Posts Tagged ‘editorial’

Cool Hand Luke Prevails Over Astros Future

September 29, 2011

"What we've got here is - failure to communicate." - Captain, Cool Hand Luke.

“What we’ve got here is – failure to communicate.”

The Captain’s immortal lines from 1967’s Paul Newman classic prison road gang film, Cool Hand Luke, live again through the conclusion of this 50th and most disastrous Astros season of 2010. You can read it in everything that’s going on – and not going on. And what’s primarily not going on is a clear understanding in Commissioner Bud Selig’s office (or mind) as to how destructive this mishandled delay in the final approval of new owner Jim Crane is to fan support that’s needed now on top of the worst year in team history.

Drayton McLane, Jr. can go on television daily, if he so chooses, to reassure the world that everything that’s not happening now is simply part of the due diligence process, but that’s not going to halt the suspicions of Crane that are growing among many fans from the few aspersions upon his character that have fallen upon him as a result of the news about his company’s alleged war-price-gouging and unfair racial hiring practices. It isn’t fair to put that kind of information out there into an environment that hungers for trust and gets nothing but gust. – Unless you are trying to bring someone down with slanderous or libelous talk, that’s the deadliest “failure to communicate” that someone in authority can make about a potential member of the corporate (MLB) family. – The longer this decision hangs in the air, unresolved, the more it dissolves into distrust and a failure to communicate anything positive about the group that is willing to pay $680 million dollars for this wonderful opportunity.

How fair is that? And now hard is it now going to be to build trust in the season ticket holders that are being asked to renew for 2011 in the cloud of all this uncertainty – and with the  Astros’ bullpen in the Cardinal series offering a likely preview of what they will be buying into for 2011?

Add to all this “failure to communicate” the growing worm-suspicion that Selig is really just using this extra time to pressure Jim Crane into moving the Astros to the American League West as a condition of his approval as the club’s new owner. – No matter how strongly many of us feel in opposition to an AL-move, Mr. Crane no longer has that option with any of us. If Crane were approved today as the new club owner – and even waited until next year to explain that he has approved the move of Houston to the AL – we would not believe him. We would blame Bud Selig.

Commissioner Selig, and all of those who thrive upon Draconian dances with their hidden agendae, seem to not get the most basic facts about communication: Failure to communicate always communicates distrust in the process of whatever is going on to the very person or people you are trying to reach. In this case, the Commissioner of Baseball risks further alienation from the fans of Houston as he also earns new distrust from a man who has been willing, up until now, to put up $680 million dollars for the opportunity of owning a big league team in Houston.

If I were Jim Crane, I would look at the assets and talent I’m getting for my dollar in October 2011, I would look at the damage that has been done to my clean slate with the fans by this sorry process of “accidental” (at best, clumsy) assault upon my reputation, and I would look at what I’m now facing as the challenge to building positive steam again. Under no circumstances would I agree to move the franchise to the AL as a condition of my approval – and I would very seriously ask myself, bottom line: Is this what I signed on for? Is all this worth $680 million dollars?

No failure to communicate with myself on these two questions. If I don’t get two powerful YES answers, I’m out of here.

Let the Commissioner take out his failure to understand the dynamics of communication on somebody else. He’s already toasted Houston for whomever follows in my wake, should I decide to go.


Headlining the Texans’ Sainted Loss

September 26, 2011

Heartache’s sad  headlines – all tell the tale,

Sunday was lost – ‘fore our ship could win-sail.

That’s a neaux geaux – read the Chronicle lines,

Houston’s fond hope – must again ride the pines.



Schaub was good, Brees was great,

Stumbling and rumbling, they sounded debate,

With no time to chew – and hard masticate,

Matt lost his cud – in the 4th quarter gate.



Casey earns the spotlight – no question of that,

Big James is a winner – a hard-rumbling cat,

He blocked, caught, and ran – made a diving snatch too,

We’re going to hear more – ‘fore this young man is through.



And sleek man, Sir Andre – was Johnson enough,

To turn out the lights on the “who dat?” crowd stuff,

But he can’t do it all – with a fake – and a bluff,

Gotta get him the ball – when the going gets tough.



The big missing headline – is easy to see,

Even for base-balling people like me,

You can’t win in football – philosophically,

By Going for Seven – and Settling for Three.

Steroids: Will MLB Rule or Weasel Out on HOF Question?

November 7, 2010

The Sultan of Swat & The Slugger of Certainty!

When Babe Ruth hit them, they were “no doubters,” home runs that left the yard with great certainty, big blasts that left no doubt they were departing the field from the very first crack of the bat. And when the Babe hit them, there was also no doubt that he took them out in spite of his poor physical appearance and apparent lack of conditioning, and in over-riding reaction to any most recent intake of alcohol, nicotine, or high fat food.

