Beyond the Boxscore
Why is no one crying over Michael Bourn? Difference in reaction from HunterPence trade striking — and wrong
Hunter Pence gets traded and there's city-wide mourning, a Twitter onslaught of outrage, fans who tell of gently breaking the news to their kids and space on the front page of the Houston Chronicle for a story.
Michael Bourn gets traded and ... well, there are mostly yawns.
Why such difference? Both are all-star caliber players. Both are exciting to watch. Both are great guys who do a lot in the community. Both leave the Houston Astros in even worse shape than they were forced to toil in (as unbelievable a concept of the Astros being even worse is).
Yet, Pence's departure to Philadelphia is treated like a tragedy, while Bourn's one-way ticket to Atlanta is largely regarded with oh-well shrugs.
Sure, this is in many ways Pence's breakout season — the one where he became a true star in front of everyone's watchful eyes (or at least, the small number of eyes that regularly found their way to Minute Maid Park). But Bourn is arguably having his best season as well, hitting .303 with 39 stolen bases (in 46 attempts) and 64 runs scored, very much in range of setting career highs in all three categories.
Hunter Pence's departure to Philadelphia is treated like a tragedy, while Michael Bourn's one-way ticket to Atlanta is largely regarded with oh-well shrugs.
The Hunter Mania is well earned — there's just something about his crazy-eyed intensity that makes people fall in love with rooting for him — but the indifference to Bourn is disrespectful to one of the better athletes Houston has produced.
Bourn is the hometown star (he was born in Houston, played his high school ball here at Nimitz and stole 90 bases in three seasons at the University of Houston) who's leaving without anyone really raising a peep. You can bet that Braves fans will quickly grow to love him, once he's dancing on the bases in front of Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla.
So why isn't Houston more upset? Where is the Hunter Pence-level outrage?
It'd be easy to point out that Pence is white, while Bourn is black, easy to try to make it into some kind of race issue — easy and probably mostly wrong. Texans receiver Andre Johnson has been the most popular athlete in this town for years, surpassing Yao Ming long before the giant finally hobbled into retirement.
If you produce in Houston, you'll usually be recognized. Unless you're Michael Bourn.
It can be argued that Astros fans long ago accepted the idea that Bourn would be moving on — after all, he's represented by Scott Boras and the super agent's considered a near devil in these parts by many due to the Carlos Beltran fiasco. Yet, Bourn isn't a free agent until 2013. He still had time here in Houston. There was no absolute need to move him now — especially when the highlight of the returning player package is an outfielder with a career .303 slugging percentage who is most famous for being the first player suspended for performance-enhancing drugs in the Mitchell Report's aftermath (hello Jordan Schafer!)
Was Pence really more of a shock? Maybe, Astros believers just didn't want to accept that the incoming ownership group of Jim Crane would sign off on dealing the fans' favorite player, but in reality there was a lot more trade smoke around Pence than Bourn for weeks.
The idea that Astros fans became numbed by the Pence trade Friday night and didn't have any outrage left by the time Sunday morning saw Bourn dealt also rings false. If Bourn had been traded first, Houston fans would have been celebrating because it wasn't Pence.
There's no denying that.
A Good Man Gone
You'd better believe that Bourn noticed that Pence received the love while he mostly left to a cold shoulder.
Still, the always-classy player shrugged off any hurt and only sent his own goodwill.
"It's definitely tough leaving Houston, my hometown," Bourn said in a statement he released through the Astros. "But I understand the trade. I have the chance to be in a pennant race, so I'm happy about that.
Bourn always did his hometown proud. Now, he'll do Houston proud in Atlanta. Too bad no one bothered to notice when he was sent out the door.
"I want to say thanks to the Houston fans for their support. It was special to me to play in my hometown. And, I want to thank the Astros organization for the opportunity they gave me. I wish them all the best."
Feel bad about letting this guy go with such little noise yet?
You should. Bourn made it his business to try and give kids in Houston — especially minority kids who didn't grow up with the resources and the strong baseball-loving dad he had — the opportunity to play his game. When a new $500,000 training center at the Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy was dedicated in late June, Bourn made it a point to be there.
He spoke to kids at the academy, reminding them that plenty of Major League Baseball players come out of Houston and that more good can come out of sticking with something than a pro contract. With Bourn it wasn't just a talk, it was a mission. He planned to hold a three-day classroom-centered clinic with former Astros player Jimmy Wynn at the academy Monday through Wednesday this week.
Bourn always did his hometown proud. Now, he'll do Houston proud in Atlanta.
Too bad no one bothered to notice when he was sent out the door.
Are Astros fans really that beaten down, that indifferent to losing one of their best? Then, why weren't they indifferent — why were they so engaged — when it was Pence?
All the jokes on ESPN about the Astros moving to the Pacific Coast League or Houston being home to the best Double A team that money can buy aren't the only thing that are pathetic.
Michael Bourn deserved better. There should have been some furor, some reaction. Some Pence-level rage.
Astros fans look worse than Ed Wade.