Astroholics: A taste of the good stuff gets you hooked


As I drove up the winding lane toward the fortress-like manor, the cries of the inmates slowly rose from a murmur to a crescendo of wails and lamentations.

Part of me wanted to check myself in. After all, I suffered too. Suffered from the false hope. Suffered from missed moments. Suffered from the taste of success. A taste that now felt bitter upon my tongue.

I grabbed my overnight bag from the back of the car. Surely, this stay wouldn’t be long. After all, I just needed to get my head right. With so much positive energy during the season, a quick night, a few sessions, that’s all I would need.

Right?

I rang the bell at the front desk, and was greeted by the caretaker. “Welcome to the Bill Spiers Wing of the Home for Astroholics,” he said. “Checking in?”

He looked familiar, a friendly face from the halcyon days of playoff wins and World Series appearances. “Hey, aren’t you ..?”

“I’m not a slick-fielding shortstop any more,” he said. “Just a guy here to coach you through your, um, minor issues.”

He took my bag, handed it off to a Jason Lane lookalike — surely that wasn’t the real Jason Lane — and guided me to a room in the back. “Why don’t we get you started,” he said. “This has been a busy week for us, so we’d like to start your therapy right away.”

A circle of chairs filled the room, and all the chairs save one was occupied by a crazy-eyed individual wearing an Astros jersey from days gone by. One older lady with an Mike Hampton jersey and a twitch in her eye was talking as I grabbed the last chair.

“… if Sipp just would have missed the ball, the spin wouldn’t have … well, wouldn’t have made him miss.”

“Missed like Villerror going after a routine ball,” another patient taunted.

“Bite your tongue,” the lady screamed, pulling out an Evan Gattis bobblehead and shaking it furiously at the man. “Sipp made the ball spin. That’s why Carlos missed it. That’s why!”

A bespectacled man in a “Moneyball” T-shirt with a slide rule hanging out of his pants pocket held up his hand before the other patient could speak. “The spin of the ball could have led to the error,” he said. “We can’t place all the blame on Correa.”

“See?” the woman implored. “See!”

But the man in the horn-rimmed glasses — obviously the leader of the group — raised his hand again. “But maybe Correa should have picked up the change in the spin.”

“Lies!” she screamed. “Lies!”

The man in the “Moneyball” shirt raised his hand again. “Stay calm, lady. We can’t get better unless we face some truths.” Then he turned to me. “Everyone, we have a new guest. And what do we say to new guests?”

And older gentleman jumped from his seat and yelled, “Great Lima’s Ghost! We were six stinking outs from the next round. Six stinking outs, and they start parading station to station on us.”

“Sit down, Opie,” Moneyball chides. “That’s not what we say.”

The old man takes his seat, but mumbles, “It’s not ‘Opie’ you math nerd.”

But a stern look quiets him. He looks around the rest of the crowd, and in unison they say, “It’s a process. Hashtag, In Luhnow We Trust.”

Opie whispered to another woman in the group. “What in the name of Bobby Heck is a hash tag?”

“What’s your name?” Moneyball asked me.

I told them all my name, and that I was a frequent contributor at Chipalatta. Nods around the circle told me I was among friends. “And I guess I just need to get a little closure, you know,” I said. “Make a little sense of what happened. I mean …”

“Six outs,” Opie said.

“Six outs,” the crowd murmured.

A fidgety fellow in a Roger Clemens shirt cleared his throat. “Just missed. And after we did so well all season.”

“Here we go,” the older lady said.

The Clemens fan continued, “Yep, we rose all the way from the ashes of the last few seasons only to be smashed back down,” he said. “In Luhnow we trust. What a crock. This team was built to strike out, and strike out they did. This team was built to live and die on the long ball, and when push came to shove, they didn’t have the pop.”

Moneyball said, “I’m pretty sure Jeff will make some changes for next year. Fix some of those holes.”

“And who will pull off these genius trades,” Clemens fan asked. “Mr. ‘I Like Pitch Framers?'”

“Look,” Moneyball said, “I’m not saying mistakes weren’t made, but sometimes our numbers do get things right. Collin McHugh’s curveball. Keuchel’s ground balls. Altuve’s aggressiveness.”

Another patient chimed in. “Ten years,” he said. “Ten years of floundering and falling flat on our faces.”

“But that ended this year,” I said. “We weren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs and we win in Yankee Stadium. We push the Royals to the brink. Maybe next year we take that next step.”

“And maybe,” a gentleman with a raggedy old rainbow jersey said, “this is the start of long run of near misses and seasons of regret. We may not be the Cubs …”

Half the group made signs to ward off the evil spirits, others hissed at the mere mention of that hexed team.

“We may not be the Cubs,” he said again, “but we’ve got more than fifty seasons of not winning it all. So it’s hard to have that faith in our future. It’s hard not to go a little crazy.”

“Yeah,” I said. “At least when the team was losing, we knew there was nowhere to go but up. But after this year, the team could go up. It could go down. We just don’t know.”

We all fell silent. That was the problem with winning a little but not all the way. You just never knew what was coming next.

“Well, I know,” said Opie. “Our minor leagues are stocked. Nothing but winners, and a champion each year since Luhnow took over. Eventually that talent, that winning attitude will rise to Houston.”

Suddenly everyone was speaking at once.

“Not if he trades it all away for magic pitch framing beans.”

“Or if he never promotes the kids that can help.”

“But he’s got a real skill for finding those gems like Sipp and Harris.”

