Friday, November 19, 2010

Oakland's Director of Player Development might need a hug

Because he seems genuinely upset that Tony DeFrancesco is heading to Oklahoma City:

"Tony has been an integral part of our organization for many years. He has been able to influence Oakland players from rookie ball to the major leagues. The winning tradition he has created for our affiliates and players is unparalleled. His energy, knowledge and passion for the game is recognized throughout the industry."

Author Melissa Lockard:
During his time in Sacramento, DeFrancesco became a fan favorite, hosting pre-game chats with the fans, among other activities. His teams were marked by their professionalism and their passion for winning, two things that can sometimes be hard to find in the minor leagues. While managing the River Cats, he helped develop a number of current major leaguers, including Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton, Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton, Bobby Crosby, Brad Ziegler, Aaron Harang, Gio Gonzalez and Vince Mazzaro.

A single tear runs down Justice's leg

Richard Justice just bought a new wardrobe of sackcloth and ashes:

That's why I'm telling you Drayton selling the Astros isn't good news. Yes, he has made every mistake an owner can make, some of them more than once. He has also learned some tough lessons. Now just when he seems to have the club on the right track, he's out the door. I miss him already.

Big Shiny Official Announcement!

So Drayton will be holding a press conference this afternoon at 2:30 to address his selling of the Astros.

And Zach Levine has confirmed that Cuban ain't interested. And let's face it, that would have been awesome.

OMGZFLOL Astros are for sale

Mark Berman first broke the news that Drayton has retained a New York City-based investment firm to help him sell the Astros, for an asking price of $800m.

Zach Levine:
In partnering with Allen & Company and specifically industry giant Steve Greenberg — the son of Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg and a partner in the firm — McLane has secured the services of one of the foremost brokers of deals in sports and entertainment business. It is a much more aggressive approach than he has taken in the past when he has simply said he would consider selling if the right offer came along.

This is pretty damn ballsy, as Forbes recently valued the Astros at $453m in 2009, and I can't imagine that number increased significantly over the last season, amirite?

So of course everyone is all over Cuban's junk, but 1560 Radio Host David Nuno says he can confirm that Mark Cuban isn't interested in the Astros.

And let's be honest, this has been building for quite some time - previous For Sale signs notwithstanding. From the trimming of payroll, shedding of high contracts (except one...), upgrades to the stadium, and the new RSN, Drayton has been detailing his franchise getting it ready to sell.

Craig Calcaterra sums it up pretty well:
Bonus: no one is bankrupt this time, so any sale would likely take less than nine months and multiple rounds of litigation. Which means this won’t be much fun at all, sadly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And the shoe drops for Manzella

Zach Levine's updated story has this:

General manager Ed Wade said that Barmes' job was still to be determined, though manager Brad Mills would be comfortable making him the starting shortstop — a position that was manned by Tommy Manzella and Angel Sanchez last year.

"Millsie thinks that he's more than capable of playing shortstop every day, and he's a plus defender at second. Where that all plays out depends on what else we do during the offseason and it could depend on what guys do at spring training."

Did Manzella get a fair chance? Hell, and no, he didn't. When it was obvious in September 2009 that Tejada would not be coming back, Manzella saw about four and a half minutes of time at the plate. And then he that finger wouldn't heal quickly, and Angel Sanchez did well enough to keep him at bay until August. No, Manzella didn't get a fair chance.

Note there's a possibility of more moves during the off-season, and then going through Spring Training, but as of this moment, it's not looking good for Tommy Manzella in Houston.

Here's a few words from Clint Barmes

The Denver Post has some reaction from Barmes, himself:

"I'll be honest with you, I was hoping to be a Rockie. I was wanting to try to work something out. But talking to Dan (O'Dowd), some other opportunities came up and it just seemed to be better for both sides. I'm excited about getting an opportunity to play shortstop and have a team interested in me. You're a little more valuable at shortstop than you are at second base. You're in control of the infield. There's that leadership role you have to take into account. I believe that's a good fit for me. That's where I've played most of my career and I've always looked at myself as a shortstop."

Here's an interesting footnote from Troy E. Renck:
Houston has had interest in Barmes for months, and he will likely become their starting shortstop.

Hm. Months? This isn't looking good for you, Manzella.

How this trade came about

Troy E. Renck tweeted some details about how this whole Paulino/Barmes trade went down:

The Rockies talked about trying to make a two-year deal work. Couldn't gain traction, then trade came along that made sense for both sides. "I don't have a bad thing to say about my experience," said Barmes. Barmes goes to a park suited for a pull hitter. Should start at SS.

