H-Town Sports

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

Friday, June 30, 2006

Coming Soon: Interview with Greg Rajan

Check back soon for the results of a Q&A session that H-Town Sports recently had with Greg Rajan, who works as the Corpus Christi Caller-Times' beat writer for the Hooks.

Last Night on the Farm

AAA: Brandon Backe was roughed up for five runs in three innings in his first start since going on the DL with a sprained right elbow back in mid-April. Laynce Nix was the thorn in Backe's side, hitting a three-run bomb in the first inning and a two-run double in the second. Jailen Peguero pitched two scoreless innings for the Express. Hopefully he'll keep that up and become an option for Tim Purpura to consider for the big club's bullpen, although that's unlikely because Jailen does not turn thirty-five for another decade or so.

In brighter news, the Express will be represented by starting pitchers Jason Hirsh and Chris Baker and outfielder Luke Scott at the 2006 Triple-A All-Star Game on July 12 in Toledo.

AA: The Hooks were rained out in Wichita on Thursday night.

High-A: Salem returned to action with a 2-1 loss to Winston-Salem. All-Stars Drew Sutton and Beau Torbert combined for five hits to lead the Avalanche, and IF Neil Sellers had two hits, including his first home run of the season. Ronnie Martinez continued his string of brilliant starts, allowing only two hits in seven innings, which shot his ERA skyward to 1.76. To show how reliable W-L records are when evaulating a pitcher's ability (in case our Wandy Rodriguez exercise did not convince you), Martinez is 2-4 now with the 'Lanche, despite that 1.76 ERA.

Low-A: The Legends were shut out 4-0 by the Greenville Drive, who won the game on a walk-off grand slam in the eleventh inning by 1B Logan Sorensen. RP German Melendez continued to destroy opposing hitters, hurling 2.1 innings of hitless, scoreless relief and striking out three, which lowered his ERA with the Legends this season to 1.05. Legends' manager Jack Lind's decision to walk the bases loaded after the Drive got a runner to third base with one out in the eleventh worked out about as well as the Victor Riley signing by the Texans in 2005.

Short-Season A: The Dust Devils won their second straight game, this time 1-0 over Boise. Another fine start for Shane Lindsay led the Devils.

Rookie: Greenville blasted Johnson City 8-2. The Astros pounded out ten hits, and starter Sergio Severino allowed only one hit in five scoreless innings to earn his first win.

[Deadspin] Let the 'Shooting Straight' Jokes Begin (Again)

Deadspin says all there is to say. Still searching for rock bottom, eh, Ed?

How Can You Not Love Shane Battier?

From today's Chronicle:

"Shane Battier knows just how you feel.

He doesn't blame you. He takes no offense.

He also is not worried that he will win over the fans that booed their way out of Toyota Center on Wednesday.

'It's completely understandable for fans,' Battier said Thursday, a day after the Rockets agreed to send Stromile Swift and the rights to No. 8 draft pick Rudy Gay to the Memphis Grizzlies for Battier.

'The nice, shiny-red fire engine looks better than the old, shabby teddy bear that's been around the block a few times. But I'm going to do everything I can to earn the city of Houston's respect, to earn Rockets fans' respect.

'It's going to end up a pretty good deal.'"

Screw that shiny-red fire engine. It never had any heart. Bears, on the other hand, have a fully functioning circulatory system. Bears dive after loose balls. Bears play defense. Bears don't disappear in crunch time.

Mark my words--Houston fans will dig Shane Battier. Health permitting, the Rockets are going to be legit.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Astros Farm Report

AAA: Round Rock held off Oklahoma 8-7 Wednesday night on the road powered by the bat of IF Brooks Conrad, who homered and scored four runs for the Express. C Humberto Quintero had three knocks in the win, and Luke Scott added a pair of hits and drove in two. Chris Sampson had a so-so outing and recorded the win, and more importantly, Mike Gallo came in to face one hitter in the eighth inning, and that hitter promptly doubled in two runs. Nice to know that there are some things that you can always count on in life.

Don't forget, Brandon Backe makes his first rehab start tonight for the Express.

AA: Corpus Christi embarassed Springfield 8-0 behind Chance Douglass' stellar pitching effort. Douglass' name seems to be forgotten behind guys like Patton, Hirsh and Albers, and understandbly so, but he is quietly moving up the minor league ladder in rather dominant fashion. Douglass struck out ten and allowed only five hits in a complete-game shutout. 25 year-old Ben Zobrist continued his boring annihilation of Double-A pitching, reaching base four out of five times and stealing a pair of bases. Marc Saccomanno hit his fifth home run for the Hooks as well.

As a quick aside, let me re-state this: Ben Zobrist played college baseball at Dallas Baptist University, is 25 years old and is currently playing in Double-A. In his first season (2004) at Tri-City, Ben recorded astounding numbers at the plate: .339/.438/.463. He split 2005 between Lexington (.304/.415/.413) and Salem (.333/.475/.496) and is currently hitting at a .331/.439/.462 clip for the Hooks. He's unquestionably a better hitter AT THIS VERY MOMENT than Eric Bruntlett or Adam Everett, and he's older than everday major-league shortstops Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Jhonny Peralta Aaron Hill, Ronny Cedeno, Ian Kinsler, J.J. Hardy and Yuniesky Betancourt. As part of a recurring theme, this is further proof that the Astros minor-league philosophy is a complete joke.

Greg Rajan, the excellent beat writer for the Hooks, has a great feature on the Hooks' closer Paul Estrada out of Venezeula. Estrada's got 91 K's in 54 innings, and opponents are hitting just .197 against him on the season. As a reliever, he's SECOND in the Texas League in K's behind teammate (and starting pitcher) Juan Gutierrez. His out pitch is a devastating forkball, about which pitching coach Joe Slusarski simply raves in Rajan's piece. T-Poo: Pick up the phone. What's the point of waiting? This guy is clearly ready for the next level, right? He's 23, not 18. Make a MOVE!!!

High-A: The Legends rallied for three runs in the ninth to knock off Greenville 7-5. Four hits, including a home run, for Ole Sheldon, and two hits, a walk and a homer for RF Ryan Reed.

Low-A: Salem had a fine showing at the All-Star Game, with Beau Torbert racking up two hits and two RBI, Chad Reineke pitching a scoreless inning for the win and closer Pablo Escobar earning the save.

Short Season A
: Tri-City defeated Vancouver 2-1 despite picking up only a single hit. Three errors and five walks helped push a run across for the Dust Devils, got seven scoreless innings from Tomas Santiago.

Rookie: Greenville pushed across a pair of runs in the eighth inning to earn a home win over Johnson City. DH Ralph Henriquez was the hero with a two-run shot, his second of the season.

Make the Call, CD

Andy Katz has a piece on his blog about guys who went to sleep disappointed last night. I'm not big on Darius Washington, though I think I like him better than Daniel Gibson, and though I enjoyed watching West Virginia play the past two seasons, I'm not huge on Kevin Pittsnogle either. However, I pray that Carroll Dawson and Daryl Morey have already made the call to Mike Gansey from that same Mountaineer team. He is quite Jon Barry-like and could be an excellent role player off the Rockets' bench. Pops-Mensah Bonsu out of GWU would also be fun to watch in summer league play.

Forecasting the 2007 College World Series

Although the roar of the faithful Beaver fans of Oregon State University is far from silent, (though I could very easily be confusing Beaver fans with the shrieks of horror over yet another incarnation of the University of Oregon Fear the Duck football uniform theme), college baseball analysts are already offering their early predictions for the 2007 campaign.

Will Kimmey of Baseball America probably offered his prediction before the Beavers had even reached the team bus, but if he is accurate (and he admittedly only named four of the eight 2006 College World Series participants), local college baseball fans will again have reason to watch for the talent-rich University of Texas Longhorns and Rice University Owls squads.

We will have to wait and see how the offseason shapes up as the draftees continue to weigh their options, but I don't see why the Longhorns and Owls will not renew their CWS rivalry dividing Houston fans once more. Until then, we at least have our faithful EA Sports substitute.

Pts + Reb + Def + Winner - (Potential * Enigma) = Daryl Morey?

Packaging a player (and his burdensome contract) who simultaneously manages to lead his team in SportsCenter highlights per minute played, benchings per minute played and lingering cases of pinkeye with a similarly situated player from the college ranks and obtaining a proven, effective professional basketball player in return? Do I smell Moneyball? If this trade is a prelude of the Daryl Morey era, then being a Rockets' fan is about to become a much more enjoyable experience than it has been for the past decade.

Courtesy of the innovative minds at 82games.com, amateurs like us can easily get their mitts on stats like those that Daryl Morey and his ilk use to evaluate players.

One such example is +/-, which is used primarily in hockey, but which is beginning to become trendier in the basketball world. Here's a quick comparison:

Battier led the Grizz in +/- ratio in 2005-2006 - the Grizz outscored its opponents by 360 total points while he was on the floor last season, at an average of +6.1 points per 48 minutes. When Battier was off the court during games, his team was outscored by an average of 2.4 points per 48 minutes, an amazing spread of 8.5 points, which led the team. He was second on the team in defensive average (86.2), indicating that his presence on the court correlated strongly with a more effective defensive performance from his team. In 2/3 of the games in which Battier played last season (54 out of 81), the Grizzlies outscored their opponent while he was on the floor, which also lead his team. Note also that this was not a small sample size, as Battier was on the floor for 71% of the minutes that his team played, second only to Paul Gasol's 78%. And for those of you concerned about Battier's multi-year contract, under which Battier made $4.9M last season, the guys at 82.games interpret Battier's play last season as being worthy of $10.54M, more than double his actual salary.

