One for the 2016 NE Sports History Calendar

September 23, 2014
Red Sox manager John Farrell admires the 2013 World Series trophy that his Boston club won from the St. Louis Cardinals. - What kind of trophy is in store for the BoSox for finishing worse, tying, or barely doing better than the Houston Astros in 2014?

Red Sox manager John Farrell admires the 2013 World Series trophy that his Boston club won from the St. Louis Cardinals. – What kind of trophy is in store for the BoSox for finishing worse, tying, or barely doing better than the Houston Astros in 2014?

If this one happens, and even it doesn’t and just comes close, here’s a burgeoning new growing fact that deserves a date in the 2016 New England Sports History calendar. We will offer two quick reads here  on how the copy may read, depending upon the outcome of the still-in-progress item we have in mind. – And thank you again, Bill Gilbert, for calling this one to our conscious attention. The Eagle has been so caught up in the Jose Altuve batting championship and new club record hit total arena report that we almost allowed this blockbuster reversal of fortune for the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox race to pass us by.

Consider that sad neglect of the fact now corrected – as these three possible calendar entries pan out as the only possibilities on the loose, but all still shocking in their own rights, triangulated result possibilities that exist comparatively for the two of them here in the end of days shadows-time of 2014 ML baseball:

Sunday, 9/28/14: The defending 2013 World Seies Champion Boston Red Sox finished the season with a worse 2014 record than the Houston Astros, a club that had primed for this “David Passes Goliath” experience by losing 106 games in 2011, 107 games in 2012, and 111 games in 2013 – for the worst records in MLB on the season for three straight years.

The other two variations on this entry would simply change the outcome reference to the Astros “tying” or ” barely losing out” to the now descending 2013 former champs from Boston.

What a scream this ironic change in directions for both teams reveals itself to be in the same year. For the first time since 2010, the Astros will not loss 100 games in the 2014 season. And for the Red Sox, let’s hope for their modest and charitable fans’ sake that “2013” doesn’t become the new “1918” for their 21st century experience. Too many nice Red Sox fans like Father Gerald Beirne are counting on that so-not-happening as the club’s road map to the near future.

The Astros have two more games in Arlington as they continue against the Texas Rangers tonight and Wednesday. Following a Thursday day off, the Astros finish the season in New York with a three-game series against the Mets. The Red Sox  have six game to go at Fenway, beginning with a three-game series tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays, followed by another three-game set on the last weekend with their old pals, the New York Yankees.

Here’s how the two-club standings print out through all games played by this time in the morning of Tuesday, 9/23/14:

REVERSE FORTUNES LEAGUE GAMES LEFT
WON LOST PCT. GAMES BEHIND
HOUSTON ASTROS     5  69  88 .439        -
BOSTON RED SOX     6  68  88 .4.36        0.5

SCORES OF GAMES PLAYED MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2014:

TEXAS 4 – HOUSTON 3.

BOSTON (DID NOT PLAY).

SCHEDULE OF GAME FOR TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2014:

HOUSTON @ TEXAS

TAMPA BAY @ BOSTON

 

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THE PECAN PARK EAGLE DAILY MLB 2014 BATTING CROWN EYE:

CONTENDERS TEAM THRU GAME DATE GAMES LEFT AT BATS 2014 HITS CURRENT BATTING AVERAGE
ALTUVE ASTROS 9/22 5 641 221 .345
MARTINEZ TIGERS 9/22 6 544 183 .336

NOTES, 9/23 AM: Tuesday morning. – Jose Altuve had a “1 for 4″ game on the road as the Astros lost a 4-3 squeaker to the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Altuve’s one hit produced his 46th double of the season, but his batting average took a miniscule slip to .34477 that still rounded nicely to .345. At Comerica Park in Detroit, the Tigers hosted, but got toasted by the Chicago White Sox, 2-0, as Victor Martinez still had a perfect day with two singles and a walk for the losers. Martinez raised his batting average a couple of points to .336, pulling himself to within .009 of MLB leader Altuve. – As we head down the stretch (with yet another model analogy of things measured by results over time) anything is still possible in these final days.

The Eagle Eye on Jose Altuve’s pursuit of the 2014 American League and MLB batting average championships will continue daily through the balance of the season. For now, it’s a two-man race between Altuve and Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Should that change, so will our reporting format. – Bill McCurdy

2015 New England Sports Calendar is Spot On Fun

September 22, 2014

NE CALENDAR 1

77 year-old retiree Gerald Beirne of Rhode Island is a long-time member of SABR (The Society for American Baseball Research) and a dedicated commemorator of his blood red New England heritage. He loves the Red Sox, of course, but he also pulls hard for the Bruins of hockey, the Patriots of the NFL, the Eagles of Boston College, and just about any of the other New England universities and colleges, plus all of the individual athletes, that reach out to compete against the rest of the country and world on any level.

 In other words, Gerald Beirne is a certifiable “chowder head” – when it comes to sports – and in a possibly ironic contrast to his rather catholic view of humankind’s relationships with each other as all equal members of a universally spiritual community, Beirne steps clearly into an unmistakable duality mode when it comes to athletic contests that pit New England against all others. Every last entry is a page torn straight out of the “Us and Them” songbook of the great and anciently wise Pink Floyd.

 Beirne has been researching his material on New England sports history for decades and there is no doubt about the location of his heart and soul on this subject. Gerald Beirne loves New England sports, especially baseball, and so much so, that he now has produced a chowder head sports addict’s dream calendar for 2015. It is for sale right now, even as he already works feverishly upon the completion of his 2016 version.

 “This Day in New England Sports History” – a 12” x 12” closed and 12” x 24” fully opened – 2015 Calendar is now available from Beirne to the general public for $19.99.

 The price includes the $5.00 shipping and handling fee.

