Saturday, July 16, 2011

Progress being made with Springer

It's something you've probably already seen, but the Astros have exchanged contract proposals with 1st Round pick George Springer.

Bobby Heck:
"The pace I would say is more of a walk-stroll than it is a jog or a run right now. With a month left, hopefully George seizes the opportunity and sees getting started this summer can be beneficial for him and that we've shown a track record of moving players, especially of his caliber."

It's entirely possible that the Astros would give Springer the DeShields Treatment: a couple of weeks in Greeneville/Tri-City (probably Tri-City), and then the next full season in Lexington.

On 3rd Round pick Jack Armstrong, who continues to pitch in the Cape Cod League:
"This is something we knew we were taking into consideration, that he would probably pitch the whole summer up there to try to reestablish the value he had prior to this spring. We'll continue to go up there and watch him pitch."

Also, the Astros have signed 34th Round pick Dustin Kellogg, with the Astros keeping tabs on two high school picks, who they say they will get aggressive with. Names weren't named, but I'm guessing that it's Gandy Stubblefield (14th Round) and Billy Flamion (25th Round).

Manuel Sanchez suspended

DSL Astros pitcher Manuel Sanchez has been suspended for 50 games following a positive test for Stanozolol - also known as "The Palmeiro."

In four games for the DSL Astros, 20-year old Sanchez was 4-0 with 21H/7ER, 18K:12BB in 24IP.

From the Office of the County Clerk - G93: Pirates @ Astros

So the fresh start of the second half quickly evaporated into the awful stench of the first half. Pirates win 4-0.

*The Astros are now 2-8 against the Pirates this season.

*They have their second 5-game losing streak of July, third 5-game losing streak since June 24, and have three wins in their last 21 games.

*Brett Myers threw pretty well, allowing 5H/3ER, 11K:3BB in 6IP. After 20 starts, he's 3-10 with a 4.86 ERA/1.37 WHIP, and 95K:40BB. After 20 starts in 2010, Myers was 7-6 with a 3.24 ERA/1.26 WHIP, and 101K:41BB.

*His 11K are the most he's had since striking out 12 Cubs on July 27.

*A bullpen of F-Rod, Escalona, Carpenter, and Del Rosario threw 3IP, 1H/1R (0ER), 3K:1BB. David Carpenter threw 1IP, 0H/0ER, 1K:0BB.

*The "offense" was held to five hits for the 13th time this season, and were shutout for the 5th time.

*In 10 games against the Pirates, the Astros are hitting .246/.290/.314. The .604 OPS is the lowest against any team they have played 4+ times.

*This is amazing - the Astros only saw 83 pitches. The entire game. There's no way I'm going back to see just where that ranks up there with the rest of the season, but if you consider that the Astros had 30 PAs in this game, it's an average of 2.77 pitches/PA. Brett Myers threw his 83rd pitch with one out in the top of the 5th.

*Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, and Humberto Quintero saw 13 pitches - combined - in eight playte appearances.

*Man of the Match: Brett Myers

*Goat of the Game: Carlos Lee - GIDPd with two men on to end the inning, as the tying run.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Heyman, on tradebait

Jon Heyman's new column on trade candidates looks at some Astro-bait.

On Pence:
They seem unlikely to trade him since he's becoming the "face of the franchise," in the eyes of many. He's a great hustler and example for any young players they might have (they don't have many).

On Bourn:
He's been discussed, but the Astros aren't exactly chance-takers. Would really help the Braves.

On Wandy:
One of the better starters who could be available (the Astros are unpredictable, so who knows if he really is).

There are also brief notes on Myers, Lee, and Keppinger, but to recap the above: that's three players mentioned, and three shots taken at the organization. Stay classy.

Everyone can maybe calm down about trading Hunter Pence

Buster Olney's (Insider-Only) column has a note about Hunter Pence:

...the Astros (are) signaling that they would have to be overwhelmed in any deal for Hunter Pence -- Boston and Atlanta and Philadelphia could decide that their need is not that significant, and they could settle for one of the second-tier guys like Francoeur or Willingham or Ludwick.

J.D. Martinez is the Prospect of the Day

That's according to John Sickels.

All of his components have improved: he boosted his BB% from 7.2% in Double-A last year to 12.3% this year, while lowering his K% from 20.3% to 14.9%. He's been especially hot lately and has the strike zone locked in, hitting .425/.556/.750 with 12 walks and just four strikeouts in his last 12 games. Houston officials praise his feel for hitting and plate discipline.

In order for Martinez to get promoted, the OKC OF of Shuck, Durango, Barnes/DeLome is going to have to get shuffled up. Thus making the Durango waiver claim that much more of a head-scratcher.

Morosi, on realignment

If Bud Selig is talking publicly, there's probably nothing to be done.

So, what if Selig, Weiner and their respective lieutenants hammer out an agreement that secures continued labor peace while adding excitement to the postseason and ensuring a more equitable regular season? And what if the final piece in this massive document is a “yes” from Crane, who is eagerly waiting for his set of keys to the worst team in baseball?

Do you really think Jim Crane wants to begin his stewardship of the Astros by being the guy who said “no” to the commissioner’s office, the union, and the 29 other owners who would like to sign an agreement and get on with their multibillion-dollar industry?

So, under this line of reasoning, we can thank Drayton and his staff for taking the Astros out of the realm of relevancy over the last five years, and - apparently - the National League.

Eddie's Farm: July 14

Oklahoma City (40-52)

Oklahoma City came out of the break ready to go - except on defense, where they committed six errors - four by Robinson Cancel. OKC wins with an 8-4 win over the Iowa Cubs. Andy Van Hekken threw 7IP, 7H/4R (1ER), 7K:0BB to drop his ERA to 2.97. Wesley Wright and Jeff Fulchino both had perfect IPs.

Anderson Hernandez was 3x3 with a homer and two walks; J.R. Towles was 2x4 with an RBI; Tommy Manzella was 1x4 with 2RBI.

