An Astros-Cranky Morning

"Some" Nights at Minute Maid Park Aren't Picture Perfect!

I woke up this morning with some good news and some bad news affecting my experience at the Braves@Astros game that my grown son Neal and I attended Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

The bad news is that several things on the field , especially losing as we did, affected our enjoyment of the game and one thing at the concession stands struck both Neal and me as an abomination to the memory of an iconic Houston business reputation. Speaking only for me now, the good news is that I still care about the fates and fortunes of our hometown Astros and the way we handle the good things in our history when it comes down to putting them into commercial service to any private group.

Let’s deal with the game stuff first. It isn’t all bad.

J.A. Happ pitched another great game Tuesday night!

J.A, Happ and Brett Wallace – two of the three young players we got in the Roy Oswalt trade – are already paying dividends on the future. Wallace is hitting .333 and swinging with fluid authority from the port side against right and left-handed pitching – and Happ is two for three in great starts as an Astro. In a physically remindful appearance to Andy Pettittee, Happ worked 111 pitches for 6 1/3 innings last night, giving up only one run on two hits, while walking four and striking out six. The Astros simply could not get him any runs off Atlanta pitching until sloppy defense by the Braves opened the door for a two-spot in the bottom of the eighth.

The Astro stuff that bothered me happened in the eighth and ninth innings.

The Astros had just tied the lead at 2-1 on a Braves throwing error and had Pence at second and Lee at first with only one out – and with our hottest hitter, Chris Johnson, at the plate. That’s when somebody (Pence, third base coach Dave Clark, or manager Brad Mills) decided to just run us out of next scoring opportunity. Pence took off and was retired at third for the second out on a questionable call, but that was not my problem, My problem was that Pence went at all from scoring position with Johnson batting.

As soon as Pence was called out, you knew what was coming next for sure. Johnson rammed the single to right that would have scored Pence from second and increased the lead to 3-1. All it did was advance Carlos Lee to third with two outs and bring rookie Brett Wallace to the plate with a scoring opportunity.

UhOh! Now it’s managerial genius time!

Are the Astros inadvertently training Wallace to think he cannot hit lefties when the game is on the line? Operant behavioral modification is a technique I've studied for a thousand years in my primary field. Don't think it cannot happen.

Atlanta’s Bobby Cox brought in a lefty, Venters, to face Wallace, so naturally, Brad Mills felt as through he had to bring in the right-handed Jason Michaels to pinch hit for the lefty rookie. I know all about the righty-lefty percentages. I didn’t just wake up yesterday – nor am I unaware that “JayMike” has played a hot hand lately. – And, no, I don’t know what special game circumstances with Wallace may have made a contribution to Mills’s decision.

I just wouldn’t have lifted Wallace – and for a couple of good reasons: (1) Wallace is hitting .333 in the early go and is already showing signs that he can hit lefties as well as righties; (2) as a manager, I want to show Wallace that I have confidence in his ability to hit lefties in a game-pressured situation. I do not want to train him to expect the hook whenever this situation comes up again.

On the surface of things, I felt Mills let his rookie down when he pulled him for Michaels. Of course, as you might also expect, Michaels completed the cycle of disappointment by taking strike three for the third out with the bat on his shoulder.

The final disappointment was s hugely shared one. Closer Lindstrom came in to pitch the ninth for the Astros and then  surrendered three runs on two homers to blow the game into a 4-2 Atlanta win. How can Mills showing confidence in Lindstrom as a pitcher be more important than showing confidence in Wallace as a hitter? There seemed to be an air of that difference involved in the way last night’s game played out.

Lindstrom has good stuff, but he’s slightly off track now, and that diversion has grown quickly into the difference between victory and defeat. We don’t want young Wallace to lose his confidence as a hitter against lefties in tight situations – and we do want Lindstrom to get his confidence back as a closer. It’s not there at the present time.

Prince's Burgers "Fit for a King?" - Not at Minute Maid Park!

We finally got around to trying the Prince’s hamburgers at Minute Maid Park for the first time. It will also be our last. What they are serving there as the iconic Prince’s hamburger from 1934 is both a culinary disaster and an embarrassing insult to the Prince family name. The current licensees to the use of the Prince family name should be ashamed of themselves for placing  this piece of food garbage out there at Minute Maid Park. To put in mildly, the Prince’s hamburger at Minute Maid is one horrendous misrepresentation of the original great Prince’s recipe for burgers. They don’t even have the famous original sauce available at MMP.

The whole purchase and attempted consumption experience was ridiculous  to the extreme of becoming almost laughable. First of all, the counter help has no idea what the original Prince’s burgers were all about to Houstonians for generations. When you ask for “original recipe sauce,” they simply tell you “we ain’t got nothing like that. What we got is a burger, with or without cheese. You have to put your own stuff on it from one of those carts out there.”

The burger comes fried to a bone dry crisp with no salt. American processed cheese is your only choice, if you want it, and it comes laid out on a toasted bun that could be from anywhere. The basic burger is $8.75 because you have no choice but to buy it with fries. The fries are pretty good – and you can order them separately for $4.25. When we asked about buying a burger separately, the guy told us, “You may as well take the fries, ’cause we going to charge you for them anyway. If you don’t want ’em, just throw ’em in that trash can over there.”

"Ain't That a Shame" - by Fats Domino (It's a good fit.)

A Better Look at the MMP Prince's Prices

As things turned out, it was most of both the burger and the unwanted fries that Neal and I each tossed, We figured: “Better to toss it this way now than another way later.”

Look! I have no problem with the price of concessions at the ballpark. If people want an economic meal, they need to dine elsewhere, either before or after the game. My problem is with paying high prices for poor quality – and in this case, paying for something that is basically a desecration of what always stood out as THE burger standard in Houston, Texas since 1934.

The Prince family is simply shamed by this egregious abuse of their family name at Minute Maid Park. Shame on the vendors who sold this idea to the Astros!

As someone who always has supported the Houston Astros, it is my hope that the Prince’s vendor plan is either totally corrected or eliminated by the time we get to the 2011 season. It’s just plain awful as it is.

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4 Responses to “An Astros-Cranky Morning”

  1. Anthony Cavender Says:

    Bill: My wife and I also attended the game, and I agree with all of your comments. However, before the game there was a very nice salute to Bobby Cox, and Chipper Jones, with his gritty play, showed us how a professional plays ball in the dog days of August.
    By the way, the hot dogs were pretty good.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Tony:

      We missed the Bobby Cox tribute, but I thought it was a classy thing for the Astros to do. – Also, next time I’ll go back to the hot dogs. They are great!

      Bill McCurdy

  2. Bob Hulsey Says:

    “We fry in ZERO TRANS FAt frying oil”. Perhaps that’s why food doesn’t taste as good as we used to remember. I like my ballpark food non-politically correct.

  3. Margery McCurdy Says:

    Dear Bill:

    Outrageous!!! Both the Astros game and the Prince’s (what they laughingly call) Hamburgers!

    Your little sis,
    Margie

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