No one paid as much attention to Hank Aaron while he was doing it too, but Henry’s quiet home run march to the head of the pack in the early 1970s was also regarded with nothing less than respect from all his non-racist fans. It only drew a crowd once people, and especially the KKK-minded folks, realized that Aaron was on his way to passing Ruth, but it was no less an honorable journey as an individual accomplishment all the way.

Then everything changed in the early 21st century when Barry Bonds passed both Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) to register his record-breaking 762 long balls. By the Bonds era, all eyes were steadfast and fixed upon the steroid question and players with enormous muscles and large bulging heads. And when the formerly young and slim man named Barry Bonds hit number 762, it was like watching a ripped Giant Godzilla bobble head trotting around the bases in strutting celebration.

Bonds and the other list of suspect sluggers from the “Roids to Ruin” era in baseball history have already been convicted of steroids abuse in the public mind, even if none have yet to be found guilty in a court of law. Where this all leads eventually, I’m really not sure. I just don’t think it leads to enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I think the public mind convictions have already been sealed against home run sluggers Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero, and Sammy Sosa. I’m not as certain about Alex Rodriguez, even though he actually has admitted to brief past steroid use while the others mentioned previously have either denied it, cried innocence, blamed it on trainers, or simply refused to talk about it.

Roger Clemens is the biggest non-slugger name on the public-mind-conviction list in this issue and most probably also will suffer the same fate as the others: denial from the Hall of Fame because of suspected, but not necessarily proven steroid abuse.

I don’t see any other way this is turning out. Do you? And I think MLB still holds on to the denial-driven fantasy that it will just go away over time. Meanwhile, one of the avoidance paths baseball may take is to simply avoid the larger question: Should conviction of steroid abuse keep an otherwise qualified player out of the Hall of Fame? Instead of taking an active position, they will allow their voting minions to simply settle the matter by not voting for Barry Bonds or the others on that list.

Not voting for Bonds may look like an active MLB position, but it isn’t. It’s the weasel route.

The problem with the “weasel route” is that we don’t know for sure how low and for long it will float down the list of future candidates. How many future eligible players will be denied a vote because a few voting weasel writers have a flickering thought that the guy looked too muscular to have come by his skills and accomplishments honestly?

Check out the list of Baseball’s top 100 career home run leaders and, without regard for who’s already in and who’s not, ask yourself: Is there anyone else on the list who might have trouble getting HOF votes because of his appearance during his prime playing days?

I see a few, but I don’t want to spoil your own impressions by offering mine here. The question here is for you: Are there other top sluggers from this list who may be kept from the HOF because they register in the public memory as suspected steroids users?

Please record any comments you may have below as comments on this article. Here’s the list:

Top 100 Career Home Run Hitters through 2010:

Rank Player (2010 HRs) HR
1 Barry Bonds 762
2 Hank Aaron 755
3 Babe Ruth 714
4 Willie Mays 660
5 Ken Griffey, Jr. 630
6 Alex Rodriguez (30) 613
7 Sammy Sosa 609
8 Jim Thome (25) 589
9 Frank Robinson 586
10 Mark McGwire 583
11 Harmon Killebrew 573
12 Rafael Palmeiro 569
13 Reggie Jackson 563
14 Manny Ramírez (9) 555
15 Mike Schmidt 548
16 Mickey Mantle 536
17 Jimmie Foxx 534
18 Willie McCovey 521
Frank Thomas 521
Ted Williams 521
21 Ernie Banks 512
Eddie Mathews 512
23 Mel Ott 511
24 Gary Sheffield 509
25 Eddie Murray 504
26 Lou Gehrig 493
Fred McGriff 493
28 Stan Musial 475
Willie Stargell 475
30 Carlos Delgado 473
31 Dave Winfield 465
32 José Canseco 462
33 Carl Yastrzemski 452
34 Jeff Bagwell 449
35 Dave Kingman 442
36 Andre Dawson 438
37 Vladimir Guerrero (29) 436
Chipper Jones (10) 436
39 Juan González 434
40 Cal Ripken, Jr. 431
41 Mike Piazza 427
42 Billy Williams 426
43 Jason Giambi (6) 415
44 Darrell Evans 414
45 Albert Pujols (42) 408
46 Andruw Jones (19) 407
Duke Snider 407
48 Andres Galarraga 399
Al Kaline 399
50 Dale Murphy 398
51 Joe Carter 396
52 Jim Edmonds (11) 393
53 Graig Nettles 390
54 Johnny Bench 389
55 Dwight Evans 385
56 Harold Baines 384
57 Larry Walker 383
58 Frank Howard 382
Jim Rice 382
60 Albert Belle 381
61 Orlando Cepeda 379
Tony Pérez 379
63 Matt Williams 378
64 Norm Cash 377
Jeff Kent 377
66 Carlton Fisk 376
67 Rocky Colavito 374
68 Gil Hodges 370
69 Ralph Kiner 369
70 Paul Konerko (39) 365
71 Joe DiMaggio 361
72 Gary Gaetti 360
73 Johnny Mize 359
74 Yogi Berra 358
75 Greg Vaughn 355
76 Adam Dunn (38) 354
Luis Gonzalez 354
Lee May 354
79 Ellis Burks 352
80 Dick Allen 351
81 Chili Davis 350
82 David Ortiz (32) 349
83 George Foster 348
84 Ron Santo 342
85 Jack Clark 340
86 Tino Martinez 339
Dave Parker 339
Boog Powell 339
89 Don Baylor 338
90 Joe Adcock 336
91 Darryl Strawberry 335
92 Todd Helton (8) 333
93 Moisés Alou 332
Bobby Bonds 332
95 Hank Greenberg 331
Carlos Lee (24) 331
97 Shawn Green 328
Mo Vaughn 328
99 Lance Berkman (14) 327
100 Jermaine Dye 325
Willie Horton 325

