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There's a lot to listen to, so get started and download the free Odyssey app today. We're pleased to welcome Steve Sparks, even getting ready now for the road trip that's coming. Now, still game two will be played in Houston on Thursday, but then they have to travel, so we're glad to grab a couple minutes with Steve, who's also a former big league pitcher. So Steve, you hear the call there. What was that like for you to have that your Don Alvarez ball just get blasted and the whole stadium go crazy?
I think it was just a build-up, Amy, more than anything else. We're anticipating the whole time, okay, we're telling the audience, Altuve's batting third this inning, and Altuve has 23 career postseason home runs. We just need a guy or two to get on base, find a way, and David Hensley, his first career postseason at bat, he finds a way to get on base, so Altuve's got a chance with the runner on. Altuve strikes out. Cania goes down two strikes, and the slider's been killing him all year long, and he's able to keep his bat, reach out, and line a single up the middle, and that whole time we were leading up, we're saying your Don is on deck.
There's the shadow right there. We see it right in front of us, so he gets to the plate, and that's when the drama builds, and his broadcasters, Robert Ford and myself, were just going, oh, my gosh, we've seen him come through. So many times, and then they bring in the lefty, and it just doesn't matter.
With Kyle Tucker or Yordan Alvarez, it just doesn't matter if it's a righty or a lefty, and if you make a bad pitch, typically those guys make them pay. You know, and coming up in big moments and being able to keep your pulse down the way he did, it looked like such a beautifully controlled swing. We couldn't contain ourselves, and Robert was out of his seat immediately. His seat flies back against this refrigerator in our broadcast booth.
He's up in the air. He's screaming. I'm waiting, you know, we want to make sure that everybody can hear the crowd.
It breathes as much as we can, but everybody wants to get their two cents in, and we did our best. We contained ourselves just enough for people to be able to understand at least what we were watching. Could you even hear yourself think, though? Because it certainly sounds like you felt like you were drowned out by the crowd. Yeah, there's just a vibe. We feel it on our desk. There's a vibration. You know, everybody's out of their seat. The inning percolated. It was like a massive cup of coffee or a volcano waiting to erupt, and we felt it.
And as we're going, it's kind of a blackout feeling, really. Robert will probably tell you the same thing. I think a lot of people watched and heard Robert's call. He was phenomenal. And he got every bit of emotion out there that I think every Astros fan was feeling at the same time. Is it possible to encapsulate what Jordan Alvarez means to this team?
No, not really. You've heard it for a long time, and even some of the veteran players. You know, Yuli Gurriel, Ledmez Diaz, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman. These guys were saying a year or two ago, this is the best hitter we've ever seen. You know, I thought the same thing, and I faced David Ortiz a lot throughout my career, and I saw him with Minnesota and then, of course, went on to be an icon in Boston. And that's what Jordan reminded me the very first time I saw him.
I mean, his body, his frame, his strike zone discipline, the way he hits the ball at all. Everything reminded me of Big Poppy. So, you know, now you start to hear, and I'm talking to some of my compatriots, guys that I played against. You know, they're saying the same thing as Big Poppy, you know, and be able to watch him at 25 years old to be able to command the stage the way he does. It's pretty fun. That is high praise. And with the body type and the size of both Big Poppy and Jordan, it kind of feels like every time they connect with a pitch, it should be out of the ballpark.
Yeah, it does. I mean, the exit velocity is ridiculous. I mean, we'll see all these outs and just go, well, that's kind of a ho-hum play, and you look at the stat cast, and there's 111 miles per hour off his bat, just a ho-hum line out to right field. He does that stuff all the time. Just glad he's playing baseball. We're spending a few minutes with Steve Sparks, who's one half of that Astros radio team, Robert Ford, the play-by-play. Steve also a former big league pitcher, so we get that expertise on the broadcast.
It's after hours on CBS Sports Radio. I'd love to hear your insight on Justin Verlander. What did you see with him yesterday? Just a little lack of command. That happens from time to time. We saw it a couple times during the season.
It didn't happen very often. He had a 1.75 ERA, so very infrequently, but he had one of those clunkers against Seattle earlier in the season. I think May 27th gave up four homers, gave up six runs in that game, and next game actually faced Seattle and dominated, so nobody redeems himself as well as the future Hall of Famer. Verlander is the marquee name on this team, and everybody follows his lead. I think it's fun to watch a lot of his interviews these days with Verlander. He's taking the blinders off. He was out of the game for a couple of years and realized he wants to soak it in. He said his routine is embedded enough into his psyche where he can take those blinders off and be a resource for his teammates. He's enjoyed that.
He wants to be a mentor, a good friend, and a good teammate. He feels like that little time off and having a baby and things of that nature have kind of opened his eyes a little bit, so it's fun to have this version of him around. Considering his age, could you imagine what he had to go through as a pitcher, even if he is a freak athlete, to be able to get to this point and have the season he did again after the injury and the time away?