 The 2015 calendar includes 365 New England Sports historical fact entries, one for each day of the upcoming year. This Red Sox entry for March 25th, for example, reads as follows:

 “2008 – The defending World Champion Boston Red Sox opened the 2008 season in Tokyo, playing the Oakland Athletics. Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka was the starting pitcher. But Hideki Okajima got the win on Manny Ramirez’s 10th inning two-run double. Boston fans soon wearied of Daisuke’s ‘slower than the last day of school’ pace.”

 And there is so very much more in all of these summaries. Please order your copy or copies of the calendar now – while they last!

 Whether you are a GPS-located, native soil rooted New Englander, or a corporately transplanted “chowder head” sports addict, now living in some other part of the USA, simply send your check or money order today for $19.99 (no cash or credit cards please) to:

 New England Calendar

c/o Fr. Gerald Beirne

25 Circuit Drive

Narragansett, RI 02882

 Endorse your payment to “Fr. Gerald Beirne” and please make sure your personal check or written instructions includes a clear return mailing address.

 Multiple calendar orders from the USA must include an extra payment of $19.99 for each additional calendar ordered.

 Orders from Canada, due to the extra shipping costs, must include a payment of $21.99 for each calendar ordered.

Fr. Gerald Beirne NE Sports Author

Fr. Gerald Beirne
NE Sports Calendar Author

As we are sure you have figured out by now, the originator of this wonderful New England sports calendar is a retired Catholic priest. His full name is Father Gerald Beirne, the unofficial Chaplain of Catholic SABR Members as the “By-the-Will-of God” Celebrant of all SABR Convention Hotel Sunday Masses on annual meeting getaway days for the past 23 years.

 We know that you may find larger commercial sites on the Internet that will be able to supply you with this product in some easier payment credit card or PayPal way, but please consider giving Father Beirne your direct support for a great entertaining and useful calendar – whether you are a chowder head fan or not – because this supplier is the same one that made its very existence “a labor of love.”

 Also, please buy your calendar(s) now because (1) this baby is not only informative and entertaining, it is also limited in quantities. (2) A retired priest in Rhode Island cannot afford to print a gazillion copies as a company like Hallmark or American Greetings might. If you wait too long, you could miss out, and (3) Buy it now and have one or more of your holiday season stocking stuffer gifts taken care of in advance of Halloween or Thanksgiving.

 We bought two copies because, when all is said and done, and then expressed adequately in the form of a quaint old New England expression, this is one “wicked pissa” sports calendar!

 Thank you for a labor of love, Father Beirne!

sandlot 02

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THE PECAN PARK EAGLE DAILY MLB 2014 BATTING CROWN EYE:

CONTENDERS TEAM THRU GAME DATE GAMES LEFT AT BATS 2014 HITS CURRENT BATTING AVERAGE
ALTUVE ASTROS 9/21 6 637 220 .345
MARTINEZ TIGERS 9/21 7 542 181 .334

NOTES, 9/22 AM: Now it’s Monnday morning. Yesterday, Jose Altuve had another “2 for 4″ game to raise his season batting average to .345. With a single and his 45th double of the year in yesterday’s bag, Altuve’s season hit total now rises to 220 as the Astros slam Seattle, 8-3, to take the rubber game in the three-game weekend series. In Kansas City, Victor Martinez of the Tigers had a single in three trips against the 5-2 victorious Royals to maintain his hovering position at .334. Altuve’s statistical lead has widened by a point to .011, but it remains far too early in ACT III of this little baseball melodrama for local celebrations. – Oh well! The fat lady sings in one more week!

The Eagle Eye on Jose Altuve’s pursuit of the 2014 American League and MLB batting average championships will continue daily through the balance of the season. For now, it’s a two-man race between Altuve and Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Should that change, so will our reporting format. – Bill McCurdy

Very Superstitious, Writing’s on the Wall

September 21, 2014
My Saturday To-Go order from the health food store came back as # 216 – the same as Jose Altuve’s hit total thru Friday night’s games. Uh-Oh! “Very Superstitious – Writing’s on the wall!” (as Stevie Wonder says)

My Saturday To-Go order from the health food store came back as # 216 – the same as Jose Altuve’s hit total thru Friday night’s games. Uh-Oh! “Very Superstitious – Writing’s on the wall!” (as Stevie Wonder says)

This is crazy! I’m now so caught up in the Jose Altuve quest for a batting title or two – and his constantly improving record MLB hit total for any Houston Astro or native Venezuelan who has ever played the game of baseball as a representative of either group at this level that the intensity and excitement is beginning to rain the same kinds of frogs of superstition that drenched me as a kid sandlotter.

Have you ever lost your only Stan Musial baseball card to your mom’s clothes wash after leaving it in the hip pocket of your blue jeans as a good luck piece at the sandlot game?

Have you ever carried your good luck rock in that same hip pocket locale and then found out the price you were destined to pay on your first sandlot butt slide of the summer morning?

Have you ever counted birds landing on a certain telephone wire from your top of the first inning position in center field as a predictor on how many runs your Eagles (team) were going to score in their bottom of the first inning time at bat?

Have you ever had a really good Saturday morning sandlot game – only to lose an argument with your mom at lunch over your desire to wear the same lucky dirty, but lucky jeans to the Saturday afternoon kids’ double feature, plus serial, at a movie theater like The Avalon on 75th Avenue in the Houston east end?

Thanks, Senor Altuve, for bringing it all home to roost again. In one short, depleted of many other things to cheer about 2014 season, your Star Trek-like bold journey into a territory where no previous Astro has ever traveled successfully has, indeed – one more time – fueled the compulsive edge of my early baseball life.

Around mid-day yesterday, I had finished some Saturday morning errands in the Town and Country area on the west side and was passing my health food store, James Coney Island. I was alone for the day, so it didn’t take much inner discussion with myself. I stopped in at JCI to pick up a to-go order.

It was only when I received my to-go order ticket number that I realized the full force of the powers that apparently were working on me.

