September 2009

Temporary shuffle in the T.V. booth. J.D., we hardly knew ya.

Jim Deshaies will not be with the team this weekend in New York, so we thought we’d get the word out now rather than wait for the massive city-wide panic sure to set it when fans tune in to Astros game this weekend and don’t see their lovable TV analyst.

Deshaies will be attending his brother Patrick’s wedding this weekend, and because J.D. is actually in the wedding, he will have to be away from the Astros for all three games as they wrap up the 2009 season at brand new Citi Field.

Steve Sparks, the former knuckleball pitcher who you’ve seen quite a bit as an analyst on the pre- and postgame shows on FS Houston the last few years, will fill in for J.D. this weekend.

I haven’t been able to watch a lot of Sparks’ TV work for obvious reasons, but from what I hear he’s really good, especially while giving insight from a former pitcher perspective. In that respect, the transition should be seamless.

But don’t worry, J.D.’s absence is definitely temporary.

“I just want to remind fans that when Sparky proves to smarter, funnier, better prepared and more articulate than me, just keep in mind he had all season to prepare for this,” Deshaies said. “So go easy on me.”

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Astros rookies channeling their inner Olivia Newton-John (revised).

For those too young to remember, back in the early ’80s, Olivia Newton-John had a painfully cheesy song called “Let’s Get Physical.” Even worse was the video that accompanied the song — Olivia, working out with men of various shapes and sizes. The workout clothes were tight, neon and spandex.

That brings us to the Rookie Road Trip, an annual rite of passage where veterans buy crazy outfits for the rookies to wear on a travel day. The styles have been wide-ranging over the years, from Hooters outfits to slinky dresses to the attire du jour selected this year.

Tight. Neon. Spandex. Our five rookie models, featured above on the tarmac as the Astros were boarding their flight to Philadelphia, include (left to right) Chris Johnson, Bud Norris, Tommy Manzella, Wilton Lopez and Sammy Gervacio.

(And seriously, thanks to the guys for being such good sports.)

Below: Norris on the left, Johnson on the right. They were posing for family and friends on their way to the bus.

Poor Manzella, fighting a nasty cold while wearing spandex and carrying around a Build-A-Bear. You’ll notice Carlos Lee in the background, laughing at the rookies as they walked by.

Lopez, making the best of the situation. He and Gervacio laughed through the whole process, while it took the others a little longer to loosen up and accept the fact that a little harmless public humiliation is just part of life as a rookie.

Jason Michaels takes a picture of three rookies while waiting in the security line.

 

One more note on this topic: Rookies were also instructed to help out the flight attendants with serving the passengers. Picture, if you will, Sammy Gervacio approaching Ed Wade with, “Can I get you something to drink?”

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On another topic, you’ve probably heard by now that at least 11 members of the Astros traveling party are suffering some kind of cold, flu or sinus problem. The only way to guarantee that list will grow is to put everyone on the same airplane for a three-hour trip to, say, Philadelphia. In that case, I expect the epidemic to get worse before it improves.

Some of the more savvy veterans took health safety matters into their own hands. As I waited for the rookies to come out of the lockerroom in their pink neon, I captured this image of a very precautious Geoff Blum:

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And later, on the plane, I caught this one of LaTroy Hawkins (after I said, “smile, LaTroy,” I realized how ridiculous that must have sounded):

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Clemens in the house, Astros honor MVPs, and a tip of the cap to a real Astros hero.

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Let’s start this rundown with arguably the most important person who will be mentioned in this blog today — amateur scout Doug Deutsch. After 27 years of scouting — the last 24 with the Astros — Deutsch is retiring.

Deutsch is probably a name that doesn’t ring a bell. His body of work isn’t detailed on a web site or in the Astros media guide. He certainly was never asked to use his likeness for a bobblehead day at Minute Maid Park. But his contributions to the Astros have been immeasurable.

As an area scout for 20 years, Deutsch signed many future Major Leaguers, including three who contributed to at least one of the two playoff teams in 2004 and ’05: Morgan Ensberg, Mike Gallo and Jason Lane. He also signed Kirk Saarloos, David Matranga, Mike Burns and Andy Mota, all of whom made their debuts with the Astros.

Deutsch was West Coast supervisor from 2005-08 and under his recommendations, the Astros drafted Bud Norris, 2008 No. 1 draft pick Jason Castro and upcoming prospects T.J. Steele and Jon Gaston.

