Tag Archives: Astros

Astros Quickly Settle Lawsuit by Family of Girl who was Injured by a Foul Ball

Last week news broke that the Houston Astros were being sued by the family of a girl who was hit by a foul ball at Minute Maid Park in 2019.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday,  and settled by Saturday.

While the speedy settlement likely had more to do with the optics of the court of public opinion, versus any legal jeopardy the Astros faced in a court of Law, nonetheless the case was settled for the usual “undisclosed amount” and parties are likely now under gag orders to prevent releasing any details.

So, anyone looking for a Doug Llewelyn style interviews outside of the People’s Court of Public Opinion is likely going to be waiting a long time to get the gritty details.

The Houston Astros settled a lawsuit two days after it was filed. The quick settlement was likely the result of the optics of the court of public opinion, versus any legal jeopardy the Astros faced in a Court of Law. The Astros certainly had the money to make the issue go away quickly by settling, but the question one should be asking is, should they have settled in the bigger picture?
Graphic R. Anderson

The Astros certainly had the money to make the issue go away by settling, but the question one should be asking is, should they have settled in the bigger picture?

To be perfectly clear, a young child getting injured at a baseball game is definitely a terrible thing.

However, it does not mean that the Astros, or Major League Baseball for that matter are negligent.

Throughout my life, I have had numerous opportunities to delve into legal issues from both an academic and practical standpoint. While most of my legal studies have been focused on media law and First Amendment issues, back when I was working on my M.S. degree in Sport Management one of my favorite courses was on legal issues in sport.

Among the myriad topics covered in the course was liability within a Ballpark.

Whether they are aware or not, anyone who attends a baseball game, or most any other live sporting event for that matter, enters into a contract of sorts with the team running the facility through the very act of purchasing a ticket.

While the wording may very slightly, almost every ticket purchased for a baseball game will include something similar to the following verbiage, “the holder assumes all risk and dangers incidental to the game of baseball including specifically (but not exclusively) the danger of being injured by thrown or batted balls.”

In addition to the wording on the tickets, signage throughout the Ballpark, as well as pregame announcements, tell those in attendance to be “foul ball aware” when they are in the Ballpark.

Of course, even with all of those precautions a study by Bloomberg noted that there were an estimated 1,756 injuries sustained at MLB baseball stadiums due to foul balls in 2013. That translates to an average of almost three injuries for every four games played.

Years ago, I saw this sign at a Pensacola Pelicans game at the University of West Florida. While the wording on this sign took a non-standard approach to address the issue, Ballparks from coast to coast have similar warnings to let fans know to be “foul ball aware” at all times.
Photo R. Anderson

Thanks to advanced technology on launch angle and exit velocity, it is now confirmed that a foul ball can enter the stands at upwards of 100 miles per hour.

So, it is in a fan’s best interest to pay attention if they are in the impact zone.

The number of injuries caused by foul balls in many cases can be attributed to fans being distracted on their phones or other devices instead of watching the game. As noted many times before, I will never understand people who go to a Ballpark and do not actually watch the game on the field.

Also, if someone does want to go to the Ballpark and not watch what is happening on the field, they should definitely not sit in the sections where the majority of foul balls and other projectiles are going to go.

Back when I lived in Orlando, and would go to Sea World, I certainly would not sue if I got wet while sitting in the splash zone of Shamu Stadium. The signs clearly say, if you sit here there is a good chance you are going to get wet with cold whale water.

Back when I lived in Orlando and would go to Sea World, I certainly would not sue if I got wet while sitting in the splash zone of Shamu Stadium. The signs clearly say, if you sit here there is a good chance you are going to get wet with cold whale water.
Photo R. Anderson

In the same way, if I sit in the lower bowl of a ballpark where there isn’t any netting, I know to watch out when the batter is up.

Additionally, I know to pay particular attention to whether I am sitting where a lefty is most likely to shank the ball, or a righty.

Just like I don’t blame Shamu if I get wet in the splash zone, I am certainly not going to blame a batter or the team they play for if a foul ball enters the stands.

However, for the sake of argument, let us say that there are fans, like the couple who sued the Astros, who bring their child into a high foul ball rich environment and decide to take legal action after the child, or anyone else, is hit by a ball that signs, ticket verbiage and Jumbotron messages told them to look for. What are the chances that a judge will actually rule in their favor?

It turns out that chance of winning in court is very unlikely, which makes the quickness in which the Astros wrote a check to make the bad PR optics go away even more intriguing.

Again, I feel for the child who was injured, but I definitely question the wisdom of anyone who would sit in an unprotected area of a Ballpark with a small child.

To be fair, very few people are ever going to be hit by a foul ball in their lifetime, but there are definitely places in a Ballpark where you are more likely to be hit than other areas.

The speed in which the Astros settled to make the lawsuit go away was very likely the goal of the lawsuit all along, since legal precedence shows that the advantage in a “Fan v. Ballpark” case almost always should go to the Ballpark.

When a fan is injured by a projectile and decides to sue, he or she is likely to be confronted with a judicially created defense known as “the baseball rule.”

Although it evolved through additional cases over time, the baseball rule was first mentioned in the 1913 court case Crane v. Kansas City Baseball & Exhibition Co., 153 S.W. 1076.

While watching a Kansas City Blues game, a spectator named S.J. Crane was injured by a foul ball. When he sued the team and its owner, the trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants.

In their decision the Kansas City Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling for three reasons: 1) foul balls are a fundamental part of baseball; 2) being struck by a foul ball is a well-known risk of attending baseball games; and; 3) Crane voluntarily chose to sit in an unprotected part of the stadium.

The logic being, fans make a conscience decision to put themselves in the potential path of a foul ball since the Ballpark offers many seats where a fan will not experience a close encounter with a baseball.

Or in whale terms, Crane knowingly sat where the chance the orca would splash him was very high, versus choosing a seat where it was dry.

The Houston Astros even became part of the legal precedent reinforcing the baseball rule set forth in a later case testing the question of how many screened seats is reasonable.

While the exact number of seats that must be screened remains unquantified, in Martinez v. Houston McLane Co., 414 S.W.3d 219, a lawsuit against the Houston Astros, the Texas Court of Appeals found it sufficient that 5,000 of Minute Maid Park’s 41,000 seats were screened.

As part of the baseball defense against litigation Ballparks most offer a percentage of their seats behind netting to give fans a choice on their level of exposure. While courts have yet to state an exact percentage of screen protected seats that are required, over the past few years more and more seats at Ballparks have been placed behind nets to try to minimize fan interaction with errant foul balls that can enter the stands at as much as 100 MPH.
Photo R. Anderson

In the years since the Martinez v. Houston McLane Co. decision, even more seats are now behind netting based in part on Major League Baseball trying to improve the optics of distracted fans getting injured by foul balls.

Since 2019, many Ballparks extended the netting around the infield thus ruining the view for people who like to see the game without looking through a net. As a result, more people are now able to zone out and not watch the action on the field.

