The nightmare that is the Astros season has finally ended. And I’m the type who hates to go about saying that I told you so, but…
I told you so. There was no evidence anywhere to prove the Astros were a good team. Or could compete, bad division or no bad division. If being in a crappy division was enough, then the Pirates would be contenders every season.
Enough of that. Let’s get on with the fun stuff. Primarily, I wanted to do a little season wrap-up. I thought about doing one of those clichéd little grade things. You know, Roy Oswalt, B+. Phil Garner, F. But I’m tired of those things. I thought I’d try something a little different.
I’m going to take a little musical approach. I’m going to look at every player, the execs, broadcasters, etc., and I’m going to give each of them a song which I think best reflects the season they had. Some of the songs will be obvious. Some won’t. Some you will have heard of. Some you won’t. And I’ll probably leave you thinking about what crappy musical taste I have. Or that you could’ve chosen a better song.
But this is my list.
1. John Royal: “Cruel to Be Kind,” Nick Lowe. Yeah, I’m putting myself on the list. I’ve been writing about the team all season. And you’ve been reading me all season. As for the song, well, it’s one of my all-time favorites, and I think it really represents my role: I love the Astros, but I don’t think I’d be doing my best if I wrote mushy little notes.
2. Drayton McLane: “Fool on the Hill,” The Beatles. I see Drayton sitting atop Tal’s Hill giving money to Carlos Lee because Carlos Lee likes to play cowboy. I see Drayton searching for another way to celebrate Craig Biggio while J.R. Richard goes unappreciated. I see Drayton firing Gerry Hunsicker because Gerry took credit. I see a vengeful bastard whose team is cursed.
3. Tal Smith: “Help,” The Beatles. Tal Smith was a boy wonder. A guy who took a team in bankruptcy and turned it into a playoff team. But that was the 1970s. I now see someone who’s more concerned with helping his boss save money than he is with the team. I see someone who can no longer see the big picture. Unfortunately, I don’t think Ed Wade is the answer.
4. Tim Purpura: “Doll Parts,” Hole. I hear Courtney screeching, I hear Timmy screeching for respect. I see a team assembled with mismatched parts. I see fragility.
5. Ed Wade: “Learning to Fly,” Foo Fighters. It’s unfair to evaluate Wade right now. He’s only been the Astros GM a little more than a week (but good work on dumping Jason Lane). But the guy was the GM for the Phillies for eight years. And all that I read was that he made mistakes, but we ought to give him another chance because maybe he’ll do better. Like he was just learning the job in Philadelphia but he’s all set to go now.
6. Phil Garner: “Mysterious Ways,” U2. You want moving in mysterious ways? Then explain some of Garner’s moves during the season. Like that two-week stretch where Jason Lane started in centerfield every game, even though he was hitting under. 200 for the entire stretch. Or starting Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett day after day after day when they weren’t hitting and Mark Loretta and Mike Lamb were. I sometimes think he was trying to get fired.
7. Cecil Cooper: “Ring of Fire,” Johnny Cash. This team sucks, dude. And you fell right into the middle of it. And you just keep sinking deeper and deeper.
8. Roy Oswalt: “Send Money,” Juliana Hatfield. I see Oswalt on the mound, and it’s like he knows that no matter what he does, this team is going to lose and the only thing he can do is save himself. “If you want to pray for me, tell God to send me some money.” Drayton paid him last year, but I wonder if it was worth it? It seems like he’s had to win these games on his own.
9. Jason Jennings: “Undone (the Sweater Song),” Weezer. This guy was injured when the Astros traded for him. And even when healthy you just felt that even a slight touch and he’d break down.
10. Woody Williams: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” Blue Oyster Cult. The old man who should really retire. Don’t fear retirement, Woody. Celebrate it.
11. Wandy Rodriguez: “Road to Nowhere,” Talking Heads. Wandy was an awful pitcher on the road. I don’t think there are enough numbers in the universe to get a grasp on his road ERA.
12. Chris Sampson: “Back on the Chain Gang,” The Pretenders. The guy quit baseball for several years. Then couldn’t take real life, or a real job, so returned to baseball, this time as a pitcher. But he’s having arm issues, so he might have to prepare for a return to the chain gang. It’s a shame about the arm issues, because the guy has looked really good at times.
13. Craig Biggio: “Old Man Down the Road,” John Fogerty. I think this is kind of self-explanatory. But management and his teammates seemed to fear him far more than they fear the crazy old man speaking in riddles. And, if you’ve ever listened to, or read, a Biggio interview, you know he’s quite good at speaking in riddles.
14. Chris Burke: “No Way Out,” Stone Temple Pilots. You could hear it in his voice when he got sent down to Round Rock. He was trapped. He couldn’t play his position because of Biggio. And no matter what he tried he just couldn’t succeed. Chris, you’re drowning, and I don’t think you’re going to be hanging on much longer.
