Friday, December 31, 2010

Thank you for an excellent 2010

We here at Astros County want to thank you for a great 2010. We got burned out towards the end of the year, but are starting to feel rejuvenated and energized again. (Note: this section has been removed so as to not be SO 1996, a douche, or a wank.)

Thanks go out especially to The Crawfish Boxes, John Wessling, Deputy Street, Deputy Jason, Appy Astros, Fire Drayton, John Royal...

...And of course everyone who gives us material: Richard Justice, Zach Levine, Bernardo Fallas, Brian McTaggart, and Alyson Footer.

Thanks again.

Bagwell Hall of Fame reaction roundup

Again, many apologies for the lack of updates over the past week. Between everyone's travel schedule and The Constable's pneumonia, it's been hard to find time to update. So let's do a big ol' Bagwell reaction update.

Bagwell himself:
"I never used [steroids], and I'll tell you exactly why: If I could hit between 30 and 40 home runs every year and drive in 120 runs, why did I need to do anything else? I was pretty happy with what I was doing, and that's the God's honest truth. All of a sudden guys were starting to hit 60 or 70 home runs and people were like, 'Dude, if you took [PEDs], you could do it too.' And I was like, 'I'm good where I'm at. I just want to do what I can do.'

"I wasn't trying to do anything crazy. I hit six homers in the minor leagues. Six home runs. I hit 15, 18 and 21 in Houston, and then I hit 39 in 1994 when I started working with Rudy Jaramillo and he helped me to understand my swing and I actually learned how to hit. And I was like, 'I don't need anything more. I'm good.' When I walked on the field I thought I was the best player on the field, and I didn't need anything more than that. It was never an ego thing with me, and I think at some point, it became ego to some people...

..."I'm so sick and tired of all the steroids crap, it's messed up my whole thinking on the subject. I hate to even use this word, but it's become almost like a 'buzz kill' for me. So much has gone on in the last eight or nine years, it's kind of taken some of the valor off it for me. If I ever do get to the Hall of Fame and there are 40 guys sitting behind me thinking, 'He took steroids,' then it's not even worth it to me. I don't know if that sounds stupid. But it's how I feel in a nutshell."

Jerry Crasnick:
Bagwell might have been a no-doubter for Hall induction if he had stayed healthy and tacked on two or three productive seasons at the end. But the relative brevity of his career and his 2,314 hits are likely to hurt his cause.

Still, for the voters who sift through the numbers and carefully measure his impact during 15 seasons in Houston, Bagwell merits a place in Cooperstown.

Joe Posnanski:
Bagwell, to me, looks like a first-ballot, slam-dunk, didn’t-have-to-think-twice Hall of Famer. His rare combination of power and speed (he’s the only first baseman to have a 30-homer, 30-stolen base season, and he did it twice) along with his solid defense (he won one Gold Glove, but was generally viewed year-in, year-out as a very good defender), along with his ability to get on base, along with his solid nature and spectacular peak makes him seem like the surest of sure things.

FanHouse's Dan Graziano:
No, I didn't vote for Jeff Bagwell for the Hall of Fame. Yes, it's for the reason everybody loves to hate. I don't know for sure that Bagwell took steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs to help him attain his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers. I don't have evidence, like we do against Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. But I'm suspicious...

...This isn't about whether I believe what Bagwell says. It's about suspicions I harbored long before he spoke out on the issue. It's about where he played and when he played and the teammates with whom he played and a whole bunch of circumstantial evidence that I readily admit wouldn't hold up in a court of law.

But this isn't a court of law. This is a Hall of Fame vote. I don't need proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order to cast a vote for any candidate in either direction. I could refuse to vote for someone because I didn't like him personally, though I think that would be wrong. I could refuse to vote for somebody based on racial or ethnic or religious grounds, though I think that would be despicable. I could withhold a vote because I don't want people in the Hall of Fame who have blue eyes, or owned cats, or ever played on a Texas team. It's my vote, and the only standards to which I am beholden are my own."

Jeff Pearlman:
Perhaps, as dozens upon dozens of his teammates turned to steroids and HGH throughout the 1990s and early 2000s (Reality: No two teams in baseball had more PED connections than the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros), Bagwell looked the other way and continued to pop his GNC-supplied Vitamin C tablets. Maybe, just maybe, that happened. But, as the game was being ruined in his very clubhouse, where was Bagwell’s voice of protest? Where was Jeff Bagwell, one of the best players in baseball, when someone inside the game needed to speak out and demand accountability? Answer: Like nearly all of his peers, he was nowhere. He never uttered a word, never lifted a finger (Now, once he retired, he was more than willing to defend himself and speak up for the sport. Once he was retired).

This, to me, is why we are allowed to suspect Jeff Bagwell and, if we so choose, not vote for him.

(Note, Pearlman has a variety of call-and-response posts here). And he's right. If you're going to disagree with somebody, have some class. Don't be a douche. That extends here, too. Feel free to disagree with anything you read here, but don't be a complete sack of dog nuts about it.