This year, Deutsch signed first rounder Jiovanni Mier, pictured above with Deutsch and club owner Drayton McLane

The Astros honored Deutsch before Saturday’s game, inviting his entire family — his wife, Linda, their four children and 11 grandchildren — onto the field.

Assistant GM of Scouting Bobby Heck presented Deutsch with a retirement plaque, as well as a gift to be used toward an Alaskan Cruise they are planning for next summer.

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The Astros also recognized the MVPs of all eight of their Minor League affiliates:

Left to right: Hector Rodriguez (Dominican Summer League), Enrique Hernandez (Gulf Coast League), Jose Altuve (Rookie League Greeneville), Barry Butera (Short Season A Tri-City), Brian Pellegrini (Class A Lexington), Koby Clemens (Class A Lancaster), Drew Locke (Double-A Corpus Christi), Tommy Manzella (Triple-A Round Rock).

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Read about the event here.

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Most of the families of the MVPs attended Saturday’s ceremony, including Koby Clemens’ parents, Roger and Debbie Clemens. While it is impossible for either to simply blend into the crowd, they weren’t unlike the rest of the parents, taking pictures and shooting video of their kid. (Roger did stop to talk to reporters, however. He answered only questions regarding Koby, while deflecting that other topic. On his public battle with former trainer Brian McNamee, Clemens said only, “We’re just moving along).”

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Debbie and Roger Clemens

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Tommy Manzella and his dad.

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Assistant GM/Director of Player Development Ricky Bennett (left) banters with the MVPs before the ceremony. It’s always fun to watch the kids try to come off as calm, cool and collected when you know inwardly, they’re probably anything but.

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Groundbreaking ceremony and Build-a-Bear. Hawkins has had a busy week.

Nine months after they announced plans to open the second MLB Urban Youth Academy, the Astros ceremoniously tossed the first pieces of dirt at the very spot where the facility will reside in less than a year.

The story detailing the event can be read here, and below are several pictures to illustrate the groundbreaking ceremony, attended by dozens of Astros and Major League Baseball dignitaries.

Michael Bourn and LaTroy Hawkins looked like they were enjoying this part, especially while trying to the throw dirt far enough that it grazed the photographers taking their picture.

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Major League Baseball and the Astros contributed $600,000 to the construction of the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park, which equaled the contributions by both the City of Houston and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

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Hawkins was introduced by Darrell Miller, director of the Urban Youth Academy, at the “Wanna Play?” event. The program provided various baseball activities such as batting and pitching cages, baserunning contests, wiffle ball games and demonstrations by Bourn, Hawkins and Wesley Wright and Dave Clark. Wanna Play? was launched at the 2009 Gillette Civil Rights Game in Cincinnati and is intended to provide baseball activities to young people in urban areas.

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Wright.

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Bourn.

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It doesn’t matter how bad a season is or how anxious the players are for it just to be over…there’s always time to have a little fun. Or, in Hawkins’ case, a lot of fun, thanks to a rookie hazing ritual that is alive and well in the Astros’ clubhouse.

I have a tremendous amount of access to all the behind-the-scenes action at the ballpark, but I’d trade several of those pictures for just one of Hawkins at Build-A-Bear, where he took the painstaking steps to order one bear for each of his rookie teammates.

Rookies have to carry the bears with them everywhere they go, minus the field, of course.

Hawkins didn’t just order the bears. He dressed them up and gave them birth certificates and names. Bud Norris’s bear is named “Dew Ruu,” after pitching coach Dewey Robinson. Chris Johnson’s is named Adam Piatt, after the former big league player who happened to attend the same high school as the young third baseman. Tommy Manzella’s bear is named “Scarface,” while Wilton Lopez’s is called “Suba,” a nod to bullpen catcher Strech Suba.

I can hardly wait to see what getups Hawkins and his veteran teammates have picked out for the “Rookie Road Trip,” which inevitably will take place sometime during the Philly-New York swing. Whether the attire is Hooter’s outfits or hula skirts — or worse — I’ll be sure to snap lots of pictures and post them on this blog.

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I recently quelled any notions that Jim Deshaies had a chance to become the Astros’ next manager, but apparently, there are still some out there who are holding out hope.

