Talkin’ Boston baseball with ‘stro fans


How do others view us? Humans are an egocentric group as a whole and that certainly applies to our interests, be they entertainment, politics or sports. How do others outside the Red Sox loop view our players, fans and management?

I recently went to Galveston, Texas and as a trail runner paid a visit, as I have in the past, to Jack Brooks Park. My first goal was to run the bike trail and the second was to spend some time at the ball fields and talk some baseball.

Since this was youth baseball, you get a nice mix of parents and grandparents and starting a discussion is simple since it is baseball and baseball fans have no shortage of opinions. Of course as a Red Sox fan I received many thanks for Jeff Bagwell. I will paraphrase some of the comments and, trust me, these were very astute fans who knew Boston baseball.

I had a discussion going with several Houston fans and what surprised me most is the player they said would be a perfect fit for their team – David Ortiz. The talent was part of it but the deciding factor was leadership. Ortiz is viewed as a leader who does it in the clubhouse and on the field – a perfect fit for a young and promising Astros’ team.

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Dustin Pedroia, to no surprise, is another favorite based on sheer grittiness. One fan, about in my age group, compared him to Nellie Fox. That is quite a compliment.

Another fan, a former catcher, was especially enamored with Christian Vazquez. “Don’t know if he can hit that well but he can damn well catch and throw.”

Another favorite was Daniel Nava and that somewhat surprised me. Brock Holt, a native Texan, did not. Mookie Betts was clearly the choice as a player that Houston fans would love to have.

Notice a trend? Seems they appreciate players that have an edge.

“The skinny kid (Clay Buchholz) always seems to do a dance on us.” “How the hell can he have an ERA like that?” And that reliever (Koji Uehara)? “He saved you guys last season.”

Jealously exists regarding the direction with young players. Hunter Pence is missed. Jon Singleton, acquired in the trade with Philadelphia, is “no Hunter Pence” as someone commented. Likewise Michael Bourn is also among the missing and while many can accept player movement they find the concept of not locking up the young and talented frustrating. What should have been centerpieces are gone elsewhere. Most expect this to change.

The ownership issue was interesting in that Astros’ folks view Boston ownership a notch below the Yankees and Dodgers in willingness of opening up the purse strings. This was not a negativism but the reality spending on product. Free agency and the signing of Rusney Castillo were topics. The general thought is Boston will solidify pitching with some big name free agents.

The jury is still out on new owner Jim Crane but support seems to be heading in his direction, especially since Drayton McLane, the previous owner, was “running the team into the ground,” as one person pointed out. Another commented that “Until 2005 we were among the best in the NL. Sunk after the World Series in 2005.” “McLane owns that,” added in his companion.

Crane is a Houston guy so that gets points and the eternal hope for the Houston fans is that the team will spend. Much was made of a rather substantial cable deal as a nice bankroll potential. I hit one and all with Crane’s Massachusetts connection. Crane has a summer home on Nantucket. I have not been invited – yet.

Some did mention an ill-fated attempt by Crane’s marketing department to change the team’s name. That has appeared to be dead. At least those uniforms have been altered.

Enron Field is now Minute Maid Park after Enron went belly up. The ball yard is beautiful and easy to reach despite being downtown. Red Sox fans flock to the venue and it becomes a “home game” in some respects. The ‘stro fans I spoke with actually envy this. The general consensus is how favorably it reflects on the Boston fan base that responds with passion even in the darkest of times.

Those are some of the comments I gleaned from others. The general impression is that the 2014 season was just a bump and those from the outside looking in expect a rebound and into the playoffs for 2015 – at least those Houston fans I spoke with.

Boston will be back in Houston in July and I hope to make the trip. This could be a great baseball area and I suspect it will be.