Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr. LaHawk Goes to Washington

Say, I wonder who I know from the Oxygen Network...?

Still, connections or no connections, that's pretty awesome.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Eeny, Meeny, Miney...

The Houston Press has an interesting post on the hypocrisy of Run-DMc's politely uninviting Roger Clemens from pitching to minor leaguers, but then allowing Miguel Tejada to come play.

That's very interesting, and very true. Because it's not like there are differing degrees of severity between Roger and Miggy. They're being investigated in the same case, by the same prosecutor, in the same court, for the same thing.

I have a feeling that Miggy can come out and play because that's $13 million of groceries that Run-DMc is forking over, and the longer Roger doesn't officially retire the longer that personal services contract takes to kick in...

Michael Young will play third base and he will like it.

So, nope. No Michael Young in Houston. The only place you'll see Michael Young this summer is either at third base, or plotting to eye-poke "Super Prospect" Elvis Andrus - a guy who, when you hear his name, you hate him already.

So let's get this straight. You're going to ask the guy who just won a Gold Glove (which are like the Golden Globes - stupid voting criteria, resulting in a meaningless award) at shortstop and is a 5-time All Star to move, and not the 20-year old kid.

But I think Jon Daniels might need to watch his back. Listen to this quote from Young:
"I don't think this is the time for me to switch positions," Young said. "I think I'm playing well. But it's not my call. My responsibility is to 24 other guys. I've talked to many of them over the past few days, and they support me. But I have to be fair.

If the other 24 guys (it would be interesting to see what Elvis Andrus has to say) have his back, that doesn't bode well for the GM.

Five Players File for Arbitration

Brandon Backe, Tim Byrdak, Geoff Geary, Humberto Quintero and Wandy Rodriguez filed for arbitration yesterday. So now what'll happen is the Airing of Salary Grievances for their one-year deal by January 20 - that'd be Tuesday. Both sides will exchange numbers and negotiate from there. If they can't come up with a number agreeable to the two parties by February 1, then the case will go to an arbiter.

The panel will use service time, performance and the salaries of similar players as a benchmark for determining which side is fair - and it's one or the other, there's not a middle point.

The Astros don't have a history of allowing these cases to get to the arbitration hearing, though Easy Eddie took Valverde and Loretta to arbitration last year - and won both cases. Before that, as Alyson Footer reports, 1997 was the last time the Astros went to an arbitration hearing.

Here were the players' 2008 salaries:
Geary - $1.125 million
Backe - $800,000
Byrdak - $712,500
Rodriguez - $451,000
Quintero - $405,000

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It translates Perjurio

Uh. Oh. To quote the New York Times: WASHINGTON — The federal authorities here who have convened a grand jury to investigate Roger Clemens for perjury, have also a convened a grand jury to begin hearing evidence on similar charges for Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Then later:

The federal investigation of Tejada is being led by the same prosecutors who are investigating Clemens, specifically the F.B.I.
agent John Longmire. It is unclear what evidence Longmire has developed on Tejada since the investigation was opened last year.

In a separate article in the New York Daily News, Kirk Radomski appeared in front of a grand jury this morning around 10:15am. Radomski will meet with U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Butler tomorrow.

A note on Ed Wade's payroll comments

Ed Wade said he was basically done tinkering with the Astros' roster, which looks like Easy Eddie was playing with the Dynasty mode on MLB02, with the addition of Aaron Boone, Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz (but let's face it, if even one of these guys returns to the form of days of yore, this season might be alright).

By keeping the payroll at $107 million - $2 million higher than Run-DMc's number at that breakfast in Prattville, Alabama last week - that effectively means the Astros will not be taking a run at Pettitte, Sheets, or anybody else.

This is your team. How do you feel?

Backe wields a hammer, and strikes it true

Article in the Chronicle today details the three main things you already knew about Brandon Backe:

1. He's from Galveston
2. He got arrested
3. He'll get paid, but might not make the team.

Says Backe: “They’ve already said that I have to fight for a job. My goal is to get myself ready for the season, and whatever happens in spring training happens. I’m going to try to go out there and do my best and show them that I belong on the team.”

