Don't be that guy

Down in front! Stand up and cheer for the Astros, sure, but the whole game?

Down in front! Stand up and cheer for the Astros, sure, but the whole game?
Excited crowds cheer an Astros win. But Hoffman's rule of thumb is: If you're the only one standing ... sit down. Elsa/Getty Images

For more of Ken Hoffman, check out Culture Map, where this story initially appeared.

I got lucky Friday night – a ticket in the second row, field level, down the left field line at the Astros-Yankees playoff game at Minute Maid Park. That’s as close to the action as you can get without coaching third and waving Jose Altuve around to score. It’s also prime foul ball territory, a fantastic seat all around. I should have brought my baseball glove.

I arrived at Minute Maid Park early at 5 pm, soon as they opened the gates. Found a parking lot charging only five times more than usual. Bought a chicken fingers basket and souvenir cup Diet Coke  and found my seat.

When the game started, my luck turned lousy. Three bozos, beers in both hands, found their seats in the front row, in front of me. Unfortunately, they didn’t use their seats. They chose to stand most of the game. The cheese may stand alone, but not them. Now everybody behind them had to stand,, too, because of the idiots in front of them.

I know this is a thin-ice topic because fans are allowed to stand, the scoreboard encourages fans to get loud and bold. There’s no rule or etiquette policy against standing at a baseball game. It’s just rude and inconsiderate to stand the whole time, though.

I had no problem asking/telling them to sit down. And they had no problem telling me to mind my own business. In fact, how come I wasn’t standing? They were “real fans.” If I didn’t like them standing, I should have stayed home and watched the game on TV on my couch.

The thing is, if anybody in the ballpark didn’t need to stand, it was them. They were in the front row.

Fortified by two-fisted beers and a Puddy-like approach to fandom (“Gotta support the team”), they laughed off pleas of “down in front.”

I can understand standing when it’s a full count with the bases loaded, or Carlos Correa is batting with runners in scoring position, or Keuchel is twisting Aaron Judge into a pretzel with 85-mph sliders. But post-season games, especially in the American League, can last four hours. Baseball is a slow, thoughtful game with intermittent peaks of excitement. There’s no need to stand all the time. 

The Houston Rockets have the right idea. They have a group of fans called the Red Rowdies, who bang drums, stand and scream their heads off the whole game. The Rockets designate a special section for the Rowdies, where they can go crazy all they want, without ruining the fan experience for others. Win-win.

The Houston Dynamo has several “Supporters Groups” of fans who stand and chant and play musical instruments the whole game, too. That’s tradition in soccer. The groups have names like El Batallon, Brickwall Firm and Texian Army. The Dynamo allots a few sections with discount tickets prices in the north end of BBVA Compass Stadium for these groups. Everybody’s happy.

Standing at a baseball game is like singing along with the performer at a concert. No rule against it. Just don’t do it. Nobody wants to hear you sing. That goes for you, too, Jimmy Fallon. 

Saturday afternoon, I bumped into some friends who also attended the Astros game Friday night. Jimmy, John, Jenny and Zoe all said they had a similar experience with people standing in front of them, blocking their view of the action.

Rule of thumb: If you're the only one standing ... sit down.

This has been the most fun Astros season probably ever. The team is thrilling. Playoff games are important. They’re winning! There’s a delicate balance between encouraging fans to “scream for the team” and keeping the game fun and enjoyable for kids and everybody who can’t see over fans who stand. The seating in Minute Maid Park isn’t very steep, certainly not steep enough where fans sitting in Row 10 can see over fans standing in Row 9.

I don’t have a solution, but something needs to be done. Maybe an announcement before the game asking fans to be considerate of people behind them? It’s too late to scramble and separate season ticket standers and sitters. Fans have every right to stand the whole game, even if it ruins the experience for people behind them. Just don't do it.

Stronger, really?

I did have a clear view of the advertising board at Minute Maid Park and saw one sign promoting CenterPoint Energy, with the slogan “We are stronger together.”

I thought CenterPoint's slogan is “Always there.” I called CenterPoint for an explanation. A spokesperson said "Our slogan is still "Always there," but "stronger together is specific to Hurricane Harvey and reflects our commitment to Houston after the hurricane."  

Did CenterPoint think “Stronger together” through? Where have we heard that before?

That’s right, it was Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan for president last year. Whenever she spoke, there was a big banner behind her, “Stronger Together.” She even wrote a book, Stronger Together.

CenterPoint, an electricity and natural gas company based in downtown Houston, serves millions of customers in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota and Oklahoma - 83 percent of those states went for Donald Trump over Clinton. Minnesota was blue, especially after the votes were counted.

Just thinking good business, maybe CenterPoint should consider the slogan, “Making energy great again.”

Do I have to come up with all the good ideas around here?

Random thoughts

Because the Houston Texans beat the hapless (zero hap) Cleveland Browns, all Texas Fuddruckers are offering a free milkshake, hand-spun the old-fashioned way, with purchase of any combo meal Monday — and every Monday after a Texans victory. 

Tickets for Weird Al Yankovic’s “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour” stop at Stafford Centre, April 24, 2018, go on sale 10 a.m. Thursday at staffordcentre.com. Tickets for normal people will be $45-$60. True Weird Al fans can purchase VIP tickets for $279, which include: a seat in the first 15 rows, meet and greet with their hero, an autograph, photo (with your camera), custom-framed setlist, souvenir VIP laminate, crowd-free merch shopping and limited-edition Weird Al watch with moving limbs as hour and minute hands.