Man of the Match: Gotta go with Anderson Hernandez, but Van Hekken was solid.

Corpus (33-56)

Corpus and Frisco were tied at 1-1 going into the 9th, and then Brad James happened, and Frisco won 2-1 on a walk-off by Renny Osuna. Erick Abreu allowed 4H/1ER, 7K:1BB and Pat Urckfitz gave up 2H/0ER in 1IP. James walked a batter, and then intentionally walked three more, for a 1H/1ER, 1K:4BB, HBP, WP line, taking the loss.

Jake Goebbert and Kody Hinze (2 2B) had two hits each, while Jimmy Paredes' 1st-inning homer provided all the Hooks' scoring. J.D. Martinez was 1x2 with a walk and a double.

Man of the Match: Erick Abreu

Lancaster (36-55)

Lancaster won 13-7 basically thanks to 1B David Flores. More on that in a second, we have a formula to follow. Our Boy Andrew Robinson allowed 9H/6ER, 3K:1BB in 3.2IP; Mike Ness got the win with 3H/1ER, 3K:0BB in 2.1IP; Chris Hicks struck out five of the seven batters he faced, and Kirk Clark walked three in 1IP, but without further incident.

So, yes, David Flores. He hit three homers, going 4x5 with 7RBI on the night. Jonathan Meyer hit a three-run homer and drew a walk (it's nice when 6-7 in your lineup goes 5x9 with 4HR, 10RBI). Jiovanni Mier was 0x3, but drew two walks.

Man of the Match: Please. David Flores.

Lexington (43-48)

Lexington crushed Savannah's souls with a 7-1 win. Mike Foltynewicz went 6IP, allowing 4H/1ER, 9K:2BB; Jason Chowning struck out five in 2IP, and Jorge De Leon struck out two in 1IP.

Mike Kvasnicka went 2x5 with 2RBI, and Ben Heath went 2x4 with a double and an RBI. Enrique Hernandez went 1x2 with 2BB, as did Ben Orloff. Jay Austin had 2RBI on an 0x3 night.

Man of the Match: Mike Foltynewicz

Tri-City (10-15)

Tri-City took a 2-0 lead in the top of the 1st, but gave it right back, losing 6-3 at Batavia. Nick Tropeano threw 4IP, 6H/4R (2ER), 5K:3BB; Kristian Bueno struck out two, but walked three in 1IP; Joan Belliard allowed 2H/1ER, 1K:0BB in 1IP, and Dayan Diaz had 6K:2BB in 2IP.

The ValleyCats only got three hits - Justin Gominsky (2B), John Hinson (SB), and Zach Johnson.

Man of the Match: Dayan Diaz

Greeneville (8-15)

Mother of Pearl. Greeneville had a 1-0 lead on Johnson City. And then Johnson City scored the next 17 runs. Jamaine Cotton allowed 4H/7R (6ER), 0K:1BB in 1.1IP, with two of those runs coming courtesy of Rodney Quintero, who allowed 3ER of his own. Paris Shewey allowed 4H/2ER, Scott Zuloaga allowed 5H/4ER, and Matison Smith gave up just an earned run in 1IP.

Jordan Scott was 2x3 with a double; Chase Davidson was 1x4 with a double. The Gastros went 0x8 w/RISP.

Man of the Match: Jordan Scott

GCL Astros (7-13)

The GCLers scored the final six runs of the game for a 6-1 win over the Nationals. Adrian Houser got his 1st professional win with 5.2IP, 5H/1ER, 8K:2BB; Steven Dennison allowed 1H/0ER in 2.1IP, and Justin Gill threw a perfect 9th.

Chris Epps was 3x5 (and probably should move up to Tri-Cty); Yonathan Mejia was 2x4 with 2RBI - as was the rehabbing Jason Bourgeois. Justin Shults was 1x4 with a walk and an RBI.

Man of the Match: Adrian Houser

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Idiots In The Courtroom: Day Two of the Roger Clemens Trial

Before Judge Reggie Walton delivered his order of mistrial today, he lectured U.S. Attorneys prosecuting Roger Clemens. And while the lecture went on for a while, and while it covered a lot of ground, it can best be summarized as follows: "You guys are a bunch of morons."

Perjury is a hard case to prosecute because of the intent element. But I thought that Clemens could lose because of his attorney, Rusty Hardin. I still don't understand what Hardin's theory of defense is since lying under oath to Congress is lying under oath to Congress, no matter how legitimate the hearing might be. However, after today, we may never find out what Hardin was trying to get at because the prosecution today did something so stupid that the O.J. Simpson prosecutors who came up with the have him put on the glove idea were laughing.

Last week, when going through pretrial motions and working on jury selection, Judge Walton handed down an edict. The name of Laura Pettitte was not to be mentioned. Her testimony was not to be referenced. In no way could her statements be used to buttress the statements of Andy Pettitte. The only way, the judge decreed, that she could be witness, or any of her past statements used, was if the statements of Andy Pettitte were attacked, and then she could be brought in to shore up his statements.

The order's clear. NO LAURA PETTITTE!

So today the prosecution was playing more video for the jury. And this video consisted of the actual hearings before Congress. And they played a snippet of Rep. Elijah Cummings questioning Clemens. A portion that included Cummings speaking about Andy Pettitte's "misremembered" testimony. But they let the video keep running, to where Cummings started speaking about Laura Pettitte. And they didn't stop the video. They let it keep going as the Cummings went on and on about Andy and Laura Pettitte. Finally Judge Walton ordered a halt to the video and called the attorneys up to the bench. Just one more problem, while he was lecturing them about his orders on Laura Pettitte, the video was frozen on an image displaying the contents of Mrs. Pettitte's affidavit. And the jury read it.

The judge then sent the jury out and let the prosecutors have it for well, violating an explicit order. He then went off to consult with a fellow judge before returning about half-an-hour later to declare a mistrial.