While teams are largely protected from lawsuits involving fans getting hit during the actual game play, that protection from legal recourse does not include things that happen between innings as noted by another court case.

In the 2013 case Coomer v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp., 437 S.W.3d 184 the Missouri Supreme Court held that the baseball rule did not bar a lawsuit brought by a spectator named John Coomer, who was hit in the eye by a hot dog thrown by the team’s mascot.

Although acknowledging that such mascot hot dog throwing antics regularly occur at Ballparks as a means to keep fans entertained during stoppages of play, the court concluded: “[T]he risk of being injured by Sluggerrr’s hotdog toss is not one of the inherent risks of watching a Royals home game.”

To summarize, baseball teams are legally protected in most cases when a fan is hit in the face by a ball, but not when they are hit in the face by a wiener.

At the end of the day, it does not matter what the legal precedence says regarding the chances the Astros had to win their case in court. As with many lawsuits against corporations in the public eye a decision was made to settle and make it go away.

While teams are largely protected from lawsuits involving fans getting hit during the actual game play, that does not include things that happen between innings. As such Orbit better watch where he points his slingshot lest he shoot someone’s eye out Ralphie style.
Photo R. Anderson

Such is the state of the current lawsuit happy judicial system, where the modus operandi seems to be sue and hope for a quick settlement.

Again, I feel terrible that a two-year-old girl received a fractured skull and all of the other medical issues that followed her encounter with a foul ball, but I seriously question why her parents chose those seats and then sued when a foul ball hit her.

People need to pay attention at the Ballpark and not expect the MLB to surround them in bubble wrap so they can blissfully ignore the action on the field.

Here’s hoping the settlement by the Astros does not open the floodgates of other fans trying to make money off of accidents that a ticket stub clearly told them to watch out for.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this legal talk has me in the mood for a Boston Legal marathon. Denny Crane.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Astros Owner, Jim Crane, Just Made One of the Most Tone-Deaf Statements Ever Uttered

As I mentioned the other day, after much soul searching, I have decided that I am done supporting the Houston Astros. I have lost all respect for them as an organization, and I really do not see them earning my respect back any time soon.

This was not an easy decision for me to reach. I have a lot of great memories of supporting the Astros, however statements like the one made by team owner Jim Crane on June 24th, only reinforce the stance that is time for me to retire my Astros fandom, just like the new owners retired poor Junction Jack as their mascot.

I really want to stop writing about the Astros, but when they throw a fast ball down the middle of the plate, I have no other choice but to knock it out of the park.

To set the stage, with Major League Baseball set to return in the middle of a global pandemic with a 60-games in 66 days mini season, and the Houston Astros already facing scorn for getting caught cheating, it is almost like Crane said to the person standing next to him at one of the golf courses that he owns, “hold my nachos, I am going to say something so absurd that they will forget about the fact that we cheated in 2017.”

In one of the most tone deaf, failing to take the temperature of the room, comments that I have ever heard, Crane was quoted by many news outlets as saying that in order to recoup some of the money that he has lost by the Astros not playing a full season, he wants to have fans at games at Minute Maid Park this season in order to raise revenue selling concessions and team tchotchkes.

Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane is eager to recoup some of the money that he has lost by the Astros not playing a full season, having fans at games at Minute Maid Park this season in order to raise revenue selling concessions and team tchotchkes.
Photo R. Anderson

Crane’s ludicrous comments also come amid the backdrop of Houston health officials warning that they’re running out of ER space because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

That means that even someone who does not have COVID-19, but needs to go to the ER because of something like a car accident, may not be able to get the lifesaving treatment that they need.

Crane’s remarks are like giving a single foam finger salute to Houston and the surrounding region by saying I want your money more than I want you to be safe.

Crane’s “let them eat cake” moment translated in Ballpark parlance as “let them eat garlic fries” as a COVID-19 pandemic surrounds Minute Maid Park is so out of touch with reality. A better optic would have been created if Crane offered up the meeting space inside the Union Station area of the Ballpark as a potential surge hospital for COVID-19 patients instead of wanting to open up the Ballpark to potentially create more patients for an overtaxed health district

At 71-years-old, Dusty Baker, is the oldest manager in MLB. Baker, who also happens to manage the Astros, told the Associated Press that, “I’m a bit nervous. I’ve seen the reports in Houston how COVID’s going up so I’m going to have to really be careful.”

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane’s “let them eat cake” moment translated in Ballpark parlance as “let them eat garlic fries” seems a bit tone deaf in light of the raging COVID-19 pandemic that surrounds Minute Main Park. A better optic would have been created if Crane offered up the meeting space inside the ballpark as a potential surge hospital instead of wanting to open up the Ballpark to create more patients for an overtaxed health district.
Photo R. Anderson

Part of that need to be careful involves Baker’s age which puts him in the higher risk category. But, it seems that Crane is willing to expose Baker to more people in order to make a buck.

While Crane is ready to go full speed ahead as soon as possible, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, is hitting the pause button on reopening the state amid a “massive outbreak.”

Abbott is urging all Texas residents to stay home unless they absolutely have to go somewhere to try to corral the deadly virus that is rolling through the state like floodwaters indiscriminately affecting everything in its path.

If the Governor, who was once one of the most pro reopening advocates in the country, is saying it is time to slow down and stay home, sorry Jim, going to watch a baseball game is not an essential function.

To be fair, there are likely fans who will be willing to go to games and risk their health in order to see some baseball in a Ballpark so quiet you can hear a trash can drop. But, in order to have fans buying food and tchotchkes, you need to have, ticket takers to let the fans in, security to protect the fans, concession workers to make the food, workers to sell the food, and workers to man the cash registers at the gift shops.

Oh yeah, and you need to have workers to empty the trash cans that are full of the trash generated by those fans, as well as workers to disinfect the Ballpark from top to bottom to get ready for the next game. Perhaps the players can help with the cleanup since I hear they know their way around a trash can.

It really shouldn’t be a shock that the owner of the Astros is the most vocal in wanting fans and their money to return. His entire tenure has been one big monetizing of the ballpark. Who can forget the time the view of downtown was blocked by huge billboards that would make a Minor League Ballpark manager say, “that is a step too far.” Thankfully the eyesore was relocated prior to the 2014 season.
Photo R. Anderson

Each of the people who enter the Ballpark will run the risk of getting infected, and in turn, they run the risk of infecting others when they go home. I am sorry, but no helmet full of nachos, or team shirt, is worth that amount of risk.

If I do not want players in the Ballparks due to potential risk of virus spread, I definitely do not want fans adding to the number of potential super spreaders.

Of course, as noted last week, the Sugar Land Skeeters are also looking to host about 1,700 people a game in a mini summer four-team league they are running at Constellation Field starting in early July. It is entirely possible that Crane thought that if the Skeeters can make money during a pandemic, he should be able to as well. Any fans allowed at either Skeeters or Astros games would need to be socially distanced and wearing a mask.

