Friday, September 9, 2011

Feeling bad for Jim Crane

Prospective Astros owner Jim Crane is getting pissed, and it's hard to blame him.

If you're a loyal, or even a not-so-loyal, Astros County reader, you'll note that we have linked to every story Maury Brown has published, be it through the Biz of Baseball or Forbes, on updates on the sale of the Astros. None of these reports - none of any report - have been favorable. (That's not a criticism of Brown. He's basically been the sole writer to bring Crane's previous activities to prominent light.) At best, Crane is a bad American, profiting unfairly from The War. At worst, he's a horrible person: petty, dishonest, racist, domestically violent.

There hasn't been a single person - other than Drayton - who has come forward on Crane's behalf to say, "You know, there's more to the stories you've been given."

Crane couldn't take it anymore. And frankly, who could blame him? I would gouge someone's eyes out if they went to the press on me with a lot less.

Everything from Crane's past: the EEOC, the war profiteering, the domestic disturbance allegations that prompted Crane to speak out to the Chronicle, has been covered before. Every single item that has come up about Crane's past was a matter of public record, whether it was in the Chronicle or the Houston Press. That this is the first time Bud Selig has heard of these allegations, and that he "needs more time" to do his due diligence indicates - to me - two things:

1. Crane was never taken seriously as a prospective owner of the Cubs or Rangers, or the Astros in 2008. Or else all of these issues would have been taken care of.

2. Selig is taking his role as Baseball's Morality Policeman very seriously, thanks to the problems initiated by the McCourts and the Wilpons.

I understand the desire to keep baseball clean and pure, or, in a state that is completely impossible to maintain. If Crane can't come up with a good explanation for any allegation, then it's a different story. But perhaps the reason that Crane hasn't given so much as a middle finger to the press is because he couldn't. He has no official role in baseball until Selig approves his sale. And it's bad form to run your mouth before you've been approved, or rejected.

Do I want the Astros to have a crook running the show? Absolutely not. But he at least deserves a chance to get a chance to talk to Selig.

Richard Justice says this will infuriate Bud Selig. And frankly, I really don't care if it does. Crane should be allowed to answer every single one of these allegations, because what plays out in this episode is not confined to his, or his family's, life with Selig's decision. It's going to come up any time Jim Crane's name is mentioned.

Arizona Fall League Preview

Minor League Ball is going through the rosters of all the AFL teams and recently highlighted the Salt River Rafters rosters, the team the Astros prospects were assigned to. Included were blurbs on Keuchel, Hinze, Austin, and Goebbert. Quick little read.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wolf! Wolf!

Drayton seems to think that the sale of the Astros will transpire here pretty soon.

Last week an official familiar with the process said MLB was investigating charges that Crane engaged in war profiteering and unfair hiring practices of blacks and women. A couple of reports Wednesday suggested moving the Astros from the National League to the American League could be a condition for approval of the sale. McLane said that when he and Crane made the agreement, the move the AL was not “in any way, shape or form” part of the discussion.

“I can’t say whether they’ve approached Jim Crane on that,” McLane said. “I’m just not in that part of the loop.”

According to Campbell, Drayton got a little fussy and spouted off about starting all over, but attributed that to "frustration."

Mock! Draft!

Here's a Mock Draft in which the Astros are projected to take Stanford pitcher Mark Appel.

At this point Mark Appel looks like a clear cut #1 overall pick to go first overall in the 2012 MLB Draft. Appel is no stone cold lock to go #1 overall by any means necessary, but Appel has to be the frontrunner to be the first pick in the 2012 MLB Draft just like Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is the frontrunner to be the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft at this point in the draft process even though nothing has been finalized yet.

Click the link for summaries on Appel.

To Greg Rajan's credit...

For the talk about Rajan being late to the party, I did come across this late last night. What is it? It's an article from August 2007, in which Rajan says:

It wasn't all too long ago that the Houston Astros' farm system was among the elite in Major League Baseball.

But as the Astros scaled new heights in recent seasons -- including their first playoff series victory and then their initial foray into the World Series -- the farm system went the other way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crane "softening" to American League?

Jeff Passan's new column has some details about an extra Wild Card, which has an Astros connection to it...

