Houston's Love/Hate Relationship with its Former Heroes

Nolan Ryan had some great moments as a Houston Astro. But does his role as principal owner of the Texas Rangers eclipse all that with a younger generation of Houston Astros fans? - Ronald Martinez

You're a baseball fan, so maybe you're allowed to be fickle. Here's a look at former players whose star might have fallen from Houston's heaven

You love her. Everything about her makes you smile.

No other woman's hips sway so gently when she walks down the street. No other woman's hair shimmers like her long, blond tresses shine in the light of the waxing moon. And when she smiles, your heart skips a beat because you know she's smiling just for you.

You love her. Life is good.

But then one day you find her in bed with your best friend, and all the good things you felt are gone in one puff of dirty smoke.

You hate her, and you wonder how life got this bad.

And so it is with our baseball heroes who pitch, hit, field and throw for us one day, but are in bed with the enemy the next.

We know the arguments.

Baseball is a business, and a favorite player going to a new team is the same stark reality faced by our grandfathers and our fathers before us. And it's not always a player's fault. Maybe he didn't ask to be traded. Maybe he tried just as hard when he was ours, but had a better supporting cast on his new team. Maybe he just matured a little, figured things out.

Indeed, we can listen to all the rational arguments to the contrary, but why should we? We're baseball fans, and that means we don't have to be rational about anything!

Does time heal all wounds, or does the last image burn hottest? Does a player simply have to don another uniform, or does it take more than that to earn our disdain? What if he not only climbs into bed with the enemy, but also smirks at our shock and pain?

Here, for your consideration, are a few names from Houston's baseball past that might have you asking whether that feeling in the pit of your stomach is caused by butterflies of love or acid indigestion.

JOE MORGAN

I saw Joe Morgan play when the Colt .45s came to San Antonio to face the San Antonio Missions in an exhibition game. Honestly, I was too young to remember anything about Little Joe specifically, but I do remember my father talking about him, and I did see him with my own eyes. Everybody knows what happened next, as Morgan was destined to be traded — along with Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo and Denis Menke — to the rival Cincinnati Reds for Tommy Helms, Lee May and Jimmy Stewart. Morgan, of course, went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Reds. Those Cincinnati squads of the Big Red Machine era were among the best teams of all time, while the Astros during the same period ... not so much. But for years he was our National League rival, and because of his great success with another team, the question must be asked, do you love him or hate him?

* * *

BRAD LIDGE

Who could forget closer Brad Lidge's epic fail against the Cardinals when Albert Pujols hit a ball in the NL championship game that still hasn't come down? And although the Astros would come back to win that series and go on to be swept in the 2005 World Series, Lidge was the losing pitcher in two of those games. But he rose from the ashes after being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, recording 41 saves in 41 regular-season opportunities and clinching the decisive game of the World Series that year. Lidge was a good-but-flawed pitcher for the Astros, but for the Phillies, he was perfect, and now he's got a glittering World Series ring on his finger while we still have none. Love him or hate him?

* * *

GEOFF BLUM

Houston's newest member of the broadcast team played some pretty good ball for the Astros in 2002 and 2003, but maybe those good vibes were wiped clean when he hit that home run for the Chicago White Sox in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. And to top it off, he blew us a kiss! And although Blum returned to the Astros as a player in 2009 and 2010, it's that kiss that some of us remember most. Do you think Blum will be wearing his World Series ring when he conducts interviews and calls games for the Astros this year? Do you love him or hate him?

EDITOR NOTE: Alyson Footer just clarified on Twitter that the kiss was directed towards the visiting families section at Minute Maid Park.

* * *

LANCE BERKMAN

Born and raised in New Braunfels, Lance Berkman went to college at Rice University, and when he was drafted by the Astros in the first round of the 1997 draft, it seemed like a match made in heaven. And for many years, Berkman was a great player for Houston, and some think he'll have a plaque in Cooperstown some day. But by the end of his career in Houston, some people were calling him "Fat Elvis," so maybe it was a little galling to them when they read that a trimmed-down Berkman had reported to the St. Louis Cardinals for spring training in 2011, helping to lead our bitter division foe to another world championship. And if that wasn't enough, now he's a member of our new division rival, the Texas Rangers, and going so far as to remind fans everywhere that "there's more than one team in Texas." Do you love him or hate him?

* * *

NOLAN RYAN

And speaking of those same Texas Rangers, how about Nolan Ryan? He claimed nearby Alvin, Texas as his hometown, and when he came to the Astros as a free agent prior to the 1980 season, he teamed with J.R. Richard and Joe Niekro to form one of the best starting rotations anyone had ever seen. He gave Astros fans some of his best years and played for some exciting teams, including the 1980 and 1986 teams. He pitched a no-hitter for the Astros, and registered his 4,000th strikeout while wearing our colors. But New Jersey carpetbagger John McMullen let Ryan go to the Texas Rangers, and he's now wearing their cap in the Hall of Fame. In his new role as principal owner, president and CEO of the Rangers, some people blame him for helping to shanghai the Astros into the American League. So despite his Astros heroics, the question must be asked, do you love him or do you hate him?

Look for the poll below, where you can vote for the Astro with the most tarnished star. Or if you're willing to let bygones be bygones and are happy to have these players in the Houston Astros family, you can vote that way, too. And if you harbor bad feelings about some other player not mentioned here, be sure to mention him in the Comments section, and we'll have fun discussing him.

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