Sunday, December 6, 2020

Monday Morning Hot Links

*Joel Sherman says the Mets' top targets include George Springer and Trevor Bauer. And it wouldn't be the first time that a beloved Astros outfielder signed a free agent deal with the Mets. 

*Alex Bregman got married, if that's the sort of news that interests you.

*Back in 2014, growing weary of thinking of the Astros in their current form, I started profiles of the eight players who only appeared in one MLB game, that one game coming with the Astros. I made it through five before the Astros started, like, winning more games than they were losing. There were seven. McTaggart wrote up shorter profiles on all seven.

*This is from about a week ago, but the Nationals' Spencer Kieboom built his life around baseball, and then quietly walked away. Good article. 

*Leeds United lost to The Bastard Frank Lampard's Chelsea 3-1 on Saturday, and I was still so mad last night putting up the Christmas Tree that my wife got mad at me. Leeds are at 8% to get relegated, according to FiveThirtyEight. With 14 points after 11 games, Leeds are in a decent position. What's more, out of Leeds' first 11 games, they've played teams currently in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th (with 3 wins, 1 tie, 4 losses in those eight games). I did the math, and in the last ten seasons of the Premier League, the 18th place team - the highest of the relegated teams - averaged 35 points. Leeds still has 27 games to get 22 points and remain in the Premier League AND THEN DOMINATE.

*Consequence of Sound's Top 50 Songs of 2020.

*I requested this from my library today and I am very excited about it.

*Wired: A race car crash from hell - and the science that saved its driver.

*Outside: Meet the twins who thru-hiked the AT, PCT, and CDT.

*Texas Observer: 60 years ago, San Antonio teenagers invented the Westside Sound.

*A Musical Selection:

Friday, December 4, 2020

Saturday Morning Hot Links

SATURDAY IS LEEDS VS THE BASTARD FRANK LAMPARD AND HIS BAND OF CHELSEA ROGUES AT 2PM. FiveThirtyEight gives Leeds United a 29% chance of getting a single point out of the game, so I'm looking forward to Nate Silver's algorithm eating a whole pile of crap.

*Brian McTaggart posted some thoughts as the off-season seems to look like it's about to pick up some speed. He has some notes about the bullpen, the outfield, and Josh Reddick.

*22-year old Hunter Brown, the Astros' 5th Round pick in 2019, is one prospect who says the Astros could trade:

He can reach 98mph, maintain mid-90s velocity deep into games and he unveiled a wipeout curveball during instructional league.

*Jake Kaplan has his Mailbag, Part Two on the Astros' future catching situation and the bullpen.

*ESPN's Dan Szymborski says the Astros should sign Masahiro Tanaka, and I don't disagree with the idea.

*Former Astros Great Ronald Torreyes has signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies.

*The Athletic's Jen McCaffrey: How FanGraphs catapulted from a super-nerd site to the baseball mainstream.

*FiveThirtyEight: Who is the most chaotic movie football coach?

*Friday was December 4th, also known as Jay-Z's birthday. If you have not come into contact with Danger Mouse's (half of Broken Bells, the other half being the lead singer of The Shins) Grey Album - in which he mashes up the instrumentals from The Beatles' White Album with the vocals from Jay-Z's Black Album, then I'm about to do you a favor.

*GQ: The best things about the worst year ever.

*A Musical Selection:

Friday Morning Hot Links

Alright, there's life in this off-season yet. Again: I'm perfectly fine with a boring off-season. 

*The Astros, unsurprisingly, tendered contracts to Carlos MF Correa, Lance McCullers, and Aledmys Diaz, and agreed to terms on a 1-year deal with Austin Pruitt. Correa and McCullers will be free agents after 2021 if they don't sign an extension. Fun, huh?

*Chandler Rome: Five non-tendered players the Astros could consider this off-season.

*Jeremy Pena - the Astros' 3rd-Round pick in 2018 - is one of the best-hitting prospects in the Dominican Winter League.

*Here's one of the dumbest things you'll read today: if the Yankees can't sign DJ LeMahieu (French for "DJ The Mahieu") then their Plan B is...Michael Brantley.

*Former Astros Great Thomas Eshelman has cleared waivers and is now a free agent.

*FanGraphs has an updated international prospect list

*The Staten Island Yankees have filed a lawsuit against the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball, setting the stage for a battle between 60% of the Five Boroughs, something that Don Winslow warned is a Really Not Good Idea.

*Another Michael Bourn Identity episode records today and drops on Monday. Subscribe to Lima Time Time on iTunes/Spotify/Wherever so you don't miss interviews with my friends. 

*Why we forget how early it gets dark every year

*Texas Monthly: How a Black cowboy's discovery changed the field of archaeology.

*A Musical Selection:

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

This offseason is uneventful so far. And, having lived through last off-season, I'm perfectly fine with that. AstroLine is back on Thursday night from 6-7pm, featuring Robert Ford/Steve Sparks interviewing GM Jiminy Clicket. 

*Josh Reddick said goodbye to Houston. Goodbye, Josh Reddick, fare thee well. 

*The Astros have asked for unconditional release waivers for Cy Sneed, clearing the way for his move to Japan. The 40-Man Roster stands at 38 Men.

