Free Blog Weekend: Is baseball’s silly season finally over?

Hey, I love a good trade rumor as much as the next guy. But, honestly, I’m ready for some baseball.

Now that pitchers and catchers are settling into their Florida homes away from home, and position players are starting to trickle into the Sunshine State, I’m looking forward to some Grapefruit League games.

That’s right. I want my meaningless baseball, because anything — ANYTHING — is better than reading one more mindless off-season story about something less meaningless than Dallas Keuchel getting in two innings of work and practicing a new grip on his change up.

What could be more meaningless than that, you ask? Well, here’s a sample:

How about a handwriting analysis of Alex Rodriguez‘s apology to the world.

Frankly, any story that isn’t about how A-Rod went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts is a waste of ink and internet space at this point.

Need another example?  What about anything declaring the innovating thinking of Rob Manfred. Whether it’s the pace of the game (gag me!) or his laser focus on youth, I don’t want to hear about Rob Manfred again until he finally studies the Pete Rose issue. Baseball needs young fans? Really? Well stop the presses on that nugget of wisdom. And, honestly, you don’t have your mind made up on Pete Rose? How long have you known you were getting this job?

No, as baseball — even just Grapefruit League games — looms, here are the questions I want answered, and not just by the people at the Chronicle (spit! for Dan) but by the national media. After all, their last big story about the Astros was how a Twitter promotion failed and no one won a Jose Altuve autographed ball. So, stop writing about how low Derek Jeter‘s girlfriend’s bikini bottoms will go (no, I won’t provide a link to that), and cover some of this, national media:

1. How are Houston’s young players doing against major league pitching in these games? Is this stockpile of talent just about ready for the big time? I don’t care of Carlos Correa or Preston Tucker can mash against some AA kid for the Twins. I want to know how they do against MLB pitching in these spring games.

2. Where’s Evan?  It’s like those Where’s Waldo things, but I want to be able to spot Evan Gattis on (or off at DH) on the field every day. How did he look at first base? How did he look in left field?

3. Is Jake Marisnick a real hitter? I guess we’ll find out starting March 5 vs. the Phillies. If he’s not able to start hitting line drives, we need to send him to Fresno, which means more room for Robbie Grossman or Alex Presley. (Wait, did I forget to mention L.J. Hoes? … No, I didn’t forget.)

4. OK, this one’s tricky. I am tired of all the farm system rankings, but I’d like to look at something I heard on the MLB Network. Someone was referring to Correa as the future face of the franchise. Um, this is a franchise with George Springer and Jose Altuve. If that’s the case, just how good will the Astros become?  What happens this spring when all three — plus maybe Tucker or Colin Moran or Mark Appel — gets into a game together?

5. Who is working on what pitch? As good as Keuchel and Collin McHugh were last year, both need to keep improving. Anyone trying to add a new pitch into their sequence?  Anyone got a new grip on their slider? Maybe that’s a story that needs to be written about Jake Buchanan or Brett Oberholtzer. After all, it’ was J.D. Martinez‘s new approach at the plate that turned him into a star in Detroit. This year, we need to be on top of real changes players have made, not the stupid “he lost 10 pounds and really worked this off-season” stories.

6. Maybe it’s just me, but I want to know exactly what George Springer did to his leg last season. Does a pulled muscle really take months to heal?  We all need to keep an eye on him.

7. Speaking of injuries, I think we need updates on how the Walking Dead of Arlington are doing. This is a division foe, and that means a lot of games against the stRangers. Are they healthy? Still in recovery? What do they look like out on the field?

Those are some of the storylines I plan to follow. What will you be watching for as the games* begin?

What winter blather do you hope melts into obscurity as we start seeing games in Florida and Arizona?

29 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: Is baseball’s silly season finally over?

  1. Hey – Brian – tell us what you how you really feel.

    I’m with you – I want real baseball stories – heck I’m sick of writing stuff right now because you can only speculate on whether Jon Singleton will be Ryan Howard (circa 2004 – 2011) or Dave Bergman (name a year) so far without losing your focus and desite.
    – Speaking of Manfred – I don’t want to see any more silly proposals about banning the shift.
    – Speaking of Manfred – I want to see articles about substantive ways to speed up the snail’s pace into which the game has fallen
    – I don’t want to read about how so and so has gone to their high school coach and rediscovered their mojo
    – I do want to read about how so and so went to their old coach and just tossed 96 mph nasty stuff past Mike Trout
    – I don’t want to hear about how they brought in so and so for their leadership
    – I want to hear about how so and so is leading the league in RBIs

    I want real baseball too


    • Yes, it has been hard lately to write without saying to myself, “Didn’t I just write about this?” And I hate it when I come up with an idea, and it’s a story on Climbing Tal’s Hill 20 minutes later.



