The Astros very much looked like a team tonight that simply refused to be beaten, which is something we didn’t see a lot of in the club’s 13 games prior to this series. Every time they got knocked down tonight, they got right back up to answer the bell in the next round. We never saw that Ausmus/Oswalt confrontation, but Roy got the faceoff with Manny he was wishing for; Oswalt won the first two battles before Ramirez destroyed a 2-1 fastball in the 6th, when Roy looked gassed. But he ended a jam the previous inning so that Manny came up with no men on, which is the way to do it if you’re gonna have him homer off of you. Every Astros position player had at least one hit tonight, and when the Dodgers intentionally (and adventurously) walked Geoff Blum in the 8th to get to Pudge, he took it as the insult a veteran of his stature should and promptly made them pay with what proved to be the game-winning RBI. LaTroy Hawkins did a fine job as the pinch closer with Jose Valverde banged up from the previous night, and Manny was left stranded in the on deck circle as the game ended. Still no W for Roy, but this is the first of his four starts that Houston has won, so that’s progress. Wandy goes for the sweep tomorrow.
I did some research earlier in the evening while waiting for the game to start. Besides their three ex-Astros, the Dodgers have one more Houston connection in first baseman James Loney – a fellow Houston native and four years my junior (dang). Loney won the 2008 Houston Area MLB Player of the Year award at this past January’s 24th Annual Houston Baseball Awards Banquet. I only just recently (and very embarassingly) learned that Carl Crawford and Michael Bourn are Houston natives, too. This got me to wondering who else had won this award in the past, but I had surprising difficulty locating this information anywhere online. So I spent an hour or so digging through 24 years of archives over at Chron.com and came up with a definitive list:
Greater Houston Area MLB Player of the Year
- 2008: James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers
- 2007: Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox
- 2006: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
- 2005: Adam Dunn, Cincinatti Reds
- 2004: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
- 2003: Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
- 2002: Kip Wells, Pittsburgh Pirates
- 2001: Roger Clemens, New York Yankees
- 2000: Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
- 1999: Mike Jackson, Cleveland Indians
- 1998: Roger Clemens, Toronto Blue Jays
- 1997: Roger Clemens, Toronto Blue Jays
- 1996: Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
- 1995: Jay Buhner, Seattle Mariners
- 1994: Chuck Knoblauch, Minnesota Twins
- 1993: Jay Buhner, Seattle Mariners
- 1992: Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox
- 1991: Chuck Knoblauch, Minnesota Twins
- 1990: Doug Drabek, Pittsburgh Pirates
- 1989: Nolan Ryan, Texas Rangers
- 1988: Greg Swindell, Cleveland Indians
There was no such award given at the inaugural Houston Baseball Awards Dinner for 1985, and Roger Clemens was “honored” at the ’86 and ’87 dinners, but I don’t think the award formally existed until ’88. Interesting to note that with the exceptions of Knoblauch, Buhner and Wells, all of the others before the last five years played for the Astros at some point. I wouldn’t object to Crawford, Beckett and Dunn following suit.
Wait, so the games against WBC teams don’t count with the rest of the spring training stats? Well, that’s not confusing at all. Coop said the stats should count, and I agree. Eh, whatever.
Another tie today versus Team Venezuela, but the Astros bats showed considerably more life today (against arguably better competition), so that’s encouraging. Brian Bogusevic went 2-for-4 with an RBI as his bat continues to warm up from a slow start. Another steal for Michael Bourn. Aaron Boone finally managed a hit. Kaz Matsui was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a walk, and Reggie Abercrombie was 1-for-3 with a walk and a steal. The star on the mound today was Jose Capellan, one of the longer shots for Houston’s fifth rotation slot, but three innings of scoreless, one-hit work today certainly helped his case.
That one hit off Capellan went to Bobby Abreu, who finished 2-for-4 with a walk for Venezuela. Even as an opponent, it was great seeing Abreu again, who has remained a favorite since starting his career with the Astros back in 1996. He’s the second-best product of Houston’s now closed Venezuelan Academy (why closed???), behind only Johan Santana. But the Astros lost Abreu to Tampa Bay in the expansion draft following the ’97 season, and lost Santana to the Twins via the Rule 5 draft after ’99. Of course it hurts now to see the ones that got away, but I don’t resent the organization for it… Abreu had hit .248 for the Astros in 74 games across two seasons, but they left him exposed to the draft in favor of protecting Richard Hidalgo, who had just hit .303. Doggy went on to have about three really good seasons for Houston, so it wasn’t a total loss, but Abreu immediately turned into one of the most consistently solid hitters in the game. Santana was a rather unimpressive 15-18 with a 5.05 ERA in 54 games spread across three seasons of Rookie and A League play, then wobbled through two seasons with Minnesota and got demoted to AAA in 2002 before he hit his stride later that year. You never know quite how young players will turn out.
…but dang, Santana/Abreu/Oswalt/Berkman would have made a killer core! Ah, well.
Manny finally signed with the Dodgers – much to no one’s surprise, except that it seemed it would never happen. I’m glad, because I think it’s a mutually good fit between him and LA. But I’m also glad because I’m ready for the drama to be done. Just play ball, boys!
Team Panama tomorrow, and this one is interesting as the Astros face Carlos Lee. It’s also interesting for me, though, because my wife used to live in Panama… so I’m probably cheering for them after Team USA come the WBC. Which starts… tomorrow, come to think of it. Japan vs. China. And Brian Moehler goes for Houston. Huzzah!