Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The One Where ClintShane Does 30 Words On All 30 Teams

We were front row of the Loge, in the Astrodome. The seats were grey and, because I had never been to a real ballpark, I thought pretty close to the field. I had been in the stadium before for the rodeo, but never a baseball game. The entire spectacle was overwhelming. The turf stretched out over the floor immediately caught my attention. I remember thinking they must have cut holes in it to let the rodeo dirt through for the mound and bases. And the stands; they could move the stands to properly shape the field?? Unreal. When a bat met ball, the sound echoed off the roof and down the corridors. When the ump bellowed "strike out!", the fans below immediately stood up to voice their displeasure, and it was unlike anything I had ever seen. The sport was as real as it had ever been, to me. I was not just at Game X of 162. I was a part of the season. The team. The fanbase. I was rising and falling with every triumph and disappointment. Did I understand what was happening? Well, no. I was five years old, but even at such a young age, I could tell something was happening to me. I knew to take in every detail. Absorb everything from the giant dome to the little number on my seat. I still get chills when I think about it.
I was new to the sport, shy in general, and hated not understanding things. My dad was talking to a group next to us, so I sat there the first couple innings trying to figure out this game. I knew the basic stuff, but still had so many questions. Why did the guy wait to leave third until after the outfielder caught that ball? Why didn't the infielder just throw his glove at that liner, instead of letting it slip past him? Why did the coaches all wear uniforms? Before I filled my brain up with more questions than it could hold, my dad turned to me as excited as I had ever seen him.

“Son, see this kid here… he’s the future of the team… he’s gonna take us back to the playoffs…”

‘Us’? We can claim their achievements as ours? ‘Playoffs’? What is a playoff?

My dad had been a fan of the Astros ever since he moved to the city in the early 1970s. He was there for Game 5 in 1980 and Game 6 in 1986. He taught me everything he knew about the game, and is the reason I want to use the name Mickey Mantle on a kid or plant or dog or car or something. His word was gospel at that point of my life, so I leaned under the railing to see this wonderkid, he was so enthusiastic about. Four pitches later, a swinging strike (on what I assume was a slider away), and I had my introduction to Craig Biggio.

“…brought him up too early!... to small to be a catcher… need to trade him before everyone realizes he’s no good…” my dad mumbles a lot when his teams fail him.

As for me, I was hooked. The rush I felt watching that at bat was all I needed to bring me back. As the years passed, and my Astro addiction intensified, I would pour over box scores in the Houston Post. I memorized entire starting lineups of other teams. I knew the National League better than some scouts. I loved (still love) the late 90s uniforms. I have Randy Johnson's signature on a University of Texas baseball hat (don't ask). I lost my virginity with Milo Hamilton on the radio (long story). Jeff Bagwell was always my favorite but so was John Cangelosi, and I can't explain why. James Mouton was faster than anything I'd ever seen. Mitch Melusky got a raw deal, and For Love of the Game is a great movie (don't @ me).
Mr. County has been kind enough to grant me a platform with which to profess my unhealthy, and very possibly dangerous, obsession with the baseballing Astros of Houstonland. So, that is what I'm going to do in some form, in this space, as often as I can, before he revokes my credentials. I didn't lose interest during the awful years, but I'm also not the guy who cares if anyone else was watching those teams. "Sports are merely a distraction from the harsh reality of life", someone really smart probably should have said one time. I take that approach, and if you don't, then we need to watch a game together so I can fix you. I'm gonna round this one out with the first thirty words that came to mind about each of the thirty MLB teams. And if you're the kind of person who likes to turn their heads to the We$t from time to time, you'll find my thoughts on each team's 2018 win totals.


NL EAST

Braves
 (u74.5) – “Can we win 81 games without Scott Kazmir? Why isn’t Dansby Swanson more like Alex Bregman? Remember the 90s? The 90s were cool. I miss the 90s. I miss Chipper.”

Mets (u81) – Can’t spell Playoffs without “Mets Won’t Be in the Playoffs No Matter How Much They Want to Believe Matt Harvey Will Bounce Back from Being The Second Worst 2017 Harvey.”

Marlins (u64.5) – The Jeter Herpes Tree is one of my favorite things. I know this has nothing to do with the team. They are going to be awful. Didn’t wanna pile on.

Nationals (o92.5) – I have no idea why, but I always think of the movie Wedding Crashers when I watch the Nationals. It makes no sense, but I wanted you to know this.

Phillies (o75.5) – When the Astros traded Vince Velasquez to Philly, I got so mad that I drunkenly bought an 80s throwback baby blue and maroon Phillies hat. I regret drunk things, sometimes.


NL CENTRAL

Brewers (o84.5) – Milwaukee is not anywhere close to halfway between Chicago and Houston. If you know what this means, then you know what this means. Screw Bud Selig. And screw Ryan Braun.

Cardinals (o85.5) – I loved Dexter Fowler which makes it really hard to hate him these days. But rules are rules. Also, Stan Musial was overrated and Jim Edmonds can stub his little toe.

Cubs (u94.5) – I’m calling it right now: The Cubs won’t make the playoffs. They will start off slow and mediocre, and it’ll stick through the year. Heyward begins his descent to albatrossdum.

Pirates (o73) – Pittsburgh absolutely STOLE Musgrove. ‘Houston. We’ll give you a guy, who didn’t even win a playoff game last year, for the guy who won the best World Series game ever!’

Reds (u73.5) – If you’re from Cincinnati, and you’re reading this, you need to know that your chili sucks. Also, Joey Votto looks like a better baseballing Luke Scott, but with fewer guns.


NL WEST

Diamondbacks (u85.5) – AZ is using a humidor this year, to combat offensive numbers climbing steadily since 2015. Unrelated, the best MLB offense last year belonged to the Astros, of House 100% Humidity.

Dodgers (o96.5) – Y’all remember that time the Dodgers were the best team ever last July and they were on a magazine and Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish were the best starters ever?

Giants (o81.5) – Losing Madison Bumgarner for a minute won’t hurt them as much as the media wants it to. Will they win 95 games? No. Will they win more than 81.5? Ye$.

Padres (u69.5) – I still hate the Padres for cheatin ass Kevin Brown hulking out in the ’98 playoffs. Coulda got World Series swept a nice tidy seven years earlier. Coulda woulda shoulda.

Rockies (o82) – If the Colorados sign away another DK, I’m going to be super grumpy about it. That was my first taste of free agency sadness and I’m not going back there.


AL EAST

Blue Jays (u81) – When I was little, my first baseball team was called The Blue Jays. Our shirts said ‘B Jays’ and nobody thought anything of it because 1990 was a simpler time.

Orioles (o73) – I met Brady Anderson in a hotel elevator, in 2001. We had similar sideburns and developed a bond that lasted from floor twelve down to the lobby. Hashtag Memories.

Rays (u77.5) – I like to pretend that the Rays are actually lasers or a bunch of guys named Ray instead of the slippery devil doormats that killed Steve Irwin. Bunch of jerks.

Red Sox (u91.5) – Good thing the Sox addressed their offensive misgivings by trading for a guy who is a career .254 (1 HRs, 22 Ks) hitter against Astro pitchers on the OD roster.

Yankees (u94.5) – Good thing the Yanks addressed their offensive misgivings by trading for a guy who is a career .216 (2 HRs, 16 Ks) hitter against Astro pitchers not named Charlie Morton.


AL CENTRAL

Indians (o94.5) – Easy fix for the whole logo thing: Change Chief Wahoo to Chief Apu! Dollar Slurpy Saturday! Outsource your front office! Instead of the cheesy big screen proposals, Arranged Marriage Monday!

Royals (o71.5) – I hope Luhnow has been paying attention to KC's tutorial on building a fancy mansion and then pooping the bed in every room. So that he, like, doesn't do that.

Tigers (u68.5) – Detroit hasn't lost a pitcher like Verlander since the legend and probable Hall of Famer Billy Chapel retired. Cal Naughton Jr. was his catcher, ya know. People forget about that.

Twins (u82.5) – What's it like being a twin? I can barely stand myself, sometimes, but another me? Ick. Remember Jason Castro? He has pretty eyes. And a huge hole in his swing.

White Sox (o68) – If Lidge doesn't hang that slider to Pujols, the Astros sweep the White Sox in 2005. I think about it often, but not quite as much as I used to.


AL WEST

A’s (o74.5) – I coached Daniel Mengden on a swim team when he was a kid. Obviously, without my butterfly instruction, he wouldn't be the mustachioed force he is today. You're welcome Dan.

Angels (u84.5) – One thing that always works is signing a kid from an inferior league and then putting him right in the mix with the big boys. Congrats on winning the West.

Astros (o96.5) – BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK! BACK TO BACK!

Mariners (o81.5) – The night that Correa made his MMP debut, I got to my seat in the top of the second and the Astros had already bounced Felix. Also, Chives was drunk. 

Rangers (o77.5) – I can't even bring myself to hate these guys like I used to. They're forever relegated to our 'little brother', at this point. 

3 comments:

Chas R said...

Good stuff! Great piece!

Anonymous said...

Phenomenal.

As a former parttime swim coach and pitcher, plus currently mustachioed, myself, I can confirm that proper butterfly is indeed the single most important criterium for MLB success (sadly I was terrible at both - coincidence?)

Teddy said...

I was in Cooperstown for Induction weekend and though I didn't participate because I thought it was not the venue to do so, I took great pleasure in the boos directed at Selig (aka The Devil).