Yesterday, I received this in the mail — not signed, with only “Austin” in the postmark:
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Turns out, just about every sports reporter in the city, plus Lance Berkman and J.D. himself received the same mailing. I especially like the part at the bottom, where the anonymous lobbyist reminds us to “Join the movement, feel the excitement.”

(The envelope also included a Deshaies baseball card, which truth be told, I was kind of fired up about.)

Who should manage the Astros?

Disclaimer: I have yet to have a single conversation with Ed Wade regarding the pending managerial search. None of the names I’m about to drop have come from anyone but me. My goal is simple: scour the landscape, from the obvious candidates to sentimental picks to a few that make you say, “Hmmmm…” And I want to hear what you think. We’re in an era where the fans can be heard by the simple click of a mouse. Let’s have some fun. And please, make yourself heard.

The Astros haven’t conducted a true managerial search since the 2001-02 offseason. That was when Jimy Williams was introduced as Larry Dierker’s replacement sometime in the middle of December. Since then, the Astros have had two skippers — Phil Garner, whose “interim” tag was lifted days after the ’04 season ended, and Cecil Cooper, who was named permanent skipper the final weekend of the season in ’07.

The Astros have every intention of doing their due diligence this offseason, and don’t expect any snap decisions. The process is likely to be long and thorough. And that’s the way it should be. In the meantime, speculation is the name of the game, and let’s be honest, this is the fun part.

Group 1: The “most likely to score an interview” veterans.

I’m sensing the Astros are looking for that “name,” the guy who has the track record, has managed in the big leagues and has established himself on some level. If that is the case, we have to include these former skippers as candidates:

Jim Fregosi: 15 years as a big league manager — four with the Angels, three with the White Sox, six with the Phillies and two with the Blue Jays. He has a .484 winning percentage and won the pennant with the Phillies in 1993. He also has a long history with Wade.

Bobby Valentine: 15 years as a big league manager — eight with the Rangers, seven with the Mets. Won the NL pennant with the Mets in 2000. He has a .510 winning percentage and is completing his final season with the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League. He is reportedly close to signing a multiyear deal to return to television with ESPN (but that can probably be voided if he wanted to manage).

Manny Acta: After 2 1/2 years as manager of the Nationals, Acta was dismissed this year. He has a .385 winning percentage, but let’s be honest, was that really his fault? Acta has a rich history with the Astros, having played in the Minor League system from 1986-91 and managed in the same system from 1993 to 2000.

Willie Randolph: Managed the Mets for 3 1/2 years, from 2005 through the middle of 2008. Winning percentage: .544.

Group 2: The “We know them, we love them, but honestly, they probably don’t stand a chance” good guys.

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Jeff Bagwell: I thought Bagwell would be a perfect interim manager for September, because a) he knows the young players pretty well from his stops at the Minor League sites this summer; b) it would inject some excitement into a non-contending team; and c) he might not want the job long-term. I could be wrong on this, but I’m not sure Jeff is ready to jump back into baseball full-time, yet. Someday, probably, but not yet. I do sense Bagwell is getting that itch for the game again, and when the timing is right, he might want to throw his hat in the ring. But I’m not sure that time is now.

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Brad Ausmus: First, he’d have to retire as an active player, and right now, he’s focused only on helping the Dodgers get to the World Series. I think Brad would be a tremendous manager and he’s probably the only player I can think of who could step right into the big leagues without managing in the Minors first. But the only reason he left Houston in the first place was to be closer to home. I just can’t imagine he’d be willing to make a long-distance commitment again, so soon after he said he’d play for the Padres or Dodgers or retire. Ausmus will have all kinds of opportunities once he does retire, so I doubt he thinks this might be his only shot. He’ll have plenty when it’s time.

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Craig Biggio: I don’t envision the Astros giving consideration to Biggio at this time and I would surmise they’d want him to manage in the Minors first if they were to ever consider him. Maybe someday. But not now.

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Jim Deshaies: Thanks to the fans for the emphatic “J.D. for manager” campaign, and our loveable television analyst appreciates the passion. But it’s not happening. I think he would definitely consider managing, although I think deep down he knows he has one of the best jobs in the world. Selfishly, I’d rather J.D. stay in the booth. I’ve grown accustomed to the “J.D. drive-by,” where he stops in for one final coffee stop and a quick conversation in the media dining room about 10 minutes before gametime. He’s also fun and entertaining and the thought of a stressed-out J.D. is kind of depressing. Then again, he’s already clean-shaven up top so he wouldn’t have to worry about any premature graying or stress-related baldness.