Stro? Think opposite. The Rockets were outscored by an average of 4.8 points per minute while Swift was ON THE FLOOR, breaking even when he was on the bench. His "Fair Salary" based on his play last year is estimated at $1.94M, or 38% of the $5.0M that the Rockets paid him for the season. The contrast between Battier and Swift could not be more clear, if your goal is winning basketball games.

***Two tidbits:

#1) Which Rocket led the team in Win% - you guessed it. Or did you? The answer is (I proudly reveal) - Kentucky's own Chuck Hayes. The Rockets outscored their opponents by 7.3 points per 48 minutes when Chuck was on the floor and outscored their opponents while he played in 70.3% of the games in which he played.

#2) Which Rocket had the worst impact on his team from a +/- perspective? Without a doubt, the answer is Juwan Howard. Howard was sixth worst in the entire NBA, as the Rockets fared 9.0 points per 48 minutes better when he was on the bench than when he was in the game. Let's see how that plays out in Juwan's future with the Rockets.

#3) Need a backup PG? New Orleans fared 7.8 points per 48 minutes better while Speedy Claxton was on the floor than when he was not.

Now, THAT'S a Draft!

After listening to the usual talk radio screaming in the wake of last night's NBA Draft, I have realized that Scott and I must be the only guys who absolutely LOVE what the Rockets did last night. Here's the final tally:

Rockets Acquire
F Shane Battier (10.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 48.8% FGP, 39.4% 3FGP last season)

Grizzlies Acquire
F Rudy Gay (taken 8th overall by the Rockets)
F Stromile Swift (regrettably signed as a free agent last summer)

Battier instantly makes the Rockets markedly better. He is a top-notch defender and a great third offensive option. Most importantly, he's shown that he's capable of hitting the three. The bottom line is that Dawson, Van Gundy & Co. realize that they have a window of another two to four years to make a title run with T-Mac and Yao. Winning immediately, not waiting for a rookie to develop, is the key. Battier gives the Rockets the best chance to do that.

For all the fans lamenting the loss of Rudy Gay, I ask that you take some time to watch his play at UConn last season. The guy is a complete and total dog. Amazing talent to be sure, but he has zero heart, hustle, and/or grit. I would rather gouge my eyes out than deal with him on my team for the next ten years. As I said in my comment to Scott's mock draft yesterday, I'll eat my hat if Gay turns out to be anything but an enormous bust.

For all the fans lamenting the loss of Stromile Swift, I ask that you substitute his name in place of Rudy Gay's in the previous paragraph.

It's a banner day, Rockets Nation. We subtracted two dogs and added a gamer. Get excited about the 2006-2007 NBA season; the Rockets just got a whole lot better.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

News from the NBA


In an effort to improve scoring throughout the league, NBA Commissioner David Stern today announced the implentation of a new ball(s) system. The system will debut in the 2006-2007 season. New league sponsor Dave & Busters is excited about the move, and subject to approval by the NBA Players' Union, an amendment to the current collective bargaining agreement will allow NBA teams to pay their players in the form of Fun Tokens or Party Tickets, which the players will be able to redeem at stations located conveniently throughout NBA stadium concourses in exchange for Hot Wheels Escalades, stuffed rotweilers and slap bracelets.

It's Draft Night - (How) Will the Rockets Blow It This Time?

Before we start discussing tonight's draft, how about a quick recap of the Rockets' drafts since 1994.

The Hits
:
Yao Ming (#1 pick, 2002): I give the Rockets credit for this because many pundits thought Jay Williams should have been the pick. Yao has been outstanding, even for a #1 pick.

Kenny Thomas (#22 pick, 1999): Solid contributor who never should have been traded. Nice late first-round pick.

Cuttino Mobley (2nd round pick, 1998): Above-average NBA starting two-guard selected in the second round of the draft. Can't ask for much more than that.

The Misses:
To conserve bandwidth, I'm only going to mention the first rounders, but my intent in so doing is not to give the Rockets a free pass for their multitude of horrible second round picks (Badiane, Flores, Maddox, Washington, Hamilton...oops, sorry, I said I was only going to mention first rounders). Occassionally selecting a player with a second-round pick who at least makes your traveling squad for a year or two would be a real bonus.

OK, first rounders only. Boki Nachbar. Three first-rounders traded for Ed "Shoots Straight" Griffin. Jason Collier. Michael Dickerson. Bryce Drew. Mirsad Turkcan. Rod Rhodes. Thanks to some deft swapping, there were several years where the Rockets were prevented from botching a first-round pick.

Since Ace of Base hit the charts with Tim's personal anthem, The Sign, the Rockets have exactly hit one home run, one double (Mobley) and a single (Thomas) with ALL of their draft selections. Tonight, the Rockets face their most crucial draft in fifteen years. Their roster already contains one of the greatest wing players in the game and one of the most dangerous post players in the game. The Heat showed that by adding the right complementary pieces to a dynamic duo, a team can win an NBA title. The Rockets are certainly a bit strapped by Juwan's contract, Sura's injury woes and Swift's inability to give a flying crap, but a couple of great picks tonight and a nice addition or two in free agency, and this team can be playing for an NBA title next season.

Tonight's draft promises to be exciting on a couple of fronts. First, there is absolutely no consensus among the talking heads as to who is going to be drafted where. Secondly, trades in the top ten appear to be certain, which always livens up the evening. Finally, I have actually heard of about 80% of the players eligible to be drafted, which is certainly a change from the last few years. Now that does not mean that I support the NBA's new age limit, because I absolutely do not, but that new rule in conjunction with the recent drop in Euro-splashes (how do you spell Tsikitsvilli again?) has apparently motivated more NBA teams to look to the college ranks for help.

Before we unveil the official Official H-Town Sports 2006 NBA Mock Draft, let's take a final look at what the internet pundits are predicting for the Rockets in the first round tonight:

NBADraft.net
: Rodney Carney
Real GM
: Brandon Roy
Chad Ford (ESPN): Randy Foye
Draft Express: Shelden Williams
Fanball: Shelden Williams (then traded to Atlanta for Brandon Roy)
Ian Thomsen (SI.com): Adam Morrison
Chris Ekstrand (SI.com): Marcus Williams
Brendan McGovern (About.com): Randy Foye
Collegehoops.net: Brandon Roy
Inside Hoops: Marcus Williams
Hoops Hype: Shelden Williams

A couple of the most interesting names being tossed about in trade rumors are Allen Iverson and Sebastian Telfair, both of whom are being mentioned in connection with Boston's #7 pick. I'm not sure how much value Philly can expect to get in return for AI at this point in his career, but I do think it's time for him to move on from Philly. Without further ado:

The Official H-Town Sports 2006 NBA Mock Draft - UPDATED

1. Toronto: Andrea Bargnani, Italy
- Toronto's hiring of Bargnani's GM in Italy, while apparently credible from a pure basketball standpoint, just cannot be ignored when making this prediction.

2. Chicago: LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas
- Chicago has plenty of backcourt talent, but they still need another banger on the front line. Aldridge seems to be the most sure pick, which likely means the Bulls avoid him, but I'll keep the Bulls' historic draft insanity out of the equation for purposes of this mock draft.

3. Charlotte: Rudy Gay, UConn
- Brandon Roy reportedly dissed Jordan by refusing to work out for him. Would it not be classic, Jordan being Jordan, if MJ refused to give in and took Roy with the third pick in spite of Roy's public unwillingness to be a Bobcat. In the alternative, Jordan takes a chance on the incredibly talented Gay in the hopes that his own personal presence will provide the spark necessary to send Gay into stardom.

4. Portland: Adam Morrison, Gonzaga
- The Blazers and Portland are struggling to co-exist, and this pick makes sense from a basketball and a business perspective.

5. Atlanta: Brandon Roy, Washington
- Don't fret yet, Rockets' fans.

6. Minnesota: Randy Foye, UConn
- The Wolves' backcourt is in desperate need of an upgrade, and Foye will help immediately.

7. Boston: Tyrus Thomas, LSU
- Boston continues its trend of stockpiling incredibly talented, unproven players as Thomas slips.

8. Houston: Shelden Williams, Duke
- There's just too much smoke to ignore here. Arn Tellem's clients both get their wish, as do the Hawks and the Rockets, who swap their first-round selections.

9. Golden State: Saer Sene, Belgium
- The Warriors add an athletic freak to their frontcourt, and he immediately gets a phone call from J-Rich advising him to stay the hell out of his way.

10. Seattle: Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas
- The Sonics add athleticism, creativity and defense by selecting the most underappreciated talent in this year's draft.

11. Orlando: Rodney Carney, Memphis
- The Magic need an athlete to complement Dwight Howard and replace Grant Hill, and Carney may be the most gifted player in the draft.

12. New Orleans: Cedric Simmons, NC State
- PJ Brown cannot play forever, can he?

13. Philadelphia: Rajon Rondo, Kentucky
- The Sixers cannot pass up on the potential of Rondo, though there's always the minor character flaw that he cannot put a ball through the hoop without simultaneously hanging on the rim, which may prove somewhat limiting.

***It will be interesting to see how far down J. J. Redick falls tonight. With the already-existing doubts about his ability to adapt his skills to the NBA style of play, his character issues and his back injury, he may fall a long, long way. Don't look to me for a net, Hemingway.

Second Round Sleepers:
Leon Powe, Cal: If the Rockets could find a taker for Swift, Powe would be a great backup PF.

