When they came on the air back in 2006, Astros fans held Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond at arms length.
Now, they're gone, and it's a damn shame.
It's been a strange, weird year to be following the Houston Astros. Lots of changes have exploded onto the scene with the new ownership group and more appear to be on the way, with a new color scheme and different branding at Minute Maid Park.
For many baseball fans, their connection to the team comes through its voices. Radio, TV, print or internet media reflect as much on how fans view the team as the actual games. How many people grew up listening to Milo Hamilton or Gene Elston? How many learn more about baseball every time they watch Jim DeShaies or Bill Brown? How many fan bases get the chance to read a smart, extraordinary writer as he blossoms into one of the best in baseball? Go read this article by Z, linking the Astros to Greek mythology with a fantastically different structure, some great insight and a succinct message, and show me the writer who can do better than that any where else in the baseball world.
Astros fans were incredibly lucky over the years, and now they're faced with certain change. We knew it was coming, though.
Way back in 2005, we knew Milo's time was limited. He was phasing out of the road trips, leaving that to the new twosome of Dave and Brett. Only, Astros fans couldn't deal with the sting of losing Alan Ashby a great color man who didn't shy away from stinging the team a time or two.
So, the jokes came. How many times did you hear, in those early years, "Now, which one of the new guys is this? I can't tell them apart?" It was funny because it was true, but it was only true because they were new. It takes time to get used to something. I'm sure there are Elston fans who don't really buy into the Milo Mystique, which is fine. Personally, listening to Milo was part of my baseball life and as long as I keep score, I'm putting a blue star on my scorecard for every fine defensive play, no matter what game I'm covering.
We knew there was going to be transition some day on the radio side, just like we saw the transition on the print/internet side. Brian McTaggart gave way to Jose Ortiz, who gave way to Bernardo Fallas, who gave way to Zachary Levine. Richard Justice left, but is still around. Alyson Footer switched jobs, letting us gain Tags back in a different position. Then, Footer switched jobs again, and we're lacking.
Still, radio has a primacy in the baseball mythos. This is a game built on legend and sentiment. It inspires us, it informs us, it links us to the past. Radio has always seemed to be the carrier of that mantle, as the Vin Scully's and Jon Miller's of the world serenade us with every double and double play. Who the radio guys are matters, and we were just getting to know Brett and Dave.
After seven years, they were part of the experience. You didn't hear much about people telling them apart, because they were the radio voice of the Astros. Milo got a ton of attention with his sendoff this season, but it was Brett and Dave bringing us every spring training game and calling a LOT of bad baseball the past two seasons. That should count for something, right?
But, like everything with this new administration, it seems a clean break was in order. As much as we could surmise that Brett would take over for Milo upon his retirement, with Dave as his able color man, the transition away from a Hall of Fame broadcaster was never going to be that easy. New management bit the bullet and pulled the trigger; they're starting fresh with something new.
What that is, we don't know yet. I'd expect them to go for some recognizable names there, though. Maybe a Larry Dierker as the color guy with an experience play-by-play man. Could this be Craig Biggio's landing spot? Why not? We've put him in every other organizational job this year?
The point is, we should expect something more than two guys who were big league rookies with the Astros. They certainly never seemed like rookies, did they? Maybe they're also a perfect metaphor for this particular brand of Astros baseball, as Houston is trading away two guys who have been around a while but didn't fit into the organizational picture.
It's a damn shame, too. I was just getting used to them.