H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Astros Minor League Update for July 29, 2005

The weekend quickie version...I'm busy watching Sean Casey play his final game for the Reds...

AAA: Todd Self with 3 hits and Brandon Duckworth with 9 K's (and 11 hits allowed) in 6 innings in a Round Rock win.

AA: The Hooks lost 4-2 on Friday, and Hector Gimenez had 2 hits. On Saturday, Dax Norris went 2-4 with his 10th HR and 4 RBIs, Phillip Barzilla pitched 8 great innings, and Charlton Jimerson struck out once. The Hooks' catching platoon is quite solid.

High A: Jonny Ash went 3-4 after being (wisely) moved to the leadoff spot. Troy Patton allowed 1 hit and struck out 3 in 4 scoreless innings. As an aside, interesting that Patton got 8 fly outs and 1 ground out. Not sure if that's typical, but that kind of ratio could lead to Crawford Box issues in the future...

Low A: Lexington one-hit Asheville in a 6-0 win, and Francisco Caraballo continued his attempt to awaken Tim Purpura from his apparent slumber with yet another home run (his 18th).

Short Season A: Friday night, Tri-City split a doubleheader with Oneonta from which I observe nothing important. Saturday night, Tri-City was creamed 11-1 . Tommy Manzella piled up 3 more hits (here's guessing he'll be a fast-track guy), and Brian Bogusevic gave up 2 runs in 2+ innings pitched.

Rookie: On Friday, Greenville split a doubleheader with Kingsport. On Saturday night, Greenville was shut out 4-0 by Princeton. Koby Clemens and Eli Iorg were both shut down completely in all 3 games.

It's 10:11 p.m., and Timmy P has not made a move (UPDATE: But he's trying...)

Less than 15 hours until the waivers-free trade deadline, and the Astros' roster remains unchanged. For the sake of the Astros' championship aspirations, I sure hope that the team's recent hot streak has not convinced the front office that no moves are required. Mark my words: if the Astros' don't add a significant bat, they will not win a postseason series.

It seems to me that usually the teams most "rumored" to make a big deal do nothing on Deadline Day, so here's guessing that Manny Ramirez stays in Boston. I think that Alfonso Soriano will be the biggest name traded, and I am figuring he'll end up in New York with the Mets.

UPDATE: Jose de Jesus Ortiz reports that Seattle octogenarian Jaime Moyer has vetoed a trade to the Astros. Moyer, sporting a 4.33 ERA at spacious SafeCo Field, would have been an interesting match for MMP and the Crawford Boxes, with his left-handed delivery and his 75 mph fastball. Unless the Astros were getting Moyer for Duckworth, I'm very relieved that this deal was nixed. I really do not see Moyer as "the piece" for which the Astros are looking. Now if they could have gotten Moyer and flipped him to the Yankees for a bat...(hat tip: Baseball Primer)

Padgett Abandons H-town and Its Two UK Hoops Fanatics

I've tried to reach him via telephone, e-mail, fax, and carrier pigeon, but H-town Sports blog chief Kentucky Scott is incommunicado. Why, you ask? Likely because he's hanging from the ceiling fan in the parlor of his Sugar Land estate. That's right, Rockets fans--Scott Padgett has agreed to terms with the Phoenix Suns:

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/sports/3288811 (last paragraph)

I've alerted EMS and the Fort Bend County authorities, but expect to see Kentucky Scott on the news picketing outside Les Alexander's house or handcuffing himself to Padgett's U-Haul. He will no doubt take the defection of his man-crush brutally hard, so I think we all can expect an epic post on the Rockets' personnel failings in the near future. Either that or the creation of a Phoenix Sports blog by the time the NBA season tips off.

Stoudamire Takes His Hustle and Flow to the Grizz

The Chronicle reports that Damon Stoudamire, who was allegedly topping the Rockets' guard wish list this offseason, has agreed to terms with Memphis:


Seems Mighty Mouse will sign a deal for four years and $17 million. With only the paltry $1.8 million exception in the Toyota Center coffers, it wasn't realistic for the Rockets to hope to land a player of Stoudamire's caliber. Further, it doesn't seem realistic to expect Latrell Sprewell or Gary Payton to play for the Rockets' "pennies." Spree is the guy who complained that his salary of $14 mil wasn't enough to feed his family, so I don't see him turning over a new leaf just for the sake of playing with Yao and T-Mac. The Glove, meanwhile, already played the "take a pay cut to play for a winner" game in L.A., and we all know how that went.

It should also be noted that neither GP nor Spree are known for their unselfish attitudes. With Yao and T-Mac, the Rockets just need a guy that will take care of the ball, hit the open man, and play good defense. As Scott speculated here the other day, Earl Watson would seem to be a fine candidate to fit that bill. But the only way he'll be a Rocket is via a sign-and-trade; such a move would push the Rockets over the cap, which is something they'll likely try to avoid at all costs. So who are the real candidates to run the show on La Branch next season at this point? Please don't say White Chocolate...

Friday, July 29, 2005

NCAA Games of the Year

It's early, but visiting Sportsbook.com has gotten the juices flowing. Love to hear some comments on these early lines:

Miami -3 @ Florida State (Sept. 5)
Texas +1 @ Ohio State (Sept. 10)
Michigan -16 v. Notre Dame (Sept. 10)
Florida -4.5 v. Tennessee (Sept. 17)
Oklahoma -8 @ UCLA (Sept. 17)
LSU -5 v. Tennessee (Sept. 24)
Texas -7 @ Mizzou (Oct. 1)
Texas +1 @ Oklahoma (Oct. 8)
Texas -10.5 @ Oklahoma State (Oct. 29)
Texas Tech -3 v. Texas A&M (Nov. 5)
Texas -2.5 @ Texas A&M (Nov. 25)
Auburn -7 v. Alabama (Nov. 19)

My thoughts? I like FSU +3 at home v. Miami, Florida & LSU laying the points at home against an overrated Tennessee team, Ok. State +10.5 at home v. the Horns and the Crimson Tide +7 at Auburn.

Pick of the Night

I've been terrible this season (all in May) with my MLB picks, but I like my chances tonight.

The Astros are 34-14 at home this season, 19-6 in July, and 19-7 at home against teams with a winning record. While the Mets are 12-4 in Kris Benson's starts this season, the Stripper's Husband is 2-9 lifetime v. the Astros with a 4.91 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP.

The Astros are currently rather significant home dogs tonight behind Wandy Rodriguez, who's coming off of his best start of the season in Washington. I'll call the Astros at home.

Walking on Gallo-ed Ground

Since giving up 1 ER in 1/3 IP vs. the Padres on July 6 going into the All-Star Break, the Astros' LOOGY has made 9 appearances covering 5 IP and allowed only 3 hits, ZERO runs, walked 1 and K'd 3. Overall, Gallo's ERA is down to 2.35 and his WHIP is an equally impressive 0.91. Here's how he's fared against mighty (some mightier than others) LH sluggers, the LOOGY's ultimate job description:

Adam Dunn: 0-1 (K)
Cliff Floyd: 0-1 (K)
Bobby Abreu: 0-1
Chase Utley: 0-1
Matt Lawton: 0-1
Brian Giles: 1-2, RBI, BB
Ryan Klesko: 1-2, double
Larry Walker: 0-1
Jose Vidro: 0-1
Brad Wilkerson: 0-1

Strangely, despite the above numbers v. lefty hitters, Gallos BAA v. RH batters is .100, while his BAA v. LH batters is .294. The sample size, of course, is exceedingly small (15 ABs v. LHB, 6 v. RHB and 5 v. switch-hitters).

