CD's Connect the Dots… Phils/Astros in Space Race

The world is abuzz in 2004 with talk of space, and its seemingly limitless potential for exploration. The talk is of brave new worlds and uncharted territories. Yet, closer to home, and much closer to our hearts, the Philadelphia Phils hope to join Houston's other famous Astro (nauts) in a space race…to the top of their respective divisions.

No teams are more interested in the "space race" this upcoming baseball season than our very own Phillies and the Houston Astros. And this space race has nothing to do with a manned mission to the moon, but rather achieving enough space between the division rivals to ensure a first place record in their respective divisions.

Whereas the Phils goal of "the sky's the limit" seems more than feasible given the NL East opponent defections, it would surprise no one if the famous line, "Houston, we have a problem" is repeated often this coming summer.  The problem is located not on another lunar landscape but in a city made famous not by its solar winds, but its city winds.  It is well known as Chicago, the Windy City.

As the Phils look across the eastern landscape and see retreat in Atlanta and Florida, and rebuilding in Montreal and New York, the Astros see a team in the central time zone that has as much rocket power as anyone, even if they don't have the original Rocket.  Yes, the Chicago Cubs hope to make the Astros rocket launch a delayed one at best, and a canceled one at worst.

As we prepare for spring training and a season that promises to be "out of this world" it looks at first glance as if the space race will be launched not from San Francisco, Los Angeles or Miami. Nor will the manned mission to the series probably take place in Miami, Atlanta or St. Louis.

No, instead with the Hubble telescope providing almost unlimited vision into the outer reaches of a spring and summer star watch, it says here that the Phils, Astros and Cubs are the teams most likely to reach for the stars this year, and achieve them.  Lets examine this "space race" and see who is most likely to enjoy the celestial landscape come October.

The Phillies "space race" is likely to be a smooth one if all hands on board stay healthy and focused. With a five man armed crew of Millwood, Wolf, Milton, Padilla and Myers, the Phils are more than prepared for any potential space rocks that may attempt to alter its course.

In fact, no team in the East has a greater group of launching pad boosters than the Phils and these launch pads are named Thome, Burrell, Abreu and Lieberthal. This four-man booster system is guaranteed to create fireworks at takeoff and an explosion that should assist the smaller but quicker propulsion systems of Byrd, Rollins and Polanco.  If the Bell engine is repaired as advertised, and if the new Wagner delivery system saves as much fuel as in the past, this newest Phillie Project should reach the brightest constellations of the playoffs this October.

No team has greater experience in space travel than the Astro (nauts) from Houston. Emanating from the Space Capital of the World, the Rocket himself will be the newest star attraction to this otherworldly crew.  Roger Clemens has taken a non-stop flight from New York with a one-way ticket to the playoffs. Along for the ride is his trusty co-pilot, Andy Pettitte, and this veteran crew of post season celebrities promises to make Houston's journey an eventful one.

As leading characters in this exciting voyage, Clemens and Pettitte have banned forces with a reputable team of trusty cockpit mates. Astro fans should fear no meteor showers with a helm of Redding, Oswalt, Miller and Robertson to assist Captains Clemens and Pettitte.  And if any further assistance is needed, Privates Dotel and Hernandez offer a most welcome refueling station to assure a safe landing.

As talented as this crew appears, this Houston space odyssey would be incomplete without mention of the Powerful B-Force that offers fellow Astro (nauts) plenty of megawatt power.  Bagwell, Biggio and Berkman produce runs to rival the Phil's famous launching pad group, and Kent and Ensberg make the B-Force even stronger.  Only the possible defection of Richard Hidalgo due to cost over runs will keep this spacecraft from traveling at warp speed into the outer reaches of space.

 

This potential spatial speed bump may be all that's needed for the Baker Bunch to make the latest space trip a three craft race. It takes no Martian landing imagination to envision the Cub Combustion Crew finishing first in a close encounter of the first kind.  They are that good.

When Colonel Greg Maddux officially joins the flight crew, this super sized ship will have enough octanes to land the team straight into the Out of this World Series. Forget the curse, forget the lack of a proven finishing kick, this team is well suited to dodge the meteor showers of an expected Astro-bash.

Reporting for duty with Maddux are First Officers Prior, Wood, Clement and Zambrano with Petty Officer Borowski in reserve. This group provides lightning bolt acceleration and enough skill to avoid the common solar flairs that affect teams playing predominantly in the sunlight.

Captain Baker finds comfort in the universal appeal that his team commands, and this popularity is well deserved. From Lee to Alou, this group has demonstrated a staying power guaranteed to make the "space race" a three team battle.  Of course, no mention of the Cub Club would be complete with the mention of the "other worldly" performance of the top star, Sammy Sosa. 

Indeed, Sosa has achieved almost every award in this universe but longs for the ring around Saturn, otherwise called a World Series ring, and his trip will be complete.  With crewmates like Patterson, Gonzalez and Farnsworth, this trip may be his most successful yet.

As the solar winds slowly sweep the wintry month of January into oblivion, February marches forth with talk of Rovers, Explorers, and Lunar Landings.  Yet, in the distant reaches of the land, from the shores of Philadelphia to the rolling hills of Houston, there is a much different space talk at work.

 

It is the talk of quick takeoffs and smooth landings. It is the talk of unchartered territories and cloudless skies. The talk can be heard in the Windy City, the City of Brotherly Love, and in the heartlands of Texas. It is the talk of three teams, with one goal, and one vision… the vision of victory. 

 

Lost in space is not an option for these teams, and the latest version of the space race promises to fix its gravitational pull on baseball fans throughout the suddenly limitless universe.

Columnist's Note: I welcome suggestions, questions and comments. Please send them to connectthedots@earthlink.net and I will respond! CD from the Left Coast


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