“What we need is a flamethrower in the bullpen.”

“Lidge threw flames, and Pujols knocked them out of the park.”

Moneyball leaned over to me, “It’s going to be a long winter,” he said. “So I hope you’re planning to stay awhile.”

“Maybe a day isn’t long enough,” I said. “I mean, we’ve got to talk it out. Who do we keep? Who do we fast-track for next spring? Is Appel going to be ready? What will our rotation look like? If Rasmus bolts, do we just stick with Tucker and Marisnick beside CarGo and Springer? Or do we look for another one-year rental?”

“And do you really want to trust third and first to farmhands? I mean, those guys played well, but not everyone will be a Correa when they come up,” Moneyball said. “The odds are against it. But we just don’t know.”

I looked at Moneyball and asked, “Wait, aren’t you the facilitator here? You know, like our therapist?”

He gave a maniacal laugh. “Just because I’m running the asylum doesn’t mean I don’t live here too.”

“We’re all Astros fans,” Opie said. “We all need a little help.”

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128 comments on “Astroholics: A taste of the good stuff gets you hooked

  1. Wow Brian T, you have outdone yourself. I’m sure you have heard the old joke about the difference between an alcoholic and a drunk. The answer of course is that the drunk doesn’t have to go to the danged old meetings. Therefore, I am an Astrodrunk. The Astrodrunk as opposed to the Astroholic is aware of his state of masochist sufferings but is so enamored with the process of Astro hope that we happily continue our struggle. Gee, I can’t wait until spring training and hope naively that Luhnow will not hurt our feelings with one of his trades.

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  2. It is evident that the long summer days and the excessively long winter nights have gotten to BT. He needs a permanent residence much farther South. What a great piece. (It was fiction, right?)

    Like

  3. Thanks, Brian, for taking us off the street. I know I can’t conquer this alone.
    Who the Heck am I kidding? I’m not going to conquer it at all. I’m a sick man, but at least Opie doesn’t have a maniacal laugh. That’s something, isn’t it?

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  4. Hope was a dangerous emotion that more often than not led men into foolishness and peril, made them risk their lives and lose their wives and part with fortunes that they never recovered.

    BENTLEY LITTLE, The Policy

    Brian, what a great start to my morning! Beautifully done. At least we didn’t have to go down to the Mets, as happened before.

    We were given grace,
    and spared to live
    another day.
    With what result,
    I cannot say.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “…magic pitch framing beans” is the type of writing and insight I keep coming back for each morning!

    Continuing the discussion from yesterday, I also expect Rasmus to walk and Houston to target Zobrist if he makes himself available to them. However, what does everyone think of Andrew Aplin now? He had a terrible start in Fresno, lit it up in Corpus, and finished strong back at Fresno. He has to be added to the 40 man or be exposed to the Rule V draft. He lacks power, but gets on base. His speed is probably good enough to steal 20 bases at mlb level, but not more. He doesn’t strike out a lot either. Is everyone convinced Kemp passed him in the depth chart for LF contenders?

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    • Wow, Devin, you’ve got it bad.
      Even with the meds, you revert right back into teambuilding.
      Come. Walk with me. I want to show you my butterfly farm.

      Like

    • Devin, I’m sorry for ignoring your question about Aplin.
      Seriously, he was the only reliever in the Astros organization to retire every batter he faced in 2015. Perfect WHIP and ERA of 0.00.
      If the Astros make it to the series next year, he could be in the bullpen and on the bench because he also can hit. He is a high OBP guy who could get on and steal a base. So you could pitch him one inning and then let him go in for Zobrist in LF as a defensive move in the late innings.
      Other GMs around the league are going to have problems understanding my trade offers with my tongue so firmly plunted n ma sheek.

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  6. Are you tryin’ to make me go to rehab?
    I say ‘No, no, no!’.
    Yes I got high but the well ran dry at the show, show, show.

    I ain’t got the time,
    and our GM thinks we’re fine
    so if you try to make me go to rehab I won’t go, go, go.

    I didn’t get a lot in class.
    But if you think I’m goin’ to rehab you can kiss my . . .
    [Evan Gattis bobblehead?].

    I don’t want to ever watch another choke.
    But least we proved to the AL West that our Astros aren’t a joke!
    So I’m not gonna spend ten weeks,
    lamenting Luhnow’s choice of folk.

    So if you’re tryin’ to make me go to rehab I say no, no no!
    Yes I threw things at the TV screen but so did yo, yo, yo!

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  7. We all deal with this in different ways
    I have lineups penned in magic marker all over the inside of my blind and the sound of tennis balls bouncing into the wooden walls keeps the prey far away.
    Becky has 737 model planes painted in every color of uniforms worn by the Astros hanging from her ceiling. That rainbow colored one took forever.
    MrBill has Mellencamp’s “Put Me in Coach” pinned to the wall in his study but thousands of balled up songs littering the floor of his Root Sports torture chamber.
    Chip wanishes, like something from Star Trek.
    brian T builds bobblehead orange snowmen for eight months of the year.
    Uncleknuckle roams the dark hallways of hotels, mumbling “Astros baseball, who says it’s only a game” over and over and grins like Jack Nicholson.
    What do you do to cope?