And then, as though to avoid commenting on Backe's quote, McTaggart talks about the numerous trips Backe has made to Galveston. So let's recap...

"I belong on the team."
Uhhh, Backe went to Galveston!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Will you help the Astros make $107 million this year?

Can you be counted on bringing in enough to support a team losing 85 games so Run-DMc won't lose any money? That's what it'll take...

Minor League Notes

Did anybody go to the first stop on the Astros Caravan and take pictures? Random encounters. I need you people.

Anyway, thanks to Baseball America for picking this up. Minor league transactions:

Signed: RHP Danny Graves, RHP Clay Hensley, RHP Jeremy Johnson, 3B Jason Smith, 3B Chad Spann, SS Chris Barnwell

Danny Graves - the only Vietnamese-born Major Leaguer (EVER), right-handed 35-year old pitcher. Played for Triple-A Rochester (Twins) last season.

Jeremy Johnson - 26-year old pitcher, spent last season in Triple-A Toledo and went 3-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 39 appearances.

Chad Spann - Here's his July 08 bio from SoxProspects:
Spann is an intelligent third-baseman with a very good glove and an average stick. He has worked his way up through the organization slowly, struggling initially at almost every level, but showing a great ability to make adjustments and eventually thrive. He is athletic in the field with good range and an accurate arm. At the plate, he has a fluid swing with good bat speed, and once he makes his adjustments at each level he has been able to demonstrate nice patience. Spann has been young at each level throughout his Red Sox career. Seemed to hit a road block at AAA. Began splitting time between 1B and 3B in 2007.

Chris Barnwell - 29 year old right-handed shortstop. Played for Albuquerque, with a .364 OBP and 16 SB last season.


Pitchers Jose Capellan and Chad Paronto, and catchers Brian Esposito and Toby Hall were also invited. Righthander Sergio Perez was also invited to spring training.

Randy Wolf thinks very highly of his own services.

I bet Randy Wolf wakes up in the morning, takes a shower, clears the steam off the mirror with his hand...and then slams his head into it repeatedly. Regard Ken Rosenthal:

Wolf, according to multiple sources, declined to accept a three-year, $28.5 million offer to return to the Astros — an offer that was rescinded early in the offseason. The veteran lefty could end up with the Dodgers if the Mets sign Perez, but he is unlikely to command an average salary of $9.5 million from either team ...

Granted, I don't think there's a big difference between $8 million and $9.5 million. If you're having trouble meeting expenses at $8 million a year, you've got larger issues. But still, even though the Astros rescinded the offer, he still had time to turn it down. Dude, bummer.

And the train they're referring to is not the one overlooking Crawford Street.

Interesting article from the New York Daily News this morning. As Roger Clemens is puckering up those injected buttocks preparing for whatever Kirk Radomski might spill this week in front of a grand jury, so, maybe, should our beloved rapidly aging shortstop, Miguel Tejada.

Prosecutor Daniel Butler could also toss in some questions about Miggy to Radomski. Remember Miggy has been the target of a perjury investigation since last January (give somebody a year and they'll find something you said that wasn't true. Richard Justice said this in a February 2008 article in the Chronicle: "The Astros are signing Shawn Chacon with their eyes wide open. He's just 29 years old and has a sound arm and a good attitude." Ring him up.)

Anyhow, the NYDN says that, despite this indictment's treatment like global warming ("it'll happen, just later"), Clemens and Tejada should be worried. Because if the Feds decide they want an indictment, "It's unheard of that they don't indict," says William Callahan, former federal prosecutor.

Here's the problem. Tejada said he didn't use drugs, know about drugs, know anybody who said they did drugs or knew about drugs. Then Adam Piatt comes along and says when they were in Oakland, he bought steroids from Radomski for Tejada. And since this was in the Mitchell Report, it's a problem. And don't think a grand jury isn't going to remember that fateful interview with ESPN when Miggy aged two years.

How can Tejada and Clemens come out of this okay? Says Callahan, a witness or piece of evidence needs to be unreliable. "Otherwise, it's like a train going full speed ahead - and you're tied to the tracks."

