added 4/6/2004 by Jared Klewein
I’m hoping that many of you read that introductory paragraph and said, “What in the Sam Houston is that guy talking about?” If you did, then pat yourself on the back, because I’d say you’re probably one of the few fans that realizes last night’s loss was just one of 162 games to be played this season. I visited a couple message boards this morning, spoke with a friend or two and popular opinion was pretty clear, “This team has got major problems.” Here are a few of the most common items discussed:
%B7 Jimy Williams is terrible.
%B7 Dotel’s going to fold as Wagner’s replacement.
%B7 Berkman should give up switch hitting.
Good grief people…it was just one game. Let’s brush that nonsense aside and instead focus on the positives from last night’s game:
%B7 Biggio reached base safely 3 out of 5 times last night. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Biggio’s changed his hitting mechanics. He’s chosen to drop the signature leg-kick and I for one am very optimistic that this could really resurrect his game. Granted, both his hits came on fastballs middle of the plate in, but I’m guessing that his new style (minus leg-kick) will provide better balance and will hopefully help him to keep his weight back on those 2-strike, outside-sliders, which he’s swung and missed on time and time again over the past 3-4 years. Here’s to hoping that those will be taken for balls, more often than not, in the future. Long story short…if I’m right about this then we’re going to score a boat-load of runs this year. What’s that? What are you whispering? Oh, yeah…only one game…I shouldn’t get too excited. Hey, I’m not basing this opinion on one game…the guy hit well over .300 in the Grapefruit League. I know I’m going out on a limb here…the guys going on 38 years old and has been somewhat mediocre over the past 2-3 years, but I’m telling you…trust me…he’s back! I’m expecting to see an OBP over .380 this year.
%B7 Oswalt, although serving up that tater to Bonds, did indeed look like the Oswalt of old. Absolutely no sign of any problems with the groin. Simply stated -- Incredible. He was routinely hitting 95-96 mph on the gun and had excellent control of all pitches, including the new change up. And speaking of the change up, “Wow, what a pitch!” Oswalt was already darn good with an above average fastball/curve and average slider. You throw in this change, which looks to have the makings of another above average pitch and he’s looking at a possible CY Young Award this year.
%B7 Hidalgo actually drove a ball with authority to right field. I don’t remember the last time I saw Doggie do that…I can only hope this is a product of hard work in the offseason, and not just dumb luck.
%B7 Ditto Adam Everett. He too had a nice, sharp hit to rightfield, and although that by itself was nice, it was hitting behind the runner that I really appreciated. If you watched the game, then you know that earlier in the AB Everett had already taken a couple shots in that direction and chose to stick with it till he eventually succeeded. That mentality, along with his perfectly executed sacrifice bunt in the 1st inning have me excited about him as our new #2 hitter in the order, especially in conjunction with what I’ve already said will be a strong comeback year for Biggio. Our pitching is going to allow us to win games 2-1 and 3-2. Everett’s going to play a big role in this team playing some “small-ball” when needed this season and his success will win or lose us quite a few games this year.
Well, those are a few of the bright spots that really caught my eye last night. Dating back to pre-SpringTraining, there were plenty of question marks with this team. To name a few: The bullpen (specifically Dotel), Oswalt’s health, Biggio’s age, Hidalgo (was last year the real Doggie?), Pettitte/Clemens’ adjustment to the NL and Minute Maid Park. I think one of the questions has already been answered (ie. Oswalt) and many look to be on the right track. Look, I’m not gonna lie. Bonds homer broke my heart last night too…but again, we’ve gotta get over it quickly and look at the big picture. The pieces are here to win, and win big. In the future I promise that I will take the time to address some of the negative aspects of the team as well. I was a little short on time today but even if I’d had more I’m not sure I’d of used it to dwell on the bad. Not now, not this early. No, I’m instead going to focus on the positive and choose not to ignore the one beautiful fact that’s sitting here, right under my nose.
ASTROS LOSS OR NOT, BASEBALL IS BACK!
I’ve been waiting almost 6 months to say that.
Talk to you all soon.
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