2010 HR totals are shown on above list in parentheses after active player names.

Instructions for Life

October 24, 2010

Our Off-The-Rx-List Rule: "Play out your life on a field of green as much as possible."

Instructions for Life

The first forty-three of these little wisdom-loaded advisories are taken directly from a work called “Life’s Little Instruction Book”, by Jackson Brown and H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

  1. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  2. Memorize your favorite poem.
  3. Don’t believe all you hear, spend all you have, or sleep all you want.
  4. When you say, I love you, mean it.
  5. When you say, I’m sorry, look the person in the eye.
  6. Be engaged for at least six months before you get married.
  7. Believe in love at first sight.
  8. Never laugh at anyone’s dreams.
  9. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it’s the only way to live completely.
  10. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.
  11. Don’t judge people by their relatives.
  12. Talk slow but think quick.
  13. When someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, smile and ask, Why do you want to know?
  14. Remember that great love and great acheivements involve great risk.
  15. Call your family.
  16. Say, Bless you, when someone sneezes.
  17. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  18. Remember the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all your actions.
  19. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  20. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  21. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.
  22. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, his/her conversational skills will be as important as any other.
  23. Spend some time alone.
  24. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  25. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  26. Read more books and watch less TV.
  27. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll get to enjoy it a second time.
  28. A loving atmosphere in your home is important. Do all you can to creat a tranquil harmonious home.
  29. In disagreements with loved ones, deal with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  30. Read between the lines.
  31. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to acheive immortality.
  32. Be gentle with the earth.
  33. Never interrupt when you’re being flattered.
  34. Mind your own business.
  35. Don’t trust a lover who doesn’t close their eyes when you kiss them.
  36. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  37. If you make a lot of money, put it to use while you are living. That is wealth’s greatest satisfaction.
  38. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a stroke of luck.
  39. Learn the rules, then break some.
  40. Remember that the best relationship is one where your love for each other is greater than your need for each other.
  41. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  42. Remember that your character is your destiny.
  43. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

44. Remember these particular words of the great psychologist of the human soul and spirit C.G. Jung in all you do: “Where love reigns, there is no will to power, and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other.”

Have a great Sunday, everybody!

Secretariat Soars!

October 15, 2010


Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 by taking the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. This single photo tells the end-result story of the great horse beyond all words. If you saw it happen in person, or if you were among the millions who watched on TV, you never forgot it, but what's the larger lesson for all of us?.


A couple of nights ago, we finally got to see Secretariat, the much ballyhooed movie about the arguably greatest racehorse of all time. It did not disappoint this lifelong sucker for stories about the little guy’s triumphs over adversity, even if the great horse in this instance was no everyday Joe by bloodline. He was born of champions and he ran with a will and apparent awareness of what he was doing that made him seem almost human to those who were closest to him.

Human? Secretariat didn’t have to be human to be great. He was simply the greatest horse in organized racing history. Better than any horse who came before him. Better than any horse who has come after him.

Secretariat didn’t have to believe in himself to be a great horse, but he was still a horse. He needed the help of humans who believed in him – and themselves. Fortunately he found them in the form of his owner, Penny Chenery, and the others she assembled for achieving the same aim, winning the Triple Crown.

For those of you who don’t know, the Triple Crown in horse racing is the consecutive trio of races for three-year horses that run every season from May into June at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness in Maryland, and the Belmont Stakes in New York. When Secretariat won them all in 1973, he was the first to do so in twenty-five years and the 1948 success of a previous great horse named Citation. Secretariat did it with record-breaking times in the Derby and Preakness, and with that signature 31-length victory photo in the Belmont.