 

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Garner: Hard to ignore a guy who is happily retired in Houston and just happens to be the only manager in history to take this team to the World Series. Friends have tried to get me to sell this as a George Steinbrenner-Billy Martin relationship: hired one year, fired the next, rinse, repeat.

Garner takes winning well, he takes losing well, he takes everything well. Heck, when he was canned in ’07, he left a message on my cell phone that began with, ‘Ha ha, you have to work tomorrow and I don’t.”

But I don’t think there’s a chance, which is why he’s in the “no chance” category.

And finally, Group 3: “Something to chew on.” (Also known as, “thinking outside of the box.”)

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Dave Clark: By no means should we write off the interim manager. Clark has managed in the Astros’ system and has the respect of all players, young and old. He and Sean Berry can take most of the credit for helping Michael Bourn emerge as the Astros’ MVP this year, and he seems to have the right combination of toughness and patience. He also doesn’t appear to be the type to put up with our No. 1 pet peeve — not running hard to first base.

Clark was no-nonsense as a player but isn’t the type to pepper today’s youngsters with stories of “back when I played…”. He’s likeable and has a lot of pride. If the Astros are looking for a long-term skipper — and by all accounts, that seems to be a priority — Clark should receive heavy consideration.

Bill Ripken: I read somewhere he was once voted by his peers as the player most likely to become a Major League manager. So what’s taking so long?

Looking for enthusiasm? A former teammate reportedly called Ripken the Nuclear Dish because he has an endless source of energy. Need someone who can deal with adversity? Ripken lived through the 21-game losing streak that opened the Orioles’ 1988 season and had plenty more low times even after the streak ended. And he knows his stuff. He was a late hire by the MLB Network and he’s by far its biggest star. Hearing him break down strategies, pitching sequences and teams in general is a thing of beauty. He also knows plenty about being the underdog. He’s Cal’s little brother for crying out loud. He’s also smart, engaging and a heck of a baseball teacher. He and Cal have written two “how to” books and they run three Minor League teams. Check it out: http://www.ripkenbaseball.com.

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Tim Bogar: He cut his teeth as a Minor League manager in the Astros’ system in 2004 and was named Appalachian League Manger of the Year for the Greeneville club and the next year, his Class A Lexington team posted a league-best 81-58 mark. Bogar moved on to the Indians organization in 2006 and was named Eastern League manager of the year, and, more significantly, was named “Best Manager Prospect” by Baseball America. Bogar’s success rate didn’t stop once he reached the big leagues — as a “quality assurance” coach for the Tampa Rays in 2008, he acted as a seventh coach for the AL Champion Rays, and after the season, the Red Sox lured him away and hired him as their first base coach.

Beyond the x’s and o’s, Bogar is smart, reasonable and liked by everyone. As a player, he was one of the toughest on the field and among the most approachable off. Clearly, he has a knack for working with young players, and he also has the respect of the superstars.

Honorable mention: Kirk Gibson: Currently the bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Gibson has done it all: played, broadcasted, coached. I’ve heard rumblings that he would love a shot at managing. Tim Wallach: Former All-Star third baseman with the Expos, Dodgers and Angels. Currently manager of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, Wallach was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year earlier this month.

So that’s my two cents. Who am I missing?

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Win a chance to go fishing with LaTroy Hawkins.

Reliever LaTroy Hawkins spends part of his offseason raising money for a great cause, and this year, he’s inviting Astros fans to join in on the fun.

“Hawk’s Big League Bass Classic,” benefitting Lifeline Youth and Family Services, will be held in Del Rio, Texas from Nov. 19-22. Hawkins is giving away the exclusive opportunity to spend a weekend with him, four other Major League players and professional bass fisherman.

Astros fans can register to win one of five Bass Classic packages, free of charge, by simply showing up to the Academy Sports + Outdoors at 19720 NW Freeway (at 290 before FM 1960) on Thursday (Sept. 24) from 6 to 7 p.m. CT.