Mike Gansey, WVU: He's just a great basketball player. He'll have a long, successful NBA career no matter where he winds up.

Steve Novak, Marquette: If the Rockets could somehow trade back a little bit, I'd love to see them take Novak. He's a dead-eye shooter with a better-than-advertised floor game.

David Noel, UNC: A late-blooming player who ranked as the best all-around athlete at the NBA's draft workouts.

Revisiting our Preseason MLB Predictions

Since we're almost at the halfway point, let's revisit the predictions made by Tim and me prior to the first pitch of baseball's regular season:

Tim:
1. Cards 89-73
2. 'Stros 87-75
3. Brewers 80-82
4. Cubs 75-87
5. Reds 74-88
6. Pirates 73-89

Good call on the Pirates (really out on a limb), but Tim appears to have undersold the Reds and oversold the Cubs. Not to mention the references such as "the massive stroke I suffered after reading Scott's prediction that the Reds will finish at .500" and "There's simply no way you just called 81 wins for the Reds. Perhaps you should lay off huffing the Elmer's."

The Astros have some serious work in front of them if they are to ever see twelve games over .500, the number which Tim picked for them. Similarly, barring an undefeated second half, Atlanta's hopes in the NL East do not look too promising, but the Padres continue to look reasonably safe in the NL West. Timmy had the AL pegged nicely, except that Cleveland's drop makes them unlikely to land the wildcard berth.

Scott:
1. St. Louis 90-72
2. Milwaukee 84-78
3. Cincinnati 81-81
4. Houston 80-82
5. Chicago 77-85
6. Pittsburgh 71-91

I also gave the Cubs a little bit too much credit, which is strange considering the amount of deep-seated hatred that I hold for their organization as a whole. For the most part, though, everything else is pretty much on course with regard to the Central. The Cards are even more vulnerable than I had anticipated, and I now think that 87 wins will take the Central division title.

My league-wide picks are much more askew. My NL Champion Phillies are stinking up the joint, making a World Series berth a bit of a long shot, and I also had the Braves winning the Wildcard. My world champion Angels have seemingly aged a decade or two overnight, but they do have a stockpile of young talent and an owner with extremely deep pockets, so it's not too late for them to make a run.

C.B. Bucknor Is the Spawn of Satan

After the NBA Finals, it seems that the fashionable thing to do these days is bashing the officiating. Well, far be it for me to refrain from jumping on the bandwagon. As I watched the first two games of the 'Stros-Tigers series, I couldn't help but tumble to two indisputable universal truths. First, the Astros bullpen may well be the worst collection of "talent" this side of "Battle of the Network Reality Stars." Second, C.B. Bucknor hates the Astros with every fiber of his being.

On Monday, it was the ridiculous ejection of Lance Berkman (followed by the understandable ejection of Phil Garner). Yesterday, it was the worst strike zone I've ever seen. When Houston was hitting, pitches that nearly hit Astro batters were called strikes. I clearly recall seeing Burke, Ensberg, and Everett dodging inside pitches only to see them called strikes by Bucknor. But I've got to give Bucknor credit; he was consistent in his screwjob of the Astros. When Clemens was on the hill, Bucknor seemingly refused to call any strikes that were not fouls or swing-and-a-miss. It was outrageous. So outrageous that Clemens completely lost his cool after Bucknor called a clear strike a ball in the 7th inning. Garner, who had already come out to "advise" Clemens earlier in the game, ran out to pull the Katy Rocket in lieu of him getting tossed. From there, Dan Wheeler ran in to predictably blow open the game, with a little help from Adam "Mr. Defense" Everett's throwing error.

The umpiring was so bad that when Burke fouled a fastball off Bucknor's facemask in the 9th, I just knew that he was going down unless he put the ball in play. It was obvious that Bucknor couldn't wait to call him out. And sure enough, Burke went down looking on a low "strike" to end the game.

I don't know how the Astros or the City of Houston wronged C.B. Bucknor. My guess is that someone at the Hilton forgot to put a mint on his pillow one night. But unless Drayton McLane tortured one of his family members, there is no justifiable excuse for his burning hatred of the team. In that same vein, there's no justifiable excuse for an Astros reserve (I vote Orlando Palmeiro) not waiting outside the umpires' locker room before today's game to beat Bucknor senseless.

Last Night on the Farm

AAA: Round Rock nipped Oklahoma 2-1 on the road last night on Charlton Jimerson's 9th inning dong. Jared Gothreaux had a nice start for the Express, striking out nine and allowing only one run in seven innings. Gothreaux was a 16th round pick by the Astros in 2002 out of McNeese State University. He has had a very solid run through the minor leagues, including a 3.96 ERA in 27 apperances (24 starts) in AA in 2004 and a 4.29 ERA in 15 starts in AAA last season. Jared's now 3-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 15 starts in AAA so far in 2006.

In transaction news, ex-Oakland and ex-Cincinnati reliever Joe Valentine was released by the Express and Zeke Astacio was placed on the 15-day DL with an ankle injury (so much for Tim's hopes of Zeke being called up to save the bullpen).

AA: The Hooks kept up their winning ways on Tuesday night, defeating Springfield (Cards) 7-3. Some guy named Hunter Pence went 3-3 and hit his 20th home run of the season, and LF Jorge Cortes extended his hitting streak to 23 games. At this rate, T-Poo's dream for Pence of winning the Texas League MVP may really come true! At least it's not at the expense improving the franchise as a whole or developing Pence's career by challenging him at higher levels. Someone pass this quote from Hooks' manager Dave Clark along to T-Poo for us: "I didn't see [Pence] swing at many bad pitches. I think I counted one." Purpura, you're a joke if this guy does not at least see Round Rock in the second half, and if he does not pee his sliding pants against AAA pitching, he deserves a September call-up as well. It is quite clear that he can handle AA pitching, and if he needs work against off-speed pitches, then he needs to move up a level and see some.

Mitch Talbot pitched six good innings for the win. I'm fully convinced that the Hooks would take four out of seven games in a series versus their major-league affiliate.

High-A: Salem's still off.

Low-A: Lexington fell to Greenville 6-5 in twelve innings. Last year's #1 pick Eli Iorg and SS Wladimir Sutil each had three hits for the Legends. German Melendez continued his dominance by striking out five in two innings, and he now has 31 K's and only six walks in 23+ innings for the Legends, not to mention a 1.16 ERA.

Short Season A: Vancouver rallied for four in the ninth to tie Tri-City and won the game with a run in the tenth. SS Daniel Mayora continues to be the most exciting Dust Devil. Daniels got three homers and four errors in nine games, and his error in the ninth opened the door for four unearned runs to score.

Rookie: Greenville fell to Johnson City 4-2 last night. OF Steve Brown had two hits to raise his average to .562 in sixteen at-bats.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Beavers By Damn!


The Oregon State University Beavers are your 2006 NCAA Baseball National Champions, completing an improbable, but dominating, march to victory the likes of which we have not seen since Sherman’s March to the Sea. The Beavers became the first team in the storied history of the College World Series to face six elimination games during the CWS and win them all.

In the course of their run, the Beavers eliminated two perennial powers, the University of Miami Hurricanes and the Rice University Owls, before upsetting a well-rested and seemingly unstoppable University of North Carolina Tarheels squad loaded with a pitching staff that some Major League clubs (say, the Chicago Cubs) would gladly take. By virtue of a Bill Buckner-type error by Tarheels second baseman Bryan Steed, the hungry Beavers scored the go-ahead run for a remarkable 3-2 victory.

The Beavers were told they would not recover from the 11-1 loss to the Hurricanes. They were told that they had no chance to beat a dominating Rice Owls squad. And many, including yours truly, told them that they would be hard pressed to find a live arm in the pitching staff and enough offense to overcome the Tarheels' star-studded rotation. We were wrong, and the angry Beavers chewed and clawed their way to a championship built on a couple of heroic efforts (and a four error defensive meltdown by the Tarheels).

Beaver Jonah Nickerson (RHP, 12-4) pitched in three elimination games in eight days at Omaha logging a total of 21 1/3 innings work, allowing just four runs and notching two wins with a total of … wait for it … wait for it … 323 pitches in just eight days. Nickerson was the clear choice as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, despite strong efforts by his teammates Dallas Buck (RHP, 13-3) and Bill Rowe (1B, going 12 for 27 with a HR in the CWS). Nickerson may never bowl again, but he will always have his national championship ring.

Congratulations to the scrappy, angry Beavers on a well deserved and gritty championship!

Not-So Magic Wandy

Wandy Rodriguez had a solid, nearly spectacular April: 4-0, 2.53 ERA, 1.13 WHIP. His May and June have been nearly as terrible as his April was splendid: May- 2-2, 5.29 ERA, 1.74 WHIP and June - 2-3, 6.42 ERA, 1.69 WHIP. Unfortunately, those splits are much more in line with his career splits than his April numbers were. Potentially worst of all, the Blistered One's confidence appears shot. A pitcher with an 85-mph maximum fastball must have the confidence to place it perfectly and to mix and match his pitches fearlessly. Instead, he looks as scared as a lone tamale on the post-game spread with Raul Chavez lurking.

