1. I don't really watch every game of the season. I aspire to do it, and I succeed in watching virtually all the games that are on weeknights and Sundays. But that part about watching the games that are on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays afterwards on the mlb.tv archive is only partly true - I just watch the archived game video for the games that the Astros win. When they lose while I'm out on religious observance (like the last 3 games of the season, which took place on Sukkot), I take a pass. At best, I watch a few of the highlights, but skip the gloomy ending.
2. I was wrong about Wandy. Ever since Spring Training I've been making confident claims about how this would be Wandy's breakout year, and how he was going to win 15 games. Well, it certainly was his breakout - he was by far the star of Houston's rotation this year. But he only won 14 games. It wasn't a statistic of his own making however, as there were several games --including his last start of the season -- where he pitched great, but didn't get a win out of it. With just a little help from his teammates, he probably would have had 17 or 18 wins. (There's always next year...)
3. I haven't really been a steadfast Astros fan since my childhood. In between my youthful fandom, back when I lived in Houston, and my more recent FANaticism, there were a bunch of years where I didn't follow the Astros that closely. I always cheered for my hometown team, of course, but I didn't know all the players or check on every game. There were a lot of years where the only real Astros news was a box score and one-sentence highlight in the Washington Post. Being a fan in exile has really become a possibility with the Internet. In the early 2000's, semi-realtime pitch-by-pitch game coverage made it possible to follow games live - and free. (Who wants to pay for radio?) Then came mlb.tv. My dad signed up for it in 2004 - quickly discovered that he was blocked from watching his local team, and passed me his account. I was hooked. From there is was just one step to annual treks to Kissimmee and spending 6 months in front of the computer watching games in HDD on my mlb.tv premium subscription.
4. I actually have sent fan mail to a player. I tell everyone that I never talk - or send fan mail - to players. But one time, I actually did send fan mail to a player. It was my favorite-Astro-ever Jeff Bagwell's birthday in May of 2005, and he was on the DL and scheduled for shoulder surgery. So I made a birthday card for him (reproduced below), using a doctored photo of his teammates during a Spring Training game and my Bagwell bobblehead with a band-aid on the right shoulder. I actually did send it to him, at the Astros stadium address. That's pretty much it for player fan mail. I don't talk to players at Spring Training either; I just take their pictures. I do send lots of notes and online-comments to sports reporters, especially my favorite Alyson Footer. But that's because I like to write about baseball, and I suck at playing sports, so sportswriters seem more like kindred spirits. And also, they sometimes write back.
5. I actually did believe that the Astros would make the playoffs this year. Well, not the last month of the season. For all that I claim that "it's not over till it's over" - when they are mathematically eliminated - there is a point where I accept defeat in my heart of hearts. But throughout the abysmal Spring Training and the lousy season start, I kept hoping. I was rocking when the Astros were 1 game out of the division lead in the second half. And I didn't stop hoping until they were pretty deep into their dive into oblivion.
6. I couldn't care less who wins the World Series this year. I told my sister Elizabeth in Denver that I'm cheering for the Rockies. I told my friend Ann from Minnesota-doncha-know that I'm cheering for her Twins. I told my dad, who grew up in Malden, Mass, that I'm cheering for the Red Sox. And I told my daughter-in-law's dad, who is a famous media commentator from Philadelphia, that I'm cheering for the Phillies. But actually, since the Astros aren't playing, I don't really care who wins in the playoffs -- as long as it's not the Yankees.
7. Some of my Spring Training photos are doctored. I'm not really a great photographer. I just take a whole lot of pictures, hoping that if 10% of them are in focus, I still have a lot of good Astros photos. Sometimes I get a lucky shot - like this one of the Nats' shortstop flying over Bourn sliding into second. But the picture I posted was cropped and then edited to fade out those annoying advertising signs in the background.
8. I don't really love Kissimmee. Come on, guys - it's the armpit of Orlando. A drive down US 192 (AKA Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway - he probably died from eating junk food on that road) is like Rockville Pike on an acid trip. And when you get to the western end of it, you're at freakin' Disney World, a big gigantic heap of cartoon mouse crap. So, I'm not all that into Kissimmee. It just happens to be the place I love to go more than just about anywhere in this hemisphere: Astro's Spring Training. I really do love Spring Training. The playoffs just started and I'm already looking forward to Spring Training. No, worse than that - the day I fly out of Orlando to go home from Spring Training, I'm already looking forward to the following March, when I can go back again.
It's just too bad that the Astros don't play somewhere nicer than Kissimmee. But it could be worse - they could be the Braves and actually play inside Disney World.
9. I'm not 100% sure about Baggy and steroids. Bagwell said he never did them, and I'm 99% sure I believe that. Maybe 99.9%. Everyone in the business says what a great guy he is, and you'd like to believe it when he said he didn't use them. But plenty of fans have had been disappointed when their favorite players came out of the PED closet. I remember back when Rafael Palmeiro got his 3000th hit in 2005, and two weeks later news came out about his failed drug test. My son, who grew up in Maryland and cheered for the Orioles, was really bummed out - he felt like his trust was violated. I don't care about The Rocket - he can lie his head off about it, and everyone knows he's guilty as sin. But Bagwell's my favorite Astro ever, and if it turns out that he was a liar and a cheat, it would break my heart.
10. I think the Astros are going all the way next year. Really. I really do. You can quote me on that.