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Sparks Notes

New Logo Appreciation

A new logo on a uniform doesn’t mean much until you can see it move on the shoulders of a hitter as he gets ready for the pitch, against the backdrop of full stands, infield dirt or outfield grass.

Today, the Astros played their first Spring Training game. Their new logos on new uniforms are electric. I felt giddy to see them in motion after so much idle consideration. They were animated like they were plugged into the wall. The classic nod and the modern touch lived well together in the game’s time unfolding. The orange is so much more distinct than the brick red, and the navy blue is such a stronger foundation for the brightness of that orange.

Whatever happens to this team in 2013, the uniforms are boss.

Chris Carter: smooth swing, confidence in the box. I am excited to see him pepper the Crawfish Boxes.

JD Martinez: he’s documented as choking up on the bat until his hand heals. He also seems to have quieted his pre-swing stance and preparation as well. Given his grimy finish, this is not surprising. I saw him lace a sharp liner up the middle, so I’ll go ahead and predice .290/25/100, just like I did last year.

Lucas Harrell: pitching on the razor’s edge.

It’s good to be back.

Perfection is a two-sided coin

One of the sides of that coin is pretty and bright and gets pressed to the lips of the pretty girl. The other side of the coin is the side that stuck it to the sidewalk the first place. The jolt of excitement at seeing the shiny side lasts until you grab it and find the muck on the hidden side.

This morning is the coin-grabbing time.

Watching the final pitches of San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain’s virtuoso performance¬†against the Houston Astros, I felt the youthful, nervous excitement that I felt when I watched Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig’s record and when I saw Craig Biggio reach and pass 3000 hits. The glare from the shine of the coin blocked out the troublesome shadow for a moment: the Astros got done up in historical fashion.

This morning, the drubbing takes on a sadder, more fluorescent gloom for our Houston side. As I said to a co-worker: “it’s weird to root for your own team to lose even bigger.” It’s weird, but not hard. I watched with breathless anticipation, too, in the late hours of a Wednesday night. Gregor Blanco’s miraculous catch meant more to me than Jordan Schafer dropping one it to raise his average to two-thirty-whatever. Baseball is a game of moments, and there’s no shame in enjoying one at the expense of those who, after all, could have changed the outcome by rapping a few hits and allowing fewer runs.

Coins have two sides, but really this game only had one. J.A. Happ stunk it up along with his bullpen mates. They left one show in town: the Matt Cain show. America tuned in.

***

Every perfect game seems to have that one iconic defensive play to preserve it. A utility man or fourth outfielder extends himself the extra half a foot–driven, it feels like, by the performance on the distant mound–and his name becomes synonymous with the achievement. Welcome to the books, Gregor Blanco.

Jordan “Truth” Schafer’s tweets wouldn’t make it past PR

I get that you may not head home from the park after nine innings and throw on the SEA-ANA late game, but srsly?

 

 

An Astros Cowboy Cap

This guy’s hat (cap?) is a genre-busting testament to something that probably has to do with Jose Altuve.

Cards v. Astros, June 6 20 and 12.

 

The Justin Maxwell Experience

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

#batflip

Jim Deshaies: “Lolli on the way in, pop on the way out.”

Roy Oswalt Has Moved On, Again

Watching the post-Houston career of Roy Oswalt unfold is like snooping on an ex-girlfriend on Facebook. It’s not like I CARE what Roy does, but it’s like, really? Texas? I mean that’s cool, we had a great time and he taught me so much about like life and he is on his own journey and I’m happy for him. But Texas is such a gimmie. Texas is the guy with the dimples who drives a Beamer and wears shiny loafers. It’s like oh yeah we’d all love to play for Texas, but some of have to add to the rich texture of life by NOT being the best team in baseball. Life is more interesting when things aren’t so easy.

You know what, it’s great. I hope he gets a World Series ring, and we’ll just keep doing our thing down in Houston, because we are strong and independent and we’ve got our own thing going and I can’t live in the past. It’s just not healthy. We’ve got Bud, now, and he’s so great. And we’re gonna be great. Good luck, Roy, and have fun. With those stupid hand signals. I’m sorry that was rude. I love you.

Speaking strength to Kershaw

 

Clayton Kershaw has the aura of the unhittable ace whose “stuff” resides in some magical realm of Valhalla where all talent, hard work and good fortune has coalesced into a spirit force that melts the lesser hitters of the league into a bubbling goo and Kershaw steps over them like I step over the bird crap that fell and solidified on my back step.

Until he met the baseball juggernaut out of America’s gateway to the lower left-hand quadrant of the Gulf of Mexico, Oil City USA: the Astros of Houston, Texas. Martinez, Lowrie, Altuve: the ace-breakers.

Kershaw may as well have been late-career Chan Ho Park last night in Los Angeles, as the Astros lit him up for a monstrous three runs over 7 innings. Well, it feels monstrous, anyway, and for the big shot to come from J.D. Martinez, who only days before tattooing a Kershaw pitch into the left field seats looked every bit the befuddled, out-gunned hitter. That was a good feeling, because let’s face it Astros fans we’re watching with the flutter in the pits of stomachs that this could be the game that we wake up from this very pleasant dream of .500 baseball.

But here is the thing about this team: they don’t care. Why should they? There are no expectations to fail to meet, few cagy veterans around to dictate some dusty brand of faux respect or traditionalism. The young guys don’t have to raise their voice above a din. This place is silent; the only voice is their own. If the bullpen naming itself The Regulators means anything, it means that there’s nobody around to tell them that they aren’t supposed to name themselves anything.

Sidenote: I’ve consulted my 175-year-old soothsaying tortoise Roy Hofheinz Junior Junior and he suggests that a healthy Matt Kemp would have had zero impact on a two-run differential game, so we can take that knowledge of the Ancients forward into today’s match-up.

Increased regulation

You heard the GM. Wilton gave up an unseemly 18 walks in his 70+ innings last year, so we’re all glad to see him return to his freakish control levels which are now at 21 Ks per walk which puts him right around the range of the number of SUVs per sensible micro-sedan on the 610 loop at rush hour.

The bulllpen is getting lots of pub, on Twitter and from the local writers. Brandon Lyon’s improvement has a lot to do with it, obviously, but I love watching Wesley Wright hold his own at the big league level, getting out lefties and talking like a veteran:

“It’s a big role and a lot of the times the games are in our hands. I think we all live for that moment,” said Wesley.

He’s been a quiet but consistent presence around this franchise for a good little while now and Wright has earned the right to speak as a crucial member of a well-performing crew.

In the words of McTaggart: Brian McTaggart @brianmctaggart: The talk of Minute Maid Park is the Regulators, citing this article by new Astros.com writer Clark Goble