Friday, November 23, 2012

Astros Inferno: The Second Circle of Hell

We continue our series on Dante's Inferno as an allegory for Astros fandom, published every Friday.

In the second circle of Hell, we encounter those overcome by lust. Dante blasts the "carnal malefactors" for letting their appetites sway their reason. They are the first residents of Hell to be actually punished. This is a place devoid of light, the unforgiving winds of desire are punishment for their transgressions. The hurricane never rests, smiting its residents. Reason has been betrayed in search of pleasure and instant gratification. Those who have been unable to control their desires and natural urges reside here, whose actions led them and their lovers to death.

November 27, 2006. Here sits Drayton McLane, in search of instant gratification, unwilling to go through the desperately-needed rebuilding process and eschewing reason to continue his desire of playoff berths and pennants. His minion stands to his left, those objects of his instant gratification to his right - the Guinevere to Drayton's Lancelot.

The hurricane never rests, and we are smitten because of it. Here we encounter Drayton McLane, unable to control his desires.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

40-Man Roster set squarely at 36

Okay, the Astros have protected all the players they are going to protect for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. And the players added to the 40-Man roster are:

Jose Cisnero, Jarred Cosart, Robbie Grossman, Chia-Jen Lo, Brett Oberholtzer, Ross Seaton and Jonathan Villar.

We also find that the Astros lost reliever Mickey Storey to the Yankees in a waiver claim, and Scott Moore has been outrighted off the 40-Man Roster - he can elect free agency, or accept the assignment to Oklahoma City.

The 40-Man Roster now stands at 36 players, giving the Astros some flexibility as they explore trades and the Rule 5 draft. McTaggart has some reaction from those added to the 40-Man, as well as Jeff Luhnow. Moore, for one, isn't happy:
"I'm a little bit surprised by the decision, and I'm not sure if I would come back yet."

Among the surprises who were not protected were Marc Krauss, Josh Zeid, and Jason Stoffel. Luhnow says:
"We're at the point now as an organization (where) we are starting to build some depth, so you are risking losing some guys..."

The Chron's Brian Smith says the Astros have several players drawing interest from other clubs and while talks continue, nothing is imminent. He also added that the Astros aren't likely to lock up any arbitration players with long-term deals, preferring the financial flexibility that comes with going year-to-year. So, sorry Jed Lowrie, Wesley Wright, and Bud Norris.

Losing on Purpose

Dave Cameron, over at Fangraphs, offered some thoughts on the idea of rebuilding, in light of the Marlins latest sell-off. As is so often the case recently when discussing bad teams, the Astros came up. Dave wasn't exactly critical, but he did note the effect the consistent losing has had on Astros' attendance.

From 2007 to 2010, the Astros averaged 77 wins per season and never finished higher than third in the standings. During those four years, their attendance dwindled from 3.0 million fans per season to 2.3 million fans per season. In the last two seasons, where they’ve averaged 55 wins per season, their attendance went from 2.3 million down to 1.6 million. In other words, they lost as many fans in two years of being atrocious as they did in four years of being mediocre.

I noted a similar effect on the TV ratings yesterday in my post about Deshaies. People simply aren't tuning in or going to games to see a 100+ loss team.

Obviously, the Marlins' situation and the Astros' situation are vastly different. Poor choices led the Astros to a point where tearing down was the only legitimate option. But I think its important to remember that the casual fan doesn't care that Jim Callis rated the Astros' top 10 prospect list #3 in the AL, or that the Astros had three players in the AFL Rising Stars game this year. They want to go to a game to see the home town win, and if there is less than a 35% chance of that happening, they just won't go. Dave's right, the calculus is not merely playoffs v. no playoffs, and losing really takes its toll on a fan base.

The Astros primary goal right now has to be making themselves truly competitive in a couple years, but if they maintain that goal while making the team marginally better next year, it will help them in the long run. If 2013 is as rough as 2012, or worse, the fans will continue to stay away. The Astros better hope that when the rebuilding comes to fruition, they start to come back. 

A hilariously sad email from Astros' Customer Service

Citizen Brian Stevenson tweeted the following today, an email "communication" between the Astros' Customer Service department and himself:

Good God.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Astros not the only team kicking Berkman's tires

I'm already tired of this. Mark Berman talked to Lance Berkman (no relation) who said that a number of teams were checking in on Berkman. Among the teams not named "Astros:" Rays, Red Sox, and Phillies.

If Berkman is interested in staying close to home, then the Astros are obviously in the lead. If he's interested in winning, then obviously any of the other three teams are going to be better bets for Berkman (how's that for alliteration). If it turns into a bidding war, I'd expect the Astros to be out, but who the hell knows?

