added 10/30/2005 by Bob Hulsey
Congratulations to the 2005 Astros. By winning the first National League pennant in their history, they have gotten off the schneid that still haunts the Texas Rangers and a few other franchises. They may have lost four close ones to the White Sox in the World Series but getting there is an accomplishment I will always cherish. While getting swept was distasteful, it wasn't embarassing. Everyone from Drayton McLane on down deserves a tip of the cap for an outstanding season.
Now that it is over, I'm going to set aside issues about what the team lacks on the field or how they can make themselves better in the W-L department for a moment. I'll leave that to Scott. Instead, I want to address an overlooked aspect of this franchise. Folks, we look like a mess. Did you see how the Cardinal fans dressed for their playoff games? Red. Solid red. Notice how the White Sox fans dressed? Black. Nothing but black. Us? We're all over the map.
The team colors are brick, black and sand - colors some marketing genius decided would appeal to the gangbangers out there. Yet many of the Astro fans still show up in orange and navy. Or gold and midnight blue. Heck, even the manager's wife sits near the front row wearing orange and white. Then there are those who wear yellow to root for the Killer B's. Minute Maid Park fans look like a collective bruise.
The player uniforms aren't any better. You never know from day to day if it will be black caps or red caps, red jersies or white ones, pinstripes or solids. At least they took the black jersies out of the rotation. The key to marketing is brand identity and when you can't stick to one identity, you fail to establish a brand. (How many styles do the Yankees wear? I rest my case.) The Astros lack a national identity (besides that of chokers whenever they have a runner at third) because they are too many conflicting identities.
If a foreigner was brought to America and saw his first game at Minute Maid, what a confusing spectacle he would see - a team named for astronauts playing in a faux train depot with a moldy green roof named after orange juice haunted by a serious insect infestation. The message was cleaner back when the astronauts played in a giant space bubble where small rockets were launched after home runs and the grounds crew wore space helmets. The only confusion might have been about Herb Alpert coming over the loudspeakers.
Today's team just can't figure out what they represent.
It was amusing to see former President Bush behind home plate this week in his gangsta colors while the team gets ripped in the media for being the first team since the 1953 Yankees to play in the World Series without any African-American players. Meanwhile, rappers have embraced the "old school" rainbow jersies that the baseball purists love to hate. At least back in the day there was Joe Morgan and Kevin Bass to model those. Where are the blacks to model today's colors?
Minute Maid, with its harsh shadows, home run porch, goofy hill and an air conditioner that can't keep up is at least outdoor baseball. How the purists love outdoor baseball. Real grass and all. So how is it that the Astros spent the entire postseason trying their best to keep the roof closed? At the old park, the roof (and the crowd noise - not to mention more of it from 30% bigger seating capacity) would have never been up for discussion. No commissioner's edict could have overturned it. Maybe controlled conditions just aren't fitting for a World Series, not like drizzle and 20-degree wind chills.
There should have been a Texas feel from Houston's first World Series but even that was missing. Instead we got "Motown's" Michael McDonald and "New Orleans' own" Aaron Neville singing. Notice not one of these performers wore anything partial to Houston or Texas? Heck, where was Beyonce? Where was Willie?
We hand an award to John F-ing Smoltz, hold a moment of silence for Rosa Parks and let Fox turn the whole Game 3 telecast into some Habitat For Humanities telethon. All it lacked was Jerry Lewis and Ed McMahon hosting the whole thing. It was disgusting. (The least Habitat For Humanities should do in return is build a place that our four through eight hitters could crawl under after stranding yet another runner in scoring position.)
Houston should be applauded for the way they gave so much of themselves for Hurrican Katrina victims but, dangit, this was OUR first World Series, not Detroit's, not Atlanta's and not Louisiana's. I didn't see them force all that touchy-feely crap on the White Sox. They were allowed to stick to baseball - Blues Brothers baseball. Games 3 and 4 should have been Houston's time to shine and instead, you could hardly tell that the white gangsta astronauts at the train depot with the insect problem hailed from the Lone Star State.
In 1993, I bought a fitted navy blue Astros cap with the orange star and the white "H" on it, the same ones our team had proudly worn for almost 30 years. The next season, it was out of style. In 1999, I decided to get with the times and buy a midnight blue Astros cap with the gold leaning star. The next year, it was out of style. I guess the Astros are waiting for me to buy a brick red Astros cap. Now that I can get one with a "WS05" logo on it, I think I will. By 2007, I expect we'll have a new color scheme and a new logo. Maybe it will be a lavender star that looks like a train or a bee if you squint properly.
Here's a suggestion. Go back to navy and orange (it matches Minute Maid orange juice). Go back to the rainbows. If that's too radical, go back to the first Astro jersies with the shooting star. Put the "H" back on the caps. You're from Houston - the caps ought to say so. Ditch the train. Replace it with a rocket (see some marketing ties with a particular pitcher here?). Kill the swarm. Find a less sickly color to paint the roof. No chance you'll keep the roof closed but at least find an AC that works better than the one that runs like it came off an '83 Toyota. Find a theme and a scheme then stick with it instead of changing it every decade.
Maybe then the next time we get to a World Series everyone will understand it's Houston's team and Houston's turn.
-- Bob Hulsey is Chief Historian for AstrosDaily.com