Tag Archives: Houston Astros

Fixing the date for the annual Baseball Solstice: Dec. 29, 2013

The World Series is behind us, at least some of the Red Sox are shaving off their beards and baseball fans the world over are gathering scraps to light the fire for the Hot Stove League. It’s a time for reflecting on the season past and recognizing that we have several fallow months ahead before the games resume in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues in 2014.

In our annual ritual, the high priests of baseball here at the Ball Caps Blog and Countdown to Spring Training have pointed our Houston Astrolabes to the sky and fixed the date for the annual Baseball Solstice. It will be Dec. 29, the midpoint in the days between the final out of Cardinals-Bosox series and the first exhibition games of Spring Training.

The series ended Oct. 30, and the first exhibition games will be played Feb. 26 by six teams in Florida. (Sorry, Yankees fans. We’re not recognizing the Feb. 25 game against Florida State.)

We encourage all baseball fans to mark the solstice in a meaningful way.

Play a Wiffle ball game in the snow with the kids on the block. Thumb through your old sets of baseball cards. Pick up the phone and call Dad to thank him for insisting you not throw a curve until you were 15. Venture out into the night and look for the Star of Cooperstown.

Whatever you choose, make it a celebration of the One True Game.

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The stars (of baseball) in the sky

One of the pleasures of winter is a crystal clear sky revealing the sparkling stars in all their glory. On a walk this evening, I got to thinking how cool it would be to reconfigure the sky with baseball constellations.

Citing their heroes and legends, the ancient Greeks affixed names to the many patterns in the sky: Pegasus, the winged horse, Cassiopeia, the queen of unrivaled beauty, and Taurus the bull, to name a few.

Good for the Greeks. But just because they came up with the idea doesn’t mean we have to stick with what they gave us. If we can rename Enron Field after a brand of orange juice, who’s to say we can’t rename a few points of light over our heads?

The Sultan of Swat calls his shot - in the sky

If it were up to me, I’d place Babe Ruth first in the heavens. I’d put him where Orion is tonight, commanding the center of the sky. He’d be at the plate, pointing his bat toward the center field, calling his shot.

Spikes flashing, Ty Cobb would come tearing at crooked angle into the North Star. I’d figure out a way to extend the Gemini to represent Tinker, Evers and Chance

I’d look low on the horizon near Draco for Shoeless Joe Jackson, dispatched to the edges of baseball’s universe after the Black Sox scandal.

The Pleiades – the Seven Sisters to the Greeks and one of the smallest but most distinctive sights in the sky – would become the diminutive pinch hitter Eddie Gaedel.

Willie Mays would be out there deep, cap flying as he hauls in an impossibly long drive toward Alpha Centauri off the bat of Vic Wertz. (You didn’t expect me not to memorialize one of the Indians’ most painful memories, did you?)

This post could be a mere flight of fancy, or maybe it’s a sign that I truly need help. Regardless, the approach of each baseball season gives us the freedom to dream and to imagine all the good the year can bring. I’ll be looking to the stars again in 2012, and not just for the fantasy draft.

The new Miami Marlins logo: Nice design, wrong context

The new Miami Marlins logo is a fantastic look for somebody pulling down $8 an hour at a burger joint or a juice shop. But on a professional athlete making a couple of million dollar a year for hitting .236? I don’t think so.

Detached from baseball, the logo is appealing. The font is light, modern, inventive. The marlin swoosh is clever. The color palette seems drawn from the shells washing up along the Atlantic beaches (or maybe from Robin Williams’ wardrobe in “The Birdcage.”)

But apply the logo to a cap as shown and we’re talking Orange Julius in Ocala, not         Game 7 of the Fall Classic.

I suspect that the Marlins players will react to these uniforms much the way male dogs that get frou-frou haircuts do: They’ll skulk for a few days, then gradually build up the nerve to venture out in public.

Once the Marlins’ new uniforms get a few grass stains and cleat tears, they’ll look better. And I will give them this much credit: They make me appreciate the old Houston Astros’ mustard-stripe specials.

And the most valuable player in major league baseball, 2011, is ….

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance, of which I am a proud member, bestows its annual Stan Musial Award on the best player in baseball by a vote of the group’s members. This is my first year casting a ballot for what is the equivalent of the Major League Baseball most valuable player awards, and it’s a tall order.