All that being said, there is an even more profound underlying story here in Secretariat the Movie than that wonderful tale of a magnificent horse. It is the story that faces all of us in life, whether we ever wake up to it or not. And it most likely has nothing to do with achieving greatness in the eyes of the world.

It is simply this: Are we going to wake up to the call of living the life we were meant to live, no matter what? Or are we going to quietly bury ourselves in a life that protects us from the possible failure of our most passionate dreams?

In Secretariat, Penny Chenery is living a quiet life In Colorado as a housewife and mom when she receives the news from her childhood home in Kentucky that her mother has died. She goes home to the family horse farm to confront the reality that her mom is gone and that her dad is living fragile in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s and that he is being cheated everyday by the trainer that was hired to take care of things.

Penny makes excuses to stay awhile following the funeral of her mom. She fights off  her brother and husband from a decision to sell the farm and decides to stay and run it herself. She fires the crook who had been planning to sell off the farm’s horses for kickback money and stars thinking like the horse woman she was always groomed to be.

How Penny’s dream got buried in the lifestyle of a housewife wasn’t covered, but it isn’t hard to figure. The movie begins in 1969, the tail end of an era in which women often buried their personal careers by the act of getting married. In the movie, Penny’s husband and kids simply accept Penny’s decision to stay in Kentucky for a while as she begins to put the family horse farm back together.

In short, Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) finds the right horse, the right trainer (John Malkovich as Lucien Lauren), the right jockey (Otto Thorwarth as Ron Turcotte), and the right groomer (Nelsan Ellis as Eddie Sweat) to help her get the job done. She already as strong supportive house director (Margo Martindale as Miss Ham) to cover her back on every emotional-legal front that arises.

As the “team” grooms Secretariat for the 1973 Triple Crown on thin financial ice, Penny reaches a point where she could the guarantee saving the farm by selling the great horse for $7-8 million dollars – or else, risk it all by syndicating the future breeding rights and taking her chances that the horse is great enough to win it all. By this time, her father also has died.

Here comes the lesson.

In a dramatic scene. Chenery evokes the memory of her dad, saying something along the lines that she cannot bear the burden of living with a regret that she had not tried to do the thing she really believed in – and in this case, that meant believing in Secretariat’s ability to win it all. “Daddy always said we could make our peace with failure and poverty, but that we could never live well with the regret that we had not tried to do something we really believed in.”

When Penny makes this little speech to her entire team, they are all resolved to the same end: Believe in Secretariat and go for it! Trainer Lucien even commemorates his resolve by ceremonially burning his collection of famous races he had lost with other horses in the past.

Of course, in this famous example, Secretariat comes through in a manner that absolutely destroys all competition and vindicates the trust his human friends have placed in him, That is the celebration of that famous photo we used at the beginning of this story. Before the Belmont’s third and final jewel in the Triple Crown found its placement, many questioned Secretariat’s stamina for winning the mile and a half run that had had vanquished so many “great” horses before him.

Stamina? All Secretariat did was win the Belmont by 31 lengths over the next nearest horse. In the home stretch at Belmont, Secretariat appeared as though he were simply taking a solitary practice run around the track. His margin of victory defied all credibility.

Still, as I wrote earlier, I really think Secretariat is about something that is far more everyday and ordinary than winning the Triple Crown or World Series, but it does include these great achievements in life. It’s just that, most often, the “Penny Chenery Story” is about waking up to who we really are, being the complete persons we were always intended to be, living with the rise or fall of whatever we undertake from the heart in the name of passion and love, and not creaking into old age with the always growing regret that we never even tried to sing the song of our souls.

We can live in peace with failed effort. We can not rest well with the regret that we never even tried. We all need to find our own inner Secretariat and make our own run, no matter how quiet it may be to the rest of the world. There may not even be a finish line or scoreboard involved in that thing we do.

When we find our mission, we simply do it because we are called upon to do it in the name of love and creativity.

Hats Off to Jimmy Wynn

October 13, 2010


His Coming of Age in 1960's Takes On Clearer Light.


Congratulations to Houston Colt .45s/Astros Icon Jimmy Wynn! His beautiful autobiography is now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Border’s, McFarland Publishing, and any other national retail distributing source that is available to you and, as someone who was privileged to working with him on “Toy Cannon,” I can only hope you also have a chance to read the story of this fine man’s growth as both a ballplayer and human being during one of the most difficult periods of change in American history.