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  8. Because I am a frequent visitor to the “Astrohlics” home for the weary Astros fans, my chair has my name on it. I looked around yesterday and saw my favorite short stop….and Adam assured me that the guy who put me here Villerror, will still be on the active roster for many years to come. Adam handed me my favorite adult beverage, and told me Villerror was a 5 tool player, but brains were not included.
    My chair is between my girlfriends Sandy, and Dianne…..but right in front of Old Pro, and Mr. Bill. Those of us who find our way at the “home” have had to explain to our families why they ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every night during baseball season! My husband who does not like baseball, thought he was going to call the Asylum when in the middle of the night, he heard me curse a blue streak when our guys couldn’t get any runs in while they were playing late games on the West coast.
    As I stumbled to the kitchen for a cup of coffee my husband tip toes around me, and says in a soft voice “did they win…..or lose”? That’s how I end up at the “home” every single year! Brian Dan, and Chip are my hero’s! They keep me entertained over the looong cold winter….until I start the count down the first day of spring training!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thanks, Becky. It is an honor to be included with you and Sandy — especially considering my absenteeism while protecting sanity. (Baseball sanity at least.) Life threw me too many curves to borrow indiscriminately from the Astros. I “tip my cap” (the hated phrase) to you and Sandy on your upkeep and smarts.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well first of all – Brian, you would be hearing from my lawyers if the Astroholics brand had any monetary worth at all. However, in the words of Steve Martin, “But NOOOOOOOO!” Apparently, the law says I am not allowed to sue those of impaired mental capacity and the ruling is that those with Astroholism account for that….

    Anyways – in all seriousness – congratulations on a great addition to the franchise. I loved it. I guess you were not there for the forensic analysis on the Sipp / Correa groundball controversy. Here is a transcript from that meeting held at the Astroholics Center.

    Kevin Costner was standing next to an old 8 mm projector in the middle of a conference room in the Bill Spiers wing.He was wearing a suit right out of the 60’s with a fedora hat and a skinny black tie. He hit the switch on the projector and a grainy picture was projected up on a sheet that was hung from the ceiling at one end of the room.

    “What I’m going to show you has not been seen by the American public since the epic tragedy occurred. This is called the Zanuda film – named after the Chipalatta blogger who took it. The American people have been told two conflicting stories on this play. The first version of it shows this ball being booted by the Astros ROY candidate – SS Carlos Correa. The second version of it shows the ball being redirected slightly with spin on it by reliever Tony Sipp, causing the error by Correa.

    However, some enhancement of this film taken by Mr. Zanuda shows a third party involved in this scene. If you look closely, you can make out what looks like former baseball commissioner Bud Selig standing on the grassy knoll, I mean Tal’s Hill, holding an AK-47. After the ball touches Sipp’s glove but before reaching Correa you can see in these individual frames, you can see a puff of smoke rise behind the centerfield fence and a slight redirection of the ball.

    As I replay this over and over – you can see the ball going – Back and to the left. Back and to the left. back and to the left.”

    OK – I stole from Seinfeld. So sue me.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Bill Hall was in the library with Kaz Matsui where they were discussing their disgusting ailments…..Bill Hall continued to play with that nasty mouth piece while the games were on television, so everyone could see what the Astros fans were witnessed to on a daily basis!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I would like to point out that the Warren Commission called this the Magic Baseball Theory as the same baseball touches, Sipp’s glove, gets shot by an AK47 and skips by Carlos Correa – but is found in “pristine” condition in Mike Fiers’ glove (that is an allusion to the dark stuff on Mike’s glove supposedly spotted during his no hitter).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for the poor quality of the film but I was using my Dad’s old Bell & Howell 8MM with old film. It’s a good thing you noticed the film because I had put it back in the can having never noticed the tell-tale pictures of the incident much less the individual on Tal’s Hill.

      Liked by 2 people

    • 1. If Springer isn’t hurt next year, you have a full season RFer for league minimum.
      2. You have Gomez in CF for his last year of salary, very reasonable.
      3. If you put AJ Reed on 1B and trade Singleton and Carter, you save about $7 million, get some extra players in trade and have a better 1B to boot.
      4. Your gonna get a full year at SS from Carlos Correa, which is a big upgrade from Marwin and Lowrie. Trade them for players and you get more players and save about $9 million worth of salaries.
      5. If you put Crusher White at DH, your going to get better production. You’re gonna save about $3 million in salary and get something in trade for Gattis.
      6. If you put Heineman and Stassi at catcher and trade Conger and Castro, you are going to get more hits, more walks, fewer strikeouts and all around better production out of your catcher’s bats because Heineman hits righties better than Conger does and Stassi hits lefties better than Castro does.. If you trade Castro and Conger you’re gonna get prospects or relievers and save about $9 million in salaries.
      I just gave you $28 million to play with, and I gave you better hitters and better fielders than we had last year. Now go take that money and go get a closer or a starter or a left fielder.
      Oh yeah, I forgot. I also just freed up 4 extra roster spots. Your welcome, Jeff.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Only one problem with your plan……the Padres want BIG time guys in the minors, same for the Reds. Luhnow doing business with the Reds is never gonna happen, Walt Jockety hates him. Kimbrel is very good, but not 4 best prospects good. NO TRADING DEVENSKI, OR MUSGROVE!!. But other than that, I like your revamp of the roster!