And now, reactions

Thanks to the wonder of Twitter, here are some immediate reactions to the Paulino-for-Barmes trade:

Hunter Pence:
He can drop bombs at MMP

Dave Cameron:
Felipe Paulino for Clint Barmes kind of speaks for itself. #EdWade

Joe Sheehan (and here)
Barmes will be 32 next spring, has a .300 career OBP (all spent at Coors) and a good bet to be non-tendered. How do you trade ANYTHING for that?"

Denver Post's Troy E. Renck:
That's a great spot for barmes, can be (their) everyday shortstop.

Jerome Solomon:
Snap judgments aren't the best, but hard to get excited when the Astros add a guy who hit .235 last year.

Hardball Talk's Aaron Gleeman:
I think Paulino still has a chance to be a pretty solid pitcher, but between his awful performance so far and various injury problems it’s tough to blame the Astros for giving up on him.

Giving up on him in order to acquire Barmes, of course, is another issue.

Houston will be mocked for this trade to various degrees. Not because they gave up a high-upside arm like Paulino, but because they did so to acquire a mediocre talent that might have been available at a lesser cost in a matter of weeks. As it stands, Colorado did well to get something in return for Barmes, and particularly well for the return to have upside.

Jeebus! Astros make a trade!

Not three days after espousing how terrible this off-season has been, the Astros traded Felipe Paulino to Colorado for Clint Barmes.

Ed Wade:
"We're excited to add Clint to our club. He's a plus defensive player at two positions, has gap and some home run power and has great makeup. It's tough to give up a power arm like Felipe's, but Clint fits a need that we had to address."

This will be significantly expanded on throughout the next few days, I'm sure, but here's the immediate take: I like it. In another Alyson Footer tweet, Wade said this doesn't really affect Keppinger or Manzella, but of course it does. Paulino had a great arm, when it was healthy. Problem is, it hasn't really been healthy.

Is Barmes the player he was in 2005 (.289/.330/.434) or even 2008 (.290/.322/.468)? No. His OPS since 2005 has been .598, .534, .790, .734, and .656. And that's playing in Colorado. Should we be concerned about his ability to produce? Sure. But the Astros just made a low-risk move that might pay off. If Felipe Paulino turns into Ubaldo Jimenez, we can all chalk this up to kerrazy Ed Wade shenanigans, but name a player - other than 2008 Lidge - who Wade got rid of that went on to be a star.

It's my guess that Barmes is now your de facto SS1, and Manzella is SS2. Manzella will have to tear the cover off the ball, or Barmes will have to show up with poop stains on the outside of his pants, in Spring Training.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Koby Clemens up for Sportsmanship Award

So Koby Clemens is the Astros' nominee for the Arizona Fall League Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award.

Here's the trite paragraph on Clemens from
Roger's son continues to make a slow path up the Astros' ladder. The 2005 eighth-round pick spent the year with Corpus Christi in the Double-A Texas League and was a league All-Star for the second straight year, finishing with 26 homers and 85 RBIs. Though he hasn't shown much power in the AFL, he did have his average up to .288 after 18 games.

Meet your new Oklahoma City RedHawks manager

Brian McTaggart says that the Astros have hired Tony DeFrancesco as their Triple-A manager in Oklahoma City.

The B-R Bullpen has some background for you. The short version is that he had managed in Oakland's organization since 1994, and with Oakland's Triple-A franchise in Sacramento since 2003, and won three league championships in five years. His overall record of 580-427 (.576) in the PCL is pretty impressive, too.

In 2008, he was Oakland's Third Base Coach.

Within this McTaggart blog post we read that Burt Hooten and Keith Bodie will keep their jobs as pitching coach and hitting coach, respectively.

Director of Player Development/Ex-Ricky Bennett Fred Nelson:
"Tony is a proven winner and developer of talent at the Triple A level. He brings a lot of personal pride and respect for the game and has an aggressive managing style with a reputation for developing disciplined players with winning mentalities. He is a very hard worker with high expectations for himself and for the players he manages. We're excited to have Tony on board."

Mills gets 2nd-place vote

So even though Bud Black got the NL Manager of the Year award today, Brad Mills got himself a 2nd-place vote.

Want to see the new Sugar Land ballpark?

Here are some sweet artist renderings of the new Sugar Land stadium.