Hawkins will sign autographs and accept entries for the Bass Classic, which will be awarded to five fans. This exclusive weekend event convenes at Indianhead Ranch, a 10,000 acre, exotic hunting reserve complete with thousands of free roaming animals. Days will be spent fishing Lake Amistad and evenings will be filled with fun activities for the entire group. The prize is valued at $5,000.

Lifeline Youth and Family Services is an organization that provides programs for children and families at risk for abuse, neglect, and delinquency. Lifeline’s mission is to change hearts and bring hope to a generation at risk.

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Fun in the radio booth, and other random shots from Cincinnati series.

After two days of blogging/tweeting from the broadcast booths, it’s going to be hard to trudge back to my normal seat in the press box. Broadcast booths are everything a working press box isn’t — lively, full of chatter, fun. I got a kick out of listening to radio announcers Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan banter back and forth Wednesday night, especially when the subject of attendance — “it’s an intimate gathering here tonight,” Raymond said — was brought to the forefront.

“No more than 9,500,” Raymond said.

“How can you say that? Dolan responded. “Haven’t you noticed all of the activity here tonight? There’s at least 12,500!”

(It ended up a wash…attendance was right in the middle, somewhere in the 10,000 range).

From the booth:

Brett reads a promotional message, a staple of any radio broadcast.

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Dave Raymond and his friend, the microphone.

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“Is this thing on?”

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Random shots of batting practice:

LaTroy Hawkins channeling his inner sychronized swimmer

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Tommy Manzella, Hunter Pence.

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Kaz Matsui

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On a personal note…

When I was hired by the Astros in 1997, I immediately looked at the upcoming season schedule to see when my hometown Reds would be in Houston — not because of Barry Larkin, not because they were my hometown team, but because of Dayton Daily News beat writer Hal McCoy, whom I grew up reading and could not wait to meet.

I really wasn’t overly impressed by baseball players, but there was something about the writers and broadcasters that I always found fascinating. Hal has covered the Reds my entire life, quite literally, considering we’re both in year No. 37.

The 1970s and ’80s were simpler times, pre-internet and 24-hour cable stations. You got your information only from your local newspaper, and while there were a couple of competing papers in Cincinnati, in Dayton, there was only one — the Daily News. In Dayton, if you didn’t read Hal, you didn’t read Reds.

Two distinctive images stand out in my mind — “Mr. Red” on the front page either smiling or frowning, depending on whether they won or lost the night before (or expressionless for West Coast games that ended too late to make the paper) and the head shot of Hal that was not updated for about 20 years.

Hal was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Hall of Fame in 2002 and remains one of the most beloved and respected baseball writers in the country. He’s retiring after the season, not because he wants to, but because the DDN isn’t covering the Reds anymore, effective next year.

This is terribly sad news for the industry but also for thousands of people who for decades got their Reds information from only one writer — Hal. The Reds honored Hal before the game on Wednesday, and our own Aaron Boone caught Hal’s ceremonial first pitch. Boone gave Hal a pep talk six years ago after Hal suffered from a stroke that robbed him of part of his sight. Hal worked six more years, thanks to Aaron’s encouragement. You can read about what Aaron means to Hal here. I’ve posted some pictures from the ceremony below.

Hal hugs Aaron Boone after first pitch

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Yes, Biggio was wearing a Red Sox t-shirt…but not the kind you think.

A couple of the pictures we posted from Craig Biggio’s Sunshine Kids party sparked a bit of controversy after fans read the “Red Sox” on his t-shirt…

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…so I asked team photographer Stephen O’Brien to check to see if he had a close-up shot. Biggio was wearing a Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox t-shirt, from the Cape Cod League. Biggio is a Y-D Red Sox alum, having played for that team in 1986. Mystery solved.

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Astros, Bengals, and man-crushes on Nick Lachey.

I attended college at the University of Cincinnati and lived here a total of 6 1/2 years, and for a long time after I moved away, this was definitely where I considered home. I have wonderful memories of my time in the Queen City and, because my family is only an hour away in my original hometown of Dayton, the Reds trips are right at the top of the list in terms of roadies I look forward to every season.

That said, I also understand Cincinnati isn’t the most exciting city in the league, and there’s not a whole lot to do around here, whether you’re killing time during the day before a night game or looking for a place to unwind after. Sure, there are a handful of decent spots, but the list of desirable destinations is more modest than say, Chicago or New York.