Before I go further, one thing: HOW DAMN STUPID WERE THESE PROSECUTORS? Seriously, someone tell me how an attorney could make such a stupid mistake. I thought Hardin might get on the judge's bad side during the trial because he has a history of getting on the bad side of Federal judges. But the prosecutors should have known better.

This was such a stupid move that not even Nancy Grace would have made that mistake, and one of the reason's Nancy Grace hectors people on TV is that she is a failed prosecutor known for having her convictions overthrown on appeal because she played fast and loose with the rules of court.


So a mistrial has been declared. What does that mean? Generally it means a do-over. But this time, maybe not. In criminal trials, there's a thing known as double jeopardy in which a defendant can't be tried twice for the same thing. Usually, double jeopardy's not invoked until the jury returns with a verdict, but in actuality, it goes into effect as soon as the jury is seated and testimony begins.

There's no clear cut answer that I've seen as to what happens next, as to whether there will be another shot at a trial or whether Roger Clemens is off the hook. I've seen attorneys who specialize in criminal law say it's double jeopardy and I've seen others say that no, it was an innocent mistake and there will be another trial. But to me, from the statements of the judge, double jeopardy will attach and there will be no trial. Roger Clemens will be a free man.

We won't know the answer until September 2 when all of the parties return to the courtroom of Judge Walton. And as I often am, I could end up being like Nancy Grace last week and being proven to be an absolute fool and idiot.

But no matter what, I'll never be as big an idiot as the prosecution was today, because as I learned in law school, when a judge tells you not to do something, you don't do it.

Sifting through some tweets

There are a couple of tweets to take note of from the last few minutes. Let's take them in order:

Jon Paul Morosi about the Astros (in response to a question):
Sure, I could see Hunter Pence as a fit for the #RedSox. But Astros are more likely to trade Bourn.

And then a few minutes later:
#Braves are looking for offensive upgrade and would prefer that it be RH. They have worst OPS in #MLB against LH pitching.

I can totally understand trading Bourn. He's now a Boras guy, and Boras' clients don't exactly re-up with a team, especially a team not in the Northeast. Jason Bourgeois, should he ever get 100% again, could take over duties in CF if Bourn gets traded.

But the note about the Braves is interesting, because of course Pence is right-handed. And he has hit lefties to the tune of .287/.344/.448. The Braves are, as a team, hitting lefties at a .208/.279/.333. So obviously Pence would be an upgrade over Nate McLouth (and the sophomore-slumping Jason Heyward). Would Wade trade both Bourn and Pence? Would you?

Chacin released

Today is the end of the reign of King Hippo. The Astros have released Gustavo Chacin.

Chacin was 2-2 for the Astros in 2010, with a 4.70 ERA/1.85 WHIP (44 games). He posted a 5.13 ERA/1.58 WHIP for Oklahoma City, allowing 81H/38ER, 37K:24BB in 66.2IP in 2011.

The RedHawks activated Jeff Fulchino from the DL.

And today, in the obvious

Here's an article on how the Astros are willing to listen to trade ideas.

"I think, at this point, the best way I can say it is we're going to be good listeners. At the end of the day, we can listen to anything that gets discussed and we can also say no. I think to just out-of-hand dismiss any possibility of anything happening would be shortsighted on our part."

And he has a note specifically for Astros County:
"Nobody should read between the lines what that means, other than I answer my own phone. If a general manager from another club calls me and wants to talk to me about something, I know I always have the opportunity to say no."

Wade also said "at the end of the day" three times in the article. Solid cliche-ing, Wade.

Tigers and Astros aren't talking...yet

Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi just tweeted:

For the moment, though, #Tigers aren't having serious dialogue with #Royals (Francis) or #Astros (Wandy, Myers).

He noted in an earlier tweet that the Tigers are looking for starting pitching.

Philly blog's take on Ed Wade

The Good Phight does a great job busting up Phillies fans who think that Ed Wade will take any tired old Phillie for Hunter Pence. Excellent read.

Money quote:
I wouldn't go so far as to say that you trade with Wade only at your peril, but you do have to watch your step. If you like to mock Wade's history of trades with the Phillies, you need to go back and relearn the facts, because all you're doing is inviting the Phillies to shoot themselves in the foot.

Astros sign Frederick Serrano

According to the Astros' Transaction page, the Astros signed 16-year old 6'2" 180lb outfielder Frederick Serrano and assigned him to the DSL.

Here's a video!

Eddie's Farm: July 13

Oklahoma City (39-52)

Final day of the All-Star Break, which also contained the IL/PCL All-Star Game, which the International League won 3-0. J.B. Shuck - the lone OKC representative - drew a walk in his only AB.

Corpus (33-55)


Lancaster (35-55)

Back and forth game at High Desert: Lancaster got a run in the top of the 1st, High Desert answered in the bottom half with five runs. Lancaster chipped away, tying it up with a three-run 8th inning at 6-6, and David Berner gave up a walk-off homer to Denny Almonte - his second of the game. Jake Buchanan threw 7.2IP, 9H/6R (1ER - five unearned runs on Jiovanni Mier's fielding error), 7K:2BB, while Berner gets the loss with 1H/1ER in 0.2IP.

Jonathan Meyer was 2x5 with an RBI, while Grant Hogue, Adam Bailey, Federico Hernandez, and Miguel Arrendell added RBIs. Jiovanni Mier drew two walks and got an RBI, as well, and David Flores was 1x2 with two walks.

Man of the Match: Jake Buchanan

Lexington (42-28)

Game 1: Lexington won it with a bottom of the 7th two-run walkoff homer by Telvin Nash. Alex Sogard threw 6IP, 6H/0ER, 7K:0BB, and Jorge De Leon got the win with a perfect 7th.

Up to that point in the 7th, the Legends only had two hits, but Kvasnicka (H/BB) got on base ahead of him, and Nash put the game away. Jay Austin had your other hit.