How on earth does anyone decide who’s the best player in the game? I’m giving it a go here with equal parts direct observation at the ballpark, heavy doses of TV and radio broadcasts, reading, statistics, coin flips and gut-level calls.

1. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers –  The leader of the Brew Crew, high average, monster slugging percentage,  33 home runs and 33 stolen bases. One heck of a year, edging out:

2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers – Best average in baseball, formidable power, 108 walks and the driving offensive force for the AL Central champs, edging out:

3. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers – This guy led the National League in homers and RBIs on a Dodger team with an otherwise anemic offense. Amazing.

4. Jose Reyes, New York Mets – Even in an injury-shortened season, this guy did his job getting on base, stealing and generally pestering the heck out of pitchers.

5. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays – Led the game in homers. Again.

6. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees – Best overall performance in pinstripes, just nudging out:

7. Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees – A fine all-around year.

8. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox – Powerful season squandered by the team’s stretch drive collapse.

9. Michael Young, Texas Rangers – Great year at the plate.

10. Hunter Pence, Houston Astros/Philadelphia Phillies  – He made a big difference with the Phillies in the second half of the season.

Let the kvetching and bickering begin. I’m leaving off Albert Pujols, for goodness sake, all pitchers, Joey Votto and Alex Gordon and on and on.

 

Impressed with the Houston Astros

The Houston Astros pulled out a hard-earned victory over the Giants in 10 innings today at AT&T Park. Houston has the worst record in baseball, but you’d never know it from how they battled to split the four-game series with the defending world champions.

All four went into extra innings, 10 in three of them and 11 in one. Each game was won by one run.  Had that series been between the Phillies and Giants, or the Brewers and the Giants, it would have been the talk of the National League.

But because the Astros are having a dreadful year and the because the Giants are fading away, the series probably wasn’t much in the national conversation. I’m a Giants fan, as anyone who reads this blog knows, but I was impressed with a number of the Astros’ players, particularly center fielder Jordan Schafer and right fielder Brian Bogusevic.

With talent like that, the future has to be bright for the Astros.

As for Los Gigantes, they look old, tired and frustrated, at least at the plate. Their defense has slipped and the bullpen has sprung a few leaks. The starters are still superb, but without an urgent infusion of run support, they won’t get to show their stuff in the playoffs.

 

The Houston Astros go green, caps and all

Checking MLB.com this morning, I was puzzled to see green caps on a static image culled from a video of the ending of the Cardinals-Astros game last night. Turns out the Astros wore the green caps as part of the kickoff to the Houston club’s “Play Green” campaign. It’s an environmental promotion celebrated this week, capped off with a bike-to-the-park ride on Sunday.

The green caps must have brought some good karma to the ‘Stros, who rallied to beat the Cardinals 6-5. And maybe the green effort will help overcome the lingering shame from the not-so-distant Enron Field days. In that era, green meant one thing: money.

Caps, logos and the aesthetics of baseball

While baseball teams have plenty of crass commercialism in the names of their arenas and stadiums, at least the uniforms aren’t sullied by corporate logos as they are in other countries.

Over at ESPN.com, Jim Caple laments that major league baseball team logos are becoming more corporate, blander and not nearly as much fun as some of the old cartoon logos of yore. Until reading Caple’s piece, I hadn’t looked at logos from that perspective. And I think he’s dead on.

Caple ranks the logos of all 30 Major League teams, with the Mets at the top with their classic blue and orange skyline view of New York encircled by a baseball. Last on Caple’s list is Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo logo for the Indians, which I summoned up the nerve to slam in my first post on this blog nearly three years ago.

He also mentions his ambivalence toward the old Milwaukee Brewers blue and yellow M&B “mitt” logo, which he says was either very clever or too clever. My feeling, exactly. (And I’m not crazy about the shock of wheat on the Brewers’ current cap. In principle I’m fine with a reference to beer for the Brew City’s team, but the shock of wheat is just a bit too specific to Miller Brewing Co. for my tastes.)

Caple also tosses in a delightful of surprise for this central California baseball fan, citing the Modesto Nuts’ logo as something superior to the Houston Astros’ logo.

Baseball is a business, and the teams have the right and the obligation to position their brands in the marketplace. A stylish logo or uniform won’t get a team any extra runs late in the game, but it can help bring a few extra fans through the turnstiles to root for the home team.