*Peter Solomon, the Astros' 4th Round pick in the 2017 Draft, has recovered from Tommy John Surgery and is ready to go for 2021 Spring Training. Solomon, who has thrown 109.1IP for the Astros in the minors and struck 128 batters (with 36 walks), will be in his Age 24 season in 2021. 

*This is about a week old but Jose Alberto Rivera is the Astros' most-intriguing prospect available via the Rule 5 Draft.

*FanGraphs' Jay Jaffe breaks down Former Astros Great Billy Wagner's HOF chances via JAWS. Jaffe:

Undersized and from both a broken home and an impoverished rural background, he channeled his frustrations into throwing incredibly hard - with his left hand, despite being a natural righty, for he broke his right arm twice as a child.

Billy Wagner is absolutely a Hall of Famer. I skipped my own wedding shower (at my wife's church, to be fair) to watch Wagner record his 200th save, against the Rays, a 2-1 win that went Redding to Dotel to Wagner. 

*The White Sox non-tendered Carlos Rodon, and I'll give you $20 if you had seen that coming in 2015. Reminder that Rodon, the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 Draft, two picks after the Astros took Brady Aiken. 

*In case you missed it, on Monday morning I posted a delightful 37-minute interview with Astros fan/Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post David Fahrenthold.

*On the 78th anniversary of the event, I wrote about the 1942 Boston College/Holy Cross game and the second-deadliest fire in American history.

*NY Times: This Japanese shop is 1,020 years old and knows a thing or two about surviving a crisis.

*Here are your nominees for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

*A Musical Selection (A Cover, even!)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Saturday Morning Hot Links

The biggest news of the day was that nobody announced that they had signed George Springer to a contract. 

*The 2nd biggest news of the day is that the Occult Yakult Swallows of the Japanese League are on the verge of acquiring Former Astros Great Cy Sneed. Sneed was the Brewers' 3rd Round pick in the 2014 Draft and was acquired by the Astros in November 2015 for Former Astros Great Jonathan Villar. Villar put up 4.5 bWAR for Milwaukee before they traded him and two other dudes for Jonathan Schoop. Sneed threw 38.2IP for the Astros across 2019-2020 with a 5.59 ERA (4.78 FIP) / 1.63 WHIP. 

Of Sneed's 26 games pitched for the Astros, he came into a game in which the Astros were leading when he entered in just nine times. 14 of his 26 appearances came in which the Astros were losing by fewer than four runs. 

That said, good for Sneed, who is likely going to get more opportunities, and a raise, and also gets to pitch closer to home. (Tokyo is 3,409 miles from Kenai, Alaska. Houston is 4,291 miles from Kenai, Alaska). 

The Astros' 40-Man Roster will be at 38 Men. 

*Check your podcast feed because I uploaded a new interview with WFAA producer (and all-around Houston Sports fan) Taylor Williamson. Got a real banger of an episode coming on Monday morning. 

*The Athletic: Bonds, Heaters, and Crying on Cue: The Lost F***ing Stories of Jim Leyland. You can get a 1yr subscription to The Athletic for $1/month. 

*Wired: The absolute best online Black Friday deals.

*Outside: Five highlights from the Banff Film Festival you can stream online.

*Vice: Everything you already forgot that happened in 2020.

*The Fall of Ahmad Ahmad: African Soccer's most powerful man.

*Leeds United plays Everton at 11:30am Central on Saturday morning.

*A Musical Selection from Elbow, whose album "The Seldom Seen Kid" is very easily in my Top Ten of All-Time. It's one of those albums you can hit Play on, and just sit there and listen to it start-to-finish. The following is part of a concert in which Elbow played the album in its entirety with the BBC Concert Orchestra live at Abbey Road, and it's phenomenal. Click the link to find the other videos.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

There isn't much to report today, but it turns out that I somehow kind of miss doing this. So here we go! I do hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving and if you're staying at home instead of meeting up with family, you're not alone. AC HQ is doing the same thing. If you're joining a massive family gathering, I do hope you take plenty of precautions. This pandemic isn't permanent, but we sure can extend the hell out of it. 

*Will Leitch runs down the most likely destinations for George Springer.

*Brian McTaggart has an inbox about possible Springer replacements (should it come to that), the possibility of a Robinson Chirinos reunion, Yordan, Verlander, Michael Brantley, and Sugar Land.

*Bob Klapisch: 2021 Spring Training could be delayed by 4-6 weeks with the possibility of another shortened season.

*"Where the hell did that come from?" Wrexham fans reflect on the purchase of their soccer team by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McIlhenny.

*Diego Maradona passed away on Wednesday at the age of 60. I mean, screw that guy AND SCREW THE REFEREES who allowed his Hand of God goal to stand, but Maradona was a genius. A brilliant, self-destructive genius, but a genius nonetheless. If you have access to HBO, you should definitely check out the documentary about him.


*Texas Monthly: Hundreds of people are knitting sweaters for a hairless possum in Lubbock.

*NY Times: 100 Notable Books of 2020.

*Outside: In the Hill Country, these veterans find community through trail running. Last week I tripped on the dog and then tripped on something else, and fell backwards into the side of the couch. I have bruised ribs, possibly cracked, pulled - possibly torn - a muscle near my kidney. This happened right as I was recovering from a broken foot in July when I slipped on some water on the tile near my back door. 2020 can suck it. Running trails sounds awesome. And good for those Vets.