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      • I’m not tradin’ any prospects to the Reds or anybody else. I just found $28 million. I’m buyin’, not tradin’. Like I said above and yesterday: I’m tradin the guys we got who are not hittin’ for more prospects and I’m using the money I’m savin’ from not payin’ their salaries. Instead of watchin’ expensive guys strike out, my young’uns will hit better and I’ll use the cash to buy whatever else I need!
        Byebye Kazmir, Colby, Thatcher, Perez and Chapman from the 40-man. Hello Musgrove, Gustave, White, Heineman and Pena to the 40-man. Nobody’s getting my catchers and pitchers in the Rule 5. and I still have four more spots saved from my trades above. Hello Zobrist, welcome to Houston. Hello, Zimmerman, we have a good manager here and our closer won’t blow up the clubhouse, I promise.
        What do I have, two spots left?
        Hey, Tony Sipp, let’s talk.

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      • Becky, about Villar. He’s going to get a locker between Correa and Altuve and they are going to take care of him. If he messes my plan up, it’s Sclafani time!

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      • I read a rumor that the Padres would take Bregman for Kimbrell. I know you don’t want to trade prospects, but considering our middle IF is set for the next 5+ years I would make that trade if this is the only prospect leaving. What do you think?

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      • Tim, Kimbrel for Bregman? I would do that deal because he is elite and he is young. I would have a 2018 option on him. The one thing more I want from the Padres is for them to kick in $5 million that I just forked out for Bregman’s bonus. If they do that I sign off on it.
        The reasons I do it and go against my word is that having Gregerson for the eighth, a soft thrower, followed by a flame thrower is so great. Having Kimbrel allows me to keep Lance in the rotation, which I love and, finally, if I use Kimbrel’s third year and he is great but I can’t sign him to an extension, I can move him at the 2018 deadline and by then I will have one of my young flamethrowers ready to take his place at a low salary.
        Also, I like Bregman, but I am not head over heels in love with him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Only problems I can see – I don’t expect anyone to bail the Astros out on Carter. They are going to have to make that decision to arby or non-tender. I would select the non-tender side, I think the Astros somehow see value in him and might actually offer arbitration. Once that happens, you are stuck with him again.

        I also don’t see them going with two rookie catchers. The staff likes Castro. Conger is popular in the clubhouse and liked by his manager. Stassi is a K machine. He will add to your 30% K problem, but I’m guessing in your scenario he is the part timer and Heineman is the starter. I would rather see Castro back for the start of, if not most of, the season, with Heineman as his backup. Catcher is just one of those spots I don’t like throwing the rookie in head first. The Astros probably see value in Conger still, so unless someone else does, I don’t know that Heineman gets a chance out of ST – but stay tuned, teams typically use 3-4 catchers over the course of a season.

        I don’t know what else Tyler White has to do to get a shot at something. It’s like he is invisible. He looks like a shorter John Kruk, so maybe that’s his problem. Just not pretty enough.

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    • If I read between the lines in this article it looks like we’ll have the same team as we did this year with a couple of changes for about 20 – 30 MM more. I don’t call that improvement.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would lime to agree with the Zanuda comment, but alas, my like button is not functioning. Heck, I do not want to see last years team next year.

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    • This article also tells me they won’t be giving Rasmus a QO as if he accepts it ties up over $15M to one player. I don’t think he will accept and I still think the Astros should give him the QO, but don’t think they will.

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  11. Morgan Ensberg is the new roving minor league mindset coach. Info on that and many other minor league coaching changes at spiticle.com, your don’t-turn-your- back Houston newspaper, online, whatever source.

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    • I think Morgan appeals to the young kids in the minors, because he’s pretty direct.
      They like the way he’s so simple, something like #winnerswin. He always reinforces the hard work of a pitcher like Joe Musgrove, when Joe was talking about the success that Lance McCullers had with the big club, Morgan told him to be patient because “your time is near”. Those are just a few examples of how he gets into their heads!! He *loves* this organization, so much that he never moved from Houston after he was traded, and out of baseball! He had a blog for awhile, and always came back to those of us who commented on it, that he wanted so much to be back with this organization. It took a lot of guts to cold call them, and ask for an interview. Now he is in his element, working to get these kids to excellence!! I love him, and the feeling is mutual for every single fan who ever watched him play!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • He and Adam E were in the both this summer With Ashby and Brownie and the passion and energy they have for the Astros and the kids was awesome!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I really need Morgan to get with my two outfielders in Corpus Christi, Danry and Teoscar. Now they were doing just fine until they got in the same outfield as Delino and he must have poisoned their water, because they have been having the runs instead of scoring the runs ever since they met him.
        I need Morgan to show them the way to the big leagues, because we need them to pick it up.
        Morgan, work a miracle!

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      • So many sites are talking like they expect the Astros to just keep adding from outside, passing over their prospects and adding another $25 million to their payroll.
        They seem to think the Astros planned all along to be a high strikeout, high payroll, low OBP team and I don’t think Luhnow intended it and it does not have to be that way.
        Looking at all the arbitration raises, this team faces this offseason, it seems that now is the perfect time to get the payroll under control and set ourselves up with good young players from our system in most all the important spots and then raise the payroll in the next few years with extensions to the guys we want to keep.
        My plan keeps Marisnick, Tucker, Villar, White, Reed, Kemp, and all our pitchers both in the majors and the minors. It keeps all our catching prospects, it has Moran and Bregman moving up and it eliminates the logjam of guys who need to be protected.
        If they did sign a guy like Zimmerman to a big deal, then they would be free to trade Feldman and his $8 million offsets Keuchel’s extension and keeps payroll from going over what it was last year and we put a damn good young team on that field next April and have a rotation of Keuchel, Zimmerman, McHugh, McCullers and Fiers. Do you know what that would leave for the rotation in Fresno? How about a AAA rotation of Feliz, Appel, Velasquez, Musgrove and Oberholzer. It still leaves you with Devenski, Hauschild, Wojo, Cruz, Jankowski, Peacock, Gustave and Rodgers in the bullpen. Hoyt joins the Astros bullpen in the spring.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You have my vote as well OP, the only problem I see is how to get rid of the guys we don’t want. I can’t think of any team that would take em.

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  12. OP……too damned late to put Villerror’S locker in between Altuve and Correa. If he hasn’t learned how to play a clean game by now there is NO hope for him. Now….. he’s been playing professional baseball since he was 16yrs old. I don’t think it’s fair to say Altuve or Correa needs to “help” him. He’s gonna “mess” up, so we can just buy him a one way ticket to never, never land……to a place far, far away. I wonder how long this organization would put up with a catcher who dropped every ball he tried to catch. Not. Very. Long. I know you’re doing hypotheticals, but I’m not he needs to go…….he’s taking up a space on the 40 man, that could be used for a guy who deserves to be on it.

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    • But I think he has learned how to play. He got sent down and he helped Fresno win and he came up in September and his numbers for the Astros were terrific. His numbers for the Astros after his callup were:
      Wait for it!
      BA .381
      OBP .435
      SLG .619
      OPS 1.054
      Two walks and only two Ks in 23 plate appearances. 3 steals and no caught stealing. Not much of a sample, but the absolute best he has ever played and all of it was in a super sub roll with most of it coming off the bench.
      Collin McHugh didn’t “Get it!” until he was 27 years old. He was terrible up until then.
      With that in mind, there certainly is hope for a 24 year old ballplayer.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Going back to the main topic of this blog I have already reserved my timeshare in Kissimmee, booked my airfare and reserved my rental car for my boys and I to be there in March during their spring break. My Astros addiction cannot be cured.

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  14. Just a couple notes on the above. Becky, I totally understand your frustration but JL has to at least listen to his coaches and scouts. They must see something about Villar that was not self evident in his past performance in the majors. He can be given a trip to ST and be under the eye of all at no cost. Me personally, I think has value is in the OF and not IF – but I am willing to give him another chance with a quick hook. As to the trades on the excess, I can see a model of the Norris trade. Pick any low A player for each of them. We are not going to trade Carter for Trout. And if the player received does not work out, at least you have protected the current prospects in the minors by moving them to the 40 man. That log jam that Chip wrote about so long ago is now here.

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    • Mostly agree. I don’t think Villar’s bat is good enough to stay at corner OF unless he gets on base enough to challenge Altuve in steals. I see him with high value playing the super-sub role, but limited value (possibly negative) to most teams as a starter.

      If Carter gets traded, I think it will be for money. There may be some players involved, but it would be a salary dump by Houston and I expect Luhnow would also try to get international bonus money in the return. I’d like to see White get a real shot in spring training. I’m also hoping Tucker broke his 1B mitt out of storage. Marwin was not a good defensive first baseman, but got the job done this year. We just need some serviceable options in case the Singleton experiment is a bust. I think Duffy can give us some help there. When your SS/2B are all star candidates you can live with down production at other spots…but it sure would be nice to have crushers at DH/1B instead of windmills.

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  15. Old pro – absolutely great road map of where the team should be headed.
    I will throw Becky a bone here on Villar… Carter looked great during the same time period that Villar looked good, so small samples…
    We still cannot let Villar play the infield in my opinion. In the majors in 2015 he had 9 errors at SS and 3B in the equivalent of 250 innings, which is basically one error every 3.1 games and in the minors in 2015 he had 19 errors in about 580 innings at SS and 3B, which is one every 3.4 games. He has never improved as an infielder – ever – during his career.
    I would trust him in the OF but not in the infield – so to me I would rather have MarGo even at $3 million or so and see if I could trade Villar to someone who only has watched him hit and run (sometimes). If Villar had ever shown improvement fielding as an infielder, I would feel good about him, but I worry about having your main man on the bench being such a liability in the field.

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  16. I think OP and the rest of you have all nailed it pretty well. In 2016 for us to improve we need a combination of some of our youth and a FA. A Wade Davis type Closer is a must. We will be better if Conger, Valbuena , and Carter are no mas, they have to Go. Feldman packaged in a trade. I’m in. Replacing .210 Castro might be tough??

    I think we could live to start the year with JFSM. Tucker, Gomez and Springer in the outfield, someone new at 3B and 1st, Castro and Stassi.

    I would love to see Gattis gone but I think he in LUN Dudes “Biggie Me”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Kevin, but in the past JL has been like a bond trader. He tries to pick up a couple basis points in a trade which we mortals see as a waste of time (insert Conger). So don’t be surprised if he makes a trade with (just guessing) the Pirates, for another shortstop prospect or something. He does do some head scratchers.

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  17. Sandy, you asked how we would get rid of the guys we need to shed from the roster. My answer is that we got Akeem Bostick for Carlos Corporan, who was DFA’d yesterday by the way. I think we are capable of making some trades to shed players and getting decent prospects in return. The front office has the ability to evaluate with the metrics. I should be able to restock some of my minor league needs in trades and maybe fill a hole in my outfield. Castro has value!