Now, some reponse to Mr. Graziano, Mr. Pearlman, Mr. Knobler, and any other writer to won't vote for Bagwell based on their suspicions:

Again, starting with Joe Posnanski because, well, he deserves it:
I can’t even begin to describe my makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. This is PRECISELY what I was talking about when I said how much I hate the character clause in the Hall of Fame voting. I think it encourages people to believe their own nonsense, to stand up on high and be judge and jury. It’s something that my friend Bill James calls the “I see it in his eyes” tripe. Bill has finished a book on crime — it is, he says, actually about crime books as much as crime — and one thing he kept running into in his research was people who claimed that they could pinpoint the murderer because “it was in their eyes.” Well, as Bill says, that’s a whole lot of garbage. Eyes are eyes. Some people look guilty when they’re innocent, and some people look innocent when they’re guilty, and most people don’t look innocent OR guilty except when we want to see that something in their eyes. Oh, but we love to believe we know. It’s one of the flaws of humanity. And the Hall of Fame character clause gives voters carte blanche to judge the eyes and hearts and souls of players.

I think my e-migo Craig Calcaterra has made this point on Twitter, but I’d like to also make it as strongly as I can: I’d rather a hundred steroid users were mistakenly voted into the Hall of Fame over keeping one non-user out.

Amazin' Avenue's James Kannengeiser:
If you withhold voting Jeff Bagwell for the Hall of Fame solely on the chance that he used performance enhancing drugs, then you are a piece of sanctimonious dogsh*t. Seriously, you are. The time for civility has passed. If you are unwilling to afford another human being the basic "innocent until proven guilty" right because you are a holier-than-thou windbag, then you are human feces. Dan Graziano, this is you. I'm embarrassed to have graduated from the same university as you...

...Acting like these Hall of Fame voters should be treated as nice people who have earned their right to vote is a load of nonsense. This isn't about sabermetrics vs. wins and RBIZZZ. It's about treating other human beings with some f*cking respect. The intelligent cases have been presented before all of these voters time and time again. If you don't vote for Bagwell, or someone similar, because you think he might have useds PEDs (but have no proof!) you are human garbage. Flat out. That's all I have to say about that.

There is simply no way to sum it up any better than that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Minor League Ball's preliminary prospect list

One of our favorite prospect blogs, Minor League Ball, has posted its preliminary Top 20 prospect list.

Here are the Top 10, you'll have to click it to get the next 10:

1) Jordan Lyles
2) Delino DeShields
3) Mike Foltynewicz
4) Austin Wates
5) J.D. Martinez
6) Tanner Bushue
7) Aneury Rodriguez
8) Mark Melancon
9) Jonathan Villar
10) Jimmy Paredes

Interesting that Rule 5 pick Anuery Rodriguez is now our 7th-best prospect. And all of these come in on the Ed Wade tenure.

MLB Network to show us the greatest moment in Chris Burke's life

Just as a heads-up, MLB Network will be re-airing Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS against the Braves. Perhaps you remember Chris Burke's 18th Inning homer? Or perhaps you remember that Luke Scott came about 15" from being the hero in the 11th (or was it the 12th) inning? Or perhaps you remember that Brad Ausmus was given a homer to tie it up in the 9th that shouldn't have counted?

Regardless, tune in to the MLB Network tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 9pm Eastern to watch a (hopefully) abbreviated re-airing of this classic game in their "MLB Network Countdown: Games of the Decade, 2000-2009" series.

Call to the Pen examines Bobby Doran

The Call to the Pen blog took themselves a look at Astros prospect (2010 4th Round draft pick) Bobby Doran:

With his size and already above-average fastball command, he’s got a chance to be a back of the rotation innings eater. With some mechanical tweaks and instruction he should be able to add a bit more velocity to his fastball which was topping out at about 94 prior to the draft. If he can add that velocity and maintain the natural movement of the pitch he could turn into a viable #3 starter. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats currently, but his curve and changeup are both legitimate offerings that would be augmented with an improved fastball. Doran strikes me as the type of guy who could take a big step forward in 2011.

In my book he’s a #3 at best (and that is optimistic) and a middle reliever at worst, but either way I think he makes it to the major leagues with the Astros if he stays healthy.

If Peter Gammons writes it, it must be true

Despite his truly-bizarre Twitter account, I love Peter Gammons. It's actually because of his truly-bizarre Twitter account that I love him as much as I do. So when Peter Gammons says Bagwell is a Hall of Famer, then chalk it up.

It's a great article (for obvious reasons), and here's your close:
If Bagwell doesn't make it on the first ballot, then it may be time to ask: Have we spent so much time trying to find off-field guilt that we've stopped watching and enjoying the game and created a hall of victims of that game's circumstances?