  2. Brian, no one faces MLB pitching in Spring games. The real major league pitchers pitch 2, then 3, then 4, then 5 innings and then after they pitch they tell you how they threw all fastballs, then sliders, then all changeups, then curves. Truth is guys don’t face real MLB pitching until Opening Day and then they are facing the best 30 pitchers in all of the world. That’s why someone like Kraus or Ankiel starts on opening day, because he faced only RH minor league stuff in ST and then hit .150 against real pitchers after that. If you want to view a prospect’s prospects, you better be watching his defense in ST and his hitting once the minor league season starts for real because they are almost always hitting against minor leaguers trying to be major leaguers in ST.


    • OP, they may not face regular-season competitiveness, but if Correa can hit a quality MLB curveball — even if that’s all the pitcher is throwing that inning — it’s still a quality curveball. And it shows he can handle the pitch. And I’ll take that as a positive sign.


  3. I’d be happy to never hear from Rob Manfred again this year. After all of the Bud Selig years and the tenure of ineptitude for Roger Goodell, I think we need to be getting to the point where the chairmen stop wielding so much power.


  4. * I don’t mind reading about Peacock losing 30 lbs. What I want to know is why he did it and if that is going to help him pitch past the fifth inning.
    *So baseball will now have a 30 second clock. That is just great. Sarcasm Font!
    *If you trade 2 of your top 10 prospects, graduate 2 of your prospects, fail to sign your #1 pick, and bring one of your top prospects to the major leagues for two weeks and he fails miserably, how are you going to have any more than 2 top 100 prospects left? That’s a pretty simple subtraction. With the way Appel’s and Correa’s seasons went, we’re lucky to have two top 100 guys left.
    *I want to see Hank Conger catching Josh Fields. With that pitch framing, just bring Conger in for the ninth with Fields and there will be no walks. Closer problem solved! I would like to thank my front office computer team for turning me on to that managerial move.
    *I would like to suggest to Manfred that he look into a 2nd designated hitter rule. The one I have in mind has JFSF playing CF and Robbie Grossman batting for him. This rule would only be in effect the second half of the season.
    *I want to know if the Astros were smart enough to let Dan Straily be Collin McHugh’s roomie. Come on, this is basic psychology 101.
    *I spotted Evan Gattis. He’s walking all over in left field at MMP and is staring at that fence and that train. His orange jersey is covered in drool.
    *The blather that I don’t want to hear anymore is someone talking about how Jason Castro is going to be traded. Hinch is the new manager, a Stanford Catcher. Jeez Louise!


  5. Just want to say to Chip, Dan, and Brian T – thanks, you guys, for continuing to encourage us and cause us to think great baseball thoughts throughout the long, cold winter months. You guys make this a great place to hang out. Our Stros may or may not make the playoffs this year, but Chipalatta has the power to make us feel that anything is possible.

    And now:

    I’ll be watching to see . . . if Becky commissions a drone to take out Jonathan Villar.

    I don’t want to hear about . . . how some fool of a sportswriter thinks the Rangers’ minor league talent pool is better than ours.

    I don’t care if . . . Jed Lowrie once bunted to beat a shift put on by the Astros when his former team was beating us like a yard-dog.

    Winter blather I hope melts into obscurity . . . how Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Jose Altuve are all due for a significant regression.

    Liked by 1 person

    • About those Ranger’s prospects. In the beginning of 2013 Jurickson Profar was their top prospect and we have already discussed him. But, at the same time, Cody Buckel was their top pitching prospect. Check out his stats and story since Jan of 2013. The Rangers have problems with their system.


  6. If I could pick one player I would like to see get a chance to play every day at Fresno and make his critics and doubters shake their heads in submission, it would be Joe Sclafani.
    The guy never gets to play a position and get used to it, but continually tries to learn new positions anyway and never complains. He has hit at every level, walked at every level, hasn’t struck out much at any level and had one of the highest BAs in OKC last year. He led his AFL team in BA, SLG, and OPS, and was third in OBP, even though he only played on Wednesdays and an occasional Saturday.
    I hope he gets to start somewhere in Fresno and hits .320 and gets his shot.


    • OP, now that’s the kind of coverage from the media I’d like to see, a story about an under appreciated player who just performs nonstop. I remember a kid named Altuve who fit that description at one point.

      And I echo your thoughts on Sclafani. I think he and Aplin have a floor of supersub


      • Sclafani’s team was the top hitting team in the AFL, and although Sclafani was a part time player, there he was batting second in the Championship Game that Salt River won 14-7. He had half as many ABs as some of the other guys on that team but was the average leader in three out of those four major stats and this all came after hitting over .330 in AAA in 62 ABs there. The fact that he wasn’t eligible for the Rule V draft is why he’s not on the 40 man, but his performance in AAA and the AFL sure is encouraging. Multiple positions and a switch hitter, but he needs to eliminate errors to make himself a guy who pushes somebody off the roster. I’m not betting against him.


      • OP, in 62 AAA GAMES, rather than at bats, with 226 PA’s, Sclafani hit .339 with a .420 OPS. And an .858 OPS. That’s a fair sample. And that’s not Lancaster. He got sent to OKC because this organization could not find a spot for him in CC. Seems they’ve almost wished he’d just go away. After sitting around for awhile in OKC, he forced his way into the lineup. As you noted earlier, he’s never been handed a job but somehow has managed to put up some of the better numbers in the system, on a consistant basis, from both sides of the plate. He’s a 14th round pick who’s left highly touted Nolan Fontana in the dust. I just hope he does not turn into the next Ben Zobrist for another big league club.


    • I’m a bit confused – the injury occurred in AFL and his throwing was shut down since then, or did he aggrevate something recently causing a setback?

      The silver lining is we can get eyes on more starters this spring when deciding which guys to promote to AA. The downside, of course, is obvious.


  7. Is Qualls moving closer to being the closer, now that he is sporting the sporty full beard? Guess he didn’t think the Brocail Manchu was going to get the job done. He’s a he’s a fine pitcher now with that full facial array and it appears to be Athletic-proof.
    Inching towards being a complete team we are. Keep the smoothie face, Babe Springer.


  8. For Becky
    Meanwhile, Jonathan Villar’s days as the Astros starting shortstop are over, but he’s going to play some second and third base to increase his chances of winning a job as a utility player, Hinch said.


    • One of the risks of bringing up players to the majors before they are ready is that when they don’t perform like a 25 year old rookie instead of a 22 year old rookie who is not ready, you use up their options, you use up their cheap years and you show other teams their weaknesses. Their value plummets and you can’t get anything for them. That is what happened to Villar.
      When they traded Lowrie and didn’t get a major league SS to replace him they gave up that position, and they also lost a top 10 prospect in Villar who wasn’t ready. He could have kept tearing up AAA and then been moved to someone who needed a shortstop. This was a definite misread by the organization on the readiness of Villar, who absolutely was not blocking anyone else at SS if he had stayed in OKC.
      In 2011-13 the Astros were like an expensive freighter floating around in the middle of a baseball ocean with no crew or passengers while the owners shopped around for three years in the desert looking for seaman. But that’s okay because it was a process.
      And the problem was not in trading Lowrie, because they did fine with that trade. The problem was not being smart enough to see Villar wasn’t ready and refusing to pay for a real SS to fill the gap.


  9. Oldpro…….you hit the nail on the HEAD! Villar’s short comings were on center stage last year……and it will hurt his value when they trade him. The other teams saw a multi talented young kid, who has his head firmly planted where the sun don’t shine.
    I think *if* he had the chance to do over…..Luhnow would have kept him in AAA.
    The glaring problem, is in his AAA stint, he made VERY few errors. Porter was his
    biggest fan, and his worst nightmare. You just can not give the other team free runs.
    Too bad you can’t have “do-overs” and expect a different outcome. Villar is
    a pretty good short stop with the attention span of a nat.


    • Jonathan Villar has never hit as high as .280 in MILB. Never! If your career minor league BA is .258 and it isn’t trending upward and you have never been able to hit as high as .280 in any step of the minors, you are going to struggle big time in the majors, especially if you are 23 years old.


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