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.
Sometimes baseball is really simple. In essence, for a hitter, there is the one idea: hit the worst pitch you see as hard as you can. Carlos Lee, El Caballo Viejo or Gordo or whichever unflattering adjective you’d like to append, is the most glaring example of a player who has lost the ability to complete that simple task with any regularity.
To that end, the most resounding image of El Caballo this year is the helpless chip of a meatball pitch–whether it be a hanging slider or an easy fastball right down the middle–that clearly should have been hit a long ways, especially by the big, expensive slugger in the middle of the lineup. Lee simply lacks whatever fast twitch muscle response or explosion of exertion that a hitter needs to punish the opposing pitcher’s weakest efforts. The effects of age are not obvious but subtle. Only over time does the millisecond of delay in Carlos Lee’s swings from last year to this year, and the year before to last, become a trend rather than an aberration. While 95 percent of this Astros team tries to calm the nerves of youth and bring order to the chaos of the young hitter’s overall presentation, Carlos Lee is among the few in the Houston stable attempting to patch together the fraying tapestry if his career’s worn through years.
The Monday evening game against the Philadelphia Philles–the gleaming pride of National League baseball with their fireman’s calendar of starting pitchers so strong and consistent that they’ve been able to weather any faltering in the lineup–is among those farcical late season match-ups that is the baseball equivalent of an MMA match between Ivan Drago and McLovin. An Astros victory will add up to little more than a feeble 2012 confidence booster, and a loss is just another affirmation of the pecking order in the league at the moment. That said, I’ll take the win, if only to recall that satisfying sense of order that follows a win even in a lost season.
Two of the runs that added up to the five-to-one victory came off of the bat of the aforementioned Carlos Lee. El Caballo rattled a hanging curveball from the still effective and very relaxed-seeming Roy Oswalt and tagged a few seats in the Crawford Boxes. For just a moment, when Lee jumped on that rare bad pitch, shades of the old Astros–those veteran teams of bad ball punishers and home run launchers and doubles demons–flickered across my mind’s eye. El Caballo rode the 360-foot track from home to home, astride a younger version of himself as he rode the game’s best graceful circuit.