Random thoughts on the eve of Opening Day.
Happy Opening Day everyone. I can honestly say that during this marathon Spring Training, I was starting to doubt this day would ever get here. Now that it’s here, I thought I’d mark down some random thoughts and ramblings that have run through my mind in the last day or so as I try to simultaneously unpack from Spring Training, gear up for Opening Day and repack for St. Louis…
* I like this team. This is notable only because a year ago, days before Opening Day, my thought was “Uh oh. This is a disaster.” Nothing was going right. The players were virtual strangers after Ed Wade’s offseason of housecleaning. The pitching wasn’t good. I don’t remember much about the hitting, but considering how many games they lost coming out of Spring Training, I’m guessing that wasn’t good, either. This year, I’m seeing something much different. The chemistry among players is great. Optimism is high. When Cecil Cooper said, “We can win 90 games,” the players didn’t respond with eye rolls. Instead, they said, “Sure, why not?”
Yes, the starting pitching worries me, because of its age and injury history. The rotation showed no signs of wear, tear and fatigue through the spring season, but it’s early. Really, really early. Still, I like what Russ Ortiz showed us, I like how Mike Hampton progressed with each outing and, of course, I like seeing Roy Oswalt atop of the rotation.
The bullpen could be the best in the division. The offense is right up there as well. I’d say the Astros had a perfect spring — they lost games early, when their hitters were still working on their timing and the pitchers expected to not make the team gave up the lion’s share of the runs. As time wore on, cuts were made, hitters came to life, and they started winning.
No one wants to peak on March 8.
* I cannot, for the life of me, understand why fans get so riled up when the ESPNs of the world don’t give their team any love while making their season predictions. Who cares? I mean, really, truly, who cares?
* The first homestand is going to be a doozy, if you’re into pregame pomp and circumstance. Tuesday is going to be pretty neat, considering the Astros have invited back some of the most colorful characters from the last nine years at their downtown ballpark. Among the guests: Shane Reynolds, Lance Berkman, Larry Dierker, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent, Phil Garner, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, Jose Valverde and Cecil Cooper.
On Wednesday, which also happens to be the 35th anniversary of Milo Hamilton’s famous call of Henry Aaron’s 715th home run, Hamilton will have a street named in his honor. A stretch of Hamilton Street that runs along the East side of Minute Maid Park is being renamed, Milo Hamilton Way. Fans are invited to attend the dedication ceremony at 3:00 p.m. at the corner of Hamilton Street and Texas Avenue.
See you at the ballpark!