I totally get it; people are tired of being locked up inside. I would love to run free outside the walls of the Gigaplex, eat fried catfish on my favorite restaurant patio with a half and half tea, and act like the world is back to the way it was in the olden days of pre-March 2020.

But wishing it to be true, and going out there and acting like it is true, does not make it true.

The only thing acting like everything is fine, and there is nothing to see here does, is risk my health, and the health of those I love and care about.

And yes, it even risks the health of those I don’t care about. But, I care enough about people I don’t care about to not want to get them sick either.

Based on his comments, billionaire Crane appears to care mostly about back filling his pockets like a money vault diving Scrooge McDuck. I am used to stories of sports owners trying to fleece taxpayers to get better deals on their Ballparks. Crane used those tactics when he was negotiating for a new Spring Training site for the Astros to share with the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), recently announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23 with up to 1,700 fans allowed inside the Ballpark for each game.
Photo R. Anderson

However, one could argue that being greedy about tax breaks on a Ballpark is far less Ebenezer Scrooge, pre-visit by the three spirits, then encouraging people to risk their health to watch a game in order for the owner to make a few bucks on food and souvenir sales.

Ultimately, Crane’s desire to have fans in the Ballpark could be declared dead on arrival by local officials in Houston and Harris County, who will most likely get the final say on allowing gatherings like fans at a ballgame.

Based on previous statements made by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, I am fairly convinced that Crane’s pitch to have fans at the games will, in the words of Harry Doyle in Major League will fall, “Just a bit outside.”

Still, the fact that the statement was even made in the middle of a pandemic, and on a day that Houston reported nearly 1,000 new cases of COVID-19, which is around 1.3 times higher than it was a week ago, either demonstrates Crane has a total lack of situational awareness, or is aware and has a total lack of empathy.

COVID-19 has killed over 122,000 Americans, and even the people who recover from it may end up with long-term effects, like holes in their lungs. That is not a political statement that is a medical fact.

Sadly, uniting against a common foe for the common good, does not seem so common anymore. At least that is the case when it comes to public health and COVID-19. The simple act of wearing a face covering, or mask, to protect others has turned into a litmus test of whether you vote blue or red. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida get it. Mitt Romney gets it. Masks save lives.

Even Governor Abbott is able to show that he needs to take the virus more seriously than he once did. It is time for everyone else, regardless of political affiliation to do the same. At the end of the day COVID-19 does not care if you vote red or blue. It also isn’t going to give anyone a day pass because they are tired of being inside and want to catch a ballgame and eat some nachos.

As for the comment made by Jim Crane, perhaps he was only kidding. I hear that is the thing people say these days after making a seriously tone-deaf remark in public.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to watch Major League.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Houston Astros are Potential Biggest Winners in Shortened MLB Season

Well, it is finally official, after three months of tense negotiations, the 2020 Major League Baseball season will take place as a 60-game sprint, instead of a 162-game marathon.

Players are expected to resume Spring Training activities at their home Ballparks by July 1, with Opening Day of the truncated season of teams playing a mostly geographical schedule  occurring on July 24.

Baseball purists, players, owners, broadcasters, and all other interested stakeholders, are likely to debate the merits of playing the shortest season in MLB history in the middle of a global pandemic that is exploding like an uncontrolled wildfire in an oxygen rich environment.

While those debates occur, the Houston Astros can breathe easy knowing that their season of atonement tour where they were set to feel the brunt of angry fans, and fellow ballplayers on 29 other teams in response to the trash can banging cheating scandal, will only last about 37 percent as long as it would have during a full season.

With the delayed 2020 MLB season set to launch in July Jose Altuve, and the rest of the Houston Astros can breathe easy knowing that their season of atonement tour tied to the trash can banging cheating scandal, will only last about 37 percent as long as it would have during a full season.
Photo R. Anderson

Heck, the Astros don’t even have to worry about fans in the stands heckling them since the 2020 MLB season will be played in empty Ballparks.

Additionally, the players on the other 29 teams, who would have likely made it extra difficult for the Astros by enforcing a whole slew of unwritten rules of baseball between the foul poles, are likely going to have other things on their minds, like not catching a virus that has no cure and has killed over 121,000 Americans.

It is doubtful that anyone is going to want to have a bench clearing brawl in the middle of a pandemic. Although a socially distanced mound charge could make for good television as the batter tries to voice his displeasure at the pitcher from six feet away.

For those who may not be aware, or have forgotten about the Astros high crimes and misdemeanors against baseball, the MLB commissioner’s office completed an investigation at the end of the 2019 season into cheating allegations levied against the Houston Astros by a former player and whistleblower, related to games played in the 2017 season, which also happened to be the same year that the Astros won the World Series.

According to the report, the Astros used a video monitor of a camera feed from center field, and a trash can in the dugout to relay signals to batters about what pitch was coming in order to give the Astros hitters an advantage at the plate.

As Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis demonstrated in Bull Durham, when the hitter knows what is coming, the ball coming off of the bat travels so far that it ought to have a flight attendant on it. Or to use the sabermetrics lingo, “advanced knowledge creates epic launch angle, and equals the ball traveling many feet.”

The Houston Astros won the World Series in 2017. In 2019, it was revealed that some players on the team cheated that year which taints the first Championship in team history. Using a trash can to tip off the batter to what pitch is coming is less obvious than the two bats and a glove technique demonstrated by Jose Altuve during Spring Training in 2016.
Photo R. Anderson

As one might expect, the players on teams who lost to the Astros in 2017, in particular, the Dodgers and Yankees, feel cheated, because as it turns out they were cheated.

Every victory by the Astros in 2017, including the World Series title, has a stigma attached to it despite all of the protestations by Astros players that they only used the trash can banging system in the regular season, in order to win enough games to get to the playoffs, and then played fair and square after that once they were in the playoffs.

The world will never know whether the claims of postseason innocence are true or not. What is known, is that through a system of cheating that lasted for a portion of the 2017 MLB season, all members of the 2017 Astros, whether they benefited from the trash can signals or not, are forever tainted in the eyes of fans and other players.

Although the Astros are likely to face less retaliation due to the current climate where people have real things to worry about like COVID-19, and seeking social justice reform, I am not going to let them off so easily.

I will no longer root for the Houston Astros, since I do not respect the organization, nor do I feel it is worth my time, or money to support them based on the actions of players who cheated the system, and the actions of other players who remained quiet about the cheating.

In the big picture, I am sure that the $500 or so I used to spend a season on the Astros is a drop in the bucket to the team. But, if enough people like me take the same action, the team will realize that actions have consequences. That is how quickly the actions of members of an organization can affect the overall bottom line. That is why it is so critical that sports organizations instill an ethical culture and swiftly address any employees found acting unethically.

It takes years to build a reputation, and mere seconds to tarnish it. Just ask all of the MLB players who were linked to the steroids era and are on the outside looking in of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I have always respected Dusty Baker, who at the age of 71 years old, has the herculean task of trying to rebuild the reputation of the Astros as the new team skipper. I hope he succeeds, but it will still be a few seasons before I can think about supporting the Astros again. Also, there is no guarantee that I ever will decide that the Astros are worthy of my time and money. As Robert DeNiro once told Ben Stiller, “The circle of trust is broken, Greg.”