Now, I'm not advocating that the Astros' don't need LH relief help; I trust Gallo as far as I can throw Raul Chavez post-postgame spread. But I am saying that it is almost time for Tim to step up and give some credit where it is (shockingly) due.

Texans sign Morency, Mathis, close on Johnson

According to Houston Pro Football.com, the Texans signed 2005 draft picks Vernand Morency and Jerome Mathis late Thursday night, just in time for training camp to begin. The same article claims that KRIV-TV reported Thursday night that 1st round pick Travis Johnson could have a deal in place by the time practice starts on Saturday. That's certainly good news for the Texans.

Astros Minor League Update - July 28, 2005

AAA: Round Rock 8, Colorado Springs 5
- Veteran non-prospects Royce Huffman and Mike Coolbaugh paced the offense. Carlos Hernandez pitched 4 innings, giving up 2 hits, 3 earned runs, walking 4 and striking out 6. The lack of prospects on the Round Rock roster is staggering.

AA: Frisco 3, Corpus Christi 0
- Fans at Whataburger Field got to see something amazing last night. Unfortunately, it was a perfect game by Frisco SP A. J. Murray and relievers Steve Karsay and Scott Feldman. The trio combined to strike out 10 Hooks batters. Charlton Jimerson struck out twice.

High A: Frederick 6, Salem 5 (11 innings)
- Not much to report from this marathon. 1B Pat Peavey (33rd round draft pick from 2002) continued his strong season with three hits, and Hunter Pence recorded his first hit for the Avalanche.

Low A: Lexington and Asheville were rained out.

Short Season A: The Tri-City ValleyCats had the night off.

Rookie: Greeneville and Kingsport were rained out.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Astros Minor League Update - July 27, 2005

AAA: Colorado Springs 3, Round Rock 1
- In a minor-league quirk, the Express did not get to bat in the 9th due to rain despite trailing heading into their half of the inning (not that anyone cares if they win or lose). Veteran non-prospects Brian Tollberg and Travis Driskill combined to pitch a decent game. Veteran non-prospect Mike Coolbaugh had 2 hits for Round Rock.

AA: Corpus Christi 8, San Antonio 2
- Hooks RHP Jason Hirsch continues to impress, running his record to 9-8 while allowing only 2 runs and striking out 8 over 7 solid innings. I would imagine that teams with whom Tim Purpura is attempting to strike a deal are likely dropping Hirsch's name rather frequently at this point. Hirsch is 23 years old and is listed at 6'8" and 250 pounds.

High A: Salem and Wilmington rained out.

Low A: West Virginia 5, Lexington 4
- Reliever Ryan Thompson allowed a run in the 9th to lose the game against West Virginia. Thompson has been solid this season thus far though, posting a 3.23 ERA in 36 relief appearances and striking out 54 in 55 innings while walking only 12. LF Francisco Caraballo homered again, his 17th on the season, for the Legends.

Short Season A: Tri-City 9, Jamestown 5
- Former Tulane SS and Astros' 4th round pick Tommy Manzella went 2-5 with a double, an RBI and scored a run in the win. LF James Cooper hit a 2-out grand slam. Cooper was the Astros 32nd round draft pick out of Grambling in 2005.

Rookie: Kingsport 11, Greenville 9
- In another ugly slugfest (this time featuring 26 hits and 5 errors), Greenville lost at home, blowing a 9-6 lead. Astros' 1st round sandwich pick Eli Iorg hit his 3rd home run for Greenville, driving in 4 runs. Koby Clemens continues to clobber the ball, going 3-5 to run his average to .429 since joining the professional ranks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Astros Minor League Update - July 26, 2005

I will do my best (for nerds like me) to give a brief daily update on the prior night's minor-league games for the Astros' affiliates:

AAA: Colorado Springs 8, Round Rock 2
- Todd Self went 2-3 to raise his average to .326. Fernando Nieve was rocked for 12 hits, 4 BBs and 7 ER in 6 innings. Round Rock is 53-51, 5 games back of division leader Albuquerque. As an aside, I'm not surprised at all to see that Texas Ex Omar Quintanilla is tearing up AAA for the Rockies (.326/.362/.419 since being acquired from Oakland).

AA: Corpus Christi 7, San Antonio 3
- Charlton Jimenez K'd twice, Dax Norris went 2-4 and Cosmo Kramer buddy Mark Saccomanno hit his 7th HR. The Hooks are 16-16 and trail the 1st place Rock Hounds and Missions by 3 games.

High-A: Salem 2, Wilmington 1
- Chance Douglass pitched 6 strong innings for Salem and the object of my man-crush, Jonny Ash, drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly. Hunter Pence went 0-4 in his Salem debut in CF.

Low-A: Lexington 9, West Virginia 8
- Francisco Caraballo hit his 16th HR in the 6th inning of the Legends' victory.

Class A (Short Season): Jamestown 3, Tri-City 2
- Gaby Sanchez went 2-3 to raise his average to .324, and Tri-City SP Douglas Arguello gave up only 2 runs over 6 innings, but it was not enough for the ValleyCats.

Rookie: Greenville 17, Johnson City 5
- In a game that featured everything you'd expect from a Rookie league game in the duldrums of summer (read: 29 hits and 7 errors), the Astros pounded St. Louis' rookie affiliate. Certainly this helps to mend the scars of last weekend's violent sweep at Busch Stadium. Eli Iorg went 2-3 and drove in 4 runs, and Koby Clemens went 3-5 and scored twice to pace Greenville. Astros' P Corey Bass struck out 4 over 2+ scoreless innings.

Props for an Icon

Not to sound like Uncle Drayton or Richard Justice, but it occurred to me during last night's game how ridiculous Craig Biggio has been for 17 seasons in an Astros uniform. Granted, I may have been a bit nostalgic from his first inning HR or the copious amounts of Coors Light, but I was struck how much the guy has meant to the organization for the better part of my life.

Big-gi-o has a lifetime BA of .286, 250 HRs, 1,039 RBIs, and 2,740 hits. Scott's hero, Bill James, anointed Biggio as the best player in the game for a season or two in the mid to late 1990s. He's also played C, 2B, and OF throughout his career. Until this year (when it appears he finally pulled rank about playing any more OF, thus unfortunately retarding Chris Burke's growth at his natural position), he always did whatever the team asked of him. Most impressively, Bidge took less money to stay an Astro, spurning bigger dollars in Colorado a few seasons back to finish what he started in H-town. In my book, that willingness to leave money on the table is all too rare and usually indicative that the athlete is a stand-up guy.

You'll never get me to admit that building those statues outside MMP of Bagwell and Biggio WHILE BOTH PLAYERS WERE STILL ACTIVE was a good idea. But I will gladly admit that Craig Biggio has been one of the, if not THE, most important player(s) ever to don a 'Stros uni. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and we should be happy to have had the chance to watch him throughout the years.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Weight a minute....

It looks like Selvin Young of your Texas Longhorns used year off provided by injury and grade issues to gain 25+ lbs. I have not seen someone this fast gain so much weight since my ex girl roomate moved out. Behind the nations best OL, Selvin's newfound mass and break-away speed should be the tip of the sword that is the Texas offensive unit.


Astros Minor League Update

As an update to my previous post here at H-Town Sports, Brian McTaggart's minor league notebook in today's Chronicle has a few interesting tidbits:

- #1 draft pick Brian Bogusevic made his professional debut for the Class A Tri-City Dust Devils, pitching one scoreless inning.