As you may also note from the copy of that to-go 0rder slip that is posted as the lead pictorial on this column, my JCI service person had issued me an order slip that was identified as “No. 216!”

My eyes widened immediately as I awaited my two all the way chili cheese dogs with onions and the mandatory bag of Fritos that go with them.

“Order No. 216?” They’ve got to be kidding, right?” No, sir! No, Ma’am! – This was destiny talking – speaking in print on a not-so-random order ticket. Had I not arrived at precisely the moment I did, and ordered what I did, from this particular guy – not the other one – I would not have been designated as “Order # 216.”

So be it, but the thing I wasn’t sure about until last night was – Is this a good luck sign? – Or a bad luck sign?

I knew this much when I saw the order number: Had I come in actively thinking in silent conversation with the “baseball gods,” – “Please send me a sign of how many hits Altuve will have at season’s end!”

That would have been bad news for sure. Jose Altuve already had exactly 216 total hits at the time I got my to-go number 216. It would have meant that he was out of hits, but probably not out of empty times at. bat If this is for real, and he goes “O fer” the rest of the last eight Astro games, he may also lose the batting title to Victor Martinez!

It had not occurred to me at the time that other possible  explanations for a 216-hit total finish on 9/19 might have included injury or a simple decision to end his season early. In that case, Altuve may have prevailed over Martinez’s struggle to catch him by his own effort alone.

Fortunately, injury has not happened, so far – and backing into a title is  not our way down here in Houston.

Altuve stopping at 216 hits was still a bummer thought, but the salvation remedy seemed clear. – I didn’t walk into Coney Island with any specific question in mind. Seeing “216” could be a good sign. We just won’t know for sure until he gets another hit and proves that the printed number from JCI was not a statement of where he will end up with as a complete season hit total. – All I hoped for yesterday was that it was some kind of sign from the “baseball gods” that they were listening to the hopes and dreams of all us Jose Altuve fans who were out here pulling hard for him.

When I walked out of James Coney Island with my health food in the bag yesterday, I dared to whisper this thought into a gentle breeze that suddenly rolled its way through the parking lot: “If Altuve can pick up a couple of hits tonight against Seattle, everything is going to be alright.”

And so be it again. That’s exactly what he did. Read below for the details and draw your own conclusions – or not.

smiley

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THE PECAN PARK EAGLE DAILY MLB 2014 BATTING CROWN EYE:

CONTENDERS TEAM THRU GAME DATE GAMES LEFT AT BATS 2014 HITS CURRENT BATTING AVERAGE
ALTUVE ASTROS 9/20 7 633 218 .344
MARTINEZ TIGERS 9/20 8 539 180 .334

NOTES, 9/21 AM: It’s Sunday morning. Last night, Jose Altuve collected two singles in four trips to raise his season batting average to .344. His season hit total is now 218, pulling his out of tie he shared with fellow countryman Magglio Ordonez for 24 hours as the two Venezuelans with the most hits in MLB history at 216. Now that Venezuelan record belongs only to “Senor Jose,” for at least the next year – through whatever total Altuve finally finishes with in his last eight games of 2014. Oh yes, the Astros blasted Seattle at MMP on Saturday by 10-1, thanks a lot to the five Altuve Astro teammates who each blast home runs. Meanwhile, Victor Martinez fell a peg yesterday, going one for four in his Tiger club’s win over the Royals at Kansas City, 3-2. Martinez’s average dropped slightly to .334 as Altuve’s rose a point to .344 and a full .010 point lead in the AL and total MlB batting races.

The Eagle Eye on Jose Altuve’s pursuit of the 2014 American League and MLB batting average championships will continue daily through the balance of the season. For now, it’s a two-man race between Altuve and Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Should that change, so will our reporting format. – Bill McCurdy

End of the World for .300? Probably not!

September 20, 2014
CARL YAZSTREMSKI  WON THE 1968 AL BATTING TITLE WITH A BATTING AVERAGE OF .301. IT WAS THE ONLY TIME IN HISTORY THAT THE ONLY .300 HTTER IN A LEAGUE WON AN MLB BATTING TITLE.

CARL YASTRZEMSKI WON THE 1968 AL BATTING TITLE WITH A BATTING AVERAGE OF .301. IT WAS THE ONLY TIME IN HISTORY THAT THE ONLY .300 HITTER IN A LEAGUE WON AN MLB BATTING TITLE.

Our esteemed colleague Bill Gilbert’s recent column here in The Eagle poked at the possibility that the presence of .300 batters in the big leagues may be soon on the way to slipping into rarity or virtually extinct phases in baseball hitting history.

It could happen, but most probably will not. Remember 1968? The so-called “Year of the Pitcher?”

Baseball fans don’t cram themselves into ballparks all over the big leagues to watch outs, great catches only, pitching duels exclusively, or fluke plays in the 9th that allow one team to take a 1-0 or 2-1 win every time, We all know better than that. We like power-hitting and we’ve been in love with the parabolic blast of bat upon baseball into fast flight since Babe Ruth pulled it of the game’s bag of little used tricks and made the home run into an every game hope and expectation  by everyone who buys a ticket.

Look what happened after 1968. It was a year symbolized forever by Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson and his MLB-leading ERA of 1.12 – by an All Star Game in Houston that the National League won by 1-0 – and by an American League battle title won by Carl Yastrzemski with a batting average of only .301. It was the only time in history that the only hitter to bat .300 or better on the season won the batting title, and at almost the lowest it could have been and still found itself resting among the traditional marker on good hitting period. Yastrzemnski won. There were no other .300 hitters in the 1968 AL season. The nearest man to “Yaz” at season’s end was Danny Cater of the Oakland Athletics. Cater batted .290 as runner-up for the batting title that year.

Not much to write home about. And not enough to produce the kind of adrenaline rush in fans that precedes season-ticket purchases.