You know what, Amy? I had a buddy of mine watch his showcase in December. He's a scout for the Texas Rangers, and he called me and just said, Hey, man, I saw Verlander throw.
Keep in mind, he was a free agent, and he's stolen from all these teams. He said, I don't think I've ever seen him better. This is a guy who played for quite a while in the big leagues, and he knew what he was watching. He said it was the most impressive little showcase he'd ever been to.
So I knew not to doubt anything that was about to come our way, and I knew that there was going to be no stone unturned as far as his rehab went and how hard he was going to work. I mean, he's a freak in that way. We see guys in different sports, the Tiger Woods, the Tom Brady's and such, that play at a high level as they age. Verlander is that combination of great talent who's been able to take advantage of technology and who's very disciplined. He's taken advantage of nutrition, sleep, and whatever it is to get a 39-year-old to go out there every five or six days and dominate. So it's Framber Valdez in game number two coming up on Thursday.
How do you like the way this rotation could stack up considering the travel days, but also that kind of weird day off in between game one and two? Yeah, you know, if you look forward and you're thinking who can bounce back and pitch a game five if necessary, Framber's the one who's the most likely to be able to do that. He's very strong. We saw the 25 consecutive quality starts, which is a single-set season Major League record he set this year. But he gets deep into the ball games and he bounces back very quickly. So he's matured very much mentally in the last couple of years.
He's got a sports psychologist that's helped him through some of that. He's very difficult for a manager. We say this sometimes in the broadcast, it's very hard to take out of a ball game. I think a lot of people understand he's probably the best ground ball-inducing pitcher we've seen since Brandon Webb at the Diamondbacks probably 15-20 years ago.
67% basically for Framber the last few years. It's hard to take a guy like that out of any game with any circumstance because he's just one pitch away from getting the ground ball double play. He'll get deeper into the ball games just for that fact alone. You mentioned manager and I'm glad you did because I was going to ask you about Dusty Baker. I've asked other people like Jeff Blum.
I'm pretty sure I asked Robert about him too. Why has he been the right fit for the Astros to give them stability but not just that, to keep them playing at the highest level? The obvious answer is he came in right after the cheating scandal. They needed a respectable person at the front.
They needed a face for this organization that people respected and Dusty was the perfect fit for that. Beyond that, it's the experience. It's the culture that he provides for the guys to be themselves. He's continued a philosophy to let young guys feel at ease in a clubhouse.
That wasn't the case 15-20 years ago and all the way back. If you're a rookie, you're to be seen, not heard but it's not that way. They make these guys feel comfortable and that way you get the best version of those guys when they come to the big leagues.
Jeremy Payne is a perfect example of that. He had big shoes to fill at the shortstop position for the Astros this year. Everybody put their arm around him and helped him through his first major league season and he did great. Everything about him just exuded somebody who was very comfortable in that clubhouse. He appreciated it. He was a very humble kid. That's the type of culture that Dusty has going on in that clubhouse.
It's the freedom of the coaches to coach and the players to play. He's comfortable enough in his own skin to let that play out. I think similar to a Bryant Snitker, that Dusty Baker would be a sentimental favorite to get that ring. Could you imagine after all these years to see him finally on the top would be amazing. Three-time manager of the year, ninth in the all-time wins list. He's done everything. He was a great player. He can draw expertise from so many experiences he's had.
But he's just a great people person. I'll tell you this. The first year that Dusty was in spring training with the Astros, they were playing in Jupiter. I think they were playing the Marlins that day.
And there was a couple of guys that drove four hours across the state. A couple of his former players. I think it was Kirk Mann wearing and maybe an infielder that he had with San Francisco. Just to go and support Dusty for about 30 minutes during batting practice. Just to put their arms around him and say good luck and let everybody else there know that these are guys that played for Dusty 15, 20, 25 years ago. That still made an impact in their lives and they were going to show him their support. And that really struck me as like, man, he made an impression on those guys. Really good to spend a few minutes with Steve Sparks, one half of the Astros radio team and a former big league pitcher himself.
It's after hours on CBS Sports Radio. Okay, Steve, tell me if this sounds crazy. I actually feel like the Astros, even with 106 wins, the fact that they have led the American League West the whole season, essentially. I feel like they even then still flew under the radar.
Is that possible? Yeah, I think so. You know, they did it in a different fashion this year. I mean, I think most people remembered, you know, when they were really kind of dominating their division and they still dominated their division. But they did it offensively.
And when you do it offensively, then I think it stands out more. But this team did a pitching and you had a six man rotation and that allowed Verlander to recover and stay fresh throughout the season. But they dominated pitching wise in the line. That's not quite as deep and relentless as it's been in years past, but it's still potent.
You know, we've talked ad nauseam about Jordan, of course, but they still got a lot of guys who can beat you in different ways. But overall, it's the pitching. And a lot of times, you know, when you're talking about the seventh inning reliever or your fourth starting pitcher who's got an ERA under three, that doesn't get the headlines like some of these power hitters. Like Aaron Judge. Yeah, exactly.
Yeah. And you can't blame them. Those are the things that excite people. But the Astros, you know, one through whatever, one through 14 or whatever, they've pitched as well as anybody this year. So, Steve, when you think about the Mariners and the way they got into the playoffs and ended their drought, I mean, it was back to back walk offs late in the season. They have a flair for the dramatic. They've got this incredible young rookie with a megawatt smile and a game to match.
What impresses you about the Mariners? You know, I remember getting in the elevator about five years ago with Jerry DiPoto after a game and the Astros throttled them in Seattle. And, you know, we were done. We were getting ready to go get on the bus.
But DiPoto was going downstairs or he was on the elevator at the same time. He looked at me, he said, you guys are just too fast for us. We just got to get more athletic. So he was, you know, that was the bar, you know, they were watching what do we have to do to win the division slowly but surely. You know, you start to see the guys that they brought in and they've gotten guys in the bullpen who get swing and miss.
A couple of guys in the rotation will see one of them, particularly Luis Castillo, tomorrow swing and miss. You know, some of the things that the Astros were looking for when they put together this roster, the Mariners have done. And matchup-wise, as far as athleticism, I think they're on par. I mean, I think both of these teams are very, very athletic now. And I think the only thing that the Astros probably have over Seattle at this point is experience.
And when you have confidence and experience and something to draw on, I think it matters sometimes. And we saw that yesterday, of course, but that doesn't mean that anybody's going to take them for granted. Seattle's a very, very good team. They've had a great season. And they have hope, you know, you're down 8-1 in that game against Toronto and you come back. Everybody in their dugout has that fresh in their memory. And, you know, if they fall behind at any point, the rest of this series, they're always going to have hope. And if you have hope, you're going to always be very dangerous. But even on top of hope, they have a lot of talent.
They do. What does it mean to a clubhouse to have an infusion of talent, but also a personality like Julio Rodriguez? Right. Yeah, it means everything, you know, and he's quickly become the face. He's the face of that franchise. He's the best player on their team. There's no question about that. And they're going to ride him for 15 years, probably, you know. And, you know, if they can keep him on the field, he's going to take them to where they want to go. There's no doubt in my mind.
He's very special. He's going to be one of the most talked about, enigmatic players in the game for years to come. Before I let you go, because I know that you do have game two coming up on Thursday. When I think about this season, the lockout is a distant memory. Kind of cast a shadow for months and it was a big talking point. And there were people who swore off baseball and that was it. I'm never going back.
And honestly, it feels like all of that has faded almost as though it was a bad dream. When you think about the state of baseball, the health of baseball this season, Steve, what's your assessment? Well, I was thinking about that during spring training.
I had an Airbnb already lined up. And I was there for, I think, three weeks before the lockout was settled. So, I was going to the ballpark and it was me, Dusty Baker, and Gary Pettis, the Astros third base coach, the ones that are watching the minor leaguers every day.
So, we had a lot to talk about. But we were drawing on the last strike and what that meant. And what that hangover felt like. And when we came back in 1995 after that long strike, it was brutal. I mean, the fans, you're talking about swearing off baseball. There's still people that have sworn off baseball since then that haven't come back yet. So, it was a very difficult time. The players felt it for a long time.
And until, really, until Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak, there was nothing really to feel good about baseball. So, that's what you were thinking about during that time this spring. And we were hopeful. We were hearing rumors this and that, just like everybody else, didn't really have the clear answers that we were hoping for. But we were hopeful that we weren't going to go through something similar that we did 25 years ago.
Yeah, it certainly doesn't seem like it. Most of the people that I've talked to almost don't remember that it ever happened, which is a good thing for baseball. That's great. Steve Sparks, one half of the Astros broadcast team, I enjoy listening to you and Robert Ford even when it's dead of summer and I could be watching on TV. You guys are a fun listen. Thank you so much for a couple of minutes. It's great to catch up with you. Thanks for having me, Amy.
Always a pleasure. The listening you love is on the free Odyssey app, your trusted local radio stations, coverage of your favorite teams, live news from your hometown, and millions of podcasts on demand. Best of all, you can completely customize your listening experience. Follow topics you care about, like leagues and teams, pause or rewind your local sports and news, and add shows to your queue to catch up later. There's a lot to listen to, so get started and download the free Odyssey app today. The listening you love is on the free Odyssey app, your trusted local radio stations, coverage of your favorite teams, live news from your hometown, and millions of podcasts on demand. Best of all, you can completely customize your listening experience. Follow topics you care about, like leagues and teams, pause or rewind your local sports and news, and add shows to your queue to catch up later. There's a lot to listen to, so get started and download the free Odyssey app today.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-06 19:59:01 / 2022-12-06 20:07:15 / 8