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[Jayson Stark] Least-known great pitcher? It's Oswalt

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by Preston27, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. Preston27

    Preston27 Contributing Member

    Mar 3, 2002
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    Do you guys think Stark wants a job with the Astros? :D


    HOUSTON -- Saturday night, it's That Other Ace's turn.

    Andy Pettitte has already done his ace act in this Astros-Braves National League Division Series (Game 1 division). Roger Clemens has already been out there, too, acting not so ace-like (Game 2 division).

    But there is, in fact, another ace-y kind of guy who likes to hang around the mound in Houston every five days or so -- a gentleman named Roy Oswalt. And Game 3, it's his turn.

    That's not something you'll find those Houston Astros complaining about, either. Possibly because Oswalt has several ace-like credentials that would separate him from your ordinary No. 3 starter this time of year. Such as:

    • He's about to become the answer to the following spectacular trivia question: Name the only two active pitchers who have had back-to-back 20-win seasons but have never won a Cy Young Award. OK, time's up. One is Curt Schilling. The other: Oswalt.

    • Oswalt also happens to have a lifetime record of 83-39 -- which gives him the third-highest winning percentage (.680) among all active pitchers who have as many decisions as he has. The only two ahead of him: Pedro Martinez (.701) and Tim Hudson (.688).

    • Finally, Oswalt would be the answer to one more trivia stumper: Name the only pitcher in baseball who has reached double figures in wins and had an ERA under 3.50 in every one of the last five seasons.

    So running a guy like that out there to start Game 3 of a best-of-five series when each team has a win apiece? Those Astros have heard many, many worse ideas than that (such as putting a big hill, with a flagpole on it, in fair territory, for instance).

    "I think that's why, all season long, everyone kept saying that, despite the fact it took us all year to come back and win the wild card, if we ever got to the postseason, we'd have a great chance," said catcher Brad Ausmus. "Because the (Nos.) 1, 2 and 3 starters in our rotation are as good as anybody's No. 1."

    Exactly. But it's a funny thing about those three No. 1 starters. For some reason, that Oswalt guy isn't quite the national, international, galaxial or even local man of fame, fortune or hero worship that his two fellow aces are. And we can even support that bold statement with some actual evidence (for a change).

    We present that evidence in the form of a little poll we conducted among Oswalt's own teammates, in the Astros' very own clubhouse.

    Poll Question No. 1 (to Ausmus)

    If we asked 1,000 Americans to identify the only pitcher in baseball who has won 20 games in each of the last two seasons, how many would know the correct answer is Roy Oswalt?

    "Well," Ausmus replied, "that would depend on whether anyone on our team was among the 1,000 Americans."

    Not surprisingly, that not-100-percent-serious response prompted the official followup to poll question No. 1:
    All right, then, suppose no one on the Astros was among the 1,000 Americans?

    "Oh," Ausmus said. "Then none."

    Good answer. And with that portion of the polling complete, we moved on to ...

    Poll Question No. 2 (to Morgan Ensberg)

    If Roy Oswalt walked down Madison Avenue in New York City, from one end to the other, how many people would recognize him?

    "Nobody," Ensberg retorted, after approximately one-eighth of a second's thought. "Nobody would have any clue. People have no idea who Roy is -- as long as he isn't coming out of the team hotel. Those people who hang around there know who everybody is. But that would be it. ...

    "In fact," Ensberg decided, turning toward his trusty media interrogator, a brainstorm suddenly striking, "I bet you wouldn't recognize him."

    We protested immediately, obviously. Of course, we would recognize him, we said.

    "I don't know," Ensberg insisted. "You really think, if you were in New York in, like, January, and Roy was walking along the street, you'd say, immediately, 'That's Roy Oswalt'? I bet you wouldn't -- if it was the middle of winter and you didn't know he was in town."

    We tried to dig in on this. After all, it wouldn't look really good for a trained media professional to claim he wouldn't recognize one of the best pitchers alive in just about any setting. But eventually, Ensberg wore us down.

    New York City? Dead of winter? With 298,000 people walking down that block at the same time? We could miss him. Sure we could.

    So, with that debate victory for Ensberg finally in the books, we turned to ...

    Poll Question No. 3 (also to Ensberg)

    Suppose Roy Oswalt were walking down Texas Street in Houston, right outside his own ballpark? How many Houstonians would even know him?

    "Well," Ensberg said, "I think a handful of people would know him -- but that's all. We live in a football town, you know. Now that's OK. I'm not bitter about it or anything. It's fine. But this is a football town. High school football is huge around here. That's just how it is.

    "So what we need to do for Roy," Ensberg laughed, "is go back and see if we can find an alternative birth certificate and see if we can get him into a local high school so he can play some quarterback. They'd know him then."

    That, however, would be illegal and unethical. Plus, it wouldn't help us make our point. So we turned our attention to ...

    Poll Question No. 4 (to Jeff Bagwell)

    If Roy Oswalt were eating lunch in a restaurant with Curt Schilling, and then the other people in the restaurant caught on and rushed the table for autographs, would any of them realize that second guy at the table was Oswalt?

    "Nooooo," Bagwell said. "Of course they wouldn't. Unless the restaurant was in Houston. Then maybe some of them would. But anywhere else? They wouldn't. They'd know Schilling, because everybody knows Schilling. But they wouldn't know Roy.

    "Tell you what, though," Bagwell said. "Ask anybody in the National League who Roy Oswalt is. They'll tell you exactly who he is. Ask the hitters. I guarantee you, when they read that little thing in the paper that says Oswalt is pitching that night, they're not too pleased. Ask any of them. Ask the Braves."