Bob Hulsey of Astros Daily asked me only yesterday what I had learned about Jimmy Wynn that I didn’t yet already know from the experience of helping him with his autobiography. The answer to that one is easy. It wasn’t so much the details of what happened to him, and these included numerous stories of what went on with the club behind quasi-closed doors. It was all about fresh contact with what it must have been like to walk around in the shoes of Jimmy Wynn, a young gifted black baseball player, coming of age and finding his way through the segregated society that still dominated Houston, Texas, and the South, in general, through the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s.

Some of you are too young to remember, but Houston was still a place in the early 1960s which barred blacks from eating in certain restaurants, attending certain movie theaters, enrolling in schools which also accepted whites, or living in certain neighborhoods.

“Certain” was a buzzword for racial prejudice as a way of life and segregation still cast its ugly face upon our city like a clutching hand from the ignorant past at the same time Houston was attempting to bolt into the future as the home of NASA and a brand new major league baseball team.

At the same time Houston was embarking upon this ambitious and bold future “blast-off,” most local schools, from kindergarten to college, remained segregated. Wrap your minds around the incongruity of that thought for a minute. Then allow your thoughts to come back to young Jimmy Wynn in 1963.

This is the Houston that greeted Jimmy Wynn and other black players as they made their way to the big leagues with the Colt .45s during those earliest of years. Black players couldn’t simply go anywhere they wanted in Houston without running into the ugly wall of racial separation. The bathrooms and drinking fountains were even separated by “white” and “colored” section signs back then.

For many of us whites who grew up with segregation, but who weren’t taught to hate others for the color of their skin, those embarrassing memories of how Houston used to be are ones we’d sooner put away and not think about too often, but that isn’t possible. We have to remember and stay vigilant that nobody, no race or particular religious or facist-based ideological dominated society, ever tries anything like that again.

For people like Jimmy Wynn, who grew up in non-segregated Cincinnati, in the bosom of a loving family that taught him to love, not hate, coming of age as a ballplayer and a young man during one of the great periods of social change in America, especially in the South, was an eye-opener that could have blown him away early, had it not been for the long distance loving support of his father, in particular, and of a manager in Tampa named Hershell Freeman.

In “Toy Cannon,” Jimmy Wynn touches all the bases of his statistical, distance homer, and other field achievement records, but he does something even more. He allows us to walk a little deeper and truer in his own shoes as he comes of age in an era in which the other concomitant pressure on young people trying to make it in the world, especially among young males, was where they stood on the Viet Nam War.

Jimmy Wynn didn’t leave home to fight the battles of Selma, Alabama or Southeast, Asia, but that’s the world he walked into. The issues of the world wouldn’t leave him alone to simply work on becoming a big league baseball player. They even followed him into the clubhouse and directly affected the most important decisions in his life.

“Toy Cannon” is a tighter walk through the life of a talented young northern black man, coming of age in racist Houston. To hear Jimmy tell his story, we almost go through it “as him,” seeing the things we had to learn the hard way – and coming out the other side with a wisdom that only comes to those who are willing to learn from their painful experience.

God Bless You, Jimmy Wynn – for all you so willingly now give of yourself to others!

Post-Season Career Pitching Leaders

October 12, 2010


Andy Pettitte's 19 Post-Season Wins Leads Pack!


The fact that active New York Yankees lead the field in career post-season pitching wins and best earned run average should come as no small surprise. Andy Pettitte’s 19 career wins through today, 10/12/10, is now 4 better than John Smoltz with room to grow as the Yankees wait on the winner of this evening’s game between Tampa Bay and Texas to see who they will be facing in the 2010 ALCS. Either way, Andy is virtually guaranteed a shot at becoming the first “20-game winner” in post-season career total win history.

Except for one contaminating win by Pettitte  as a Houston Astro int 2005 NLDS, Andy’s career win record is all the rest – pure Yankee in its achievement alloy. Some feel that Andy Pettitte may be pitching himself into serious Hall of Fame consideration by his longevity success in the post-season, but it’s hard for me to see how he could get there and pass over several peers and one particular predecessor who built comparable or better records on the season stat career level.

Pettitte has 240 career regular season wins through 2010. Retirees Greg Maddux (355 wins), Roger Clemens (254 ip), Tom Glavine (305 wins), Randy Johnson (303 wins), Tommy John (288 wins), Bert Blyleven (287 wins), Jim Kaat (283 wins), Mike Mussina (270 wins), Jamie Moyer (267 wins), Jim McCormick (265 wins), Gus Weyhing (264 wins), Jack Morris (254 wins), Jack Quinn (247 wins), Dennis Martinez (245 wins), and Jack Powell (245 wins) are the others not currently in the Hall of Fame who have more career regular season wins than Andy Pettitte. (The last time anyone poked him with a stick, Jamie Moyers also remained an active player.)

