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[SI.com] Rocket Who?

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by wrath_of_khan, May 17, 2007.

  1. wrath_of_khan

    wrath_of_khan Contributing Member

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    Not a bad article. Disagree with a few things (Sampson needs to improve how, exeactly?), but overall it's a good read. Dude actually watched some Astro games before writing an article.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/john_donovan/05/17/astros.pence/index.html

    Rocket who?
    Astros find their groove in wake of Clemens snub


    After the last few nights in Houston and, really, for the better part of the last week and a half or so, we are left to deal with this nearly undeniable truth about the sometimes frustrating, yet often strangely entertaining Astros:

    Roger Clemens did not leave Houston high and dry.

    In fact, Clemens' decision to turn his back on his hometown team didn't hurt the Astros at all. Despite all the screaming headlines, the talk-show reaming and the fan backlash after the Rocket's so-called defection to the Yankees, the Astros are getting along just fine without the big right-hander. The Astros, believe it or not, are even winning.

    Saying that the Astros are better off without one of the best pitchers of all time? That might be throwing a little screwball out there. But the Astros are playing better right now than they have all season. Their pitching is better than it has been for awhile. The Astros have, for the first time in a long time, some semblance of an offense, too, something that Clemens saw way too little of in the past three years.

    And -- whaddaya know? -- after four straight wins, and seven in their past nine games, the Astros are only 4 1/2 games behind those previously red-hot Brewers in the National League Central.

    Who needs the Rocket when you have Hunter Pence?

    Anybody who left Houston for dead after Clemens' decision to leave town really couldn't have been blamed. The Astros, being the Astros, have looked alternately lost and just plain terrible at times. Closer Brad Lidge, famous for some spectacular flameouts in the past couple of years, was demoted from his job -- again -- after a terrible start. After ace Roy Oswalt, the rotation seemed awfully sketchy. Third baseman Morgan Ensberg couldn't hit a lick. Craig Biggio, the Hall of Fame-bound second baseman hanging on for hit No. 3,000, has struggled. Shortstop Adam Everett, a defensive whiz, still can't hit his way much past .200.

    Then, of course, there was all that mildly entertaining off-field stuff. Manager Phil Garner said a little too much about Clemens' affinity for hitting the links, and it was interpreted by some in maybe not quite the way that Garner intended it. He's been backtracking ever since. When center fielder Chris Burke was demoted (to make way for the rookie Pence), a bitter Burke let his feelings be known. Some of his teammates, including first baseman Lance Berkman, chimed in, ripping the team for the move.

    Just the other day, with the Giants in town, Berkman was swept into the Barry Bonds maelstrom, saying that Bonds' impending home run record would be "tainted." He tried to moonwalk his way out of the mess on Wednesday. "It's not something that I'm calling [him out] on it, or any individual is calling Barry out and saying 'Oh yeah, he's definitely guilty,'" Berkman said. "All I'm saying is that there's so much controversy, that there is a stain or a taint to the accomplishment."

    Even with all those sideshows the Astros played on, and now, after a win against the Giants on Wednesday, they've cracked .500 again. Oswalt has been close to spectacular, going 6-2 with a 3.14 ERA. The bullpen, with Dan Wheeler closing, has been one of the more effective units in the NL (a 3.36 ERA and the lowest number of inherited runners to score, at 13 percent). Lidge -- whom many fans wanted to tie to the train tracks over the Crawford boxes after his early season struggles -- has struck out 21 in 13 1/3 innings in his last 13 appearances, with an 0.68 ERA.

    Slugging left-fielder Carlos Lee, the team's big offseason free-agent pickup, is hitting .456 with four homers and 15 RBIs in May. Berkman, too, is showing signs of warming up, hitting .314 this month with three homers and an on-base percentage of .462.

    The biggest name in town these days, though, belongs to Pence, the amped-up and grinning center fielder who swiped the popular Burke's job. In his first 16 games Pence is hitting .355. He blasted an eighth-inning, game-tying home run on Tuesday night against the Giants in a game the Astros won, and Wednesday blasted a 400-footer -- up on the train tracks in left -- that proved to be the decider in another win. He's 7 for 7 in the series against San Francisco, and he's 11 for 14 in his last four games, with three homers and seven RBIs.