So it comes as no surprise that after the Astros arrived to Cincinnati early evening on Sunday, a large chunk of the team headed for Morton’s Steakhouse, located just a hop, skip and a jump from the team hotel. And it’s also not shocking that they weren’t the only high-profile folks there that night, given the few choices for nightlife in downtown Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Bengals were having their own soiree at a nearby table, and in another corner was Cincinnati native Nick Lachey – the former Mr. Jessica Simpson who cut his teeth in the business as part of the boy band 98 Degrees.

I wasn’t there that night, so I can only give an account based on bits and pieces that certain players have provided for me. Two items I found to be fairly reliable: a) an Astros veteran asked one of the Bengals players to bring their bill over to rookie Bud Norris, who didn’t know it was a joke and ended up paying the whole thing; and b) Tim Byrdak was really, really excited to meet Lachey.

Byrdak tried to downplay it, but that didn’t stop select teammates from referring to him as “Tim Lachey” for a solid hour before batting practice on Tuesday.

Byrdak didn’t go overboard in trying to defend himself, but he did retaliate by hiding LaTroy Hawkins’ glove while pitchers slowly made their way to the field for stretching. I’m not sure that was equal pay back to being accused of having a “man crush” on Nick Lachey, but it was pretty entertaining watching a befuddled Hawkins circle the field looking for a glove that was stuffed in the back of Byrdak’s uniform pants.

 

 

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Even though the end result of the game left a lot to be desired, I had a blast hanging out with Brownie and J.D. in the television booth and I hope you enjoyed the tweets and blogs I posted during my time there. I posted some early game shots in one blog; here are some postgame shots to enjoy (and don’t forget, I’ll be in the radio booth Wednesday night):

Brownie makes some last-minute additions to his scorebook just before postgame show begins…

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The two broadcasters have one last off-air chuckle before the cameras start rolling again.

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Here they are talking to studio host Kevin Eschenfelder as the postgame show begins.

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Hanging out with the popular kids (Brownie and J.D.).

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Every time I hop on an Astros message board, I’ll read about some funny one-liner from Jim Deshaies or a Bill Brown witticism or some other cool story emerging from the television booth. Selfishly, I find this to be problematic, because sometimes I feel like someone threw a party and didn’t invite me.

While Brownie and J.D. are yucking it up in the booth, I’m in the press box, with only muted television monitors to keep me entertained (um…other than the play on the field, of course. That’s what I meant to say.)

Anyhoo, I thought I’d mix things up a bit this road trip and blog and Twitter/tweet from the broadcast booths during the Astros’ series in Cincinnati this week. So on Tuesday, I’ll be in the television booth with Brownie and J.D., and on Wednesday I’ll move over to the radio side and hang out with radio announcers Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond.

I hope you’ll join in on the fun. You can follow me on Twitter at @alysonfooter, and I’ll be updating my blog a couple of times during the game as well. See/read you then.

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I’ve known Jose Cruz for the better part of 13 years, and while I’m sure he’s gotten mad at some point during that time, I’ve never actually seen him mad. So I was somewhat startled by how forceful he was with his response to Pirates closer Matt Capps’ accusation that he and Miguel Tejada were stealing signs during Sunday’s game.

“Not in the 13 years I’ve been [first base coach] or the 30 years I’ve been in baseball,” Cruz said. “I’m offended, yes. I don’t know how that guy got the idea that I gave the signs to Tejada.”

Other news and notes from the Astros clubhouse:

Jose Valverde is not in Cincinnati but general manager Ed Wade is hopeful the closer will rejoin the team on Tuesday. After ruling out strep throat, Valverde was simply diagnosed with a “virus.” Sounds like the flu, and I’m glad the team had enough sense not to send him on the charter. Being in such close quarters — the clubhouse, the airplanes, the dugouts — it seems like if one player gets sick, they all do.

Consider, for example, a brief spell back in 2005 when it seemed like the entire team had come down with the flu. I recall Lance Berkman walking around the clubhouse wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves, which really should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the Puma.

Roy Oswalt underwent an MRI on his lower back on Friday, which came back negative. Wade blamed Oswalt’s problems simply on having a “veterans pitcher’s back,” which means when you pitch long enough in the Major Leagues, you’re going to suffer from some wear and tear.

Oswalt added swimming to his workout routine to strengthen his core and will cut down on the running.

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