- Mitch Einertson, who Baseball America listed as the Astros #4 prospect coming into 2005, left Class A Lexington for his home in Oceanside, California, citing "personal reasons". At the time of his departure, the 21 year-old OF was hitting only .224 with 6 HR and was striking out more than once every four at-bats.

- Carlos Hernandez continues to struggle at AAA Round Rock, getting bombed for 5 runs and 2 HR in 3 IP Saturday. He is 2-6 in 2005 with a 7.29 ERA, including 43 BB and 40K in 54+ innings.

- Hunter Pence continues to linger inexplicably at Class A Lexington, hitting his 25th HR Saturday. I realize that the Heart of the Bluegrass is a beautiful, scintillating town, but I think Hunter should be allowed to venture on to Salem. This is really getting ridiculous. UPDATE: While drafting this post, Pence was promoted to Class A Salem. Thanks for reading, Timmy P.!

Also, Richard Justice notes Koby Clemens' hot start at Greenville in his blog. Koby is 9-25 since joining the Astros' rookie ball affiliate, including a grand slam on Monday night. His performance was enough to earn him www.minorleaguebaseball.com's Star of the Night.

Other news & notes of my own interest:

- No pitcher at AAA Round Rock is averaging greater than 1K/IP. Roberto Giron has the best numbers. Giron was promoted from AA Corpus Christi earlier in 2005, where he was 2-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 21 relief appearances with 28 K in 29 IP. So far at AAA Round Rock, Giron is 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 10 games (including 4 starts) with 26 K's in 29 IP. Unfortunately, Giron is a 29 year-old RHP who originally signed with Toronto as an undrafted FA in 1993.

- Charlton Jimerson does have 10 HR and 23 SB at AA Corpus Christi, but that's overshadowed by 101 K in 330 plate appearances (and only 21 walks).

- Big Jason Hirsch remains a pleasant surprise in AA, with only an 8-8 record, but with a 3.23 ERA, 114 K in 120 IP and having allowed only 7 HR in those 120 IP. If the Astros think his 2005 performance is a fluke, then I'd expect that they're trying to convince another team to take him in return for a bat.

- Keep an eye out for Class A Salem's Rodrigo Escobar. Signed by the Astros in 1999 as a 16 year-old, Escobar's putting up some killer numbers in A-ball: 2.47 ERA, 2 HR allowed and 59 K in 54 IP.

- My favorite minor-leaguer, Salem 2B Johnny Ash, continues to play well after being promoted from Lexington.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Why the Astros WILL NOT Trade for Adam Dunn

That's right...the trade that has been dominating hearts, minds, and Houston sports talk radio ain't gonna happen. There are myriad reasons a deal for the Texas Ex won't go down by July 31st. Although I was one of the biggest proponents of this deal (assuming, of course, the Reds were stricken with a sudden case of logic and stopped demanding the Astros include Jose Cruz's retired jersey in the swap), I am now firmly entrenched in the other camp. Quite frankly, a deal just isn't necessary. The three big reasons this deal is deader than SMU football:

1. The 'Stros are just playing way too well right now. Unlike when Gerry pulled the trigger on the Beltran deal last June, the Astros are playing excellent baseball and have momentum on their side. In other words, the timing isn't right for a big trade. On the recently completed road trip, the boys went 7-4; that's a pretty damn successful trip. Why would you want to fix it if it isn't broken? Granted, the sweep at the hands of the Cards was ugly, but the bounce-back against the Nats was huge. If I'm T-Poo and Uncle Drayton, I'm keeping my options open and actively looking for a lefthander to bolster the bullpen. But I'm also thinking that this team is proving that it's good enough to get to the postseason in its current state. With Berkman finally starting to get his stroke back, it's like you've added another bat to the lineup already. There's just no need to acquire another big stick at the cost the Reds are asking.

2. Team chemistry is one of those intangibles that we probably don't pay enough attention to. Simply put, the 2005 Houston Astros are not a fantasy baseball squad. You can't just plug players in and expect them to play well together immediately. You need guys that enjoy playing with each other and are willing to cheer everyone on. I'm a pretty cynical guy, but I was genuinely moved yesterday when I saw the dugout's reaction to Bruntlett's HR. Here's a guy who doesn't play much and barely holds down one of the last roster spots on the team, but you would have thought he won Game 7 yesterday by his teammates' reaction. Biggio was the first one out of the dugout and was sporting a bigger smile on his face than if he had hit it out himself. Ensberg was laughing and shouting at Bruntlett, and for a second it was easy to forget who the All-Star was. You can't fake that stuff. Given that the clubhouse dynamic seems to be so positive (and more importantly, that it's producing wins), why would you risk tampering with it by bringing in another personality?

3. The Reds remain completely unreasonable in their asking price for Dunn. Ultimately, I think this will be the downfall of any Dunn-to-Houston deal. I've read that the Reds want two major-leaguers and a top prospect. There's simply no way that the 'Stros will bite on that given their current success. A month ago, they might have jettisoned Chris Burke to do the deal, but in light of his torrent July, I can't see them bailing on him now. Further, if the last two years have taught Uncle Drayton anything, it's that good pitching will always result in a competitive team. As such, I can't see the 'Stros throwing Patton or Nieve into a deal for Dunn.

The 'Stros have clawed their way back into contention for the wild card. I say we should let the guys who pulled out of the hole try to see what else they can do.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Need Proof Astros are World Series capable? Ask Arizona

Listening to the radio this morning, the popular cynical mantra of "The Astros may as well not trade for a big bat for their lineup because one guy, even a slugger like Adam Dunn, is not going to make that big of a difference. This is just not a World Series-caliber team! It may have World Series caliber 1-3 starting pitchers and a World Series-caliber closer, but that's not enough to win the World Series, and that should be our only goal."

Let me first say that I think the average Astros' fan enjoyed the 2004 late-summer and postseason run so much that, despite coming up short of the World Series, the average Astros fan now realizes that there is a tremendous amount of fun to be had in the chase of the pennant itself, even if the ending is not ideal. The Astros' play of late has been for enough of an extended period that the following admission needs to be made: The 2005 Astros are good enough to play in the postseason.

The 2005 Cardinals are 13 games ahead of the Astros and Cubs and are 28 games over .500. However, against non-NL Central teams, the Cardinals are a less impressive 30-23, and since June 1, the Cards are 28-15 while the Astros are 29-14. The games between the Cards and Astros have been close, though St. Louis has won 9 of 11, with the 11 games being decided by a total of 14 runs, and with only 1 of those games being decided by more than 3 runs. A single big bat, like an Adam Dunn, could certainly make a 1-run per game difference (or more), and could alter the outcome of many of those close defeats.

Now as to the premise that the Astros, with or without the acquisition of a big bat, are not a "World Series-caliber" team. For entertainment purposes only, let's make a non-scientific comparison between the 2001 D-Back World Series Champs and the 2005 Astros (as currently compiled):

Catcher: Damien Miller v. Brad Ausmus
---Miller posted .271/.337/.424 with 13 HR and 47 RBI while Ausmus is currently .239/.325/.288 with 1 HR and 25 RBI. Catcher is definitely an offensive weakness for the Astros, but Ausmus putting up Miller-like numbers would not make a huge impact offensively for the Astros. Certainly advantage D-Backs though.

First Base: Mark Grace v. Lance Berkman
---Grace posted .298/.386/.466 with 15 HR and 78 RBI. Berkman is coming off of ACL replacement surgery and is beginning to return to his typical All-Star form, currently sitting at .315/.422/.504 with 8 HR and 39 RBI. Berkman is clearly a much more prodcutive hitter than Grace, although his defense is slightly suspect. Regardless, large advantage to the Astros here.

