Last week I gave you part one of an interview I did with former Astros's third baseman Morgan Ensberg. Ensberg, now retired, is moving into the broadcasting field, doing college baseball game analysis for such networks as Fox Sports and ESPNU.
This week, the discussion turns to some of the guys that Ensberg has played with, and against, in his career.
He's played with some of the greats, and not-so greats in the game. And since the thing which first brought my interest to Ensberg is a blog post he did on Jeff Bagwell -- my personal, all-time favorite Astro -- then Bagwell is the first player I asked about.
"Bagwell is a special guy," Ensberg said. "It was a great learning experience to see how he interacted with players and people. I could fill a book with stories, but I think I will save that for another time."
If that book was filled with stories like the one from his blog, then that would be a great book indeed. Oh, and if you're interested, I asked, and Ensberg says that no, not even for fun, did he ever attempt to hit using Bagwell's batting stance.
Not even in batting practice: "I never did try. It was incredible that he could play like that."
Another thing that interested me was in the change of dynamic in the clubhouse once Roger Clemens joined the Astros. I know that I probably should have asked Ensberg what he knew about The Rocket and HGH/steroids and/or Clemens and all of the women.
But I was really more interested in what the clubhouse was like because the stories were always about how the Bagwell-led team was a quiet, calm sea, and then arrived Clemens and the New York media circus, which was something never quite before seen in Houston. Not even Nolan Ryan attracted that type of attention when he signed with the Astros, probably because the internet was not yet around and ESPN wasn't the overwhelming force it would be become, and the Angels just didn't have the media baggage associated with the Yankees.
But amazingly, according to Ensberg, it wasn't that bad. At least for him. He even got to the point where he learned how to poke fun at the assorted media without going into jerk mode.
"Roger was awesome!" Ensberg said. "He is a great guy who was great to be around. The media circus became really funny. I used to play a game by counting the amount of questions asked to me before a question about Roger came up. Later on I started inserting Roger at every chance I could get. It got hard, but I could insert his name in almost every situation. It was really fun."
Then there's the strange case of Milton Bradley, who was a teammate of Ensberg's for a few months when they were both with the San Diego Padres. Bradley's known for his temper, and his tenure with the Padres ended when, during the playoff stretch drive, Bradley suffered a season-ending injury going after an umpire.
Ensberg wrote a blog post on Bradley, and what guys besides Bradley face when they're playing a game.
And while Ensberg and myself disagree on booing players, I think we both agree that some of the fan behavior at games is outrageous. The Bradley post turns into a story of how after talking and laughing with fans at Wrigley, Ensberg turned to return to the team for warm-ups only to have these same fans spit on him -- and Astros fans, your treatment of Carlos Beltran is no better. Beltran did what any of us would have done: he went where there was more money and where he felt there was a better opportunity.
"Milton has a huge heart.. He doesn't handle himself in the best way all the time, but the fans are at fault on this one," Ensberg said to my question to what it was like watching a guy who you knew was being egged on unmercifully. "You may roll your eyes, but fans know that he has anger problems and they keep on hounding him. Milton didn't go out to the outfield one day and just start challenging the crowd. Someone in the crowd always says something that is meant to get him angry. It is manipulation by the fans and it is lame."
Ensberg comes off in his blog as a real stat-head, and someone who seeks every bit of information he can get. So I was curious if he ever got overwhelmed by all of the stats that were available for his use.
But he said that was never the case. "The trick with information is understanding your strengths," he said. "I was never overwhelmed by information because the information I was looking for wasn't there."
Finally, that one pitcher he hated to face more than any other is one that I'm sure most National League players agree with: "John Smoltz by far! Don't ever want to face that guy, especially when he was closing!"
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