Man of the Match: Telvin Nash

Game 2: Didn't go as well. It was 0-0 heading into the 5th, and then Savannah scored the next seven runs for a 7-3 win over Lexington. Murilo Gouvea threw 3IP, 2H/0ER, 4K:1BB; David Martinez threw 2IP, 2H/3R (0ER), 0K:2BB; Adam Champion gave up 4H/4ER (all on a grand slam), 1K:1BB in 2IP.

Emilio King and Ben Orloff had two hits; Enrique Hernandez was 1x2 with a walk and a two-run homer. Delino DeShields had a hit, walk, and an RBI.

Man of the Match: Enrique Hernandez

Tri-City (10-14)

Kerrazy game at Batavia! Tri-City was up 2-1 going into the 9th, scored three in the top half, and then Batavia answered with three runs in the bottom of the 9th, but fell short - and Tri-City wins 5-4. Kyle Hallock allowed 2H/0ER, 4K:3BB in 6IP; Travis Smink gave up 3H/1ER, 2K:0BB in 2IP; Ryan Cole have up 3H/3ER, 1K:2BB and Mitchell Lambson got the final out for his first professional save.

John Hinson was 2x5 with a double, Matt Duffy was 1x4 with 2RBI; Justin Gominsky and Drew Muren had a hit and a walk. Tri-City won this game despite going 1x10 with RISP, and getting out-hit 8-6.

Man of the Match: Kyle Hallock

Greeneville (8-14)

Greeneville overcame a 4-0 deficit to beat Johnson City 7-4. Danilo Del Rio allowed 5H/4ER, 2K:3BB in 4IP; Zach Dando did some serious work, allowing just 1H/0ER, 5K:0BB in 4IP, and Steve Martin got his first save, despite 2BB in 1IP.

Chase Davidson was 2x3 with two walks, and his two hits were solo homers. Jordan Scott (RBI) and Jose Vargas also had two hits. Josh Magee (RBI) Jesse Wierzbicki (2RBI) had a hit and a walk each.

Man of the Match: Chase Davidson

GCL Astros


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Rocket Goes To Court: Day One of the Roger Clemens Trial

The nice county officials here at Astros County have asked me to contribute a few words every night or so on the Trial of the Century: The Federal Government vs. Roger Clemens. And I'm game. But first, a few caveats: I'm not in the actual courtroom in D.C., and unlike with the Congressional hearings upon which the trial is based, there's no television coverage, so I'm depending on twitter accounts from reporters inside the court room and the occasional news story. Caveat two: I am an attorney, but I'm not a criminal attorney, so you'll be getting opinions based on what I remember from law school a long, long, long time ago.

And here's the important thing. I despise Rusty Hardin. I live in Houston, and I've been following Rusty's hi-jinks for a long time. I don't like the way he handles himself in court. I don't like the way he makes it all about himself. Yes, he wins cases, especially if you're a rich jock who's been pulled over for drunk driving in Harris County, Texas. But get him out of state court and into federal court, and he falls flat on his face. He should never have lost the Arthur Andersen case arising out of Enron, but he pissed off the judge and the jury for his continued inability to follow the rules of the court.

As I've made clear to my friends, if I'm ever in some kind of serious criminal problem, get me a real attorney and not Rusty Hardin.

So all of that said, let's get to it...

Today marked the first day of the Clemens trial. The jury was picked out over the last several days, so today the attorneys got to give their opening statements, and the government, which is the prosecution, got to start presenting its case.

Here's the important thing to know about this case. This case isn't about whether Roger Clemens took steroids or HGH. It's about whether he lied to Congress. It's a perjury trial, like what Barry Bonds went through a couple of months ago. The government has the burden of proof, and it's not enough for the government to prove he lied, they must prove that he lied and that the person willfully lied while under oath.

What's that mean? For instance, the government wasn't able to prove that Barry Bonds lied. Sure, we all know he lied, but the government couldn't prove it. He testified under oath that he didn't take steroids/HGH, but he did testify that he took the Clear and the Cream. We know that the Clear and the Cream were PEDs. So since Bonds testified to taking them, technically, he didn't lie. The government couldn't even prove that Bonds took the PED. They had lab records proving that he took the PED, but due to evidentiary matters, they couldn't get those records into evidence. That's the reason Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson spent so much time in jail for contempt. He refused to testify that he gave Bonds PEDs, and he refused to testify regarding the records.

So the prosecutors have to prove that Roger Clemens lied to Congress. They have to prove that he lied about taking PEDs, and that he did so willfully. But unlike with the Bonds matter, the Clemens prosecutors have the guy who gave him the shots willing to testify that he shot up Clemens.

Here's one of the problems with what I heard today. I don't understand what Rusty Hardin is doing. He's got to knock out the credibility of Brian McNamee, the trainer, to get Clemens off. But Hardin seems more intent on attacking the validity of the Congressional hearings where Clemens made his statements. It seems to be that if the hearings weren't valid, if there was no legal reason to hold the hearings, then Clemens lying to Congress shouldn't matter. Hardin made a point of this, and he further made the point that the hearings were called solely to pit Clemens versus McNamee in an attempt to set a perjury trap for Clemens.

I checked with a couple of attorney friends regarding this to see if I'm missing something, but we all came to about the same conclusion. The validity of the hearings don't matter. What matters is that Clemens was placed under oath, and that he might have lied while under this oath.

While I'm not exactly sure why Hardin is following this line of attack -- and please, leave comments with your theories and feel free to correct me because, like I said, I'm not a criminal defense attorney -- but in some ways, this resembles his defense of former Houston Oiler quarterback Warren Moon when Moon was arrested and tried for spousal abuse. Hardin's line of attack there was to question why Moon was charged and tried since his Moon's wife refused to press charges. So that even though the police had evidence of the assault, and there was a 911 call, Moon was found to be not guilty by a jury.

Hardin also seems to forget that the hearings were called because Clemens, unlike anybody else named in the Mitchell Report, was quite loud in questioning the report, and since the report came about because of an earlier Congressional report, the hearing was called to get into Clemens' claims. It was also not mentioned by Hardin that Congress tried to cancel the hearings, but Clemens insisted they be held. And Clemens insisted that he be placed under oath.

Another line of attack for Hardin is the legit one, attacking the credibility of Brian McNamee, but even here, Hardin was dancing a fine line that found him pushing the judge's buttons. Team Clemens has made it clear, since the Mitchell Report came out, that McNamee is a lying scumbag who can't be trusted. They've called him a drug dealer and a rapist, and to back up the rapist remark, they go McNamee's arrest for sexual assault during a Yankees spring training. The problem is that McNamee was never charged with a crime. And the parties were told they couldn't refer to this arrest unless it was somehow brought up during McNamee's testimony. So of course, Hardin brought this up during his opening argument.

Hardin is also making a big deal out of Debbie Clemens and when it was that she took the HGH. From what I understand, Hardin said that Debbie Clemens will testify that this happened during 2000, not 2003 as McNamee alleges, thus further proof that McNamee is a liar and can't be trusted. The problem with this being a) that McNamee is still the one that gave her the HGH shot, and b) Roger Clemens also testified to Congressional investigators that this happened in 2003. So once again, I'm not sure as to how this will help Clemens' case.

The major news was that needles McNamee kept hidden in a can for years will be coming into evidence. And according to the Feds, the needles contain both Clemens' DNA and traces of PED.

There were three witness presented today. The first was a former House parliamentarian who primarily testified as to the legitimacy of the hearings. The second witness was an FBI agent who has been investigating Clemens. It was his job to read into the record the statements made by Clemens under oath both to Congress, and to Congressional investigators in a deposition a few days before the hearings. The third witness, who is still on the stand, was a congressional staffer for Henry Waxman, the chairman of the committee that held the hearings.

And that's where we stand.

I was asked to provide some snarky commentary, and I'm not sure I've done this. I am sure that Roger Clemens should win this case. However, Rusty Hardin is his attorney, and this is a trial in federal court. And judges in federal court aren't dependent on Rusty's campaign contributions to stay on the bench, so they're not willing to put up with the same crap that Texas judges are, and they don't like having their court rooms turned into circuses. That's a problem for Rusty Hardin because this is a guy who lives for the circus atmosphere.

I'm also sure of this. The key witness won't be Brian McNamee or Debbie Clemens. It will be Andy Pettitte. And everybody has agreed that if there's anybody telling the truth here, it's Andy Pettitte. That's always bugged me a bit because, well, Pettitte LIED FOR YEARS about not taking HGH. However, he's a likeable guy, and has that whole devoted husband, devoted to God thing going on. So no matter what Rusty does to McNamee, if the jury believes Pettitte when it comes to the infamous misremembered statement, Clemens could be in trouble.

So that's the opening. I'll try to be more snarky tomorrow, and I hope this wasn't too boring. But I'll state this once again: Clemens should win this as perjury is very hard to prove. But that's negated by Rusty Hardin who seems more concerned with a stupid attack on the legitimacy of the hearings.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I'll try to answer.

Jim Callis: Springer will sign

Jim Callis had a big ol' live chat at Baseball America today, and there was a question about the ownership question impacting the signing of George Springer, and on making trades.

Springer will sign, no doubt, regardless of the ownership situation. Don't see it affecting trades much either—MLB is going to have no problem with the Astros trading high-priced veterans.

Astros sign Harold Arauz

DPL Baseball is reporting (with a picture to prove it) that the Astros have signed Panamanian RHP Harold Arauz for $300,000.

The RHP was among the most impressive arms in this year’s DPL July 2nd class. He has an athletic wiry body with room to fill out and develop. He shows an effortless delivery with good command of Fastball (86-89) topping out at 90, his Curveball has a chance to be above average and shows a feel for Changeup.

Realignment is probably going to happen, and it's probably going to be the Astros who realign

CBS Sports' Danny Knobler (who really needs to update that profile picture) is reporting that realignment is probably going to happen.

In separate Tuesday sessions with the Baseball Writers Association of America, both commissioner Bud Selig and players union head Michael Weiner expressed an openness to a 15-15 plan, with Weiner saying that players have favored it for a decade or more. The players and owners have been discussing realignment, along with schedule and playoff reform, as part of negotiations for the new basic agreement.

What won't happen: A "massive realignment," Knobler reports (meaning the "No Divisions" plan), but someone is moving leagues. Also, a unified DH rule.

The timetable is more likely that this will happen in 2013, though Knobler writes that 2012 isn't out of the question. So if it happens in 2013, that's just in time for Carlos Lee to be off the team. I bet Jason Michaels is still on the team, and will fill that DH role...

Because this season hasn't been terribly boring enough

...Get ready for some small ball!

McTaggart's requisite "They're a second-half team!" article has some advice for the players from Ed Wade:
"We're capable of playing good baseball, and it revolves around starting pitching, as it always does. But it's also limiting the mistakes on the field on both sides of the ball and putting innings together, and that means getting guys on and moving them over and getting a run on the board."

One run at a time! They are our Astros.

Also, apparently there a few on the team who aren't men - says Mills:
"No one has ever said anything about this ballclub not working or getting done what they need to do. We stay positive with it and keep working toward what we need to get done. These guys are men, and if they're not, they're guys that are developing into men. We keep focusing on the positive and do things to get that wheel moving."

I don't even...