    He's hitting to all fields -- he had a couple of roped singles to right on Wednesday -- and his enthusiasm has started to rub off on others. "He has so much energy -- sometimes it borders on out of control -- and it's a lot of fun for us to watch," Lidge told MLB.com after Wednesday's game.

    Sure, the Astros still have their problems. Ensberg is going to have to hit or he'll lose his job to Mike Lamb or Mark Loretta. Biggio, batting .242 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage, needs to do more, if for no other reason than to make up for Everett's weak bat. Chris Sampson and Wandy Rodriguez have pitched all right behind Oswalt, but they'll need to improve (as will Woody Williams), and starter Jason Jennings, now rehabbing a sore elbow in the minors, needs to come back strong. If Houston has shown anything over the past couple of weeks, though, it's that this team has everything it needs to compete in the lukewarm NL Central.
     
  2. msn

    msn Member

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    Oh, bullcrap. How many NL teams have won more games than the Astros since 1994? How many was that, again?
     
  3. wrath_of_khan

    wrath_of_khan Contributing Member

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    Yeah, that whole theme in the piece is pretty damn tired.
     
  4. Hippieloser

    Hippieloser Contributing Member

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    Are you guys kidding? Even when the Astros went to the World Series they looked so bad for a while that the Chronicle literally buried them. "Lost" and "terrible" aren't exactly out of the realm of expectation for this team.

    Of course, they're also good with spectacular turnarounds.
     
  5. msn

    msn Member

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    You mean for a month here or two months there? You don't win more games than every freaking team in the NL except the Braves (and perhaps the Cardinals?) over a 13-year span by being "lost" and "terrible".

    Moreover, the opinion of anyone at the Houston Comical is not the best baseline around which to center.
     
  6. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    Good article and spot on...

    DD
     
  7. msn

    msn Member

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    Jerome Solomon called. They're looking to expand their Sports section, and he wants you to send your resume stat. :p
     
  8. superden

    superden Contributing Member

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    We are a pretty accomplished team, but regular season means nothing without a ring. Just ask Dirk.
     
  9. msn

    msn Member

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    A lot of folks concur. But, Donovan was writing specifically about the regular season.
     
  10. russian88

    russian88 Contributing Member

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    OT:I hope Rocket can save the yanks because they are not even going to make the playoffs with the way they are playing lol....
     
  11. wrath_of_khan

    wrath_of_khan Contributing Member

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    Well, the Yanks have to make the playoffs. Otherwise, this season will be a "waste of time" for poor old Rocket. :rolleyes:
     
  12. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    i would love to see them miss the playoffs and someone ask him again if it was a waste of his time. :D
     
  13. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    Regular season means more in baseball than basketball... the playoffs are more of a crapshoot in baseball than basketball (then again, the Mavs did get the crap shooted out of them this year, so maybe not).
     
  14. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    i was gonna post the same thing...but i post it all the time.

    making the playoffs is a real accomplishment in MLB. division titles mean something. it's just different. there's a premium on playoff spots in MLB that doesn't exist in the NBA....and once you're there, anything can happen.
     
  15. msn

    msn Member

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    You left out that it's more difficult to even make the playoffs in baseball. Not as difficult as it used to be, but still far moreso than the NBA or NHL.
     
  16. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    Well, I guess that fact is built into my argument as to why the regular season means more in baseball... but yes, its definitely harder.
     
  17. wrath_of_khan

    wrath_of_khan Contributing Member

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    Sports journalism is a blood sport in the Big Apple. I would not be at all surprised if someone from the Post (the newspaper of "What An Ass-Tro" fame) asked Roger this question as he walked off the field after the very game in which the Yanks were eliminated.

    (Assuming they let reporters on the field that day, of course. :D )

    And I would laugh and laugh ...
     
  18. Darrinlane

    Darrinlane Member

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    WoW. Damn me...I've been a member of clutchcity.whatever forever and never knew the Astros/Texans had a decent board here. I've been wasting my time on all the ****ty boards. ugggg.........



    Hunter kicks ass!!!!
     

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