Why the Outrage?

So, as noted in this morning's link dump, Jim Deshaies interviewed with the Cubs this weekend. News of that interview immediately created anger and outrage throughout Astros fandom. A lot of this outrage came before any facts were known, which is so unlike the internet. But even after Dave Barron provided more details, the outrage only abated somewhat. So, I honestly want to know: Why are we so angry at the Astros for something they don't want to happen, and which has not happened yet?

I get from that article that the Astros want JD back, and he wanted to come back as well. Now, several people have argued that they should have locked him up sooner, and maybe that's the case, but was anybody really expecting the Cubs, or any other team for that matter, to come calling? It seems like this was rather out of the blue for everyone. According to the article, JD's contract expires in February. From the sound of it, both sides fully expected to extend the contract well before then. However, when the Cubs called, he decided, in his own words "Well, that's worth talking about."  

And can you blame him? I mean, I watch Astros games. You likely watch Astros games. But the product they put on the field last year resulted in the lowest ratings in the majors. Dare we forget the mid September .05 rating the Astros pulled in?  The Cubs bring a bigger market, more eyeballs, and more national exposure. We all know that Deshaies is talented enough for bigger and better things. If he decides that he wants to move on, are we going to begrudge him that?

That's not to say he will move on. I sincerely hope that he stays on. The Cubs would be foolish not to offer him the job, but if they do, I hope the Astros give him what he needs to stay. He makes some miserable play on the field enjoyable. However, if he does leave, I will still be an Astros fan. I will still watch whoever they get to replace him. Losing someone who makes miserable baseball enjoyable will sting less when the the baseball is no longer miserable to watch. On that front, I continue to believe the Astros are on the right path.

That Moment When

We here at Astros County are trying to figure out ways to make the off-season pass. And "watching football," and "spending time with family" just isn't cutting it. So we're proud to start a series written by you, dear reader, entitled "That Moment When." We will provide prompts, and you write in with your story related to the Astros. We then publish it, and you live in blogger glory forEVER. Rules:

1) Email your submission to astroscounty (at)
2) Since this is for a blog, all submissions must be typed while in your mother's basement, and pants-less.
3) Best submissions (no limit to the number) will be published at AC, with full credit given to you.

The first prompt of the off-season: That Moment When You Became an Astros Fan. Send us the story of when you knew that - for better or worse - you were an Astros fan.

Have at it!

While You Were Drinking: Weekend Link Dump

Some fairly big news related to the Astros over the weekend - what do you miss?

Jim Deshaies might not be in the booth next year. TCB was all over this over the weekend, but news broke that Deshaies has interviewed to call games for the Cubs.

David Barron has an update from JD:
“I spoke with George at the end of the year, and he was reassuring and said we like your work and we want you back. It’s a case of getting the call from Chicago and them asking if I would be interested in the job and thinking, ‘Well, that’s worth talking about.’ ”

We are, of course, in agreement with all the outrage. For those of us who live out-of-market, Deshaies was enough to get us to watch 213 losses over the last two seasons. It's hard to believe that both JD and Bill Brown weren't locked up far enough in advance so that Deshaies didn't have a chance to talk to the Cubs.

It sounds as though the ball is in the Cubs court, and the Astros let that happen. Deshaies said he would wait to hear from the Cubs before deciding either way. Let's all hope that the Astros pull their heads out and keep Deshaies.
Berkman in mix as DH.

We've talked about this before, but Lance Berkman is going to be a volunteer coach at Rice before determining if he wants to come back to baseball. He told McTaggart on Friday that he plans to play in 2013.  He indicated to Crane that he would be interested in joining the Astros, and also had lunch with new manager Bo Porter, and characterized the nature of the conversation as "informal."

"There was absolutely no discussion of me signing a contract. They've said they have some interest, but so far, they haven't made an offer."

It's pretty clear that a 75% Berkman is better - on paper, anyway - than any 2013 option the Astros have right now. He brings familiarity to what will be a wholly unfamiliar situation, new uniforms, new league, new faces. Is he worth it? For $5m + incentives...maybe.
Jim Callis ranks the Astros as one of the top three systems in the AL.

In his chat, Baseball America's Jim Callis has nice things to say about the Astros' system:
Based on our BA Grades, the AL's three best Top 10s belong to (in order) the Mariners, Rangers and Astros.

FanGraphs Top 15 Prospects

The fine folks at FanGraphs have posted their top 15 Astros prospects list.

The top three are 1) Singleton, 2) Correa, 3)DeShields.

Just as an idea of how far the farm system has come in the past season, not included in the top 15 are Domingo Santana and Jonathan Villar.