Dusty Baker, pictured with A.J. Hinch, the man he replaced as Astros skipper, has a tall order in front of him as he looks to try to rebuild the reputation of the Houston Astros.
Photo R. Anderson

From the time I moved to Houston, I embraced the Astros and supported them through some very lean seasons.

In fact, some of my best memories of going to games at Minute Maid Park occurred during the seasons where the Astros had some of the worst records. I knew the players were trying their best, and I was there to support them win or lose.

I do not care if a team I support wins every game. If I did, I would have given up on my beloved Baltimore Orioles years ago. I mean, think about it, only one team wins the World Series each year. That doesn’t make the other 29 teams total losers, it just means one team played better than the rest, or had a few more lucky breaks fall their way. And no, a trash can dugout drum is not a lucky break, that is just cheating no matter how you try to bang it.

I want the teams I support to play hard and to play fair. That shouldn’t be too much to ask. Teams will now have 60 games to earn a spot in the playoffs and try to unseat the Washington Nationals as World Series Champions.

The Washington Nationals will start their defense of their World Series title next month.
Photo R. Anderson

I stand firm in my opinion that the 2020 season should not be played under the current cloud of COVID-19. I do not see a scenario where I will waver from that position.

But, now that a season seems inevitable, I will hope and pray that the number of people involved in putting on the made for TV season that become infected with COVID-19 is low, and that those who do catch the virus make a full recovery.

I am especially concerned for some of the older managers, like Baker, and Joe Maddon, who fall within the high-risk category, based on their ages, for needing to be extra careful about not catching the disease.

When the dust settles, and this season that everyone was so gung ho to have played is over, I really hope people will say it was worth all of the risks to player health and the overall health of baseball in general, instead of saying, why in the world did we do that?

One of the great constants in the world is that hindsight is always 20/20. So far, the year 2020 has been one for the ages, and sadly there are still six more months to go before we can put a fork in this year. There will be plenty of time for hindsight when the year is over, but the time to make good decisions to look back on is now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to order some more face masks since the COVID-19 cases in Texas are rising faster than a 95 mile per hour brushback pitch.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Fate of Tal’s Hill at Minute Maid Park Decided by Astros

After threatening to bulldoze over a unique feature of Minute Maid Park for the past few years, the Houston Astros made their threats official yesterday when they signed the death warrant for the quirky little incline in center field known as Tal’s Hill.

Tal’s Hill, named for former Astros executive Tal Smith, and a feature of Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be leveled at the end of the 2015 season and replaced by a $15 million redesign that will be ready in time for Opening Day 2016.

Highlights of the redesign that were announced by the Astros include, field level seats in center field, a new section of seats atop the field-level boxes, an observation tower with a winding staircase as well as a see-through elevator equipped with LED lights with the Astros’ name and logo, and adding a smaller, self-contained section of mezzanine seats to replace three sections of current seats that will be removed as part of the redesign.

Tal's Hill, a fixture in Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be removed at the end of the current season to make room for more revenue generating areas. Photo R. Anderson
Tal’s Hill, a fixture in Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be removed at the end of the current season to make room for more revenue generating areas.
Photo R. Anderson

Additionally, as part of the makeover the Astros will move the center field fence in from 436 feet, the deepest in Major League Baseball, to 409 feet while reducing seating capacity by about a hundred seats.

From the ashes of Tal’s Hill’s 30-degree, 27-foot-long incline will arise more space to entertain fans at premium prices.

While not coming right out and saying it, it is pretty obvious that as long as the are corporate sponsors and business willing to pay for premium seating areas teams will continue to build them while reducing the number of seats for the working class fan.

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members.

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members. Photo R. Anderson
A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members.
Photo R. Anderson

So now where the press box once stood is a super exclusive seating area where tickets likely are $600 to $1000 a game, if not more.

So if even a press box is not sacred why let a unique feature such as Tal’s Hill get in the way of revenue generating opportunities?

After all, much to the chagrin of team officials while it was popular with the fans for 15 years all Tal’s Hill did was sit there and grow grass.

Marcel Braithwaite, the Astros’ senior vice president of baseball operations was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying that, “Communal areas like this are what the fans want. They want to watch the games with their friends and family, they want to see what other game are going on. We are looking to create destination areas, gathering places that enable you to enjoy the game with a good vantage point while enjoying some good food and drink and spending time together.”

It very well may be a generation gap thing but I have always felt that the main reason to go to a baseball game is to see the game on the field and take in the sights and sounds of a Ballpark experience while snacking on hot dogs and other baseball concession staples at my seat.

Through all of my years attending games in both a professional and strictly fan scenario I have never thought that I want to sit in a lounge or sports bar atmosphere at the Ballpark while a game goes on in the background.

Unfortunately the new trend in Ballpark design is creating immersive environments and mini bars where one can stay an entire game without actually seeing the action on the field.

Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros on the day it was announced that Tal's Hill would disappear at the end of the season. As a center fielder Jones had a close up view of the unique incline in the outfield whenever he visited Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson
Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros on the day it was announced that Tal’s Hill would disappear at the end of the season. As a center fielder Jones had a close up view of the unique incline in the outfield whenever he visited Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course these areas need to include Wi-Fi hotspots as well to cater to the constantly plugged in fan of the 21st Century.

It seems to me that is someone is wanting to watch the game on a big screen television and eat pub food with their friends there are cheaper ways to do that then paying for a ticket to the ballgame if one has little desire to watch much of the ballgame.

Of course in this social media fueled Millennial madness I suppose they feel it is better to tag their Instagram posts with pictures from inside the Ballpark when they take a chance to remember that they are at a baseball game.

So like the press box before it Tal’s Hill will go to make room for yet another revenue stream in the form of gathering places and towers of light.

At least the outfield is not covered by large billboards that block the architectural elements of the Ballpark.  Oh wait, never mind.

Besides making room for more revenue streams, another reason given for the demolition of Tal’s Hill was concerns for the safety of players. In the 15 years that the hill has been there to my knowledge there have not been any major injuries.

Next season the outfield at Minute Maid Park will look very different. Photo R. Anderso
Next season the outfield at Minute Maid Park will look very different.
Photo R. Anderson

Or to put it another way, I can worry about 99 ways for a player to get injured, but a hill with a pitch ain’t one.

The removal of Tal’s Hill is unfortunate and I think that it is a mistake. It is not the first mistake that the Astros have made and it will not be the last.

Unfortunately each mistake adds fuel to the fire of me questioning how many more times I will visit Minute Maid Park.

I have already greatly reduced the number of games that I attend each year as I do not find the Ballpark experience as exciting as it used to be. That is not to say that I will no longer support the Astros if I stop going to see them in person.

I have never been the type of person who believes that the biggest fans of a team are determined by being the biggest spenders or the ones who attend the most games.