Second Base: Jay Bell v. Craig Biggio
---Bell was pretty bad (.248/.349/.400 with 13 HR and 46 RBI), and Biggio is currently .279/.342/.475 with 13 HR and 41 RBI. Big advantage to the Astros here.

Shortstop: Tony Womack v. Adam Everett
---Womack was very weak offensively (.266/.307/.345 with 3 HR, 30 RBI and 28 SB), making Everett's subpar numbers look much better (.241/.293/.381 with 7 HR and 36 RBI). Everett's a much better defender at SS as well. Advantage Astros.

Third Base: Matt Williams v. Morgan Ensberg
---Williams had a solid season for Arizona (.275/.314/.466 with 16 HR and 65 RBI), but Ensberg has been sensational so far in 2005 (.291/.391/.594 with 25 HR and 71 RBI). Ensberg crushes the aged Williams here.

Left Field: Luis Gonzalez v. Chris Burke
---The D-Backs clearly dominate this position, but the addition of Adam Dunn could render this matchup much less of an advantage for the Snakes. Gonzo put up an astounding (juiced?) .325/.429/.688 with 57 HR and 142 RBI in 2001, while Chris Burke's numbers, though improving, are not worth mentioning.

Center Field: Steve Finley v. Willy Taveras
---Fins has the slugging, but Willy has the speed. Finley posted .275/.337/.430 with 14 HR and 73 RBI, while Willy's headed for the ROY award with .293/.329/.366 and 23 SB. Willy's speed is a vital cog in the Astros' offensive wheel, though his defense sorely needs improvement. Because of their different roles, it's a close call, with Finley being a slight winner thanks to his D and his experience.

Right Field: Reggie Sanders v. Jason Lane
---Sanders had a great season in 2001, posting .263/.337/.549 with 33 HR and 90 RBI. Jason Lane's numbers are not that good (.240/.290/.466 with 14 HR and 40 RBI) but his power numbers will be close to Sanders at the end of the season, and he may excel now that he's a regular in the lineup again. Slight edge to AZ again.

Bench: Counsell, Bautista, Dellucci, Spivey, Barjas and Colbrunn v. Palmeiro, Vizcaino, Lamb, Quintero and Bruntlett
---The Astros' bench is solid if unspectacular, and the D-Backs bench was stacked with productive role players. Again, edge to the D-Backs, but a rather marginal one.

Postseason Rotation: Schilling/Johnson/Anderson/Batista v. Clemens/Oswalt/Pettitte/Backe
---As good as Schilling and Johnson were in 2001, Oswalt and Clemens have been better thus far, and Pettitte/Backe v. Anderson/Batista is a laugher. The D-Backs proved that it was possible to piggy-back 2 dominating starting pitchers to a World Series title, and the Astros have a better 1-2 and a nearly equal #3. If Pettitte stays healthy, the Astros have an even better starting rotation than that classic D-Back team.

Bullpen: Lidge is infinitely more reliable than BK Kim. The D-Backs pieced together a makeshift bullpen with guys like Swindell, Morgan, Springer, Prinz and Erik Sabel. The Astros really need another arm, but guys like Wheeler, Qualls, the 2005 Springer and Burns at least hold their own against the 2001 competition. Lidge showed last postseason that he can dominate a series by himself, and the Astros therefore have a large advantage again.

All in all, the Astros lineup, for all its faults, is at least as good as the 2001 D-Backs was, and the addition of a big bopper to the heart of that lineup (getting Burke out of LF and onto the bench as a valuable utility man) would give the Astros a clearly better lineup. The Astros pitching is better than the D-Backs as well, and Oswalt-Clemens-Pettitte-Lidge are enough by themselves to push any team in baseball to a long, tight series. Astros' management owes it to its players as well as its fans to pay any cost necessary to acquire a significant bat and a powerful (preferably LH) bullpen arm. Otherwise, years from now, we'll look back and wonder what might have been.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Next move: Guard Play

The Rockets currently have under contract at guard:

David Wesley - FA after 2005-2006
Moochie Norris - FA after 2006-2007
Bob Sura - FA after 2007-2008
Mike James - FA after 2006-2007
Charlie Ward - FA after 2006-2007
Luther Head - rookie

If I'm CD, here's what I do:

(1) Use the one-time luxury tax amnesty program to cut Moochie Norris. You still owe him under the cap for two years, but he's a sunk cost at this point. Nobody's going to trade for him since he's signed for beyond this season.

(2) Trade David Wesley. He's got an expiring contract after the upcoming season, which should get something worthwhile in return.

(3) Sign Earl Watson. He's an ego-free, team-oriented PG who is excellent in man-to-man defense. Would be a wonderful compliment to Sura/Head/Barry at a reduced price. You don't need a scoring PG with T-Mac and Yao in the fold.

(4) Consider bringing in Dale Davis or Bo Outlaw as a banger off the bench. The first one to agree to a one-year, $1 million contract, sign him immediately.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Swift's a Rocket!!!

I'm stunned, thrilled and can't wait for training camp!

Clutch Fans broke the story...no surprise there. Jonathan Feigen reports that Swift will likely get a 5-year deal at the Mid-Level Exception.

Now if Damon Stoudamire gets in the fold as expected, I suspect you'll see something like:

PG - Stoudamire, James
SG - Sura, Head, Barry
SF - McGrady, Glover(?)
PF - Swift, Howard
C - Ming, Mutombo

Dion Glover and Lonny Baxter are playing great in the Minnesota Summer League, and Glover would be a perfect fit as T-Mac's backup at the 3. Congrats to the Rockets for their persistence! I never thought I'd see a 25 year-old "potential" guy like Stromile take less money to go after a championship, but it certainly appears to be what happened.

Perennial National Champ to take on National Recruiting Champ?

If Rick Barnes does not pile up some significant wins to accompany his impressive recruiting haul, he will soon need to clear some space off his mantle for the 2006 Mack Brown National Recruiting Championship Award. One chance for the ultimate regular season victory may come this November in the Guardian's Classic, where there's a potential for Barnes' Horns to match up with Tubby's Kentucky Wildcats (the winningest college basketball program of all time) in Kansas City.

More posted at Kentucky Sports Blog...

Justice Prepares Astros' Apology (in advance)

In his blog, Chronicle columnist Richard Justice, in his neverending quest to serve as the John Kerry of Houston sports media, has made sure to insert an anti-Dunn post so as to protect himself (and all of the important people that he has been friends with for a really long time) just in case the Astros' choke away a deal for prolific slugger Adam Dunn. Justice writes:

Adam Dunn probably doesn't even remember the play, but inside the Astros' clubhouse and front office, it left a huge impression. It happened a few weeks ago when Dunn appeared to loaf on a play in which he could have thrown Brad Ausmus out on the bases.

Players and management alike mentioned it to me over the last couple of days. They're wondering if that single play doesn't signal a larger issue. They're wondering if he has come to accept the losing in Cincinnati, and if he'd be a good fit for the Astros.

"I'd say he'd make us a LITTLE better," one guy told me.

In the end, the more important issue probably is how the Reds have overvalued him and want too much to make a deal. But that play has stuck in a lot of minds, too.

They're wondering what it says about his work ethic, commitment, etc. For now, scratch Adam Dunn from the list of possible future Astros.