Baseball had to do something to save hitting and they did. They determined that the height of the pitching mound and the broad strike zone had to change. These factors had been giving the pitcher way too much advantage in his eternal battle with the batter. Putting that kind of advantage in the hand and glare of a talented, very big, and intimidating figure like Bob Gibson and the formula for a one-sided battle with most hitters had been struck, most unfavorably, against the latter.

So, before 1969, baseball lowered the pitching mound a few inches and shrunk the zone for called strikes. The changes did not mess up the greats like Gibson, Oh, his ERA “jumped” from 1.12 to 2.18,alright,  but he still threw 28 complete games in 1969, same as 1968, only this time, he led the league in that department – and he won another 20 games, only two less victories than he compiled during his 1968 poster boy season.

Rod Carew of the Twins won the first of his several batting titles in 1969 with a more normal championship mark of .332.

1968 had been an aberration year in favor of pitching, just as 1930 had been an over-the-top year in favor of hitting for average and power. For example, the last place NL team, the Phillies, batted .315 as a team, but still could not bat their way out of the basement with bad pitching.

Imbalances occur from time to time that give the offense and defense a one-sided advantage over the other and will need to be fixed for the sake of the game’s continuity, integrity, and entertainment value to the fans. Each time one becomes apparent, it should be up to baseball to take a broad, transparent, and fair look at why a situation has arisen and to specifically address both causes and cures before launching into any kind of extreme rule changes that might fundamentally alter the game. For example, even though it is not a present concern, if power hitting during the hopefully “post-steroids era” were to fall off significantly, the reactive introduction of metal bats, in our view, would be just as dishonest a tool as HGH use by players. Anything that artificially changes the game, and its historical records, in an abrupt significant manner should be avoided at all costs.

Why? Because people who love baseball embrace it as a game that shows how players of any size or  background are capable of realizing the attainment of hope and possibility that comes from playing this game as it was always intended. And that has nothing to do with misplaced adoration by the few for players who can afford the best performance-enhancing drugs – or the most expensive metal home-run bats. We fans don’t give a damn for the narcissists who use the game to feather their own nests by any course of action they can use to escape detection.

Governed with integrity and a watchful eye upon the balance of things between offense and defense over time, baseball will always find legitimate ways to correct imbalances, but there will never come a time when it is OK with most of us fans for baseball to change the essential human game through the allowance of PED’s – or metal bats – by anyone on salary to play the game.

Need a role model for how to play the game? – Read on for today’s progress report on Jose Altuve – the little man on the right way to one of baseball’s biggest prizes – the 2014 American League and Major League Baseball batting titles!

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THE PECAN PARK EAGLE DAILY MLB 2014 BATTING CROWN EYE:

CONTENDERS TEAM THRU GAME DATE GAMES LEFT AT BATS 2014 HITS CURRENT BATTING AVERAGE
ALTUVE ASTROS 9/19 8 629 216 .343
MARTINEZ TIGERS 9/19 9 535 179 .335

NOTES, 9/20 AM: Jose Altuve took part of the night off Friday, using his rest break from defense as the DH and going 3 for 3 in the Astros’ 10-5 loss to Seattle at MMP. He then left the game for pinch hitter Marc Krauss rather than put a perfect offensive game on the line in a game that meant little. Victor Martinez kept the heat on Altuve in a 2 for 4 night for the Tigers in their 10-1 bashing of the Royals at KC. Small gains are better than losses every time. Altuve has increased his batting race lead over Martinez from .007 to .008 points in one night. He also broke Craig Biggio’s 3-hit games mark of 23, set back in 1998. Altuve’s new 24th game record happened in the bottom of the 5th with a single to left. Want more? Altuve’s third hit of the night and 216th of the season tied him with Magglio Ordonez for the most season hits ever by a native Venezuelan. Until last night, Ordonez had been sitting alone at 216 since 2007.

The Eagle Eye on Jose Altuve’s pursuit of the 2014 American League and MLB batting average championships will continue daily through the balance of the season. For now, it’s a two-man race between Altuve and Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Should that change, so will our reporting format. – Bill McCurdy

Manager Roll Call in Houston MLB History

September 19, 2014

 

Houston's first manager, Harry Craft, learned from singer Roger Miller. Harry learned that "you can't go on to winning in a baseball pool."

Houston’s first manager, Harry Craft, learned from singer Roger Miller. Harry learned that “you can’t go on to winning from a baseball pool.”

 

Thanks to the wonderful work of Baseball Almanac.Com, below is a clear and concise chart on where the Houston Colt .45’s/Astros have traveled under all previous regimes.

Since the question “Who should be the next manager of the Astros club that already has been loaded with the expectations of a World Series championship by 2017,” perhaps, it may be helpful to go over the list and recall what has not worked – and what has sort of worked in the past?

Does the new manager need to be an experienced leader with a proven track record in MLB? Or do we want to place the club’s future in the hands of a popular and talented icon like Craig Biggio? How important is it that the club’s next manager thinks about baseball in a way that is compatible with the measurable facts mind philosophy of General Manager Jeff Luhnow? Should the next guy be someone who is able manage with whatever roster is supplied him? – Or does he need to be someone who has some input on roster moves to the big club?

Baseball people talk a lot about “chemistry” when it comes to winning. And what is that thing “chemistry,” anyway, beyond a condition that reveals itself fairly clearly when it’s present (see the 1979 Pirates for further reference) – and also very clearly when it is absent.

Here’s a clue to chemistry, as it applies to the general condition of working chemistry in any human effort:

Better ways to achieve success are seen more prolifically when people of different minds are able to come together as working partners who give each other the right to be different – and compromise and yielding in favor of what’s best for the greater organizational goal is more important than protecting  the individual aggrandizement of any one member among the active working partnership.

Indeed, it is simpler to say than do, but it is the hallmark of victory for those who get it and do it. It is the bird that flies higher, faster, with more agility, and with more deliberate purpose than any other bird in the skies of hope. Whenever “being on the same page” really means “thinking alike” for the sake of job security, there can be little hope for success for anything dynastic that goes out-of-bounds from a narrow point of view on winning and how to get there.