There are diehard fans in every sport who have never had the opportunity to see their teams play in person either through financial or geographic limitations.

That does not make them any less of a fan. In fact in some ways it might make them a bigger fan since they actually pay attention to the team more than an amenity such as a revenue generating lounge.

The Astros are winning more so that will bring in a new crop of fans so in the grand scheme of things I am sure they will not miss the hundreds of dollars that I used to spend in their facility.

With Tal's Hill disappearing the next unique feature that the Astros will likely want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run. I am sure there is some revenue generating oprion up there on the tracks with the train out of the way. Photo R. Anderson
With Tal’s Hill disappearing the next unique feature that the Astros will likely want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run. I am sure there is some revenue generating option up there on the tracks with the train out of the way.
Photo R. Anderson

The locomotive of baseball continues to chug along and people get on and off of the train at various stops along the way.

Speaking of trains I suppose the next unique feature that the Astros will want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run.

After all, it is not like the site of the Ballpark is built on the grounds of the old Union Station railroad yard where it would make sense to have a locomotive as a tie to the past. Oh wait, never mind.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to mourn the loss of a pile of dirt.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

Spending Summer’s Last Gasp at the Ballpark

Today marks the first day of fall.

By and large fall, or autumn if you prefer, is my favorite season.

I enjoy the changing leaves, and the chill in the air, along with the various pumpkin flavored items that hit the grocery stores and restaurants this time of year to mark the season.

Of course having lived in Florida and Texas for the majority of my life, I usually have to settle on pumpkin flavored ice cream and chilled apple cider since for the most part  temperatures are still too hot for changing leaves and breaking out the fall coats.

But when I lived in Maryland as a much younger version of myself, I would visit the local apple orchard and pumpkin patch each year on school trips and jump into leaf piles that were above my head.

The Sugar Land Skeeters may be the road less traveled in the Houston area baseball scene but word is quickly spreading as the success grows. Photo R. Anderson
The Sugar Land Skeeters may be the road less traveled in the Houston area baseball scene but word is quickly spreading as the success grows.
Photo R. Anderson

I may yet return someday to a land where autumn and other seasons exist but for now I will take part in the two Texas seasons of hot and not quite as hot.

So on the last day of summer with temperatures still in the low 90’s, I decided to mark the occasion with a baseball game.

After all baseball players are often referred to as the Boys of Summer so what could be more American than baseball to mark the end of summer?

When it came down to picking where to catch this fall eve last gasp of summer game I had the choice between the Houston Astros or the Sugar Land Skeeters since both teams were in town.

In true Robert Frost poem fashion it was much like I was standing before two roads, one well-traveled and one less traveled.

Were I to choose the more traveled road of the Astros, I would be watching a meaningless game in a mostly empty air conditioned Ballpark that seats 45,000 or so as the Astros went through the motions of finishing out another losing season that cannot end soon enough for players and fans alike.

Fans Gathered to see the Sugar Land Skeeters play the York Revolution on the final day of summer Sunday. Photo R. Anderson
Fans Gathered to see the Sugar Land Skeeters play the York Revolution on the final day of summer Sunday.
Photo R. Anderson

On the other hand, were I to choose the less traveled road that led to the Skeeters, I would be watching a game outside as nature intended in a much more fan-filled Ballpark as the Skeeters battled to clinch the Second Half division title.

With choices like that it was easy to pick the Skeeters of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball over the Major League Baseball Astros.

That is not to say that I have completely given up on the Astros, but with some of the front office moves made by the team lately it becomes increasingly more difficult to justify spending MLB type money to see a lesser product.

I will continue to wish the Astros well in their rebuilding effort but for now will be voting with my wallet by not supporting them in person until they make more strides towards being a competitive team. That will not stop me from visiting Minute Maid Park next year to see my Orioles and Rays play however.

While many of the recent players for the Astros seem to be in over their heads at times as they try to establish their careers many of the players for Skeeters are just trying to hold on to their careers a little longer.

The Sugar Land Skeeters are heading to the playoffs for the second straight year.  Photo R. Anderson
The Sugar Land Skeeters are heading to the playoffs for the second straight year.
Photo R. Anderson

Players in the Atlantic League for the most part will not be confused with Major League All-Stars, with the exception of Scott Kazmir who parlayed a stint with the Skeeters into a return to the MLB All-Star Game.

Rosters are comprised of former Major Leaguers and other players who could not find a place on an affiliated team roster for whatever reason.

The play in independent leagues, such as the one the Skeeters call home, can sometimes be sloppy with routine plays turning into errors on occasion but for the most part the errors even out as both teams are making them.

But what the players lack in polished skills they more than make up for in heart and determination. That is not to say that there are not Major League baseball players who play with heart and determination but as a whole those seem to be the exception.

Consider this, with entire team salaries far below what a single Major League Baseball player would make the men who make up the Skeeters roster are playing for the love of the game and the chance to put on a show each night for a couple of thousand fans under the lights.

Gary Gaetti has managed the Sugar Land Skeeters for their entire three-year existence. Photo R. Anderson
Gary Gaetti has managed the Sugar Land Skeeters for their entire three-year existence.
Photo R. Anderson

They know that their playing careers are finite but while they can they will continue to play the game that many of them have played as far back as they can remember.

So with these reasons in mind my last day of summer was spent under the sun watching the Skeeters defeat the York Revolution to clinch that division title for a berth in the playoffs.

I will take a game with players giving their all on every play over a game with players going through the motions every time. Also, a reasonably priced concession stand does not hurt either.

Two game diverged in a field, and I – I took the one where the players have the most heart. And that has made all the difference.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some playoff tickets to buy.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Astros Score the Hat Trick of Mediocrity

Last night the Houston Astros lost their 100th game of the year marking the third straight year that they have accomplished that dubious feat.

In 2011 the Astros went 56-106 in recording their first 100 loss season in team history. Their second straight 100 loss campaign followed in 2012 with a record of 55-107. As of last night the Astros are carrying a 51-100 record for the 2013 season.

In 2005 the Houston Astros were in the World Series. That was the last time they played in the postseason and this year marks their third consecutive season with at least 100 losses. Photo R. Anderson
In 2005 the Houston Astros were in the World Series. That was the last time they played in the postseason and this year marks their third consecutive season with at least 100 losses.
Photo R. Anderson

Time will tell how many of the remaining games the Astros end up losing. With a series against the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees still to go this season it is highly probable that we have not seen the last Astros loss of the season.

While few people should be surprised at the fact that the Astros have lost 100 games and counting this season, it is surprising based on their play at certain points this year that is took them until September to reach that milestone.

On paper it seemed more reasonable for the Astros to hit the 100th loss mark in August based on the way the team has played.

And of course the 100th loss, much like the previous 99, had its share of errant throws and even a “butt slide” that made people wonder if perhaps the players on the field were Major League players or more like the baseball equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters.

I actually had the fortune, or perhaps misfortune, to be at the game last night when the 100th loss occurred.

