Saturday, February 12, 2011

Oh, okay, yeah, J.B. MacDonald retired

According to Farmstros, who did some legwork, it turns out that, yes, J.B. MacDonald will go ahead and retire.

They Are Our Astros

The slogan for 2011 will not be "Infected With Rage," as we suggested on Twitter (after watching 28 Days Later).

Oh, no. The slogan is "We Are Your Astros".

Initial Reaction: Quite obvious. They are our Astros. An edgier slogan would have been, "You Got A Fight Comin...Comin' Today!" Or, "(Keith) Law Don't Come 'Round Here, Lawdog"

Ad firm's creative designer Lee Queano:
"This is perhaps the strongest communication we have ever created for the Astros. The team belongs to the fans of Houston and this year's campaign is supported by the continuing involvement and commitment of the Astros through countless community efforts to make the city an even better place to live."


Three more signings

The Astros have signed three more to one-year deals:

Sergio Escalona ($417,000)
Henry Villar ($416,500)
Arcenio Leon ($414,000)

For the record, here is your payroll for 2011, to this point (among those with a shot at the Opening Day roster):

Carlos Lee: $18.5m
Wandy Rodriguez: $7m
Brett Myers: $7m
Brandon Lyon: %5.25m
Michael Bourn: $4.4m
Clint Barmes: $3.92m
Bill Hall: $3m
Jeff Keppinger: $2.3m
Humberto Quintero: $1m
Jason Michaels: $900,000
Nelson Figueroa: $900,000
Ryan Rowland-Smith: $725,000
Jeff Fulchino: $467,000
Wilton Lopez: $442,000
Chris Johnson: $424,000
Jason Bourgeios: $424,000
Brett Wallace: $418,000
Enerio Del Rosario: $417,000
Sergio Escalona: $417,000
Henry Villar: $416,500
Brian Bogusevic: $416,500
Arcenio Leon: $414,000

Whatever the outcome of Pence's arbitration hearing, he'll be the 10th (and final) player to make $1m+ in 2011. That ties the Astros with the Pirates and Padres for the fewest number of millionaires in the NL. The Indians will have eight (likely nine, with the Orlando Cabrera signing) for the fewest millionaires in the Majors.

Of this group, the Astros are the only team - according to Baseball-Reference's Payroll Estimator - with a projected payroll over $56m. Just think about that for a second.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Faustian Bourn to sell his soul to the devil

Michael Blurb, who will prepare for his third, and final, year of arbitration next off-season, has left his agent, Beverly Hills Sports Council, and signed on to be represented by Satan Scott Boras.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

J.B. MacDonald reinstated?

Now this is interesting. Baseball America's Transactions Page says the Astros reinstated J.B. MacDonald from the Inactive List. But the 2009 pick retired last April. Hmmm.

And one more

And the Astros have signed David Carpenter for $414,000, according to McTaggart.

Astros sign Wallace and Fulchino

Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros have signed Brett Wallace for $418,000 and Jeff Fulchino for $467,000.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sampson to sign with Colorado

With a captip to The Examiner's Stephen Goff, Chris Sampson will be signing with the Rockies. So the Rockies are to the Astros as the Astros are to the Phillies. Interesting.

This is the kind of story that gets you pumped up

Or it's the kind of story that gets you pissed that there's still four inches of snow on the ground. Regardless, Spring Training is just around the corner when you read McTaggart's story on new hitting coach Gary Barnett.

On Brett Wallace:
We had a real good talk, and I'm really pleased with what we talked about from a mechanical approach and his mindset. I love the fact this guy has a track record and knows what he's doing at the plate."

On Jason Castro:
"We want him to try to finish off swings better, because a lot of times he had a tendency to cut some swings off and [the bat] kind of gets in and out of the zone in a hurry."

McTaggart, on #2

McTaggart has a nice little look at who will hit in the 2-hole for the Astros this season. Was the subject line not clear?

Frankie Piliere's Top 100 Prospect List is worth a passing glance for Astros fans

Because there's aren't any Astros on the Top 100 Prospect List, except for Jordan Lyles, at #38.

Unlike many of the players on this list, Lyles is not a pitcher who relies solely on raw stuff. He has, essentially, average stuff -- perhaps a tick better than average. But his command and advanced feel for pitching make him a strong bet to be a good No. 3 starter at the big-league level.

Good. No one seems to think this trade will happen.

At least not with the Astros.'s T.R. Sullivan breaks down the chance of the Rangers trading Michael Young. On the Astros?