One positive step in recent weeks, sources said, is the softening of incoming Houston Astros owner Jim Crane on moving his team to the AL West under a realignment plan that would even out the leagues at 15 teams apiece and allow six five-team divisions. Crane’s reticence – playing three division foes in the Pacific time zone – is allayed by the Texas Rangers’ ability to lock in a huge TV deal in spite of their AL West affiliation as well as the possibility of negotiations offering a more balanced schedule.

Maybe because Crane realizes that the longer this goes on, the more people question whether he is in Iraq, selling Coke cans to the government for $1m apiece...

Juvenile Court Clerk's Counter Argument to Greg Rajan

The Constable posted about Greg Rajan's take on the Hooks season and how the Astros abused the Corpus fans' dogs...or something like that. Here's my response:

Yes, minor league W-L records can be an indicator of talent level, but a crappy AA win% doesn't mean we're not doing what is needed as an organization to bolster our farm club. Quickly glancing at some of the players that graduated from the Hooks this season, I see names like Altuve, Martinez, Paredes, Goebbert, Keuchel, Cedeno, and Sosa. Four of those players are making meaningful contributions to the parent club now. The other three got to taste AAA competition for the first time, with mixed results. That's half of a starting lineup and over half of a pitching rotation. I'm sure having those 7 players would have made a considerable difference in the outcome of the Hooks season. While Rajan does make mention of this, I don't think it's given the proper weight.

In their place we guys like Adam Bailey, who did well after his second promotion of the season. Kody Hinze, held his own coming up from Lancaster. Others are being pushed up the system, and understandably some struggled after arriving in CC. The jump to AA is said to separate the wheat from the chaff, and not all promising prospects will succeed. That's what we're likely seeing with Gaston, Brad James, and Steele. Players like Chris Wallace, David Flores, Jonathan Villar, Andrew Simunic, Jose Thompson, and Kyle Greenwalt all saw their first AA action and stumbled after putting up good numbers at Lexington and Lancaster earlier in the year. That doesn't mean they're all going to wash out. I'd wager at least half of them regain their status as prospects and continue their climb up the ladder.

I understand the frustration. Nobody likes to watch a loser, but Rajan's a little late to the blame party, and his suggestion that the Hooks will continue this pitiful path through the end of their player development contract with Houston in 2016 doesn't mesh with the drafts and international signings we've been applauding the last few seasons.

EDIT: Rajan responds (indirectly).

Lucas Harrell Talks, We Listen

Harrell discusses his strong start against Milwaukee, El Caballo's fighting weight, Astros' plans for him down the stretch, and more in an audio interview on The High Road with Allen Vaughn.

Fred Nelson Talks About This Year's Farm Crops

Brian McTaggart talked with Astros director of player development Fred Nelson about the progression of several players and the direction of the farm system as a whole. It's worth a read, but here's the gist:

"I would say we’re disappointed from a team standpoint, but I spent some time over the weekend looking at some things and our clubs have been very young,” Nelson said. “And so it makes it difficult at times to compete. That’s no excuse, but certainly our clubs have been young and we’re also just one of seven other clubs that field seven teams here in the United States, so you spread your players a little bit thinner. The individual performances have been very rewarding."

Astros Let Two Scouts Go

Zachary Levine reports that the Astros will not renew the contracts of two area scouts as they continue a minor restructure of their scouting department.

That old "American League" thing is back

David Dalati says that the whole "realignment" thing is rearing its head, blocking up the transfer of the Astros to Jim Crane.

More than one source has indicated to that Crane's stance on the club switching leagues is a hurdle in the approval process. When asked about the topic last week, McLane firmly denied that the league issue was the major stumbling block. McLane maintains that MLB has not completed its due diligence on Crane and his many investors and that MLB's resources are currently preoccupied with the Dodgers' financial mess.

While insiders believe that the significant issue is the disagreement over which league the Astros should play in, the parties remain relatively confident that Crane will eventually gain approval. If Crane becomes the official owner it will be an issue that he will have to address.

Greg Rajan brings the noise

In the second of two articles by Rajan that are worth your time today, Greg Rajan brings the noise about the Astros organization. It's hard to blame him, he had to watch the Hooks go 50-90 (at least they got to 50 before the Astros did) - the worst record of any team playing affiliated baseball.

We're talking about the organization that has run the gamut on making awful decisions, from monumentally bad first-round picks (Eli Iorg or Max Sapp, anyone?) to forfeiting draft picks to sign big-dollar free agents who went bust to being cheap and not signing draft picks, period, thus eroding their talent base. A culture change is needed, post haste...

...discontent seems to be festering among the Hooks' fan base. Loyal to a fault — the team was second in Texas League attendance at 5,645 per game — even the die-hards can only take so much.

Greg Rajan gives some odds

Our Buddy Greg Rajan does some looking at the Hooks' roster to determine who should move up, who should be back, and who should, uh, not.

A quick spoiler alert, those who Rajan says should not return, with a pull from Rajan's comments in parentheses (click the link to see the whole article - well worth your read):

Jon Gaston: It’s become apparent his monster year in High-A was a product of Lancaster’s launching pad.

Kyle Greenwalt: Took his lumps as both a starter and reliever here, which might mean a ticket back to Lancaster.

Brad James: It’s time to cut the cord.

Blake King: Claimed off waivers from St. Louis and had an alarming number of walks.

T.J. Steele: Somewhere in Houston, there’s an Astros official who views him as a five-tool prospect. Hooks fans didn’t see that form in two seasons.

Jose Carlos Thompson: First-year pro might be best served by playing regularly at a lower level.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Would you rather be Brad Mills, or the Jefferson County (Alabama) manager?

That's the question posed by's Joey Kennedy:

My first thought when I read News staff writer Barnett Wright's blast that Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos was going to interview for the Jefferson County manager's job was: Hey, Tony, are you on something? That'd be like managing the Houston Astros. Heck, worse.

Let's break down the pros and cons, shall we?

Brad Mills

*Makes an unknown, yet likely impressive, salary.
*Flies on chartered jets.
*Watches baseball 162 times a year.

*Is hammered on blogs, even though not in press.
*Watches Astros baseball 162 times a year, and can't change the channel.
*Watching Astros baseball 162 times a year has led to temporary insanity, resulting in sticking Jason Michaels in the lineup regularly.

Jefferson County manager

*Alabama's most-populated county
*Probably would live in Birmingham, which is a nice little place.
*Great news: the bridge on Grant's Mill Road will re-open after 18 months of being closed.

*Jefferson County just got sued by the Federal Government for overcrowded jails.
*You get compared to the manager of the Astros.

You decide!

Eddie's Farm: September 5

Oklahoma City (68-75)

The RedHawks won their season finale 4-3.

Starter Dallas Keuchel pitched well in the win, going 7 IP allowing 7H/1ER with 4K:1BB. Sergio Escalona looked sharp in his return from the DL, giving 1 IP with 0 H and 2 K. Jose Valdez got the save despite giving up 4H/2ER with 2 K in 1 IP.

C-Robinson Cancel went 2x3 with 1 2B and 2R/1RBI. LF-Jacob Goebbert was 2x4 with 1 2B. 1B-Olwaldo Navarro went 1x2 with 1R/2RBI.

Man of the Match: Dallas Keuchel

Corpus Christi (50-90)

The Hooks lost 12-3 to
San Antonio.

Ross Seaton threw 6 IP giving up 6H/4ER with 5K:1BB. Josh Zeid had another rough outing, going .2 IP allowing 4H/5ER, including 2 HR, with 2K:1BB. Pat Urckfitz had .2 IP giving up 4H/3ER with 1 BB.

LF-Adam Bailey went 4x4 with 1 HR and 1R/2RBI. 3B-David Flores was 2x4 with 1 2B and 1 HR.

Man of the Match: Adam Bailey

Lancaster (55-85)

The JetHawks lost to
Lake Elsinore 11-2 to end their season.

Andrew Robinson got blasted in his final start, going just 2.1 IP giving up 8H/8ER with 4K:2BB and 4 HR allowed. Jeremiah Meiners gave 3.2 IP allowing 4H/3ER with 3K:2BB. Kirk Clark calmed things down with 2 IP allowing 2H/4K:3BB.

SS-Jiovanni Mier finished the season on a high note, going 2x4 with 1 2B and 1 RBI. 1B-Jonathan Singleton went 2x4. In his last 10 games of the season, Mier hit .333/.425/.515 with 5BB:4K in 33 AB.