After spending much of the day dealing with some water damage at the Triple B Gigaplex, I arrived at Minute Maid Park a little later than usual so the game was already underway by the time I got inside.

As I entered the ballpark in the top of the first inning the Astros were already trailing the Cincinnati Reds 4-0.

Jonathan Villar tried to stretch a single into a double in the first inning of a 10-0 loss Tuesdays night and ended up getting tagged out in a most compromising position. Photo R. Anderson
Jonathan Villar tried to stretch a single into a double in the first inning of a 10-0 loss Tuesday night and ended up getting tagged out in a most compromising position.
Photo R. Anderson

It should be noted that the Astros went on to lose the game 10-0 which is 100 (as in 100th loss) if you remove the dash. A scary coincidence or stroke of marketing genius?

As for the face to cheek slide heard round the world, that occurred in the bottom of the first inning when Jonathan Villar tried to stretch a leadoff single into a double to start the inning.

Instead of a runner on second with no outs however, Villar was tagged out at second base while somehow managing to face plant the left butt cheek of Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips.

While the Astros have certainly been the butt of many jokes this year that particular play seemed to sum up the season rather literally.

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips applied the tag heard round the web on Jonathan Villar Tuesday night. Photo R. Anderson
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips applied the tag heard round the web on Jonathan Villar Tuesday night.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course not every Astros game this season has resulted in a loss and last Friday night I actually witnessed one of those hard to come by wins when I saw the Astros in action against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (also known as the we can see Disneyland from our Ballpark Angels). Okay, so the Angels are not called that but they can in fact see Disneyland from their ballpark in case you were wondering.

One a personal note the Angels became the 29th team that I have watched play at Minute Maid Park.  My journey to 30 teams is set to be completed on September 27th when the New York Yankees come to town for the last three games of the year.

In celebration of my achievement of seeing all 30 Major League Baseball teams at a single Ballpark there will be postgame fireworks. Okay, so the fireworks are not for me but as I watch those majestic explosives light up the downtown Houston sky I am going to pretend that they are.

Seeing Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put me one team away from seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson
Seeing Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put me one team away from seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

Against the Angels, the Astros looked both good and bad en route to the Friday the 13th 9-7 victory.   There was a grand slam hit which showed that the Astros were able to get consecutive hits to load the bases and then have that all important final hit to get them all home.

The game also featured the first career Major League hit for Cody Clark, a journeyman Minor League catcher who had been called up following a string of injuries behind the plate for the Astros.

It is likely that Clark will be back in the Minor Leagues next season but the record books will forever show that on September 13, 2013 Clark got his first hit in the Major Leagues.

Astros Catcher Cody Clark recorded his first Major League hit Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels. Photo R. Anderson
Astros Catcher Cody Clark recorded his first Major League hit Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels.
Photo R. Anderson

In a show of class for the milestone of the first career hit Clark was presented with the ball. Years from now Clark can show his grandkids and anyone else that is around the ball that fell in the outfield to allow him to join the fraternity of Major League hitters.

It is moments like Cody Clark getting his first career hit, even in a lost season, which show there are still reasons to put on the uniform and compete every day.

There is no doubt that 100 loss seasons will probably happen for at least one or two more years but the players are being forged in the fire of adversity and should come out stronger on the other side. And of course if they can work on their base running a little more, and avoid embarrassing slides into the backsides of their opponents, they just may end up smelling like roses.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it is time to slide into the kitchen for a snack.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Hits the Century Mark

If you happen to be reading this right now, it means that you have arrived at the 100th column entry here at Triple B.

Now, 100 columns is certainly a milestone worth noting and as it got closer there were increased thoughts at the Triple B Gigaplex regarding the best way to celebrate it.

The first thought of how to celebrate the occasion was actually to not celebrate it at all.

Let’s call this the “act like you’ve been there before” approach.

In the act like you’ve been there approach one just continues doing what they have always done without drawing attention to reaching a particular milestone such as say the 100th entry made since January.

For example, instead of talking about it being the 100th column the space could be devoted to discussing the fact that the 2014 Major League Baseball schedule was released yesterday and includes the Houston Astros opening the season at home against the New York Yankees.

The 2014 Astros schedule also gives me the chance to see the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals from the air conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park.

Or instead of pointing out that this is the 100th column we could talk about the cheating scandal that is rocking NASCAR and has led to a shake-up in which teams get to compete for the coveted championship.

Another topic we could cover is the total disappointing effort put out by the Washington Redskins in Monday Night Football despite us going to the trouble of getting a special cookie cake for the occasion to go along with a tray of imported cheese, rosemary crackers and pinwheels.

Instead of tasting sweet like victory, this Washington Redskins chocolate chip cookie cake tasted bitter after a lackluster effort by the Redskins in Monday Night Football. But that is not what we are here to talk about. Photo R. Anderson
Instead of tasting sweet like victory, this Washington Redskins chocolate chip cookie cake tasted bitter after a lackluster effort by the Redskins in Monday Night Football. But that is not what we are here to talk about.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course as many on field celebrations show, the act like you have been there approach is often thrown out the window in favor of the “party like it’s 1999 approach.”

One particular example of the excessive celebration in baseball is the walk off win.

As the name implies a walk-off win occurs when the teams simply walk off the field after the home team has scored a decisive run in the bottom of the ninth inning that leads to a victory.

I have never really understood baseball teams that choreograph routines for walk off celebrations. I get the emotion of the moment and the fact that the victory is secured but when some teams have set roles for people to play during a walk off celebration such as who get to catch the batting helmet as the runner touches home things have gone too far.

With the act like you’ve been there approach ruled out thoughts on how to celebrate turned to the television clip show approach.

I am sure everyone has watched a television show at one time or another that was comprised of clips from previous shows as the actors on the show “looked back” at pivotal moments of the past year.

This approach usually involves a contrived set-up that allows for the seamless inclusion of remember when moments that serve as flashbacks for the viewer.

One of my favorite shows growing up, MacGyver, was notorious for the clip show approach. It would never fail that each season would include a look back at shows and events which sometimes happened as far back as the episode that preceded the clip show.

A MacGyver clip show would usually involve the main characters in some sort of a jam and then they would realize they had gotten out of worse scenarios in the past by saying something like, “Remember when MacGyver disarmed that thermonuclear device with a bottle cap and a whisker from a Russian Dwarf Hamster?”

And then a clip would be shown of MacGyver disarming said device earlier that season armed with a Swiss Army Knife, a bottle cap and of course that all important non conductive whisker from a Russian Dwarf Hamster.

Okay, to my knowledge Macgyver never disarmed a thermonuclear device with a hamster whisker. But if he did, and there was footage of that, I would certainly deem that to be clip show worthy.

So if we were to take the clip show approach here I would say something like remember when we talked about how bad the Astros are this year?

And of course that phrase would have been hyperlinked so that you could navigate back there to read the previous article about when we talked about how bad the Astros were.

