswalt left the field for most likely the final time to the roar of the crowd to enter their post baseball lives.

Lance Berkman was presented a framed jersey from the 2005 World Series during a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park Saturday night. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman was presented a framed jersey from the 2005 World Series during a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park Saturday night.
Photo R. Anderson

Oswalt is going to become a consultant for his long time agent and Berkman is rumored to be on the short list replace Wayne Graham at Rice University as the head baseball coach in a few years.

Of course, the players may also come back to Minute Maid Park someday to see their numbers retired and hung up in the rafters with the other team greats.

But even if they do not have their numbers retired they will still have given a generation of fans years of memories to look back on while they wait for the next generation to complete their stanza.

As for that next generation of Astros they ended up losing the game Saturday night but did come back to win on Sunday afternoon.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put my Puma shirt back in the closet.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

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

Expectations Vary and Rarely Satisfy Everyone

Monday night the television show How I Met Your Mother aired it series finale and answered the long awaited cliffhanger of how the main character met the mother of his children.

Tuesday the internet was filled with reaction to the show with some viewers feeling satisfied with the fate of the characters they had invested so many years watching and others feeling cheated at the ending.

No show is ever going to please everyone so the fact that fans were divided in how they received the show should not be a surprise to anyone.

Years after it aired people in some corners of the globe are still trying to make sense of the series finale of Lost so alienated fan bases is nothing new.

For the record I was pleased with the How I Met Your Mother ending as it aligned with a prediction for the show that I had made a few years back.

The opening week of the Major League Baseball season is a time filled with great expectations for all 30 teams. Photo R. Anderson

The opening week of the Major League Baseball season is a time filled with great expectations for all 30 teams.
Photo R. Anderson

But this is not a column about my psychic powers when it comes to television shows although there are certainly enough examples of that to fill a column.

Instead this is a column about expectations. More specifically this is a column about great expectations when they come to how one’s particular baseball team will do over the course of the season.

While we will try to steer clear of Charles Dickens references in our exploration of great expectations it is a fact that many expectations exist when it comes to the start of the Major League Baseball season.

For many fans those expectations of greatness include a trip to the World Series for their favorite team.

It is a sad fact that only one out of the 30 Major League Baseball teams will be crowned World Champion in any given year.

With only two teams making it to the World Series and only one team winning it all it is a fact that 28 teams will not meet their “go to the World Series” expectation each year.

Even though the number of teams that reach the playoffs each season has been expanded over the past few years to include two Wild Card teams there is still only one team that wins the World Series each season.

Realistically not all 30 teams have a shot at making it to the World Series in any given year. To be fair only about 15 of the teams could honestly look in the mirror each year and say, “If things go our way this year we could be playing in the October Classic.”

Expectations are not always based in reality of course so there are fans for every team that feel deep down to their core that their team can make it all the way despite what the facts tell them.

The Houston Astros are coming off of a trio of 100 plus loss seasons and most people would agree that on paper they have absolutely no chance of going to the World Series this year based on the roster they have. In fact there is a very strong possibility that they will once again lose over 100 games over the course of the season.

The Houston Astros have lost over 100 games for each of the past three seasons. Most expectations for this season point towards the streak entering a fourth year. Photo R. Anderson

The Houston Astros have lost over 100 games for each of the past three seasons. Most expectations for this season point towards the streak entering a fourth year.
Photo R. Anderson

Despite those grim statistics I am sure that there is a least one fan who carries the expectation of seeing the Astros play in the World Series this year.

Call it greatly unrealistic expectations or just blind faith but that total commitment to one’s team and fanaticism can be refreshing at times even if it is not completely understood.

Even unmet expectations can carry a fan through the dark times when all else seems lost and they are in the minority opinion when it comes to the success of their team in any given year.

Consider the plight of the long suffering fans of the Chicago Cubs whose “wait ’til next next year” mantra has kept them going despite a century long drought since their last World Series appearance.

And while the Cubs have seen over 100 years go by since they were in the World Series, the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals are the only two teams in Major League Baseball who have never been to the World Series in their history.

Even those lowly Houston Astros of the three consecutive 100-loss seasons can claim a World Series appearance.

Expectations can waver as the season goes on. Just as I am sure some fans of that certain television show may change their opinion of the finale one way or the other after giving it some thought I am sure that some baseball fans will modify their expectations for their team as the season goes on.