Making a Hall of Fame case for Andy Pettitte above most of these others would be a long shot in my book. I’m still unhappy that Bert Blyleven has been passed over as long he so far has.

At any rate, the career leaders in post-season wins and lowest post-season ERA are as follows:


1. Andy Pettitte (19 wins in 256.0 ip)

2. John Smoltz (15 wins in 209 ip)

3. Tom Glavine (14 wins in 218.1 ip)

4. Roger Clemens (12 wins in 199.0 ip)

5t. Greg Maddux (11 wins in 198.0 ip)

5t. Curt Schilling (11 wins in 133.1 ip)

7t. Whitey Ford (10 wins in 146.0 ip)

7t. Dave Stewart (10 wins in 133.0 ip)

7t. David Wells (10 wins in 125 ip)

10t. Catfish Hunter (9 wins in 132.1 ip)

10t. Orlando Hernandez (9 wins in 106 ip)


Mariano Rivera's 0.72 ERA may fall lower very soon!



1. Mariano Rivera (0.72 ERA in 136.2 ip)

2. Harry Brecheen (0.83 ERA in 32.2 ip)

3. Babe Ruth (0.87 ERA in 31.0 ip)

4. Sherry Smith (0.89 ERA in 30.1 ip)

5. Sandy Koufax (0.95 ERA in 57.0 ip)

6. Christy Mathewson (0.97 ERA in 101.2 ip)

7. Monte Pearson (1.01 ERA in 35.2 ip)

8. Blue Moon Odom (1.13 ERA in 39.2 ip)

9. Eddie Plank (1.32 ERA in 54.2 ip)

10. Bill Hallahan (1.36 ERA in 39.2 ip)

The fact that post-season leadership in both categories is controlled by active members of the current New York Yankee pitching staff should come as no small surprise. The better you are, no more you win, the more chances you get to even see the post-season. I know it doesn’t always work out that way, but it seems to work that way in The Bronx more often than it does anyplace else – and that winning history goes all the way back to Col. Jacob Ruppert, the early 20th century owner of the New York Yankees who put up the money and attitude that made “The House That Ruth Built” even possible in the first place. One of his legacies is that the record books are now crowded in 2010 with the accomplishments of Yankee players over time.

Like ’em or not, the “Damn Yankees” understand championship totals on a whole other higher level from everyone else. While we hold on to the hope for “one in Houston someday,” the Yankees are looking for another one, possibly as early as November 2010.

So, when we look at the individual accomplishments of both Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera in the post-season, we are forced to remember too that winners produce championships – and championship teams produce record-breakers and holders.

We don’t have to be as big as New York to succeed in Houston, but our vision and our planning needs to be every ounce and inch as large as the state of mind and action that has placed these two active Yankee pitchers on the leader board as mere by-products of their Yankee team success.

No Choking Time in MLB Playoffs

October 11, 2010

The Major League baseball Playoffs are a good time to put up the “No Choking” signs in each clubhouse and then try to pay attention to them, but it apparently is a little too late for that advisory in 2010.

Cincinnati just left the playoffs Sunday night with their vaunted offense in total meltdown at the hands of their H20 (Halladay, Hamels, & Oswalt) rinse through Philadelphia’s powerful “Big Three” pitching order. It should be noted, however, that the Roy Oswalt member of that deadly pitching trio, along with some negative help from Phils second baseman Chase Utley,  did his own choke job  in Game Two of the series. Fortunately for the Phillies, many of the other Philadelphia players would have no part of a Reds comeback as they came back to defeat Cincy in the only game the Reds showed any familiarity with a bat.

The Minnesota Twins also melted fast in the competition company of the New York Yankees, going down for the count 3-o in games quicker than they could recall for the gazillionth time that they were playing the club that once served as home to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle.

That 50% pure choke finish in half the NLDS competition games leave the Yankees and Phillies free to rest and refresh as they wait for two other teams to finish their work in the first round, but here’s where choking gets to be something of a shared experience.

In the “we can’t stand the pressure of playing at home series,” the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers have both now experienced the horrors and joys of this particular phobia. The Rangers stuck the Rays where the sun never shines in those first two games at Tampa. It looked as though the Rangers were going home to a quick finish on their first playoff series in history, but I guess they thought about that sweet finish too much. Once back in Arlington, the Rangers went into their own meltdown, losing twice to Tampa Bay and sending the sunshine series back to Florida. Can the Rangers benefit from this move back to their former position as road warriors? We’ll find out tomorrow.

The fourth series is also an intriguing engagement with choking on both the team and individual player levels. After taking Game One behind the phenomenal pitching of ace starter Tim Lincecum, the Giants untied some late ending rope around the necks of the Atlanta Braves in Game Two and reattached it to themselves just in time to watch a Rick Ankiel home run into McCovey Cove send the series back to Atlanta with everything tied at 1-1 in games won.