(Huge captip to Ballpark Digest for the image)

Yeah, TMZ is a bunch of pricks

Yesterday I got tricked. It doesn't happen often. But I refused to link to it. However, Larry Brown Sports basically gives you the story of why I'll pretty much never visit TMZ again.

This no-good, horrible, terrible, very boring offseason

Jeebus. This is terrible, isn't it? I mean, for crying out loud, we just posted about how Marco Freaking Scutaro was expendable, and then completely discounted the possibility of acquiring him from the Red Sox.

What the heck are we going to do? There are no rumors of any substance, save for the seemingly-annual possibility of Drayton selling the team. But the truth of it is, this is the most boring off-season in quite some time. Over the past few years, we've at least had a World Series appearance, the collapse of said World Series team, trading for Miguel Tejada (even the bad decisions are noteworthy), trading Lidge, reshaping the bullpen, a new manager, and a host of other notable events. At least there was the chance that the Astros would be making some headlines.

Unless the Astros come out of absolutely nowhere and make a major move, this is about all we have to go on - at least until arbitration time, which can drag on for weeks.

So what in the world will keep you checking Astros County this winter?

So, Marco Scutaro might be available

Continuing a theme of just naming any shortstop who might be available as a possible upgrade for the Astros, the Red Sox may be willing to deal Marco Scutaro because, you know, Jed Lowrie is the Iron Horse of the 21st Century.

Yeah, he's old. 35, in fact. And he has posted OPS' of .789 and .721 over the last two years, respectively.

Hell no, we're not advocating trading for Marco Scutaro, but still, there's nothing else going on...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oh, here you go

According to Jerry Crasnick, the Astros have expressed interest in pitcher Jeff Francis. Of course, they're not the only ones, but it's still something.

Francis will be 30 in January and didn't pitch in 2009, and was 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA / 1.36 WHIP, with 67K:23BB in 2010 for Colorado. He's coming off a 4-year/$13.25m contract, and is a free agent for the first time this off-season.

Backe to pitch in 2011?

Backe's agent Brian Grieper told Jon Paul Morosi that he intends to pitch in 2011. Morosi tagged the tweet with "#Houston" and "#Astros." that a hint?

Astros County's Guide to Cooperstown

So The Constable returned last night from a four-day pilgrimage to Cooperstown. Here's your Guide To Cooperstown.


Cooperstown is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Four hours northwest of New York City. Four hours west of Boston. If you're making Cooperstown a stop on some AL East tour, then the air travel part isn't going to be that big of a deal, but your only real options for getting to Cooperstown are through Syracuse or Albany. Southwest routinely runs specials to Albany, which is about an hour-and-a-half drive to Cooperstown. Syracuse, which has a JetBlue outpost is about two hours from Cooperstown. And unless you know somebody up there, you'll want to rent a car.


One thing to keep in mind is that there aren't any chains (hotels, restaurants, anything) in the Village of Cooperstown itself. Except for a CVS on Main Street, which is almost like everyone woke up one morning and there was a CVS there. No one knows how it got there. So your options for staying in Cooperstown (highly recommended, by the way) is a hotel just south of Cooperstown, where there's a Holiday Inn Express and a Howard Johnson's. Or you could do it up right and stay at a B&B in the Village itself - might I recommend the Inn at Cooperstown or Nelson Avenue Pines - both are good options.

Timing Your Trip

I've been to Cooperstown in the summer and in the winter. Go in the winter. They have this thing in the summer called Dreams Park, in which 96 Little League teams descend on Cooperstown (population: 2000-ish) with their parents, grandparents, coaches, brothers, sisters, cousins each week. Seriously, it's like every Little Leaguer has a Lebron-style entourage. If you go in the winter, you don't have to deal with that. On a random weekday in November, you can pretty much have the Hall of Fame to yourself. And if you're looking for a shrine, it's always better when it's quiet.

Day One

Breakfast: Go to Stagecoach Coffee on Pioneer Street. It's a small space, but they have the best coffee and breakfast sandwiches. (Get "The Usual.").

Hall of Fame - 2nd Floor. On the 2nd Floor of the Hall of Fame is the Grandstand Theater, and the timeline begins around the corner. I'm assuming you're like me, and you'll want to read absolutely every label on every artifact. So when you get to the Diamond Dreams exhibit on the history of women in baseball, it'll be about lunchtime, and your bagel with cream cheese and sliced tomato will have worn off. And because you've spent all your morning in the incredible Pride & Prejudice exhibit, detailing the African-American experience in baseball through Jackie Robinson. You can leave the Hall of Fame for lunch and return for free if you get your hand stamped.

Lunch: Also on Pioneer Street (but across Main Street) is a Chinese restaurant called Foo Kin John. Not kidding. It's good food, and it's not very expensive. And there's the added bonus of the very real possibility that a seven-year old will ring you up. Get a picture.

After lunch: Continue on the 2nd Floor. You'll exit Diamond Dreams and find yourself in the part of the timeline that covers the Golden Era of Baseball. This is 100% true, if you lived in New York City. If you're an Astros fan - or a fan of any team except the Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees from the 1940s-50s, you'll have to keep walking, but you'll still touch Joe DiMaggio's locker, just because you can. Marvel at the new Viva Baseball exhibit, celebrating the Latino influence on baseball, and end the 2nd floor with the Today's Game Locker Room, where they have a locker for all 30 teams. Weep at the artifacts in the Astros locker.

Dinner: Might we suggest Cooley's Stone House Tavern. Beer on tap, and fresh burgers.

Day Two

Breakfast: Since you've already been to Stagecoach, try the Cooperstown Diner. It's one of the smallest diners you'll ever see, but you can't beat the price and quality. Then get coffee at Stagecoach.

Hall of Fame - 3rd Floor. This is where you'll find exhibits on the ballparks (see if you can spot the nod to Minute Maid Park), records, baseballs from every no-hitter since 1940, a new exhibit on Hank Aaron, the pins and rings from the World Series winners (pay special attention to the 2003 Marlins ring), and an exhibit on baseball cards.

Lunch: Doubleday Cafe. It's a brick-walled cafe, also with beer on tap, and excellent buffalo wings. You're on vacation, so what do you care?

Hall of Fame - 1st Floor. You could probably spend all day just walking around the Hall of Fame's Plaque Gallery. It's also the actual Hall of Fame. Everything you've been walking around for the past day and a half is the Museum. There are a number of exhibits around up the ramp (broadcasters, baseball and the movies, etc) but a must-see is the Research Center. The Hall of Fame has a file for every person who has played one inning of Major League Baseball, so if you have a drunk uncle who says he played for the '61 Yankees, now's your chance to prove him wrong (this is, of course, if you've never heard of Baseball-Reference, but it's way cooler than going to a web page.)

Dinner: If you've come with your significant other, you should throw them a bone for dragging them around the Hall of Fame for two days. Take them to Alex & Ika, and be prepared to spend a decent chunk of change - but it's completely worth every penny.


You can't buy a pair of pants in Cooperstown. But you can get bats engraved, Don Mattingly t-shirts, Red Sox socks, and various and sundry items from the major teams (Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, and some Cardinals gear - if you're like me, you'd rather sleep under a blanket rubbed with smallpox than buy a Cardinals shirt). Of course, the Astros are not a major team, so good luck getting anything other than a Nolan Ryan shirt or an Astros hat. If you're looking for an excellent selection of Astros hats, and hats from the minors, go to Mickey's Place at the corner of Pioneer and Main - and get a bat engraved with your name on it while you're at it.

That'll do it. Any questions?

Berkman has talked to eight teams, none have talked back

Here's another one from Dalati, as he says that Berkman has talked to eight teams, with no formal offers being made.

“Unfortunately, one of them was the Astros and they declined interest. That was a little disappointing...

...I’ll be fine anywhere. It’s more of a family consideration. As far as my kids…we have to figure out what we do about school, where they’re going to live. It’s the first time we’ve had to consider things like that. That adds an element of anxiety there. But I know we’ll be fine and we’ll adapt wherever we end up...

...I wouldn’t be completely opposed to the idea of playing in the American league, but I’d certainly like to stay in the National League. I would definitely like to play a position. I don’t want to go to a place and lose a hundred games or anything like that. Certainly that’s part of the consideration.”

I can see Berkman signing with a team in January. How about you?

YOU can buy the Astros for the low price of $700 million

Dave Dalati says that Drayton is willing to sell the Astros, and would even do it for $700 million.

Former Astros on the move

The only moves being made this off-season so far is by players from the Astros going somewhere else. Like

Yorman Bazardo to the Twins.

Geoff Blum to the Diamondbacks.

And from the Wayback Machine, Taylor Buchholz to the Red Sox.