While the saga of How I Met Your Mother has ended, the Major League Baseball season is just beginning and there are many expectations to make over the next six months.

Expectations of winning the World Series may turn into expectations and wishes to just have a winning record depending on how injuries and other factors go for teams as the season wears on.

That is part of the fluidity of expectations both great and small. They are allowed to change and not every expectation comes true no matter how hard one wishes for it.

One expectation that I have is that it will be a good season where sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.

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

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Baseball Opener Comes Stateside

Last night the long drought from the last out of the World Series in October, to the first pitch of the 2014 Major League Baseball season came to an end.

The evening was filled with all of the typical prime-time opening night festivities that one comes to expect from the National Pastime and helped usher in the next six months of the sporting calendar.

Technically the start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season occurred in Australia during a two-game series Down Under between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in my mind one cannot really count those games as the start of the season since the other 28 teams were still playing Spring Training ball.

Australia is a great place to see wombats but is not not the best place to host regular season baseball games in the middle of Spring Training. Photo R. Anderson

Australia is a great place to see wombats but is not not the best place to host regular season baseball games in the middle of Spring Training.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact even the Dodgers and Diamondbacks returned to playing Spring Training games once their trip to Australia was complete.

I know that MLB puts signature series games in exotic locales around the globe each year as a way to build the fan base outside of North America.

I also know that the idea of playing games in a converted cricket stadium that was built before the United States Civil War is certainly a unique venue that is hard to pass up.

And despite the time difference that made catching both games stateside difficult from what I saw the fans in Australia seemed to enjoy the Major League Baseball experience.

And if some children in the stands grow up to be lifelong fans of baseball, or perhaps even turn into Major League players, like Tampa Bay Rays pitcher and Australia native Grant Balfour, then the money spent taking the game to Sydney will be worth it.

I was fortunate enough to travel to Australia a few years back and it is certainly a lovely place to visit as it is full of wonderful historical venues and culture.  But, due to it being located on the other side of the globe it is perhaps not the best venue for hosting regular season baseball games in the middle of Spring Training since it could put the teams playing in them at a disadvantage.

I am all for increasing the global reach of baseball and think that games should be played around the globe. I also firmly believe that baseball should once again be played at the Summer Olympic Games so I am not saying that North America should be the only area where Major League Baseball is played.

But, for the good of the game I think that those games that are played each year in exotic locales should count as Spring Training games and not regular season games.

Under this plan the fans in those far off countries would still have the chance to see Major League Baseball games in person but the players would not be at the disadvantage of already playing games that count in the middle of Spring Training.

Opening nights in baseball such as the one last year between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers often feature large flags. Photo R. Anderson

Opening nights in baseball such as the one last year between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers often feature large flags.
Photo R. Anderson

So, in my mind the real start of the season was last night between the Dodgers (winners of those two games in Australia) and the San Diego Padres.

Starting the year between two teams from the same state is nothing new for MLB.

Last year the prime time opener had a bit of Texas twang to it when the newly minted American League Houston Astros hosted their in-state and new division foes the Texas Rangers.

The Astros won the season opener last year against the Rangers and then proceeded to take a season long dive that would make a Grecian free diver proud.

Before that first pitch of the prime time opener each year there is the promise of a season full of potential. A single game, win or lose, certainly does not make a season. Winning the season opener in front of a prime time audience does not guarantee smooth sailing throughout the rest of the season anymore than losing the opener means that the season will be a complete waste.

While all eyes were on the Dodgers and the Padres last night, the other 28 teams will start play today and tomorrow as they each drive towards the goal of a World Series title.

There will be individual story lines to follow this year such as Derek Jeter’s final season as a player and Ryan Braun’s return from being suspended last year for Performance Enhancing Drug use.

One of the highlights of opening night is when the players from both teams are introduced and line the infield before the game. Photo R. Anderson

One of the highlights of opening night is when the players from both teams are introduced and line the infield before the game.
Photo R. Anderson

There will be larger stories to look at as well this season such as the role that expanded instant replay will have on the results of games in addition to what teams will exceed the preseason predictions and make a push for the playoffs.

The MLB season will be six months of endless possibilities that will allow fans of all ages to take in the sites and the sounds of the game just as they have for generations.

Sure, starting the season with a pair of games in a cricket stadium surrounded by wombats, koalas and kangaroos can be cool now and then but for me there is nothing like the appeal of multiple games every night back in the 30 Ballparks of Major League Baseball.