Game Three in Atlanta Sunday produced the biggest sputum-producer of the playoff season, so far. Going into the top of the 9th, the Braves led 2-1 and seemed honed in on taking the series lead. Then the Giants started putting together a little base-hit rally that tied the game with two outs at 2-2. That’s when second baseman Brooks Conrad allowed a crisp ground ball to go straight through his legs into right field. Another Giants runs scored and SF now led 3-2, a tally that would hold up for the final score on Mr. Conrad’s (cough! cough!) third error of the day. You had to feel bad for the guy. There’s no place to hide in baseball when that sort of thing happens.

No Smiles on Sunday

Also, we have to be aware these days of HD close-ups of a player in the wake of such an embarrassing moment. Conrad could clearly be seen, shaking his head and uttering what sounded by lip-reading as that famous exclamation of self-frustration – the one that fits the “WTF” initials used by texters to express uncultured dismay or shock.

Better put up those no-choke signs in the clubhouses at Atlanta and Tampa pretty quick, folks. We “ain’t done yet.”


Alma Mater Fidelity

October 10, 2010


Freshman David Piland Gets "Baptism Under Fire" at QB for UH.


The Houston Cougars ended their 18-game home winning streak last night before 32,067 fans at Robertson Stadium by falling decisively to the bigger, faster, more experienced  and hungrier Mississippi State Bulldogs, 47-24.

UH Coach Kevin Sumlin continued his search for a successor to the ill-fated and career-finished hopes of former star Case Keenum by inserting his other true freshman QB prospect into the game in the form of young David Piland. Piland did OK, but his two TD passes were more than off-set by two interceptions, one of which led to a fatal touchdown run back near the halftime mark that left the Cougars in a 33-10 hole at the mid-game break.

The other freshman QB, Terrance Broadway, got in the game long enough near the end to throw a 17-yard TD pass to Isaiah Sweeney with 4:36 to go, preventing the game from become the most lopsided loss in Coach Sumlin’s three-year history at UH.

We Cougars took the disappointment in stride and moved on. After case Keenum went down forever as a UH Cougar in the UCLA game of Sept. 18th, none of us were really surprised by last night’s outcome. Few clubs at the college level are deep enough to survive the loss of their only superstar with any hopes of the season playing out as the final realization of their  once great expectations.And UH is no different from the rest in that regard.

For UH, major victory on the gridiron remains more of a hope and a distant memory than it is an actual realization. UH’s 37-7 win over Michigan State at East Lansing in 1967, that 30-0 shutout of UT at Austin in 1976, and the 17-14 thumping of Nebraska in the 1980 Cotton Bowl jump to mind, but none of those wins happened recently and all were against big name teams that aren’t likely hot to play the UH Cougars again anytime soon.


A few UH plays worked well early against MSU last night.


Today’s piece isn’t really about last night’s game, or even about becoming a team that is perfect enough to to win a national championship or stay in the hunt for one at any cost, every year, including especially the cost of young futures that sometimes get thrown into the fires of  ambition fanned by the universities and their wealthy alumni.

Today’s question is simply: Why be loyal at all to the universities that gave so many of us a good start in life? And, more complexly, why celebrate that loyalty by throwing so much of our support into paying for the athletic programs, especially the lucrative football and basketball programs?

From a money standpoint, the first question speaks for itself and the second virtually answers itself. We are indebted to the university as one of the great givers in our lives. We are loyal to our university’s sports teams because of the complex identity we share with the university and all others who gone there as we did and who have also come out into the world as Cougars, Longhorns, Aggies, Owls, and the like. We carry it even further by incorporating the colors, emblems, hand-signs, and slogans of our group into a ritual show of affiliation by our mode of dress and behavior.

Has anyone ever heard the guy whose luxury care horn plays “The Eyes of Texas?”

Look! I’m not going egghead on you this morning, but for me, it works something like this. I can’t really speak for anyone else: (1) I not only did my undergraduate work at UH, but I also grew up only two miles from the campus. UH always was, and always will be, part of who I think I am – a kid from the East End of Houston who caught an early  break and worked his way into a slightly larger world of possibility and opportunity through a door-opener on higher education. And that open-door, as long as I was willing to both work at my studies and also support myself by working at whatever honest student job I could find, was the University of Houston.

(2) My affiliation with UH’s athletic programs was an easy fit for me. Sports are a way of defining our successes and failures in measurable terms that often are blurred or simply expunged from everyday life matters due to certain politically correct factions that would prefer we behave as though “winning does not matter.” Of course, winning matters. If it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t have all these companies, including NASDAQ, manufacturing scoreboards and all the other kinds of scorekeeping equipment.