*A Musical Selection:

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

I last posted on Astros County Dot Com on November 13. This may be the longest I've gone without posting on this blog and, to be honest, it's been quite nice. I needed a break from...everything. I haven't posted in a while because there's...been nothing to post about. It's extremely quiet across AstroWorld. Which, I guess, makes sense when you're trying to navigate a global pandemic. 

That said, Ken Rosenthal dropped some notes on Tuesday morning (which he updated later in the morning). I know not everyone subscribes to The Athletic, but it's a pay site, and I respect that. The gist is:

-The Astros are open to the idea of acquiring DJ LeMahieu which, might I remind you, means "DJ The Mahieu" in French...but that would hinge on whether or not the Astros can trade [blinks into the camera for an uncomfortably long time] Carlos Correa. The Astros are apparently listening to offers because, after so long with the Rays, Click may not be aware that extending superstar franchise cornerstones is even an option. Rosenthal said the Astros are not actively shopping Correa but, "like most teams" are at least listening to whatever is happening. Also, don't expect the Astros to try to sign anyone who rejected a Qualifying Offer (Bauer, Realmuto, though LeMahieu fits this profile as well, sooooo).

I can understand listening to any offer. If the Astros tell the Angels, "We will give you our entire Triple-A roster for Mike Trout," I would expect the Angels to listen to that offer. That said, if the Astros trade Carlos Correa this off-season, less than a year after he had the balls to tell Cody Bellinger to shut the fk up on national tv, months removed from jerking a knot in Framber Valdez's chain in the middle of a playoff game, I will be forced to exhale very hard and go for a walk. I can't say that anything the Astros do will make me not watch them - I've had a blog about the Astros since 2008 - there's no debasement I would be unable to withstand. 

*Charlie F. Morton signed a 1yr/$15m deal with the Braves, dashing the hopes and dreams of Astros fans across the world. I think we need to sort of realize that most members of the 2017 Astros team who have had - however theoretical - a chance to return to the Astros, haven't. Altuve and Bregman signed their extensions prior to the Fiers article dropping. That's not to say they wouldn't have, but it's worth noting that maybe getting heckled mercilessly online may have an adverse effect on your mental state when playing a game. 

That's pretty much it as far as the Astros go. That said, you may or may not know that I have started a new podcast: The Michael Bourn Identity. If you subscribe to Lima Time Time on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts, it should be in your feed. If you don't listen to podcasts, but still want to check out the episodes:

Ep. 1 w/Roosh Williams.

Ep. 2 w/Steph Stradley.

Ep. 3 w/AstrosFansUK.

Ep. 4 will drop Wednesday so you have something to listen to if you're executing your ill-advised travel plans for Thanksgiving and I'm recording at least two more episodes this week. I really like just talking to my online friends, but over Zoom.

A quick note on Lima Time Time. As far as I know, it's still an active podcast that is simply on hiatus.

*Randy Arozarena got Milkshake Duck'd as he has been detained in the Yucatan on allegations of domestic violence. 

*Other things (often my personal favorite part of the Hot Links):

-I've been enjoying "Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes" by Maria Konnikova, and her book "Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win" is on deck.

-On Sunday the Fantastic Leeds United tied Arsenal 0-0 despite hitting the post/crossbar three times in the last 15 minutes of the game, and out-shooting Arsenal 25-9, and out-squandering chances Infinity-0. I hate Arsenal. I hate every other team in the Premier League, though, so it's nothing personal. Leeds are 14th in the Premier League, though it feels unlucky so far. Meanwhile, Leeds signed a partnership with Jay-Z's Roc Nation agency, and I love Jay-Z, so shove it. Leeds plays Everton on Saturday morning at 11:30am Central.

-Sergino Dest became the first American to score for Barcelona.

-On Sunday, the 57th anniversary of JFK's death, I wrote on my History Nerd Blog about Judge Sarah T. Hughes, the only woman to ever swear in a president. There's also a recent post about The Compromise of 1877, if that sort of thing catches your fancy.

-Business Insider: A Sommelier rated 11 low-cost wines.

-A Musical Selection:

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday Evening Mailbag

Everyone important seems to have a mailbag. I should have a mailbag. I solicited questions, I will provide answers. I will do this every Friday throughout the offseason, so email questions to astroscounty at gmail dot com. 

Pete Incaviglia, probably the real oneWhat is the Astros outfield going to look like in 2021?

I'm going to say it's Kyle Tucker, Jackie Bradley Jr., and...someone else. The Astros won't bring back Josh Reddick, everything I'm hearing says George Springer wants to play closer to his Connecticut home (read: Red Sox, Mets). I'm really intrigued by Chas McCormick, seeing as how he was added to the roster in the playoffs. The farm system isn't as bad as everyone ranking it says. 

Sam in Sharpstown: How much money does Luhnow walk away with after his lawsuit?

As much as we would like to see this play out with John Grisham writing the script, it's not going to happen. They'll do it in private, the same way that plenty of teams cheat. He sued for something like $22m, he might get half of that just to go away.

Tyler in The Woodlands: Where do I.....I mean.....Trevor Bauer end up?

You, Trevler, will end up...I don't know. A ton of teams need a good starting pitcher. And, regrettably, Trevor Bauer is a good pitcher. He's a jackass, a troll, a no-good-nik, a ne'er-do-well. But he pitches well, and that's valuable. The most troll thing ever would be to go to Houston, but we don't know how Click operates, and we don't know how much money is available. 