Sure, Richard, the fact that Dunn currently ranks 5th in the NL in OPS, 4th in HR, 7th in SLG and 13th in OBP is certainly inconsequential because of Dunn's alleged loafing in the field. It is ludicrous and insulting to write such crap in a major (but admittedly equally crappy) newspaper. While watching the punchless Astros score 5 runs total in a 3-game sweep by the Cardinals, my thoughts were that a little more hustle and effort on defense likely was the missing piece. I'm sure that whatever menial impact the Big Donkey would have provided would have made no difference. Not to mention the fact that Fernando Nieve and Troy Patton are far too vital to Round Rock and Salem, respectively, as those clubs chase down all-important minor league championship glory.

By the way, Adam Dunn has an OPS of .938 against the Cardinals thus far this season, scoring 8 runs, hitting 4 home runs with 5 RBI and 6 BB (and only 6 K for the sabremetrically-impaired). Good luck convincing Astros' fans that he's not worth the deal.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Line of the Night

In a 17-1 stunning loss to the Red Sox in his Yankees' debut:

T. Redding (L, 0-6) 1.0 IP 4H 6R 6ER 4BB 2 0 K 10.57 ERA

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Face of Sooner Nation

Since Scott went all sentimental with his "Ode to Kevin Maas," I feel it is my responsibility to bring this board right back where it belongs--as an outlet for trashing Oklahoma. Please click on the link below for the story of the latest Dirt Burglar gone awry:


Although the entire story is comedy gold, my favorite part is her attempt to recite the alphabet. She does look familiar, however--I think I saw this "lady" toothlessly boasting about "booming" in Dallas last October. And people have the gumption to wonder why my hatred of the infidels to the north is so strong...

Shead a Tear for Fleer

The Sports Prof pens a stirring eulogy to Fleer, and quite likely to the baseball card industry as we all knew it. I, like the Prof, never once "flipped" my cards or jammed them in the spokes of my Huffy. I often attempted to jam my brother's finger in the spokes of my bike, but my Eric Davis rookie card? Surely you jest. I did spend endless hours of the greatest years of my childhood organizing, ranking, sorting and trading those cards, though, and it's sad that the current and future generations will apparently not do the same.

My cards are now stored carefully in a closet in my home, rescued a year or two ago from sure doom at the hands of my mother's ever-expanding wardrobe. I long for the day when I have time to spend an entire weekend with them in intimate detail, not necessarily to estimate their monetary worth, but to rekindle the memories that they will always inspire. I can guarantee you that if my children choose to waste their brains on comic books and Pokemon rather than the glories of baseball card collecting, it won't be for my lack of effort.

Why the Astros WILL Trade for Adam Dunn

Richard Justice's column in today's Houston Chronicle speculates that the Reds' asking price is going to be too high and the Astros' wildcard hopes too faint for a deal to go down bringing the Pride of New Caney, Adam Dunn, to the Astros. I have wavered, and I am willing to now make a final stance...well, sort of final.

The Astros have a tough start to the second half - 3 in St. Louis, 4 in Pittsburgh and 4 in Washington. While these are road games, the Astros should win 2 out of 3 in St. Louis because they have their pitching set up perfectly, and their top 3, when pitching anywhere near their potential, are as good as it gets. The Pirates are 10 games below .500. The Nationals have lost 6 out of 8, and nobody believes that they're really as good as their record. The Astros, if truly a wildcard contender, should certainly be able to manage a .500 road trip or better. That would get them back to Minute Maid Park for an 8-game homestand to close out the month. A .500 road trip would quite likely be enough to convince the Astros' front office that this team deserves a shot at the wildcard, much like last year's squad did.

I believe that Drayton McLane wants desperately to relive last summer's run at the wildcard, and why shouldn't he? The arrival of Carlos Beltran and the team's incredible run down the stretch attracted sellout crowds and large television audiences almost every night. Roger Clemens, despite the signing of his oldest son to a contract with the Astros, will not get too many more chances at the postseason, and he certainly has pitched well enough to inspire the front office to make a deal. Nothing would better crown Drayton's boundless love affair with Craig Biggio than a World Series visit.

I think Drayton is not only willing, but eager for the Astros to make another BIG splash at the trade deadline. I believe that he's becoming convinced that bushels of pitching prospects and emphasis on player development don't win championships (contrast Houston's postseason prowess with that of New York and Boston). Add to that the fact that both times he's made a huge trade at the deadline (Big Unit, Beltran), every seat has been filled, and the team has made its deepest postseason runs in franchise history.

Sure Tim Purpura has said repeatedly in recent days that he does not intend to "mortgage the farm" in order to win this season, but if the GM really made such calls in Houston, Gerry Hunsicker would still have a job. Drayton makes calls like this, and I think he's going to not just approve a deal for Dunn, I think that he's going to demand a deal for Dunn, no matter the cost. That could be enough to make Purpura collapse in agony, knowing his penchant for player development. But I don't think Drayton's all that concerned with what the so-called "baseball people" think. He's a hands-on owner, and I don't expect that he'll let any of his underlings interfere with what he thinks is best for the club. I don't think he believes that losing Fernando Nieve and Troy Patton is any worse than losing John Buck and Octavio Dotel, especially when you consider that Patton and Nieve are much farther from being major-league ready.

The Astros are not the only suitor for Dunn, and to spice up the bidding even more, the reported competitors include the Astros' fiercest NL Central rivals - the Cards and the Cubs. There's an argument that the Astros don't need Dunn, but can they sit idly by and let their archrivals acquire him?

Finally, Adam Dunn would not be just a non-controversial, productive addition to this team, but quite likely would become a cornerstone for the franchise as well as a local hero. Jeff Bagwell's an icon in this city, despite being a New Englander. Imagine if he grew up in the outskirts of Houston! The marketing potential for a homegrown dynamic duo of Adam Dunn and Lance Berkman is nearly limitless. Dunn will almost certainly sign a long-term deal with the club, making the potential for another "Beltran" situation minimal.

I think that in the end, the Astros will part with Zeke Astacio, Chris Burke and two pitching prospects (Nieve and Buchholz/Barthmeier/Patton) for Adam Dunn. I think that the combination of last year's magical run, the twilight of the Rocket and Biggio's career and the pursuit of the biggest prize of the deadline (Dunn) by two of the Astros' top rivals will all add up to Adam Dunn being an Astro come August 1. The only thing that I think could prevent that would be a disastrous road trip out of the All-Star break. The team's destiny is in its own hands.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Year of the Horns?

I did it with the Texans, so I have to do it for my beloved Longhorns. Time to lay it on the line and boldly navigate the schedule in an effort to predict Mack & Co.'s success after the glorious Rose Bowl season. Without further ado...

1. Louisiana-Lafayette--W
2. @ Ohio State--L
3. Rice--W
4. @ Mizzou--W
5. Dirt Burglars from the Territory--W
6. Colorado--W
7. Sand Aggies (a/k/a Texas Tech)--W
8. @ Okie State--W
9. @ Baylor--W
10. @ Kansas--W
11. @ Where the Men Are Men and the Sheep Are Afraid--W

That's a 10-1 regular season, folks. For the record, I think the Horns lose an absolutely classic game at the Horseshoe in Columbus. Playing in that atmosphere at night, thus giving the locals a whole day to forget their entire program should have been shut down in the wake of the Mo Clarett scandal, is probably just too tough. Although I wouldn't bet on it (as history has surely shown that Stoops has some sort of pact with Satan that curiously expires on January 1st of each year before renewing in August), I do think the Horns finally beat those damn Dirt Burglars this season. If Stoops manages to destroy my alma mater once again, you can find me hanging in my Dallas hotel room on Sunday, October 9th.

I also think the Horns go on to win the Big XII championship over Nebraska. If that happens, the Horns should be right back where they started 2005--in Pasadena. I'll reserve my national championship prediction for August, but suffice to say this could very well be THE year.

Craig Biggio Declares, "I'm Italian"

Maybe I just need to step away from the Haterade, but Alex Rodriguez makes me want to puke. This crap about him "being Dominican" is just ridiculous. Alex "just wants to say it out loud." I've got something that I want to say out loud - "Shut the hell up!" A-Fraud's got the lockdown on the title of MLB Prima Donna at least for the next decade. I'd rather have a whole pitching staff of Kenny Rogers than a single A-Fraud on my roster. I'm no immigration law expert, but as far as I'm concerned, if you're born in Country A and raised in Country A without ever putting up residence in a second country, you're primarily a citizen of Country A. I understand enough about dual citizenship to get why he's also a citizen of the DR, but do we really need a press conference from this selfish assclown announcing his loyalties? Not to mention that in this case, Country A is the greatest country on Earth and a country that all of A-Fraud's alleged "countrymen" are dying to get to in order to live out their dreams.

I hope A-Fraud does play for the Dominican Republic, and I hope that the Big Unit puts a 99 mph heater in his earhole in the Championship Game. Then I fully expect to see Derek Jeter go into second base Ty Cobb-style to break up a double play, assuming A-Fraud's playing SS, which he likely won't since the true Pride of the DR, Miguel Tejada, will rightfully be on that team as well.

On a somewhat related note, I'd like to highly recommend the Baseball as America exhibit at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. There are simply tons of amazing pictures and exhibits, including a particularly moving photo gallery following the career of a young Miguel Tejada, many moons prior to his days as an AL MVP. A-Fraud would be well served by spending some time observing what a true national hero like Tejada has been through before he holds his next citizenship-announcing presser.

Note: Thanks to Smoochdog for the great A-Fraud pic posted above.

Big XII Preview (by ESPN and Blue Ribbon College Football)

As posted on ESPN.com today:

North Division
1. Nebraska
2. (tie) Colorado
2. (tie) Iowa State
4. Missouri
5. Kansas State
6. Kansas

South Division
1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
3. Texas A&M
4. Texas Tech
5. Oklahoma State
6. Baylor

All-Big 12 Team
WR: Jarrett Hicks, Texas Tech
WR: D'Juan Woods, Oklahoma State
OL: Justin Blalock, Texas
OL: Jonathan Scott, Texas
OL: Davin Joseph, Oklahoma
OL: Jeromey Clary, Kansas State
OL: Brandon Koch, Nebraska
QB: Vince Young, Texas
RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
RB: Taurean Henderson, Texas Tech
TE: David Thomas, Texas

DL: Larry Birdine, Oklahoma
DL: Larry Dibbles, Texas
DL: Dusty Dvoracek, Oklahoma
DL: Rod Wright, Texas
LB: Rufus Alexander, Oklahoma
LB: Aaron Harris, Texas
LB: Nick Reid, Kansas
DB: Jaxson Appel, Texas A&M
DB: Daniel Bullocks, Nebraska
DB: Charles Gordon, Kansas
DB: Jason Simpson, Missouri

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado
KR: Willie Andrews, Baylor
P: Daniel Sepulveda, Baylor
PR: Danny Amendola, Texas Tech

Offensive Player of the Year
Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma

Defensive Player of the Year
Charles Gordon, DL, Kansas

Newcomer of the Year
Zac Taylor, QB, Nebraska


My personal favorite note: 6 of the front 7 on the Defensive team are either Horns or Sooners. That pretty much sums up why these 2 teams dominate the Big XII.

Other Non-Big-XII notes:

- Willie Williams is listed as projected Newcomer of the Year in the ACC. If he has as many sacks as he does arrests, he'd certainly be a shoo-in.

- For all the hype that the revamped Big East is getting about being the premier basketball conference in the country, its football lineup is sure pathetic.

- Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa should be an awesome 3-team race in the Big Ten, with Purdue not too far behind.

- Just imagine what scalpers will be charging for tickets to the CUSA title game: UAB v. UTEP. If UH does not finish at least second in the West division, Art Briles should be not just fired, but exiled to Croatia.

- Omar Jacobs and Bowling Green might sneak their way into the BCS picture. They have 2 huge road games: at Wisconsin to open the season and at Boise State on Sep. 21. If they could pull off those two games, they could run the table and cause some noise nationally.

- Any chance UCLA could upset OU prior to the Red River Shootout? Will OU's secondary be able to contain Ben Olsen? Will Dusty Dvoracek rip Olsen's head off before he has time to find a receiver?

- I like Florida to win the SEC East. They were incredible underacheivers in 2004, and I think Urban Meyer's going to have them clicking on all cyliners this fall. I also think Alabama is going to finish ahead of Auburn.

- As a personal aside, I sure hope that Kentucky defies the critics and finishes ahead of Vandy in the SEC East. If not, Rich Brooks won't last the whole season. My prediction: the goalposts come down at least one time at Commonwealth Stadium, and Rich Brooks steps aside after the season on a positive tick.

Who are these guys anyway?

Names of Astros' prospects have been tossed around carelessly over the past couple of weeks, especially in response to the Dunn-to-Houston mania. I know little about the prospects being rumored, but I thought I'd try to educate both myself and our loyal reader(s) by posting some info from Baseball America's 2005 Top 10 Prospects, initially published January 31, 2005 (subscription required):

NOTE - for less-visible guys, I've included some 2005 numbers.

1. Chris Burke - described as a "Mark Loretta with speed"...was rated by PCL managers as the best defensive second baseman in 2004...praised for having outstanding work ethic and professionalism...has excelled at every level

2. Zeke Astacio - best fastball in Astros' system, with drastic improvements in both velocity and sink from 2002 to 2004...also has plus curve and plus splitter...occassionally loses focus

3. Wily Taveras - prolific speed and quickness...above-average arm...needs to improve strength and plate patience

4. Mitch Einertson - 18 y/o OF - 2005 in Low-A Lexington: .224 avg, .353 obp, .354 slg, 6 HR, 42/77 bb/k
- tied all-time HR record in 2004 in rookie ball, won MVP while leading league in extra-base hits, RBI, total bases and slugging...projects as corner OF with great pop...must control the K's, especially as he moves up in class

5. Troy Patton - plus fastball, plus change-up, plus curve...good location...needs more consistency in his mechanics

6. Matt Albers - 22 y/o RHP - 2005 in High-A Salem: 3-9 w/ 5.36 ERA, 102 H in 87 IP, 42/78 BB/K
- Houston area kid who's had a stint in alcohol rehab...durable and pitches with power...lacks control on and off field

7. Taylor Buchholz - headlined Wagner trade...great curveball and plus fastball...shoulder and elbow problems in 2003...hard on himself and tries to out-think himself at times

8. Fernando Nieve - 22 y/o RHP - 2005 in AA 4-3 w/ 2.65 ERA, 62 H in 85 IP, 29/96 BB/K...2005 in AAA 2-2 w/ 3.00 ERA, 28 H in 27 IP, 8/15 BB/K
- electric fastball of which he throws several variations (sinker, rising four-seamer, cutter)...strong body and arm...needs more consistency with off-speed pitches...could project as power reliever if doesn't improve off-speed pitches

9. Josh Anderson - 22 y/o LH OF - 2005 AA - .280 avg, .332 obp, .319 slg, 0 HR, 32 SB
- outstanding speed, incredibly aggressive (needs to tone it down a notch)

10. Hunter Pence - 21 y/o RH OF - 2005 Low-A Lexington - .336 avg, .415 obp, .683 slg, 24 HR, 34/50 bb/k
- Astros' 2004 top draft pick...doesn't look as powerful (long and lean) but has great raw power...below average defensive OF

By the way, in the 2005 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects, the Astros were represented at #60 by Chris Burke and #80 by Zeke Astacio.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Negotiating Through a Pane of Glass

(Alternate Title: Is there Room to Squeeze Resendez-Ramirez in under the Cap?)

The Wolves are about to finalize a deal that will solidify their rebounding, shot-blocking and felony-committing needs for years to come, according to Charley Walters of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Walters says that the Wolves are about to ink EG to a multi-year deal at about $5M per season. Not bad for a guy with a terrible shot (pun intended). No word on whether or not EG's agent was able to sneak his client a couple of cigs or a shiv during the negotiations.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Swift Decision?

Rumor has it that Rockets' GM Carroll Dawson, in attempt to preclude the possibility of being "Beltran-ed", has given Grizzlies PF and unrestricted free agent Stromile Swift a Monday deadline to decide whether or not to accept the Rockets' offer, presumed to be the team's Mid-Level Exception, since there is no cap space left for 2005. The only other option that I understand there to be is a sign-and-trade between the Rockets and Grizz, under which scenario the Rockets' could offer more money than the MLE affords them.

I'm watching Clutch Fans closely for any developments, but I'm not optimistic. I do like Swift's potential and think he could potentially solve a lot of the Rockets' frontcourt woes, but I do not see him accepting "only" $4.5-$5 million per year from the Rockets, especially considering the outlandish free agent market (Bobby Simmons 5 years - $47M from Bucks, Larry Hughes getting about $12M/year from Cavs, Shareef Abdur-Rahim refusing a Simmons-like offer from the Bucks, Joe Johnson being offered 5 years - $70M from Atlanta). If Swift takes the MLE from the Rockets, he either truly has desires of winning (this is the NBA, so this possibility is laughable at best) with the Rockets or he has TO's agent.

My biggest fear is that Swift spurns the Rockets, and we are faced with the possibility of Antoine Walker in a Rockets' uniform. To me, the selfish, no-D Antoine playing for JVG is the NBA equivalent of Ricky Williams being recruited as a motivational speaker by D.A.R.E., but apparently there have been some discussion between the parties. I would rather have a cardiac-challenged Juwan and calorie-challenged Spoon at the 4 than Antoine Walker. I'm still a little disappointed that neither Udonis Haslem nor Reggie Evans have been more prominently mentioned as possibilities in Houston. Even though both are restricted FA's, I'd like to see the Rockets at least feign some interest, indicating that they do comprehend what they need in a PF. Antoine Walker seems to provide exactly the opposite of what the consensus believes the Rockets need at the 4.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Premier Move of the Offseason

Looks like your Houston Rockets are continuing to build on the success of the 2004-2005 campaign. No, I'm not talking about the addition of a legitimate power forward to complement Yao. I'm talking about the subtraction of the single worst commentator in the history of television. That's right, Houston. Our long nightmare is over--Van Chancellor will no longer be the Rockets' color analyst.


Legal pundits, such as noted constitutional law scholar Kentucky Scott, will not doubt opine at length on the grave injustice of Calvin Murphy's acquittal not being sufficient to garner reinstatement with his former employer. I prefer to focus elsewhere. Do I think Clyde Drexler will be a tremendous addition? No. We've all heard him speak countless times, the most recent of which was during the 2005 NBA Playoffs. Needless to say, I'm not optimistic. Do I think Matt Bullard is the answer? A resounding yes. He's sharp and insightful, two qualities that would never describe Van or Calvin. Check that--Murphy's jackets were nothing less than sharp.

But the merciful termination of Van's nonsensical Mississippian ramblings may well be the biggest moment in the history of the franchise. The two championships, drafting the Dream, winning the Yao lottery, pulling off the heist for T-Mac, Vernon Maxwell going Ron Artest on fans in Portland before anyone knew who Ron Artest was...they all pale in comparison to the joy our collective ears will feel next season not having to listen to the "homespun Southern drawl" (read: grating, saliva-blurred cliches) of Van Chancellor. I was forced to watch nearly every Rockets game on mute this last season because of Van. It was either lose the sounds of the game or succumb to a fatal loss of blood through my ear canals. While I don't hold out much hope for the Glide, knowing that Bull will be the voice of reason on the road next year is truly music to my ears. I could probably end on a Comets joke, but I will refrain from doing so.

Memo to Drayton: Say "No" to Dunn

Back on June 10th, I blogged that the Astros must win 9 of their last 12 games in June to foster any hopes of postseason play. They won exactly 9 of those last 12 and have proceeded to win 6 out of their first 7 in July. A 3-1 finish to the homestand heading into the All-Star Break will have the Astros 1 game over .500, which is astonishing.

The Astros' improved play as of late, combined with the annual planning for a firesale in Cincinnati, have sparked rumors of a blockbuster Adam Dunn-to-Houston trade. Even with the incompetency currently occupying the Reds' front office, such a deal will certainly cost the Astros at least 3 decent propsects, most likely pitching prospects. It is my feeling that such a trade would be a very bad idea for the Astros, and that is not just because I am a desperate Reds' fan.

First, if it is true that Dunn is seriously interested in coming to Houston after reaching free agency in the fall of 2006, the Astros have no need to part with potential pieces to their future big league pitching staff in order to obtain Dunn's services for the long-term. Dunn would admittedly bring some legitimacy to the Astros' 2005 postseason hopes if added to the everyday lineup, but most dire-hard Astros' followers would have to admit that a World Series run is quite unlikely in 2005, with or without Adam Dunn. If you're potentially going to have a shot at Dunn next fall without giving up a single prospect, is it worth 3 quality prospects for a year-and-a-half of Dunn? Unless Dunn's arrival virtually cements a World Series berth in 2005 or 2006, the answer is no.

In addition, last night's game serves as a stark reminder as to the fragility of the Astros' most impressive feature: its starting pitching. Roy O will be the anchor of this staff for years to come. Roger's return is certainly questionable for 2006 and beyond. Pettitte continues to shine when healthy, but unfortunately, his health must be considered a substantial concern based on the consistent tightness in his left elbow and forearm. Brandon Backe had a solid end to 2004, but he has struggled considerably in 2005, both with his performance and apparently with his health, as he too has admitted to feeling considerable pain in his throwing arm. The fifth slot is currently occupied by Wandy Rodriguez, he of the 6.55 ERA. Should any of the above go down for an extended period of time, their likely replacements should not make Astros' fans feel all that comfortable. Astacio has been shelled repeatedly everywhere north of Kissimmee in 2005, Duckworth is still Duckworth, and Taylor Buchholz is 6-0 at AAA but still sports a 4+ ERA and only 41 K's in 68+ innings.

The gist of what I'm saying is this: the amazing performance of the Astros' starting pitching in the first-half of 2005 is most likely only going to be a short-term phenomenon based on both age and health concerns. If for some reason the Astros really could acquire Dunn for 3 Duckworth-type prospects, they would have to consider it. But the Astros must realize that should they mortgage the proverbial pitching farm for a slugger like AD in 2005, they may well look like Dunn's then-ex-team, the all-hit, no-pitch Reds, in 2006 and beyond.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Gallo--Heir to the Missile

UPDATE (07/07/05)--As if spurred on by my post, Garner again inserted Mike Gallo into the game last night. He faced two batters, one of whom was admittedly the always-tough Robert Fick. Gallo's statline for the night, you ask?