That being said, here are lists of former Colt .45 and Astros manager. Good luck with your own thinking on what kind of leadership the club now needs on the field:

Houston Colt .45s ManagersManagers & Finishes
Year Uniform # Manager Wins Losses WP Finish GB
1962 1

Harry Craft

64 96 .400 8th 36½
1963 1 55 95 .407 9th 33
1964 1 61 88 .409 9th 27
6

Lum Harris

5 8 .385
Houston Colt .45s Managers & Finishes
Houston Astros Managers
1965 – 2014Managers & Finishes
Year Uniform # Manager(s) Wins Losses WP Finish GB Roster
1965 26

Lum Harris

65 97 .401 9th 32

1965

1966 1

Grady Hatton

72 90 .444 8th 23

1966

1967 1

Grady Hatton

69 93 .426 9th 32½

1967

1968 1

Grady Hatton

23 38 .377 10th 25

1968

25

Harry Walker

49 52 .485
1969 25

Harry Walker

81 81 .500 5th 12

1969

1970 25

Harry Walker

79 83 .488 4th 23

1970

1971 25

Harry Walker

79 83 .488 4th 11

1971

1972 25

Harry Walker

67 54 .554 2nd 10½

1972

1

Salty Parker

1 0 1.000
2

Leo Durocher

16 15 .516
1973 2

Leo Durocher

82 80 .506 4th 17

1973

1974 18

Preston Gomez

81 81 .500 4th 21

1974

1975 18

Preston Gomez

47 80 .370 6th 43½

1975

7

Bill Virdon

17 17 .500
1976 7

Bill Virdon

80 82 .494 3rd 22

1976

1977 7

Bill Virdon

81 81 .500 3rd 17

1977

1978 7

Bill Virdon

74 88 .457 5th 21

1978

1979 7

Bill Virdon

89 73 .549 2nd

1979

1980 7

Bill Virdon

93 70 .571 1st +1

1980

1981 7

Bill Virdon

61 49 .555 3rd / 1st 6

1981

1982 7

Bill Virdon

49 62 .441 5th 12

1982

5

Bob Lillis

28 23 .549
1983 5

Bob Lillis

85 77 .525 3rd 6

1983

1984 5

Bob Lillis

80 82 .494 2nd 12

1984

1985 5

Bob Lillis

83 79 .512 3rd 12

1985

1986 22

Hal Lanier

96 66 .593 1st +10

1986

1987 22

Hal Lanier

76 86 .469 3rd 14

1987

1988 22

Hal Lanier

82 80 .506 5th 12½

1988

1989 18

Art Howe

86 76 .531 3rd 6

1989

1990 18

Art Howe

75 87 .463 4th 16

1990

1991 18

Art Howe

65 97 .401 6th 29

1991

1992 18

Art Howe

81 81 .500 4th 17

1992

1993 18

Art Howe

85 77 .525 3rd 19

1993

1994 2

Terry Collins

66 49 .574 2nd ½

1994

1995 2

Terry Collins

76 68 .528 2nd 9

1995

1996 2

Terry Collins

82 80 .506 2nd 6

1996

1997 49

Larry Dierker

84 78 .519 1st +5

1997

1998 49

Larry Dierker

102 60 .630 1st +12½

1998

1999 49

Larry Dierker

97 65 .599 1st +1½

1999

2000 49

Larry Dierker

72 90 .444 4th 23

2000

2001 49

Larry Dierker

93 69 .574 1st +5

2001

2002 22

Jimy Williams

84 78 .519 2nd 13

2002

2003 22

Jimy Williams

87 75 .537 2nd 1

2003

2004 22

Jimy Williams

44 44 .500 2nd 13

2004

uk

Phil Garner

48 26 .649
2005 3

Phil Garner

89 73 .549 2nd 11

2005

2006

3

Phil Garner

82

80

.506

2nd

2006

2007 3

Phil Garner

58 73 .443 4th 12 2007

15

Cecil Cooper

15 16 .484

2008

15

Cecil Cooper

86

75

.534

3rd

11

2008

2009 15 Cecil Cooper 70 79 .470 5th 17 2009
uk Dave Clark 4 9 .308
2010 2 Brad Mills 76 86 .469 4th 15 2010
2011 2 Brad Mills 56 106 .346 6th 40 2011
2012 2 Brad Mills 39 82 .322 6th 42 2012
uk Tony DeFrancesco 16 25 .390
2013 16 Bo Porter 51 111 .315 5th 45 2013
2014 16 Bo Porter 59 79 .428

2014

Tom Lawless (1)

Year Uniform # Manager(s) Wins Losses WP Finish GB Roster
Houston Astros Managers & Finishes | (1) = Interim Manager



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THE PECAN PARK EAGLE DAILY MLB 2014 BATTING CROWN EYE:

CONTENDERS TEAM THRU GAME DATE GAMES LEFT AT BATS 2014 HITS CURRENT BATTING AVERAGE
ALTUVE ASTROS 9/18 9 626 213 .340
MARTINEZ TIGERS 9/17 10 531 177 .333

NOTES, 9/19 AM: Altuve went 0 for 6 in a Thursday night of 9/18’s 2-1 13-inning Astros loss to the Indians at MMP, dropping his BA from .344 to .340.  As a result, Martinez of the Tigers used his off-day to pull within .007 points of the AL & MLB batting championship lead. Tonight, Friday, 9/19, the Astros begin a home weekend series with Seattle as the Tigers move to Kansas City to battle the Royals for 1st place in the ALC. Altuve and Martinez are both expected to play.

The Eagle Eye on Jose Altuve’s pursuit of the 2014 American League and MLB batting average championships will continue daily through the balance of the season. For now, it’s a two-man race between Altuve and Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Should that change, so will our reporting format. – Bill McCurdy

Twenty-Seven Springs Ago

September 18, 2014
Craig Biggio Houston Astros 1988-2007

Craig Biggio
Houston Astros
1988-2007

How soon we forget. How important it is we do not.