The cold days of winter are behind us for the most part and the Boys of Summer are ready to hit the ground swinging. And if one of those Boys of Summer happens to hit the bull they just might win a steak dinner.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide which games to watch tonight. Play Ball!

Copyright 2014 R Anderson

Upon Further Review, Replay Coming to Baseball

Baseball is often a game that is slow to embrace change.

This can at times be both charming, as it harkens to a simpler time, as well as being frustrating to some when the old ways can shift the outcomes of games through blown calls that seem obvious to everyone other than the umpires making the calls.

This is not to say that umpires are to be blamed for all blown calls. They are often times having to make a split second decision between safe and out without the benefit of the high definition slow motion angles that the viewers at home have.

Managers and umpires have had a love/hate relationship for years. Some of the strain in the relationship comes from blown calls by the umpires. Starting next year managers can challenge three of those calls a game as part of an expanded instant replay. Photo R. Anderson

Managers and umpires have had a love/hate relationship for years. Some of the strain in the relationship comes from blown calls by the umpires. Starting next year managers can challenge three of those calls a game as part of an expanded instant replay.
Photo R. Anderson

That is also why a close call is never replayed in the ballpark. This is done to avoid further inciting fans who feel that a call was not made the way it should be.

Many sports already use replay to help with questionable calls. The NFL has replay on all scoring plays in addition to coach’s challenges on non-scoring plays.

A few years back Major League Baseball dipped their toes into the replay pool by allowing replay on whether certain balls that bounced back into the playing field were home runs.

When it was announced that home runs were now able to be reviewed there were those that were happy and felt that baseball was finally catching up with the times and others who thought that an already long game would get even longer through the inclusion of replay where the umpiring crew left the field to view a television monitor.

Both of those sides of the argument were given something else to cheer and/or jeer Thursday when it was announced that Major League Baseball will implement instant replay on virtually every play but the strike zone starting next season. And much like the NFL manager’s will be allowed up to three challenges per game.

While announcing the change Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig called the announcement “a historic day” for baseball.

Whether a pitch is thrown for a ball or a strike will still be the umpire's call despite expanded replay rules coming to Major League Baseball. Photo R. Anderson

Whether a pitch is thrown for a ball or a strike will still be the umpire’s call despite expanded replay rules coming to Major League Baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

While still giving the home plate umpire the final word on balls and strikes, mangers will be able to challenge up to three calls during a game.

The challenges will be broken down with one available during the first six innings, and two beginning in the seventh inning.  There will be no additional challenges given for extra-inning games.

After a manager has used his allotment of challenges, an umpire crew can make a review of its own only to determine home-run calls.

The ruling on a challenge will be determined by umpires stationed in a central command center in New York and will not be determined by the on-field umpiring crew.

Time will tell whether the roll out of the type of instant replay that certain fans have wanted will improve the quality of the game or will just add another delay tactic for managers to use.

Time will tell whether the new power to challenge calls improves or strains the umpire/manager dynamic. Photo R. Anderson

Time will tell whether the new power to challenge calls improves or strains the umpire/manager dynamic.
Photo R. Anderson

There have certainly been some high profile examples of umpires making calls that have altered the outcome of a game. There was a blown call on a perfect game attempt a few years back as well as some other examples where human error led to a different outcome.

Personally I have always felt that an equal number of bad calls go against each team so that in the end they all sort of even out. But, I can certainly see where replay could be beneficial to help ensure the quality of the game and to avoid post-game press conference by umpires who after further review admit they should have made a different call.

While the reply roll out should help clear up game altering calls, I would much rather see a system that implemented a universal strike zone across all 30 Ballparks than a system that looked at whether a runner beat a tag at second base or not.

Pitch tracking software for years has shown subtle differences in how umpires call balls and strikes despite a defined strike zone in the rule book.

Much like the batters each manager will be given three challenges, or strikes a game. Once the challenges are gone a manager has no more recourse to dispute a blown call. Photo R. Anderson

Much like the batters each manager will be given three challenges, or strikes a game. Once the challenges are gone a manager has no more recourse to dispute a blown call.
Photo R. Anderson

It seems that maintaining control at the plate was one victory that the umpires were able to hang on to as it has been a point of debate for many years now.  It just seems like Major League Baseball would want to enforce the same strike zone since getting called out on a ball that was called a strike seems to happen far more than a questionable tag out.

I remain hopeful that the next major change in replay rules includes the universal strike zone. Until then I guess we will just have to see how the managers manage their challenges and whether they will be given a red challenge flag to throw on the field like their NFL counterparts or will just run out of the dugout when they want a challenge.

Either way starting next year the game of baseball will be forever changed. Time will tell if it will be remembered as a good change or a bad change.

Now if you’ll excuse me, upon further review, I have a snack to go make before finding a game to watch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

The Day That Separates the Contenders from the Pretenders

Today at 4 p.m. Eastern Time marks the Non-waiver Trade deadline for Major League Baseball.

This magic day is when teams that feel like they are missing one or two pieces to make a run deep into the playoffs make deals with teams that are nowhere near playoff level and want to shed expensive contracts and look towards the following season.

Often times a player is traded as a “50-game rental” since their contact expires at the end of the season and they will become a free agent. Other players are traded with several years left on their contract.

A third type of trade involves a player getting moved to a new team with the old team still paying a portion of the salary of the player that is no longer on their roster.  I have never really understood that type of trade since I think that if a player is traded the new team should be responsible for all of the related salary.

But for the contenders the trades are deemed worthy as the hope is the player will lead them to a World Series Championship. Sometimes the late season trades work and sometimes they don’t.

For the players on the trade bubble the days and weeks leading up to today can be very stressful as they wonder where they will end up finishing the season.  The pending trades of players also affects how they are used leading up to any potential trade.

With the trade deadline looming many players on the trade rumor mill were taken out of the lineup for games on trade deadline eve. After all no one wants to risk a freak injury negating a trade at the 11th hour.

After pitching on Opening Day as the ace of the staff, Bud Norris of the Houston Astros was awaiting his fate at the trade deadline. Photo R. Anderson

After pitching on Opening Day as the ace of the staff, Bud Norris of the Houston Astros was awaiting his fate at the trade deadline.
Photo R. Anderson

For the Astros this meant that Bud Norris was taken out of the rotation for his scheduled start against the Baltimore Orioles last night.  It is very likely by the time you are reading this Norris will have a new team name on the front of his jersey.

While many teams from the Atlanta Braves to the Pittsburgh Pirates have been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Norris but no one seems to know for sure who the winning team will be.

The only thing certain is that much as they have the past three years the Astros want to get rid of their highest paid players and trade them for minor league prospects and this year that honor of highest paid player to get rid of falls on Norris.

I actually hope that Norris gets traded to a contender since watching him pitch a strong game only to have the bullpen blow it in the late innings is getting very painful to watch.

While I do not consider Norris the ace of a staff I think he would make a good middle of the rotation pitcher for a team with a strong rotation.

And Norris could also potentially join the list of former Astros who were traded and became World Series Champions. Lance Berkman accomplished that with the St. Louis Cardinals and Hunter Pence got his ring with the San Francisco Giants. So it definitely seems like if a player wants to win their best bet is to be traded.

Carlos Lee was traded from the Houston Astros to the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline last year as part of an annual housecleaning and payroll dump that has become commonplace at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Carlos Lee was traded from the Houston Astros to the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline last year as part of an annual housecleaning and payroll dump that has become commonplace at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

While the final destination for Norris remains up in the air at the time of this writing the Astros have already been active in the trade market.  In fact, earlier in the week Astros closer Jose Veras was traded to the Detroit Tigers for some Class-A level talent that may or may not ever see a Major League game.

Of course one could certainly argue that as bad as the Astros have been this season they really didn’t need a closer anyway since the number of games that they were in a save situation was certainly a small number.

So the closer was sent away and an already porous bullpen was asked to try to pull together and not blow so many leads.

That is the risk teams take in the trade the present and hope for a brighter future philosophy.

The Pirates have used that model for over two decades before finally posting winning records. To put that in perspective there were people who were born and graduated community college without ever seeing the pirates have a winning record.

While the Astros have not had quite as many years of futility so far there is very little to give one much confidence of that changing any time soon. So the process of acting as a feeder club to the contenders while rolling the dice on unproven talent will continue for the foreseeable future.

And with far more pretenders than contenders each year the non-waiver trade game will continue year after year until a time when the playing field is more level between the haves and the have nots.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to check the wire to see what washed up prospects the Astros are targeting next.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson