OK, there have been a lot of changes to the sports225.com website, basically rendering The Swog Blog a victim of change and laziness. So this will be my first “new entry,” and it starts with an old entry. Last year, on February 18, I wrote the following about becoming an Astros fan.
It’s worth noting two things: First, the ‘Stros lost a Major League-worst 107 games. One more than the year before. The other is that, because some cable companies are in what we might call a urination match, we can’t watch the Astros on TV in Baton Rouge.
What the hell?
You switch to follow the worst team in baseball and then you can’t watch them when they’re the closest MLB team to your city?
I think I’m gonna follow the Royals. Gotta stick with a so-called small-market team and I’ve liked Kansas City, where I once lived and my daughter was born. And it has the best barbecue. Anyway, here’s that column from last year:
I’m now a Houston Astros fan.
No one can accuse me of being a frontrunner or jumping on the bandwagon. This is the worst team in baseball. Houston finished 56-106 last year. 60 games under .500!
But, then again, so do the Seattle Mariners, the team I’m leaving as a fan.
The Mariners have had me the past 11 years. But they’ve blown it with me and, based on how many empty seats I saw at games last year, also with plenty of their fans in the Pacific Northwest.
My love for the M’s started in 2001 on a visit to one of the greatest cities in America and a trip to the then new Safeco Field. A really good team, awesome garlic fries, even sushi, and a new player who was one of the best athletes I’d ever seen, Ichiro Suzuki.
More on that in a bit.
For now, I’ll follow the Astros, which is certainly more convenient. Houston is just a four-hour drive. Minute Maid Park is a fantastic place to watch a game, and most of the Astros’ games are on TV here. They’re also in the same time zone. And when they sing “Deep In The Heart of Texas” during the seventh-inning stretch it’s really cool.
Never mind that I couldn’t name five of their players. I can study up between now and season opener April 6. Not that it matters. If they lost 56 games last year, they have to be rebuilding and playing young guys with an eye on the future. I’m OK with that. Hell, I’m used to a team losing all the time. The Mariners went 61-101 in 2010 and 67-95 last season. They stink, too.
But they shouldn’t. Not with the money the Seattle ownership has and the wave they were riding in the early part of the last decade. In 2001 the Mariners won 116 games. No wonder I liked watching them. They won 93 in each of the next two seasons, but then the wheels came off.
They made more boneheaded, baffling, bad decisions after more bad decisions, none of which I’ll bore you with here, but a guy named Larry Stone who covers baseball for the Seattle Times pretty much summed it up with this article last month. Suffice it to say that a lot of ex-Mariners have flourished with their new teams and a lot of guys who went to the Mariners never fulfilled expectations.
Back in 2001 I was a fan without a team and the Mariners just seemed right. I bought an M’s hat. I’m sure I’m the only person in Baton Rouge with an Ichiro bobblehead. I loved guys like Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer and the manager at the time, Lou Piniella.
I even have a cat named Ichiro.
But I’m done with the Mariners, who never recovered from Piniella leaving for his home in Tampa to manage the Rays. Incredibly, Piniella is the only manager in franchise history — the Mariners were formed in 1977 — with a winning record. He went 840-711.
They replaced him with Bob Melvin, who went 156-168 in 2003-04. I thought Melvin was a really good manager and baseball man who got dealt a team on the decline. He’s now the manager of the Oakland A’s and I root for him to do well.
Since Seattle fired him, the combination of managers named Mike Hargrove (who walked away after an eight-game winning streat in 2007, if you want to know how bad it must be), John McClaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamastu (who apparently screwed the team up more than anyone and was fired in mid-season), Daren Brown and now Eric Wedge (in his second season) are a combined 509-625.
Yeah, firing and hiring and firing managers has worked out well in Seattle.
Because of the MLB app, you can listen to and watch every game every Major League team plays. No longer will I have to stay up way too late following the M’s. I have only myself to blame for this, too, but no longer will I keep listening to their ridiculous post-game radio show when they beat into the ground a team that was never, ever, going to turn the corner.
Not that they’ll miss me. Perhaps the Astros will embrace me. I will tell you that when you go to Minute Maid for a game, it’s a tremendous fan experience. Happy, helpful workers. Great sight lines. Good and fairly priced concession food.
A lousy team, but what the heck.
My friend Glenn Guilbeau, who is also sportswriter in Baton Rouge, is a lifelong ‘Stros fan. When I first mentioned joining him a few years ago, he told me I couldn’t just change teams. That was big talk then, especially after Houston went to the 2005 World Series and was decent for a few years after that. But when they were 15 games behind the next-worse team in the National League last year and I told Guilbeau I was jumping aboard, he gave me the OK. I look forward to driving to Houston with him this season and watching the Astros drop a few games. Maybe he’ll buy the beers.
The Astros have a new owner, a new outlook and, well, a new fan.
In a couple of weeks I actually have a trip planned to Houston and will make sure I buy an official Houston Astros cap, probably one with that logo I stole from their website and put atop this blog. I will wear it proudly and be resigned to being a fan of the underdog.
Oh, yeah: In 2013, the Astros are moving to the American League and going into the West Division. It will be fun to kick the Mariners’ asses on a regular basis.
I won’t tell Ichiro the cat.
March 31, 2013 postscript: I sent that column to the Astros, tweeted it, all that, and never heard from them. They never re-tweeted it. Nothing. And then when I complained about the TV situation, nothing again. Go Royals.