Man of the Match: Jio Mier

Lexington (59-79)

The Legends won both ends of a double header against Savannah to end the season, 2-1 in the 1st game and 3-2 in the 2nd.

In game one, Carlos Quevedo went 3 IP allowing 5H/1ER with 1K:1BB. Alex Sogard took the next 3 IP and retired all 9 batters he faced in order, including 4 K. Jorge De Leon threw a perfect 7th inning for the save. RF-Domingo Santana went 2x3. LF-Bryce Lane was 1x2 with 1 SB and 1 R. At DH, 1B-Tyler Burnett was 1x3 with 1 SB and 1 R.

Man of the Match: Alex Sogard

In the second game, Ruben Alaniz had 5 IP allowing 5H/0ER with 3K:1BB for the win. RF-Emilio King was 1x3 with 1 3B, 1R/1RBI, and 1 big OF assist, catching the runner at home in the 1st inning. CF-Ruben Sosa was 1x2 with 1 2B and 1 RBI.

Man of the Match: Emilio King

Tri-City (33-40)

Season over.

Greeneville (25-43)

Season over.

GCL Astros (20-34)

Season over.

DSL Astros (26-40)

Season over.

In other words, Mills has no idea what happened to Abad

Last winter, Fernando Abad tore it up as a starter in Winter Ball. That success did not carry over to the 2011 regular season, either in Houston or in Oklahoma City. And Brad Mills has no answers:

“We don’t know if he didn’t throw enough or threw too much or whatever last winter, but it’s something we’re going to look at."

Maury Brown brings it again

Maury Brown brings more pain to Jim Crane in his latest post on what the external hold-ups might be. Hint: Selig might just be trying to fracture the investment group:

While there’s been plenty of talk that MLB could reject Crane as an owner, what is becoming a larger issue is Crane being able to hold his ownership group together. The large group that has investments as low as $25 million in the deal, could become fragmented over time. For MLB, instead of rejecting Crane, the deal could whither on the vine.

Read it all. Now.

Barmes back in 2012?

Courtesy of Astros 290, we find this link, about the future of Clint Barmes.

"I'd love to come back here, but I haven't put a whole lot of thought into that yet. Coming up to the offseason, I haven't talked to my agent much about that at all to even know what other options there even are. There's going to be a lot of changes [with the Astros] and a lot of things going on, which is another reason nobody knows what direction it's going to head."

Yahoo's Mark Miller:
One position Astros general manager Ed Wade doesn't want to change is shortstop, the site reports. Wade wouldn't trade Barmes at the July 31 deadline and has told him he wants back in the lineup next year, according to

Monday, September 5, 2011

Eddie's Farm: September 3-4 Weekend Roundup

Oklahoma City (67-75)

OKC won split the weekend with
New Orleans, winning 5-2 Saturday and losing 3-2 Sunday.

Saturday, Andy Van Hekken finished out his final start for OKC this season by going 6 IP allowing 6H/2ER with 2K:2BB. Jonnathan Aristil, acquired in the Matt Lindstrom trade, had a scoreless 1 IP in his OKC debut, giving up 2 H with 1 K. At the plate, C-Robinson Cancel went 4x4 with 2 R and 1 SB. LF-Jacob Goebbert was 2x4 with 1 2B and 2R/1RBI. 1B-Koby Clemens was 3x4 with 2 2B and 1R/1RBI. 3B-Oswaldo Navarro went 2x3 with 2 RBI. SS-Anderson Hernandez saw his hit streak come to an end at 30 games, as he went 0x5.

Sunday’s starter Ryan Rowland-Smith finished out the season with a decent start, going 6.2 IP allowing 7H/3ER with 5K:2BB, but got hung with the loss. RF-Drew Locke went 1x3 with 1 HR and 1R/2RBI. SS-Brandon Wikoff got his first hit for OKC, going 1x4.

Man of the Weekend: Jacob Goebbert

Corpus Christi (50-89)

The Hooks lost both games over the weekend, losing 11-1 Saturday and 10-3 Sunday against the San Antonio Missions.

Saturday’s starter Brett Oberholtzer couldn’t get out of the first inning, throwing just .2 IP allowing 4H/3ER with 1K:2BB. Kyle Greenwalt had problems in his 4.1 IP, giving up 6H/4ER with 2K:1BB. Pat Urckfitz gave up 1H/2ER with 2K:3BB in his 1 IP. SS-Jonathan Villar went 3x5 with 2 2B. LF-Adam Bailey wore the Golden Sombrero, going 0x5 with 4K. CF-Brandon Barnes was 2x5 with 1 2B. RF-Jon Gaston went 2x4.

Jarred Cosart continued throwing batting practice Sunday, lasting 4 IP allowing 8H/10R/9ER with 4K:3BB and 4 HR allowed. The Golden Sombrero was much coveted this weekend, as 2B-Jose Thompson wore it after Sunday’s 0x4 with 4K performance. CF-Brandon Barnes was 3x4 with 1 R. LF-Adam Bailey went 2x4 with 1 HR and 1R/3RBI.

Man of the Weekend: Brandon Barnes.

Lancaster (55-84)

Lancaster broke out the bats over the weekend, beating the Lake Elsinore Storm 11-3 Saturday and 11-10 in 10 innings Sunday.

Saturday’s starter Zach Grimmett gave 6.2 IP allowing 4H/2ER with 6K:4BB. RF-Grant Hogue was 3x5 with 2 2B and 3 R. SS-Jio Mier went 2x4 with 1 2B and 3R/1RBI. 2B-Andrew Simunic was 2x4 with 1 3B and 1 HR. DH-Erik Castro was 1x4 with 1 HR, a first inning grand slam. CF-Austin Wates went 1x4 with 1 3B, 1 SB, and 1R/2RBI.

Wes Musick was roughed up Sunday, going 3.2 IP allowing 7H/6ER with 4K:2BB. Bobby Doran threw 4.2 IP in relief, giving up 2H/1ER with 2K:2BB to give the JetHawks a chance to get back in the game. RF-Grant Hogue was 1x4 with 1 SB and 1R. SS-Jio Mier went 2x4 with 1 3B and 1R/1RBI. 3B-Jonathan Meyer went 2x4 with 1 HR. LF-Daniel Adamson went 1x4 with 1 HR and 3 RBI. C-Federico Hernandez was the hero, going 2x4 with 2 HR, including the walkoff 3 run homerun in the tenth.

Man of the Weekend: Jio Mier.

Lexington (57-79)

The Legends lost 6-2 Saturday. Sunday’s game was rained out, to be played as part of a double header today.

David Martinez threw 5 IP allowing 10H/4ER with 1K in the loss. LF-Bryce Lane was 1x3 with 1 HR, a two run shot in the ninth to avoid the shutout. 1B-Telvin Nash was 2x3 with 1 2B.

Man of the Weekend: Bryce Lane

Tri-City (33-42)

The ValleyCats dropped the last two games of the season to the Vermont Lake Monsters, 13-0 Saturday and 11-7 Sunday.

Tri-City pitchers played good cop, bad cop Saturday. Starter Juri Perez got lit up, lasting just .2 IP giving up 6H/8ER with 1K:1BB and allowed 3 HR. Travis Smink then came on and gave a strong 3.1 IP outing in relief, allowing 2H with 6K:1BB. Joan Belliard took his turn, lasting 1.2 IP allowing 2H/5ER with 2K:3BB. Kristian Bueno finished the game on a high note, giving 2.1 IP allowing 3H/0ER with 4K:1BB. 2B-Neiko Johnson was 2x3 with 1 SB. SS-Miguel Arrendell was 2x4. OF-Drew Muren went 2x4.

Kyle Hallock went 2.1 IP giving up 5H/6ER with 3K:1BB. Dayan Diaz kept things close with his 3.2 IP allowing 3H/1ER with 4K. Travis Blankenship took the loss with .2 IP, giving up 3H/3R/2ER with 1BB. LF-Jordan Scott went 2x3 with 1 3B, 1 SB, and 1R/3RBI. CF-Drew Muren was 2x5 with 1 RBI.

Man of the Weekend: Drew Muren

Greeneville (25-41)

Season over

GCL Astros (20-34)

Season over

DSL Astros (27-40)

Season over