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Posts Tagged ‘Houston Astros’

ElViento: So I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with this site, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

I’m planning to have one weekly update, with links to applicable UH-related posts from SB Nation, as well as links and commentary on any other Cougar news items of the week. Then, a top-five list that’s completely unrelated, just for giggles.  So it’ll look something like this:

This Week On SB Nation Houston (7/1)

“Just Trust Me” – Feature on Mack Rhoades’ first year at UH

Karma delivered by former Cougar Rob Johnson

Sporting News gives Keeum back-handed compliment

Around The Web

Houston Cougar volleyball announces its 2010 schedule… First-year coach Molly Alvey isn’t ducking anybody. The Coogs will play TCU, UT-Austin, Florida State, Oklahoma and Tennessee among others.

Recent Astro draftee, and former Cougar Chris Wallace is tearing the cover off the ball with Greeneville. He homered three times in his first seven games as a professional.

And at last check, Blake Kelso was hitting .333 for the Vermont Lake Monsters (yes, that’s the real team name) in the Washington Nationals system.

Unrelated Top Five – Songs About Heaven Or Hell

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

AC/DC – Hell’s Bells

OPM – Heaven is a Halfpipe

The Clash – Straight to Hell

Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven

P.S.

I’m now actively looking for more writers to have a better variety of opinions ’round here. If you want to sound off, use the ‘Contact Us’ tab to shoot me off an e-mail. Thanks.

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SarCoog: Tonight I went to Minute Maid Park with ElViento to watch my Houston Astros get demolished by his St. Louis Cardinals.

After getting their record to a respectable 70-72, the ‘Stros have rattled off a 9 game losing streak. Despite firing manager Cecil Cooper, I’m not exactly convinced the team will rattle off an 11-game win streak to finish the year at a .500 record.

It’s no longer depressing that the ‘Stros stink, it’s just funny.

Now should I wear a paper bag on my head for tomorrows game… ya know like the old New Orleans “Aints” fans.

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SarCoog: So, I never thought as a Houston Astros fan that I’d be celebrating a 44-44 record at the All-Star break… but here we are.

The facts are that this team is still old and still lacks minor league talent at any level above about High-A ball. But believe it or not they’re overachieving. Pre-season prognostications placed the ‘Stros at 5th in the NL Central below the Cincinnati Reds and above the perpetual cellar-dwellar Pittsburgh Pirates. So they sit at 3rd place and are only 3.5 games behind the division-leader St. Louis Cardinals. Really? I mean after these are the same guys that were looking up at Pittsburgh only a month or two ago.

What I’m most excited about though is the development of Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. Pence was selected as an ’09 All-Star reserve after an amazing rookie year and a subsequent sophomore slump in the 2008 season. Also the former UH Cougar Bourn has played significantly better as well, with a NL-high 32 stolen bases and a solid .286 average with 3 homers and 25 RBI.

Phillies Astros Baseball“High Five!”

The Chicago Cubs and their annual hype machine declined comment on this blog. But we at S&H can confirm that we heard the sound of white people in blue and red gear can be heard wailing and crying from the Museum District area here in Houston.

It does make me smile a little to know that a very, very average Astros team is looking down at the Cubbies. Ditto for overhyped toothpick-chomper Dusty Baker and the Reds.

So I guess it doesn’t suck too bad to be an Astros fan… for now.

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…Houston Astros’ public relations director Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf will now give a statement on the recent four game winning streak:

baghdad_bob_1

My friends and countrymen: we have seen the World-Series caliber team that we all expected.

Surely the nay-sayers who believed you could not patch together a team with aging free-agents are eating their filthy words! For the mighty Houston Astros have defeated the wicked Colorado Rockies on three straight occasions. Such dominance is evidence of the championship our leader Drayton McLane promised we shall compete for.

Miguel Tejada is vanquishing pitchers in a way that can only be attributed to him hitting his stride at the young age of 33! Lance Berkman looks fiery and passionate for baseball, while Carlos Lee runs with prodigious speed after every fly ball and every ball he hits.  Brian Moehler, Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz are outside candidates for the Cy Young  and have proved false all the nay-sayers who said that you can’t expect three ‘fifth starters’ to improve your pitching staff. Ha! How foolish all those detractors now look!

But most importantly of all, Cecil Cooper is the fearless and confident leader of this Astros ball club. He is cool under pressure, immune to the mistake-prone ways of other rookie managers and always, ALWAYS respectful of his players and the members of the media. Surely there is not another manager in Major League Baseball or THE WORLD better suited to lead a team to the World Series than Cooper!

So, my countrymen  with the strength of our leader Drayton McLane we shall watch the glorious Astros vanquish the infidel Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates, while eating the fruits of our Sheriff Blalock Nachos and drinking the nectar of our $7+ beers!

All is glorious and well at Minute Maid Park and Union Station!

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SarCoog: I know this is generally a University of Houston and college sports blog, but I have no greater connection to a pro sports team than I do to the Houston Astros… for better or worse.

The Astros currently have the 8th highest payroll in the MLB ($102.996 million) and the 3rd worst record (20-27). Why do I keep hearing the song “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other” in my head as I type that? But I came to grips with a basic truth about the ’09 Astros well before the start of the season: they are a slow, old, bloated and even demoralized baseball team. I just didn’t think the results would be this ugly and the situation would look like this dire. One thing I have noticed is salary amount is so disproportionally spent on a few guys and they aren’t necessarily the best players: (current stats in parentheses)

  • Carlos Lee– $ 19 million (.308 BA, .358 OBP, 8 HR, 29 RBI, 15 K, 15 BB in 185 ABs)
  • Miguel Tejada– $ 14.18 million (.350 BA, .378 OBP, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 12 K, 6 BB in 197 ABs)
  • Lance Berkman– $ 14.5 million (.230 BA, .361 OBP, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 38 K, 34 BB in 165 ABs)
  • Roy Oswalt– $ 14 million (1-2, 4.62 ERA, 62.1 IP, 17 BB, 47 K, 1.36 WHIP, .282 BA against)
  • Kaz Matsui– $ 5.5 million (.219 BA, .288 OBP, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 28 K, 13 BB in 146 ABs)- currently injured

I didn’t even include the injured closer Jose Valverde (set to make $ 8 million this year) because he hasn’t pitched enough to have any significant statistics in my opinion. Not all of these guys are doing poorly, but they are consuming approximately 73.6% of this year’s payroll. Frankly it’s never a good idea to be this ‘top heavy’ with a group of guys all over the age of 31 and none of whom are on the upswing in their respective careers. Conversely, let’s take a look at some of the relative ‘bargains’ currently on the Astros’ roster:

  • Chris Sampson– $ 449,000 (2-0, 2.10 ERA, 30.0 IP, 10 BB, 14 K, 1.17 WHIP, .227 BA against)
  • Hunter Pence– $ 439,000 (.341 BA, .416 OBP, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 25 K, 24 BB in 176 ABs)
  • Michael Bourn– $ 434, 500 (.287 BA, .359 OBP, 1 HR, 19 RBI, 40 K, 19 BB in 178 ABs)
  • Jeff Keppinger- $ 427, 500 (.293 BA, .370 OBP, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 K, 9 BB in 82 ABs)

Again, it’s not as though these players are carrying the team, but they’re all delivering solid performances for under $500,000 and with the exception of Sampson, are all under the age of 30. Oh and these guys represent 1.7% of the entire payroll. This kind of production should show the Astros that big-name free agents and big contracts don’t necessarily make a good baseball team and productive organization. These are all guys that can be built around… if that were to ever happen. This is a nice segue for the big issue: Astros’ owner Drayton McLane absolutely refuses to do anything remotely resembling a “rebuild”.

Kaz MatsuiKaz Matsui- Japanese for epic, free agent signing fail

McLane has said on many occasions that it isn’t in his make up to not “compete” for a championship each and every year he’s at the helm of the Astros. Well, I hate to break it to Uncle Drayton, but this Astros team hasn’t truly been in contention since they were in the World Series in 2005. Even though last year’s club went 86-76 and contended during the second half of the season, key pieces like Ty Wigginton, Mark Loretta and Randy Wolf are no longer with the club. Keep in mind that most everyone agrees that the ’08 squad overachieved in a big way and still missed the playoffs. Who in their right mind could expect a less talented team to get better in the coming season?

I don’t lay this disappointment completely at the feet of GM Ed Wade and manager Cecil Cooper. Wade has the perpetual edict from ownership to keep acquiring overpriced free agents and ignoring a desperate need for rebuilding, and thus gets somewhat of a pass in my book. He’s basically an average baseball mind in a situation that desperately needs an ‘out of the box’ thinker. He does get credit for making solid hires to run the bereft minor league system: Bobby Heck and Ricky Bennett. Simply, Cooper is going to be the sacrificial lamb for this team’s success… or lack thereof. He hasn’t done a good job handling the clubhouse and likely alienated Roy Oswalt and many of the veterans with some choice postgame comments. But Cooper is not the one to blame for the lack of success and probably should have never been hired in the first place.

So, how can the Astros be great again? Well, McLane could look in the mirror and realize that this team desperately needs to get blown up. The Astros fans may be loyal, but most people are not complete idiots and see exactly what I see. Building around young guys like Bourn and Pence, while ditching the dead weight and bloated salaries of guys like Tejada, Matsui and Lee would be a nice start. Gaining some prospects through drafting well and acquiring more prospects via trades would be positive as well. Basically the Houston Astros fans need some hope for the future and youth. Right now we have precious little of either.

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SarCoog: Watching this weekend’s Astros/Rangers series has made me think a bit. Okay, whenever I think about it my brain starts to hurt. My favorite pro sports franchise: the aforementioned Houston Astros… are seriously bad. No, the sub-.500 record isn’t what’s getting me right now. But it’s the situation as a whole.

Let’s see what adjectives describe each team:

Houston Astros: Old, Slow, Bloated, Washed Up, Boring and Complacent.

Texas Rangers: Young, Visionary, Fast, Powerful… *insert positive adjective here*

Face it, one team is trending upwards and it sure as heck isn’t the Astros. It’s clear that pitching coach Mike Maddux has helped fix the Rangers’ historical Achilles Heel on the mound. Also, team president Nolan Ryan clearly can identify talent and has brought in a winning mentality. I doubt this is a one-year fluke and publications like Baseball Prospectus have ranked the Rangers’ minor league organization as one of the top 5 in baseball. Conversely the Astros are consistently near or at the bottom in said rankings.

I don’t think Ed Wade is so much a bad GM per se, as he’s an average baseball mind in a situation that demands the extraordinary. I like scouting director Bobby Heck, so maybe there is some hope for the Astros’ future.

But nothing describes the state of the Houston Astros than: a LOLCat, of course:

HALP CatYour Houston Astros… in a picture

If anyone can photoshop Carlos Lee stuck in a beanbag (like the above picture) then you have my undying gratitude and loyalty.

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ElViento: Richard Justice recently declared the Astros to be “baseball’s most disappointing team by miles.” While I don’t personally feel a strong connection to Houston professional baseball (aside from UH-alum Center Fielder Michael Bourn), this statement is frankly too dumb to ignore. Richard Justice’s writing is so bad, it often mocks itself. Which makes my job here much easier. Let’s do this, FireJoeMorgan style!

Quick question: Why is that Bud Selig gets blamed for every bad thing that happens to baseball? Yet when something good happens, like moving up the start time of World Series games, there’s not a word of praise?

Well, I can’t speak to “every bad thing”, but for just a couple of examples:

1. If you’re the commissioner of your sport, and there is rampant steroid use in your sport over a long period of time, and if you fail to do anything about it, and if you then proceed to throw all of your players under the bus while angrily refusing to take any shred of the blame…well, you probably deserve some criticism.

2. If you come up with the Worst. Idea. Ever., to make home field advantage in the World Series based on an exhibition game…well, you probably deserve some criticism.

But seriously, where are you getting the idea that there is “not a word of praise” for this? The ESPN write-up of the announcement began with a sentence including the clause, “help is on the way”. Sounds like praise to me. The article included positive comments from Trevor Hoffman, Joe Maddon and Tony LaRussa about the change. This move has been needed for years, and Selig finally got around to it only as a knee-jerk reaction to bad ratings in the ’08 Series, and he’s still getting praised for it.

Richard Justice, what you did is what is known as “seeing whatever you expect to see”. It is not known as “good journalism.”

OK, never mind. Some things will never change. Now to the Astros. I warned them about getting rid of Brad Ausmus. I tried to tell them numbers didn’t full measure [sic] his value. Did they listen? Of course, they didn’t. They never do. They’ve got all the answers.

I don’t want any lip from you, either. You didn’t believe me, either. You had your little fantasy league, and you think if a guy ain’t any good in a fantasy league he ain’t any good in real life.

If only baseball were played in a fantasy league. If only heart and character and grit and determination and leadership and brains didn’t count. If only.

Nothing says “professionalism” like insulting the baseball knowledge of your entire readership, Rich. Attaboy.

Brad Ausmus is not the reason that the Astros have suffered a huge back-sliding this year. Wait, what’s that? The Astros winning percentage has dropped all of .062 from last year, almost all of which can probably be attributed to the slumping Rosie O’Donnell Lance Berkman?

Lance probably just misses his friend, Brad. You’re right, Rich, the stathead, fantasy-leaguers couldn’t possibly understand Ausmus’s true value. Nobody saw this coming but you! Wait, what’s that? Baseball Prospectus (users of the much-feared non-stat VORP) actually predicted that Houston would do slightly worse than they’ve done so far? You might say that they saw this coming moreso than you did? (For reasons that had little to do with Brad Ausmus) Well shit, Rich, that kinda shoots your theory right to hell, doesn’t it?

At the moment, the Astros are baseball’s biggest losers. They’re the only big league team with a $100-million payroll and a losing record. Ouch. In other words, the Astros are baseball’s most disappointing team by miles.

Being the only team with a $100-million payroll and a sub-.500 record doesn’t make you “baseball’s most disappointing team”, let alone by miles. Once again, Rich, you’re making stuff up to fit your points.

“Disappointing” implies a failure to meet expectations. Nobody outside of biased Astro fans actually expected Houston to do much better than they currently are. Tampa Bay, who won 97 games and went to the World Series last year, and currently sits at 20-20? People expected them to do well. They’re more disappointing than the Astros. The New York Yankees, whose payroll dwarfs that of Houston, and who are looking up at a bunch of Canadians? More disappointing than Houston. The Los Angeles Anaheim Angels, who won 100 games last year, and are currently one game above .500, looking up at the Texas-freaking-Rangers? MUCH more disappointing than Houston.

The Astros are the city of Houston’s most disappointing professional baseball team, but that’s about it.

Other teams are winning far more games and spending far less money. There may be a business school class in there somewhere.

This is true. This also has nothing to do with your original thesis, which is: the Astros minute regression can be blamed on the absence of Brad Ausmus.

OK, class, this is the day you’ve been waiting for. Mr. Drayton McLane will tell us how not to run a baseball team.

If you look up ”pitiful” in the dictionary, you’ll see photos of Drayton and Ed…

Really? Because I just looked up pitiful in my dictionary, and I saw this:

pit-i-ful

-adjective

1. Sportswriters who try to insult somebody, and can’t do better than the ages-old “If you look up (negative adjective) in the dictionary, you’ll see (insultee)’s picture.

2. Richard Justice. (See 1.)

Anyway, I noticed Brad Ausmus is hitting .346, making $1 million and playing for a first-place team. Figures. Meanwhile, Pudge Rodriguez is hitting 40 points lower and making $500,000 more. There may be a business school class in there somewhere.

Brad Ausmus has played in 7 games. Not only is citing his batting average at this juncture absurd to the point of hilarity, citing the play of Ausmus as a reason that the Dodgers are in first place is similarly nutso. Even if Brad Ausmus has single-handedly changed six of the seven games he played in from losses to wins, the Dodgers would still be in first place without him.

As for Pudge, if every Astros position player was hitting .286 and making $1.5 million, like Ivan Rodriguez, not only would Houston’s team batting average be higher, they wouldn’t be spending nearly as much money. There are plenty of problems with the Astro organization, but you have somehow managed to pick two factors (Ausmus’s absence, the Pudge signing) which are not problems at all.

Are you forgetting that he wanted to leave, Richard? He wanted to be in Southern California. If he couldn’t find an interested team in Southern California, he was ready to hang ’em up.

Oh you silly, silly people. Southern California? Wanted to leave? Let me assure you that if Uncle Drayton had said the right words, Brad would have signed on the dotted line…

Ausmus’s off-season home, and consequently his family, are located in Southern California. So not only did he get to leave a poorly-run, middling organization for a legit World Series-contender, he gets to live near his family. These factors outweighed Drayton McLane’s magic words. You should really stop belittling your italicized inner voice. It’s smarter than you.

Anyway, the boys begin a six-game homestand against the Brewers and Rangers tonight. They probably won’t win any games, but at least the food is good and hot and cheap. See you at the ballyard.

First, saying that any team “probably won’t win any games” in a six-game homestand is something that I am too professional for. And I’ve never been paid to write anything in my life. Except my friend’s pharmacy school entrance essay.

Second, Minute Maid park food is pretty good and hot, but about as “cheap” as cheating on Vanessa Bryant. (Topical, I know!) So that statement doesn’t make sense as truth or sarcasm.

Finally, stop stealing my signoff.

Bobb-O: I see ya there ElViento, makin Richard Justice your bitch…..Everyday.

SarCoog: Ah, Dickie Justice the drama queen. It depresses me that Justice resorts to this garbage because he’s been around the game long enough to know how insignificant the results are this early in the year. I can’t bring myself to really read his blogs anymore… unless EV is taking it apart.

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