H-Town Sports

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

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Will Anti-Pettitte Backlash Affect Rocket's Decision? In a Word, Not at All

Andy Pettitte transformed from a Yankee postseason legend to a hometown hero overnight when the Deer Park native returned to Houston three seasons ago to pitch for the Astros. Just as quickly as he became a local hero, his reputation was just as immediately destroyed upon making public his decision to return to the New York Yankees for the 2007 season. One has a hard time ever being sympathetic to the modern-day athlete considering the exorbitant amount of money that he makes on average (or well above average for a star like Pettitte), but Pettitte consistently portrays himself as a humble, hard-working family man, so it is quite fair, one thinks, to give him a bit more sympathy than, say, this guy. His press clips following his signing with the Steinbrenners revealed a caring guy, who seemed to be truly torn by the consequences of his tough decision. I was honestly somewhat surprised by the immediate, violent backlash against Lefty around the city, as fans took out their anti-Yankee angst on Deer Park's finest, despite the often-outstanding pitching performances that he treated the fans to throughout three injury-plagued seasons, seasons which of course included the Astros' first-ever World Series berth in 2005, promising to never forgive him for turning his back on the Killer Bees in search of yet another endless pile of cash.

Knowing what Andy endured following his decision to move north in the spring, will his close friend Roger Clemens consider that in deciding for whom he shall pitch for the last few months of the 2007 season? Of course not. Sure, Roger signed a 10-year, $2 million personal services contract in 2004. Sure, the Astros seemingly did his family a favor by drafting his 18-year old son in the eighth round out of high school, a prospect who is currently toiling rather unsuccessfully in the bowels of the farm system. Sure, the Astros bent over backward to reward him with a customized travel schedule that considerably limited the amount of time that the Rocket spent away from home during the season. Sure, Roger's reputation in this city is nearly flawless to date - only Neil Frank or Jim McIngvale has more pull in H-Town than the Katy Rocket, and leaving for the Yankees solely upon his own discretion seems quite likely to significantly tarnish said reputation.

In the end, though, there are two constants when it comes to Roger Clemens: (1) excellence on the mound and (2) confident, if not arrogant selfish motivations. I, personally, will not begrudge the Rocket should he ultimately decide to wind up his career with the Bronx Bombers in 2007 and beyond. They will undoubtedly pay him more money, allow him to play in front of a broader national audience, re-unite him with Andy P and give him a better chance to make the postseason. In the end, Roger's history indicates that he will absolutely not concern himself with what the Houston fan base thinks, and maybe he shouldn't, but it will certainly be interesting to see how the local fans handle the Rocket once his decision is finally announced.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's Almost Signing Day

High school seniors can begin signing letters of intent for college football tomorrow, and according to Rivals, the usual suspects are prepared to rack in yet again, as Florida, Tennessee, Texas, LSU and Southern Cal make up the top-five nationally according to Rivals.com. Other schools of local interest: Nebraska (#10), Oklahoma (#21), Oklahoma State (#24), Texas A&M (#41), Kansas State (#42), Texas Tech (#47), Kansas (#51), Baylor (#62), TCU (#78), Houston (#81) and Rice (#102).

Friday, February 02, 2007

Someone Please Rip Purpura's Phone Cord Out of the Wall

The longer this offseason lasts, the more Tim Purpura's incompetence continues to destroy the Astros' hopes of a winning season. The latest bold, imbecilic move by the Astros' braintrust is to consider offering minor league contracts to degenerate relievers Ben Weber and Kelly Wunsch. Purpura continues to tug at the heartstrings of the local fan base by chasing local "talent", as Weber is a former UH Coog and Wunsch is an Aggie from Bellaire H.S., but sadly, the geographical connection to the franchise is much stronger than the qualifications of either pitcher to actually perform as a major-league pitcher.

Weber was scintillating in 2005 for Cincinnati, and by 'scintillating', I mean an embarassment to the sport and to his family (8.03 ERA in ten games). He split last season between the Independent League Atlantic City Surf (where one of his pen mates was 60 year old Tony Pierce) and AAA Syracuse (Toronto), where he attempted to battle back from neck problems, possibly the result of either his incredibly unorthodox/painful windup or post-pitch whiplash. Purpura was quite gentle in mentioning that the 37-year-old Weber was "looking to regain his career". Just the guy you want your GM chasing down, eh? Weber's prospects for 2007 make Dan Miceli appear to be an attractive option.

Wunsch was actually once a fairly effective lefty reliever - not Gallo-effective, mind you, but effective in his own, gets-batters-out-on-a-regular-basis kind of way. Last season, however, he was terrible for the Dodgers (8.31 ERA), problems that he'd like to have you believe are the result of shoulder issues, which he'd like to have you believe have been cured by offseason shoulder surgery. Wunsch is a potentially decent guy to stash away at AAA - see if he can regain enough mustard to get the occasional lefty out. Hell, if Trever Miller's slop can mesmerize Adam Dunn, Geoff Jenkins and the like, why not give K-Wuncsh a shot? In the big picture, however, moves like this really only place further hurdles between guys like Nieve, Albers, Patton and Estrada and the major league roster, which by definition makes them idiotic.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

BP Takes on Morgan Ensberg

Marc Normandin has written a very thorough analysis ($) and projection piece on Baseball Prospectus this week regarding Astros 3B (?) Morgan Ensberg. Trivia Question #1 from the article: What three USC Trojans rank ahead of Morgan on the all-time HR list for the school? Answer at the bottom of the page...

As for the look at Ensberg himself, Normandin takes a look at every season in Ensberg's professional career, beginning with his pro debut in 1999 for Auburn (Low A). One interesting note, though not that surprising, is that the percent of balls that Ensberg pulls to LF has increased every season, from 20% of fly balls in 2004 to 30% of fly balls in 2006 and from 39% of line drives in 2004 to 66% of line drives in 2006. BP's prediction formula, PECOTA, projects a good season from Ensberg in 2007 (.263/.374/.520), though the writer admits that it is difficult to project how Ensberg will bounce back from his shoulder issues that obviously bothered him in 2005. Pitchers seemed quite capable of blasting a fastball past him on any count, and Ensberg was visibly guessing at the plate, apparently in an attempt to compensate from his loss in bat speed. Ensberg at times has begun to remind me of Adam Dunn at the plate; his plummeting batting average but high walk totals and power make him a frustrating, though dangerous, offensive performer.

ANSWER: Thanks to astute H-Town Sports reader Brent for pointing out that I failed to include the answer to the trivia question: 1. Mark McGwire, 2. Geoff Jenkins and 3. Eric Munson.