M. Gallo--0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, O BB, O SO, O HR, 13 PC (9 S), and a paltry 10.80 ERA.

What exactly is his purpose? To wear down the opposing team by letting them sprint all over the basepaths? I'm actually a bit peeved that Garner didn't let him try to work out of the jam. I would have had material for another month.

Despite Kentucky Scott's attempt to brand me a Mike Gallo fan, I do not think there is anyone on the current roster that I despise more. For Mike Gallo, in the great tradition of Houston's terrible middle relief (notably excepting the Lidge/Dotel set-up for Wagner that Houston enjoyed in 2003), is truly the closest thing we have to Dan Miceli on the 2005 squad. Actually, such a comparison may be unfair--to Miceli. At least that guy had a couple of solid months before self-immolating like a monk protesting the invasion of Vietnam.

Any time Gallo steps to the bump, I feel a tangy cocktail of vomit, dread, and vomit rising in my throat. Last night, I almost had a seizure when I saw him take the field, even with a five run lead. It was like a flashback to a horrible car accident. Doesn't anyone remember Jimy Williams' cruel indictment of Gallo in 2004 spring training? It was something to the effect of, "Gallo's too young to be a lefty specialist." Well, like a lot of things, Jimy almost got it right.

In reality, as Scott's post so eloquently notes (it actually pained me to type that), Gallo is too terrible to be any sort of specialist. He is a gas can, pure and simple. Phil Garner might as well pour diesel on the mound at MMP and light a match before he calls on Gallo. Aside from doing those terrible William Hung impressions on the jumbotron at MMP last year, he has contributed nothing but heartache to the Houston faithful. Damn you, Gallo. Damn you straight to Corpus.

Not so Special(-ist)

Tim's boy, Mike Gallo, is a great illustration of a guy who is likely only in baseball because he throws with his left hand. He has extremely mediocre "stuff" and sub-par stats. But apparently the Astros' brass, between time well spent polishing Biggio's statue and searching for overweight, no-hit Hispanic catchers, has not had time to take a peek on Mike's split stats.

Gallo has predominantly been brought into ballgames over the past 3 years to face left-handed hitters late in games, following the traditional notion that lefty hitters are at a disadvantage against lefty pitchers. Scrap Iron followed this same train of thought last night, bringing Gallo in to face Ryan Klesko and Brian Giles.

For Gallo's career, righties have an OPS of .888 and lefties have an OPS of .797. He has struck out lefties at a slightly higher clip (33K in 41 innings v. lefties, 20K in 39 innings v. righties). Essentially, however, Gallo seems to have no advantage when facing LH batters over RH batters. His career numbers in sum are equally unimpressive: ERA 4.13, WHIP 1.43, 1 HR allowed every 5+ innings, 85 hits allowed in 80 innings, 53 K and 30 BB, OPS against of .840 and OBP against of .349.

So the question is, which front office member of the Astros organization does Gallo hold compromising pictures of? Or maybe in a less conspiratorial theme, if you're going to keep throwing this no-talent clown out onto the hill in a relief role, Phil, could you please quit with the L/R manuevering? Ray King he's not.

Mike Gallo has pitched in 103 games in his Astros career and never lost a decision (he's 3-0). In his career, batters facing Gallo with the bases loaded are hitting .105, batters with RISP and 2 outs are hitting .178, batters w/ RISP generally are hitting .200, whereas batters with no one on base are hitting .341. Gallo certainly seems intensely focused on the mound, at least for the first batter or two, and these numbers seem to corraborate that he's at his best during his first 30-60 seconds out of the pen. So let's experiment with MG as a "bases loaded" specialist or RISP specialist - 1 batter only. The numbers suggest that would be the best way to utilize his "skeelz".

As a team, by the way, the Astros' LHP have fared quite miserably against LHP:

Andy Petttitte's been solid with a .664 OPS against LH batters.
Ex-"specialist" John Franco had a solid OPS against LH batters (.689) but that was short-circuited by the fact that lefties were reaching base at a .356 clip against him.
Wandy Rodriguez: lefties are OPS'ing 1.374 against him, reaching base 52% of the time.
Mike Gallo: (albeit in 2 games) 2 hits in 3 at-bats, 2.000 OPS.

Izturis to DL, Ensberg to Motown?

With Dodgers' All-Star SS Cesar Izturis heading to the DL on Tuesday, maybe a spot opens up for Astros' 3B Morgan Ensberg? And if Astros' fans hadn't put away their Jeff Kent voodoo dolls yet, now would be a good time to re-activate them, as Kent's hamstrings are apparently tightening. If he were to withdraw as well, it would be nearly impossible for Mo-E to be left off.

My take is that it is a complete crime that Roy O didn't make the roster, but hopefully the fan vote will remedy that problem. Ensberg is next on the NL list, and then Cliff Floyd should be added if another player is sidelined for any reason.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Fuel to the Fire

Richard Justice's blog at Chron.com details an ESPN rumor that the Astros (allegedly) offered a package of Zeke Astacio, Taylor Buchholz and Fernando Nieve to the Reds for Adam Dunn. I realize that Dan O'Brien is a renowned moron, but only John Kruk could think up a deal this thought-provoking. After the Reds pound the daylights out of Astacio, they decide they'd like him included in a deal for their most talented player. Sounds novel.

Be prepared for the rumors to multiply like Shawn Kemp's child support liabilities as the trade deadline creeps closer. As a Reds' fan, my only hope is that their incompetent front office forwards each offer to the other interested teams so that competent GM's have to outbid each other. If Dan O'Brien is forced to deal one-on-one with another big-league GM, a package such as the aforementioned could be potentially viable, which makes my stomach ache.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Adam D-O-N-E in the Natti

My last brilliant comment to Kentucky Scott's insightful Roy O post got me thinking. As it is a virtual certainty that Adam Dunn will be an Astro no later than 2007 (when he becomes a free agent), why wouldn't the Reds trade him now for prospects? He's repeatedly expressed an interest in returning to his hometown. He's openly complained about management's handling of his buddy Austin Kearns and, more importantly, his Barry Bonds recliner. Unlike the NBA, MLB does not allow his current team to offer him more money than anyone else once he becomes a free agent. In other words, it's a completely open market; the Reds can't offer him more than any other team. After the success of the Rocket and Andy show, it seems logical to think that Uncle Drayton would pony up some real cheddar for a homegrown slugger.

As such, if you're the Astros, what package would you offer for Dunn right now? The Reds would probably want Troy Patton, but I can't see the Astros parting with him. What about Astacio, Bucholtz, and Burke? Maybe Backe? Maybe Brad Ausmus and a limo full of strippers? Thoughts?

Overshadowed Oswalt

Brian Goff at The Sports Economist considers how the lack of media attention has diminished, at least from a national perspective, the understanding of the greatness of Roy Oswalt. Funny that Goff cites an earlier article from the Cincinnati Post, a town all too familiar with Roy O's talents, as the Wizard is 14-0 lifetime against the hometown Redlegs.

Unfortunately, the larger media markets, while not appropriately recognizing and/or hyping the talents of guys like smaller market stars like Oswalt and Cincinnati's own Adam Dunn, do manage to hype them up when free agency comes calling, attracting the big-market teams' fans' attention to the availability of a young, underrated star (see Carlos Beltran), and sadly (from the little guy's perspective, at least), the big-market teams end up breaking the bank to lock up the "unknown" stars. If only the Astros, Reds, Royals and Co. could keep the hype down for a few months post-arbitration eligibility, maybe the tunnel vision of Big City Media would blind Big Stein and Friends enough that they would not know to scratch a blank check to acquire the services of such talented young players.