    Hey, excellent idea. So we had ourselves an unanticipated ...

    Poll Question No. 5 (to Atlanta's Chipper Jones)

    When you read that little thing in the paper that says Roy Oswalt is pitching against you, Jeff Bagwell says you're not pleased. So how pleased are you?

    "Not," Jones said. "Not pleased at all. He's right about that. If we saw that little thing in the paper, nobody in our clubhouse would be eager to see we're facing him. I'll tell you that."

    Well, unfortunately for them, they have to face him anyway Saturday (when he'll oppose Atlanta's own secret weapon, Jorge Sosa). On national TV. In high-definition. In prime time, even.

    So if Oswalt just keeps on doing his thing -- firing those five unhittable pitches of his up there at speeds ranging from 65 to 95 miles per hour -- then who knows what might transpire? His whole world could change.

    And then maybe three of those thousand people would know his name, if not his face. You can bet Oswalt would sure be excited about that, right?

    Uh, wrong.

    "I like [Clemens and Pettitte] to get all the recognition, myself," Oswalt admitted. "I don't like to be the guy that, I guess you'd say, stands out. I like kind of sneaking up on guys instead of being out front."

    And just in case he was saying that only because the cameras were rolling and playing it humble felt like the right strategy, we checked to see if he meant it.

    "He really doesn't care," Bagwell reported. "He's certainly not out there looking for media attention. He'd rather be home -- sleeping."

    Well, in our experience, there's no harder way to attract media attention than if you're always home sleeping. So maybe this guy really is as quiet and humble as he sounds.

    But we need to warn him: There is no worse way to avoid the national radar screen than heading for the mound under the bright lights of October and winning a bunch of monstrous baseball games, with the whole planet watching.

    So while we've firmly established, through our extensive and scientific polling, that Oswalt is clearly the least-known great pitcher of his time, that's an honor he's in serious danger of forfeiting -- possibly, in fact, any minute now.

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
  2. Fegwu

    Fegwu Contributing Member

    Nov 20, 2002
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    Now Jason Stark is pushing it. This pimping is now begining to scare me :D

    What's next?

    1. Best kept secret: Brandon Backe [by Jason Stark]

    2. Fastest Man alive? Must be Willy-T [by Jason Stark]

    3. Greatest manager of the mid-2000s = Phil Garner [by Jason Stark]

    4. Greatest city on earth? Houston [by Jason Stark]

    5. Greatest fans in America? Houstonians? [by Jason Stark]

  3. RocketJedi

    RocketJedi Member

    Jun 21, 2003
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    It's hard to believe that Schilling has never won a Cy Young. I have to think it's only a matter of time until Roy gets his.
  4. thacabbage

    thacabbage Contributing Member

    Jun 30, 1999
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    I thought Johnson and Schilling tied for the Cy Young a couple of years ago?
  5. torque

    torque Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2003
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    Tied for World Series MVP I think you are thinking of.
  6. insane man

    insane man Member

    Aug 9, 2003
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    theres something wrong about starks pimpin the astros.

    i dont feel comfortable.
  7. RocketJedi

    RocketJedi Member

    Jun 21, 2003
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    Relax and enjoy it. I think we are going to the Series this year. This is our year!
  8. Uprising

    Uprising Contributing Member

    Dec 29, 2000
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    :D Good post! Man Stark is really loving the Astros. Kind of wish he was doing the commentary on FOX. ;)
  9. weakfromtoday

    weakfromtoday Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2002
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    Ah, one for the Oswalt family's refrigerator.

    Maybe Starks is dating a girl from Houston or something....
  10. Svpernaut

    Svpernaut Contributing Member

    Jan 10, 2003
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    I think Stark just realizes that Houston gets absolutely NO love from the national media or national fans in general, and he knows we have intriguing stories. This is October, a baseball fan's dream month... I mean how many die-hard baseball fans wouldn't love reading about an amazing pitcher they've never noticed, or reading an article talking about probably the best post season rotation in history? Remember, he is a reporter that is supposed to come up with things people don't know about to pique the readers' curiosities... and Stark does that for a lot of teams, it is just the Astros' time to shine.
  11. JayZ750

    JayZ750 Contributing Member

    May 16, 2000
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    Starks can pimp the Stros all he wants. All that matters is what takes place on the field. For Roy-O, that means tonight. For the rest of the Stros, that means WS at least, winning it even better.
  12. wrath_of_khan

    wrath_of_khan Contributing Member

    Jun 7, 2000
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    I think Stark is the ESPN reporter assigned to the Stros/Braves series. He wrote an article about McCann the other day, I believe. Since he's been covering the series, it's really not too surprising that he's written so many articles about the Stros. What was he going to do going into this game -- write a piece about Jorge Sosa?
  13. PhiSlammaJamma

    Aug 29, 1999
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    Oswalt, playoff stud.
  14. Saint Louis

    Saint Louis Member

    Jun 27, 1999
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    I've heard interviews before where Clemens says that Oswalt is the best pitcher on the Astros staff.
  15. meh

    meh Contributing Member

    Jun 16, 2002
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    I know Schilling now gets a ton of pub because of his heroics last year. But he was more a consistent great pitcher who rarely dominated in any particular season. His best chance was a few years ago in Arizona. But I believe he lost to his teammate RJ.

    Roy's problem seems to be location. He might have great stuff, but he serves up fat pitches more than other top aces. Making him too inconsistent over the course of the season to put up a microscopic ERA. He also pitch, IMO, way too much. It helps run up win(and loss) totals. But it's also a bit hit on his ERA, which factors greatly into Cy Young voting.

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