There isn’t a great player anywhere n the history of baseball that didn’t have to start somewhere with a hint of potential for good things to come, even it was only beating out hundreds of other candidates for the only contract issued to all of the 300 young men who showed up for a tryout in some backwater  bird scout’s country field. Heck! – Grover Cleveland Alexander had been working as a telephone lineman near his home town of Elba, Nebraska when he signed with the 1909 Galesburg Boosters of the Class D Illinois-Missouri League after manager Ed Wagner discovered “Old Pete” at the age of 22 as a result of a barnstorming game his club lost to a pick-up nine of Elbans at their home field because of the pitching mastery of a future Hall of Famer. Alexander rewarded manager/scout Walker by going 15-8 with a 1.36 ERA for Galesburg in 1909.

That is, at least, the way the coming of Alexander was portrayed in the 1952 film, “The Winning Team,” starring Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander. The truth may vary somewhat, as it often does in these baseball biographic movies that Hollywood cranked out during the Post-World War II years, but even a superficial examination of the facts on Alexander’s first minor league season seems to match up pretty well to the movie version. Even if there is some variance from reality, the story still serves as a model for how much luck and circumstance played into the signing of talent back during the slow mobility and primitive electronic communications era that the early 20th century business of this world had at its disposal. Talent was of utmost importance, even then, but it still didn’t matter much unless a potential player could manage to put himself in the right place at the right time for discovery, as old Pete did, in some way, once upon a time.

Twenty-seven years ago, in a slightly improved 1987 world of television, satellite communication, and jet airplane travel, contact between supply and demand aspects of all business ventures, including sports, was way better, but it still was not what it continues to grow and become at warp speed under the booming digital explosion of Internet possibilities that have come upon us in great waves of change in how we live our lives and change in our views of the world since the dawn of the 21st century.

Organized baseball was no exception to the rule.

On June 2, 1987, with the 22nd pick in the 1st round of the 1987 amateur player draft, the Houston Astros selected Craig Biggio of Seton Hall as their first choice. The Astros had scouted the small-framed catcher and found it impossible to pass him by, based upon both his batting record and his hustling athletic style of play. His potential for playing other positions, especially on the infield, was also obvious, but it was his bat that could not be ignored.

In 55 games for Seton Hall during the 1987 spring college baseball season, Biggio batted .407 and scored an amazingly high total of 97 runs. He also bashed  14 home runs and drove in 58 RBI on the college season, while chalking up 30 stolen bases in 32 attempts.  As a catcher, Biggio threw out only 11 of 40 base runners, but the Astros recognized his quick mechanics – and they recognized that all stolen bases are not the fault of the catcher. Craig Biggio was their man – in an era which made his club’s awareness of all the possibilities that came with this pick.

In a season for celebrating the coming of age and era of Jose Altuve, our next great Houston second baseman, we also want to make sure that we also remember the greatest player to date in Astro history, Mr. Craig Biggio, our near future first great All Astros Hall of Fame Member.

Thank you, Craig, for all the ways you make us proud of what you’ve done for this community, both on and off the field. And thank you too, Houston Astros, for keeping Craig Biggio a career man in the organization, and one with a possible future role to play as manager.

______________________________________________________________________

THE PECAN PARK EAGLE DAILY MLB BATTING CROWN EYE:

CONTENDERS TEAM THRU GAME DATE GAMES LEFT AT BATS 2014 HITS CURRENT BATTING AVERAGE
ALTUVE ASTROS 9/17 10 620 213 .344
MARTINEZ TIGERS 9/17 10 531 177 .333

The Eagle Eye on Jose Altuve’s pursuit of the 2014 American League and MLB batting average championships will continue daily through the balance of the season. For now, it’s a two-man race between Altuve and Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Should that change, so will our reporting format. – Bill McCurdy

 

He Did It!

September 17, 2014
Most Hits by an Astro in a Single Season: Jose Altuve, 211 and counting with 11 games to play in 2014 on the morning of 9/17/2014.

Most Hits by an Astro in a Single Season: Jose Altuve, 211 and counting with 11 games to play in 2014 on the morning of 9/17/2014.

Jose Altuve did it. He went 2 for 5 in the Tuesday night, 9/16/14 Astros loss to Cleveland to boost his MLB-leading batting average to .343 – and a clean .010 point lead over his nearest competitor, Victor Martinez of Detroit at .333, who also bagged another two hits last night. Along the way, those two hits by Altuve pushed his season hits total to 211 – one more than the old club record held by the great Crag Biggio since 1998. In a display of beautiful sportsmanship, Biggio was even on hand at Minute Maid Park in the company of Nolan Ryan for the Astros’ 4-2 fall to Cleveland to congratulate Altuve after he broke the record with his second hit of the evening, a single up the middle in the seventh. Great class, all the way around.

“JOSE, CAN YOU SEE?” Now, with eleven games left to play in 2o14, its just a matter of tacking on more hits to the new record – and to getting enough of them to win the American League and MLB both leagues batting championships. With all the Astros bias we can muster, we wish you complete success in all of these quests, Jose.

WOW! It also occurs to us too that the physical giant that is  J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans of the NFL and the almost Gaedelianly small Houston Astro, Jose Altuve of MLB, may someday soon share something else in common among local professional athletes. – I wonder what that may be? –  And let’s not always see the same hands.

The Eagle is flying on short time notice this morning, but we shall leave you tables of comparison between Craig Biggio’s complete record year of 1998 and Jose Altuve’s new record in progress during the 2014 season – with 11 games left to play.

Have a great hump day, everybody!