Nolan in Alvin: What does the future hold for Forrest Whitley?

Whitley needs to prove that he can keep his head on straight and his arm healthy for more than two months at a time. We need to remember that Forrest Whitley just turned 23 years old. He's less than a year older than Justin Verlander was when he made his MLB debut. We've just been hearing about Whitley for a long time that it feels like a Mark Appel situation - and Whitley is the same age Appel was when the Astros drafted him. I haven't given up on Forrest Whitley, because 2021 might just be the year the Astros need him more than ever, and I hope that his "career" so far has proven that he needs the Astros just as much. 

Bobby in Katy: Will fans be in the stands on opening day?

If you wear your damn mask now, and social distance, and limit your close contact with other people for the next six weeks, yes. Flu season is going to be a bitch combined with the eye-popping-yet-totally-unsurprising-rise of COVID cases in Texas and the rest of the United States over the last two weeks. If Halloween is the jumping-off point for this current wave, just imaging Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wearing a mask is not a violation of your civil rights, it's concern for your neighbor. Quit being A Dick, and things will be okay.

Jared C: Does US history offer any examples of how our current two-party system could evolve in the next 20 years? 

I love this question because it means I get to talk about third-party candidates. There have been a few "successful" third-party candidates in US history. Notably: Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, Ross Perot in 2000. They're considered "successful" because they drew enough votes to seriously screw things up for one of the major candidates. But the Republicans and Democrats run the show. Why? Because it's extremely difficult for anyone else to make it to a debate. In 1985 the RNC and DNC agreed to run the Commission on Presidential Debates together - ensuring that they would be the only ones to make the stage for a presidential debate. When every election is cast as a choice between life-and-death, there will be a diminishing interest in welcoming a third option. 

Craig in Spring: What music should I be listening to?

My favorite bands of all-time: U2, Pernice Brothers, Spoon, Centro-Matic, Old 97s, Wilco (such a DadList). But I've really enjoyed new stuff from Tame Impala (whose music I would appreciate much more if I took Substances), Ritt Momney, The Whigs, Deer Tick, Alfie Templeman, Sports Team. 

Check out my new Lima Time Time-adjacent podcast The Michael Bourn Identity featuring Houston Legend Roosh Williams.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

Ya Mans is quarantined due to a possible exposure to COVID. Been playing a lot of chess online and hooboy am I bad at thinking more than one step ahead. Shame, really.

*George Springer - who would have made $21m in a normal 2020 season - officially turned down the Astros' $18.9m qualifying offer. This is not a surprise and you should not treat it as such. It's Springer's only/last big contract of his career and he's going to get it from Houston or Boston, or someplace else that gives him the bag. Keep an eye on the Mets.

*Shane Bieber unanimously won the AL Cy Young. Framber got a lone 5th-place vote to finish 11th from Toronto beat writer Arden Zwelling. Former Astros Greats Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel finished 4th and 5th, respectively. Tyler Bauer is somehow the first Reds pitcher - like, literally the oldest team in all of organized baseball - to win a Cy Young. How do you screw around for 151 years and not accidentally luck into one?

*McTaggart has the Rule 5-eligible prospects the Astros need to protect.

*Cool news: Baltimore's Trey Mancini is cancer-free and ready for 2021 Spring Training.

*Wired: The Strange and Twisted Tale of Hydroxychloroquine.

*A Musical Selection:

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

 How's The Coup treating you?

*Kevin Cash won AL Manager of the Year, which I can understand. Though he should dedicate that award to Blake Snell in 2020 World Series Game 6. Dusty Baker got one single solitary vote for 3rd place.

*The Houston Astros are 12th in The Athletic's 2021 Power Rankings. Nick Groke:

[The Astros are] teetering on the edge of going for it again or regrouping. Maybe they'll split the difference and do both? Click's got a tough decision to make.

*In Jake Kaplan's latest mailbag, he addresses questions on a qualifying offer for Michael Brantley, a Correa extension, the rotation, Charlie Morton, the bullpen, and Jake Marisnick.

*More from Busy Bee Jake Kaplan: Who might the Astros protect from the Rule 5 Draft?

*Alex Cora had his second first press conference as the manager of the Red Sox and obviously didn't go into details of 2017 because that's only reserved for the Astros. Cora:

I deserved what happened this year. I'm not proud of it...In the end, I got my penalty and I served it.

And speaking of wonderful reunion stories with the Red Sox, J.T. Watkins - the former video room guy who was suspended for recording signals with the expressed intention of simply keeping it to himself - is back with the team as a pro scout. Don't forget that you can relive the entire sordid history of the Astros and sign-stealing because, as an Astros fan you know you love masochism.

*Ol 76-year old headass Tony LaRussa really dropped a "Do you know who I am?" at the cop arresting him for DUI.

*Wired: The latest COVID vaccines, deciphered.

*The Atlantic's Mansee Khurana: How Alex Trebek made a mundane game show brilliant.

*You may or may not know that I have watched the documentary Free Solo (available on Hulu and Disney+) over 200 times, in which Alex Honnold climbed Yosemite's El Capitan without a rope. It's insane. I give it 2.1 Escobars on The Two Escobars Scale of Documentary Greatness. I don't know what I find so fascinating about it, other than it's really cool to see people do cool stuff. I'll probably watch it again tonight after my wife goes to bed, like I'm doing something Naughty. Anyhow, Emily Harrington became the first woman to climb the Golden Gate Route on El Capitan in under 24 hours

*NPR: The Secret Life of Grocery Stores.

