Move Along, Nothing to See Here
added 5/2/2001 by Todd Brody
I have tickets for tonight's game against the Mets. They are actually pretty good seats -- in the field boxes on the third-base side, behind the Astros dugout. But I'm thinking of blowing off the game tonight because I have better things to do. And I'm not just talking about playing with my two-year old son, who I have absolutely ignored for the last two nights while I sat in my great seats over in Queens watching the Astros disintegrate. But there is perfectly good television on tonight. The new "Murder She Wrote" movie is on tonight and "Another Stakeout" is on HBO Plus. And if that doesn't cut it, I've been thinking about re-reading the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy before the movie comes out. So many things to do. So many things that would probably be more enjoyable than watching the Astros right now.
I am not going to presume that I am more disgusted than any other person here. If you are reading this column and if you are posting messages at this website and elsewhere, you're probably just as big a fan as I am. But disgust is the way that I feel right now. The starting pitching (outside of Wade Miller) has been atrocious. The relief pitching is even worse. There is no clutch hitting -- sometimes it seems that the Astros can't score except when they hit home runs. The fielding stinks. There is no base running. Larry Dierker's managerial moves are inexplicable at times. Calling the team little-league is pretty appropriate.
What irritates me off the most are the little things that the Astros have not been able to do over the past two nights. The fact that Chris Truby hasn't been able to hit a fly ball for the past two games to bring a run home from third. The fact that the Astros missed the cutoff man countless times last night. The fact that the pitchers can't get a batter out after they have two strikes against them. The fact that Octavio Dotel threw six or seven straight high fastballs to Mike Piazza before Piazza took him deep. (Just what were you expecting Octavio? And isn't that why we got Brad Ausmus to play catcher -- to prevent our pitchers from pitching dumb?) Craig Biggio looks like he has forgotten how to play second and shows a general lack of effort in the field. The fact that the Astros can't turn a double play. The countless errors. The fact that the Astros can't score runs against Steve Traschel who, going into the game, had one of the worst ERAs of any starting pitcher in baseball and against a minor league pitcher last night whose name I can't remember right now and who probably won't be in the majors next month.
Look, it's early. But has anyone seen anything over the past two weeks that would suggest that the Astros are any better than how they are playing right now? Ok, Shane Reynolds might pitch better as his recovery from off-season surgery progresses, but what's the matter with Scott Elarton? I don't think that the radar gun at Shea had him over 90 mph all game. Yes, Kent Bottenfield could go back into the rotation. And I am sure that he is going to pitch better than Jose Lima. But well enough to turn the Astros into a contender? Doubtful.
I think that the Astros have to start playing the kids. I think that we have a pretty good idea what Chris Truby can do. Why don't we take a look at Morgan Ensberg. Maybe Ensberg knows how to take a walk and move a runner over. I've seen all Jose Lima, Jay Powell and Wayne Franklin that I can stomach this season. And one point about Franklin while I'm venting my spleen. If the Astros don't have enough confidence in Franklin to let him come in and face Robin Ventura, then there is absolutely no reason why he should be on the team at all. Isn't the point of having a lefty reliever so that he can get left-handed hitters out? Let's bring up Tony McKnight, Roy Oswalt, and Scott Linebrink. If the Astros are going to lose, I'd rather that they lose with young, hungry players. The rotation for the rest of the season should be Miller, Elarton, Shane Reynolds, Kent Bottenfield, and McKnight. And the bullpen should be Billy Wagner, Mike Jackson, Dotel, Oswalt, Linebrink, and Nelson Cruz.
I haven't absolutely decided that I am going to skip the game tonight. The tickets cost a lot of money and going to a baseball game is still a special experience each time. On Monday night, I got Jose Cruz and Nelson Cruz to sign a baseball for me. (Yes, I now have a baseball signed by the only two players in Astros history with the surname Cruz -- a valuable piece of sports memorabilia.) It's fun to hang out with the other Astros fans. Apparently, I was on TV last night in Houston. I did get an opportunity to vent a little last night. After Dierker took Powell out of the game, I ran down to the dugout and got my few words in (none of which I can repeat on this family friendly page). It might be interesting to say that I was at the last game that Lima ever pitched as a starter in Houston. And from a real historical perspective, I would be very sad if I had a ticket for, but didn't go to see, the game where Biggio gets his 2,000th hit. It looks like a game-time decision and I am definitely day to day.