 

ALTUVE-BIGGIO: MOST SEASON HIT STATS – THROUGH 9/16/2014

YEAR ASTRO GAMES AT BATS HITS B.A.
1998 CRAIG BIGGIO 162 646 210 .325
2014 JOSE ALTUVE 147 616 211 .343

 

WITH 11 GAMES LEFT IN 2014, SEASON, OTHER STAT COMPARISONS

YEAR ASTRO GAMES RUNS RBI 2BH 3BH HR SB CS OBP SLG
1998 C BIGGIO 162 123 88 51 2 20 50 8 .403 .503
2014 J ALTUVE 147 81 54 43 3 7 52 8 .379 .456

 

FURTHER STAT COMPARISONS

YEAR ASTRO GAMES BB IBB SO HBP SH SF OPS GDP
                     
1998 CRAIG BIGGIO 162 64 6 113 23 1 4 .906 10
                     
2014 JOSE ALTUVE 147 34 6 51 5 1 5 .835 16

 

 

Altuve! – Calling Attention to the Obvious

September 16, 2014
September 16, 2014: Jose Altuve of the Astros leads MLB with a .342 BA. He needs only two more hits to break Craig Biggio's single year record of 210 - and he has 12 games left in which to get them.

September 16, 2014: Jose Altuve of the Astros leads MLB with a .342 BA. He needs only two more hits to break Craig Biggio’s single year record of 210 – and he has 12 games left in which to get them.

Jose’ Altuve! – The man’s now got 209 hits on the season through all games of September 15, 2014. – With his Astros club now standing at 67-83 for the 2014 season, Altuve has twelve games left in the 2014 season to tie and break the Astros club record of 210 set by Craig Biggio back in 1998. – He’s most probably going to do it. – “Doncha” think?

Altuve’s also now leading both major leagues with a batting average of .342 and, unless he totally collapses in his final two weeks of a season in which, as recently as last night’s three-hit game in Houston against the Indians, he has shown no indication of so doing,  he is well on his way to becoming the first Houston Astro to bag both an MLB and a league batting average championship in club history.  

Here’s a batting average chart on the Top Ten MLB Hitters for Average in all games played through last night:

POS.   PLAYER   TEAM   AT BATS   HITS   B.A.
1   Jose Altuve   Astros   611   209   .342
2   Victor Martinez   Tigers   525   174   .331
3   Jose Abreu   White Sox   517   167   .323
4   Adrian Beltre   Rangers   500   161   .322
5   Michael Brantley   Indians   566   182   .322
6   Robinson Cano   Mariners   548   176   .321
7   Josh Harrison   Pirates   463   147   .317
8   Justin Morneau   Rockies   467   147   .315
9   Miguel Cabrera   Tigers   563   176   .313
10   Buster Posey   Giants   512   159   .311

 Please note too  that there are only five other eligible .300 hitters for a total of 15 players on course today for places on the magic .300 “good hitters’ mark” for 2014 – and another fourteen (14) hitting between .290 and .299 through this date with enough time remaining to crossover into baseball’s sunshine with good to super batting finishes.  In the meanwhile, Jose Altuve is on course to finish with a batting average number that would have made even grumpy old Rogers Hornsby proud. – Altuve’s 52 stolen bases also leads the SA (Stand Around) American League this season, but Dee Gordon of the NL Dodgers paces both majors with 62.

Jose Altuve is the Astros’ point of light on the long trail back to respectability and competitive-for-it-all reality in the big leagues. Let’s keeping hoping that names like Springer and Singleton also sharpen into MLB superstars and that we begin to gel a pitching staff from all those great young arms that begins to remind all of those superman staffs that served the Atlanta Braves from the early 1990’s forward on their way to the little celebration that a couple of them enjoyed last summer up in Cooperstown. The second coming of a Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, or Joe Torre type, but this time to Houston, wouldn’t hurt either.

In the meanwhile, let’s just be grateful for the here and now presence in Houston of a genuine batting champion to be, the Pride of Venezuela, Senor Jose Altuve!

 

 

To Hades with the Idea of a Designated Runner

September 15, 2014
In 1974-75, Herb Washington of the Oakland Athletics played his entire big league career, He scored 51 runs and stole 31 bases without ever making a single plate appearance.

In 1974-75, Herb Washington of the Oakland Athletics played his entire big league career, He scored 33 runs and stole 31 bases without ever making a single plate appearance.

The current Atlantic Independent Baseball League experimentation with rules changes that could help pick up the pace of the game has great merit. We can’t wait to hear a report on their end-of-season finding, conclusions, and recommendations to all of baseball too, but there is one change they’ve made that we reject per se – or out of hand – or however else one might express total rejection for what it does to the long view of comparative statistical records in the game. And that change in the ATL experiment is the one that includes the installation of a designated pinch runner for the catcher to save time lost to catchers who have to change their defensive equipment at the end of innings in which they are stranded as base runners when the third out occurs.

Say what? How much time does that really save? In big league games, at least, any catcher who cannot get “dressed” again within the time of an inning change and commercial break probably is only some guy who can’t tie his own shoes, anyway. This change simply isn’t worth the additional distortion it brings to comparative record keeping over the change in eras. Some of us are still unhappy over the prospect that we could have some terrific power hitter someday use the “DH” opening to break the records of Ruth, Aaron, and then Bonds without ever so much as catching a “can of corn” pop fly as a member of a  defense that he has never played. The addition of a Designated Runner (“DR”) leaves the door open  for some other track star of the future to come along and multiply distort the career runs scored and stolen bases totals for another runner-only guy who is able to stick on a roster over time. We say “other” because Herb Washington of the Oakland A’s already has given us a glimpse of what a “DR” could do in the 105 games he “played” back in 1974-75.

Hired as a “DH” because there was no other position he matched, Washington never batted or played an inning in the field. The young respected sprinter, however, did establish himself as Oakland’s unofficial “DR” by entering games as a pinch runner specialist. He ended up scoring 33 runs on the heels of stealing 31 bases in 48 attempts without ever making a single plate appearance or playing any field position during a single pitch in any game.