*A Musical Selection:

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

*The biggest Astros news of the day was that Former Astros Great Jeff Luhnow has sued the Houston Astros in Harris County District Court for $22m for a breach of contract, alleging that his firing was negotiated between Jim Crane and Rob Manfred. ESPN:

Luhnow's attorneys wrote in the filing that the agreement between Crane and Manfred 'scapegoated Luhnow for a sign-stealing scandal that he had no knowledge of and played no part in.'

Luhnow wants a jury trial and hoooooboy would that be something. Just from a "burn it all down" perspective I want this to happen.

In the filing we find Luhnow's lawyers alleging that Tom Koch-Weser, the Astros' director of advance information and the "Dark Arts/Codebreaker" guy, was told by the Astros that he could keep his job as long as he implicated Luhnow. 

Brian T. Smith: The lawsuit adds more tarnish to the once-golden Astros era.

David Barron says not to expect some grand John Grisham-esque courtroom drama - it'll likely play out in a closed-door arbitration case.

*Kyle Lewis was the unanimous 2020 AL Rookie of the Year. He hit .262/.364/.437 for the Mariners in 58 games. Ten of those games were against Houston, Lewis hit .303/.439/.485 with 2HR and 5RBI, both of which feels low by about 20. Cristian Javier finished 3rd.

*Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Astros are trying to work out a deal with Michael Brantley.

*Houston has checked in on Jackie Bradley, Jr. 

*At least ten teams - of which the Astros may or may not be one - have expressed interest in Charlie F. Morton, who is leaning towards a 1yr deal with an option for a 2nd.

*Toronto has expressed interest in George Springer. I have expressed interest in Indian food for lunch today.

*Tony LaRussa was charged with a DUI the day before the White Sox hired him, if you want to know how that's going. And the White Sox knew, and hired him anyway.

*The Athletic's Eno Sarris: Your favorite pitcher is probably cheating.

*A Musical Selection:

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Saturday Morning Hot Links

 *Brian McTaggart takes a crack at predicting the Opening Day 2021 roster, and friends, take a look at the outfield.

*Unsurprisingly, George Springer is allegedly planning on declining the Qualifying Offer the Astros submitted since, you know, it's a pay-cut.

*The biggest Astros off-season question is the outfield, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

*SI ranked the Top 50 Free Agents, with their current team and the best fit. On that list as fits for the Astros:

Reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the Astros. Michael Brantley to the Yankees. Springer to re-sign with the Astros.

I personally think the Astros re-sign Brantley on a shorter-term deal and let Springer walk. But who's to say.

*ESPN's David Schoenfield predicted offseason moves for all 30 teams. For the Astros? Sign Marcell Ozuna and Kirby Yates.

*MLB decided not to punish the COVID-positive Justin Turner for rejoining his teammates without a mask after winning the 2020 World Series, the most 2020 outcome of the 2020 season. I might actually hate the Dodgers more than the Rangers (who I pity). And I hate the Commissioner's Office more than the both of them combined. 

*The Bastard Alex Cora was re-hired as the manager of the Boston Red Sox. Unsurprisingly, the move was widely-heralded by national baseball types. The Athletic: how Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom had to be convinced to hire Alex Cora. 

*Outside: The real reason you're tired all the time.

*Wired: A nameless hiker and the case the internet can't crack.

*Texas Monthly: Meet the Texan who spends winters at the South Pole. Also: the Top 50 Barbecue joints in Texas.

*Leeds United plays Crystal Palace this morning at 9am Central.

*A Musical Selection:

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Friday Morning Hot Links

This post (for November 6) marks the 12th anniversary of the cursed web site Astros County dot com. At first it was Astros County dot Blogspot dot com. At one point not long after my wife told me I could either keep my PlayStation 2 or do...this. I chose...this. And there are days where I think, "Man, I had Vandy built into a superpower on NCAA College Football 2009, and I traded it for...this."

Fact is, there are a number of you who read this blog who I consider true, real-life friends. And I have had the opportunity to do things and talk to people that I never would have imagined because of this here blog. I know I have my flaws, but I also know that you abide by them as I try to do whatever it is that I'm doing better. Earlier this summer I was in a really bad place mentally, and a whole bunch of you reached out to check in and encourage and support me, and I'll never forget that. 

So, I'll pick this back up Saturday morning. But I genuinely thank you for the last 12 years. Here's to however many more before I just sort of decide not to do it anymore. 

*A Musical Selection:

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday Morning Hot Links

Let's pick this Blog thing back up, huh?

*Last week I wrote in the Chronicle about how the Astros could possibly hold on to both George Springer and Carlos Correa. One step was to non-tender Roberto Osuna, which happened on Thursday, and Osuna will depart with a complicated legacy.

On one hand, Osuna was reportedly nothing but a model teammate and citizen in his time as an Astro. He did not ask to be traded to Houston. However, the Astros did trade for Roberto Osuna, knowing that his value was depressed due to a 75-game suspension for domestic violence. In one trade, the Astros burned up a lot of goodwill, and it directly led to the Brandon Taubman "I'm so f***ing glad we got Osuna" outburst which, when combined with the Mike Fiers story, was the impetus for the hammer absolutely being brought down on the organization. He posted a 2.45 ERA / 0.87 WHIP and saved 51 games in 2+ seasons with the Astros. His ERA is the 10th-lowest in franchise history among relievers who threw at least 90IP. I'm not sad he's gone.