It's time to end the Wandy experiment. In 49 lifetime starts, his ERA is 5.20 and his WHIP is 1.49. He's got 98 BB to 143 K, and those 143 K have been scattered in 228+ innings. Moral: Wandy is not a good starting pitcher. Much like Jeriome Robertson, he manages to win games in spite of his pitching ability, or lack thereof, due to incredible run support (3rd in NL with 6.95 runs per game of support from his offense). There certainly is a creative way to look at this. Roger Clemens was 4th from the bottom of the NL in 2005 in run support, maybe because his hitters relax on days when he pitches, similar to how the Astros hitters transform into the 1927 Yankees on days when Wandy pitches. Want to solve the offensive woes? Start Wandy. Daily. Sure, it might ruin his arm, but it's not like there's much there, and the Astros seem to win games in spite of his consistent inability to prevent the opponents from scoring, so what's to lose?

More traditionally, you've got a guy in the bullpen in Fernando Nieve who clearly has more stuff and more confidence than Wandy, and for that matter, you've got another guy in Triple-A for whom the same can be said (Jason Hirsh). The front office has long maintained the posture that it does not want to risk ruining young players by bringing them up too early. Nieve's already up. There's no such risk. Wandy's morale is not going to be done any favors by leaving him in the big-league rotation. He's been good against lefties so far in 2006 (0 HR, .228 BAA), contrary to previous years, so maybe try him as your Gallo (synonymous with "ineffective bullpen specialist"). There is no excuse that can be made with a straight-face for running W-Rod out there anymore this season.

Down on the Farm

AAA: Round Rock dropped Oklahoma 5-1 behind the pitching of Mark McLemore and recently demoted Phillip Barzilla, who combined to shutout the Okies for six innings. If you needed further evidence that T-Poo reads H-Town Sports, Jailen Peguero, promoted Monday from Double-A Corpus Christi, made his debut for the Express, allowing a run in 1.2 innings pitched. The timing of his promotion, though certainly reasonable considering his stats in AA, makes me think that the front office is looking to fast track Peguero to Houston. There were no relievers on the Express roster prior to JP's arrival worthy of a call-up. Oh, and fan favorite Alan Zinter hit two homers in the win.

AA: Matt Albers continued his dominance of AA batters in a 7-4 win over Springfield. Albers struck out eight in five solid innings of work, running his record to 9-2. Big Walter Young (pictured) homered and drove in four for the offense. Steve Kent arrived in Corpus from Round Rock, replacing Jailen Pegeuro on the roster. Kent, who sported a 2.43 ERA in 27 relief appearances for the Express, was surely thrilled with the demotion. Courtesy of Greg Rajan with the Corpus Christi Caller, LF Jorge Cortes has a 22 game hitting streak and a 45 game on-base streak, and H-Town Sports' favorite Jonny Ash has a 37-game on-base streak for the Hooks.

High-A: Salem is off until the 29th.

Low-A: Lexington fell 5-4 to Greenville despite Koby Clemens' 2nd HR of the season.

Short Season A
: The Dust Devils lost 3-1 to Vancouver. Joshua Sullivan made his second consecutive solid start. Sullivan was a 5th round pick by the Rockies out of Auburn in the 2005 draft.

Rookie: Greenville lost to Danville 4-3 in ten innings. Four Astros had two hits apiece in the loss.

At Least Scrap Iron Hasn't Lost His Sense of Humor...

After getting tossed for arguing Lance Berkman's ridiculous ejection last night, the Chronicle reports that Phil Garner uttered this gem when asked about throwing a chair from the dugout:

"I got thrown out, and that chair had been bothering me the whole game," Garner said after his first game in Detroit since the Tigers fired him as manager after losing the first six games of the 2002 season. "And I finally had a chance to throw it out of the dugout."

I totally know what he means. I hate chairs. And I'd sure as hell be focused on witty quips instead of figuring out a way to poison everyone in my bullpen. But that's just level-headed guys like me and Scrap Iron. The rest of Astros Nation might feel differently.

Query for the readers: What is the ideal Astros rotation? I'd second the idea Kentucky Scott proposed yesterday (yes, we spend an abnormally large amount of time trying to solve the Astros' problems, even outside of this forum)--Oswalt, Pettitte, Clemens, Buchholz, and Nieve. Throw Wandy in the bullpen and hope his eephus pitches get a few guys out in the seventh, and try to reshape Backe into a two-inning guy. Then, if T-Poo was so inclined, he could, you know, poison the rest of the bullpen with some bad Chinese food. Or some bad ham. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Somebody Pinch Me

Courtesy of excellent Rockets unofficial fan site Clutch Fans and website Draft Express, the Hawks and Rockets are heavily rumored to have finalized a trade that will take place on Wednesday night. The trade would involve the Hawks selecting Washington Husky SG Brandon Roy with the #5 pick in the draft and then shipping him to Houston, who would select Shelden Williams #8 and package him with Luther Head to Atlanta in return from Roy. This all sounds spectacular to me as a Rockets' fan, but most things that I have read indicate that Roy will not be around at #5 for Atlanta to select. I think the Rockets had better move higher than #5 if they want to be guaranteed getting their man.

Other rumors include Portland and Houston swapping picks (possibly involving Juwan Howard) and the Rockets selecting Tyrus Thomas and a Philly Enquirer piece suggesting Juwan Howard as the trade bait to Atlanta rather than Luther Head.

The Weekend in the Minors

AAA:

On Friday night, Chris Sampson marked his return to Round Rock with a decent outing, as the Express won 4-3 over Nashville. Mike Rodriguez homered for Round Rock, and Brandon Puffer, Steve Kent and Travis Driskill combined to pitch four scoreless innings of relief to secure the win.

On Saturday night, the Express eked out an 11-inning victory 3-2, with H-Town Sports favorite Michael Dwain Gallo running his record to 1-0 with a scoreless frame. Jason "What the Hell do I have to do to get a Promotion" Hirsh pitched eight innings, allowing only three hits and an unearned run and striking out twelve, and he threw an astounding 131 pitches in the no-decision. Mike Rodriguez and Luke Scott had two hits apiece.

Ex-Astro Jared Fernandez took the Express on a trip through the No Spin Zone on Sunday, 'hurling' a three-hit shutout and striking out seven. Chris Baker was the hard luck loser, despite allowing only one run in seven innings, lowering his ERA to 2.21.

As for the potential call-ups (other than Hirsh, who fits perfectly into the Chris Burke/Jason Lane/Luke Scott mold of guys too talented to call up), I'm sure you remember Brandon Puffer getting shellacked for Houston in years past, Chris Baker is a 29 year-old journeyman with a grand total of 5.1 major league innings who cannot strike minor league hitters out, Travis Driskill is a 34 year-old journeyman with a 5.26 career major-league ERA in 190 innings pitched for Houston, Colorado and Baltimore and Steve Kent is a 27 year-old journeyman with a nearly 1:1 walk:K ratio in the minor leagues and a 5.65 ERA in 57 major league innings (2002 Tampa Bay). Your best hope, aside from Hirsh, of course, is Mike Gallo. Enjoy that with your wings and beer tonight during the game.

AA:

The Hooks won 7-5 on Friday night, courtesy of a 12th-inning walk-off HR from some guy named Hunter Pence. Ben Zobrist piled up three more hits to run his average to .332 and sensational closer Jailen Peguero struck out five in three scoreless innings to earn the win and drop his ERA to 0.70 on the season. T-Poo, are you reading this?

Arkansas' Jesse Smith shut the Hooks down 7-0 on Saturday night. Hooks' CF Josh Anderson did pick up two hits in the loss.

On Sunday, the Hooks held off a late Arkansas rally to pick up a 5-4 win. Juan Guiterrez continued his push for a promotion with seven good innings. Hunter Pence homered (#19), scored three runs and drove in a pair.

High A:

Salem gave up six runs in the eighth inning on Friday night to lose at Kinston 11-7. Rodrigo Escobar had a rare bad outing to take the loss. 1B Neil Sellers had three hits for the 'Lanche.

The Avalanche bounced back Saturday for a 4-1 victory behind a four-man pitching team that scattered nine hits over nine innings. 2B Drew Sutton had two hits and SS Edwin Maysonet had two hits, including his 5th HR.

Salem took the rubber match on Sunday by a score of 4-2 in a rain-shortened affair. Troy Patton picked up his third win and lowered his ERA to 3.66.

Low A:

The Legends lost 4-2 on Friday night in a rain-shortened game against Asheville. Mark Ori continued his hot hitting with a pair of knocks. Lexington then rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday to knock off the Tourists 4-3. Mitch Einertson had three hits, and Josh Flores, Jose Lopez and Koby Clemens had two hits apiece. Sunday saw the Legends emerge victorious 5-2 (highlighted by a spectacular managerial tirade from the Tourists' skipper, available here). Thomas Fairchild had another great pitching performance and Mark Ori again led the offense with two hits.

Short Season A: Dust Devil SP Shane Lindsay, a 21 year-old Aussie, who pitched well for the Dust Devils in 2005, struck out twelve hitters in five one-hit innings on Saturday.

Rookie: SP Ryan Mitchell had a great pro debut on Friday night, allowing only one hit over five shutout innings. CF Orlando Rosales had a 4-4 day on Sunday, and SS Ronald Ramirez continued his torrid hitting with a 3-4 and 3 RBI.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tar Heels and Beavers? Are you kidding me?

While tragic that a national champion will be crowned this year not wearing Burnt Orange, the match up this year is intriguing pitting two programs fighting for their first College World Series crown.

The University of North Carolina (53-13) while highly regarded throughout the course of the season, finished the regular season with “two and BBQ” performance at the ACC Tournament. However, since the NCAA Tournament began, the Tar Heels have been on a tear going 8-0 and ultimately dispatching perennial power Cal-State Fullerton to earn a championship series birth.

NCAA Baseball National Player of Year Andrew Miller (LHP, 13-2, 2.36 ERA), Daniel Bard (RHP, 9-3, 3.84 ERA), and Robert Woodard (RHP, 7-1, 3.18) lead the formidable Tar Heel pitching staff. Miller and Bard were drafted in the first round (6th to the Detroit Tigers and 28th to the Boston Red Sox, respectively) of the MLB draft while Woodward was drafted on the second day (46th Round, St. Louis Cardinals). The offensive lineup led by Jay Cox (OF, .386 BA, 14 HRs) and Mike Cavasinni (with a nifty .439 on-base percentage in the Tournament) has averaged nearly 10 runs a game in the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon State University (48-15) took a different path into the College World Series championship game suffering an embarrassing 11-1 opening loss to the University of Miami (42-24). However, since the loss, the Beavers have won four grueling games ultimately blanking Rice University (57-13) 5-0 and 2-0 to secure a spot in the championship series.

Going into the College World Series, the Beavers were the only team of the eight participants to be ranked in the top 15 nationally in batting average and earned-run-average. Dallas Buck (RHP, 12-3, 3.43 ERA) leads the weary Beaver pitching staff that has been quite taxed by fighting out of the loser’s bracket. While Cole Gillespie (OF, .377 BA, 12 HRs) and Bill Rowe (1B, going 8-for-17 in the CWS to lead all CWS hitters) have powered the lineup and will lead it against the well-rested Tar Heel pitching staff.

Beaver fans are confident that the team is not overmatched from a talent perspective (the squad had nine players selected in the two days of the MLB draft including Buck and Gillespie). However, it remains to be seen how much gas is left in the tank of the Beaver pitching staff after playing four games in four days and using a variety of the members of their starting rotation and bullpen to claw back from the loser’s bracket. The pitching staff for the Tar Heels, in comparison, is set up nicely and will probably throw Miller and Woodard in the initial two games and hold Bard for a decisive third game if the situation presents itself.

While I have much appreciation for the Beavers knocking the Rice Owls out of the CWS, I have to think that their pitching staff is running on empty. I am inclined to pull for the Tar Heels (many thanks North Carolina for generously provided our football team with Mack Brown), but would not be surprised if the Beavers gut through a few more games to pull off a stunning reversal from the 11-1 debacle to a National Championship. It should be a great match-up and it beats watching the World Cup or JJ Reddick promotional videos from the Rockets.

Longhorn Baseball Update

Drew Stubbs (OF, 1st Round, Cincinnati Reds) signed for a $2,000,000 and Kyle McCulloch (RHP, 1st Round, Chicago White Sox) signed for $1,050,000. Best of luck to these former Horns and the first beer is clearly on them. Further updates will be provided on Longhorn signings as they are reported.

Carson Kainer (OF, 14th Round, Cincinnati Reds) will return to the University of Texas for his senior season, but will require a kidney transplant to replace his one healthy kidney (he was born with chronic renal failure – an inability for his kidneys to clean toxins and waste products from his blood properly – and since childhood has only had one functioning kidney). It is being determined whether a family member could provide suitable kidney for transplant, but if a family member cannot be found, he will have his name placed on the national kidney transplant waiting list.

66,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list. Kidney transplant operations can cost on average $200,000. Best wishes to Carson and his family on a successful operation and speedy return to the field.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Time to Vent a Little...

I am just now beginning to recover from last night's epic duel between Roger Clemens and Frank Liriano. I chiefly blame my poor decisions regarding alcohol intake for the slow turnaround, but I digress. Accompanied by loyal H-Town Sports reader and long-suffering Cubs fan Bert (thanks again for the ticket), we had a great view of the diamond from Section 109. Rather, we would have had a great view of the diamond if it wasn't for the myriad assclowns that insisted on getting in and out of their seats, up and down the aisle, at random times in the middle of the action. I came disturbingly close to committing a homicide several times.

It's really simple, people: There is no excuse for getting up any time in the middle of any sporting event minus a cardiac episode or a screaming baby. Wait until a break in the action (e.g., half-inning, timeout, etc.) to leave or return to your seat. Didn't your fathers ever teach you how to behave at a game? It's common freaking courtesy.

But then I started looking around, and a profound realization hit me. These people weren't baseball fans. They were just there because it was the hip place to be last night. There were surely thousands of real Astros fans who would've killed to be there to support the team, but the same clueless morons who gobble up the tickets to every high profile athletic event were there instead. These people only go to games when it's the cool thing to do. These people couldn't name three guys on the Astros' current roster. These people should be at home sipping merlot and discussing how the Rockets really blew it by taking Reggie Williams instead of Mario Bush. I hate these people.

As I was focusing my ire, Joe Mauer stepped to the plate. And sure enough, a couple of the clueless patrons behind us busted out with this exchange:

Idiot One: "Hey...who's this Mauer guy?"
Me (silently seething): Are you freaking kidding me? He's leading the majors in hitting! He's a former No. 1 draft pick! He's one of the best young players in the game! Please, friend of Idiot One, say any of the above to highlight the idiocy of your compatriot.
Idiot Two: "Never heard of him. But look at that average. He's pretty good."
Me (speechless, enraged, and nearly choking on my own tongue): ...
Idiot One: "Yeah, that's pretty high. That means he gets on base almost 40% of the time."
Me (vainly searching for a sharp object with which to stab the two asshats): "Sweet Mariah. I'm actually getting dumber listening to Bill James' illegitimate offspring."

If there is a God, He will see to it that people like that are habitually struck down every time they try to enter a stadium. Or He'll start speaking to me directly, thus giving me a foolproof insanity defense when I go on a killing spree at Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center, or Reliant Stadium.

That said, a few quick observations from last night's game:

1. Is there any pitcher you'd rather have for the next five years than Francisco Liriano? Me neither.
2. Clemens fell behind in the count far more often than he usually does, but his ability to battle back amazed me. As much as I hate to say it, Scott's analysis of him needing a few starts to get it together is probably dead on.
3. I think Ensberg is hurt a lot worse than he's saying. His swing just isn't the same since the injury.
4. Nice to see Garner throwing Lane back out there. The 'Stros need him in the line-up.
5. I still don't know how Trever Miller has a job pitching in the major leagues.

Rockets Draft Tidbit

This year's version of the NBA Draft may make up for what it lacks in big-name appeal by providing an above-average amount of unpredictabilty and deal-making, at least if ESPN's Chad Ford's sources are correct. No one seems certain about the top eight picks, except for Arn Tellem, whose clients include LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. Aldridge and Roy, according to Ford's blog on ESPN.com, refused to work out on Thursday for Charlotte's new executive, some guy named Michael Jordan, not because of injury, but instead because Tellem is "very comfortable with where they are going in the draft". Charlotte picks #3. Does that mean Aldridge and Roy are going #1? Is Toronto's hiring of Maurizio Gherardini as their new Vice President and assistant general manager a sign that the Raptors are going to spend their #1 overall pick on Bennetton's own Andrea Bargnani?

The most interesting tidbit that Ford provides for Rockets' fans is the thought that the Rockets are rumored to be interested in moving Luther Head and their #8 pick in return for the #5 or #6 pick in the first round, a move which Ford speculates would be motivated by the Rockets' desire to draft Brandon Roy. If it costs the Rockets Luther Head to get Brandon Roy, I'm okay with that. Head was courageous and valuable to the Rockets last year, but only because the Rockets were awful. Head is nothing more than a fourth-string guard on a playoff team, while Roy would step in and start at the shooting guard position for Houston on Day One of training camp.

Farm Update

I'm going to try to be a little more consistent with these updates, especially with regard to players who seem ready to make an impact on the big-league level:

AAA: The Express was one-hit by Ben Hendrickson, recently demoted from the Brewers' big-league club. Super Joe McEwing, ace pitching mechanics' detective, got the only scratch for the Express in 2-0 loss. Mike Gallo pitched two scoreless innings for the Express, walking three and striking out one.

AA: Mitch Talbot, the Astros 2nd-round pick in the 2002 draft, was brilliant, pitching seven shutout innings and allowing only two hits while striking out twelve. OF Josh Anderson went 4-5 with a HR, and Ben Zobrist and J. R. House added two hits apiece.

High-A: The Avalanche lost 2-1 to Myrtle Beach, as their offense continues to struggle. SP Ronnie Martinez pitched seven strong innings to lower his ERA to 1.62 in seven starts at Salem since being called up from Lexington in May. Martinez is 23 years old and signed with the Astros as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2001. He has pitched very well at all three stops heading into Salem, so he may be a guy to keep an eye out for, although with the Astros' track history of advancing players through the system, he may be 40 by the time he reaches Round Rock.

Low-A: The Legends lost their opening game of the second half 5-2 to Asheville. Josh Flores had three hits, and German Melendez continued his stellar relief pitching with two hitless, scoreless innings and three strikeouts. Melendez is 24 years old and is being converted from a position player to a relief pitcher.

Short Season A: Tri-City swamped Everett 10-1 on the road. Daniel Mayora and Joshua Banda paced the offense, and Andrew Kreidermacher pitched 6.2 excellent innings to earn the win.

Rookie: Greenville was shut out 3-0 by Kingsport. 2006 11th round pick Thomas Vessella, a 6-6 pitcher out of Whittier (CA) College, pitched three scoreless innings in his pro debut.

