Friday, November 9, 2012

Luhnow addresses off-season plans

Brian T. Smith, the new beat-writer for the Chronicle, has been tweeting out some notes from an interview with Jeff Luhnow from the GM Meetings. Among those notes:

*The Astros "have cooled" on pursuing Lance Berkman. He isn't sure if his knees will hold up (Berkman's, not Luhnow's).
*Luhnow's plan is to keep control of arbitration-eligible players, and not pursue any trades. He'll listen to offers, though.
*The free agents Luhnow is interested in will be the types looking for 1- and 2-year deals.

So that means that there:

1) Likely won't be deals for Bud Norris, Jed Lowrie, Wesley Wright, etc.
2) Will be no play for Josh Hamilton, thankfully.

Astros Inferno: Overview and the Vestibule of Hell

Good morning, Astros fans! Today we kick off a weekly series in which we make the analogy of being an Astros fan and Virgil's guided tour of Hell for Dante Alighieri. That's right, Astros fans, we have been through all nine levels of Hell as described in Dante's Inferno.

Let's start with the Overview and the Vestibule of Hell (summaries in italics are mine)...

Dante, "halfway along our life's path," finds himself lost in a dark wood in front of a mountain, beset by three beasts - a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf. Thus, he cannot find the right way to salvation. 

Of course Dante represents Astros fans. We were lost in a dark wood in front of Tal's Hill. Clearly the lion, leopard and she-wolf represents Drayton, Tal Smith, and Pam Gardner. Salvation was nowhere to be found.

Dante knows that he is ruining himself and is rescued by Virgil where the two of them begin their travels through the underworld. As they pass through the gate of Hell, Dante notices a sign in which the final line of the inscription is "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" or:

Before entering Hell, Dante and Virgil see the Uncommitted - those who did nothing good or evil. They are not in Hell, but they're not out of Hell, either. The punishment of the Uncommitted is to be pursued or stung by wasps or hornets that continually sting them, among other punishments. 

Perhaps you remember this, from July 2, 2009:

Dante and Virgil reach the ferry that will take them to Hell. Charon - the pilot - doesn't want to let Dante enter because he is still alive. Dante faints and wakes up in Hell.

Next week: Limbo!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"How this club will compete in its first season in the American League West, I have no earthly idea."

That wonderful, uplifting quote comes to us courtesy of Ken Rosenthal. Yes, there's nothing else to write about, so let's talk about how the Astros have become Major League Baseball's version of Andrew Jackson (he paid off the National Debt in 1835 - bet you didn't expect to read that on Astros County today, huh?) - don't owe anybody any money, and don't even care.

There's all sorts of hand-wringing about "How are they going to be competitive!" and there's the channeling of Derrick Goold. Rosenthal estimates an Opening Day payroll of around $30m. Luhnow says it might happen.

"But how this club will compete in its first season in the American League West, I have no earthly idea."

I don't understand what the hang-up is with this. Maybe it's because the Astros aren't in Michigan (eliminating Jon Morosi's, who is still drunk after the Tigers got swept, interest). Maybe Ken Rosenthal could wear a bow-tie that would support the Astros one Saturday in 2013.

How will the Astros compete in 2013? They won't. They're not supposed to. We've said it over and over again. 2012's 107  losses sucked approximately one loss more than 2011, and that's about it. 2012 was not about 2012, just as 2013 will not be about 2013. 2013 will be about 2014, 2015, and beyond. 2013 will be another year of development for the minor-leaguers (Singleton, Cosart, Springer, DeShields, etc.), and a year of getting familiar with Bo Porter, his methods, expectations, and his staff.

Think of how incredulous everyone will be if the Astros throw money at Josh Hamilton. "What for!" they'll yell. "They've got a bunch of raisin cakes down there running things!" they'll scream. (The Astros won't sign Josh Hamilton, by the way.) So, save your money, invest in scouting, sign international free agents, prepare for the draft, and build the war chest to pay good money to Jon Singleton - don't sign a free agent because it would be fun, and it would get Rosenthal off their backs. 

