Before we get to the interview, I want to personally thank Geoff Blum. I had the opportunity with talking with him, and he was truly one of the most fan-oriented people I have met in the business so far.
Below are the sound clip of Blum going through our interview questions, and my attempt to transcribe them in case you are in a place you can’t listen. The transcription is like 99% right, but Blum definitely talks faster than I type lol.
Blum: First of all it wasn’t easy coming back, but at the same time, I think it was a perfect mix of a guy who played with the Houston Astros and put his heart and soul into playing for this team. And it’s also a community that’s very forgiving number 1, but also very understanding of the game. It’s not easy coming into that situation, it takes a bit of personality and it takes a little bit of courage to get back in that situation. I’m just grateful for the opportunity I had to be an Astro, because a lot of people will remember in my career as a Montreal Expo, I said that being traded to the Houston Astros was like being called up again. I came up my first time through with the Astros in ’02-03, I was still playing with Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Billy Wagner, Shane Reynolds, and some of these guys, Brad Ausmus is another guy that comes to mind, but I was very fortunate to be with a very good team and a very good group of guys that welcomed me in before I got traded away. And what a lot of people don’t remember about that home run is that the only reason I was a white sock was because I got traded to Tampa Bay the year previously, two days after my oldest daughter was born. It was kind of a unique situation I didn’t hold any bitterness over that. But I would appreciate if people did remember that I was traded away, I didn’t make the choice to go to Tampa Bay or to sign with San Diego, or to get traded to the Chicago White Sox, it was just an opportunity I found myself in. I know for a fact that every fan out there, every ball player out there, whoever holds resentment against me, if they were in that situation, you know damn well they’d fire that thing over the right field fence and claim glory on it. But it is a unfortunate that the greatest moment of my career came against the team I do work for now. But I think 2017 really helped cushion the blow having me be one of the voices of the Astros, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity again. I’m grateful to be in the city of Houston again, and I’ve said it over and over, and I truly believe this, Houston is where I belong, this is the team I belong calling, and these are the fans I belong talking to.
2.) Having played alongside some of the all-time Astros greats, are there any stories that we probably haven’t heard that you could share from inside the dugout?
Blum: I’m not too sure there’s any stories within the clubhouse that I could really bring out, I brought out most of them by having Jeff Bagwell call some games with me, in the booth, has opened up somewhat insight into the personality of Jeff and myself and what that ballclub was about while I was in there. And a lot of the conversations that we do have are very similar to when we were in there. I got a chance to play with Jeff Kent, I know he’s not an all-time great Astro, but he was great Astro while he played there. Playing alongside some of these greats, you hear the way they talk and you try to absorb as much information as you can. Jeff Kent was a guy for me who cerebrally inside the box, was absolutely incredible, he had the talent to go with it but he was also thinking well ahead of the game, and I just remember a moment in the dugout, I believe we were playing the Cardinals, I can’t remember who the pitcher was, but those were always tense match-ups and Jeff always seemed to rise to the situation in those occasions and he had come back to me after maybe rolling over a ground ball in his first at bat, and he came back to me and there’s somebody on in my third at bat in a 2-2 count, I’m going to take this guy deep. I was like what are you talking about. He said he’s going to go to his slider, I’m going to sit on it, and I’m going to hit it for a homerun, and literally called his shot, so his third AB, of course he’s up there, and I’m watching and sure enough 2-2 count, and sure enough he goes to the slider and he smashes it out of the ballpark, we end up winning that game. Those are some of the fun stories that happen pretty frequently with that ballclub, they were just a blast to be around. There’s plenty of Billy Wagner stories out there, just because he was never one to hold his tongue, he was a lot of fun to be around, you had to be on your toes around him, Jeff Bagwell was kind of that silent leader, Craig Biggio was another guy who was pretty firey on the field on the field. It was just a joy to be around those guys. A lot of my wit and sarcasm, came from being around those guys, especially when my locker was right next to Brad Ausmus, who was one of the best at it.
3.) As an ex-player and even as an announcer, how tough is it seeing some of your friends and co-workers (that term seems to fall short on describing it) leave for other teams? I know we will miss hearing McCannonBALL and other sayings this year.
Blum: Yea it is tough. It’s really tough as an announcer, it’s as a player too, but I think it’s a bit easier as a player in the sense that you grow to be family, and you hear that term used a lot, maybe overused a little bit, but you really become siblings for 6 months out of the year, and when that happens, you see someone get traded away, when they get released it’s probably the hardest part because you know they’re going to be out of a job and they’re going to be searching a little bit, but if someone gets traded or someone gets a contract extension and signs with another team over the offseason, there’s a little bit of congratulations, and joy involved in it, because you know they worked hard to succeed and worked hard get the contract. And obviously, there’s residual effects within the market that a lot of us looked to, and more money for you is more money for everybody else, you kind of, there’s that sibling pride that goes into it. Now being on the other side, being up in the booth, you kind of turn into that proud papa, so there’s a little more of possession to these things unfortunately. McCannon was just kind of one of those guys I latched onto because I appreciate his game, I played against him a little bit, I liked the way he played the game, respected guys in the clubhouse, then I got to see how he got those guys in the clubhouse, and handled situations. I really had developed an admiration for him, and of course I had the McCannonball call come out and really solidify himself as one of my better ones, and now he’s gone, I had to let him go. With loss creates new opportunities, so we will try to find someone else to supplant the McCannonball and move on from there.
4.) We loved the addition of the Weird Word Wednesday, did you get any push-back about adding it in? Anything exciting planned for us this year? Maybe bring back the best facial hair in the business?
Blum: Actually, you should have asked me the best hair in the business, because I can’t grow facial hair to save my life. But that being said, Weird Word Wednesday was probably one of the more fun and more anxiety driven things for me, and I didn’t get any push back, I know that there were some fans out there, I know there’s going to be one or two, especially in this day and age of twitter where there’s access to computer keyboard courage out there and that was about it, it was minimal, for the most part there was an overwhelming majority that enjoyed that and anticipated it, it really helped out in some of those west coast games when you’re getting late in the night, trying to keep everybody hanging in by knowing that weird word may pop out. But I really appreciate the fan interaction, it’s something I take a lot of pride in, to create that interaction, it’s one thing to hear my voice in the living room but I really want everybody at home to know that I’m conscience of what they’re saying, I’m conscience of how they watch baseball games, and I want it to be an enjoyable experience, when you have to hang out with somebody for 3 – 3 ½ hours, I don’t want it to be like talking to a wall or piece of cardboard, I want it to be enjoyable and have that interaction so this weird word Wednesday popped up, and it’s only one day a week, but it’s been highly effective and a lot of fun for me. The funny part is that some of these words, get so extravagant that I have to practice them before the broadcast when they come up with them and then knowing I have to work it into the broadcast, it creates probably some of the more anxious moments I’ve had as I’ve sat in the booth and talked during a baseball game, because there’s pressure to get the word in, there’s pressure to say the word right, and there’s pressure to use it in the right context, so there is a lot going on and it’s actually one of the things I practice more often than some of the other stuff because you try to react to the game and let the game dictate how I’m going to call it but the weird word Wednesday has been a lot of fun, no push-back, the Astros haven’t said anything to me, AT&T hasn’t said anything to me, and fortunately, Todd and Julia haven’t said anything to me, they kind of anticipate some of the words sometimes and that sort of goes with it, I don’t have anything planned as far as 2019 is concerned, I gotta come up with some better nicknames, and I believe Weird Word Wednesday will still stay in the broadcast, I’m hoping. There might be some more telestrations, there’s some things on the side, as well as some more player interaction, obviously, my podcast I’m going to try to maintain during the course of the season, in the broadcast there’s going to be some more sponsors and fun stuff like that. Just make sure to tune in and we’ll be creative along the way, you know that we like putting out a good product for all the fans out there in Houston.
5.) You had a great career as a Super Utility type of player, which takes a special skill-set that I feel like was largely unappreciated in the past. How much do you think that concept has evolved over the years with the emergence of Zobrist and even Marwin?
Blum: I agree with you in the sense that the super utility player back in the mid to late 90s was always frowned on, it always seemed to be that guy that was just good enough to be in the big leagues but not good enough to play a position every day. That’s kind of the label it received early on, and that’s obviously changed, but I took great pride in that I had enough athleticism to play four positions in the infield, and play a couple outfield positions, with the potential possibly of being an emergency catcher, which I had no intention of doing, but I was available for. It does take a unique breed you have to be athletic, you have to be open minded, and I think that’s one of the bigger things for me, to have the mentality to handle getting mentally ready for playing anywhere in the field, or being able to hit at any time, Zobrist and Marwin are obviously two of the best. Zobrist has done a good job and gotten a big contract, but for me Marwin is the best utility player in the big leagues right now, they both switch hit, but Marwin offers such a unique asset to a ball club because he plays every position at or above the WAR numbers your looking at defensively. I think he is completely serviceable and a very good short stop, second baseman, third baseman, he can play first base, he is a World Series Champion as a Left Fielder. A position that he didn’t play until he got to the big leagues. So that says a lot about him, the mentality, handling pressure and handling the fundamentals, but his at bats for me are incredible, the ability to foul off pitches, make pitchers work, and if they make a mistake, he’s obviously a threat, he can drop 15-20 home runs on you, the RBI potential. He is truly an offensive and defensive weapon, who should go out there and get paid. Hopefully he comes back with the Astros, it’s yet to be seen, as far as right now, but he is better than Ben Zobrist for me by far.
6.) How has baseball changed since your time as a player?
Blum: That question is pretty easy, and obvious, it’s the analytics, going back to the previous question about Super Utility players playing more of an important role in this day and age, is the athleticism of the game. There were a lot of athletes when I was playing, and obviously I played through the steroid era, so steroids enhanced some of these athletes a little bit, and made them supreme athletes, but I think the game is moving towards guys who can play if they can hit, they will find them a position because they’re athletic enough. You’re not seeing some of these larger third basemen, or larger power hitting corner outfield guys, the organizations are now looking for guys who can run, throw, hit, and be that multi tool type ballplayer. So that’s been a lot of fun for me to watch, it’s also generation of guys that are coming up that are not the prototypical ballplayers that you’ve seen in the past, they are guys that are hyper athletic and are able to do multiple things on the field, which makes them a lot of fun to watch, and then they’re also athletic enough to get in the box and do some damage too. The strikeouts have gone up, the home runs have gone up, but I think that’s because of the analytics driven much like we see in the NBA with the Houston Rockets, if I should 30% more 3-pointers and I make at least a third more of those, I’m going to score more points than you type of mentality. Whereas If I hit a home run, or if I swing for the fences more often and I connect on some of those more than you do, I’m going to beat you. But there might be a little bit of shift in that because we see in the playoffs that the higher contact teams and lower strikeout teams start to go out there and win. In 2017, the Astros epic offense put up low strikeout numbers, high contact numbers, won a World Series, next year in 2018 you saw the Boston Red Sox do the same thing. Low strikeout percentage, high contact percentage, lead to more runs being scored, obviously hit some good pitching but spin rates, launch angles, exit velocity, and a lot of these numbers and the analytics are where the game has really changed there’s a lot of focus on information, and these guys not only being physically prepared to go into games, they also informationally prepared to go into some of these games, so they’re prepared for some of the situations and be able to take advantage of it. It’s been a lot of fun to watch.
7.) The Legends Weekend looked like it was a blast. Are you going to start training to beat out Biggio, Scott, and any other contenders for the rematch?
Blum: I’m going to be training, I have to train just because it’s in my blood and I don’t want to be on TV looking like a stuffed blowpig, so I’m going to continue to workout and hopefully stay in some relatively decent shape to be able to go out there. But it was an absolute blast yes, to be able to be on the field, have your name mentioned with Luke Scott, Craig Biggio, Preston Wilson and have 30,000 people in the stands, it brought back that rush that I missed, that’s the one thing that I do miss in baseball, is being on that field and performing for everyone that shows up in the stands, and to be able to have a controlled environment and a BP thrower that’s throwing strikes and trying to unleash the fury a little bit, it was just incredible. It’s a rush, one thing you want to do in sports, in basketball, you want to slam dunk over somebody, in the NFL you want to have a breakaway touchdown where your just sprinting towards it and you can feel the rush and anticipation. The other thing is to hit home runs in the big leagues, there is no other feeling like it, and to get that feeling back at Minute Maid Park was tremendous fun for me. And I look forward hopefully to doing it again, not sure they’ll ask me but I’d be more than willing to go out there. And for everyone who watched that home run derby, I think you know the adjustment I’m going to make is to not hit left handed, I’m just going to stay right handed, lift and separate, get into those Crawford Boxes and have some fun and try to compete against the old man, Craig Biggio, because he got into a groove and absolutely annihilated, I think that’s where I missed out, is following that lead and staying on the right side and trying to clip as many as I could to get them out of there. If they ask me, I’ll be ready.
8.) We’ve been enjoying your podcast ( http://bleacherblum.libsyn.com/ ), anything big lined up in the upcoming weeks during the off-season?
Blum: Yea, you know what, the podcast has been fun, it’s been a lot of fun working with a good buddy back in California, he’s having a blast with it, he’s done a good job coming up with a lot topics outside of Astros baseball, I’m going to continue to focus on Astros baseball, I’m going to continue to badger some of these guys in the clubhouse, I’m going to get AJ Hinch on there, I’m going to try to mix it up a little bit, interview some of the broadcasters and talk to them as we travel throughout the season but my goal is to get at least during the season is to get interviews with players 5-10 minutes, maybe not ask them questions they would not be asked regularly throughout the course of the season. Because it gets repetitive, redundant for them, redundant for you, gets redundant for me, and I want it mixed up a bit. Try to see some of their personality. I love that Collin McHugh started doing that so we get a little bit better insight, he’s going to be a bit more forthcoming on getting information from these guys. I’m not going to ask the Fortnite questions, because I don’t have any idea about it but I’m going to ask a bit more personal of questions, and maybe try to get some in game insight, because the way these guys think about the game is a little different than I think about the game. But also, in asking these questions, it’s going to make me a better podcaster and broadcaster, but again it’s about the fan, it’s about bringing the player and myself to them and making them a little more available and trying to understand what these guys are doing. Baseball is so unique in itself in playing 162 games and 184 games and 184 days. Try to break up that monotony a bit, hopefully that’s what this podcast does, have fun with it.
9.) Thank you again for taking the time to do an interview with us, is there anything you’d like to say to the readers of TheCrawfishBoxes?
Blum: You know what I actually would, for the readers and listeners of this podcast and of The Crawfishboxes, I appreciate the fact that there are complimentary blogs and complimentary podcasts going on, and I encourage everybody to give it a shot or stay engaged because you’d be surprised at how certain stories come out at certain places, you can’t take anything for granted these days because other people think differently than I do. I read the CrawfishBoxes, I don’t necessarily get on the podcast as much because I’m so busy and it’s easier for me to read an article, but they’re a great follow on twitter, they provide a reasonable amount of information and I love the fansidedness, because that’s one thing as an announcer that’s tough to walk that line, of being objective, and being a fan of what the Astros are doing. Because truly, deep down I love the game of baseball, I want everybody else to love the game of baseball. But I also love the way the Astros are going about it, I know that they’re going to get some negative feedback around the league, but internally I love the fact that they are dedicated to the city and dedicated to the team to go out there and put up a product that’s not just competitive but championship worthy and they’ve done a great job of creating an atmosphere at Minute Maid Park that I enjoy being around and hopefully I’ll be around for a very long time. And I hope that The CrawfishBoxes are around for around for a good long time. Thanks for having me on fellas, always good talking to you, and be well, and I’m looking forward to the 2019 season!