Houston Astros prospect George Springer hit .161 this spring, but service time concerns are probably the real reason he’ll open the year in the minor leagues. Houston reportedly offered the 24-year-old outfielder a seven-year, $23 million contract before he played a game in the major leagues, but Springer turned it down. By keeping him in the minor leagues to start the season, the Astros can delay Springer’s eligibility for salary arbitration and free agency. His agent is reportedly considering whether to file a grievance. (FOX Sports and Houston Chronicle)
During the final nine days of 2013, I’m going to revisit nine memorable baseball moments from the year. Some stand out for personal reasons, but I’m starting off with a game that is historically significant.
On Easter Sunday, the Houston Astros defeated the Texas Rangers 8-2 to open the 2013 Major League Baseball Season.
I remember a lot of baseball fans wondering why the Astros and Rangers would be picked for the first Sunday Night Baseball game of the year, but it was the first game the Astros played in the American League after spending their first 50 games in the National League.
I was excited to watch a real baseball game with 25-man rosters and no player with a uniform number higher than #64 — even if it was played using the DH rule. But I also wanted to see the New York Mets’ expansion partners make history.
Funny thing: I don’t recall many details of the game. My scorecard notes remind me that Bud Norris threw the first pitch of the season for a strike, that Jose Altuve was the first Astro to get a hit as an American League player, and that Rick Ankiel – who would later become a Met – hit the first Astro American League home run.
Everyone knew the Astros were going to be terrible – and they were, though they were not historically bad — a 51-111 finish did not even put them within striking distance of the 1962 New York Mets’ modern record for futility. But for one night, they had the best record in baseball.
Despite its milestone status, it never really sunk in the the Astros are now part of the “other” league. Blame interleague play and about 25 years of thinking of the Astros as a National League team for that, I guess.
I probably need to see the Astros play the Mets or another National League team and use the designated hitter rule before it really hits me.
[Astros owner Jim] Crane, general manager Jeff Luhnow and new manager Bo Porter addressed the crowd for a few minutes before a video presentation gave a sneak peek at the new uniforms. With the lights dimmed and the crowd buzzing, Astros players emerged from the dugout and into the spotlight sporting the new look.
Despite coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons, the enthusiasm that bubbled inside Minute Maid Park on Friday was a reminder just how important baseball remains in Houston. And new uniforms, connecting the city to its baseball past, added to the hullaballoo.
Contrast that with the way the Mets handled the announcement of their plans to celebrate their 50th anniversary last November – a midday press conference open to the media and select bloggers, which was at least streamed online so that those who had some free time could watch.
Honestly, I don’t think the Mets’ anticipated introduction of blue alternate uniforms for 2013 merits a big press conference, and in light of all of the suffering causing by Hurricane Sandy, New York and New Jersey businesses will have to tread a fine line between getting back to normal and being insensitive.
But I think it’s time for the Mets to start looking at teams like the Astros to see what they do to engage their fans – these days, the Mets have more in common with Houston than they do with clubs that can afford to take their fanbases for granted.
Raise your hand if you remember Donne Wall. Anyone?
I’m not really surprised, though Wall had an eight-year major league career in which he pitched in 235 regular season games for four different teams, including the New York Mets.
Wall made his big league debut with the Astros in 1995 and stayed there for parts of three seasons. In 1998, he got to pitch in the World Series, albeit for the losing San Diego Padres. And during the winter of 2000, Wall was traded to another team that had just lost a World Series – the New York Mets.
In 2001, Wall earned $1.1 million to be a middle reliever for the New York Mets. He did not have a good year, posting an 0-4 record and a 4.85 ERA in 32 games. At least the team only gave up reserve outfielder Bubba Trammell to acquire him.
I’m not sure when or where I got this signed card for my collection – I believe it came via purchase or trade.
Houston has been a house of horrors for the Mets, so I’m sure I won’t be sad to see less of the Astros once they move to the American League in 2013.
I didn’t realize I was witnessing history Monday night when Astros manager Brad Mills wore a path from the dugout to the pitcher’s mound. When he pulled starter Bud Norris with two outs in the seventh inning, Mills started an unprecedented parade of pitchers.
Beginning with Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was the last batter to face Norris, seven consecutive Mets hitters each faced a different Astros pitcher. According to the SNY broadcasters on Tuesday, that’s never happened before in baseball history. I hope it never happens again.
And since I was keeping score, you can check out my scorecard if you click “Read more” (Click the images to enlarge)