15. Lance Berkman: “A Little Less Conversation,” Elvis Presley. A little less chatting with the school groups, huh, Lance. How about a little more action please? It just seems you’re more interested in talking to the press, or to opposing players, than you are with doing your job.
16. Carlos Lee: “Sunny Afternoon,” The Kinks. Ray Davies wrote this song about his tax problems with the British government. But the line “lazing on a sunny afternoon, in the summertime” just to me, reflects Lee’s loafing in the outfield throughout the season.
17. Morgan Ensberg: “California Dreamin’,” The Mamas and The Papas. You just get the sense over the past several seasons that all Ensberg’s wanted is to get back to California. Lucky for him, the Padres were willing to trade for him and give him the chance to get back to that fantastic California Mexican food.
18. Jason Lane: “My Favorite Mistake,” Sheryl Crow. The only reason I can come up with for why Lane is still on a major league roster, and why he actually started so much this season is because Garner/Purpura/Cooper, etc, knew the guy was a mistake, but they just couldn’t admit to it, so they had to keep playing him.
19. Brad Ausmus: “Yes or No,” The Go-Go’s. It appears that Ausmus has taken some lessens from Roger Clemens. Is Brad going to retire? Return as a part-time player? Does he want to play closer to his family? Does he want to play full-time? Yes or no, Brad. Yes or no. Just that simple.
20. Adam Everett: “Things are Gonna Change (The Morning After),” Ray Davies. The song’s about a drunk waking up with a monster hang-over and vowing things are going to change. Just like every April we read about how Everett’s changed. About he’s finally learned to hit. Only to find out he hasn’t.
21. Mike Lamb: “Bittersweet Me,” R.E.M. What more can this guy do? He plays first, third, and right field. He hits for a nice average, with a little power. And still he sits behind Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane and Ty Wigginton. I think he’ll be playing someplace else come next season. And I think we’ll be missing him.
22. Mark Loretta: “Get Back,” The Beatles. I think is rather obvious, and I’m kind of surprised the Astros MMP sound crew never thought of it – on second thought, no, I’m not surprised. “Get back Loretta” goes the song. Like I said, obvious.
23. Luke Scott: “Tiny Dancer,” Elton John. The way Phil Garner handled this guy, and the way he implied the guy was injury prone, just makes me think of a fragile dancer.
24. Hunter Pence: “Dreaming,” Blondie. Okay, I’ve admitted before that Pence is my man-crush. “Dream dream, even for a little while. Dream dream filling up an idle hour.” I just hope the Astros don’t screw this kid up.
25. Eric Bruntlett: “Dirty Work,” Steely Dan. Shortstop. Not a problem. Yeah, second base, too. Okay, maybe some outfield. The ultimate utility guy. And really, did anybody see any gigantic difference between Bruntlett and Adam Everett? Yeah, I didn’t either.
26. Eric Munson: “Universal Heart-Beat,” Juliana Hatfield. Back in the mid-90s, Ms. Hatfield was supposed to be the BIG thing. Unfortunately, she tried to make it big with this song just as music went from alt-rock to boy-band pop. What’s this got to do with Munson? Well, Munson was the stud number one draft choice of the Detroit Tigers. Where Phil Garner tried to turn him into a third baseman because he was a lousy catcher. Munson’s still hanging on, just like Hatfield, but while Hatfield still puts out good work, Munson’s not able to beat out Brad Ausmus and Humberto Quintero.
27. Humberto Quintero: “Nothingman,” Pearl Jam. Humberto who? Here’s a hint: he’s one of the many back-ups to Brad Ausmus.
28. Orlando Palmeiro: “I Did It,” Dave Matthews Band. Can you believe this guy lasted another year on a major league roster? I just know he’s giggling somewhere, telling all around that he did it.
29. Ty Wigginton: “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” The Kinks. Uh, yes you are. You’re just another Morgan Ensberg. Or Mike Lamb. Or Mark Loretta.
30. Brad Lidge: okay, this is rather obvious, and a bit of a cheap shot. And I did have some trouble choosing, so I’m giving you two songs. “Oops... I Did It Again” and “Toxic.” Both by Britney Spears. The guy’s a train wreck. Just like Britney. Yet you can’t turn your eyes. You want the guy to make it back, just like you’re secretly pulling for Britney to get her life back together. But you know that just as Albert Pujols was to Lidge, kissing Madonna was to Britney.
31. Rick White: “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Billy Joel. He might not haves started the fires, but he sure wasn’t able to put them out.
32. Chad Qualls: “Middle of the Road,” The Pretenders. You didn’t really get any highs or lows from Qualls. He just pitched. A lot.
33. Dan Wheeler: “Nobody Told Me,” John Lennon. Nobody told him that he’d have days like Brad Lidge, or that he’d end up in Tampa Bay. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar.
