As we take our final lap around the National League, it’s natural and particularly cathartic in the midst of this shit show of a season to unload the decades of hate that we’ve accrued for the teams of the Senior Circuit. Which brings us to San Francisco. The only problem is, I don’t hate them that much. And the reason why is tied to two of their most hate-able players.
My mom’s folks lived in Starkville, Mississippi for most of my growing up years. Originally from East Texas, they’d fled Lufkin (where my mom and dad met) for the Mississippi hill country when my grandfather’s debts accumulated to the point that skipping town seemed like the advisable course of action. That’s kinda how he rolled.
Once in the college town of Starkville, he started selling logging equipment, driving out into the piney woods that were very much like the ones they’d left behind in Lufkin in order to shoot the shit with loggers, and sell them their next hauler or splitter. On our trips there, I relished the opportunity to ride with him on work calls to see these huge machines. As a little kid who aspired to do nothing more than drive a bulldozer for a living, this was something like heaven.
My parents had shielded me from the less than honorable reasons for why my grandparents lived in Starkville, but eventually the truth will come out. My freshman year of college, the scenario repeated itself: bad debt had added up in Starkville. The Cadillac that they couldn’t afford, the growing medical bills for his emphysema, the in-home health care nurse who they loved to her face and called her that despicable word when she wasn’t, it all cost money that he didn’t have, and wasn’t making by working as a janitor at the agricultural extension office, the one out in the cotton fields with all the boll weevil posters on the walls.
They’d announced that they were moving back to Texas, and my folks should come and get them. This coincided with the weekend that I was to move to College Station to start school. So I moved in a week earlier than expected, no huge inconvenience for me, while my dad drove the Uhaul across I-20 to their new home in Plano. My mom still hates that she didn’t get more of a college send-off goodbye with me. I don’t know why she’d complain: she was crying before they got to Navasota anyway.
The debt may have been dodged, but the emphysema came with them back to Texas, and my grandfather died within a year. But not before he reminded me of his loyalties: in January of 2000, in the middle of a freak snowstorm, Mississippi State defeated A&M at the Independence Bowl, in overtime. The final whistle blew, and not thirty seconds later, my phone rang.
“How bout dem Boodawgs?”
Ever since they’d been in Mississippi, MSU had kinda been my second college team. I followed their basketball team to its unlikely Final Four berth, and heard the stories of their great 80’s baseball teams. Those teams were mythical in my eyes: Raffy Palmiero (pre-enhancing drugs), Bobby Thigpen (the most under-rated closer of the 90’s) and of course, Will Clark.
Clark was (and by all accounts, continues to be) a huge asshole. He always beat up on the Astros, including his famous first-MLB-AB homer off Lynn Nolan. But when you grow up watching games in the Astrodome, anyone who could hit homers was appealing, and a player from my grandparents’ town was even better. I didn’t know that he was chippy, or a sort of proto-Kent, or any of the things that I know now. He might have worn black and orange then, but he’d worn maroon and white before and that was good enough for me.
When my grandfather died, a lot of the truths that had been covered up came out. The prescription drug abuse, the emotional abuse, the debts that had to be settled, the vicious racism. Having already drunk deeply of the Aggie kool-aid, the disillusion that comes with having the veil of childhood yanked aside provided the final separation of my emotional ties to Mississippi State as well.
Having cast off that which hinders, I can now begin to embrace my hate of the Golden Gate bastards. But one more villain remains.
Tuesday, August 28th
7:05 CT, MMPUS
Matt Cain v. Bud Norris
Cain’s had a great season, and naturally his most memorable outing came against a stronger version of this lineup. Naturally, expectations for tonight are not especially high. Parades is 2 for 3 against him, so hopefully the law of averages remains in the rookie’s favor.
Bud’s had a rough year. (Haven’t we all?) I’d love nothing more than to hear next March that he’s in the best shape of his life and hungry to put 2012 behind him. Not to impugn his effort, but something definitely needs adjusting in his game. Buster Posey has his number, to the tune of .750/.750/1.550. Yikes.
Wednesday, August 29th
7:05 CT, MMPUS
Barry Zito v. Dallas Keuchel
Zito always gets a bad rap because of his terrible contract, but it’s not like he’s a terrible pitcher. He’s very much a serviceable 2-3 starter on an okay team, and a great back-end starter on a better team. Snyder and Altuve both hit him reasonably well. Everyone else, not so much.
Keuchel, well, what can you say about Kuechel that hasn’t already been said about Hawkeye in The Avengers: wouldn’t be part of a better team, and certainly doesn’t bring a lot to the table besides moving the plot along. He’s never faced the Giants.
Thursday, August 30th
7:05 CT, MMPUS
Ryan Vogelsong v. Jordan Lyles
Vogelsong looks like the sort of schmuck that Walter White would blow up on Breaking Bad. Hell, Jesse could probably outsmart him. Bougusevic is 0-fer against him, and only Altuve and Snyder have any hits in a short history.
Lyles is still showing flashes of potential, and lots of perseverance in this shitty year. Hopefully, he hangs around long enough to enjoy some real run support on a regular basis. He’s never faced the Jints.
Escalona: Maybe sitting out this whole season was actually a stroke of genius.
Cordero: Sprained toe, stepping in the shit he’s been throwing.
Lowrie: He’s got a case of TBD.
Maxwell: Bruised finger, day-to-day
Norris: Foot contusion. Slipped in Cordero’s shit.
Shreefer: Sore shoulder. Strained it hitchhiking out of town.
Weiland: As a closet corpophiliac, Cordero’s shit was too hard to resist. Shoulder infection followed. RETCON!
Justin Christian: 15-day DL, blasphemy. You think you could have the initials J.C., call yourself Christian, and not get smited a little? Think again.
Aubrey Huff: right knee strain. Completed baseball activities August 23rd. So now that he’s done coloring, he can use the grown-up scissors.
Shane Loux – Neck strain. 15-day DL.
Brad Penny – Brad Penny on the DL? Get the fuck outta here.
Freddy Sanchez – out for season with back surgery.
Eric Surkamp – out for season because they finally realized he’s 12 years old.
Brian Wilson – Baseball Dane Cook, everybody! Tommy John surgery.
Tuesday – Double Play Tuesdays. Featuring more guaranteed double plays than any other team in the majors!
Wednesday – Price Matters. No shit.
Thursday – Guy’s Night Out! Stage an intervention for a buddy! Bemoan the fact that instead of cheerleaders like the Rockets and Texans, we have an anthropomorphic rabbit employed to drive freight across this great land.
My favorite Astros-Giants memory came in 2006. Barry Bonds came to town in pursuit of Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs, and Russ Springer wasn’t having any of it. Like the iPhone, edible underwear and Korean bbq tacos, it’s a wonder no one else thought of it before: plunk the son of a bitch. So Russ did. And Russ got ejected. But for one night, the record stood because one forgettable middle reliever wasn’t going to be the guy whose name went in the record books for giving up that dinger. He became the guy whose second Google auto-complete record is “Russ Springer Barry Bonds”.
What to Watch For:
- The arrival of Parades
- Lyles’ quest for consecutive wins
- Just one week, please lord, just one week without being the lowlight on Sportscenter