Billy Flamion update

So I had the chance to talk to Richard T. Estrada of the Modesto Bee, and asked him about the chances of Astros 25th Round pick Billy Flamion signing with the Astros (who, by all accounts, slipped due to the dreaded Signability Issue, and his commitment to Oregon). Here's what he had to say (and then kindly allowed me to copy and paste):

Billy’s been high on Oregon because the program is just a few years old and he has Phil Knight/Nike throwing millions of dollars into the baseball program. Tough to compete with Phil Knight’s money, even if you’re a major-league ball team. The facilities up there are stunning, and the prospect of taking classes at Oregon, playing ball at great facilities and hanging out on a college campus has a lot of appeal for a kid coming out of high school.

He has a mentor who is one heck of a business man – not one of those guys who hangs on and is looking for a payday, the guy who Billy looks to for advice runs a huge company out here and has a great reputation as a solid financial guy – and I’m sure he’s playing a role in making sure Billy doesn’t price himself short.

Billy’s a great athlete, was our Player of the Year this spring for baseball and has been on our all-region football team the last two years as a Defensive Back/Receiver. He projects out better in baseball because of his size and he seems to live and breathe the sport … He’s been one of the local legends around here since the 6th grade, I’d say, and then he started getting involved in the national baseball program.

So it's not looking good. The Astros are going to have to stump up some cash to get him signed. Here's Estrada's article from June on Flamion and "The Case For Greatness"

Deadspin's 100 Worst Baseball Players Of All Time

Deadspin has a great compilation of the 100 Worst Baseball Players of All Time (Part I is linked). The Astros are represented:

18. J.R. Phillips (Astros, 1997-98)
22. Brian L. Hunter (1994-96, 2002-03)
31. Jose Lima (1997-2001)


Will Crane go along simply not to piss off the owners?

The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo has an article on realignment, and it's looking inevitable that the Astros aren't going to get what they want - simply to stay in the same league they've been in for XX years (XX if you count next season, which would likely be the last NL season for the Astros, according to Cafardo).

Check comments for clarification

But the consensus among owners appears to be that the Astros would need to move from the NL Central to the AL West. The Astros are opposed to this, believing moving into a different time zone would wreak havoc with their TV broadcasts, and also not fully buying into the notion that they have a natural rivalry with the Rangers.

One Astros Official:
“We have no more of a rivalry with the Rangers than we do with the Cardinals or the Reds or the Cubs."


Now here's an interesting point on Jim Crane's involvement:
The new regime - the Jim Crane ownership that is getting set to take over the team from Drayton McLane - likely would not want to rock the boat in its inaugural season and may go along with the proposal simply to keep the peace.

It makes sense for Crane to simply go along, knowing what every writer seems to know - that the other 29 owners kind of hate him. But I, as a fan of a team that seems to have no spine (see: Series, Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park), would love to see Crane embrace this oppositional view and go in and yell and scream, and throw a dead rabbit on the table, fax copies of his butt cheeks to the owners - and Selig - and make a huge fuss. If Jim Crane became an older, less-coked up version of Mark Cuban (even equally coked-up would be fine with me), I would clap with glee.

McLane calls out FS Arizona

Drayton called out Jack Magruder and his earlier report that the Astros are likely headed to the AL.

“That has not been discussed by the commissioner to myself or anyone else with the Astros. If that were part of the deal, that certainly would have emerged.”."

FanGraphs revisits the Astros' Top 10 prospects

In an accountability post, FanGraphs goes back and looks at their Top 10 Astros prospects.

Eddie's Farm: July 12

Oklahoma City (39-52)


Corpus (33-55)

That's how Chris Wallace do! Wallace hit a pinch-hit grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the 8th to break a 3-3 tie with NW Arkansas, carrying Corpus to a 7-3 win. Ross Seaton had a solid outing: 6IP, 3H/1ER, 5K:0BB; Blake King allowed 1H/1ER, 2K:1BB in 1IP, Henry Villar got the Brandon Lyon (BS/W) with 1IP, 2H/1ER, 1K:0BB, and Danny Meszaros closed out the 9th with 1H/0ER, 2K:0BB.

Jimmy Paredes (2B, RBI), Jake Goebbert (2B, RBI), and Brandon Wikoff had two hits each, while Jonathan Villar hit his third homer of the season to lead-off the game.

Man of the Match: Big Poppa

Lancaster (35-54)

Lancaster had a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the 4th, but High Desert tied it up and then scored the go-ahead run in the 7th for a 5-4 win over Lancaster. Robby Donovan allowed 8H/4ER, 1K:2BB; Wander Alvino took the loss with 2H/1ER, 4K:1BB in 2.1IP, and Shane Wolf allowed 1H/0ER, 1K:1BB in 1.1IP.

Grant Hogue (2SB) and Adam Bailey (OF assist) had two hits each; Rene Garcia and Andy Simunic got a hit and a walk, and Jose Carlos Thompson hit a two-run homer and drew a walk.

Man of the Match: Jose Carlos Thompson

Lexington (41-47)

Postponed - Rain

Tri-City (9-14)


Greeneville (7-14)

The Gastros had a 3-0 lead, and then Johnson City scored nine of the next ten runs for a 9-4 win. Tyson Perez threw 3.1IP, allowing 3H/4ER, 2K:1BB; Jeremiah Meiners allowed 3H/4R (2ER), 4K:1BB in 2IP, and Mark Jones allowed 3H/1ER, 1K:1BB in 2.2IP.

Chase Davidson probably ought to head up to Tri-City at some point soon, as he was 3x4 with his 5th homer and 2RBI (his 1.128 OPS leads the Appalachian League). Darwin Rivera was 1x4 with a double and 2RBI; Garen Wright replaced Ariel Ovando in RF before Ovando had a chance to bat, and went 1x3 with a double and a walk.

Man of the Match: Chase Davidson

GCL Astros (6-13)

Sweet Mercy. The GCL Astros put up a 10-spot in the 1st inning on the GCL Mets, and then were outscored 11-7 over the rest of the game, yet still held on for a 17-11 win. Enderson Franco allowed 11H/7R (6ER), 1K:3BB in 4.1IP; Pedro Gomez got the win with 1.2IP scoreless; Juan Mojica allowed 4H/4R (2ER) in 0.1IP. Wilton Infante got out of the 7th with 0.1IP, and Wes Musick made a rehab appearance, allowing 1H/0ER, 1K:1BB in 2IP.

Jean Carlos Batista was 3x5 with a double and 5RBI; Javaris Reynolds (BB, RBI, SB), Chris Epps (HR, 4RBI, 2BB), Jarrod McKinney (2 2B), and Kenny Diaz (HR, 3RBI) had two hits each. That said, the Astros committed six errors on the day.

Man of the Match: This one goes to Chris Epps - on base four times with 4RBI.

Diamondbacks staying put, Astros on the move?

With a captip to _yimmt, we get this link, indicating that the Astros would move to the AL before the Diamon'ba'ks.

Fox Sports Arizona's Jack Magruder writes:
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been told they will not be asked to move to the American League under the current major league realignment plan that is being discussed, according to two sources close to the situation.

So if the two teams in play to switch leagues are the Diamondbacks and Astros, and the Diamondbacks won't be asked to move, that leaves....

Arizona CEO Derrick Hall:
"They (Major League Baseball officials) know how we feel. They know we don't want to move."

Because the Astros haven't made it perfectly clear how they feel.

More from The Sources:
Sources said the move of Houston to the NL West* is a precondition in the proposed $680 million sale of the Astros from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane, which Selig said is proceeding apace.

(* - "AL West," presumably)

As this is - mainly - a family friendly blog, we won't print the words we'd like in regards to making this move a condition of the sale. But it rhymes with "Toshbarnit."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Zach Levine's Minor-League Awards

Zach Levine posted his Minor-League 1st Half Awards last night. Click the link for the article, but the gist is:

1st Half Player: Jose Altuve
1st Half Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel

Also acknowledged are Chris Wallace's and Telvin Nash's monster game in April, and Xavier Cedeno's 14K performance.

Eddie's Farm: July 11

Oklahoma City

Off - All-Star Break

Corpus (32-55)

Corpus cruised to a 4-0 lead after three innings, and rode it out for a 5-2 win over NW Arkansas. Jonnathan Aristil threw 5IP, 8H/2ER, 6K:2BB, HBP to get the decision; Kyle Greenwalt allowed 1H/0ER in 1IP, and Arcenio Leon got a nine-out save, allowing 1H/0ER in 3IP.

Jimmy Paredes was 2x3 with a homer, walk, and 2RBI; Jose Altuve went 2x3, but was pulled after allegedly not running out a pop-up, turning what could have been a double into a single. J.D. Martinez was 1x2 with two walks, and Jonathan Villar hit his 2nd homer of the year. Villar also committed two errors and was one of three Hooks to get caught stealing.

Man of the Match: Jimmy Paredes

Lancaster (35-53)


Lexington (41-47)


Tri-City (9-14)

Tri-City mounted a significant comeback, scoring four runs in the bottom of the 9th, but ultimately fell short for a 7-6 loss to Aberdeen. Euris Quezada allowed 5H/3R (2ER), 2K:3BB, 2WP, HBP, and a Balk in 3.1IP; Dayan Diaz allowed 3H/3R (1ER), 1K:2BB in 2.2IP; Mitchell Lambson allowed an ER in 1IP, while Joan Belliard and Kristian Bueno had scoreless appearances.

Drew Muren was 2x4 with his first professional homer, while Bubby Williams also went deep and drew a walk. Zach Johnson, John Hinson (BB, RBI), Hector Rodriguez, and Nieko Johnson also had hits.

Man of the Match: Drew Muren

Greeneville (7-13)


GCL Astros (4-13)

Rough one in Kissimmee as the Astros got out to a 7-1 lead, then lost to the GCL Cardinals 8-7. Frederick Tiburdo allowed 4H/4R (2ER), 5K:3BB; Evan Grills allowed 3IP, 2H/1R (0ER), 4K:0BB; Krishawn Holley gave up a hit and a walk in 1IP; Zach Hardoin had the Ugly with 2H/3R (2ER), 1K:1BB and got the BS/L, with Justin Gill allowing the winning run charged to Hardoin.

Jose Fernandez (BB), Chris Epps (2B, RBI), and Justin Shults (BB, 2RBI) had two hits each.

Man of the Match: Chris Epps

Monday, July 11, 2011

Irony at its finest

Here, in its entirety, is the most ironic, depressing, and soul-crushing tweet, summing up Houston's 2011, courtesy of AstrosWire:

Do you love Glee? Let's send Glee's original hit song "Loser Like Me" to #1. Request it on the radio here >> - spon

Meszaros down, Perconte out

According to our buddy Greg Rajan, Danny Meszaros has been sent down to Corpus, while reliever Mike Perconte has been released.

In 25.2IP for OKC, Meszaros has allowed 34H/13ER, 27K:14BB, and allowed 5H/4ER in 0.2IP on July 7 (though he did throw a perfect inning on Saturday).

Perconte had a decidedly tougher spell with Corpus Christi, allowing 15H/11ER, 5K:2BB and 3HR in six appearances (4.1IP). Yesterday (July 10) Perconte allowed 3H/2ER, 1K:1BB in 0.2IP.

The RedHawks did place C Brian Esposito on the 7-Day DL on July 9, as well.

"Nothing but #4 starters" available

Jon Heyman's new column breaks down a number of topics, none of them of direct importance or note to the Astros, but there is this little nugget:

The White Sox are fielding calls on Edwin Jackson. In this market he may be the best out there as far as starting pitchers.

Some teams are waiting and hoping that there's a surprise starter or two on the market. Right now, it's pretty bleak. "There's nothing but No. 4 starters," one AL executive noted.

Myers may qualify as one of those #4 starters, but does this mean that Wandy isn't currently on the market as he's certainly better than Edwin Jackson? Or does it mean that we're reading too much into what Jon Heyman has to say. Likely the latter...