Word is the Astros aren't interested in trading outfielder Carlos Lee, who is owed $37 million over the next two years, for Young. Lee is 34 and can still hit, but needs to be a full-time designated hitter. But right now the Astros don't seem inclined to make the swap, and they are not going to give up young players while they are in a rebuilding mode.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chris Johnson to be Grand Marshal...

...of the Edison (FL) Festival of Light.

Word is that Johnson will obviously not be able to repeat the performances of previous Grand Marshals, because he's nothing but a fluke. His WARM (Waves Above Replacement Marshal) will plummet because his S:MoA (Smile per Member of Audience) was simply too high in 2010.

The Astros have no idea what they'll do with Fernando Abad

To read Brian McTaggart's article on Fernando Abad, you get the sense that they have absolutely no clue what to do with Fernando Abad in 2011.

Ed Wade:
"It's a nice position to be in at this point, to have a guy who has a chance to come in and compete and fill a number of different roles...He's had an excellent winter ball. I hate to take potential starters and move them to the bullpen prematurely, but at the same time he really factors into a number of different ways for us. We're going to have to talk about the potential of him being the primary left-hander in our bullpen.

There's a few moving parts right now, and we need to sit down as a group and get Millsie's input and [pitching coach] Brad Arnsberg's input and try to get him to be in the right position to be successful in the short term or long term."

Spring Training should be fun, at least until we get the predictions rolling in...

Stark: Astros get a D

Jayson Stark graded the off-seasons of the NL Central, and found that the Astros performed, predictably, below-average:

It's hard to find any team in the NL that did less this winter than the Astros. Other than trading Paulino for Barmes, their only major target was Orlando Hudson, who decided he'd rather be a Padre. So the Astros wound up with a DP combination of Hall at second and Barmes at short. And let's just say nobody is going to confuse them with Alomar and Ripken. They also left themselves some pesky bullpen questions.

Yes, because it goes over so well in the media when the Astros target big-money free agents.

Michael Young: Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

So it's made its way around the interwebs by now, but regarding the potential Michael Young trade (quick version: Michael Young wants to be traded, and the Astros are on his list of teams that he would approve a trade): Are you freaking kidding me?

First of all, Michael Young is 34. He plays 3B. He's owed $48m through 2013 ($16m per year). This means the Astros would be paying that amount of money to a 3B in years 34, 35, and 36.

There's absolutely no way - hopefully - Ed Wade offers up Carlos Lee for that deal. Would I like to see Carlos Lee gone? Oh hell, and yes, I would. But Carlos Lee is about six months younger, and is "only" still owed $37m through 2012. So that's less of a financial commitment for a shorter period of time for a (barely) younger player.

Zach Levine puts it this way:
Taking on Young means adding on an additional year with a huge and immobile contract. While Lee's goes through 2012 at $18.5 million per year, Young's goes through 2013 at $16 million. The additional sticking point would be the deferred money, $15 million that would be paid out presumably by the new ownership group in 2014 and beyond.

Smilin' Ken Rosenthal calls a Lee-Young deal a longshot, because remember Big Timmy P gave Carlos Lee a full no-trade clause. I can't imagine he would sign off on a deal to Texas. He's been there once, and left the first chance he got.

If you're of the opinion that Carlos Lee's 2010 was an anomaly, then note that - even with 2010 - over the last three seasons he's hit .284/.331/.483. Over the course of the same period, Young has hit .295/.346/.451. Is that worth an extra $11m? Nope. If the Astros make that deal, and for whatever reason, Lee signs off, and the Rangers accept it, it moves either Bill Hall or Chris Johnson to the bench or to the minors. Add to that the Rangers have an outfield of Josh Hamilton, Julio Borbon, and Nelson Cruz. Presumably Lee would DH (at least that's what would happen if the Rangers had an ounce of common sense) - would he make that move?

To sum up, this is complete bullcrap, and I can't believe this has even been entertained.

Though FanGraphs' Dave Cameron has a different view:
The Astros aren’t exactly set on the infield. They have Bill Hall slated to play second base and Chris Johnson slotted in for third, but neither of those options are long term solutions, and Young would be able to play everyday in Houston without blocking anyone who might have a decent future.

Mm. Thanks for that.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Astros ink two more

Alyson Footer tweets that the Astros have agreed to terms with:

-Jason Bourgeois ($424K)
-Aneury Rodriguez ($413K)

Interview with Chip Rives

So, thanks to Twitter, we were sent the link to a documentary on the Astrodome, fittingly called, The Dome (which is still in production). So we sent some questions to Director Chip Rives, and he was kind enough to answer.

AC: When did your work on "The Dome" begin, and how did it come about?

