Archive for July, 2004

7/30/04: No-Trade Clause Trade-Off

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

Every year, seems we have the same situation – a player who has a no trade clause or is a 10 and 5 guy who is, well, blackmailed by his team, who no longer wants him, into “accepting” a trade. The team goes public with the trade “rumors” knowing that the media will support the team and blast the player, greedy no good, uncaring, %*&#$%^$% who is selfish, doesn’t respect the team or fans and doesn’t care about what really matters, being a “winner.” The 10 and 5 guy is supposed to have EARNED the right to have a say over his future and the team AGREED to the no-trade clause when they signed the contract. Right?!!!!

So why is the “reserve clause” mentality supported so eagerly by the media? Why don’t these guys have any rights to their hard earned RIGHTS????!!!!! ‘

Because these people still have the same attitude that players are THINGS, like stratomatic cards, to be shuffled and dealt without respecting the players as humans. The media is supporting the teams’ arrogance by insisting that ALL players MUST have the exact same (their) attitude toward being a “winner.” That means, that even if the players like their “loser” team, their city, their families, their homes and their lives, no Real Man should object to taking one for the team for the price of going to a “winner.”

After all, the wives and children should have to accept absolutely anything, losing their homes, friends, jobs, schools or losing their husbands/fathers’ company for what? The player has already discussed his life with his family and made the decision to be with team X good year or bad, winning, contending, losing or rebuilding and the team has already agreed to this. So why doesn’t the player have the right to define “winner” himself? If he values his family’s happiness and the company of his children, who are growing up too fast already and the stability of a happy home over endless hotels and groupies over the media’s definition of winner, then I guess he ain’t much of a man or team player or something.

If these billionaire businessmen make a mistake by overpaying, or silly multiyear contracts or foolish no-trade clauses, they should be men enough to suck it up and not whine about how it’s really the players’ fault or how he is some kind of dirtball/loser/selfish by sticking up for his rights.

I suppose I object the most to teams/media believing that only they have the God-given right to define what “winner” means and that the player, the person himself, has absolutely NO right whatsoever to define what valuable and winner mean to HIM and that he has no right whatsoever to have a different definition from that of the owners and sportswriter.

I do not understand why a man who values his family, community and team over The Ring is less of a man. Or a Loser. When I agreed to marry my husband, I told him that I didn’t want an engagement ring or an expensive wedding because what I really wanted was to spend that money on a house, even a cheap one, with a backyard for our kids and dogs because that what I thought was really important. Every female I know told me that I was the dumbest girl alive because any girl who preferred a house and dogs to jewelry is more than a few bricks shy of a load. I heard that diamonds are forever and houses burn and dogs die and men leave. Well, I’m still not sorry, not one bit. And the only diamonds I care about are covered with grass. And I still don’t have any jewels. Except the one I married.

7/24/04: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Saturday, July 24th, 2004

When I was a kid, my Mama used to reward me for behaving myself by taking me to the Dome. It was pretty hard to earn enough points to go and I couldn’t stop talking and thinking about it all day. I first got to go the year I turned 4 and I was so excited to FINALLY get to go to a real, live ballgame that I could hardly sit down and watch even though the team wasn’t that good.

It didn’t matter. My Mama taught me baseball rules and basic strategy and how to keep score. And I learned that things somehow look very different when you watch the field and it’s hard to keep up with everything that goes on at the same time and my favorite players were seldom the “best” players. I just liked the way they looked or ran or stole bases or just seemed to be having a good time, especially the little guys because I used to imagine/pretend that if little guys could play, then little girls could play. I pitched like Mike Scott, ran like Rickey and fielded like Ozzie…..

I’m a grownup now. I think. I know that girls aren’t allowed to play ball and like Trix, pretending is for kids. So I don’t pretend that I’m Juan Pierre or David Eckstein or Paul LoDuca anymore.

But, you know, last night I took 2 of my cousins, age 7 and 9 to the park. They had never seen a ball game live before and after we walked inside, their eyes got wide and everything was WOW and COOL and LOOKIT LOOKIT.

And we sat down in the stands and I started teaching them the same way my Mama taught me. And suddenly I was a kid again, really thrilled to be there and watching the game. I forgot all about my scorecard and stat book. And how much money each guy makes and dollars per hit or pitch or whatever. I even forgot that we were supposed to Go All The Way this year and we aint a-gonna.

This time I didn’t get upset when Roger gave up 3 homers by the 6th or count runners left on base and I enjoyed watching the guys trying to come back instead of giving up. This year is the only year I will be able to have season tickets and go to all the games and watch real live major leaguers play and you know, I feel blessed. Cuz comparing the real live ballgame to TV and stats is like comparing my husband (who worked most of his Saturdays last year to save money to buy us season and all-star game and playoff/series tickets) to a vibrator and a quart of ice-cream. Too many people don’t know what they’ve got till it’s gone.

Houston Astros July 2004: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Thursday, July 22nd, 2004

This #%$$@%%^ computer just ate my entry. So I’m gonna make this one short.
I have 2 small boys. It seems that some days they just got on my last nerve and it’s a real struggle to find something to praise so that all they hear all day long isn’t “Get In That Corner Now!!!!!”" Well, I’m feeling the same way about my stros. So I’m gonna try try to find something positive along with ALL the not good.

The UGLY:
1) these guys can’t/won’t hit worth #%$%$@* with RISP. The #2-6 hitters have something like 6 RBIs each for July.
2) Biggio and Berkman trying to play outfield. Kent’s errors!!!!
3) No decent reliever except Lidge!

The BAD:
1) Duckworth and Munro!!!
2) Ausmus is like -24 RCAA.
3) Adam Everett has way too many sac bunts
4) Not much base stealing and Everett, Morgan Ensberg and Carlos Beltran are pretty good at it.
5) Jason Lane isn’t playing

The GOOD:
1) Adam Everett’s glove!!!!
2) Vizcaino has done pretty well off the bench.
3) Roy-O has a BEAUTIFUL motion. He’s good, too, when he doesn’t get rattled by “fielders” not catching catchable balls
4) Clemens has done well in spite of so many walks.
5) Lidge looks great!
6) Us suckers (fans) keep comin to the games
Last but not least -
7) I have LOTS of things I can spend that playoff money on.

7/17/04: Astros Are Unlovable Losers AGAIN

Saturday, July 17th, 2004

As you might could guess, we lost again. This is getting tiresome.

It was kids’ day and we managed to get to the ballpark in time to get Roger Clemens Nesting Dolls for the kids, who, after trying to eat them, lost interest. Lots of kids today. Very few 2 year olds can sit still for 3 hours straight and watch a ballgame, and mine tried bless ‘em. They haven’t figured out who to cheer for. I guess we haven’t either. The kids have a ?good? excuse – the players look the same to them.

I hate to say it, but I think the rest of us have a good excuse, too. Our team just isn’t playing well. I swear I’ve been writing that sentence darn near every entry now.

The first inning went single, double, run score, walk, passed ball, sac fly, run score, pop out. Just like that they’re 2 runs up. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

And Roy-O is supposed to be our ace. You can feel it in the crowd – oh no, NOT again. We’re gonna lose again. When we come to the ballpark, we now expect that barring a miracle, we’re gonna lose again. Still, all 40,000 of us cheer for our guys. Roy settles down and keeps up with David Wells, who throws a mid 80s fastball which must have some good movement on it, because no one can seem to hit it. He also mixes in a few 70 mph curves and a few changeups which seem hard to hit, too. (So much for the importance of velocity.) We load the bases in the 3rd and strand all three . AGAIN!! Angry yells and some boos. The man next to me has brought his little girl to teach her the game she asks him why the people are booing “the good guys.” . He has a hard time trying to explain this to a 4 year old. The fans, who have been so supportive all year are starting to become not just disappointed, but angry. Major league millionaires should be able to catch $^%$# fly balls!!!!!

We lose the game in the 5th. Roy has thrown 50 pitches through 4 innings. It starts off when Quintero raps a sharp single, then Khalil Greene grounds into a FC which should have been a DP. Wells strikes out. Sean Burroughs then hits a ball toward the wall in left, which Biggio, new to left, misplays. It falls for a double and Greene scores from first. Biggio is booed. Roy, who seems to freak when runs score because of, um, sub-optimal fielding, immediately gives up a 2 run homer to Mark Loretta (now, shouldn’t we have signed him instead of Kent??!!) It goes from bad to worse. Brian Giles singles. Ryan Klesko singles. Long hits a fly ball to left and Berkman, new to right, doesn’t get to it. Really loud boos. Roy is shaken. The first pitch to Jay Payton is high. Goodbye Roy. The crowd gives him a hand. No run support with runs. Iron gloves.

Lefty Mike Gallo relieves, gives up a sac fly and Giles scores. That’s 7 ER in 5 1/3 IP. In the bottom of the 5th, Brian Giles makes an outstanding running catch on Biggio’s fly ball. The crowd gives him a hand. This game is Ovah. Berkman and Bagwell hit HRs, but it’s not enough.

You know, we actually outhit the Padres, 10 -8. But we left 8 on base and they only left 4 so they win 7 – 4. It’s almost easier to be a fan when you don’t expect your team to win. You can go to the ballpark, relax, watch the other team win, figure your team can’t possibly get any worse and enjoy it when they surprise you and win. But THIS team this year was supposed to go to Go All The Way. Up, that is, not down.

The fans, supportive and enthusiastic during the past 2 months of losing, are growing disgusted, even angry. And if these guys don’t get their acts together SOON, they will find themselves unloved losers.

7/17/04: The Phil (Garner) Good Era Starts

Saturday, July 17th, 2004

“Where are they going without even knowing The Way….”

Well, today was the first day of the new Phil good Stros era. Same old story. Pettitte wasn’t sharp. 25 batters faced. 14 saw a first pitch strike (gotta assume hits and fouls are strikes.) His fastball was 89-91, 66 of 91 total pitches were FB and 41 of those were strikes. 6 curves, 6 for strokes; 14 sliders, half for strikes, the rest changeups, half for strikes.

You see where I’m going with this, huh. You can guess where the Padre hitters went with this.

Defense – well, Adam Everett made 3 excellent plays as did Bagwell; Kent made an error that cost Pettite and out and 2 runs; Vizcaino didn’t call off Bagwell on Jake Peavy’s popup bunt (or catch it either) and it fell for an infield hit, costing Pettitte a run; Berkman made one nice diving play in right.

Offense – sux deluxe. The hitters managed only 1 run from 6 hits, 2 walks and one HBP because Bagwell, then Ausmus then Everett failed to hit with bases loaded and no outs. Same old story.

AND we had another ball 5 episode when Jason Lane pinch hit in the 5th. I heard people in the stands screaming it. But again, the batters and coaches had heads up butt. Same old Astros. Same problems. No spark a-tall…

Baseball Hangover – Astros Fire Jimy Williams

Thursday, July 15th, 2004

Well, Jimy Williams was ash-canned. Not even a little surprised. 44-44 at the ASB isn’t gonna cut it with THIS team. The players sounded very upset about it, so this wasn’t exactly like Terry Collins. The media is happy because Jimy wasn’t (what’s that word) verbose and I guess Phil Garner is. I read what he had to say on MLB.com and most of it sounded like nonsense and a lot of rah rah stuff. Why does the media like that? Ol scrap iron sounds like Tony Robbins lite.

I know I wrote last month that SOMEONE needs to provide a spark around here. Because it is true that our guys look like they expect to lose if they aren’t ahead from the getgo.

BUT…… No amount of sparking is gonna fix Bagwell’s shoulder or make Kent stop looking like the tin man caught in the rain. The sad, painful truth is that Bagwell just isn’t an everyday player anymore. Not only can’t he throw, his hitting is getting worse, too – it must be hurting to swing. I feel for him. He has 2 1/2 years left on his contract at about 17 mill a year and isn’t exactly trade bait. I feel for us. But 17 mill or not, we need to play Lance Berkman at first and replace him in the outfield with Jason Lane and put Bagwell on the bench. Salary shouldn’t determine playing time.

Gary Gaetti, the new hitting coach, needs to work with the guys to deal with the season long problem of leaving WAY too many RISP. Maybe the new pitching coach can sharpen up the guys in the pen (as well as Munro and Duckworth, which reminds me of the saying about not throwing good money after bad.) Sometimes, you just need a fresh point of view (like Hidalgo did.)

I know I have been unhappy with some of Jimy’s ways (sac bunts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but I can’t see busting him because of his rearranging the lineup. He didn’t do that the first 6 weeks that we were winning a lot, and he didn’t start really doing that until Beltran got here. And we STILL kept losing, so what was he supposed to do? He got $#%* for NOT benching Hidalgo for 6 weeks, then got MORE $#%$ for being “insensitive” to Hidalgo BY benching him. Ya can’t win for losing.

Sorry, that’s not funny. I guess I’m just really worried that we’ve made a terrible mistake hiring Garner. I know he didn’t have a chance with the Tigers, but that’s certainly not true with the Brewers teams he had. I remember what happened to the Bosox right after Jimy got fired and I’m afraid, and resigned to the fact that that’s probably gonna happen again. I wish we had changed the hitting and pitching coaches a lot earlier.

The only bright spot about losing some more is that Garner probably won’t get resigned. And that’s cancelled by the fat that Roger probably won’t re-up and we don’t really have any ready minor league pitchers. Unless they teach Carlos Hernandez to throw the knuckler. Yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrrre.

All Star Game 2004 – Rocket City USA

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

THE ALL-STAR GAME!!!

I remember how badly I wanted to go back when the game was at the dome in ‘86 when I was a little kid. Now that I’m a bigger kid, I’m going. My wonderful husband bought us tickets and I’ve been looking forward to this for SO long I can’t believe it’s finally here.

He took off from work today and we went down early today to be sure we could get in by 3. It is about 100 out and this time we have the good sense to enter through Union Station to wait in line, where it is cool. There isn’t the party feeling that there was yesterday inside or outside the stadium. I go and check out the fans with non-Astro gear. Lots more Yankee fans today, mostly living in Texas. Lots of Seattle and Cardinal fans. Lots of retro jerseys. Most of the people I talk to are from Texas somewhere. A few out of towners had to buy scalped tickets, which were going for about $1200 bucks for the upper deck which have a face value of $125. I have no idea what the good seats must cost.

We wandered around and avoided going on up to our seats until 30 minutes before game time, watching BP from field level, because I know that even though the roof is closed, it’s gonna be HOT, like at least 85. I get my official program ($15.00) with the Nolan Ryan (not Roger) cover and look at the scorecard. It isn’t nearly long enough, considering the fact that there are going to be a zillion lineup changes. I think it needs to be a sort of booklet with a separate page for each inning with a place to write stats about the opposing pitcher. Good thing I have my own scorebook.

It is even hotter up here in the upper deck today than yesterday and today there are Giant fans across the aisle from “Brooklyn” fans (well, that’s what’s on the jerseys) and the beer will be flowing. The guy 3 seats down has a laptop, a radio and a small portable TV to watch replays. I hope he finds time to watch the game.

Finally time! We get to see the promo on the jumbotron. Then my congressperson, noted for her firm opposition to anything having to do with any military spending, comes out with the military color guard and is greeted with a lot of boos. The soldiers are cheered. Then some lucky guys throws 5 baseballs thru a ring and wins a million bucks. So now he feels like a ballplayer!

Managers, coaches and reserves are introduced. VERY loud boos for Jimy, even louder than the boos for Arod (lots of Ranger fans here and there is a big group from Seattle 2 sections over.) The 3 Astros starters are presented last and the cheers are so loud for Lance and Roger that I can’t even hear the announcer.

Muhammed Ali gets a warm welcome. A beautiful woman with a beautiful voice sings the national anthem v e r y s l o w l y after the Canadian national anthem is sung. They play commercials on the jumbotron. No escape from commercials today, either.

We have been hoping to see Clemens and Piazza make nice on the mound or home plate or something. No such luck. FINALLY, the real first pitch. Zillions of flashbulbs. Roger immediately runs into trouble. single, double, groundout. Then Manny Ramirez comes to the plate and takes a look at the Crawford boxes.

Like my dogs look at a plate of burgers. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Goooooooood
And sends a pitch right into them. Down 3-0 that fast.

Arod goes down swinging. Loud cheers up here, except from the Yankee fans. Giambi gets on first because Kent makes an error. He looks like this ALL THE #$%$ TIME. Only the scorer must not be from here and he gets an error. FOR ONCE!!! Then Jeter gets a single, then Alfonso Soriano comes up and hits a 3 run homer into the Crawford boxes. Righties L U V this park.

Down 6-0. (I know it’s not entirely Roger’s fault – Sammy didn’t get to 2 flies – he looks like a statue out there – and Kent made that error.) Roger then strikes out Mark Mulder. 35 pitches, 23 strikes 2K, 2 HR. I get that horrible sinking feeling that I get, with good reason, every time the Astros get behind. My husband says that we have good hitters, not to worry, we can come back, don’t give up……..

The crowd is REALLY quiet. You see, we’ve been watching the Astros every day for about 6 weeks…..

