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October 22nd, 2005:

Game One notes

Well, they can still get a split on the road, right?

I can’t be the only person who was amused at the sight of a very wholesome-looking Liz Phair singing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch, can I? Whoever it was that invited her to sing, whether you’re ignorant of some of her more colorful compositions or fully aware of them, I salute you.

I know Phil Garner has done an excellent job juggling players in various roles throughout the postseason, but I have to question a couple of his moves tonight:

– I’m surprised he let Mike Lamb bat against the lefty Neal Cotts. I’d have sent Chris Burke up there and been ready to swap in Orlando Palmeiro if Ozzie Guillen had then countered by bringing Bobby Jenks in then. Maybe Lamb hit lefties better than I think – neither Joe Buck nor Tim McCarver explored the question at all – but otherwise, I was scratching my head.

– More curiously, why bring in Russ Springer when Dan Wheeler is available? Springer is not an eighth-inning pitcher, especially not on the road down by a run. Of all the things Garner did tonight, this is the one I question the most.

– Lastly, why is Palmeiro still on the bench when Adam Everett’s turn came up in the ninth? Does anyone here think Everett has a prayer against Jenks? What’s Garner saving him for?

I’m not saying that these thing necessarily affected the outcome. I do, however, think that Garner did not use the assets he has in an optimal fashion. We’ll see if he gets asked about it.

UPDATE: John Lopez hits some of the same notes as I do.

UPDATE: Joe Sheehan has the numbers:

Lamb hit .179/.217/.339 against southpaws this year, striking out in nearly 30% of his 56 at-bats against them. His performance prior to ’05 wasn’t much better, .248/.300/.436 in 101 ABs from 2002-04. Cotts didn’t have a significant platoon split–I’ve taken to comparing him to Arthur Rhodes at his peak, myself–so that may have played into Garner’s thinking, but I can’t imagine there’s any reason to have Lamb hitting in that situation. He’s horrible against lefties.

Even if you assume that sending up Chris Burke will mean Guillen will counter with Jenks, you have the option of going back to Orlando Palmeiro or Jose Vizcaino. The publicity Jenks is getting notwithstanding, you’d rather face him with a platoon advantage than Cotts without it, and Jenks’ big curve provides some chance of a wild pitch that would score the tying run from third.

Allowing Lamb to bat was the least viable of all the available options, even if it meant burning through multiple players. As with the decision to use Rodriguez, it seems to me that Garner may not have made the right adjustments to playing under AL rules. That at-bat is so high-leverage that you have to maximize your chance to score. Using Burke as a pinch-runner for Berkman, rather than as a pinch-hitter for Lamb, was perhaps Garner’s biggest mistake of the night.

I’d forgotten that Burke had already been used as a pinch-runner for Berkman, a move that also seems questionable. Oh, well.

On the recusal motion

The way I look at it, Team DeLay’s motion to force Judge Bob Perkins to recuse himself is just another attempt by them to control what’s happening. The motion itself is a longshot at best, and given the way DeLay has insisted this is all about politics, why should anyone believe that a judge who’s a fellow Republican would be any less impartial? If DeLay is so confident that there is no case for the prosecution, wouldn’t his vindication be even more complete in a trial overseen by a judge who once wrote a check to MoveOn? What would any of his detractors have to complain about under those conditions?

I say that Tom DeLay is entitled to the same things that any other indicted felon is entitled to. In particular, that means a judge who will interpret the law fairly and objectively. Any ruling that judge makes that he doesn’t like will eventually wind up on the docket of the all-Republican Court of Criminal Appeals anyway. DeLay does not get to choose his judge, any more than he got to choose his terms of surrender. I don’t care who he thinks he is, everyone is supposed to be treated equally by the law. Too bad for him if he believes he deserves otherwise.

RIP, Kaplan’s-Ben Hur

Sigh. Another piece of Houston’s history is going away.

After 92 years of selling Tiffany lamps, men’s suits, coffee beans and other merchandise, Kaplan’s-Ben Hur is closing its doors in December.

Martin Kaplan, the owner of the historical Heights department store at Yale and 22nd, launched a going-out-of-business sale this week that will continue until the store closes. Kaplan’s grandparents Dave and Bessie opened the store in 1913.