*George Springer is #2 on FanGraphs' Top 50 Free Agents list. While I do think the Astros will make a competitive run at Springer, I still remain unconvinced that he doesn't want to be closer to home (Connecticut). I'm mentally preparing myself for Springer hitting bombs over the Green Monster for the next six years, which means that the Astros better have Correa's agent on the phone figuring out a long-term extension. Michael Brantley is 12th. 

*The Astros cleared five spots on their 40-Man Roster, and here are Jake Kaplan's intriguing picks to protect from the Rule 5 Draft.

*AJ Hinch was such a toxic personality in the wake of the sign-stealing scheme that the Detroit Tigers waited an entire 30 minutes after 2020 World Series Game 6 ended to give him a call, and he has signed a multi-year deal to manage the Tigers. The Astros will play the Tigers at Minute Maid Park - presuming the world hasn't gone all the way to hell by then - from April 12-14, 2021.

And in another show of just How Seriously MLB is Taking The Punishments Of Those Involved, the Red Sox have reached out to Alex Cora about their managerial vacancy.

The How We Got Here post has been updated.

*The Astros cut some front office staff, which included Friend of Astros County Kevin Goldstein, and I'm very Mad about it. Jiminy Clicket isn't off to a great start, with me.

*Pocket: Blood-curdling stories of hauntings, monsters, and real-life horrors.

*Vox: Who the Electoral College really benefits.

*McSweeney's: An open letter to the woman who was questioned by a police officer for merely sitting in her car in a Target parking lot after midnight taking a break from her family.

*A Musical Selection:

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

And so the World Series celebration turned into a Superspreader event - the most 2020 outcome of this season ever. MLB has launched a full investigation into Hamish Justin Turner. I honestly didn't know MLB could do something like that without Rat F. Mike Fiers talking to The Athletic first. The Dodgers taking out the Rays means that, for the first time since 2004, the team that knocked the Astros out of the playoffs did not go on to win the World Series. 

World Series Titles Since Expansion (1993):

Los Angeles: 1

Houston: 1

Arlington/Seattle/Oakland: 0

*With Kevin Cash's Rays losing, the total number of World Series rings by Members of the 2010 Houston Astros remains at six: Lance Berkman (2011), Geoff Blum (2005), Pedro Feliz/J.A. Happ, Brett Myers (2008), and Hunter Pence (2012 and 2014).

*With the end of the World Series, Wednesday was File For Free Agency Day. George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, and Brad Peacock officially filed. They can sign with a team as soon as Sunday. 

*The Qualifying Offer deadline is Sunday, at 1yr/$18.9m. You can pretty much guarantee that Springer and Brantley will get a QO. The Astros just have to decide whether to exercise the 2021 club option (for $2m) on Brooks Raley.

*McTaggart: The Astros 2020 Off-Season FAQ.

Key-Offseason Dates:

October 28: Players can file for free agency / A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow reinstated by MLB.

November 1: Deadline to extend a Qualifying Offer to free agents / Free Agency begins at 4:01pm Central.

November 2: Finalists for major MLB awards announced

November 3: Gold Glove winners announced

November 9: Rookies of the Year announced

November 10: Managers of the Year announced

November 11: Cys Young winners announced / Deadline to accept or reject Qualifying Offer

November 12: MVPs announced

November 16: 2021 Hall of Fame ballot announced

November 20: Deadline to add Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-Man Roster.

December 2: Deadline to tender a contract to arbitration-eligible players.

December 6-10: Winter Meetings in Dallas (or, more likely, Zoom)

December 10: Rule 5 Draft

January 15: Deadline for teams/players to exchange arbitration figures / International Signing Period begins

February 27: Astros @ Nationals in first Spring Training game.

*Clayton Kershaw, postseason career: 189IP, 153H/88ER, 207K:50BB. 4.19 ERA / 1.07 WHIP.

Justin Verlander: postseason career 187.2IP, 140H/71ER, 205K:60BB, 3.40 ERA / 1.07 WHIP.

Clayton Kershaw, World Series: 3-2, 38.1IP, 30H/19ER, 41K:11BB, 4.46 ERA / 1.07 WHIP.

Justin Verlander, World Series: 0-6, 38IP, 35H/24ER, 39K:14BB, 5.68 ERA / 1.29 WHIP

To be fair, Verlander with the Astros in the World Series: 23IP, 17H/12ER, 23K:8BB, 4.70 ERA / 1.09 WHIP.

*Former Astros Great Hector Rondon's option was declined by Arizona.

*Mark Berman: Houston is trying to become a 2026 World Cup site.

*ESPN/FiveThirtyEight: Tracking political donations of wealthy sports owners.

*Texas Monthly: The Ballad of Billie Joe Shaver.

*You like Madlib headlines? Here's one: Neo-Nazi Ex-Marine and Porn Actor Arrested in Conspiracy to Hide Weapons from Government.

*Vice: When the Italian mafia moved into Aberdeen, Scotland.

*Jezebel: 10 Scary Stories to ensure you never sleep again.