Although I think many of the past 99 columns referred to how bad the Astros were this year so that would be a lot of hyperlinks to have to go back and add.

So instead of talking about the Astros we could say remember when we talked about (fill in the blank)? And of course the link would magically transport you back to reread that particular article.

I was never really a big fan of the clip show approach when MacGyver did it and I am definitely not going to do it now since it always struck me as a cheap way for the writers to not really have to work hard at coming up with new material.

So we aren’t taking any shortcuts here, although remember when we talked about…

With the act like you’ve been there before approach and the clip show approach being ruled out we had to think of a third way to celebrate the milestone of reaching 100 columns.

What better way to celebrate 100 columns than with some cake. Photo R. Anderson
What better way to celebrate 100 columns than with some cake.
Photo R. Anderson

That led us to the third way to mark the occasion of reaching our 100th column, we bought a cake and put some candles on it.

I mean who doesn’t love baked goods? After all, remember a few paragraphs up when we were talking about a Washington Redskins cookie cake?

And when the cake is filled with Boston Cream one really can’t go wrong. (By the way remember when we talked about Boston?)

So, there you have it, the 100th post here at Triple B.

Here’s to many more to come as we offer observations from the cheap seats, the beach seats and everywhere in between.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some cake to eat. Of course, if you had been here yesterday I could have offered you a slice.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Bad Year to be an Astro Especially for Catchers

The other day The Houston Astros added another catcher to their roster.

Normally this would not really be news worthy since teams often add a third catcher in September when the rosters are expanded.

What makes the latest Astros addition of a catcher newsworthy is the fact that it is the third catcher the Astros have added to the roster since August 20th due to injuries.

Carlos Corporan was injured August 19 when he took a foul ball off of his facemask. Max Stassi was called up to replace Coporan and he was hit in the head by a pitch two days later and hasn’t played since. Both Corporan and Max Stassi remain on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

The latest injury to an Astros catcher occurred Monday when Jason Castro was pulled from the game after an RBI single in the second inning with a sprained right knee. It should be noted that it is the same knee Castro had surgically repaired in 2011.

Jason Castro meets with Manager Bo Porter and the athletic training staff before being pulled from the game with a sprained knee. The injury is being called day to day leaving the Astros without their only All-Star representative for the foreseeable future. Photo R. Anderson
Jason Castro meets with Manager Bo Porter and the athletic training staff before being pulled from the game with a sprained knee. The injury is being called day to day leaving the Astros without their only All-Star representative for the foreseeable future.
Photo R. Anderson

So with two catchers out with concussions and Castro deemed day to day with a cyst on the medial side of his right knee, the Astros were left with only Cody Clark on the roster as a catcher.

Clark is a real life Crash Davis having spent 11 years bouncing around the Minor Leagues before being called up August 23.

The Astros don’t want to call up a third catcher from within their farm system since their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City and Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi are both going to the playoffs and probably want to have someone available to catch balls that are thrown by the pitchers.

So with no more catchers to promote from within, the Astros were forced to look outside the organization for back stop help.

The team acquired Minor League catcher Matt Pagnozzi from the Braves in exchange for cash considerations.

In announcing the signing of Pagnozzi the Astros press release noted that Pagnozzi was beginning a drive to his home in Arizona from Gwinnett, Ga., and had just changed a bulb on the headlamp in his truck at a Walmart when he got the call he had to head to Houston.

After reading that it reminded me of the movie Major League when the potential manager gets a job offer while working at the tire store and thinks at first that the offer is a joke.

It also reminded me that some reporter likely asked a question along the lines of, “So Matt, what were you doing when you found out you had been traded to Houston?”

First base coach Dave Clark reminds catcher Cody Clark to stay injury free as he is the only able bodied catcher at the time. Photo R. Anderson
First base coach Dave Clark reminds catcher Cody Clark to stay injury free as he is the only able bodied catcher at the time.
Photo R. Anderson

As an aside, if one is ever asked that question the correct response is never, “Well, I was in the bathroom checking my e-mail and saw that I had a message from my agent.”

Even if that is what you were doing, it does not make a good quote and will inevitably lead to the follow up question of “did you wash your hands before replying?”

Although, it should be noted that Walmart bathrooms are certainly a nice place to stop during a road trip, especially if you need to get a bulb for your truck as well.

It is likely that Pagnozzi’s time with the Astros will be short as Corporan will begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Wednesday for Double-A Corpus Christi with the hopes of rejoining the Astros on Monday in Seattle.

I just hope that his time is not shortened by injury since the Astros really are running out of places to find catchers.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to the sporting goods store to get a catcher’s mitt and mask since at this rate I very well could be the next catcher called. I just hope they don’t call me while I am at Walmart.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

One Down, Two to Go

With a Labor Day matinee day game today between the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins I inched one team closer to seeing all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park.

I had seen the Twins in Florida many times for Spring Training but until today I had never had the chance to see them play a regular season game.

Later in the month I will see games against the Angels and the Yankees to complete the 30 teams in a single Ballpark quest.

Of course a larger goal of mine is seeing all 30 teams in their home Ballparks but having them all come to me is certainly a good first step.

The journey to see all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park started modestly enough with a 2001 game against the San Francisco Giants on October 4, 2001. It was also the only game at the Ballpark while it was called Enron Field.

With the Minnesota Twins officially crossed off of the list only the Los Angels Angels of Anneheim and the New York Yankees stand between me and my goal of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson
With the Minnesota Twins officially crossed off of the list only the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the New York Yankees stand between me and my goal of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

But, for any purists out there who say that it shouldn’t count for seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park rest assured I have seen the Giants play during the Minute Maid era.

The game had originally been scheduled for September but was moved to October after a week of games was cancelled following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

For those who may have forgotten October 4, 2001 was the day that Barry Bonds tied Mark McGwire’s home run record at 70.

The stands erupted in cheers when that record setting homer sailed over the wall. Of course it is not often that a home run hit by the opposing team gets such a response but this was history in the making. Or at least it was history tying in the making.

Bonds very well may have broken that record as well during the same game that he tied it aside from the fact that the Astros manager decided to give Bonds an intentional walk later in the game ending any chance that home run number 71 would occur on Houston soil.

I recall writing at the time that the history denying intentional walk was not in the spirit of competition and was manipulating records.

Of course, after having 12 or so years to reflect it occurs to me that not wanting to have the tainted home run occur on his watch was a wise move on the manager’s part.

Perhaps that Astros manager saw through the hype before the rest of us and realized that Bonds was likely using some pharmaceutical enhancements to crush those long balls.

Every journey starts with a single step, or in some cases a single ticket. On October 4, 2001 I saw my first game at Minute Maid Park which was known as Enron Field at the time. By the end of this season I will have seen all 30 Major League teams at least once at the Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson
Every journey starts with a single step, or in some cases a single ticket. On October 4, 2001 I saw my first game at Minute Maid Park which was known as Enron Field at the time. By the end of this season I will have seen all 30 Major League teams at least once at the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Since that night Bonds went on to be disgraced with many fans wanting an asterisk by his record to reflect that it was not earned cleanly and should not be the official record.