The store’s website has a letter to its customers announcing the impending demise and accompanying sale. This Houston Business Journal article has a little bit about the store’s history. And take a look at the linked document (Word doc) on the Kaplan’s page, which gives a perspective on the state of retailing from someone who knows a little bit about it.

The fever builds

One of the things that I remember well from the Rockets’ 1994 march to the NBA title was how for about a six-week period, everyone was wearing Rockets garb, and every other car you passed on the street had some kind of “Go Rockets!” slogan chalked on its windows. I was working downtown then, in a not particularly business casual atmosphere, and I still saw a lot of Rockets T-shirts, especially during and right after the Finals. A group of my coworkers and I even made a trek to the downtown Foley’s (may it rest in peace) to buy shirts for ourselves during lunch one day.

It’s still a little early, but I’m already starting to see the same sort of thing now for the Astros. Certainly, people are out there shopping for the goodies.

Fans continued today to dissect the World Series matchup with the White Sox over coffee and spent their breaks in long lines to buy something — anything — commemorating the championship.

Nicky Buford, 32, of Richmond, spent $294 on seven championship T-shirts, two hats, two foam fingers and a baseball at the team’s Minute Maid Park store.

“We’ve been in Italy for the past five years,” said Buford, whose husband is an Army officer. “To be back in the States and have this feeling is awesome.”

The search for souvenirs began before the last pitch Wednesday for Pat Clark, who wanted 40 T-shirts for the employees of Vaughan Nelson Investment Management’s downtown office. During the ninth inning, the human resources manager sped to an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in Pasadena.

Clark waited four hours for four shirts, the store’s limit. After a two-hour nap, she stopped by Wal-Mart, Target and other Academy stores, finding nothing but lines.

At 8:50 a.m., she stumbled upon enough shirts for everyone at the Minute Maid Park store, which opened early.

“I walked in saying, ‘Oh please, let there be shirts for me,’ ” Clark said. “We are so excited. This doesn’t happen often.”

I’m sure all that commerce will give the local economy a boost. Speaking of which:

Having the Houston Astros in the World Series may be a home run with fans, but hosting games probably won’t score the same economic return as the 2004 Super Bowl, economists and local officials say.

That’s because the two sports championships are vastly different events when it comes to generating tourist dollars.

Most Super Bowl attendees come from out of town, spending their money at hotels, restaurants and parties. As many as 100,000 people came last year. But it’s mostly locals in their respective cities who attend World Series games, experts say.

Though some economists say impact estimates for major sporting events are inflated or difficult to prove, NFL executives and local organizers predicted that the Super Bowl would bring $300 million into the economy.

Is it just me, or is anyone else marvelling at the fact that nearly two full years after the actual Super Bowl occurred, we’re still using the same damn estimates of its “potential” economic impact made months in advance of the event? Has nobody bothered to calculate what actually happened, or is it just that the real numbers are too embarrassing to publicize?

Though some economists say impact estimates for major sporting events are inflated or difficult to prove, NFL executives and local organizers predicted that the Super Bowl would bring $300 million into the economy.

That’s much more than even the rosiest of estimates for the Astros’ three scheduled games next week against the Chicago White Sox: anywhere from $20 million to $50 million, depending on who’s doing the predicting.

“The World Series is not really much of a national event in the way that the Super Bowl is,” said Victor Matheson, a College of the Holy Cross economist who studies sports events.

Still, even some economists say the NFL’s estimates of the Super Bowl’s economic impact are off the mark. Some say the local economic benefit of hosting a Super Bowl is zero. Others say there is some benefit, but maybe only $20 million to $50 million.

Matheson says the economic impact of a post-season baseball game, which is almost like guessing in a city as large as Houston, is about $7 million.

Well, at least somebody’s willing to admit that this isn’t an exact science.

Mayor Bill White’s staff cited studies showing a range of $3 million to $10 million per game. Jordy Tollett, who heads the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the impact could be as high as $50 million.

White said excitement would be noticed more than any economic windfall.

“This is an opportunity for Houstonians to enjoy themselves and get together for a common cause,” White said.

And some things never change. Leave it to Jordy Tollett to go overboard. I’m glad that Mayor White has a more realistic view of the real impact.

Let’s just forget the numbers, since they mean less than batting average with runners in scoring position does. Play ball, have fun, and go Astros!