34. Dave Borkowski: “Who Are You?” The Who. Okay, be honest. How many of you even knew this guy was on the roster? Or that he lasted the entire season? I didn’t think so.
35. Brian Moehler: “Hanginaround,” Counting Crows. Yeah, this guy just sort hung around on the roster the entire season, pitching about once every couple of weeks.
36. Trever Miller: “A Life of Illusion,” Joe Walsh. Nope, folks, it’s not an illusion. He’s still the primary left-handed reliever out of the Astros bullpen.
38. Mark McLemore: “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” The Clash. From Round Rock to Houston to Round Rock to Houston to Round Rock to Houston. Did this guy ever bother to unpack? And why would he?
39. Stephen Randolph: “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” The Cars. You knew the Astros were losing when he was pitching.
40. Brandon Backe: “Fighter,” Christina Aguilera. He came back early from Tommy John surgery. He just fought and fought to get better. Now if would just fight as hard to be a consistent pitcher.
41. Troy Patton: “This Year’s Girl,” Elvis Costello. After the ‘Stros finally came to their senses and brought Hunter Pence up to the bigs, Patton became the big name that everybody was longing for.
42. J.R. Towles: “Supernova,” Liz Phair. This guy may never amount to nothing, but for one night, when he set a team record with eight RBI, he was THE ANSWER.
43. Josh Anderson: “Light of Day,” Joan Jett. He’s been down in the dark of the minors for so long that he’s seen the light of the tunnel from his September call-up and he’s hit the turbo burners to make it outside.
44. Cody Ransom: “Going Nowhere,” Oasis. Mr. Ransom was one of the September call-ups. He’s been bouncing around the minors for awhile, and there’s nothing to indicate he’s going to be with the club come next April.
45. Juan Gutierrez: “Dead End Street,” The Kinks. There’s nothing left in the farm system, folks. I don’t even think Jesus Ortiz can say anything nice here.
46. Felipe Paulino: “Running on Empty,” Jackson Browne. The guy’s supposed to have good stuff. I haven’t really seen it. But the team’s running on empty and there’s just no one left.
47. Milo Hamilton: “Without Me,” Eminem. Anybody who's ever met Milo Hamilton knows that he is convinced that the world of baseball revolves around him. People listen to Milo, not to hear about the Astros. People want to know about Milo, not the Astros. Why give the score when he can talk about his lunch? It’s a wonder the Astros are able to play a road game without Milo around to do the broadcast.
48. Dave Raymond: “Never Said,” Liz Phair. No one talks when Milo’s around. No one.
49. Brett Dolan: “Don’t Speak,” No Doubt. Didn’t you hear me? No one speaks when Milo’s around.
50. Bill Brown: “Steady As She Goes,” The Raconteurs. Has the game gotten out of hand? Has Jim Deshaies just gone off on some tangent about Mr. Greenjeans? Is there some idiot guest in the booth? Brownie never lets things get out of control in the booth.
51. Jim Deshaies: “Overkill,” Men at Work. I love Jimmy D. But it’s like he’s trying too hard sometimes. Like when the game is lost – which has been a lot this season – and Deshaies thinks you need to hear something interesting to keep you watching. It’s kind of fun wondering just what pop culture tangent he’s going off on, but you just can’t help wishing that sometimes he wouldn’t try so hard.
52. Greg Lucas: “Just A Job To Do,” Genesis. It’s just another day at work for Lucas. And I appreciate this attitude.
53. Jose de Jesus Ortiz: “Stupid Girl,” Garbage. I think this is pretty self-explanatory. Jesus reminds me of one of those stupid high school girls trading in gossip and who just wants to be liked by the big girls. Stupid high school girl also matches his writing style.
54. Richard Justice: “Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac. A friend of mine calls this the ultimate “fuck you” song. Not only are Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks breaking up, but Lindsey’s making Stevie sing backing vocals on the song where he tells to fuck off. What’s this got to do with Justice? Simple: I was a huge Justice fan when he was just a baseball guy. Then he became a columnist. And he’s become a smart-aleck kiss-ass. So much talent, so much waste. So, Richard, I’m just telling you I can’t take it anymore, just like Lindsey Buckingham couldn’t take it anymore.
55. Brian McTaggart: “Big Time,” Peter Gabriel. I like McTaggart. You can tell from his writing that he’s biding in time, waiting for Ortiz to make one screw-up too many. And McTaggart’s a little more honest than the rest of the Chron crew. You just know that, when he hits it big, he’s not holding back. Let’s just hope he hits it big soon.
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56. The Fans: “Synchronicity II,” The Police. That plaintive yell of Sting’s at the start of the song, that scream of pain and helplessness. That’s just how you guys feel when you see that Jason Lane’s starting again. Or that Orlando Palmerio’s pinch-hitting instead of Mike Lamb. Or that Garner’s pulling Roy Oswalt for Trever Miller.
I hear your pain. I feel your pain.
And until next season everybody. -- John Royal