Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

9 moments from 2013: Houston Astros join the American League

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.

The front of my scorecard from the Houston Astros first game as an American League team (click to enlarge)
The front of my scorecard from the Houston Astros first game as an American League team (click to enlarge)

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.

The back of my scorecard from the Houston Astros first game as an American League team (click to enlarge)
The back of my scorecard from the Houston Astros first game as an American League team (click to enlarge)

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.

You can follow Paul’s Random Baseball Stuff on Facebook or Google+, see my photos on Flickr and Instagram, and follow @PaulsRandomStuf on Twitter, where I talk about about a variety of things in addition to baseball.

Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

Frustrating weekend leads to roster shakeup

Miami Marlins fans must love seeing games against the New York Mets come up on the schedule.

The Marlins, who have the worst record in Major League Baseball, have won their last five in a row against the Mets — including two this weekend. Eight of their 18 victories — 44 percent — have come at the Mets’ expense.

Saturday’s 20-inning affair was bizarre enough to take some of the sting away, but today’s loss wasn’t.

Ike Davis flails at a pitch on Saturday (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Ike Davis flails at a pitch on Saturday (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Sandy Alderson has finally been moved to action. Rick Ankiel paid the price on Saturday when he was designated for assignment, likely signalling the end of his major league baseball career. Ike Davis, Robert Carson and Mike Baxter earned tickets to Las Vegas on Sunday.

On one hand, I feel bad for them. Davis and Carson were friendly and personable on the brief occasions when I’ve met them. Baxter sacrificed his body to give us the highlight of last year’s season.

Even Ankiel, who probably never should have been here in the first place, evokes some sympathy – he’s basically been told that he’s not good enough to do his job any longer. But it’s been clear for a while that they don’t belong in the major leagues.

On the other hand, I’d like to ship out most of the rest of the roster along with them.

The Mets starting pitching has been fine and David Wright is our All-Star (even though he’s probably not going to be the starter unless the Kung-Fu Panda strains something reaching for the buffet table.) Daniel Murphy has mostly been solid, Juan Lagares has shown flashes of promise, and that’s about it…

The Mets are 24th in runs scored, 20th in home runs, 27th in on-base percentage, and 27th in slugging percentage. Their offensive struggles are a team issue, and whoever Alderson calls up from Las Vegas (believed to be Josh Satin, Collin Cowgill and Josh Edgin) is unlikely to have the talent to significantly improve the situation.

It’s been a frustrating weekend, and the roster shuffling has the feel of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Even so, I’m not ready to give up on them. Tomorrow night, I’ll probably be annoyed that there’s no Mets game to turn on at 7 p.m. Maybe I’ll even get out to another game on this home stand. (There’s a concert after Friday’s game, so there will be a second chance at entertainment if the Mets can’t provide it.)

Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

Rick Ankiel is the newest Met…

Rick Ankiel's 2000 Upper Deck SP Authentic Chirography autographed rookie card from my collection
Rick Ankiel’s 2000 Upper Deck SP Authentic Chirography autographed rookie card from my collection

Outfielder Rick Ankiel is Sandy Alderson‘s latest reclamation project. The 33-year-old former pitcher will become the 954th player in Mets history tonight, and the eighth to wear number 16 since Dwight Gooden left.

Keeping in mind the dangers of looking at a small sample size, Ankiel does offer an advantage over the Mets’ other center field options, especially considering his defense:

Age

OBP

SLG

AVG

AB

HR

Rick Ankiel

33

.231

.484

.194

62

5

Juan Lagares

24

.200

.182

.152

33

0

J. Valdespin

25

.292

.433

.239

67

3

Collin Cowgill

26

.173

.294

.157

51

2

Kirk Nieuwenhuis

25

.176

.178

.125

16

0

But considering the little fact that the 2013 Mets are a fourth-place team going nowhere, they’d probably be better served by running Jordany Valdespin out there against right-handed pitching instead of Ankiel. (And I say this as someone who is not very fond of JV1’s showboating.) Maybe he would show that he can hit well enough to be a fourth outfielder or a utility player on a good team.

Instead, we’ll get to see Ankiel try to hang on a little longer. Maybe we’ll at least get to enjoy some highlight-worthy defensive plays.

At least Juan Lagares will still get to play against lefties… until Terry Collins changes his mind.

Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

14 days until spring training, 1 day ’til the Giants’ victory parade

We are just two weeks away from the official start of spring training for the New York Mets, but I’m probably off at Modell’s to pick up a new Giants championship t-shirt this morning. The Giants’ victory parade is set for tomorrow, but I don’t anticipate being able to get away from work.

Alex Cora's 2010 Topps Update baseball card

I’m more of a baseball fan than a football fan, but I’ve been lucky enough to see the Giants win three championships in my lifetime. I wish I could say the same about the Mets. (I don’t count 1986 for either team – I was alive, but not old enough to actually have the interest in paying attention to sports yet.) Still, if this year’s Giants team has a lesson for us, it’s never to count out your team until it’s actually over. Sometimes they’ll surprise you in a good way. 🙂

Switching gears to baseball, all’s quiet on the Mets’ front. To the disappointment of a few bloggers, Rick Ankiel will not be playing for the Mets this year. He re-signed with the Washington Nationals organization, where he could have a chance to win the center field job – at least on a platoon basis – according to CSNWashington.com reporter Mark Zuckerman.

Another interesting weekend signing: Brad Penny agreed to a one-year deal with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan. Penny, 33, was 11-11 with a 5.30 ERA in 31 starts for the Detroit Tigers last year. There are a few other veteran pitchers still on the market, most notably Roy Oswalt. It doesn’t seem like Major League teams are as inclined to offer the contracts they have in the past.

And an update on a couple of former Mets: Alex Cora was reportedly close to signing a minor league deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, while Jorge Sosa signed with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan. I couldn’t believe Cora was still playing – I figured he would have embarked on a coaching/managing career by now if he wanted to remain in the game.

Posted in Uncategorized

Three weeks ’til spring training

signed Edgardo Alfonzo photo from my collection

We’re 21 days away from the official start of spring training for the New York Mets.

According to New York Daily News writer Andy Martino, the Mets are still in the hunt for another left-handed hitting outfielder. (Minor leaguers Mike Baxter and Adam Loewen don’t seem to inspire much confidence, even for a reserve role.)

Among the names being mentioned are Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, Rick Ankiel and Kosuke Fukudome. Martino seems to think Ankiel and Fukudome are better fits than Ibanez or Damon, but who knows if any of them will agree to a minor league contract with a probable last-place team. They’d have to be hoping for enough playing time to showcase their skills to get traded to a contender mid-season, right?

Still, I’d be entertained by the thought of Ibanez pushing Jason Bay for playing time – wouldn’t you?

Meanwhile, Steve Keane of the Eddie Kranepool Society made a strong case yesterday for adding Edgardo Alfonzo to the New York Mets Hall of Fame. Hopefully this year’s induction of John Franco signals a willingness to move beyond the 1969 & 1986 championship eras. Currently, Rusty Staub is the only player inducted who was not part of either team.