The record will stand until another player, perhaps Baltimore’s Chris Davis, breaks it the clean way without any attachment to performance enhancing drugs.

While not every game at Minute Maid Park was as exciting has my first there have certainly been other memories made by the various teams that have come through the visitor’s clubhouse. And of course from time to time the home team has made a few memorable plays.

Although lately it seems that many of the plays made by the Astros are memorable for all the wrong reasons.

I am sure there will come a day when the Astros once again fill the Ballpark with fans wanting to see great things from the home team.  Many fans are boycotting the move to the American League and the change in ownership.

While the new ownership has certainly made its fair share of blunders, and moving the team from the National League to the American League was highly unpopular among many in the Astros fan base, ironically it was the unpopular relocation of the Astros to the American League that helped speed up my quest to see all 30 teams. Without the Astros moving to the American League West I would not have been able to cross off Seattle and Oakland earlier in the season.

While all of the teams would eventually have rolled through town under the old Interleague schedule infusing some new teams into the mix was certainly a welcome rest from multiple games against National League Central opponents each year.

Barry Bonds went on to break Hank Aaron's career home run mark. Steroids or not, when one does that a collectible is made in their honor.  Photo R. Anderson
Barry Bonds went on to break Hank Aaron’s career home run mark. Steroids or not, when one does that a collectible is made in their honor.
Photo R. Anderson

I grew up on American League baseball with the Orioles and Rays and had not seen a National League game in person until the first one at Minute Maid Park. While I have now seen more National League games than American League games in my life I have to admit I still prefer the American League style with the designated hitter.

I know there are baseball purists who are cringing right now and crumpling up their felt pennants but I really would whether see 9 people that can potentially hit than 8 and a guaranteed strike out or sacrifice bunt from the pitcher.

I still think the Astros make a better National League team than an American League team but one does have to play with the cards they are dealt as opposed to always shouting at the dealer to reshuffle the deck until a hand that suits them is dealt.

So, like it or not the Astros are an American League squad. Granted, they are not a very successful one but they are one nonetheless. And with the constant presence of Interleague play now the lines between National and American League rules and playing styles will continue to get blurred until all of the teams are basically the same.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to get some tickets to see the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or Burbank or whatever L.A. suburb they are including in their name these days. It sure was easier when they were just the California Angels but I guess too many people were getting lost on the Pacific Coast Highway trying to find them somewhere between San Diego and Sacramento so some better geographic indicators were needed.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Astros and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Game

My affinity for the movie Bull Durham is well known.

In fact, I have been known to quote the movie quite frequently as there seem to be quotes that fit almost any occasion in life.

So while I was watching Monday night’s debacle of a game between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers there were many Bull Durham lines that came to mind as the Double-A talent level Astros players with the big hearts and limited talent fell victim to the much more talented and much more Major League Baseball level Texas Rangers.

Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies. The Houston Astros are spending the season reenacting many of the scenes from the movie, and not in the good way. Photo R. Anderson
Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies. The Houston Astros are spending the season reenacting many of the scenes from the movie, and not in the good way.
Photo R. Anderson

One line from Bull Durham that kept coming to mind as I watched the wheels fall off for the Astros once again was, “You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you?”

And of course anyone who has seen the movie knows that the answer is lollygaggers.

The Astros have found ways to make a very simple game of throw and catch anything but simple the past few seasons as they lollygag through their games.  Of course this year they look like doctoral students in the study of ways to lollygag during ballgames.

Quite frankly, each game tends to lead itself to even more absurd ways to lose. Balls falling between three outfielders? Check. An overworked staff of pitchers giving up more leads than a reporter on deadline? Check.

The list goes on and on with the creative ways that the Astros have found to lose this year. But Monday night seemed to find new levels on the losing scale.

In addition to the game reminding me of some scenes from Bull Durham, it also harkened back to some bedtime stories that my mom used to read to me.

One of those books in particular came to mind Monday night as I was watching the Astros go through yet another epic fail. That book was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which was written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz.

In the book, as the title suggests, Alexander has a bad day.

The way the Astros' season has gone I wouldn't be surprised if the song Bad Day is on a constant loop in the clubhouse. Photo R. Anderson
The way the Astros’ season has gone I wouldn’t be surprised if the song Bad Day is on a constant loop in the clubhouse.
Photo R. Anderson

The book came out in 1972 which was long before the days immortalized in Daniel Powter’s one hit wonder song Bad Day.

So, for the more musically minded readers one can replace the imagery of the printed page with the melodies of song if they wish.

Whichever way works the fact remains the Astros had a very bad day, err night Monday.

As part of the bad night the Astros gave up 11 runs in the third inning with all nine Rangers players in the batting order scoring at least one run during the third inning scoring marathon.

Then in the fourth inning the Astros lost their catcher to concussion like symptoms. Normally when that occurs the backup catcher is rushed into the game since most squads carry two catchers on the active roster for situations like this.

Of course when you are using your other catcher as the designated hitter, as the Astros were doing, a little rule goes into effect where they cannot go behind the plate without a team being forced to use a pitcher at DH to replace them.

So with the options limited at catcher, the Astros turned to their emergency catcher, Jake Elmore. It is not like Elmore had never caught before. The announcers on the broadcast were very quick to point out that Elmore once caught an inning in a Double-A game in Mobile, Alabama a few years back.

To his credit, Elmore did a good job behind the plate. Of course he was helped by the fact that the Rangers were not trying to steal any bases with such a sizable lead.

At least the hats are sharp for the Astros to make up for some of the less than sharp play on the field. Photo R. Anderson
At least the hats are sharp for the Astros to make up for some of the less than sharp play on the field.
Photo R. Anderson

The night for Elmore got even weirder in the eighth inning when he was called upon to pitch since it was determined that with the game so out of reach the Astros would just give the rest of the bullpen the night off.

Elmore needed only 11 pitches to get three outs and proved to be the most productive pitcher of the night for the Astros. Not bad for a guy making his Major League debut as both a pitcher and a catcher.

While there have certainly been games where infielders have been called on to pitch these are usually extra-inning games when the bullpens have been completely depleted. Elmore became only the 14th person to be both a catcher and pitcher in the same game.

The Astros keep preaching rebuilding and patience but when they decide to completely rest an ineffective bullpen in favor of an infielder who has never pitched in a Major League Game and he makes it look easier to get batters out than the bulk of the full time pitchers, there is definitely something horribly wrong and will certainly test the patience of Job.

So, it is likely that there will be many more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad games for the Astros this year. And the trend will likely continue for several years to come. There is no quick fix for a team that does not want to spend money on talented players.

Of course, there are players like Jake Elmore that have the talent and the heart to be Major League ballplayers for the Astros they just aren’t being given the supporting cast to be successful and are left feeling like they woke up with gum in their hair day after day after day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a certain book from my childhood that I think I will pull off of the shelf and read.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson