Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bye Bye Backe

Brandon Backe was designated for assignment on Friday evening to make room for Felipe Paulino to come off the disabled list and start Saturday night.

This was the right move, and Paulino emphatically proved that by pitching one of the best games of his career last night, but I can't help but feel bad for Backe, mainly because he provided this franchise with some of it's very best good times.

Win or lose, big-time drama seemed to follow Brandon Backe. He was the only pitcher I've ever seen strike out the side on 9 pitches. Brandon was the starting pitcher for the NL Wildcard Winning game in 2004, as well as the game 3 win in the NLDS that year, and perhaps the greatest game I've ever watched from start to finish live, game 4 of the NLCS that year, wherein Backe pitched eight innings of one-hit ball (would've been two hits if Beltran hadn't made an unbelievable catch in the eighth to rob Tony Womack of what probably would've been a triple had Beltran missed, since Berkman or Biggio would've had to chase it into the visitor's bullpen to retrieve it). That game... there's not much more I can say about it if you've seen it, but if you haven't - well, it was one of the best single nights of baseball EVER.

In 2005, Backe was the starting pitcher for the 18-inning Chris Burke game, and although he didn't do much to help our cause, you couldn't help but feel his presence in the middle of the action, rubbing bats for good luck and shouting at everyone who could hear him, offering encouragement and just being a generally good teammate. Then, in the last game of our World Series, down three games to none, Backe went out and pitched seven shutout innings against a hot-hitting White Sox lineup, essentially saying, "I'm not going to be the one who loses this for us." It's that kind of effort in big moments that endears him to you as a fan.

Since he's from Galveston, you get the feeling that he's closely associated with this town and this team. It's easy for him to root for the Astros because he grew up with them, and we root for him because of that.

Unfortunately, you don't become a good baseball player in only the big moments of your career. If the moment wasn't big for Backe, he did not thrive, and we got used to cringing at his line after a mid-season start - eight earned, too many walks, innopportune homers. More often that not in the last three years, that was the Brandon Backe we knew.

He didn't get any better this season, and truth be told, he was a long-shot to make the team anyway. He lasted as long as he did because enough people out there felt like we owed him for all the good times. I'm as sorry as anyone to see that the good times have apparently come to an end.

Good luck, Brandon.

All for now.

No comments: