H-Town Sports

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Astros Offseason: Lose Rocket, Add Nothing, Fire Beloved Announcer

I can't believe that there isn't more to this behind the scenes than what is currently being reported. In an offseason where the Astros havve already potentially lost Roger Clemens and added absolutely nothing to improve their meek offense but managed to raise ticket prices (understandable, but not so smart when you are simultaneously ticking off the majority of your fan bawse), McLane & Friends then fire a quality radio analyst in Alan Ashby, who is beloved by the community and respected by his peers. And to top it all off, they do it Christmas week.

Ashby apparently was rocky during his first couple of seasons working in the Astros' radio booth with Milo Hamilton, and I have heard him in interviews mention that he knows that he struggled but that he put a tremendous amount of time and energy into improving. I believe that those long hours paid off, as he certainly has proven to be more than capable during the past few seasons, adding both interesting insights available only from a former player and an affable personality, all the while working tirelessly to cover for Milo Hamilton's ever-increasing mountain of on-air confusion.

If some outsider came in and blew away the competition, and Astros management wanted to go another direction, that is understandable. But I do not understand why the Astros felt obligated to handle this situation in the manner that they have. Either there's more to this story that is as of yet unreported or the Astros just made an egregious error in judgment. I wonder if Ashby got ticked that he wasn't going to be named as Milo's successor and said/did something shouldn't have. Previously, the Astros' management had proven to be inept in their on-field decision making, but now it has apparently spread to the business side as well. Best wishes to Ashby and his family as they cope with this developing situation. From all reports, he is a class act and deserved nothing like this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Return of Joe Mesi

I don't recall ever posting anything related to boxing before here at H-Town Sports, but I also don't recall another boxing-related story that has captured my attention quite like this one has. Joe Mesi, a 32-year old undefeated heavyweight fighter, had his Nevada boxing licenses suspended for the past 21 months out of health concerns. After Mesi's last fight in March 2004, he suffered at least two blood clots on his brain, also known as subdural hematoma, which is commonly the cause of death when a boxer dies as a result of injuries suffered in the ring. Due to these injuries, Nevada officials suspended his license to box in the state, and apparently the rules of boxing require that other states honor the Nevada suspension and refuse to allow Mesi to fight in their states as well.

On Monday, a court in Nevada ruled that since Mesi's license to fight in Nevada had actually expired, then the suspension was also terminated, allowing Mesi to resume fighting in other states and possibly even in Nevada as long as he applies for a license and meets that state's requirements. Doctors line up, not surprisingly, on both sides of the fence. Some claim that the injuries seen in March 2004 have fully healed and that there is no reason to believe that Mesi will be any more susceptible to a recurrence in future fights than any other boxer. Others claim that Mesi is clearly more susceptible to subdural hematoma and that allowing him back into the ring is essentially handing him a death sentence. Either way, many people (like yours truly) who typically don't follow the "sweet science" will likely be paying close attention when Joe Mesi makes his next appearance in the ring, and it's for all the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Will They or Won't They?

Tonight at 11:00 p.m. Central is the deadline by which the Astros have to either offer Roger Clemens salary arbitration or lose the right to negotiate with him until May 1. There has been speculation far and wide as to the strategies and mindsets of both Roger and the Astros as the deadline has grown closer. Is Roger's body worn down too much to pitch another season? Are the Astros willing to pay him $18M again? How can they not, seeing as that he had the best ERA of any starting pitcher in baseball in 2005? How will pitching in the World Games affect the Rocket's ability to pitch for the Astros? How does the presence of Koby Clemens in the Astros organization affect Roger's thinking? Will Roger refuse to pitch on the road, on Tuesdays or in games where the temperature is not to his liking?

My opinion? The Astros ownership thinks from a PR perspective, not a baseball perspective, in nearly all of these type situations. They let Carlos Beltran and Scott Boras drag them on throughout the entire 2004-2005 offseason mostly because they wanted to give their fans the perception that they "cared" about keeping Beltran. In hindsight, they were played for fools and lost out on several opportunities to make the team better (keep Kent, pursue bullpen help, etc.)

From the PR perspective, the Astros cannot afford NOT to offer arbitration to the Rocket because if they don't, the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, etc. can start bidding for the Rocket's services. Whether or not Roger is interested in pitching for any other team is irrelevant, from an Astros PR perspective. A situation where Roger sat available on the free agent market would be disastrous from a PR standpoint for the Astros because it would make them look unappreciative of Roger's past two years of service and too cheap to compete with the big-market clubs.

Therefore, my guess is that Drayton will certainly offer the Rocket arbitration, if only to keep the other teams from gaining an opportunity to make the Astros look bad. Unfortunately for Astros fans, baseball logic routinely comes in a distant second place when it comes to their front office's decision making process. Hopefully, for Astros fans, Tim Purpura finds a way to satisfy Roger and the Hendricks brothers while simultaneously convincing Drayton to open up the checkbook to add some much needed offensive help. Contrary to Phil Garner's comments to the media yesterday, my belief is that going into 2006 with the same team from 2005 (all one year older) with the expectation that they will perform at or above their level of play from 2005 is insane.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Worth Staying Up Late

If you turned in early on Sunday night, you missed the best sporting event, as far as quality of play and level of passion and excitement, that the weekend had to offer. Washington held off a typically fiesty Gonzaga team 99-95 late Sunday night to extend its home winning streak to 29 games. The Zags had beaten their intrastate rival seven straight times entering last night's Dog Fight, but foul trouble and injuries to Derek Raivio, Josh Heytvelt and Erroll Knight left Gonzaga head coach Mark Few with few alternatives. His bench made a valiant effort, and superstar Adam Morrison dropped 43 on the Huskies, at least half of which were highly contested shots with extremely high degrees of difficulty. Lorenzo Romar's team played a stellar game, making the big shot whenever it was needed and playing in front of a raucous home crowd, and it was barely enough to escape with the W.

Do yourself a favor and get in the habit of staying up late and watching some WCC basketball this season, especially the Zags. Adam Morrison is a far superior talent to ESPN's trophy boy J. J. Redick, and Mark Few gets more intensity, passion and execution out of his players than any other coach in America. Morrison can score from absolutely anywhere on the floor, whether popping off a screen, driving to the basket, cutting without the ball or posting up. Post man J. P. Batista has incredible hands and a delicate touch around the basket, and when Knight and Raivio get healthy, the Zags will be a legit Final 4 contender. Additionally, Gonzaga was 18-22 from the line last night, dropping their team average of 86% heading into the game.

It will be interesting to watch Morrison's career progress. He plays the game with tremendous energy and clearly possesses a fiery competitive streak, both of which are perfectly suited for the college game. His talent is more than enough to make him a viable NBA prospect, but it will be interesting to see whether or not he jumps early to the often lifeless NBA regular season grind. I, for one, hope he sticks around for another year after this one.