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      • This time of year it’s too hard to do trades for multiple players, especially when they are on the 40-man, and every guy you mentioned is on the 40-man Every team has to try and make roster space to protect rule 5 eligible players and have room for free agents. that stuff will have to wait until the winter meetings and beyond. I believe it has to be done in the onesy-twosy fashion and patiently wait and see who is going to have needs when the smoke clears.
        If I’m not mistaken, we didn’t make the Fowler/Valbuena/Straily trade until arbitration figures were exchanged in January. Right now, it’s fixing to be Free Agent Frenzy time.

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      • I’m really not concerned with what we get in return. I would love to just see them gone. Low minor league prospects, gummy bears. Anything or nothing.

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  18. Villar has been playing baseball for money…..for 9yrs he just cannot be trusted to play ANYWHERE on the infield. Adam Everett has worked with him a lot, and that is where Luhnow will get the final assessment on him. Time has come and gone for Villar to be a guy off the bench that you can put in the game and feel good about it.
    His base running gaff’s, are just as glaring as his throwing errors. I appreciate the “bone” Dan, but when I hear, or see the manager put him in to run for a guy…….I grit my teeth. I know I’ve said it over, and over…..but I’m done talking about a guy who has no business taking up a space on the 40man roster, when that spot can be given to a guy who WILL have impact on this team. I’m done.

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    • I’d like to know what the breakdown on his errors comes out to. I agree with Becky…he is basically making errors at about twice the maximal, acceptable limit. My recollection is that maybe 75% came on throws…but I’m too lazy to investigate further. For a guy with his arm strength that just can’t happen. At the same time, pairing him with an Adam LaRoche type at 1B may put him in contention to win a gold glove…his range is that good.

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  19. Being an astroholic has definitely clouded my mind and memory since the season ended in Missouri (but not misery…I’m pretty excited by their accomplishments). I was going to bring up the ghost of Mitch Meluskey to justify keeping Castro instead of trying to maximize offense with better hitters of unknown defensive quality, but find I was wrong on the details of ’99. Meluskey played for us in 2000, mainly, meaning Houston sent Ausmus to Detroit (were we angry at him? What did he ever do to the FO?) to clear the way for Tony Eusabio to be the main catcher. Our backup was Paul Bako, acquired with other unmentionables for Ausmus.

    However…the tangent this brought me to was that in ’99, Bagwell played 162 regular season games and Biggio played 160 games. Correa and Altuve will hopefully emulate that.

    Berkman tallied .237 AVG / .321OBP / .708 OPS over 34 games with 4 HR and 15 RBI. I bring this up whenever someone argues that our AAA success stories will find success immediately upon promotion.

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    • That is so true, Devin. I can remember Baggie in the TV booth saying about Altuve and JD Martinez when they came up, don’t worry about them – they can hit. From AA to a partial season – Altuve was .276 and JDM .274. This year 200 hits by one and the other 38 HRs and 102 RBIs. Altuve is now 25 and JDM is 28. I think those two are compelling reasons why the FO continues to give Villar chance after chance.

      Yet, I have no memory of either of those two guys throwing the ball into the 2nd deck on a routine play. I can remember multiple times that they both made blunders on the base and JDM threw many balls to the wrong base allowing the runner to advance. How would anyone like JDM batting DH this year?

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    • Yes, but there is a flip side to that coin. We gave up Folty, Ruiz and Thurman for 28 year old Gattis and in his first month of the season his line was .164/.197/.288/.485. We didn’t give up on him because he ended up with over 600 PAs.
      So if we trade him and make White the DH, White should at least have the right to show if he can do the job, too. What makes this shift to youth pay off is that White would be making league minimum for years and Gattis is projected to make $3.4 mil this coming season.
      Everything I know about baseball tells me that White is not going to spend an entire season trying to get his BA up to .240 and then disappear in the playoffs. I watched him in the AAA playoffs and they could not stop him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The biggest difference between Gattis and White is that White has walked more times in his career than he has struck out. He hits the ball and he does not chase bad pitches.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Do we have anyone on our 25-man roster that BBs more than he Ks? The Astros have drafted players like this and these are the type players they should be pursuing in FA. I also think White has earned and deserves a chance to be the Astros DH in 2016.

        Liked by 1 person

      • However long it takes these kids to reach their potential is OK with me. Paying out millions to the likes of Conger, Valbuna, Carter, and Conger is not OK.
        It’s not like we would be losing anything of value.

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      • 1OP, I was not suggesting trading for JDM. Meant it as a rhetorical question of would we like a “do over” in sending him away. Of course, hind sight is always 20-20.

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      • 45, I know what you meant. My reply was to Devin’s comment that not all prospects brought up are going to find immediate success. I responded with the fact that all veterans are not going to have success after a big move either. See Gattis with no WAR and Lowrie with a wasted year where we paid him $8 million. The biggest contribution we got from Lowrie was the open slot on the roster when he was sent to the DL and we filled it with Correa. AMEN.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oldpro, I am not going to disagree on that. Recall some of the amazing FA busts over the years – Mo Vaughn, Bobby Bonilla, etc. Even some that worked, like Griffey, Jr., failed to meet high expectations.

        When I look at 2015, I see the team establishing themselves with a hot start and then being a winning, but unremarkable team though August. The Rangers opened slow and finished hot, so obviously a 162 game season isn’t over in April, but I want to have contingency plans for certain players needing additional seasoning. You don’t bring back Carter (or Gattis) if you think White can make the jump, but you have to keep some insurance if he can’t. Then again, your Gattis stats…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Devin, the Astros led the entire major leagues in 2015 in strikeouts from the Catcher’s spot in the batting order. 180 strikeouts from two “seasoned veterans” who combined for a .222 batting average.
        I do have a contingency plan. Younger catchers who can run, field and throw who may hit .222 their first full season in the majors but won’t cost me $10 million. If one of them is not ready and is having trouble, I got a gold glove catcher in AAA in Pena and I’ll switch them. Stassi was in a pennant race in Houston in September and Heineman caught every inning of the playoffs for Fresno. I traded for Stassi and I drafted Heineman, so they are going to catch for my team in Houston, if it were my team.
        Of course, it’s not my team, but this blog is about us crazies and how we cope.

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  20. The problem with trying to trade Gattis, is he can’t catch anymore.
    He can’t really play left field…..Hinch tried that.
    He can’t play 1st base.
    He can only be a DH….and that limits who you can trade him to. He’s useless to a NL team…….and probably a guy off the bench on a AL team.
    Soooo guess what? We are stuck with him. I really like the guy, he’s fearless, and he shows how “Manly” he is by not wearing batting gloves. He makes me laugh watching him at the plate looking like he’s an Albert Puhjols impersonator!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If he had zero WAR for the season as a DH, can’t play any position, takes up a roster spot and nobody will trade for him, what is his worth? Do everything you can to trade him and if you can’t, release him, and let someone else go to arbitration with him or sign him to a minor league deal.
      The worst thing you can do is make a trade that didn’t work out and then keep the guy and pay him when everybody else has told you he’s not worth it.
      Move on! White had a homer, a double, a walk and 3 RBIs as a DH for his winter league team yesterday.
      I like Gattis, too. But I’ll like White, also and if he hits and costs one sixth of a Gattis, he can dance in my dugout any day!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. This morning I tracked a deer with an arrow in her for over a quarter mile through thick sticker brush, in the rain, and found her for my son. It was his first deer with a bow.
    The look on my son’s face as I picked up the trail over and over again was priceless. When he said several times that he didn’t know how I spotted that drop of blood, I felt useful and appreciated. It was a good morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve done the same thing, only after I shot him we heard another gun go off about 10min later. We crossed a dirt road where there was another hunter and a friend.
      I asked him if he had seen a wounded deer…..”Nope haven’t seen him”, which was ok with me, because I knew he had shot the deer, and he could use him to eat. That was the last time I shot my rifle, for the next 5-6yrs we just sat in our blind filming those beautiful creatures proudly walking around with their young ones close to them! I hunted on a lease my cousin had in south Texas, the deer were small but oh my goodness they were good eating! Not too many women hunt, but I was brought up with a Dad and three brothers who hunted, so it wasn’t unusual for me!
      AND………my sister and I are the ONLY siblings in a family of three older brothers that ABSOLUTELY LOVE baseball!! I bet you didn’t know I could hunt did ya!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Although I was born in Houston, I grew up in E TX. My grandpa taught me how to hunt and fish when I was in elementary school. No boys in our family so hunting, fishing, and baseball was what I learned to love.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sandy……you go girl!! I knew we had a lot in common!! I grew up on a farm, where it was normal for me to eat the things my brothers and my Dad hunted. I was kinda traumatized when I saw my mother chop a chickens head off……but I am grateful for the opportunity to have lived a pretty full life! And then I grew up and was a flight attendant for 33yrs !!! Who knew???!!!
        We must be beautiful flowers from different gardens! Sisters in baseball!!

        Liked by 2 people

      • You know Becky, it never bothered me that dinner ( chicken ) was running around outside a couple of hours before we ate, or seeing a deer or hog hanging out back after being slaughtered.
        That was my normal.
        A couple of Saterdays every month my gram had church stuff so my grandpa and I cooked our favorite meals and watched the game of the week. He loved the game and taught me to love it too.

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    • In 5 games [so far] for Estrellas de Orientas Tyler is hitting .333, with a .455 OBP and a 1.232 OPS. He has walked 4 times and struck out 4 times. In 18 ABs he has 6 hits, 2 of which are HRs and 2 of which are DBLs. He has 6 RBIs and has scored 4 runs. He leads the team in hits [tied], BBs [tied], home runs, Doubles, RBIs, and total bases.

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  22. In AL West baseball news, the Mariners hired former catcher Scott Servais to be their manager.
    The Dodgers weren’t comfortable with Don Mattingly as their manager and the two parted ways. Insiders say it was because Mattingly was not a former catcher.
    MLB executive Joe Torre said Friday that all teams should be required to hire a former catcher as their manager and that it might encourage young outfielders like Mike Trout to become catchers instead.
    We’ll catch up with you guys later. I have to catch my grandkids coming home from school.

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    • Caught that tongue in cheek…

      By the way… for those who did not know, Joe Torre was a catcher and a third baseman while with the Atlanta Braves. Catchers have to hang together.

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  23. As to catchers, Stassi had “Castro-like” batting numbers but at AAA. His caught stealing is not quite up to Castro-like but at AAA, I have no idea what ability the pitchers have as to holding the runners on base. Does anyone have any inside info as to why Stassi would not be given a shot to at least be back-up? I wonder if the FO is worried about him getting hit and hurt. His batting did improve toward the end of the year, but he really was not doing anything the first half. Heineman had a better year at the plate. They are both 24.

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    • Castro seems to have a good relationship with the pitchers. Could cause some regression to replace him now. We could live with his automatic outs if the other eight hit more consistently.

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    • With Stassi, I don’t care about his minor league numbers because he’s ready to play. His big league line in 45 PAs over a three season span is a dandy .357BA/.386OBP/.600SLG/1.038 OPS. I think he is one of those rare guys that is going to be a better major leaguer than a minor leaguer.

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      • I think so, too.

        I think I read somewhere that he was told not to worry about his hitting this year and just focus on defense. Heck, it might have been here. Am I crazy?

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  24. You will never know how good a catcher is until you play him…..and I mean PLAY him. He should get as many games as possible in spring training. PERIOD. I’ve not seen Heineman catch, so I have no dog in this fight. I DO know this organization has put a lot of time and effort into training Max Stasi, and they should give him every opportunity to succeed at the major league level. Ok……I’ll step off my soap box now!

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  25. Obviously I carry my faith close to the vest, but to those souls along the Mexican coast decimated by Hurricane Patricia, I say a prayer. In this neck of the woods, we watch the weather daily in the fall. That approach today by a category 5 monster, and then the impact, had to be truly frightening. And post the storm is far worse once survived. 1OP, I’m not a hunter, but that’s the way to hunt. You were hunting. We’ll have a damn good club in 2016 if we get to make the decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Damn I hate the fact that the Royals are in the world series. The Blue Jays did EXACTLY what the Astros did…….they got attacked by the small ball, and cheap balls that fell in. They had better stay on their toes, because next year, our team is gonna be a whole lot better. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    Liked by 1 person

  27. The Astros found out some vital stuff this postseason.
    They found out Keuchel is an ace and can win in Yankee Stadium on the road and beat the Royals at home. We thought he could and now we know he can.
    We found out that McHugh is so good that he can open a playoff series in a hostile environment and win. That is a huge find.
    We found out that McCullers can be trusted in the clutch
    We found out that our bullpen was “pretty good” and that is not good enough in the playoffs
    We found out that home runs are great, but not enough in a long series against a good pitching teams. Home runs need to be accompanied by good clutch situational hitting. Perfect example in last night’s game was the ninth inning. The Blue Jays had the most homers of anyone, but could not get the tying run home from third with no outs. That is the Astros in a nutshell.
    We found out that ace starters relieving without rest is not where you want to position yourself in the playoffs. You can’t get by with a couple of pitchers on your roster that you actually don’t trust with the ball when you need outs. So get eight quality relievers in your bullpen instead of three. And a guy you signed at the last minute off the waiver wire, may not be that guy you want pitching in the eighth inning of a nailbiter game six of the playoffs.

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  28. So who is everyone rooting for in the Series? I can’t decide who I want to win, I guess I don’t really care as I don’t like either team

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  29. Good bullpen arms are going to be in high demand over the winter, and we KNOW that Luhnow is going to be looking to sign a couple of them. We absolutely have to have that “flame” thrower to close games, and the only way we are going to accomplish that goal, is with a trade, and that’s where I get VERY nervous. The price for Kimbrel and Chapman hasn’t gone down, as a matter of fact the price has probably gone even higher. Remember the Reds and the Padres have all winter to listen to the highest bidder. Do you trust Jeff Luhnow not to trade away the farm for either one of these guys??? I don’t. The AL West is NOT going to be as week next seson as it was this year, you can take THAT to the bank. I sure hope all those “smart” brains in the front office are prepared to wheel and deal…….but I don’t trust any of them.
    As much as I remember that heartbreaking game with the Mets……I hope they beat the Royals.
    P.S . Evan Gattis got engaged overnight, just goes to show ya…..there’s someone for everybody in this big old world!!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. This probably gets lost as we move to the new topic, but I don’t think we need a flamethrowing closer. We need some strikeout artists in the bullpen. Qualls was very good in 2014 and Gregerson was as well in 2015. Most times a closer will get the ninth inning with no one on and just need three outs.

    If Hinch had that strikeout artist in game 4, we wouldn’t have seen a tired Gregerson in the eighth inning trying to hold the lead with runners on base. Wade Davis, a strikeout artist, is the eighth inning guy for the Royals, but is closing because their defined closer is out with TJ surgery.

    You can get high strikeout guys not proven as closers a lot cheaper than a Kimbrel or Chapman. Remember that Lidge did not start out as a closer, but was third in line behind Dotel and Wagner.

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    • Devin/Sandy: I agree. Not knocking Fields or Velasquez, but they throw “straight” heat. Last year (2104) except for the A’s, Qualls could not throw a “straight” pitch. At times in 2015, he had that ability.

      Using Lidge as an example, his K pitch was that nasty slider into the dirt.

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  31. I agree with all of you 100% but I really believe *THAT* IS exactly what Luhnow is going to go after. He was pretty aggravated at the break when he couldn’t get either one of Chapman or Kimbrel. I’m betting (remember I’m a gambler!) Luhnow WILL get a closer that throws smoke. And…..I agree that those guys have command issues. Washington is ready and willing to get rid of Papelbon!!! NO I am NOT serious!! A whole bunch of teams are looking for bullpen help, so I guess it comes down to who wants to give up BIG TIME prospects…..and I don’t trust Luhnow as far as I can spit not to do that AGAIN. I remember how wild Dontrelle Willis was….he could throw 100mph, but you never knew where it was going. Still don’t know who we are going to keep out of the pen we had this year, but I want to keep Sipp if at all possible….and……no we don’t need Thatcher, or Qualls next year. I’d keep Oliver, but that’s just my opinion. Hopefully we’ll be back this afternoon!

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