Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Some buzz about Miguel Tejada lately. There's been buzz before, and I think both teams' managements were inches away from a deal last off-season, but it didn't get done. I wanted it then, and I want it now. Here's why:

1) Tejada is awesome. He leads the Orioles in AVG, HR, RBI and R (.323/18/69/68). He is superb defensively, and supposedly is a great team leader in the dugout. Remember his days with the A's, when he'd be on the front row of the dugout, waving his teammates home and cheering like mad? We could use some of that. He won the 2002 MVP with his heart. Plus clutch hitting during Oakland's 20-game winning streak.

2) Adam Everett is the bane of my existence.

3) The trade pieces — specifically the prospects — aren't necessarily All-stars. Yes, it is very nice to have a plethora of talent in the farm system, but sometimes they don't pan out. Hunter Pence looks awesome right now, but it's not a sure thing that he'll slug in the majors, which Tejada has proven he can do. We have a ton of pitching prospects, so giving up one of: Nieve, Albers, Patton, Hirsh won't hurt us too bad. Don't know why they'd want Lidge (although he'd do well working with Mazzone there), but he is expendable.

4) The NL is just waiting for another team to emerge. The Mets are very good, and the Cardinals have Pujols and Carpenter. Thankfully, two other teams get into the playoffs, and we should realize how close we are from making it there. We're only 5 games out of the Wild Card, with a big series this week against the WC-leading Reds. If we win 2 of 3 against Cincy, and 2 of 3 against the D-Backs at home, we're 3 games under .500 and probably only 3 or 4 back of the Wild Card.

5) Here's why: 2B Biggio, CF Burke, RF Berkman, SS Tejada, LF Huff, 3B Ensberg, 1B Lamb, C Ausmus. Holy crap.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's been a wild few weeks for me - I got back from an ultimate frisbee tourney in Chicago and a family vacation to the Galapagos a few days ago, and immediately found out I got a job and that an apartment that I had been looking at for a while was available. So today I went to NAU, chose an office, moved out of my place, filled out the application for the new place, and packed for a river trip that I leave on tomorrow. Whew. Let's talk some baseball:

First of all, the Aubrey Huff trade.

Astros get: 3B/1B/OF Aubrey Huff
Devil Rays get: SS Ben Zobrist, P Mitch Talbot

Big surprise here: I agree with Andy's earlier thoughts on the trade. Unfortunately, Huff can't replace Ausmus or Everett in the lineup. But he's a solid player, who has traditionally been better in the 2nd half, and the Astros are built (at least for this year) as a team that needs to go all out for the playoffs. Zobrist is a nice prospect, a SS who actually gets on base, but he hasn't shown too much power and management seems to love Adam Everett. Talbot isn't a big loss, with our pitching depth (more on that later). All in all, I like the trade. Huff is off to a slow start so far (.243 / .333 / .378), but give him a little time.

My only concern about the trade (and it's a fairly big one) is that we even think about trading Morgan Ensberg or cutting his playing time once he's off the DL. I know Ensberg is slumping, and he is 30 years old, so he's probably not going to improve, and he's streaky....but he has a career 864 OPS, including a 961 OPS at the Juice Box! He's also relatively cheap, solid defensively, and is absolutely the 2nd best offensive player on the team, and has been better than Berkman for fairly long stretches of time both last year and this year. He's also drawing walks like an absolute maching this year, so once he reverts back to his career batting average of .272, you're looking at an easy .400 OBP. In short, Ensberg is really, really good, and we should try to build the team around him, Berkman, and Oswalt for the next 2-4 years. If we trade him for Scott Linebrink, we suck.

A bunch of Rotoworld rumors involving the Astros lately:

We're interested in left-handed reliever Damaso Marte. Wow, what a surprise, we're looking for a lefty. What, John Franco, Mike Gallo, Trever Miller, and Wandy Rodriguez aren't good enough? Marte is actually pretty good, but he walks a lot of guys and Miller has actually been pretty decent this year at times, so I say just stick with him.

We're shopping Willy Taveras. Sweet! It's pretty apparent that he's not part of our long-term plans, which is fine, so we might as well try to deal him while teams remember his 2nd-place Rookie of the Year finish last year. Taveras isn't that bad - he's excellent defensively, can steal bases, and has shown the occasional ability to get on base. He'd make a fine 5th outfielder, but if we can get value in a trade, do it.

We might be shopping Preston Wilson (to the Yankees, who really need OF help). I like it a lot. Wilson is overrated, and we're certainly not going to sign him after this year (I hope), and with Berkman, Huff, Luke Scott, Jason Lane (at some point) all able to play corner OF, we should be ok there.

Like I said, the 2006 Astros are basically built for one last push: Pettitte and Clemens are probably gone next year, Biggio should start playing less once he gets to 3K hits, and a lot of our younger guys (Burke, Hirsh, Nieve) should start seeing a lot more playing time. Hell, Oswalt isn't even signed for next year - what would our rotation be without him? Yikes. But here's the trick - we're 9.5 back in the division and 5 back in the wild card, with 6 teams ahead of us. I know we've pulled this off in the past, but if something goes wrong (like Berkman injuring his groin yesterday), we shouldn't be afraid to have a fire sale and trade the vets. As much as I'd like to see this team make the playoffs, it's not too likely at this point.

Ok, I've gotta run, and I'll be out for a few weeks, but when I finally get back I promise to write more regularly and more interesting stuff. Later.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Howdy everyone. I actually didn't watch the Home-Run Derby OR the All-Star Game. Frankly, I needed a break from baseball as much as the players did. Too many fantasy teams (once again), and too many crummy Astros defeats have left me somewhat burned on this whole national pasttime thing. But a few days off, and a few interesting moves by the Astros have gotten me right back into the swing of things. Here we go:

As Barstool pointed out, the Astros made several moves to try and revitalize the offense. First, we traded Ben Zobrist and Mitch Tablot (two decent prospects) to the Devil Rays for Aubrey Huff and cash. This is a great trade for us. Yes, Huff is in his last year before free agency, and he hasn't lived up to his 2003-04 potential over the last year and a half. But he has smacked the crap out of the ball recently, hitting 3 HR in his last 5 games (the latest was a 3-run shot to give the Astros a 5-1 win over the Marlins). So hopefully, he's found his swing and can put up a .850 OPS.

Huff is, if nothing else, a very good hitter, which is exactly what we need. Like Richard Justice said when we signed Preston Wilson: Forget where he's going to play or who he's going to take at-bats from, just having him on the team is a very good thing. Unfortunately, he doesn't replace Everett or Ausmus at the end of the lineup, but we'll get to that later.

Lane was optioned to Round Rock to make room for Huff. Like last year, Lane went through an extended slump, but he just never seemed to rebound from it. Just about every time I saw him at the plate or on the bases, he seemed to make dumb mental mistakes. He's not as bad as he is right now, but at 29, his time with the Astros might be coming to a close.

Ensberg to the DL. This move is about a month late. Ensberg has very obviously been bothered since he dove for a foul ball and landed awkwardly on his shoulder against Atlanta on June 9. Good timing at least, since Huff will move into the 3B spot full-time for the next two weeks.

Luke Scott was called up to replace Ensberg. I'm not sold on this move. Seems to me we could have just kept Lane in the majors and Scott at AAA and saved a couple of options. But hey, Scott will probably go back down once Ensberg plays again.

Brandon Backe is scheduled to pitch July 22, and it looks like Wandy will be sent to the pen, with Buchholz staying in the #5 spot. This is probably a good move — Wandy was awful in June and his two starts in July were not promising. Wandy has pretty much shown us his potential in the last year, and he doesn't appear to have what it takes to be a major-league starter. Buchholz, on the other hand, has potential, and if nothing else, he'll be surrounded by Oswalt, Pettitte and Rocket.

Oswalt, Clemens, Pettitte, Backe and Buchholz is a damn fine rotation. The lineup, even with Huff, needs help. The problem, as always, is the bottom of the order. Unless we make even more drastic changes, Ausmus and Everett aren't going anywhere. Here's my proposition: Have Burke start at SS twice a week, have Munson start at C twice a week, and have Wilson make some starts in CF. Burke's offense more than makes up for his lack of defense at short. And obviously, once we get a late lead, we can sub Everett in at SS and Willy T in CF. How's about this lineup?:

2B Biggio, SS Burke, LF Berkman, CF Wilson, RF Huff, 3B Ensberg, 1B Lamb, C Munson

Those are clearly our best hitters. Obviously, this would be a disaster defensively, but we need some freakin' offense.

Clemens vs. the Marlins tonight. Go Rocket.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

As you've probably read in the last post, Jack has split for the Galapagos Islands. He must be so desperate for a job that he's even looking in undeveloped islands for employment. Good luck to you, Jack, we're rooting for you!

Meanwhile, after mentioning Jason Lane in the last post guess what the Astros did? That's right, kids! They sent his under-performing posterior to the minors whilst making a trade for Aubrey Huff who is 30 years old, plays for the mighty Devil Rays, and is the kinda guy whom my mother would take one look at and say, "Eww! He a vitamin deficiency! Es jucky!" I don't know much about baseball but after looking at this trade it actually seems like a steal! We trade away two of our prospects for a 30 year old on the rapid decline and some cash for the Astros organization to spend on pleasing the fans (*cough*cough* free beer! *cough*cough*). After that 1 ER, 9 IP LOSS by the Amazing Oswalt, it's good to see that the 'Stros are going after the big hitters with a lot of upside. Perhaps when Jack comes back from the job hunt in the Galapagos he can enlighten us all as to if this trade was good or bad. I'm guessing it was marvelous cuz we got some fat cash along with a Tamba Bay Devil Ray SUPAHSTAH!!!

Anyone get a load of that World Cup? Or better yet, did anyone see that headbutt in high definition? I watched a clip of it when I was at my parents' house on their 60" SXRD (really good TV, fyi) and you can actually see the dude's chest cave in to the unforgiving onslaught that is Zizou's bald-is-beautiful skull. Did it deserve a red card? Yes. Did it wake us all up from watching exhausted Italians hold the line against Henry the Awesome (remember, it's French so it rhymes) and Ribery the Ugliest Soccer Player in World Cup History? You betcha. Out of 10, I rate this World Cup an 8. My complaints: Horrific refs and the typical American complaint...not enough GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOALS. Speaking of which, what's with ESPN's guys in the booth? I think people would get a little more excited about soccer if the commentators lost their friggin' minds whenever a goal was scored.

Did anyone see that Irish guy on ESPN predict that Italy would win from the beginning? Leave it to the Irish; they know how to rock (U2). Too bad the rest of the analysis on ESPN is looked down upon...

Enough about the winners! How bout them losers? According to my Mexican inside source (Hi Mom!) pretty much the entire country of Mexico knew that their team was going to underachieve. I found it funny, however, that the U.S. performance was touted as an absolute failure. Don't get me wrong! I completely agree! But usually we hear the talking heads say we lost and nobody cares. Perhaps we're finally seeing a change in the attitudes of this nations sports writers? Seriously, how long can those old farts deny the monstrocity that is futbol?! Superbowl is watched by 50 million...World Cup is worshipped by over a billion...yeah, talk about an isolationist attitude.

Bruce Arena blew it. Argue with me if you want, but the guys looked LOST out there that first match. The forwards were never on the same page and I couldn't help but feel that they really had no game plan going into those games. That's what I observed anyways...the rest of you should let us know what you thought about those games (reply, slaves!). And how bout those soccer megastars like David Beckham and Ronaldo saying they would like to play in America when they're done competing in the big boy leagues? Sounds awesome to me....the U.S. will become the Senior PGA of soccer! Where else in the world can so much cash be thrown at so old an athlete? Or at least traded for two minor leaguers....

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I made it back from my river trip - on the day I returned, after de-rigging the boat, I ran off to find a newspaper to see how the Astros had been doing. Their last 10 games: 2-8. Ugh. Then I looked up some box scores and saw how the White Sox and Tigers basically obliterated us. Luckily we ran into the Cubs who are pretty bad right now, although the mighty Sean Marshall managed to shut us out yesterday as Roy Oswalt gave up 1 ER in 9 IP and took the loss.

It looks like Mike Lamb has been hot since I left, as he's been getting the majority of starts at 1B with Lance shifting to RF. I guess I can quit stumping for Jason Lane; it just doesn't look like he's going to get much playing time. Waah. Lamb is hitting .332 / .379 / .533 for the season, so you can't argue with that too much.

Before I go any further, read Aaron Gleeman's wrap-up of the SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) conference right now.

I've been watching the World Cup, which is great. The Germany - Italy semifinal was amazing, the France - Portugal semi not so much. I like Italy to dominate in the finals - their defense (especially their captain, Canavarro, and their goalkeeper, Buffon) is unreal and they should generate enough offense to win. Italy 2-0.

I'm heading out again, to Chicago for an ultimate frisbee tournament and then to the Galapagos Islands on a vacation. Sorry about that, it's summertime. If anyone wants to make a post (JT? Barstool?), I'd owe you one. Until then, take care, cheer for the Astros, and have fun.