Houston Astros Look Good in Spring Training, But...
...It's spring training .
No, I'm not trying to pull an Eeyore and lament in perpetual negativity, but this is the time of year other teams evaluate players, trim their rosters and work to get their starters into baseball shape.
"Duh, Zowie!" you're probably saying. "Who doesn't know that?"
Well, probably not many. But I feel the need to issue this reminder for those over-excited Houston Astros fans who look at the team's 11-9 spring training record and are already preparing to buy tickets in October for Minute Maid Park.
Keep in mind, excited Astros fan, they don't give out Cy Young Awards in the spring, nor do they give out Spring Silver Sluggers, Pre-Season Gold Gloves, March Triple Crowns or gold watches.
Well, they might on the gold watches. Back in 2001 spring training, Tim Belcher decided to call it a career.
Roy Oswalt has looked good and will be the Astros' opening-day starter. Of late, Houston's bullpen has also looked good.
Yes, Wandy Rodriguez got roughed up in his most recent game against the St. Louis Cardinals, but after that tough first inning, he bore down and had three good innings.
If Rodriguez continues to struggle with home runs, perhaps the Houston Astros should consider pitching his home games either at the Astrodome or, better yet, at the Birch Run High School baseball stadium in Birch Run, Michigan (about 20 miles south of Saginaw on I-75).
Birch Run's dimensions: 325 to the foul poles, 375 to the power alleys and, as Milo Hamilton puts it, "400 feet to the split in the big wagon gate in center."
Pretty large ballpark for a high school baseball team. I recently joked with one of the Birch Run coaches that if any of their ballplayers decide to go pro, they won't have to worry about adjusting to professional baseball-sized ballparks.
Granted, Minute Maid Park is 436 to center, but its power alleys and left-field foul pole are far cozier.
The bright side about the Cardinals game is Houston had success against Kyle Lohse, who normally has great success against the Astros. He gave up eight hits and three runs in five innings. Considering how much Houston has sucked against Lohse, getting three runs off him is equivalent to scoring 20 ninth-inning runs against Mitch Williams when he was really living up to his "Wild Thing" nickname. Or equivalent to getting Greg Maddux to run up a full count against, well, an Astros hitter.
Looking at the current standings, let's put things into perspective. The Kansas City Royals, my favorite American League team, are 8-8 despite having spent the past several seasons being the American League doormat. Both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have losing records, even though both will have good teams. And then there's the Los Angeles Angels of the Southern L.A. City of Anaheim, who are at 5-12 despite the feeling among some that they'll have a great team this year.
Now, Ed Wade has told reporters the Astros are aiming for a good start in 2010.
Naaaah, Ed, wouldn't it be more fun to see Houston lose its first 81 games of the season and then see if they could win the next 81 in a row? If they fail, maybe it might be the Maalox Moment that drives Drayton McLane to sell the team.
Richard Zowie is a Houston Astros fan who can't wait for the throwback night when the Astros wear their vintage 1965 uniforms (which he wishes they'd wear permanently). Post comments here or e-mail him at email@example.com .
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