Crucial Month Begins for the Astros

Tonight the Astros begin a three game series with the Chicago White Sox in a rematch of the 2005 World Series. If the Astros have any real hopes of reaching the postseason again in 2006, they had better pick up their level of play over the next thirty days because their schedule becomes much more difficult during that span. According to ESPN's Relative Power Index Standings, the Astros have the the weakest Strength of Schedule in MLB through their first 73 games. They have also been outscored by twenty runs, despite managing to put together a 37-36 record. Starting with the recent three-game stint against the Twins, in which the Astros lost two out of three games, the Astros face the following schedule:

3 v. Twins, 3 at White Sox, 3 at Detroit, 3 at Texas, 3 v. Cubs, 4 v. St. Louis, ALL-STAR BREAK, 4 at Florida, 3 at Cubs, 3 at Mets, 3 v. Cincinnati

The Tigers are 1st in the MLB RPI standings, the White Sox are 2nd, the Rangers are 6th, the Mets are 7th, Twins are 9th, the Cardinals are 10th and the Reds are 11th, and the Marlins have won 20 of their last 27 games. In terms of starting pitchers' ERA, the Tigers are 1st, the Mets are 2nd, the White Sox are 7th, the Marlins are 8th and the Reds are 9th.

Over that same 30-day stretch, the Cardinals will face the following schedule:
3 at Tigers, 3 v. Indians, 3 v. Royals, 3 at Atlanta, 4 at Houston, 3 v. Dodgers and 3 v. Atlanta

The Reds will face the following schedule:
3 at Indians, 3 v. Royals, 3 v. Indians, 3 at Milwaukee, 4 at Atlanta, 4 v. Rockies and 3 v. Mets

The Astros do have the benefit of the Rocket's return to the rotation, but their offense continues to struggle (14th in NL in OPS) and their road record is again abysmal (12-18). When this stretch ends, there will only be 57 games remaining in the season, which is not a whole lot of time to make up a significant distance in the standings. The Astros are now about as full-strength as they can hope to be, with Clemens back from "retirement" and Oswalt off of the DL. We are going to learn a lot about this team over the next thirty days, beginning tonight in Chicago against undefeated Jose Contreras.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ron Gardenhire's a Longhorn?

WTF? I had no idea. From ESPN.com's story on tonight's glorious rebirth:

"Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, a former Texas Longhorn player like Clemens, said it will be 'fun' to see him back on the mound and said his work ethic has allowed him to continue to excel at 43.

But don't think Gardenhire will be rooting for the fellow Longhorn.

'Hopefully he'll have the ends of his horns chopped up a little bit down here,' he said."

No wonder I didn't know Gardenhire was a 'Horn. He's not. No self-respecting Longhorn would ever make a "saw 'em off" joke.

Anyone think there's any way Clemens could bean the manager for this transgression? Go to hell, Ron Gardenhire.

Mock Draft Mania - Who will the Rockets Take at #8?

Before I start, does anyone else think that Chuck Hayes can become to the Rockets what Udonis Haslem has become to the Heat?

NBADraft.net - Randy Foye
Real GM - Brandon Roy
Chad Ford (ESPN - subscription required) - J. J. Redick
Draft Express - Randy Foye
Fanball - J. J. Redick
SI.com - Adam Morrison
About.com - J. J. Redick
Collegehoops.net - J. J. Redick
Inside Hoops - Marcus Williams
Hoops Hype - Randy Foye

We'll revisit these mock drafts just prior to the draft and see how/if they change.

Several comments about the potential for the Rockets to trade their #8 pick to New Orleans in return for the #12 and #15 picks. I'm not sure I'd do that if I'm Houston. Randy Foye, Marcus Williams, Rudy Gay, Ronnie Brewer, Rodney Carney, Adam Morrison, J. J. Redick...without question, one of these guys will be available to the Rockets at #8, but there is a decent chance that none of these guys would be available at #12. I don't think that the Rockets would be smart to take a chance on missing all of these guys, even if you add another first round pick in the process. I do like Michigan State's Maurice Ager, who would be more appropriately picked in the #12 - #15 range than at #8, so if you could somehow get Shelden Williams and Maurice Ager at #12 and #15, respectively, that would potentially go a long way towards filling two big voids on the Rockets roster. I just do not think Shelden Williams will slip that far.

I certainly have no idea where the Rockets will go in the first-round. However, in watching D-Wade, Josh Howard, Boris Diaw and Tayshaun Prince in this year's playoffs, I know that the Rockets are desperate need of some athleticism and length. As such, I do not see the Rockets taking Redick, despite the obvious help that his shooting could bring (if he was left wide open on a routine basis). Also, from hearing JVG on the radio a couple of times this week, it sounds like he has the same concerns with respect to the size of his current guards. JVG made a couple of comments about the lack of height present in David Wesley, Rafer Alston and Luther Head, which makes me think that Randy Foye, a 6'2" 2-guard, is not a possibility. My guess is that the Rockets will take one of Brewer, Carney or Gay, depending on who is available, and I think that all three will turn out to be better NBA players than J. J. Redick. Use the Mid-Level Exception to sign some shooting help (Tony Delk, Eddie House, DeShawn Stevenson, Richie Frahm) and maybe a backup PG (Speedy Claxton).

Preview: The Rocket's Return

Just call me Bob Swerski. In his glorious return to Minute Maid Park, watch for the following line in tomorrow's Chronicle:

Clemens (W, 1-0)--6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

Don't say I didn't warn you. As excited as I am about seeing the Rocket's first game back (and yes, I will be there, with trusty Coors Light by my side), tonight's game has been rendered infinitely more awesome by the fact that the Twins are rolling Francisco Liriano out there. If you haven't seen this kid pitch, you're in for a treat tonight. He's arguably the best young pitcher in the game, and it will be beyond cool to see the best pitcher of our generation (and possibly any generation) take on someone with stuff that's every bit as electric. The Juicebox will be rocking tonight.

Some good reads regarding the Return of the Rocket:

Richard Justice - Houston Chronicle - column describing his take on the Return
David Barron - Houston Chronicle - great piece about the Rocket's day with a 15 year-old leukemia patient
Jason Williams - St. Paul Pioneer Press - previews the changing of the guard featured tonight
Mel Antonen - USA Today - previews the Rocket's return and the Astros' plight
Dave Sheinen - Washington Post - the Rocket doesn't even have to wait in traffic anymore?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

This Just In: Trever Miller Is The New Gallo

In a positively eerie moment of deja vu last night, Astros lefty "specialist" Trever Miller entered a tie game in the top of the 10th inning. Sure, Qualls, Borkowski, Nieve, and Wheeler were all available, but the situation CLEARLY called for a lefty who can't get people out. Miller warms up and digs in to face Twins 1B Justin Morneau. He winds up and deals a "fastball" right down the middle of the plate. Morneau predictably tees off and launches Miller's feta into the stratosphere. Twins 6, Good Guys 5. Although Preston Wilson showcased his first bit of clutch hitting this season with a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game (after the 'Stros had blown a 4-1 lead), you just knew that there wasn't going to be a bounce back from this.

After I picked myself off the floor and quieted my screaming, I paused to wonder what the point of having lefthanders in the bullpen is when they don't ever actually get anyone out. Exhibit A, as has been discussed in this space many times, is The Rooster. But Trever Miller is really not much better. He's pitched 20.0 innings, but surrendered 22 hits, walked 7, and coughed up 10 runs (all earned). This seems to just be another pathetic case of someone keeping a job on a major league roster simply because he wipes his arse with his left hand. It's beyond ludicrous. I refuse to believe that there aren't better options elsewhere. Like, for example, in the stands of Minute Maid Park. The 'Stros should start a promotion that randomly selects fans to pitch in relief. Odds are, one of them will be a lefty and get signed to a three year deal.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Notes from the Farm

AAA: Round Rock clings to a one-game lead in the PCL American South. Luke Scott continues to mash (18 HR, 49 RBI in 242 ABs, .310/.414/.587 including a 41/48 K/BB ratio), making him the prime target for a call-up in the outfield. Charlton Jimerson continues to play well, but his astonishing 97 K in 259 ABs renders him nothing more than a 5-tool project for the forseeable future.

On the mound, Jason Hirsh has run his record to 7-2 and lowered his ERA to 3.02, allowing only 69 hits and 4 home runs in 83.1 IP. Control is a bit of an issue, but if I'm Wandy, Buchholz, Nieve or Backe, I'm looking over my shoulder at this kid because he is clearly not too far off. Of course, this is the Astros, so he's likely at least four years away per the terms of the "Daryl Ward Rule". Ask Jason Lane and Chris Burke for further details.

I almost forgot - The Rooster has allowed two runs in seven innings of work for the Express. See you in September, Mikey-boy.

AA: The Hooks have already clinched the Texas League's first-half title. Hunter Pence continues to destroy the ball (.556 SLG), and SS Ben Zobrist (.320/.418/.447) and C J. R. House (.345/.389/.496) have also posted solid first half numbers, though Zobrist's 14 errors are a cause for concern. All three of these guys better be in Round Rock sometime this season.

The pitching is stellar as well, led by Matt Albers (7-2, 2.23 ERA), Juan Guiterrez (7-3, 3.20 ERA) and closer Jailen Peguero (0.78 ERA, 14 saves and 40 K in 34+ IP).

High A: Salem has struggled so far this season, currently seven games below .500. The offense has been awful, with only SS Drew Sutton and OF Beau Torbert posting respectable numbers. OF Frankie Caraballo tore up Lexington but has had difficulty handling High-A pitching. On the mound, Chad Reineke has been the Avalanche's most consistent starter (5-5, 2.89 ERA) with Troy Patton (1-7, 3.92 ERA) and Felipe P. Del Guice (3-3, 3.75 ERA) not far behind. The SAL's Pitcher of the Year, Jimmy Barthmeier, has struggled to start the season. One positive from Salem's slow start is that these pitchers will be quite adapted to losing 1-0 games when they get to the bigs after a full season like this one.