It is impossible to talk about Jose Altuve without mentioning how short he is

Apparently. Baseball America had a round-up of the Futures Game yesterday. Scroll all the way to the bottom and you'll see a little something on Jose Altuve:

At 5-foot-7, Altuve looks more like a trophy model than a top prospect, but he went 2-for-3 with a double and played solid defense at second base. Watch him in batting practice and he won't blow anyone away. Watch him over time in games, and Altuve is the type of player who grows on scouts

Said One Scout:
"I love Altuve. I think his swing is good and he plays above his tools. He does the small things. He has a baseball sense, he makes contact and he's always in the right place at the right time. For me, his size doesn't matter because I think he's going to hit."

Maybe in September? In Houston?

The last time...

Let's look at some fun facts about The Last Time the Astros Did Something of Note:

*Were over .500: July 29, 2009 (51-50) - 712 days
*Were not in last place (after the first week of the season): October 3, 2010
*Brett Wallace hit a homer: May 31 (127 PAs)
*Michael Bourn GIDPd: June 13 (107 PAs)
*Carlos Lee went hitless in a start: June 28 (11 games)
*Chris Johnson hit a homer: June 2 (121 PAs)
*Hunter Pence's OPS was less than .800: May 21
*Jeff Keppinger struck out: June 24 (48 PAs)
*Jeff Keppinger struck out twice in one game: July 27, 2010
*Brett Myers had an outing with 0ER: September 8, 2010
*Bud Norris failed to get 15 outs: April 3, 2011 (17 starts)
*J.A. Happ got a win: May 14, 2011 (10 starts)
*Mark Melancon/the Astros got a save: June 8, 2011

Who's Watching the Astros on tv? Nobody.

Richard Justice tweeted out this link today, showing the ratings change in baseball.

It's not good news for the Astros, who have the 2nd-steepest decline in tv ratings, with 34% fewer people watching Astros games on television than last year. Only the Rays, who are off by 37%, had a worse year-to-year decline.

What We're Watching For: 2nd Half

Here's a list of things that we'll use as motivation to continue paying attention to the Astros, and not drink port, wear a smoking jacket, and take up sailing:

1. July 31. What will keep us on the edge of our seat is what the Astros will do now. The season, for all intents and purposes, is over, so we cast our stare even more toward the future than it already is. Can/will the Astros deal Myers, Bourn, Wandy, Pence, Barmes, Keppinger, or (fingers crossed) Carlos Lee? It's entirely possible that the Astros could trade any of seven players - can, or will, Ed Wade do it?

2. September 1. Who will the Astros call up once the rosters expand to 40? Of course, the events of the rest of July will have an impact on who is on the roster come the end of August, but those on the 40-Man Roster who haven't yet seen time in Houston include: Jimmy Paredes, Luis Durango, and Lucas Harrell. Let's see what happens with the Astros giving some youngsters a shot.

3. September 28. The last day of the regular season. For obvious reasons.

Astros County Mid-Season Awards

Here's our requisite space-filler, the mid-season awards, as certified by Astros County:

1st Half MVP

No-brainer. Hunter Pence. He's the (rightfully so) only All-Star representative. He's the only everyday Astro with an OPS over .800. He's the only Astro with double-digit homers.

1st Half LVP

This actually took some thinking. J.R. Towles and Bill Hall would be strong candidates, but they're no longer with the team. I know you're probably thinking about Carlos Lee, but he would win the Player Not Worth His Immense, Ridiculous Contract award (see below). So it goes to Chris Johnson. I think we were all prepared for a career regression after his high-BABIPed 2010, but I certainly didn't foresee him posting a -1.1 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference), lowest on the team.

1st Half Cy Young

Bud Norris. Wandy Rodriguez comes in a close second, but Norris has exceeded expectations, and is more likely to still be wearing an Astros uniform come August 1. Norris is the only player with more strikeouts than IP, and fewer than one homer per 9IP.

1st Half Cy Dumb

Brandon Lyon gets serious consideration given his atrocious 13IP to this point in the season, and he's done for the year. I'm sorry he's hurt, I hope he gets better, but I'm glad he's not even an option to pitch, because I have no doubt that he would continue to get run out to the mound. You know what? Screw it. Brandon Lyon.

1st Half Rookie of the Year

I don't know that it could go to anybody other than Jordan Lyles. Kid's been good.

1st Half Player Not Worth His Immense, Ridiculous Contract

Carlos Lee. See above.

1st Half Best Bargain

David Carpenter. No, he has not pitched for the Astros for very long. But the Astros got rid of Pedro Feliz, and turned that horrible idea into David Carpenter. I bet the Cardinals would like to have that one over. Of course, that Lance Berkman signing probably makes it easier.

Best Moment of the First Half

The releasing of Bill Hall. Another horrible mistake that was owned up to early enough to at least try to recover. Whatever that means.

Worst Moment of the First Half

Opening Day. The Astros were actually in line to be over .500 at some point this season on Game 1. And then Brandon Lyon happened, facing seven batters, getting one out, and the Phillies got three runs in the bottom of the 9th for a brutal, trend-setting loss.

The 1st Half Point At Which We Lost The Will To Live

May 4, 2011. Brandon Lyon blows a 2-0 lead in the 9th (and Aneury Rodriguez' 5IP gem), and the Astros fall to 12-18. Not that the difference between 12-18 and 13-17 is significant, certainly not now, but that broke our collective souls.

Dufek now has a two-seamer

Here's a nice article on Tri-City pitcher, and 2011 11th Round pick, Jonas Dufek - in which we hear how he developed a two-seam fastball with a lot of movement.

"I never really used it in college, and these last two outings I have been working my two-seamer down and in to righties and down and away to lefties. It's been getting ground balls for me and working well."

It's working, as he hasn't allowed an ER in 14.2IP.