*A Musical Selection:

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Monday Morning Hot Links

The neutral-site exhibition games seem to be going well. Former Astros Great Brett Phillips needed an IV after Game 4. The last time he got a Plate Appearance was ALDS Game 3 on October 7.

*Somehow Josh James threw some of the best baseball of his career...after tearing the labrum in his hip. He underwent surgery, the Astros announced, and the recovery time is 6-8 months. The linked article says that James initially suffered the injury on August 20. 

James, "Opening Day" through August 20: 10.2IP, 12H/13ER, 13K:14BB. 10.97 ERA / 2.44 WHIP.
James, September 9 - ALCS Game 7: 10.2IP, 8H/5ER, 11K:4BB. 4.22 ERA / 1.13 WHIP*

*Includes the ALDS Game 3, in which he threw 1IP, 3H/3ER, 0K:1BB and blew the save opportunity. 

This makes no sense to me, and I've been staring at this for entirely too long. He'll be back at the end of June at the minimum, or end of August. Not exactly what the Astros were looking for. 

*The Astros have asked an appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by season ticket holders.

*Heads up, again, Gulf Coast

*The Guardian: How a canny Kilmarnock grocer took whisky from the glens to the world.

*Vox: How to make this winter not totally suck, according to psychologists.

A Musical Selection:

Friday, October 23, 2020

Saturday Morning Hot Links

Here in a few weeks, Astros County Dot Com will be 12 years old. In late 2008 my wife told me I could either play video games or do Astros County, and I obviously chose the latter. Earlier on Friday this cursed blog/website hit seven million total pageviews. That's probably not a lot in the Grand Scheme of Things, and for other baseball/sports websites, but it's pretty damned impressive to me. Thank you for continuing to come here, even when I sprinkle some social commentary in which I try to radicalize you. I have a little something coming on Monday in the Chronicle on George Springer and the Astros payroll, and that's going to be somewhat temporarily it for my association with the Houston Chronicle, through no fault of theirs or mine. And if it doesn't come out on Monday, I'll put it here. Again, thank you for being a witness for my descent into delirium and madness. 

*Brian McTaggart: Five key questions facing the Astros this offseason.

*Chandler Rome: Carlos Correa became a team leader, but is a free agent after the 2021 season. Now the team has to decide on an extension.

*Check out Eno Sarris' deep dive on Charlie Morton's postseason magic.

*The two candidates running to be the governor of Utah made an ad...together.

*Texas Monthly: How one state history textbook erases the stories of Black and Hispanic Texans. Textbooks are for slack-ass teachers. This is my seventh year as a public school history teacher (had a bit of a career change in my early-30s) and I have never used the textbook other than for a mapping activity. Because you really do need to know Where Things Are.

*Aston Villa 0 - Leeds United 3. Hat Trick Patrick Bamford scored all three goals. You can check the highlights here, but it very easily could have been 5-1 Leeds (pay particular attention to Luke Ayling recovering from losing the ball to saving a certain goal.) I never thought I would have said this after 2003 but holy Hannah, Leeds United are responsible for bringing me the greatest soccer joy I have ever experienced. 

*Really looking forward to The Queen's Gambit, on Netflix.

*A Musical Selection:

Friday Morning Hot Links

*This run of exhibition games at Choad Life Park saw an empty stadium last night, as though "taking a day off" is something that happens in baseball in 2020. It's 1-1 and the off-season barnstorming tour continues tonight.

*Brent Strom talked to Mark Berman about coming back in 2021, Correa, and Dusty, and the stable of pitchers the Astros have. It's a really good interview.

*Gold Glove finalists were released yesterday and Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, and Kyle Tucker are on the list.

*Check McTaggart's Mailbox, on Houston's 2021 outfield options, Osuna, Correa, etc.

*Took a little longer than I expected, but there's a response to Luhnow's Monday Night Interview. The Athletic's Evan Drellich:

People with knowledge of the investigation said that 'there was direct testimony that Luhnow was aware of the sign-stealing scheme.' The league's department of investigations, headed by former federal prosecutors, gathered a combination of direct evidence, circumstantial evidence and testimony that a source said would hold up in a legal forum, despite Luhnow's suggestion to the contrary. 'Luhnow received emails that put him on notice of the activity, but claims he only read parts of the emails even though he responded to the emails,' the person said. 'One witness clearly stated and provided evidence that Luhnow know, and others identified facts indicating that Luhnow knew. The best interpretation of the evidence is that Luhnow either knew exactly what the video room was doing, or knew generally what they were doing and willfully chose to keep himself in the dark.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that you could find someone in MLB's New York office who has committed themselves to burying Luhnow and the Astros at every opportunity. It's also not out of the realm of possibility that the Astros did something wrong and answered MLB's questions far more whole-heartedly than any other team had/has answered them, and they have paid more dearly than any of them. [Ed. Note: I have downloaded Ben Reiter's podcast The Edge, but have not yet listened to it, something I plan on remedying today. Ben Reiter wrote Astroball, so there's reason to believe that what he has to say is worthwhile.]

Apparently I missed that Rob Manfred responded to the Luhnow interview on Tuesday. I have grown weary of this. Manfred:

Whether he exactly knew what was going on or not is really beside the point. I wrote to all the GMs. I put them on notice that it was their obligation to make sure that their organizations were not violating any of the sign-stealing rules...He damaged the game, and as a result, he was disciplined.