(3) I say the scoreboards are for measuring progress, not perfection. If they are merely measurements of perfection, than all college sports fans are doomed to the disappointment that Alabama suffered yesterday because of their 35-21 loss to South Carolina. Perfection says: “So what if you won the national championship last year? You didn’t win yesterday! And that makes you imperfect and, de facto, no good!”

By my standards, the UH loss to Mississippi State last night was simply a toll both on the road to progress, just part of the price of getting better as the team searches for somebody who has a chance of growing into Case Keenum’s shoes at Quarterback. Our UH goal is always, “in time” (our longtime university motto) to get better. – We show improvement by learning from everything that turns out painful on the road to progress – just as we hope to learn from our disappointments in everyday life.

(4) We watch college sports also because they are fun to watch. It’s not much fun watching researchers working on a new health care vaccine, or math theory., but I also believe that our dedication to pure progress includes financial donations to our universities and their academic programs to the extent that we can afford to do so.


"All Hail to Thee, Our Houston - University!"


(5) Alma Mater. Always Faithful. Everything hinges on the important ongoing relationship of fidelity and trust between a university and its alumni. Both should be conscious of the need to take care of each other by mutual effort – and not be turning the entire reciprocal act of mutual caring into another wasteful play of institutional entitlement.

The only entitlement here belongs to the students. Students are entitled to the best academic opportunity the university can provide them without any exploitation of the student’s funds or talent resources,

At any rate, that’s how I see my relationship to my alma mater, the University of Houston. Last night’s football loss to MSU was simply another painful toe-stumper on the road to progress with larger goals and accomplishments for us all in the wider, deeper scheme of things to come.

Have a happy 10-10-10, everybody!

Congratulations, Brad Mills!

October 9, 2010


Brad Mills Gets Contract Extension.

Sometimes the good guys do win as baseball managers. When they do, it’s because they have more going for them than a simple reputation for being good guys. They prove by their performance on the field that (1) they know baseball and the array of choices facing every manager in all phases of the game; (2) they know their own strengths and limitations well enough to let need, rather than ego, determine the kinds of people they embrace as coaches to help them get the job done; (3) they have good people skills for dealing with all the various psychological stuff that comes up with the egos of ball players over the course of a season as managerial decisions get made that are bound to always displease somebody; and (4) in the end, they seem to get the most production that is possible out of the material that they been given to manage and direct.

When the 2010 season concluded, I cannot think of a single media reporter who wrote or said that Brad Mills should have gotten better than a 76-86 finish out of this year’s Astros club. Now this morning we read in the Houston Chronicle that the Astros were pleased enough with Brad Mills to have exercised their contractual option on his managerial services for 2012 and extended his contract for an additional year through 2013.

Nuf sed. His bosses like Brad Mills too. That counts for a lot, doesn’t it? When the man who owns the ink that signs your paycheck on a piece of paper that doesn’t include the phrase “another direction”, we have to be as assured as anyone can be in today’s marketplace that we are wanted. And Brad Mills is.

I personally liked Brad Mills’ constancy in dealing with players. He never seemed impulsive, but he did stay open to trying new approaches. He worked his available bullpen material well, but he also gave his starters a chance to pitch extended innings, when they seemed capable of doing so. He didn’t freeze on seeing people as starters, even if they weren’t performing – or as part-time utility guys, even if they seemed to be playing well enough to start. “Matsui out” and “Keppinger in” at second base probably are our best examples of this ability.

Although he may have had little to do in choosing Jeff Bagwell as Sean Berry’s late season replacement as hitting coach, Mills reaped the rewards of Baggie’s presence and influence upon improvement among players like Hunter Pence. Other less secure men might have been too threatened by Baggie as a potential job rival that they might have rendered him useless by the creation of a hostile reception to his joining the staff.

Not Mills. He benefitted from Baggie too. As did the club.

I could go on all day. From what I’ve seen, Brad Mills has the kind of fatherly aura that will allow him to work with the Astros’ younger talent in a teaching capacity. At the same time, he has the respect from his older players that allows him to make tough choices for the betterment of the team. He is not the kind of guy that will cast himself as either an authoritative tyrant nor a weak sister type who avoids conflict at all costs.

Brad Mills has the knowledge and the moxie to get this job done over the long haul. He’s not going to run over anybody to do it, but he will stand firm on what he wants and doesn’t want. All the Astros need to do is keep supplying Mills and his staff with the improved kind of young talent that has the potential for growing into the spiked shoes of a real championship club.

With Brad Mills at the helm, and with our increased attention upon young player development, I really believe that our long-time goal of reaching and winning the World Series is now on target as an accomplishable mission for the Houston Astros.