Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lineup posted for Saturday's ST1

New broadcaster Robert Ford (who actually is quite entertaining on Twitter) posted the lineup card for the first 2013 Astros Spring Training game. Your lineup:

1. Tyler Greene - SS
2. Marwin Gonzalez - 2B
3. Justin Maxwell - CF
4. Chris Carter - 1B
5. Fernando Martinez - LF
6. Nate Freiman - DH
7. Matt Dominguez - 3B
8. Carlos Corporan - C
9. Justin Trevor Crowe - RF (I went to college with a "Justin Crowe")

Jose Altuve, Brett Wallace, and Carlos Pena are all fine - apparently it's just a scheduled Rest Day for all three. 

Astros were interested in Dom Brown

Not really "News" per se, but the Astros are reported to have had trade talks with the Phillies involving the OF Charlie Manuel Loves To Hate - Domonic Brown. But they, uh, of course, didn't.

In 492 Major-League PAs, Brown has hit .236/.315/.388 for the Phillies. In seven minor-league seasons, however, Brown posted a .296/.373/.461 line.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bovada sets Astros win O/U at 59.5

Here is the Twitpic of the 2013 season win over/under from Bovada. The Astros' O/U is 59.5 wins. How that compares to the rest of the AL:

Detroit: 92.5
LA Angels: 92.5
NY Yankees: 88.5
Toronto: 87.5
Tampa Bay: 86.5
Texas: 86.5
Oakland: 83.5
Boston: 82.5
Chicago White Sox: 80.5
Baltimore: 78.5
Kansas City: 78.5
Seattle: 77.5
Cleveland: 76.5
Minnesota: 67.5
Houston: 59.5

So, as far as Over/Unders go, the Astros are eight games worse than the next-to-worst team in the AL. Only the Marlins come in under the Twins, with their O/U win total set at 63.5.


Baseball America on Rio Ruiz

Baseball America asked their writers to pick a player who could jump on to the 2014 BA Top 100 Prospect list. Nathan Rode chose 2012 4th Round pick Rio Ruiz. Click the link for the whole thing, but here's your money quote:

He has tremendous strength in his wrist and hands, leading to a good feel for hitting and plus raw power. Like a lot of high school players, he needs polish, but he has the ability to be an average hitter with at least average power in games.

Lance Berkman already hurt

Anyone who had "February 20" in the When Will Lance Berkman Get Hurt pool can come collect your money at the window. Our old pal Evan Grant tweeted this morning that Lance has a mild right calf strain, and that he "says it is just slightly more than usual soreness."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ah hell, here we go.

I was waiting on it. I spent two weeks waiting on it. But here we are.

Fernando Martinez, potential Astros outfielder, has been linked to the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic which has already prompted denials from Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, among others.

Martinez, who has spent more time on the DL than he has on an active roster*, apparently/allegedly owes Tony Bosch $4000 - $2000 in each February and March 2012.

The Astros have no comment.

*more or less

The Chronicle's Brian Smith notes that Martinez is represented by ACES, owned by Seth and Sam Levinson. Ten of the 25 players implicated in the Biogenesis "scandal/non-scandal" are ACES clients.

When Drayton almost moved the Astros to Virginia

Maybe you remember, maybe you don't. I had to spend some time taking some hate-filled trips down Memory Lane to get the full story in my mind of when Drayton almost sold the Astros to D.C. businessman Bill Collins, whereupon he would move the Astros to northern Virginia.

On October 18, 1995 owner Drayton McLane confirmed the possibility that he had discussed the possibility of selling the team to a group headed by telecom magnate Bill Collins "on three occasions" with the expressed intentions of relocating the franchise to Virginia. Collins had previously attempted to buy the Pirates, Expos, Mariners, and Giants.

The AP report said that "dismal fan support is forcing McLane to consider a sale simply to protect his personal fortune." Among Drayton's claims:

1) He personally lost $65 million in the three years after buying the team from Dr. John McMullen
2) McLane could lose $20 million in 1996.

McLane told the AP:
"I have visited with Bill Collins but it is premature to draw any conclusions from our talks...If we had just been able to break even, this would not be an issue. We have to face reality. I'm not sure whether Houston can be a baseball town in today's financial situation with the game."

This prompted Mayor Bob Lanier and Harris County officials to meet with Drayton the following week. Lanier:
"I think the community needs to help him, and I want to help him as best I can...If we want to keep the Astros, if they are important to this just comes down to people buying season tickets."

Drayton gave the city two weeks to demonstrate the fan support necessary for Drayton not to sell the team, and keep them in Houston.

Yet within that two week window, ESPN and the Washington Post both reported on October 27, 1995 that Drayton had agreed to sell the Astros to Bill Collins for $150 million. George Barton, of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, was quoted as saying "an agreement has been made. There has been a handshake." Denials were made, and "vigorously."

While NL officials were qualifying the deal as in its infancy - McLane hadn't been given permission to even start negotiating - he was still at least asking for permission. (Interestingly enough, in the previously linked NYT story, the Astros had just interviewed Gerry Hunsicker - the Mets' assistant vice president of baseball operations - for the open GM job.

On November 7, we got an update. McLane was alleged to demand the sale of at least 25,000 season tickets to keep the Astros in Houston (who averaged approximately 19,000 fans in the strike-shortened season). McLane's attendance goal was between 30,000-35,000.

Mayor Lanier and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels created a committee to study the possibility of building a new stadium downtown, but Eckels didn't sound optimistic:
"I have no idea what is going to happen. I'm hoping to talk with him before making a decision."

McLane met with two U.S. Representatives and complained further about "losing money:"
"The question is: Do the people of Houston really want to support a major-league baseball team? And if not, the team should go elsewhere."

McLane wanted serious improvements made to the Astrodome, but said in late October that a retractable-roof stadium would be the most ideal option for the team.

Negotiations dragged on for almost a year. 48 of the 81 home games at the Astrodome saw attendance over 20,000 as the Astros finished 82-80, 2nd in the NL Central.

Early on September 13, 1996, McLane told the AP:
"We made a lot of progress in the last two days, so we hope we could reach some agreement in the next three days. I'm very confident that we can. But if we can't, we would move forward."

He told the Chronicle that he wanted $20m - payable over three years - to cover his estimated losses  until financing for the stadium was approved. This was double what Judge Eckels was willing to pay. If this was not agreed to, McLane would resume negotiations with Bill Collins.

Later that day McLane and Houston/Harris County officials struck a deal to keep the Astros in Houston for 30 years in a downtown stadium.

A November 1996 referendum passed in Harris County with only 51% of the vote (out of over 775,000 votes, it passed by under 17,000 votes) to construct a $265m stadium downtown - which was enough to keep McLane happy, and keep the Astros in Houston. McLane said:
 "This will keep baseball here well into the next century. This is something we had to have to be competitive and I'll be happy to tell the other owners that we're moving forward in Houston."

And that, friends, is how Uncle Drayton held Houston hostage until they agreed to build him a shiny new stadium, on which construction began on October 31, 1997 and Enron Field opened on April 7, 2000.

Jordan Schafer was "excited" to leave Houston

Trust me, broheim, the feeling is mutual.

Jordan Schafer told yesterday that he just couldn't handle all the losing in Houston in 2012:
"I was excited just to get out of that situation. More than anything, I couldn't take that much losing. I've never lost at anything like that. It was kind of like you were just expected to lose. ... That's just not a good feeling."

Oh, but wait. He's changed! He's more mature! Not as much swagger! (Basically the same thing we were told about Schafer heading into 2012). Yes, the Astros were expected to lose a lot. And, yes, it had a little to do with the CF posting up a .591 OPS. 

Tuesday Lunchtime Link Dump

Here's your Tuesday Lunchtime Link Dump:

*The Astros never made an offer to Lance Berkman:
"I totally understand and it was probably the right thing to do given the plan that they have in place.”

*The New York Post is butt-hurt about the Astros' potential impact on the AL Wild Card race. 

*Players in whom the Astros are not interested (somehow this is news-worthy): Vlad Guerrero, Mike Carp.

*Roger Clemens has no plans to coach or manage.

*Jordan Lyles hasn't been assured of a rotation spot.

*Carlos Pena is mentoring Chris Carter.

Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects

Baseball America posted their Top 100 prospects list today, and my my, there's some good news for Astros fans:

Carlos Correa - #13
Jon Singleton - #27
George Springer - #37
Lance McCullers - #50
Delino DeShields, Jr - #99

The Cardinals, Marlins, and Twins have six prospects each on the Top 100 list while the Astros join the D-amon-b--ks, Mariners, Pirates, Rays and Red Sox with five each. The Rangers have three prospects on the Top 100 list (including #1 overall prospect Jurickson Profar) while the Angels and A's have one each. 

The Identity of the Astros

The following comment was left on Astros County's post on the rebuild. I really felt like it was worth addressing. 

"But with the major differences in rules and strategy between the two leagues in baseball, the Astros switching leagues is a very good reason to dump the team. And honestly I believe if you continue to support the team then you were never a true fan to begin with because the REAL Astros died last year. The REAL Astros are a NL team. Any AL version is just a zombie version of the real Astros were no matter how successful they become after the switch. They aren't the same team or the same franchise. And honestly anybody who supports them is a traitor to the city of Houston and should just pack their bags and move to Dallas."

That is preposterous. Being a fan is irrational at its core, and so its all right if you stop rooting for the Astros for any reason at all. It doesn't make you a bad person. But don't try to justify it. Don't try to rationalize it. Admit that YOU are abandoning the team, not the other way around. The Astros will still be playing at Minute Maid Park. They will be decked out in Orange and Blue, which is what they should have been wearing this whole time. The NL Championship banner from 2005 will still be flying. Numbers 5 and 7 will still be retired, along with 24, 25, 32, 33, 34, 40 and 49. The team that gave us so many great memories, and so much heartache, will still be ready to give us more of both. They aren't leaving. If you leave, fine. But don't blame them. 

Unless you think that the true identity of the Astros is solely wrapped up into whether Bud Norris hits for himself. Unless you think that the most important part of all of that history is the fact that for all of the years, the Astros pitchers were hitting for themselves. For all the talk of the differences between the AL and NL, there really is only one. In 1973 the American League added the Designated Hitter. I have never liked it. I still don't like it. But, they still play baseball. There are still 9 innings, four balls and three strikes. And the Astros are still the Astros. 

The Astros are more than just the pitcher hitting. They are bigger than Jim Crane. They are bigger than any league switch. If the Astros defected from the U.S. Major Leagues to join the Nippon Profession League, I would follow (weirder start times, but no DH). If you can't bring yourself to watch Carlos Pena (or whoever, not really clear on that yet) hit for Norris, that's your prerogative. As for me, I am hoping for an AL Championship banner to hang next to that NL one in the near future. And I don't think that makes me a bad fan. Quite the opposite, in fact.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Survivor: Kissimmee - Feb 18

Totally lost track of the days, so here are your Monday morning updates from Kissimmee.

9:30am: It is revealed that Axel from The Walking Dead was once a scout for the Astros.

8:47am: Bo Porter says Chris Carter has the potential to be a "game-changer."

8:39am: Bud Norris has had a death in the family, and will fly back to California today.

7:41am: Hector Ambriz (ankle) is out of his protective boot today, and will make some throws.

7:29am: Roger Clemens is in camp! (Longer article here)

12:24am: Your ST1 starter on Saturday against Philadelphia will be Lucas Harrell, with Bud Norris getting the ST2 start on Sunday.

From what looks like it was posted a few days ago, listen to this Sirius XM interview with Jeff Luhnow on the Astros.