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Cathedrals of the Game: Houston Astrodome

By bullpenbrian - March 31, 2013 - 11:00 am Leave a comment.

Houston Astrodome

One of the special treats about being a Cubs fan is the beauty and charm of Wrigley Field. It’s one of the most cherished ballparks in baseball, and especially to those rooting for the Cubs.

Of course not all baseball fans have the privilege to grow up enjoying the gem of a ball yard at Clark and Addison. Instead, for many youngsters the greenest grass on earth may have resided at one of the rinky-dink stadiums of the 1950-60s, or in other cases, there wasn’t any green grass at all, but the shine of green Astroturf in the multi-purpose, cookie cutter parks from the 1970-80s.

At any rate, they’re all cathedrals to budding baseball fans dreaming of playing in the major leagues. It’s where heroes play and where hearts jump out of chests the moment the field comes into view after passing through a turnstile.

This season I’ll be writing about the many cathedrals of major league baseball; young and old, good and not so good, and all those in between. Particularly, I’ll look at some (not all) of the best performances in each stadium. Who had the most career hits? Who stole the most bases in a single game? Which pitcher collected the most strikeouts? etc.

With the opening of the 2013 season in Houston, I begin this series with the Astrodome, the former home of the former National League Astros.

"The Eight Wonder of the World"
-Opened April 24, 1965
-Closed October 9, 1999
-Still Standing
-Key Feature: Air conditioning
-Originally the park was to have natural grass growing beneath the more than 4,000 clear plastic panels on the roof. When that didn’t work, it lead to the birth of Astro Turf.

Top Individual Performances Single Game

  • Hits: Edgardo Alfonzo (6) – 8.30.99
  • Triples: *tied first* Ernie Banks (3) – 6.11.66
  • Steals: Tony Gwynn (5) – 9.20.86
  • RBI: Pete Incaviglia (7) – 6.14.92

Pitching Performances

  • Scoreless innings: Randy Johnson (36) – 1998
  • Strikeouts: Nolan Ryan, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson (16)

Career Leaders

  • Games: Jose Cruz (931), Biggio (857), Cesar Cedeno (791)
  • Plate Appearances: Biggio (3,686)
  • Hits: Jose Cruz (949), Biggio (913)
  • Runs: Biggio (535), Jeff Bagwell (465)
  • HRs: Bagwell (126), Jim Wynn (97), Glen Davis (72)
  • RBI: Bagwell (469), Jose Cruz (460)
  • OBP: Bagwell (.421), Joe Morgan (.404), Biggio (.383)

Pitching Leaders

  • Wins: Larry Dierker (87). Joe Niekro (73), Mike Scott (65)
  • Complete Games: Dierker (67)
  • Shutouts: Dierker (17)
  • Saves: Dave Smith (107)
  • Strikeouts: Nolan Ryan (1,004), Dierker (882)

Astros Uniforms As Dated As Space Shuttle

By bullpenbrian - November 4, 2012 - 2:30 am 2 comments.

Like the Astros’ new threads?

I posed the same question on Twitter and most of the responses were largely approving of the new uniforms. I like’em too, but I wish I loved them.

It’s so baseball the Astros stuck with tradition in favor of trying something new, something modern, something original.

I hate to rag on the downtrodden Stros’. But I get frustrated with baseball choking on old traditions. New ballparks built to look like old ballparks, and new uniforms that are essentially old uniforms.

Wasn’t the purpose of a uniform change to re-brand the Astros in preparation for its move from the National League to the American league? This looks like recycling, not re-branding.

Maybe they’ll grow on me…tradition, I guess.


Cubs Join NL Central 100

By bullpenbrian - October 2, 2012 - 2:05 am Leave a comment.

What better way for the Cubs to lose its 100th game of the season than being shutout at home against the major’s worst club, the Houston Astros (54-106).    Seriously, how fitting.

And for all the talk coming from the Cubs’ clubhouse about avoiding 100, Chicago hardly put up a fight on Monday night. No runs, no walks, two hits and…11 K’s. Yeesh.

With the big One-Hundred now official, here’s a quick study of the last time teams within the NL Central have also crossed the century mark in the loss column.

  • Pittsburgh: The Pirates eclipsed 100 or more losses 7 times since 1917, including 3 straight seasons ’52, ’53, ’54. The most recent occurrence was a (57-105) record in 2010.
  • St. Louis: The Cardinals’ organization has four 100-loss campaigns, none of which have come recently. The Browns twice slumped to 100-losses in 1897 (102) & 1898 (111), and the Cardinals also hit triple-digit losses in back-to-back seasons: 1907 (101) & 1908 (105)–the last time the Cubs won the World Series.
  • Houston: The Astros avoided 100-losses during its first 49-years of existence. But in 2011 the club succumbed to a (56-106) mark, which is in jeopardy of being outdone if they lose 1 of its final 2-games against the Cubs this week.
  • Milwaukee: The Brewers have spent 44-years in Milwaukee. They’ve dropped 100-games on one occasion–2002 (56-106). Who knew?
  • Cincinnati: The Reds, remarkably, have but one 100-loss season in 131-years of play–(61-101) in 1982.
  • Chicago: This season marks the third-time in franchise history the Cubs have dropped 100 or more games. It was first done with 103-losses in 1962 and then repeated with the exact same mark in 1966. Even if the Cubs were to drop its final two-games this year they would only reach 102-losses. Now, there’s something to hang your hat on this offseason.

Offseason Activity In The NL Central

By bullpenbrian - January 3, 2012 - 2:01 am Leave a comment.


  • Arrivals:
    3B Ian Stewart (trade with Rockies)
    RF David DeJesus (free agent from A’s)
    LHP Travis Wood (trade with Reds) & OF Dave Sappelt (trade with Reds)
  • Gone Fishing:
    Sean Marshall (traded to Reds)
    Tyler Colvin (traded to Rockies)
    DJ LeMahieu (traded to Rockies)
    Aramis Ramirez (free agent, signed with Brewers)
    John Grabow (free agent, signed with Dodgers)
    *Carlos Pena? (unsigned free agent)
    *Kerry Wood? (unsigned free agent)

Marmol, We have A Problem

By bullpenbrian - August 17, 2011 - 1:50 am Leave a comment.

I’ve always said I like Marmol more as a setup man than a closer.

His bouts of wildness have grown worse with time. And his ability to both create and escapes his self made jams in the ninth inning have grown wider apart as well.

The walk-off grand slam Tuesday night is just another example of many that tell us Marmol isn’t the solid closer many believe him to be.

Marmol is 28/36 in save opportunities this season. That’s 77%, nearly 10 points below where you want your closer to be.

Yes, he’s been dominate again since returning to the closer’s role, but let’s not forget why he lost his job temporarily in the first place–Inconsistency.

That doesn’t mean I believe Marmol is of no use to the Cubs. Rather, I believe he could again return to being the most dominate setup man in baseball, if the Cubs would only put him there.

Problem is, I’m certain Marmol would never go for it. Not now, and not with a contract that’s paying him to save games.

The main advantage of Marmol setting up is the ability to change pitchers before the game is lost. If that nasty slider of his isn’t working, you simply go to the bullpen.

But when you live and die with a pitcher as maddening as Marmol, spectacular one night and disastrous the next, you come to expect the unknown. And that’s not the making of a top-notch closer.


The Houston Astros are closing in on 100-losses for the first time in its franchise history, which dates back 50 years.

The team posted consecutive losing records in 2009-10 for the first time in two decades.

This season is sure to be a third, and possibly the record setter for the club’s worst season ever.

And by definition, when you struggle against this Cubs team, you know times are tough. Very tough.

At (39-84) the Astros are far from simply being a bad baseball team. More like the worst team in the Major Leagues. Even the lowly Orioles, with the majors second worst record, are eight games better than Houston.

By contrast, Philadelphia, arguably the best team in baseball, has lost a mere 42 games all season. That’s nearly 40 more wins better than the ‘Stros.

But what’s eerily similar to the Cubs is Houston’s belief that they’re headed in the right direction.

A (59-52) record after June 1 last year convinced the club manager Brad Mills was worthy of a contract extension, despite a (17-34) start to the season.

Now like Quade, another manager who sparkled late in 2010, Mills finds himself on the hot seat heading towards the off season, which begs the question: should a manager whose team reaches triple digits in the loss column return, especially for a club that’s never sank to such depths before?

I wouldn’t think so.

On two occasions the Astros have neared 100-losses, both times totaling 97 defeats. And in both situations the manager was replaced following the season. So don’t think the Cubs are the only organization eyeing Ryne Sandberg.


Cubs Swimming With The Fishes

By bullpenbrian - June 5, 2011 - 2:45 am 1 comment.

The Cubs will have the worst record in the NL come the end of this 10-game road trip. And that’s acknowledging Houston’s upcoming homestand against St. Louis and Atlanta.

With just 19 quality starts, the fewest in baseball, and a .170 average with RISP over its last eight games, the Cubs have dropped five straight, fallen 10-games below .500 and remain only percentage points ahead of of Houston in the Central’s basement.

The formality of the standings is all that keeps it from being official…Chicago is the National League’s weakest competition.


Cubs On Pace For NL’s Worst Record

By bullpenbrian - May 31, 2011 - 1:01 am Leave a comment.

The Cubs played so poorly on Memorial Day they made Houston, owners of the worst record in the NL (20-34), look good.

But that’s been the calling card of late for the Cubs, and one that’s putting them on the path to soon join Houston at the basement of the National League.


Jose Lima vs. Cubs

By bullpenbrian - May 25, 2010 - 12:30 am Leave a comment.

Jose Lima, the pitcher, is best remembered for his stellar season in 1999.

He won 21 games, led the majors in starts (35), made his lone All Star appearance and finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.

Lima faced the Cubs four times during the season, going 3-1. He lasted 7.1 innings on two occasions, eight innings another, and lastly five innings, never allowing more than three earned runs.


Ridge A, 1060 W. Addison

By bullpenbrian - September 1, 2009 - 1:18 am Leave a comment.


The coldest, driest, calmest place on earth has been discovered.

Surprisingly, it’s not located at the corner of Clark and Addison, which was my first guess.

Instead, a spot called Ridge A, located on the Antarctic Plateau, takes first prize.

The average winter temperature there is a balmy minus 93-degress Fahrenheit–that’s minus 70-degrees Celsius and roughly a wee-bit colder than the Cubs’ playoff chances.

And why on earth, Ridge A included, is Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman still on the Cubs roster?


Cubs From Florida

By bullpenbrian - July 30, 2009 - 8:10 pm Leave a comment.


Venice Beach, Florida is the shark tooth capitol of the world.

More importantly, it’s also my vacation spot through the weekend–so take note of the shorter posts!

Don’t have any idea why so many shark teeth are found here, but the locals sell shark tooth necklaces faster than they can make them.

They say wearing the necklaces brings you good luck. Would’ve liked to try them out about a month ago with this Cubs lineup.


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