Why is Anthony Bourdain’s CNN travel show called Parts Unknown when, so far among his 80 episodes, he’s visited Los Angeles, Tokyo, Detroit, Las Vegas, Mexico City, Moscow, Madrid, Shanghai, Miami, Budapest, Houston and London? These “parts” are hardly “unknown.” OK, he’s done New Jersey, which qualifies.

And why is Channel 26 calling its nightly 10 pm news show Isiah Factor: Uncensored? Until I hear host Isiah Carey drop an F-bomb, there's an FCC-imposed gag order. 

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Will the Astros ever give Joey Loperfido a chance to fix the black hole at first base? Composite Getty Image.

So how long do you suppose the Astros will cling to the ludicrous notion that Jose Abreu will return to being a sustainably decent hitter (much less a good hitter)? The All-Star break? The trade deadline July 30? The day the Astros are eliminated from the playoff race? End of the season? End of his contract at the end of next season? Maybe they sign him to a two-year extension?

Since rejoining the team Abreu has played in 13 games, starting 12 of them. He has seven hits in 42 at bats for a .167 batting average. That’s only not horrible in comparison to the sub-pathetic .099 mark Abreu had when hiatus time arrived. Since returning, Abreu has walked once. If you remember or are familiar with Susan Powter you know what comes next. STOP THE INSANITY!

Kyle Tucker’s absence obviously punches a big hole in the Astros’ lineup. Still, that regularly running out Jeremy Pena in the cleanup or fifth spot in the lineup doesn’t seem completely ridiculous, is ridiculous! Pena has been abysmal for the last month. May 11 he put up his fourth consecutive multi-hit game. In 29 games since, Pena has added one more homer with an anemic on-base percentage of .238. Not batting average, OBP. Yuck. All teams solicit All-Star votes for non-worthy guys. Pena plays in the same league as Gunnar Henderson, Bobby Witt Jr., Corey Seager, and Anthony Volpe. Hyping Pena for the All-Star game is plain ol’ silly.

Jon Singleton ever slotting in the lineup fourth or fifth, sigh. He of one homer and 28 strikeouts in his last 79 at bats. It’s just a sad state of affairs that no one below Pena or Singleton in the lineup should obviously be higher in the lineup. Mauricio Dubon, Victor Caratini, Trey Cabbage are all bottom third of the lineup if in the lineup type guys. Chas McCormick seemingly losing almost all of his hitting ability has hurt. Yainer Diaz stinking for much more of the season to date than he’s been good has hurt.

The refusal to try Joey Loperfido at first base is somewhere from perplexing to stupid. Look, Loperfido is not an elite prospect. His poor contact skills may doom him from becoming a quality regular. But find out! He struck out a bunch in his first taste but also hit .333. The low upside of the Abreu-Singleton combo is obvious. Evidently to just about all but Astros’ decision makers. Going with Trey Cabbage over Loperfido in the outfield also underwhelms.

Chasing down the Mariners?

It could all still turn for the better, but the Astros are at increasing risk of fading to oblivion behind Seattle in the American League West race. They deserve to be 31-38. They have a losing record at home, they have a losing record on the road. They have a losing record in day games, they have a losing record in night games. They are 7-14 in games against left-handed starting pitchers, they are 24-24 (hey, .500, yippee!) vs. right-handed starters. It would take a serious collapse to fall entirely out of the Wild Card race before the trade deadline, but the Astros are flirting with danger there too. They have to leapfrog several teams to get to the third Wild Card position, currently held by the Minnesota Twins. This doesn’t seem to be a good weekend to gain ground on them. Not that A.J. Hinch’s Detroit Tigers visiting Minute Maid Park this weekend are anything special, though in Friday night’s series opener the Astros face the arguably best starting pitcher in the big leagues this season (Tarik Skubal). But the Twins have four games at home against the lowly Oakland A’s.

If Minnesota is not to overtake Kansas City and Cleveland to win the AL Central, you know Carlos Correa would love to make the playoffs at his ex-team’s expense. Wednesday Correa banged out the first five-hit game of his career. It’s pretty amazing that Jose Altuve has never had a five-hit game given how great a hitter he’s been and the relatively few walks he’s drawn. Sunday in Anaheim, Altuve racked up his 39th four-hit game. Remember, last September, Altuve hit five home runs over seven innings that overlapped two games against the Texas Rangers.

George Springer is the lone Astro ever to rack up six hits in a game, doing so at Oakland in 2018. So far this month, Springer is six for 40. Springer has two seasons left after this one on the six-year 150 million dollar contract he signed with Toronto. At 34 years old he is playing as if washed up. 2023 was the worst season of Springer’s career and he has fallen off a cliff from there thus far in 2024. Springer is batting .198 with his OPS at a sickly .582.

There is only one player in the modern era (1900 forward) of Major League Baseball to amass seven hits in a nine-inning game. In 1975 Rennie Stennett went seven for seven at Wrigley Field in a Pittsburgh Pirates 22-0 obliteration of the Chicago Cubs. The “Bleacher Bums” must have had fun that day.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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