Low A: Lexington has also clinched their first-half divisional title at EIGHTEEN games over .500 thus far in 2006. A three-headed offensive monster of Ole Sheldon, J. R. Towles and Mark Ori have led the way, which is surprising since these guys are all considerably lesser prospects than Josh Flores, Eli Iorg and Koby Clemens, who have all three struggled thus far this season. Keep an eye on Tom Fairchild, a 12th round pick in 2005 who is 8-3 with a 1.85 ERA and 79 Ks in 87 innings pitched.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, H-Town Sports

A belated 1st Birthday to H-Town Sports, which turned a year old on June 10, 2006. Nearly 7500 visitors in the first year certainly exceeded our expectations. Now if only we could make money off this deal so we could quit our real jobs like the guys at Deadspin.

Old News

Anyone who watched the Duke-LSU game in this year's NCAA Tournament was already aware that J. J. Redick lacked the ability to drive, so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. Seriously though, whatever it takes to keep this pot-smoking, drunk-driving, poetry-writing crybaby out of a Rockets' uniform is fine with me. Play the character card, Les, if you think it will help persuade the fans. Just don't waste a top-10 pick on a sissified Jim Les. Redick's a one-dimensional prima donna with a substance abuse problem. If you think that describes your first-round pick, then look at Patrick Kennedy or Whitney Houston. At least it would be original.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Colt McCoy is a Lifesaver

Thanks to the always informative Deadspin for publicizing this noble tale.

Maybe now the rest of the world will understand why Longhorns occasionally come across as somewhat arrogant. We're saving lives here, people!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dodging the Major League Baseball Draft bullet...

College baseball coaches must look forward to the Major League Baseball draft like a visit from their nagging and annoying mother-in-law. I suspect that when the draft begins and they sit down in front their television, they have a case of Johnnie Walker Black nearby to dull the pain of having the stars of their roster and the jewels of their recruiting class stolen from them by pirates from the professional ranks. It’s not enough that they are mocked for coaching in an environment that rings with the “ping” of aluminum bats every spring, but they must deal with the frustration and unpredictability of having their personnel raided every summer.

Annually, the University of Texas is among the best recruiting baseball programs in the country. It should not be unexpected given the wealth of talent in the Texas high school baseball ranks, but of course Longhorn coaches are not the only talent scouts scouring ballparks in towns like Brenham, Falfurrias, New Braunfels, or the Woodlands. Professional scouts watch as much if not more Texas high school baseball games and of course target players without any thought that such players might be likely candidates to play college baseball in Austin.

It should not be underestimated how the combination of Longhorn baseball’s rich tradition and the attractive and free-spirited scenery in Austin can entice a high school recruit to play a few years at Disch-Falk field. However, the thought of earning a six-figure or seven-figure salary at the age of 18 can be overwhelming for anyone even those bearing the last name of Clemens. So, every summer the Longhorn faithful must sit down and watch current and future players be spirited away by unworthy wretches like the Pirates, the Cubs, the Rangers, or the dual evil empires in New York and Boston.

I expected that after having my heart ripped out by the early exit of the Longhorns at the Austin Regional that the draft would kick my convulsing body by ripping apart our roster and stripping our incoming recruiting class. However, when I awoke from my Scotch-induced slumber, I found that the Almighty, while at times intolerably cruel, had decided this draft to pass over Disch-Falk Field as if someone had painted the gates with lamb blood.

So, what is the butcher’s bill for the 2006 Major League Baseball draft? Well, surprisingly the Longhorns might have fared relatively well. With regards to current players, the Longhorns have likely lost Drew Stubbs (1st Round, Cincinnati Reds) and Kyle McCulloch (1st Round, Chicago White Cox), but no one seriously believed that they would be returning this coming year. However, beyond Stubbs and McCulloch, the current roster was left relatively unscathed as it is unlikely that Carson Kainer (14th Round, Cincinnati Reds), Adrian Alaniz (36th Round, St. Louis Cardinals), or Randy Boone (38th Round, Minnesota Twins) will leave the program and join the professional ranks.

Now, with regards to the incoming recruiting class, the Longhorns may again fair relatively or even, dare we say, spectacularly well depending on how a few scenarios play out. It is likely that offensive dynamo Russell Moldenhauer (3rd Round, Los Angeles Angels) will sign and never step foot on the Forty Acres. It gets interesting in that the much-coveted Marcus Lemon (4th Round, Texas Rangers) may possibly not sign with Texas Rangers, as the rumor is that he is demanding no less than $1.5 million. It also has been suggested that since Lemon has excellent academic marks and comes from a relatively well-to-do family, which places a high premium on education that the financial incentive to sign with the Rangers on terms less than he is demanding may not be so strong that it forecloses the possibility that like Jordan Danks he turns down any offer from the Rangers that he views as insufficient.

The Longhorns were also very fortunate that both Nathan Karns (10th Round, Houston Astros) and Jordan Walden (12th Round, Los Angeles Angels) were drafted far later than initial pre-draft suggestions would have had led us to believe. Further, in one pre-draft publication, Carmine Giardina (28th Round, Boston Red Sox) was viewed as the 14th best high school prospect, but was not drafted until the 28th Round. It would appear that the Longhorns may have been exceptionally fortunate with Giardina, but the fact that both Giardina and Brandon Belt (11th Round, Boston Red Sox) were selected by the deep-pocketed monstrosity that is the Boston Red Sox organization adds some element of discomfort given the organization’s prior history of paying late round picks money resembling that reserved for early round picks. We will have to wait and see how the Red Sox and for that matter the Rangers decide how to approach Giardina, Belt, and Lemon before we can light up the fireworks and declare a draft coup.

Longhorn faithful should be excited for the coming year given the fact that the draft did not strip the current roster and may have left one of the nation’s top recruiting classes relatively intact. Furthermore, Collegiate Baseball named four current Longhorn freshmen as Freshmen All-Americans (Jordan Danks, Kyle Russell, Bradley Suttle and Austin Wood). The Longhorns not only had the most for any one school this year, but also recorded the most in one season in Texas baseball history.

Smile Horns, the future looks bright…

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Back Home in Omaha? The Day the Music Died...

As a result of the early exit of the Texas Longhorns at the Austin Regional this past weekend, do I have to give back my "University of Texas at Omaha" t-shirt?

I am still in shock. I cannot believe that when the College World Series begins on June 16th that the Texas Longhorns will not be in attendance. This year when I hear ESPN play the "Back Home in Omaha" anthem, how will I be able to hold back the tears? I haven't felt been this affected by a loss since Texas Tech beat the Longhorns in the 2002 shoot-out.

It's one thing to lose when your team is overwhelmed by the athleticism and the skills of its opponents. It's an entirely different thing when an extremely talented, but erratic team stumbles well short of its goals for reasons that are more mental than anything else. Augie Garrido has observed that baseball is the cruelest sport and I am inclined to agree with the Longhorn Skipper.

In the wake of the early departure, observers have suggested that the 2006 Longhorns simply fell victim to the unreliable fielding and the weak bullpen that characterized the early 5-6 start to the season during which the Burnt Orange dropped series to both the San Diego Toreros and Stanford Cardinals. Of course, it didn't help that at the Austin Regional, the Longhorns received an outing from Kyle McCulloch against the evil Christmas Trees of Stanford that fans were not accustomed to or that Adrian Alaniz couldn't keep his stuff together in the start of the seventh inning against the Wolfpack of North Carolina State.

Maybe, the Longhorn faithful should have been more worried when Missouri swept Texas at the end of the regular season. At the time, conventional wisdom was that the Horns didn't need to win the series and that the games meant more to the Missouri Tigers and their postseason prospects. However, the Longhorns did need to win to reach the magical 40-win mark prior to the Big 12 Tournament and to ensure a national Top Eight seed to host both the Regional and Super Regional rounds. It was far from certain that if the Longhorns had performed poorly at the Big 12 Tournament, the Seeding Committee would have clearly placed the Longhorns among those Top Eight seeds.

Perhaps, the real issue was simply leadership. Coach Tommy Harmon acknowledged that this year's Longhorn team lacked the fiery leaders that characterized prior Longhorn squads. The team simply did not have the vocal leadership that Huston Street, Dustin Majewski, J. Brent Cox, Jeff "I Love Krispy Kreme" Ontiveros, Beau Hale and others offered in the prior runs to Omaha. The lack of leadership may have explained the up and down performance of the team and uncharacteristic apathy of the Missouri series. The personalities in this year's locker-room simply did not have replacements for the leadership that left last year's national championship team.

Longhorn faithful should remain hopeful for next year. The team will return a great deal of talent and may not have been seriously hurt by the Major League Baseball draft. Augie Garrido will no doubt use the shock and disappointment of this year to motivate next year's Longhorn squad and to remind them that a trip to Omaha, despite what Longhorn fans believe, is not a Burnt Orange birthright and must be earned. As such, I think I may just hold on to my "University of Texas at Omaha" shirt for at least one more year...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Richie Justice Predicts the Future

Let me start by saying that Dick Justice should be required to place a disclaimer on all of his writing that establishes the fact that he has likely already passionately argued the opposite of whatever his current column's theme is or that he most certainly will do so in the future when it becomes trendy or convenient. So publishing his recent blog entry entitled "10 Things I think today, but could change my mind about tomorrow" was actually one of his better ideas of late. Of course, he had to steal that idea too, apparently, from Peter King, which does not surprise anyone associated with this blog.

