Ask an Astros fan about the 1994 season and they will most likely respond with a few sad “if only“ and “we’ll never know” type comments. I was 10-years-old at the time and I did not realize what was happening so I do not have any real emotional attachment to the season. But if you are one of those who do, be prepared to fly your Astros flags at half mast. On this day in 1994, MLB owners approved a new revenue sharing agreement including a salary cap, inching ever closer to the strike shortened ’94 season.
I highly recommend the interview of former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent from 2006 done by Maury Brown of The Business of Baseball. It has great baseball insight into the labor dealing of the early ‘90’s and Vincent pulls no punches with his views of commissioner Selig. What more could you want.
However, if a fiesta is more of what you are looking for this Friday, then you can pull out the birthday cake for the Dominican Republic’s own Wandy Rodriguez. (As a side note, I highly recommend wgr56’s review of Pelotero if you have not checked it out yet.)
Rodriguez posted his best season for Houston in 2009 going 14-12 with career highs in strikes-outs (193) and innings pitched (205.2), posting a 3.02 ERA and a WAR above 4. However, it would be the only season he would finish with a winning record thus far. In 2012, Rodriguez led the NL in game starts with 33 and matched his career high in innings pitched as he split time between Houston and Pittsburg.
Once Berkman and Oswalt jumped ship, Wandy became my favorite player left on the team. He has one of the best curveballs I have ever seen. His delivery is very fluid and he collected a surprising about of strike outs for a pitcher of his size and ability, but never really became a dominant force on the mound. The best way I can describe his tenure with the Astros is to say he was good, but not great. Rodriguez spent eight seasons in a Houston uniform and ranks in the organization's top ten for game starts (218), wins (80), loses (84) and strike-outs (1093).
When Rodriguez was first coming up, Andy Pettitte was on the team at the time and I remember the commentators talking about Pettitte’s influence on Rodriguez, passing on the knowledge of the art of pitching. I often wonder how much of what commentators say is actual insight and what is filler, but I like to think that Pettitte was a good influence of Rodriguez. Veterans teaching younger players seems to be a natural occurrence in sports and in life.
That leads me to a lingering question I have for this upcoming season. We have no real veteran presence on the team outside of Peña. Where is the veteran leadership? (This is not an original idea as it was mentioned in last Sunday’s podcast.) I choose to believe that Lunow and Porter have a plan in motion installing former players as coaches to close the void that a veteran player would normally fill. No room for old men on this boat. Will it be a sinking ship? Only time will tell.