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Woods had better week than Astros


Last updated 4/14/2010 at Noon

There used to be a weekly television series a long time ago entitled “That Was the Week that Was” which reviewed some of the news-worthy happenings of the last seven days.

Last week baseball fans were excited because of the start of the 2010 major league season while golf nuts were anxious to see how Tiger Woods would react to coming back from his self-imposed five-month layoff from the Pro Golf Tour.

Most of the major league baseball fans in Southeast Texas and Southwestern Louisiana would be interested in our nearest franchise — the Houston Astros, who were fortunate enough to open the season with six games at home in Minute Maid Park.

That home field advantage proved to be absolutely worthless as the Astros dropped every game and began their current road trip to St. Louis and Chicago by being the only major league team still winless with a 0-6 record. This is their worst start since the 1983 team lost its first nine starts.

Houston manager Brad Mills tried to encourage his players after Sunday’s tough 2-1 loss. “I went up to every guy and told them to keep battling,” Mills said. I’m very surprised we’re winless. We have a good ball club. We’ve been in every game, but we’ve played good ball clubs.”

His pep talk did little good as the Astros were blanked Monday afternoon by the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0, pushing their winless streak to 0-7. Fortunately, Houston had an open date Tuesday, before resuming their series with the Cardinals.

This Korner managed to watch at least portions of all seven games and the most glaring difference we saw was the lack of fans at most of the home games. It appears those fans living in and around the Houston city limits who read the daily sports items pertaining to the Astros realize the team’s payroll dropped 17 per cent from last season, which would naturally result in a product inferior from last year’s fifth place finish.

Throw in the fact that the best hitter—first baseman Lance Berkman is on the disabled list and it’s no wonder the team batted a paltry .223 and scored only 13 runs during the six-game home stand and failed to scratch in the victory column. Berkman remained in Houston this week rehabilitating his knee injury while the team traveled to St. Louis and Chicago.

Houston’s ace pitcher Roy Oswalt started the opener last Monday and the finale Sunday and gave up three runs the first game and only two Sunday. However, his banjo-hitting teammates couldn’t muster a single run while Oswalt was on the mound, so consequently Roy finished the first week of the season with a 0-2 record, but has a pretty impressive earned run average.

What few mini-rallies the Astros were able to produce all ended because nobody could deliver a base-hit with runners in scoring position. Oswalt was removed for a pinch-hitter Sunday and the Astros threatened to break open a game they were trailing 2-0.

Houston had the bases loaded and nobody out and was able to cross the plate only once on a double play of all things. That was the only scoring as the Astros lost 2-1.

Oswalt had the misfortune to be opposed by San Francisco’s former Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum on opening day and then former American League Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay in Sunday’s game against the Phillies.

Tiger Woods began last week with a press conference in which he tried to answer all of the questions the inquisitive sports media threw at him pertaining to his five-month absence from competitive golf. Actually, there weren’t too many questions that were too personal to answer.

Perhaps the biggest surprise from this scenario occurred Wednesday afternoon when Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National delivered some critical remarks almost in the form of a tongue lashing. This Korner feels as if Chairman Payne was way out of line.

“It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here: it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids,” Payne said during his press conference. “Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.

“But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change,” Payne continued.

“We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all who believe in second chances.”

After that unnecessary diatribe, Tiger proceeded to exceed all expectations by playing well each day, remaining in contention throughout. This is better than most folks close to the game expected from the four-time Masters Champion.

Phil Mickelson, who began the final day one stroke behind third-round leader Lee Westwood, blew past the British golfer and really never looked back. The lefty-swinging Mickelson finished the final round with a solid 67 and a 16-under par 272, the lowest by a Masters champion since Tiger Woods in 2001.

Tiger finished in a tie for fourth place with his playing partner all four days, K. J. Choi behind Westwood and Anthony Kim. Woods’ play appeared to deteriorate as the week wore on as he shot 68, 70, 70 and 69 to finish five strokes behind Mickelson.

Tiger was interviewed after he finished his round Sunday by CBS sports analyst Peter Kostis who asked Woods if he was happy with his return to the PGA Tour. “I finished tied for fourth. It’s not what I wanted,” Tiger snapped tersely.

“I entered this tournament to win and I didn’t. So, of course, I’m not happy with my performance. As the week went on, I kept hitting the ball worse.”

When asked whether he would commit on Sunday to entering future tournaments, Tiger replied that he plans to “take a little time off and re-evaluate things.”

KWICKIES...Orange resident Ken Ruane had an interesting day Saturday. He left Orange before the crack of dawn and drove to Houston where he ran a 5 kilometer race and won it handily in his age division (65 and older). He returned to Orange after the race and played golf at Sunset Grove Country Club where he teed off on the back nine at 2 p.m., shot 43 and then fired a career-best 35 on the front nine.

The nearer the 2010 NFL draft gets the higher Orange’s Earl Thomas’ stock goes. In this week’s list of the top 64 draft prospects by Thomas jumped from No. 19 to No. 15 and is still the No. 2 cornerback prospect in the draft behind Florida’s Joe Haden. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford jumped all the way to No. 2 overall, behind Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is tops on everyone’s mock draft list.

The Lamar Cardinals baseball team took another step in the right direction last weekend by winning two-of-three from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on the road. The Cards won the rubber game convincingly 9-2 Sunday by banging out 13 hits while freshman left-hander Jonathan Dziedzic fanned a career-high 13 Islanders and allowed six hits and only one earned run in eight innings. The Big Red improved their overall record to 19-14 and their Southland Conference worksheet to 6-9 as they took a break from SLC play to host Texas-Pan American in a doubleheader Tuesday at Vincent-Beck Field in Beaumont.

JUST BETWEEN US...Several major leaguers have special clauses in their contracts, giving them special perks during the upcoming season.

Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young of the Texas Rangers, Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets, Mark Teixiera and several others have contracts that stipulate they get a hotel suite while on the road this season.

And several Japanese players have travel perks in their contracts.

Kosuke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs has eight first-class tickets between Japan and the USA, pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox has eight first class tickets between Japan and Beantown while teammate Hideki Okajima has four business-class tickets between Japan and the USA not to exceed $10,000 a ticket.

We notice that Houston Astros’ second baseman Kazuo Matsui’s name is not mentioned on the list of Japanese players getting this special perk.


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