This is utterly exhausting. And I'm just a fan. It's a fair question to ask, Why did the Red Sox do the Apple Watch stuff AND the video room stuff and only the film room guy get re-assigned for a year, while the Astros got the worst penalty in sports since SMU? Because MLB likes to do their killin' before breakfast, they're keeping a not-small amount of the findings of their investigation private. Other teams saw what happened to the Astros and shut the hell up. I've just sort of come to terms with the idea that this is/was a league-wide problem, and Manfred decided to let everyone think that it was an Astros-only problem (in the same way that the Mitchell Report scapegoated teams on the coasts). The noisiest opponents have been the Yankees, Dodgers, and Indians, for what it's worth. 

*Mookie Betts or Mike Trout?

*Wired: The case for reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps.

*Ken Paxton fired two of the whistleblowers who accused him of using his office to help out a donor. 

*At least everything is awful. 

*Vice: How a secretive phone company helped the crime world go dark.

*The Ringer: The heartbreaking story behind the Gin Blossoms' "Hey Jealousy."

*A Musical Selection:

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

I don't know why, but they're still playing exhibition games at a neutral site. 

*FanGraphs' David Laurilia: Sports psychologist Tom House helped Jose Altuve conquer "The Creature."

*Jake Kaplan: The Astros have to rebuild their outfield around Kyle Tucker.

*ESPN's Joon Lee and David Schoenfield: The Rays are changing baseball forever. Here's how their front office thinks. [James Clicking intensifies]

*Rob Manfred, an empty ghoul shell wrapped in a pretty nice suit, hopes MLB keeps the larger postseason field and the runner on 2nd to start extra innings going forward.

*How you can watch the CrossFit Games, if that's something you're interested in.

*I wrote about the 1916 Black Tom Munitions Explosion in Jersey City. It was a lot of fun for me because there were just a ton of "wait WHAT?" moments in the research.

*The Guardian: Chess' cheating crisis - paranoia is now the culture.

*Eamon Duffy: Four centuries of trying to decode, decipher, or translate this medieval text have left people baffled.

*The presidential election is less than two weeks away. I did some research and put together a list of 244 counties whose results I'll be watching closely on Election Night...and, likely, the days following. If the county name is in Bold, it means it flipped - either way - from the 2012 to 2016 presidential elections.

*The Sackler family's plan to keep its billions.

*A Musical Selection:

Monday, October 19, 2020

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

 *After two days of reflection, this is where I am:

1. Absolutely amazing the Astros got as far as they did without Verlander, Yordan, and Osuna. 

2. Absolutely infuriating that the largely-intact lineup couldn't come up with a few more hits in Games 1-3. 

3. The emergence of Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor, and Andre Scrubb makes 2020 a success no matter the ALCS outcome. 

4. I still love Charlie Morton.

5. I told you I was terrified of the Rays. 

6. I do not care who wins the World Series, despite my text to my cousins on Saturday night that "I would rather the world end than see the Dodgers win a World Series." I was acting out. 

*At a press conference, GM James Click said that Altuve's struggles in 2020, and his sudden difficulty throwing the ball to first base, were but a blip:

I was really impressed by the fact that he didn't take that with him to the plate and he didn't let that affect the rest of his game. We are 100 percent confident that those blips are behind him. He is going to come back next year, I'm sure, as the elite offensive and defensive player that we know he is.

*Remember when Zack Greinke said after Game 4 that it was nice to have someone (Dusty) believe in him? Greinke and James Click had a talk about that. Click:

We had a long conversation. It was great. It was a very healthy conversation. He expressed his views and why he made the comments and I mostly listened. My job in that situation was I think just to listen to a Hall of Famer and find out why he would be frustrated by those kind of things.

*The entire coaching staff is coming back for 2021.

*This Martin Maldonado coming-home video will melt your heart.

*This Tim Brown piece says something along the lines of "The Astros' past caught up with them in Game 7 and that's why they lost."

*Check out MLBTR's projected arbitration salaries for next month.

*It's not terribly fun to read about, but we all love Geoff Blum so whatever: When utilityman Geoff Blum became a World Series hero.

*Former Astros Great Chris Holt is the leading candidate to take over as Baltimore's pitching coach. Former Astros Great Jim Hickey is the new Nationals' pitching coach.

*According to Mark Berman, Jeff Luhnow and [squints] A-Rod approached the Dynamo about purchasing the franchise, but nothing came of it. 

*Luhnow spoke to KPRC about the sign-stealing scandal, because what is another early postseason exit without getting a chance to experience pain, past or present? I have many thoughts, and I'm going to work through them, and we'll convene tomorrow, yeah?

*Leeds United 0 - Wolves 1. Leeds are at 18% to get relegated, according to FiveThirtyEight. It is unhealthy how often I check this. Next up: Aston Villa on Friday at 2pm Central.

*10 Psychological Haunted House movies - for when the ghost might be you.

*I voted last Tuesday. It took 45 minutes, longer than I've ever waited to vote. Pro Publica: Why do non-white voters in Georgia have to wait for hours? 

*I'm not much on Maureen Dowd, but I really like Sacha Baron Cohen.

*You'd think that no one would be stupid enough to hire a hitman on a website called "Rent a Hitman." You'd be wrong.

*A Musical Selection: