Sunday, June 27, 2004

Hey! It's been a while, but I got a house, and furniture, and the Astros got Carlos Beltran!

So it's been a good week. Andy and I got in to the warehouse on Tuesday night I think and there was (of course) a party going on, so we just wandered up and jumped in. No one knew exactly when we were working but they were more than happy to give us food and beer, so it was ok.

We slept in the back of the big trailer that night, and hightailed it to Flagstaff before they could make us do clean-up work around the warehouse.

We got in, called up some friends, and got to house-hunting. We went to a few apartments which were ok but kinda small, and then just happened to be driving by Hospital Hill (a quiet neighborhood about 10 mins. north of NAU and 5 mins. north of Historic Downtown Flagstaff) when we spotted a For Rent sign and a guy (Will Loomis) in the yard. He was a really friendly guy, showed us all around the house (which is awesome...I don't want to describe it too much because you're all gonna come visit), and we really liked it. So we dropped off the application that night, signed it in the morning, and moved in that night! Then we realized we needed a few things. Bed. Futon. Table. Food. Beer.

So we've pretty much been filling in the blanks the past few days. It's been exhausting, lots of driving and shopping and garage sales....but yesterday was the big day, as we bought a great coffee table for 20, a futon (with frame) for 25, and a 3 piece living room set and recliner for 505.

Now we're basically completely moved in, and we found out our schedule for July:

Andy has trips on the 1st and 13th.
Jack has trips on the 8th and 25th.

There are a few more swampers this year, so trips are a little harder to come by. This also means that I'll probably only be doing those two trips all summer, since the folks drive up on the 5th and then JT/Jason fly in sometime in early August, and then Orientation starts on the 23rd. Hopefully I can give Andy all the trips that I would have gotten in August.

So that's my life. As for the Astros: YEAH, BELTRAN.

We're in win-now mode, like it or not. Dotel's great, and I'm sorry to see him go, and Buck might be the catcher of the future, but Beltran is one of the top 20 or so players in the game and brings great defense, speed, and youth to a team that does not have any of those.

Of course we've lost 2 straight games to the Rangers since acquiring Beltran, but Pettitte's coming back and Jimy moved Everett down in the lineup today (with Bagwell hitting 2nd!)

I like our chances, long term, although the bullpen scares me. Lidge should be solid, but he tired last year and has thrown a lot of innings this year, and Dan Miceli and David Weathers are ok but not that great. Gallo, Bullinger, Munro....yikes.

But we got Beltran, and for now, that's all that matters.

Keep in touch, everyone, although my cell phone gets crappy service out here. I'll probably switch to Spring or Verizon pretty soon.

Friday, June 25, 2004

This is a copy of the latest post from my blog, where I discuss all kinds of topics including the Astros.

OH BEHBEH! The Astros got Beltran!!!!

Our part of the deal was Dotel and minor-league catcher, John Buck to KC for Beltran. The Royals then sent Dotel to the A's for some prospects.

I love this trade. It's clear that the team we had wasn't going to get it done this year. The offense has been bad as of late, with a ridiculous inability to get timely hits and score runs. Beltran should provide an obvious spark to the lineup. No telling where Jimy will put him in the lineup, but I would guess that he'll move into either the 2 slot (shifting Everett/Ensberg to the bottom of the lineup) or he'll hit 3rd and push Berkman/Kent/Bagwell each down a spot. I hope Beltran bats 2nd for the simple fact that Jimy cannot possibly have him sac bunt every time that Biggio gets on base. (Well, I won't put anything past Jimy at this point.)

The other obvious advantage Beltran brings is that we no longer have to bear the horrid defense of Biggio in CF. I cringe every time a ball is hit near Tal's Hill, for fear that Biggio's going to eat face again. I'm not sure how I want the defense to be rearranged now that Biggio has been supplanted from CF. In no way can he move to RF...baserunners will move 1st to 3rd on every single to RF with his weak arm. So our options are to move him to LF, back to 2B, or bench him. From what I've read, it appears that moving him to LF is the most likely option. This would force Berkman to RF and send Lane back to the bench. If he were to move back to 2B, Kent would shift to 3rd and Ensberg/Lamb would see the bench. The best option defensively would be simply bench Biggio and keep everyone else the same, but that's not going to happen.

As for what we gave up...well I'm happy we didn't part with both Buck and Chris Burke. The loss of Dotel obviously weakens our bullpen, but I think Lidge can more than adequately move into the closer position. This more clearly defines why we acquired Weathers....he's take over the 7th inning duties from Miceli, who shifts to Lidge's primary setup man. I think we're going to have to acquire another bullpen arm....a quality setup guy (unless they choose to acquire a closer and shift Lidge back to setup man). A good lefty would also help.

We also gave up John Buck, a 23 year old catcher, who's tearing up AAA this year. However he has been inconsistent throughout the minors, having weak years in both 2002 and 2003. He's not especially strong defensively, as he has trouble throwing runners out on the basepaths, but he's got good offensive potential. The problem is...well we still have Ausmus for at least another year, so Buck wouldn't be the starter until at least 2006....and you know what, no telling how strong he'll be in the majors.

That's all I got for tonight. I'm getting tired and having trouble putting together good thoughts. From what I heard tonight, Beltran is expected in Arlington for Friday night's game, so we should see the future outlook of our lineup then.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

HOLY CRAP. WE GOT BELTRAN!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Panic button: ENGAGE.

Astros get:

David Weathers
Jeremy Griffiths

Mets get:

Richard Hidalgo
4 million

Ignoring the fact that we get to plug in Jason Lane, which of the above would you rather have?

Hidalgo's incredibly streaky, but he's a superb defensive player and put up a 950 OPS last year. He may not be worth 12 million, but he's not bad, and we dumped him at his lowest value possible, instead of this offseason or after his HUGE April. David Weathers is a slightly above average reliever and Griffiths is a non-prospect.

Mets win this one.


What I really don't like about this trade is how truly bad it makes our outfield defense. Biggio has been god-awful in center, with numerous acrobatic collapses on Tal's Hill, Lane has a below-average arm, and Lance can't run (although he always seems to make the play).

In other news, Oswalt is probably injured, Pettitte isn't completely ready, Clemens is starting to show his age, and we traded for Pete Munro. And Jose Vizcaino is our starting SS as Everett has a minor injury. Oh, and we basically released Ricky Stone, while retaining Kirk Bullinger, Eric Bruntlett....damn.

Sometimes I love this team so much that I hate them.

Two more days and I'm off.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Ready for this one?

"Astros SS Adam Everett recorded his 19th sacrifice bunt in the first inning, the most in a single season in the majors since Neifi Perez had 22 for Colorado in 1997."

It's not even the All-Star Break and Adam Everett already has more sacrifice bunts than ANYONE in the majors in 6 years.

Man, I miss Morgan Ensberg hitting 2nd.
It's a quiet Saturday; JT is driving to Baton Rouge to cheer on his beloved Aggies in the College World Series, Mark's driving (!!) to the Pacific Coast of Mexico for some fun in the sun, Jason is recovering from a long week of hard labor, and that leaves yours truly thinking about where I'll be a few months from now.

My brother's back from college tomorrow, and we're going to try and score some Astros tix for the upcoming Cubs series. Game 1: Clemens vs. Prior!! We must do it.

He's back for all of a week, and then we're off for some rafting.

CD of the weekend: "OK Computer", Radiohead. If you don't like it at first, listen again. It grows on you.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Time for my 2004 NL All-Star ballot:

1B - Albert Pujols. Sorry, Sean Casey, but YOU'RE NOT THAT GOOD. Pujols is drawing more walks this year and he's insanely, painfully good (I once dropped him in a fantasy league!)

2B - Jeff Kent. You were thinking Tony Womack? Kent's got a 24-game hitting streak as of Friday, and a cool 905 OPS. Not bad for a 36-year old second baseman.

SS - Jack Wilson. THERE IS NO ONE ELSE. You think I wanted to vote for Jack Freakin' Wilson???? But my god...Renteria and Orlando Cabrera are sucking, Adam Everett is terrible offensively....I have to do it.

3B - Scott Rolen. He's got 63 RBI's. I don't care if you do have Pujols and Edmonds in front of you, that's a lot. Sorry, Mike Lowell - you're good too.

C - Mike Piazza. He got off to a slow start, but the best catcher of all time now has 13 HR's, 30 RBI, is hitting .305, and...is the best catcher of all time. Tough luck, Johnny Estrada.

OF - Bobby Abreu, Lance Berkman, Barry Bonds. I hate to keep Adam Dunn off the team, but Abreu has been damn good, Berkman's got an 1100 OPS and has carried the Astros (along with Kent) for a month and Barry Bonds is still alive.

SP - Roger Clemens. He just barely beats out Randy Johnson and Ben Sheets. Clemens is 9-0, tons of K's...and he's 41. And he was supposed to RETIRE!!

Closer - Armando Benitez. Sorry, Gagne, but you BLEW IT in last year's All Star Game, so take a seat, and let Mr. 40-straight-batters-retired-in-a-row take over (and a 0.54 ERA, too). Oh, and Brad Lidge can set-up...he's got 55 K's!!!

Well, that's my team. Bring it, JT.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Well, the Astros scored 4 runs in a 3-game series - AND WON 2 OF THEM!! That's pretty good, but not as good as back-to-back shutouts off starts by Clemens and Miller. Our pitching is looking solid, especially our 'best 6' or so that teams would see if we make it to the playoffs: Oswalt, Pettitte (or Miller), Clemens, Miceli, Lidge, Dotel. That's tough.

Jason Lane finally got a start last night and did nothing with it, unfortunately. He just needs to play more, but I wish he'd get some hits so Jimy would have to notice.

We had a great small party last night, with beer pong and Michelle's crazy dance music leading the way. Then it got a little too wild as Michelle wandered off and we looked for her and...well...things just got a little weird from then on. But it's all good, and I can't wait to do it again, especially since Mark is quite good at beer pong - at least, someone to challenge me! Mark - ARE YOU ASKING FOR A CHALLENGE?????

Monday, June 07, 2004

Jack's 2004 AL All Star Team

C - Jorge Posada, Yankees. Victor Martinez (and Pudge Rodriguez, actually)are close, but Posada doubles Martinez in walks (36 to 18) despite playing in 3 fewer games and has a 78-point OPS advantage over the 2003 World Series Hero.

1B - Ken Harvey, Royals. What happened to all the AL first basemen? I thought about taking Jason Giambi, but he just came off the DL and might be hurt. No one else has really stood out, and I thought about going with Rafael Palmeiro since he's almost done and is having a solid year, but Harvey has been quite good (.375 / .412 / .543) So I'm going with the Big Fella. Although he did just put his own pitcher on the DL yesterday by running into him.

2B - Juan Uribe, White Sox. Ugh!!! But I have to; he's the best right now. Believe me, I want to pick Alfonso Soriano, but 1) he's not as good as everyone thinks he is and 2) he's not as good as even someone like ME thinks he is. Soriano is at .284 / .326 / .431 with 19 extra-base hits; Uribe is at .309 / .368 / .508 with 21 XBH!! Send him in.

SS - Carlos Guillen, Tigers. I wonder if Seattle regrets trading Guillen (who's got a 961 OPS and 28 XBH) so they could sign Rich Aurilia (633 OPS, 12 XBH). Oops. Sorry Tejada - you gotta swing HARRRRRDAAAAA.

3B - Alex Rodriguez. I'm not looking Melvin Mora in the eye when I make this pick, but ARod is unstoppable, and is finally dominating after a slow start. If an All-Star Game in the next 10 years does not include ARod, I will be ill.

OF - Manny Ramirez, Carlos Beltran, Vladimir Guerrero. Ok, no more crazy picks like Harvey, Uribe, and Guillen. I mean....come on. Look at that outfield, and tremble in fear.

DH - Frank Thomas. He'll always be underappreciated. Arguably the best non-Bonds hitter of the last 20 years. 51 walks so far this year, and a 1053 OPS.

SPs - Curt Schilling, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, C.C. Sabathia, Freddy Garcia. Schilling deserves to start, Hudson and Mulder are the only ones with sub-3.00 ERAs, and Sabathia and Garcia are close.

RPs - Mariano Rivera, Keith Foulke, Franciso Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez. Saves leader, Foulke Foulke!, Cordero's been tough, and K-Rod is going NUTS.

So that's my team. Check out JT's at his blog.

Coming soon: NL!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

I finally gave my boss my two weeks' notice on Friday, so I'm officially heading off to The Big Ditch with Andy on June 21. We'll be rafting the Colorado River for a couple of months, and then I start school Aug. 16, but I think he's planning on rafting a few more trips (he doesn't start his senior year at NU until late September). So it's kind of the end of an era here in The Woodlands, and I'd like to say I want to do all the things I never did...but I've done a lot, and I'm still doing my favorite things, like tennis, Mario Tennis, bridge, frisbee golf, and watching Jason eat cheese fries. So here's to a good last few weeks.

I admit that I've been following the Astros a little less (though I still watch every game I can and keep updated on everything possible) and baseball in general a little more. Guess I'm just a fan of the game as a whole. Actually JT and I have had a little argument going about who should be voted to the All Star Game - 'proven' superstars that everyone wants to see regardless of their statistics (a.k.a. Nomar Garciaparra is leading the AL for shortstops, despite not playing a game yet), or guys that kind of came out of nowhere to dominate so far this year (Sean Casey, Victor Martinez, Joe Kennedy). Well, in my next post, I'm going to unveil my 2004 AL All Star Ballot, and I challenge JT to do the same, and we'll compare. Oh, and stop by his blog, too. It's good stuff.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I had a GREAT weekend up in Chicago, where I learned a few things:

1. I will never be as good as my little brother at Caps.
2. The Northwestern Campus is a lot nicer during the spring and summer than the winter

and most importantly

3. Girls still have an (apparently infinite) capacity to surprise me.

So I got in around 4pm Saturday (which happened to be Dillo Day, a joyous day when all the Northwestern students join hands and sing campfire songs while drinking poisonous amounts of alcohol. I arrive to fanfare as most of Andy's frisbee buddies and Dano the Man-O are all there and we immediately start playing Caps, grilling some burgers and dogs, and talking about life. Then we decide to go listen to the Wailers, Bob Marley's old band! They started off slow but then peaked with "I Shot the Sherrif" and "No Woman No Cry" with fireworks going off in the background.

The next day we went and visited Toni, my Mom's Mom, who's doing great, and was pleased to hear that Andy's new gal Katie is an Alpha Phi just like she used to be! Small world. Then we went and saw Shrek 2 with Uncle Marty and his lady, which was pretty good - a little cheesy, but Antonio Banderas steals the show.

So then FINALLY my good buddy Jess gets in about 10:30 pm to Union Station...she took a train from East Lansing and it got stopped because of tornadoes! But eventually she made it, fresh from camping that morning, and we went and chilled at Andy's friend's place for a while and caught up on stuff.

Then: The Day With Everything.

Running, home run derby, frisbee, Al's Deli, iced butter cookies, Cubs game, sports bar, dancing on tables (Katie and Jess....not me....sigh), Caps, hockey game (Flames lose....NOO), and deep dish pizza. It was an amazing day.

Then I don't really remember this morning very well but I'm typing this from Houston, so I must have made it back all right. And now I gotta go to work, so I'll leave you with that.

Andy, Katie, Dano, and especially Jess, great to see you guys.