Barry gets pitched to with a man on second and first base open!!!! Can you believe it?! What a concept. He hits a high pop fly. Now we have someone on second with one out instead of men on first and second with no outs. I can’t believe Joe Torre did something like that. What if it gives other managers ideas and they pitch to Barry, too? His OBP might could drop below 500 and he might make more outs. I’m sure Barry thinks it’s a good idea to get pitched to- he looks happy In fact, Barry has looked happy the whole time. I sure don’t see this “surly” guy the media is always complaining about.

3rd inning – Giambi hits a grounder just to the right of Kent, who barely moves. Now I have heard that Jeter is a lousy fielder. That the “ball just gets by a diving Jeter.” At least he tries! Which is more than I can say for Kent. The stiff. I do not understand how he gets decent DER and UZR fielding ratings.

Randy Johnson does not look sharp. He manages to escape a bases loaded jam with one out. Barry walks. He is in a great mood. He hugs Giambi at first, they chat like long lost friends and Barry heads to second when Rolen smacks a single. Barry is happy to see Jeter. They hug, then have a friendly chat. Sosa grounds out, then Barry jogs in, chatting with the guys. He sure is in a good mood and we’re losing 6-0. Must be because he’s getting pitched to, in spite of getting no hits. Hey media people! Get the opposing managers to pitch to Barry and that will get him in a friendly chatty mood. Just think of all the great interviews with a happy, smiling Barry…….

4th inning – Rolen makes an absolutely beautiful running catch and throws out I-Rod by a hair. Just compare him to our stiffs (not Adam Everett or Carlos Beltran.) Defense matters a lot more than a lot of people think. We score 3 runs off Sabathia, who looks tired. Carl Crawford sure looks great out there in left. Hometown boy gets applause. I’d love to have him playing here in right – 4 more years to wait…..

5th inning – Michael Young goes deep in the hole and throws out Cabrera. Real major league play. Suddenly, everyone is standing up and looking up to the top of the stands a few sections down. I can’t see a thing up there or on the field. Whassup? I hear that some guys have gotten into a fight. I told you it was too hot. Cops heading up there. I can’t even push through the rows to get to the stairs to go to the balcony and see what’s going on in the game. After about 5 minutes, everyone sits down and I can see that about 5 or 6 guys are getting tossed. Wow. I’ve never seen anyone get tossed here. Stros fans are pretty quiet and polite and besides, the beer guys don’t come up here much. So I missed the bottom of the fifth. On the field.

6th – The managers start seriously pulling starters and playing reserves. The jumbotron shows videos of our soldiers serving in Iraq introducing the new player from their home team. The soldiers get loud applause. This is a really great idea. Way to go Fox. Thank you soldiers.
David Ortiz hits a 423′ 2 run homer off Carl Pavano into the upper deck right field. 9-4.
So far, Stros look bad. Clemens gives up 6 runs. Berkman is hitless. Kent has a single, an error and lack of effort. Beltran has a single. No runs, no RBIs. The whole NL team is playing like our club. Except for Rolen and Albert Pujols. If the Cardinal pitchers pitch like those 2 field and hit, I know who’s gonna be in the world series. And it ain’t us. Even if they fire Jimy, which they’re almost certainly going to do.

7th – inning stretch. Ruben Stoddard sings “God Bless America.” He’s good and we tell him so. We sing “Take me out to the Ballgame.” Then our own 7th inning song -
The stars at night
Are big and bright clap clap clap clap
Deep in the Hearrrrrrrt of Texas
The prairie sky
Is wide and high clap clap clap clap
Deep in the Hearrrrrrrt of Texas

They start to open the roof. It was already REALLY REALLY HOT UP HERE!!!!! By the time the 7th ends, it will be even hotter because it is at least 85 – 90 out. Still. Sure enough, lots of people start to leave. Well, actually, people are also starting to leave the expensive seats down below, too. I feel like I’m in LA. This game is over, even though there are still 2 innings left. The crowd is silent and even though a group a few sections over tries to get the wave started at least 5 times, they fail.

Report card: NL pitchers- Clemens – got a Bud Selig award during the show. Need I say more ? Randy Johnson – rusty. Carlos Zambrano – ok. Pavano – not bad – 1 mistake
Danny Kolb, Tom Glavine, Ben Sheets and Eric Gagne – very sharp.

- NL hitters – Stros – #$%$##@!! Cards – I can’t bring myself to tell the truth. Everybody else – yecccccccccch.
- NL defense – Scott Rolen – A+++ Sosa – #$%#@# Kent – !!!##&(%&*$*^*$%#$@!!!!!!!! Everyone else – ok I guess.
- AL pitchers – Mulder – good. Sabathia – tired and not sharp. Everyone else – Excellent. Unfortunately.
- AL hitters – Rocket launchers. Unfortunately.
- AL defense – Arod really is good, much as I can’t stand him. (He went over and got a ball that a shortstop would usually have gotten and Jeter didn’t. I wonder if this might could be why Jeter’s defense ratings are suddenly so much better this year.) Michael Young – gold glove.
- So now they have to name the AL MVP. Of course, it’s Roger. But for some reason, they give it to Soriano. I’m not sure why his 3 run homer was better than Manny’s 3 run homer. Oh, I know. Because Rockets are launched in Texas. Duh.

Short Guys RULE The 2004 HR Derby!!!

Tuesday, July 13th, 2004

Home run derby tonight.

I’ve already dropped the kids off with my cousin but Husband is late. The doors have been open since 3 and it’s almost 6 by the time we fight the traffic downtown. By the time we find an available parking garage and get to the juicebox, it’s 6:20. It’s 98 and sunny and we have to wait outside in the HOT sun for 20 minutes waiting to get in because one security person is wanding everybody at the entrance. Thank God the roof is closed. We are in the upper deck and it’s H O T up there even with the roof closed. Crawford Street was really packed with all the fans who couldn’t get or afford the scalpers tickets.

Up in our section, the regular season ticket holders all are there. Almost everyone around us is from Houston. Lots of jerseys and Stros caps. There are a few Yankee fans 4 rows in front of us and a few Boston fans about 6 rows above us. Hopefully, the beer guys will be too busy with the lower sections to get up here……

There are a lot of serious female Stro fans near us and they’ve brought their daughters, who are thrilled to death. They finally get around to introducing all the 500 HR players (they left Ken Griffey Jr out – wonder why. My neighbor says she saw him sitting with the other NL guys earlier.) Polite applause for everybody and then major applause for Hank Aaron.

Loud cheers when Lance Berkman (hometown boy) comes forward. I think that most of the people in this stadium are from Houston by the sound of it. Looking around with my neighbor’s binoculars, I figure that 2/3 of the fans have Houston caps, jerseys or tshirts. In fact, the National jerseys look like the old Colt 45 unis. Only larger. How cool. Wish I could afford one…

Time to start. Some rich fat cat throws out the first pitch to Drayton McLean, who DROPS THE BALL. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Then Hank Aaron gets it right.

Time to start round 1. Barry Bonds is up first. The catcher stands and they pitch outside. Barry grins. Who says he has no sensayuma? He sends 8 homers into the right field stands, one goes 483′ and just barely misses the $1,000,000 sign. Next, Hank Blalock gets a little polite applause for his 3 homers. The crowd goes crazy when Lance comes up to bat next. He is hitting righty from a right handed pitcher. Sounds good to me – easier to hit it into the Crawford boxes than the right field stands, even though he has had more lefty at bats than righty.. I’m sure a righty is going to win tonight. Sorry Barry.

The crowd is polite for Tejada (Milo Hamilton, our radio broadcaster mispronounced his name all evening. That was embarrassing), then Jim Thome, David Ortiz and Sammy Sosa, who definitely doesn’t have his groove on tonite – swung and missed twice. The crowd starts out quiet for Rafael Palmeiro and there are a few jokes about bats and Viagra. After his 4th out, his swing gets smooth and he starts hitting homers into the right field stands, just to the left of the foul pole. The crowd starts getting into it about the 6th homer and he gets some enthusiastic applause after he leaves with 9. The 2 oldest guys, the 500 homer guys, have the lead so far.

Well, just so you know, we have to listen to commercials in here too. They throw some free t-shirts into the expensive seats. They never give free stuff to us poor folks in the cheap seats – not that the face value of the tickets is exactly cheap. No winning tickets in the 400s sections. Like ever.

Milo interviews George Bush Sr. He gets a standing O. Astros fans LUV George and Barbara. The roof starts to open. Good for the fans on Crawford Street. Bad for the fans in the upper deck - it is at least 90 out and there is ZERO breeze and we will ALL be half dead of heat in about 15 minutes. Good for beer sales, I guess.

Round 2. Barry is first. Doesn’t have that rhythm and gets only 3 homers. Lance is next. Seriously LOUD screaming. I don’t know how it sounded on TV, but up here in solid Astros land it was club loud. Lance hits 5 of 10 homers over the tracks into Crawford Street. It must be insane out there. I hope nobody gets hurt. By the time Lance is done, my voice is hoarse and ears are ringing. Now we’re sure our homey will win. We’re psyched. Lance tells the reporter that he likes playing for the hometown fans. We love him too. And tell him so with LOUD screaming. He tells the reporter that he likes hitting better with the roof shut. Don’t blame him. If it’s as hot on that field as it is up here, he’s H O T.

Tejada is up (that’s pronounced tay-hah-dah, Milo.) Polite scattered applause. With 1 out, he suddenly has 5 homers on the board. Not long shots, but suddenly he has 10 with 5 outs and the crowd starts to get loud. When he hits the 11th 497′ over the tracks, the crowd gets louder. By the time he’s up to #13, we’re on our feet screaming. (I hope he hits 20 and gets all tired out.) He ends up with 15 and gets a standing O. Gee, maybe he really might could have earned that MVP. Palmeiro comes up and hits 5. Polite applause. We’re waiting for the big time.

So now we go to the finals. Both guys are the last minute replacements and neither are in the 500 homer club.

Lance is up first. He looks tired. His timing is off and he doesn’t really start to get it right until he has 9 outs. So he gets 4 HR and a long and loud ovation. I hear from somebody who brought a radio that Tejada supposedly told Lance that he hurt his wrist on the 15th homer. He swings and it goes out. Yeah, he’s hurting all right. He easily gets 5 HR before he has 5 outs. So he wins. Looks like he could hit 15 more.

Lance, you know that home run swing you had tonite? Please show up with it on Friday. Remember the cheers and how much you love your fans and they love you????? Thanx.

Before we head off to partay on Main St, I want to end with one last thing – a LITTLE GUY, a 5′9″ guy won the HR derby and set the record for # of HR/10 outs and the # of HR hit in a derby.

So it is NOT necessary to look like Barry or Griffey or Jason Giambi or McGwire to hit for power and do it well. (Remember Jimmy Wynn?) But I don’t suppose it will stop the scouts and stat geeks from saying that short guys aren’t “projectable” or can’t hit for power or some other excuse for insisting that ballplayers look like linebackers.

So, at least for tonight, SHORT GUYS RULE!!!!!!!

Fan Fest 2004 Part 2 – The Future

Sunday, July 11th, 2004

Hello from the Futures Game.

There are maybe 15,000 people in the stands. None of the season ticket holders in my section showed up. Seems to be mostly friends and family. The scalpers were selling tickets on the street for face value. Astros have Chris Burke at 2nd for USA. His MLB salary next year will be 300 K. Kent’s will be 9 mill. So Burke had better be good. Willy Tavares, who we got from Cleveland earlier this year for jeriome Robertson, plays CF for the World. It will be interesting to see how they do. The good Lord knows we need a decent CF next year after Beltran goes to the Yankees…. Anyway, it will be interesting to watch the prospects whose names I know and see how they do……

OK 7 inning game over. General impressions:
1) These guys can’t field worth a plugged nickle. 3 errors. The outfielders can’t chase fly balls worth a @#$$#. BJ Upton has NO business playing major league shortstop – more like DH. A 2 run error. Can’t go deep in the hole, can’t get anything on his throws. Definitely NO exciting plays. Burke looks decent. Tavares does not. The Yankee prospects look lousy. Robinson Cano has poor strike zone judgement (waved at 2 VERY outside pitches thrown by a guy who hadn’t thrown decent strike for the 2 previous batters) and a lead glove. Navarro went 0 fer 2. And these guys are their top propects? If the Dbax really do trade RJ to the Yanks for these guys, the Dbax fans should tar and feather the GM.

2) No bunting or stealing. Stat geeks sing hallelujiah.

3) No great hitting. 4 singles and a double for the World, 4 singles and 2 doubles for USA. Except, David Wright did manage a 2 strike single off Jose Capellan on a 67 mph curve. That was impressive.

4) Pitchers were MUCH better than the hitters. World pitchers Felix Hernandez and Jose Capellan were just WOW. Hernandez got 3 outs on 7 strikes and no balls. Jeff Francis and Yusmeiro Petit looked really sharp, too. Wil Ledesma pitched the 3rd – didn’t locate well and gave up 2 runs because Choo dropped an easy fly ball and 2 runs scored.

USA’s best pitcher looked to me like Tim Stauffer- 2 K and a weak ground out. Bill Murphy was fast but had 2 WP. Bryan Bullinger and Joe Blanton looked good, too. Matt Cain looked terrible – no control. He was pulled with bases loaded. Gavin Floyd came in to relieve and looked very uptight about coming in with MOB and having to pitch out of a jam. Coming in and getting the outs under pressure deserves a lot more respect that some people think.

5) There was no MVP. Believe me. They hafta give it to SOMEBODY so they gave it to Aaron Hill who hit a 2 out 2 RBI double in the 5th off Petit which scored the 3rd and 4th run. There shouldn’t have even been a chance, but Wright (a LOUSY fielder) had an error on what should have been the first out.

6) They need to put the pitcher’s name and picture up on the board the way they do the hitters. They need to announce lineup changes BEFORE the inning. But I guess it would cut into the commercials they play on the board.

7) Major leaguers are SO much better than minor leaguers it isn’t funny.

Future, second chapter:
So Mama and I walk down the stairs after the game is over to try to catch the end of the Astros game in Larry’s Big Bamboo Bar (at the foot of the stairs) just in time to see Paul LoDuca hit a granny off Weathers, the ace reliever we traded Hidalgo for, to make the score 7-2 LA. We run into some of the guys from the pitching booth from fan fest, who have been watching the Astros on the TV. Kent lost a pop-up in the sun. No error. I swear that guy could pull a Bill Buckner and still not get an error. So anyway, of course poor Roy-o ends up giving up that run and loses.

So here we are at the All-Star break at .500. If we keep playing like this (horse#@#$) we won’t even be .500 at the end of the year. These guys look like zombies and hit like them, too. The future looks pretty grim for our series chances.

On a more cheerful note, Mama and I had a great time talkin baseball with the guys again. Not a single guy acted like it was a shock discussing baseball with wimmen. So, maybe things are looking up for us girls. One for 2 ain’t bad.

Fan Fest 2004 Part One – Barry Bonds Strikes Out 3 Times

Sunday, July 11th, 2004

Greetings from Fan Fest – it’s held in the George Brown convention center. I had hoped to see Stros players and get my All-Star program autographed, but no such luck. Well, actually, there were LOTS of pix of the players. There are lots of playing cards and collectibles. There were also collectibles for football, basketball and hockey. What’s up with that? It is really cool to see the old bats and the old unis. The closest I’ve been to the Hall. Speaking of the Hall, they had a booth, too. No Eric Enders or Bruce Markusen, though.

It is amazing how small the old jerseys were. They looked as if they would fit me and I’m Freddy Patek size (only smaller.) The guy selling a plaque showing all the Astros uniforms on it said that at least half the Astro fans told him that they missed the old striped jerseys, so I’m not the only one. I’m tired of all the look-alike unis and the U G L Y brick red tops. If I ever get a jersey, you betcha it will be the retro one.

The lines were long for the free pictures and the batting cages. Lots of pitches that come out of that machine weren’t hittable, like really low or really high or outside. I only got 3 good swings out of 8 or 9 pitches. And unlike Barry, I didn’t do what should have been done with the one good one down the middle. I figure those pitches were about 30 mph. I can’t imagine 95.

There were long lines for the virtual pitching cages, too. Virtual Barry swung at LOTS of pitches. I struck him out the first time with a 49 mph fourseamer that was definitely low and outside. My fastest pitch was 53. The person I watched who threw the hardest was a kid about 10 who wasn’t even 5 ft tall yet, but was long and lean like Roy-o. The kid threw 3 pitches down the middle with a smooth easy motion and topped out at 72. He beat out every grown man there, most of them big and tall – they topped out in the low 60s. Some of the guys didn’t even throw as hard as I did, can you believe it. My mama always said “it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight….”

Anyway, there were about 8 pitching booths. You could choose between virtual Barry and 8 other guys. I tell you that when I was in line, Barry got pitched to more times that he did the whole year. It was so much fun that I went thru the line 3 times and virtual Barry was struck out by my Ms. Sorta-snappy his next 2 at virtual bats. I think Barry got struck out in those few hours more times than his entire career.

I cannot bring myself to discuss Wilson Alvarez beating Clemens. I know Roger gave up a 3 run homer, but we should be hitting better than the 03 Dodgers/Tigers. Nuff said.

Part 2 after the futures game.