The Astros are preparing for Tejada to attend Spring Training.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

R.I.P. Preston Gomez

1974-1975 Astros manager - and all around baseball ambassador and good guy - Preston Gomez passed away from injuries he sustained last year at Spring Training after being hit by a truck.

Gomez, a former Major League player, coach, manager, scout and executive, had been working for the Angels for the past 28 years, most recently as a special assistant to the general manager.

In his first year with the Astros in 1974, the Astros went 81-81 and then 47-80 in 127 games in 1975.

On Bert Blyleven

Look. Chances are Bert Blyleven will eventually make it into the Hall of Fame. But he didn't this year. And that's flat-out ridiculous. But there's a double-standard among these guys. Because a pitcher who threw almost 5,000 innings and struck out 3700 batters with a 3.31 ERA has no reason not to be counted among the game's all-time greats.

But because he pitched in Minnesota, Texas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and California, he didn't have a spot in a high-profile market like New York or Boston or Chicago. But if a player leaves Minnesota/Texas/Pittsburgh/Cleveland/California for New York, Boston or Chicago he gets crucified because he's clearly after the money. Look at someone like Tony Oliva, 8-time All-Star outfielder with a .304 average - who qualifies as a Hall of Famer on three of four Hall of Fame monitor stats. But because he played in a small-market, he doesn't get the press.

So the writers can't have it both ways. You can't penalize a guy for not playing in New York, and then crucify a guy for choosing to play in New York. This is the easiest time of year for sports writers, because they get to write 10,000 words on who they voted for and why, but there has to be some accountability and transparency somewhere.

The home run - and the public's perception of the home run has changed. Ty Cobb led the American League in 1909 home runs with 9. Nine home runs led the AL. Nine. Batting averages have changed. Hugh Duffy hit .438 in 1894. Joe Jackson as a rookie hit .411. The triple has changed. The stolen base has changed (thank you, Rickey). But the strikeout has not changed.

Batters have been swinging as hard as they can since the New York Knickerbocker's set down some rules in the 1840s. The ball hasn't really changed in size since about 1910. The bat hasn't changed terribly much. So the strikeout is the great leveler. And only four pitchers have struck out more batters than Bert Blyleven (and that includes Clemens, who is on the verge of attaining Voldemort status) in the history of the game. Of the top 20 players on the all-time strikeout list, 13 are eligible for the Hall of Fame, and 11 of them are in. Only Mickey Lolich - with almost 1000 less strikeouts than Blyleven - isn't in. And 19 pitchers BEHIND Blyleven on the total wins list are in.

If Blyleven struck out 3700 guys in pinstripes or against the backdrop of the Green Monster, they would have sold the movie rights by now.

Astros Caravan starts tomorrow

Are you going?! Dadgummit let me know ( Take a picture. Get Backe to say something funny. Do something.

Wednesday, Jan. 14
Saltgrass Steakhouse Autograph Signing - Gulf Freeway in Webster
Cecil Cooper, Brandon Backe, Darin Erstad, Chris Sampson, Brett Dolan, Bobby Heck
12:30 pm - 1:30 p.m. CT

Academy Sports + Outdoors - Gulf Freeway in Webster
Brandon Backe, Darin Erstad, Chris Sampson, Brett Dolan, Bobby Heck
4:30 - 5:30 p.m. CT

You know what would be really funny? Show up at 12:30 and do something totally bizarre. Remember EXACTLY what you did, and then show up at 4:30 and do the EXACT SAME THING. See whose mind gets blown. Print off your Proof of Citizenship and get an Astro to take a picture. Have a random encounter? E-mail that, too.

Astros sign pitcher Russ Oritz

The Astros signed pitcher Russ Ortiz to a minor-league deal today, reports the Chronicle.

Ortiz had double-digit wins in six straight seasons, from 1999-2004 for the Giants and Braves - including a 2003 season in which Ortiz went 21-7 and finished 4th in Cy Young balloting. Things kind of went to hell when he signed with the Diam'n'bac's, and then the Orioles. From 2005-2007 his ERA wasn't below 5.50. He has dealt with injuries - including Tommy John surgery - and missed all of 2008. However, says Easy Eddie:

Jack Lind, one of our pro scouts, saw Russ work out in September and was pleased with what he saw. By all accounts, Russ has rebounded well from Tommy John surgery, and we have no doubt that a healthy Russ Ortiz should be able to come to camp and be a serious contender for a spot in the big league rotation. He’ll have every opportunity in Spring Training to win a job.

You know who's crapping their pants right now? Brandon Backe. Count 'em, that's three pitchers not in the rotation who are competing for a spot: Easy Eddie mentioned Wesley Wright could be a candidate, as will Clay Hensley and now Ortiz. Don't forget Sampson can start, too. Backe needs to be perfect this spring training to stay in the rotation.

Heyman speaks!

Heyman addresses two recent posts on Astros County (though not directly) in an article today. Heyman says Michael Young is likely to just suck it up and move to third base. But if he doesn't there are six teams he lists as possibilities for a trade, and the Astros are not one of them.

Then this nugget about Honest Andy:
Months after first making the $10 million offer to Pettitte, Yankees people still believe there is "less than a 50-50 chance'' that Pettitte's Yankees career will resume. Retirement seems to be the main second option for Pettitte, though the Dodgers and Astros could be long-shot possibilities.

Update on Valverde's financials + Paul LoDuca

Brian McTaggart's article on Valverde's financials indicated the following performance bonuses:

NL Rolaids Relief winner = $100,000
Most Valuable Player of the NLCS or World Series = $50,000
All-Star appearance, Gold Glove or Silver Slugger award = $25,000 each.

That Silver Slugger bonus is a pretty safe $25,000.

Easy Eddie also mentioned discussing a long-term deal with Valverde's agent before deciding to get the one-year deal done and talk about that extension later. At least Valverde/his agent (Bill Rego) are open to it...

Buried in this article is the nugget that Paul LoDuca has been in negotiations with the Astros. This is odd, because that means there's Quintero, Towles, Palmisano and possibly now LoDuca behind the plate.

Interesting, baseless rumor from the New York Post

I know. I know. The New York Post. Bastion of fine, upstanding journalism. However, in light of Michael Young's hissy-fit about being asked to move to third base to accommodate Elvis Andrus, Young has since asked to be traded. Amazing to think that, at one time, the Rangers had Blalock, Teixeira, Young and A-Rod on the field at one time, and still finished in last place (2003). Anyhow, so now Young wants to be traded.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post (which is a good newspaper, despite my cheap shot above) posted a blog about possible destinations for Young. One of the four possibilities he lists is Houston, with Chicago (for Soriano), Colorado (for Todd Helton), and San Francisco (for Barry Zito or Aaron Rowand). Sherman lists Carlos Lee as a possible trade partner.

Within his post, Sherman rules out the Giants. I doubt the Cubs would be willing to move Soriano, because with Bradley they now have one of the most dominant outfields in baseball. Colorado makes sense, but I wouldn't imagine too many teams would be interested to see if Helton's batting average is really inflated by the thin air for that much money.

Which leads us to the Astros. Tejada would move to third (because it would just be funny if Easy Eddie traded for Young and then moved him to third, anyway. Bad business, but funny.) and the Astros would have a durable (Young has played in 155+ games since 2001) 32-year old .300 hitting shortstop.

The money owed Carlos Lee is more than the money still owed Young, so there's payroll relief there, too. So the question comes down to (1) Would Carlos Lee approve a trade back to Texas? and (2) What is to be gained by trading Lee's power for Young's average?

One of the reasons Carlos Lee chose Houston was the proximity to his cows, and no, that's not a metaphor. Oh, and the $100 million helped, too. Arlington isn't too much farther away and he still gets his money. Young is owed, on average, $6.5 million a year less than Lee.

Would you trade Lee's power? He has hit 20+ homers since his shortened rookie season in 1999 and was on pace for his sixth straight 30+ HR season when his little piggy went wee wee wee wee all the way home after getting plunked. Thoughts?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Astros avoid arbitration with Jose Valverde

The Chronicle is reporting the Astros avoided one of the more awkward situations in baseball whenthe agreed with Jose Valverde on a one-year, $8 million deal. What do I mean by awkward? You say you're worth $x. Your team says, "You're good, but you ain't worth that. You're worth $y. Please play for us."

Just so we're all clear, K-Rod will make $8.5 million for the Mets in 2009 after leading the Majors in saves with 62 in 2008
Then there's Valverde, with 44 saves - $8 million
Joakim Soria (42 saves) made $426,500 in 2008
Brad Lidge (41 saves) will make $11.5 million
Jonathan Papelbon (41 saves) made $775,000
Brian Wilson (41 saves) made $396,500
Mariano Rivera (39 saves) will make $15 million
Joe Nathan (39 saves) will make $11.25 million
Kerry Wood (34 saves) will make $10 million
Francisco Cordero (34 saves) will make $8.5 million

There you have it. Those are your top 10 save leaders for 2008, and with the exception of Papelbon (who is going to make some jack soon), Joakim Soria and Brian Wilson - not the Beach Boys one - Valverde will be cheaper than seven of your top ten closers for 2008.

Important to note also, Valverde will be a free agent at the end of the year. Which means somebody else is going to have to close in 2010, because Valverde (who will be 32 on Opening Day 2010) will command a three-year $30-40 million deal. That's, of course, in 2007 dollars - and we all have seen the market has changed. Will the Astros keep Valverde? Will Bud Norris or Brad James be that man?

What do you think of this situation?

Winter Caravan 2009 to kick off Wednesday

Hey. Remember the Astros Caravan is kicking off this week. Also remember if you're going, and you get a picture with an Astro holding an Astros County Proof of Citizenship, e-mail it to and we'll post it (and give you something in return...) Here are the appearances and guests for this week.

Wednesday, Jan. 14
Saltgrass Steakhouse Autograph Signing - Gulf Freeway in Webster
Cecil Cooper, Brandon Backe, Darin Erstad, Chris Sampson, Brett Dolan, Bobby Heck
12:30 pm - 1:30 p.m. CT

Academy Sports + Outdoors - Gulf Freeway in Webster
Brandon Backe, Darin Erstad, Chris Sampson, Brett Dolan, Bobby Heck
4:30 - 5:30 p.m. CT

Thursday, Jan. 15 -- Katy, Tex.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Autograph Signing - I-10 West in Katy
Cecil Cooper, Lance Berkman, LaTroy Hawkins, Hunter Pence, Larry Dierker, Bill Brown
3:30 - 4:30 p.m. CT

Friday, Jan. 16 -- The Woodlands, Tex.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Autograph Signing - I-45 North in Spring
Jose Valverde, Wesley Wright, Jim Deshaies, Dave Raymond, Ed Wade
3:00 - 4:00 p.m CT.

Youth Clinic -- Legends Sports Complex - Pruitt Road in Spring
Jose Valverde, Wesley Wright, Jim Deshaies, Dave Raymond, Ed Wade
4:30 - 6:00 p.m. CT
(Open to youth registered for clinic only. Please don't crash the kids' party.)

Saturday, Jan. 17
Academy Sports + Outdoors Autograph Signing - Hwy 59 in Sugarland
Geoff Blum, Michael Bourn, Clay Hensley, Jimmy Wynn, Jim Deshaies
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. CT

Academy Sports + Outdoors Autograph Signing - Business Center Drive in Pearland
Geoff Blum, Michael Bourn, Clay Hensley, Jimmy Wynn, Jim Deshaies
4:00 - 5:00 p.m. CT

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Free Agent Update

John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus has updated his Top 20 remaining free agents and their top suitors / most likely destinations for 2009.

A couple of interesting notes. Perrotto says that not only Andy Pettitte, but Ty Wigginton, as well, could potentially be returning to Houston.

I'm not so sure. With Easy Eddie's comments on the Law Offices of Blum, Boone and Johnson at third base, I'm guessing Wigginton is playing elsewhere. But I think if we get to February and Honest Andy is still pissed at Hank/Hal, he could be in Houston come April 6 - and Perrotto says Honest Andy Does Houston is only likely should he be interested in a further pay cut beyond $10 million.