CR: We began working on the Dome about 2 years ago. The first step - and most difficult - was securing the location, and getting access into the building. We got a chance to do a series of shoots and interviews in the Dome, in the summer of 2009. About 1 month after shooting, the Dome was shut down...failing to meet certain fire code standards. Who knows, we might be the last film crew in the building...sad, but true.

Back to the genesis of the project....I've lived everywhere (New York, Connecticut, Tulsa, San Francisco) in addition to Houston and Austin, and for the life of me, never understood why THE DOME lacked the national acclaim it deserves. I've produced lots of documentaries and thought "The Dome" was a good idea. Fortunately, David Karabinas and his partners at Texas Crew agreed, we formed an LLC, and began shooting.

We are still in production, and still raising money to finish this project...which has been challenging. We didn't want to cheapen the film by rushing to completion, so we're moving a bit slower than we'd anticipated, but that's ok. It will get done. We are also putting an open call out there for funding...and we've partnered with a if you're looking for a tax write-off, let us know!!

AC: For many of us Astros fans (or, any reader over the age of ten), the Astrodome was an integral part of our youth. How did the Astrodome sum up the 1960s, and Houston, in particular?

CR: The Dome personifies Houston of the ' embodies growth, vision, aggressiveness, confidence, charisma, flash. Houston was evolving from the old stereotypes of the West, was flush with oil money, and wanted to be recognized - not for what it was - but for what it was becoming.

People like the Judge, RE Bob Smith, Welcome Wilson...these guys were the pioneers that puffed out their chest, and basically said, "check us out." Of course, the Dome brought the eyes of the world to Houston, and in some ways, legitimized the city.

AC: To you, what is the most compelling story of the Astrodome?

CR: The Judge. He really is the Dome. He lived it, breathed it, personified it. There were others who were less visible, that were certainly influential in its creation, but not like the Judge. In order for the building to have success it needed a front-man. We've all heard the PT Barnum comparisons...and they're legitimate. Roy Hofheinz was a showman and THE DOME was his show.

AC: How do you feel about the state the Astrodome is in, currently? Do you have any suggestions for what can be done with it?

Of course I'm saddened to watch it decay like it has, but it's the wake of Ike, the Dome stood tall, solid, almost 50 years later...didn't flinch at Ike's winds and rain, while the new version of itself got dinged pretty hard. Kind of ironic, isn't it?

Regarding the politics...that's really not my place.

AC: What's your earliest, and favorite, Astrodome memory?

CR: Earliest memory is a double header in the 70s - not sure who was even playing - and I was probably about 7 years old. I just remember going to the game with my dad and some friends, and bringing sandwiches inside, and being told that we were gonna be there for several hours. I thought that was so cool...getting to hang in the Dome for that long.

Favorite memory is probably being in the Dome when the Oilers returned from Pittsburgh after losing the AFC Championship. I begged my dad to take me, and he did. Pretty amazing to see those players, and the passion the fans had for that team. It was a special time...and a special place.

Big thanks to Chip for taking the time to answer these questions. Click the link above for more information, and for the trailer.

Brett Wallace is a sweetheart

Alyson Footer lets us know that Brett Wallace is visiting kids at Texas Childrens Hospital. And he set it up on his own, not through the Astros.

Meat Wagon update

Great. Spring Training hasn't even started, and we're already getting injuries. Levine has a story on Angel Sanchez, who is already dealing with a ribcage strain, and will "hopefully" be ready for the first full-squad workout of the spring on February 20.

Nidiffer looks for a big year

With a captip to Appy Astros, we get this story on Marcus Nidiffer from, who notes that he's been officially moved from Catcher to 1B (which makes sense, given the Astros' recent load-up on catchers).

"I would say it's a lot easier to go from catcher to first than it is to go from first to catcher, that's for sure. But it is an adjustment. It's a lot easier on my body, I'll tell you that. I get a lot more 'ABs' but I'm still working at it. I still need work at first with groundballs and just learning the position. ... I've got a wood bat in my hands now, but it's still the same deal."

Levine, on the Winter Ballers

Zach Levine has an update on Rule 5 pick Aneury Rodriguez and Fernando Abad, noting that Rodriguez has thrown 48IP and Abad has thrown 38.2IP.

On Abad:
He enters spring training most likely headed to the bullpen and enjoying the inside track to the primary lefty setup role. However, the rotation is not out of the question, as he was immensely successful in that role this winter.

Both will play in the Caribbean Series, but if Rodriguez doesn't stay on the 25-man roster all season, he'll head back to Tampa Bay.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Astros vs. Pence: The Date Has Been Set

We interrupt this unofficial break to inform you that, according to Hardball Talk (via the Examiner), Feb 18 is the date for Tal Smith to get his argue on in the Case Against Hunter Pence.