Surprisingly, most of his "10 things" did not cause spontaneous vomiting, mostly because they are dumb generalizations without any detailed foundation (a/k/a typical sportswriter 'research'). I will certainly give him credit for the zinger that Kazmir would still be in Double-A were he an Astro. The item, however, that I took immediate notice to was #7, which indicates that Michael Bennett will be the Texans' starting RB in Week One and that Jason Babin and Travis Johnson "will need solid training camps just to make the team". Of course, Justice provides no additional detail to this, probably because he overheard someone else say it in passing and decided to run with it as his own original thought though he has no football reasons or knowledge to back it up, but I find both of these suggestions extremely difficult to digest, much like Tim finds the chicken fried steak at El Patio.

Michael Bennett has never rushed for 500 yards in an NFL season, and he failed to lock up the starting job in Minnesota, a RB-starved organization, despite several opportunities. The Texans already have significant depth at the RB position, making the acquisition alone of Bennett somewhat odd (should it ever happen), much less the notion that he would be starting for the team in a mere handful of months. Secondly, Jason Babin and Travis Johnson both were talented, successful college football players and 1st-round draft picks who have struggled early in their Texans' careers, Babin often as the result of injury problems. Neither Babin nor Johnson was inserted by the Texans in the position, however, that he achieved his college successes, instead being forced to learn a new scheme and a new position on the fly. This season both appear headed back to the comforts of a 4-3 and to their original college positions, where I for one have great hope that they will flourish. I will be quite stunned if either of these two guys does not play a significant role along the Texans' defensive front in 2006, much less if one struggles to make the team. I assume Dickie posted this item as a predecessor for his future blog entry, "1000 things I threw against the wall without backup or explanation, hoping that one would stick so I could beat my chest in the papers and on the radio at some point in the future".

(One final note, DJ: Garner didn't get stupid overnight...he's been stupid. There are potential solutions involving talented players that have apparently never crossed Scrap's mind. Hopefully he'll stumble into them somewhere).

Texans Hire Rick Smith

Rick Smith was hired yesterday as the Texans' new general manager, replacing Charley Casserly, who served in that role since the franchise's inception. As the Chronicle reports, at 36, Smith is the youngest GM in the NFL and is also, as I am sure Jose de Jesus Ortiz, LULAC and Quanell X will be thrilled find out, the second black GM in the NFL after Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. In a refreshing response to a question about Smith's race, Texans' owner Bob McNair responded that the Texans were concerned abou Smith's merits, not his skin color. Smith comes from a successful organization in Denver, the same organization, of course, as the new Texans' head coach Gary Kubiak. Speculation is abound that Smith will have a much more limited scope of power than his predecessor did and that Gary Kubiak will assume more power in personnel-related decision making, something that Dom Capers did not have during his tenure.

Tom Kirkendall thinks that McNair tired of Casserly's "blathering to the media" and therefore is redesigning the GM position in Houston.

ESPN reports that Smith and Kubiak admit to having butted heads in the past, which is a positive sign, in my opinion. One concern in hiring Smith was that Kubiak was bringing in a "yes man" who would allow him to maintain unchecked power in the personnel department.

The Denver Post's Thomas George writes a rather glowing critique of the Texans' hiring of Rick Smith. George's conversations with Bob McNair around the time of the NFL Draft led him to believe that "character" was the number one priority in search to replace Casserly, and George even opines that McNair's emphasis on character combined with Reggie Bush's recent run-in with the NCAA may have played a larger role in the Texans' decision to draft Mario Williams than many believe. The most refreshing implication from George's column, to me, is the idea that Smith did not want to draft Maurice Clarett. Judging from the 'character' theme of this column, one would guess that McNair asked Smith several times about his role in the selection of Clarett by the Broncos.

One More Reason to Appreciate Roger Clemens...

I know he certainly won't be feeling this act of charity in his wallet, but it's pretty cool the Katy Rocket did this anyway:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/3941273.html

Granted, the fact that his son plays for the Legends may have played a role in this act of generosity, but I still applaud the effort. Now if he can just turn around the entire freaking major league roster, we'll be all set.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Drunken Drafting, H-Town Sports Style - Part Two of Three

Just after the NBA draft was completed, but prior to anyone involuntarily returning their pollo to the city infrastructure, the four gurus took an ill-fated swing at baseball GM-ship. Starting from scratch, each participant was ordered to create a major-league winner. The draft order: Tim, ET, Scott and Vandenberg. Vandenberg was distracted several times throughout these proceedings and was substituted for by the well-qualified L-Train, who served quite notably in his absence.

Round One:

Tim - Albert Pujols
ET - Derek Jeter
Scott - Johan Santana
Vandenberg - Roger Clemens

Analysis: If not according to form, the first round was certainly exciting. Conventional wisdom held through the...first pick, after which ET decided that character outweighed production by selecting Mariah Carey's ex-beau second overall. Scott took Santana third, possibly just to maintain a sense of consistency with his 2006 fantasy baseball draft, in which he stunned his competitors by drafting the lefty ex-Astro farmhand second overall. As for Vandenberg's first round pick, there's no doubt that the blue-tinted margaritas played a role in this emotional choice. Tears certainly rolled down the faces of many an owner after witnessing this epic disaster.

Round Two:
Tim - A-Rod
ET - Lance Berkman
Scott - Vladimir Guerrero
Vandenberg - Craig Biggio

Analysis: Once again, Tim showed the ability to sell his own soul to the antichrist by selecting a universally-hated player. ET chose local favorite The Big Puma, mostly because she thinks he's "cute", but also because he hits lots of home runs. I admittedly was in the middle of ordering another margarita and was rushed to judgment, though it is hard to argue with Vlad. As for Vandenberg, he clearly continued to suffer the impact of excessive chemical distraction, selecting a 40 year-old second baseman as a cornerstone of his brand new franchise. Vandenberg was certainly correct, however, in noting that he would likely have the first two inductees in the hall of fame to be associated with this make-believe league, a factor which the rest of the table had clearly overlooked in making its own selections.

Round Three:
Tim - Chase Utley
ET - Randy Johnson
Scott - Miguel Cabrera
Vandenberg - Nomar

Analysis: In a move similar to Scott's selection of Santana in the first round, Tim went for shameless back-slapping in the third round, selecting Chase Utley, mostly with the intent of rubbing in Scott's face the fact that Tim owned the rights to Chase in fantasy baseball this season and would not trade him to Scott even if it meant certain victory. ET followed with a Vandenberg-like pick, trying to catch nostalgia in a bottle by taking the Big Unit. Scott made a strangely sound baseball move, drafting a young'un who oozes talent in Miggy Cabrera. As Vandenberg was incapacitated for the third round pick, his apt assistant L-Train made her selection three times, not because her competitors could not hear her but moreso because they could not believe what they were hearing.

Round Four:
Tim - Roy Halladay
ET - Adam Dunn
Scott - Ken Griffey
Vandenberg - Mike Sweeney

Analysis: This round is evidence that the drinks had begun to take serious and irreversible effects. Tim had obviously been sent to a near-comatose state in which he was only able to recite names of players on his current fantasy team, although Roy is certainly no slouch. Elizabeth's pick of Adam Dunn was understandable, but Scott's pick of KGJ was somewhat shaky. It is possible that Scott's mancrush on all things Red played a significant role in this selection. Finally, L-Train made her final pick of the evening. Like the selection of Nomar in the round previous, the selection of Mike Sweeney led to considerable debate among the participants, such as, "Is he still in the league" and "Are you sure you wouldn't rather take Mike LaValliere"?

Round Five:
Tim - Scott Kazmir
ET - Aaron Boone
Scott - Ryan Howard
Vandenberg - Chris Carpenter

Analysis: Lock of the night: Tim's now incoherent. For the third consecutive round, he drafts a player off of his fantasy team simply because he was working with a severely short-stacked deck at this point. ET has completely discarded on-field production by now and is looking solely at centerfold potential. Scott seems to be maintaining his balance quite well, rebounding from his previous reeeeeaach of Junior with a solid pick in Ryan Howard. Vandenberg surprised everyone upon his return to the table, selecting a player who could potentially improve his team's chances of winning. Hopefully he's also a lumbar specialist, as his previous selection is likely in need of an adjustment.

Round Six:
Tim - Jonathan Papelbon
ET - Sean Casey
Scott - Jake Peavy
Vandenberg - Morgan Ensberg

Analysis: Led by the infinite wisdom of John Kruk and motivated by the theme illustrated in his previous three picks, Tim wrapped up his draft by picking a pitcher whose thrown exactly 62 major-league innings, but who admittedly does have a bright future. ET's selection of Sean Casey led one manager to allege that she had already wrapped up the stat category "GIDP" in the standings. Jake Peavy was a vengeful pick for Scott, taken stubbornly in the hopes of reversing the karma of a potentially devestating fantasy trade involving JP the previous week. Vandenberg continued his trend of stockpiling local talent, taking Morgan Ensberg, who may be called on to play some first base in the event that Vandenberg's fourth-round pick is not freed from his body cast prior to Opening Day.

All in all, it is quite safe to say that the combatants in this baseball free-for-all should continue to pursue their day jobs quite feverishly. Tim seems to have come out on top in this second event, though one is not sure if it is because he intentionally took good players or that his mind was incapable of venturing "beyond the beyond".

Final stop: The NFL Draft