Astros County's Hall of Fame ballot

Not that we have a vote - obtaining a BBWAA Hall of Fame vote isn't easy (you must have covered baseball for ten years just to vote) - but since we feel bad for not having been around much for the past week or so, like a father who has a whole other family on Long Island, we feel like we owe it to you to post who we feel should be in the Hall of Fame. Remember, BBWAA voters can only list ten players on the ballot. Here are ours:

Roberto Alomar
In addition to getting over 2700 hits in his 17-season career, Alomar was the preeminent defensive 2B, posting a .984 Fld% in 2320 games (3rd most of all time). He was a 12-time All-Star in a system where you have to be well-known in order to make the team, and finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting five times. He won ten Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers, to finish with a .300/.371/.443 slash line.

Jeff Bagwell
Do we really need to go over this again?

Bert Blyleven
Bert's 90.1 WAR is the highest among anybody still eligible for the Hall of Fame, and it's a shame that he has had to wait this long. There has been one constant statistic in baseball for pitchers, and that is strikeouts. And Blyleven has 3701 of them - 5th all-time - and he finished in the Top 5 in strikeouts 13 times. No, he does not have 300 wins. Blyleven has a 287-250 record, but started 685 games. That means that Blyleven got 148 No Decisions. In those No Decisions (seven of which came in a relief situation), Blyeleven posted a 3.90 ERA / 1.37 WHIP. If even a third of those games go his way, Blyleven finishes his career with 336 wins. He was a victim of his offense as much as anything - from 1971 to 1974 Blyleven was 70-66, despite a 2.67 ERA / 1.13 WHIP. Yes, he's a Hall of Famer.

Barry Larkin
Over 19 seasons, Larkin was an integral piece to the Cincinnati Reds, and that should count for something. In 2180 games, Larkin hit .295/.371/.444 (with a lot of that at Riverfront Stadium), made 12 All-Star teams, nine Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, and was the 1995 MVP. He drew more walks than strikeouts twelve times, and never struck out more than 69 times. In 2085 games at SS, Larkin posted a .975 Fld%.

Edgar Martinez
At some point, people are going to have to realize that the Hall will have to expand to allow for how the game has changed (see: Miller, Marvin; Smith, Lee). Closers and Designated Hitters - for better or worse - are a part of the game, and excellence at those positions has to be recognized. Edgar, despite his status as the game's first pure DH, finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting twice, and his OBP (.418) ranks 22nd All-Time. His .933 OPS is 35th All-Time. This includes a 1995 season in which Edgar hit .356/.479/.628 for a 185 OPS+ and a 1.107 OPS (and somehow finished behind Mo Vaughn and Albert Belle for AL MVP). From 1992-2001, Edgar hit .325/.435/.993 with an OPS+ of 159, and had an OPS over 1.000 five times. That is some dominant hitting over the course of a 10-year span.

Tim Raines
There has to be some form of "If X is in, then Y deserves consideration." But I subscribe to the theory that, just because the Veterans Committee elected their buddies for 20 years doesn't mean the BBWAA has to be as stupid as them. Because Frankie Frisch is in the Hall of Fame shouldn't affect any other player like him. That said, if Rickey Henderson is in (rightfully), Tim Raines should be in, as well. Raines was effective with the bat, hitting .294/.385/.425, but he could steal bases. Over 23 seasons, the last six of which saw him play in over 100 games just once, Raines averaged 52 stolen bases. His 808 stolen bases are 5th All-Time, and with getting caught just 146 times, he posted an 84.6% success rate. He made seven straight All-Star teams, and finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting three times.

Lee Smith
Going along with the Edgar Martinez line of reasoning, Lee Smith should be honored for his 478 saves. Smith, in addition to the saves - which he was in the Top 5 in saves in the NL 12 times - finished in the Top 5 in Cy Young voting three times. In Save Situations, Smith held opponents to a .640 OPS (98 tOPS+), and 2.94 ERA / 1.12 WHIP.

Alan Trammell
Look, I was an Astros fan growing up in the 1990s. And I knew who Alan Trammell was. At some point, the BBWAA are going to have to stop judging 1980s players by 1990s standards and realize how integral Trammell was to the Tigers. He hit .285/.353/.415 over 20 seasons (with 874K:850BB), and had a .977 Fld% in 2139 games at SS - 22nd All-Time.

Agree? Disagree?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More Bagwell information, for your consideration

Of course, Richard Justice is all about putting Bagwell in the Hall this year.

Justice, who is spot on:
That said, I know of zero evidence he used steroids. All the aggressive reporting on steroid use has come about as a result of criminal investigations, and Bagwell's name has never come up.

Some voters will presume guilt anyway. Again, if the Major League Players Association had agreed to testing when the owners first put it on the bargaining table in 1994, we wouldn't have to have this debate.

OK, what if we find out a decade from now that Bagwell used steroids? Won't I feel dumb for voting for him?

Nope. Voting will never be perfect as long as human beings are casting them. All you can do is take the best information you have on election day and make a decision.

The Hartford Courant's Don Amore does an excellent job recapping some media and baseball reaction to Bagwell's candidacy, as well. Well worth your click.