2012 should have been a prime example about how the Astros don't give two craps about what anyone thinks - and I don't mean that in a bad way. This team does things the way they want to. Convention got them to 100 losses, being unconventional will get them to respectability quicker. 

Spring Training Dates

The Astros will open Grapefruit League play on February 23, 2013 against the Phillies in Clearwater, and will end Spring Training on March 28.

Wait. Against the Phillies? We did it! Back in the NL! /pumps fist

MiLB's Organizational All-Stars

So Minor League Baseball posted the Astros' organizational All-Stars today, and it's well worth your time. You can click the link and read the full descriptions for yourselves, but here's the short list:

C: Tyler Heineman
1B: Jon Singleton
2B: Delino DeShields
3B: Matt Duffy
SS: Angel Sanchez
OF: George Springer, Domingo Santana, Brandon Barnes
DH: Erik Castro

RHP: Mike Foltynewicz
LHP: Brian Holmes
Closer: Jason Stoffel

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Let's not mess with this Delmon Young cat

It's been rumored for a few days now that the Astros could be interested in acquiring Delmon Young, now that they need something called a "Designated Hitter."

Well, this morning Young pled (pleaded?) guilty to "aggravated harassment for shouting anti-Semitic slurs & tackling a man in New York City in April."

I'm all for giving a guy a second chance, but let's all just agree to give Delmon Young and his.267/.296/.411 line a pass.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Astros name David Stearns as Assistant GM

Brian McTaggart just tweeted that the Astros have named David Stearns as the new Assistant GM.

Stearns, 27, is a Harvard graduate, and was the Indians' Director of Baseball Operations - the youngest in his position in MLB. While with the Indians, Stearns focused on player contracts and analysis. Prior to joining the Indians, he spent three years with the Commissioner's office working on "salary arbitration, contracts, and was a member of MLB's negotiating team on the new basic agreement."

“At some point, [age] doesn’t matter a tremendous amount. It’s more about what you can bring to the table, if your skill set matches what is needed for the particular position.”

From the linked story, Stearns' college roommate:
“[Stearns] was always a very analytical guy, very rational, a real problem solver. He’ll approach any problem or challenge...with the same focus and sense of responsibility and really the same temperament.”

As Zach Levine astutely noted, the CEO, Assistant GM, Marketing VP, and Baseball Operations Coordinator are all Harvard-educated.

Jim Bowden's free agent "Best Fits"

So Jim Bowden posted on ESPN (Insider) a whole bunch of free agents, with contract predictions and "Best Fits." Which free agents are "best fits" for the Astros?

(Short answer: Not many places. Jeff Luhnow is heading to the GM meetings with the goal of "due diligence" and that's about it.)

Catcher Mike Napoli, with a (predicted) 3-year, $27m pricetag. Just as a reminder: This.
OF/DH Delmon Young, 2-year, $12m.
DH Lance Berkman, 1-year, $6m.

BP's Top Ten Astros Prospects

Up and at 'em today as AC recovers from a weekend in Oklahoma for a funeral...

Baseball Prospectus posted their Top 10 Astros prospects. You need a subscription to read the whole thing, but the free part they handed out is the list:

1. Jon Singleton
2. Carlos Correa
3. George Springer
4. Delino DeShields, Jr
5. Jarred Cosart
6. Jonathan Villar
7. Domingo Santana
8. Rio Ruiz
9. Lance McCullers
10. Mike Foltynewicz

A few things about this list:

*Four of this list (Singleton, Cosart, Villar, Santana) came to the Astros via trades with the Phillies - Singleton, Cosart, and Santana in the Pence trade, and Villar in the Oswalt trade.
*Correa, Ruiz, and McCullers were all drafted in 2012.
*Only Singleton and Cosart spent most of 2012 above High-A.

Tell me your feelings.