From the Annals of MLB – In 2004, after 43 seasons and losing their previous 7 playoff series, the Houston Astros finally won a postseason series by defeating the Atlanta Braves 12-3 in Game 5. The so-called “Killer Bees” led the way with Biggio (.400, 4 RBIs, 4 runs), Bagwell (.318, 5 RBIs, 5 Runs), Berkman (.409, 3 RBIs, 5 Runs) and Beltran (.455, 9 RBIs, 4 Home Runs) as the team scored 36 runs in the 5 game series. Alas, the Astros would go on to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
From the Annals of the Eighth Wonder – In 1999, the Houston Astros played their last game in the Astrodome. Predictably it was the last game of a divisional series loss to the Atlanta Braves. After winning the first game in Atlanta, the Astros lost 3 straight to Braves. The Braves held a 7-0 lead after a 5 run 6th inning. The Astros rallied to score 5 runs sparked by a 3 run homer by Tony Eusebio in the 8th inning. The Astros had a chance to tie in the bottom of the 9th. As Jeff Bagwell came to the plate, Red’s buddy the Big Dog remarked, “This is kind of a career-defining moment for Bagwell.” Bagwell failed to deliver. The Astros still had a chance with Ken Caminiti at the plate. Caminiti, who had carried the Astros in the series with 8 RBI’s and a .471 average, hit a long ball to the warning track in left field and the Astros run in the Eighth Wonder of the World was over. The blame largely fell on future Hall of Famers, Bagwell and Craig Biggio who combined for a total of 4 hits while batteing .154 and .105 respectively in the series.
The Baseball Writer’s Association has selected Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines for the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2017.
Pudge Rodriguez leads the class as a first ballot HOFer even though he barely got in with 76% of the vote. PR deserves the honor. For about a decade, Red’s view was that if he was building a team, Pudge would be the first player taken. He is the greatest catcher ever by any metric. In his 21 seasons, PR hit 311 home runs, drove in 1332 runs, scored 1354 runs, had 2844 hits and sported a .296 batting average. Throw in 14 appearances in the All Star game, 13 Golden Gloves, the 1999 MVP award and the fact that he played the most difficult and demanding position in all of sport and you have to wonder – who didn’t vote for this guy?
Tim Raines, who has long been touted by the sabermetrics crowd received 86% of the vote in his 10th and final year of eligibility. Raines’ stat line is not as impressive as PR’s, but Red will defer to the experts on TR. He never hit 20 home runs in a season and only once topped 70 RBI’s. His 808 stolen bases are impressive, but Red thinks that Raines owes his new HOF status to a vigorous internet campaign.
Red will not make any friends here, but he really doesn’t think Jeff Bagwell is among the 220 or so greatest baseball players of all time. Okay he has a better stat line than either PR or TR, but his greatest years were almost certainly tainted. Never thought of as a great fielder, he played a relatively easy position and never earned a Golden Glove or Silver Slugger award. He does have 4 All Star appearances and the MVP award from the strike shortened 1994 season in his favor. But having watched a lot of JB over the years, Red has a hard time seeing him in Cooperstown – but there he will be.
From the Annals of Heat – In 1983, Nolan Ryan playing for the Houston Astros set a new major league record with after recording strike-out number 3509 against Brad Mills of the Montreal Expos. Ryan broke a 55-year-old major league baseball record with the K. Ryan would go on to strike out a total of 5714 batters in his remarkable career and record a MLB record seven no-hitters. Less noted is the fact that he also is the all-time leader in bases on balls – but that is the price of longevity. Ryan is the only player to have his number retired by three different ball clubs – the Angels, Astros and Rangers. Among the stranger records he holds is his claim to have been the only pitcher in MLB history to have struck out seven pairs of fathers and sons. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1999. Sadly, he is depicted wearing a Texas Rangers cap on his hall of fame plaque.
Game time temperature at New Yankee Stadium was a nippy 36 degrees. Colby Rasmus had partial ski mask on. One might have thought this would be the coldest Astros game ever – but not so. In April of 1982, the Astros played the Cubs at Wrigley Field with a game time temperature of 26 degrees. They played again the next day when the temperature had risen to a balmy 36 degrees – thus, tying today’s afternoon start against the Yankess for second coldest game in Astros history. Brrrr.
Yesterday, Red kept his streak of never having seen the Houston Astros win a post-season game alive. The Astros collapse yesterday came 35 years to the date after Red attended his first ever MLB playoff game when the Astros faced the Phillies in Game 5 of the 1980 NL Championship series. Remarkably, in both games the opposition scored 5 runs in the top of the 8th to wrest control from the Astros.
The 1980 game seemed in complete control entering the 8th inning. A three run lead with Nolan Ryan on the mound seemed insurmountable. But the Phillies were made of sterner stuff. They loaded the bases with nobody out on three cheap singles, including an infield hit by Bob Boone and bunt Greg Gross. Ryan walked in a run and then the floodgates opened. The Astros rallied to tie in the bottom of the 8th, but back to back doubles in the 10th secured the win for the Phillies.
Red was also there for Game 5 of the NLCS in 2005 when Albert Pujols hit a rocket off of Brad Lidge to win the game. The stink of that loss was erased when the Astros pummeled the Cards in Game 6 to advance to their first World Series.
Red also witnessed two other losses to the Braves in various series included the heart-breaking loss in the last game ever played at the Astrodome in 1999.
Yesterday’s game featured a seemingly interminable top of the 8th. It was reported to have lasted 41 minutes but it seemed like more than an hour watching the slow steady implosion. The Astros best chance to staunch the bleeding was lost when Kendrys Morales punched a ground ball that skipped off the mound, glanced off pitcher Tony Sipp’s glove and then was whiffed by shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa’s error allowed two runs to score and the game was tied. Alex Gordon pushed what proved to be the winning run across the plate on a ground-out fielder’s choice and the Astros were done.
The toll of the damage from the top of the 8th inning:
3 Astros pitchers
11 Royals batters
Red will not be allowed to attend any more games this season.