Washington’s stats average out to 51 runs scored  and 48 stolen bases over the course of a 162-game full season schedule. Had Washington been playing full-time (162 games without injury) for 10 seasons as a legalized “DR”, he might have been good for a career total of 510 runs scored and 480 stolen bases,  at worst. Our guess is  -that Washington’s numbers would have been higher as an official “PR” addition to the roster because he would have been best used as the runner for good hitters who could barely walk, let alone run –  perhaps serving as the “DR” for his partner in baseball opportunity crime, the wobbly legged “DH”.

It wouldn’t matter to us if the catcher’s “DR” proves out in the ATL study to save ten  minutes a game (We don’t think it will. How often do most catchers get on base, anyway, in a single game?). We don’t need to see some running phenom who couldn’t take a single HBP without crying – or locate a watermelon as it floated through the strike zone – or survive a crash into the center fielder on a misplayed fly ball behind second base play long enough to become eligible for the Hall of Fame as the first player in history to score 2,000 runs without ever making a single plate appearance.

If you like visuals, check out the stats in Baseball Reference.Com for Herb Washington and let your heart, mind, and soul tell you how this kind of data settles into your craw over a 10-20 year career expanse. It’s a simple job of extrapolation that is ugly enough.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/washihe01.shtml

Of course, maybe some of us are just too old-fashioned to appreciate the fact that baseball may need to do anything it can to speed up the tempo of today’s game to hold on to the fading attention spans of today’s distracted fans.

———————————————————

UPON FURTHER REVIEW …

The following update from Tal Smith came to me at 10:18 AM this same Monday – exactly eleven minutes after today’s column was posted. Thanks, Tal. I am very happy to be corrected in my mistaken impression and glad to learn that the designated runner for the catcher trial was overruled and never  implemented as part of this worthwhile effort by the Atlantic League to experiment with legitimate ways to pick up the pace of the game this season. – Regards, Bill McCurdy

Here’s exactly the way it was explained to me:

“The substitute runner for the catcher rule was NOT implemented by the Atlantic League. It was proposed by two members of the committee who were former ML players and long time managers-coaches in the Atlantic League, BUT the rule was subsequently tabled for many of the reasons you suggest in your column. I doubt that it will be adopted.” – Tal Smith

Bill Gilbert: Is .300 Hitter a Vanishing Breed?

September 14, 2014
Baseball Writer Bill Gilbert wonders if the .300 hitter is on his way down the dinosaur trail.

Baseball Writer Bill Gilbert wonders if the .300 hitter is on his way down the dinosaur trail.

Is the .300 Hitter a Vanishing Breed?

By Bill Gilbert

In the year 2000, 26 players hit for both power and average to reach the Triple Crown milestones of 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a batting average of .300. In 2013, only three players reached all three milestones and in mid-season in 2014, three were on target for all three and six more were close. With three weeks to go in the 2014 season, only two players are on target and no others are close.

At mid-season, I raised the question, “Where have all the hitters gone?” We have some answers now. One place they have gone is the disabled list. At mid-season, there were four National League hitters contending for top offensive honors, Troy Tulowitski, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutcheon and Giancarlo Stanton. Tulowitski and Goldschmidt suffered season-ending injuries before they had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. McCutcheon also spent time on the disabled list but has come back and is playing hurt. Stanton was the last man standing until this week when he was struck in the face by a pitch which likely will end his season. Consequently, no National League hitters will reach the triple milestones of 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a batting average of .300 this year.

In the American League, two players are headed for triple milestones, Victor Martinez and Jose Abreu. Six others have 30+ home runs but have batting averages south of .290. Even Mike Trout, considered by many to be the best player in the game, has been unable to keep his batting average above .300 after being at .313 at mid-season. Two National League players also have 30+ home runs with batting averages under .290.

A comparison of offensive figures over the last 15 years is revealing:

_________________________________________________________________________________

CHANGES IN AVERAGE MLB OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION: 2000-2014.

YEAR R/G BAVG BB/9 OBP S0/9 SLG
2000 5.14 .271 3.75 .345 6.95 .437
2005 4.59 .265 3.13 .330 6.30 .419
2010 4.38 .257 3.25 .325 7.05 .403
2013 4.17 .253 3.01 .318 7.25 .396
2014 4.09 .251 2.91 .314 7.69 .388

KEY TO CATEGORIES:

 R/G = RUNS PER GAME

BAVG = BATTING AVERAGE

BB/9 = WALKS PER NINE INNINGS

OBP = ON BASE PERCENTAGE

SO/9 = STRIKE OUTS PER NINE INNINGS

SLG = SLUGGING AVERAGE

_________________________________________________________________________________

All of the measures are trending in the direction of reducing offensive production. The rate stats (BAVG, OBP and SLG) are all down as are the runs per team per game and walks per nine innings while the strikeout rate is up sharply. The trend appears to be accelerating and if it continues next year, we will see batting average dropping below .250 and runs per game dropping below 4.00 in 2015.

A number of reasons can be advanced for the decline. Stronger prohibitions against performance enhancing drugs (PED”s) are likely a factor but not one that can be measured. The pitching is stronger with the advent of pitches like the cutter. Every team appears to have a stable of fire-balling relievers with 95+ mph fastballs. Hitters are generally swinging for the fences and disdaining a two-strike approach to make contact to avoid striking out. Pitchers appear to be more aware of the negative effect of issuing walks and have sharpened their control.

While batting average is not the best measure of offensive performance, it is the most recognizable since it is the most widely reported. With batting average dropping by 20 points since 2000, a batter must hit 49 points better than average rather than 29 points above average to be a .300 hitter. If the trend continues next year, Major League Baseball will likely search for changes in an effort to restore “balance” as was done in 1969 by lowering the pitching mound and in 1973 by introducing the designated hitter in the American League.

Bill Gilbert

bgilbert35@yahoo.com

9/13/14

 


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