Astros 2020: The fun is almost here

Perhaps the last time baseball was really fun for the normal Astro fan was heading into the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series. The Astros were up 2-0 and a handful of outs away from their second title in three seasons. A few minutes later their lead had been flipped into a 3-2 deficit and a few innings later their 6-2 loss was official and one of the worst and THE longest offseason in history began.

In truth, the first dip in the fun meter occurred leading into the World Series. The Brandon Taubman idiocy with the Sports Illustrated reporter was an unwelcome distraction and embarrassment for the organization.  And in some ways, it was a harbinger of unfun things to come.

  • In early November the Astros made a qualifying offer to Gerrit Cole to no one’s surprise. And to no one’s surprise less than 2 weeks later, one of the two very best pitchers in baseball (along with Justin Verlander) turned down that offer and had one foot and most of the other one out the door.
  • But at the same time, this was occurring, former Astro pitcher, Mike Fiers, talked to the Athletic and stated the Astros had been using electronic means to steal signs in their run to the 2017 title.
  • Two days later MLB announced they were beginning an investigation into sign stealing in 2017 and stated if they found offenses after warning the teams during 2017, that they would be mean parents and give Dennis the Menace a real spanking.
  • In early December the Astros sent off one of the best outfield defenders and maddening offensive players in their history, Jake Marisnick, to the Mets.
  • A few days later, the Yankees gave Cole an early $324 million Christmas present as he joined Wade Miley, Collin McHugh, Will Harris, Hector Rondon, and Robinson Chirinos as free agents who would not return for the 2020 season.
  • On January 13, the Sword of Damocles that had been hanging over the team’s neck for two months fell and fell hard. Due to their cheating in the 2017 season, the Astros lost their first two draft choices in the 2020 and 2021 draft. They were fined $5 million. Oh and the only manager and GM in their history, who had successfully steered the ship to a title, A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, were suspended for a year by the MLB.
  • Before the fans had time to swallow that swig of unfun, Jim Crane (in what this writer believes was a pre-ordained agreement with MLB) fired both Luhnow and Hinch later that same day.
  • The lack of fun continued as every baseball writer, broadcaster, blogger, tweeter and any other kind of media person and all their commenters drilled the Astros and their cheating at every turn. The garbage can became a fitting symbol for the offseason and for the Astro fans’ feelings.
  • Spring Training started and first Justin Verlander went down and then a virus did what no world war could do. It stopped baseball.
  • During the downtime, when most of the world’s media attention was focused on the pandemic, Houston fans were given an additional dig as an investigation into Red Sox cheating in 2018 with former Astros’ bench coach Alex Cora at the helm, ended with one video operator suspended and Cora being suspended for a season for what he did with the Astros and not for anything that happened with the Sox. There was no Mike Fiers uncovered in this investigation to overturn Boston’s world.
  • To add to the unfun – MLB and the Players union acted out a snarky prelim to their upcoming negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining agreement with a very public argument about the terms and length of baseball’s return in 2020. It took Rob Manfred imposing a start date and sets of rules to end the impasse.

But now is time for actual fun! We get to see the stars who have thrilled us in the past. The powerful lineup is ready to roll with or without Yordan Alvarez. George Springer, Jose Altuve (after his contusion heals), Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel should rake. Alvarez, Myles Straw and Kyle Tucker will bring some youthful injection to the lineup at some point with Taylor Jones eyeing Gurriel’s first base spot. We get to watch the known parts of the rotation in Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, the return of Lance McCullers, the debut of Josh James as a starter, the debut of Ryan Pressly as a closer. We have youth oozing out of our pores whether it is an Enoli Paredes or a Bryan Abreu or a Cristian Javier or a Forrest Whitley or a Framber Valdez or whoever the team leans on to fill out the rotation and the bullpen.

Friday night real baseball returns as the Astros take on the Mariners and it cannot come soon enough to wipe out the memories of an unfun loooooong off-season.

73 comments on “Astros 2020: The fun is almost here

  1. sorry ive been out for awhile.been reading and lurking but hand did not allow typing. thanks for all the info and updates from dan and members of the blog. i hope mrs. op is better and glad to hear dans eye is good. take care all. GO ASTROS!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, any Opening Day is better than no Opening Day!

    I have to admit, I feel for the Nationals and their fans a bit. Opening Day at the park for The World Champions and their fans has always been a very special, often once in a lifetime event. The Nats and their faithful will miss that memory.

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  3. It is being reported that the Blue Jays will play their home games at Pittsburg. Looking at the schedules of the two teams, there will be eight games that will be problematic, where both teams are to play home games those same days in the same park. Well, we will see what becomes of this. What a mess this is for the Blue Jays.

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    • Wonder if their Buffalo AAA just isn’t up to MLB standards of allowing it?

      That seems an obvious place in the short term.

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      • Buffalo built their stadium in the late 80’s. At the time it was a fantastic ballpark. I suspect either the league office, player’s association, or some other teams protested them playing in another park. Some of them are complete garbage – Norfolk, for example, has facilities for which the Orioles should be ashamed. Lehigh Valley’s park is pretty nice…maybe Toronto should check with them.

        A big issue is not having the correct equipment in place for statcast data harvesting and broadcasting the games, though.

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    • Detroit and Cleveland are both quite close. Why couldn’t they share multiple stadiums for their home field? And why (as a number of y’all have asked) was a backup plan already in place?

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  4. Per McTaggart:

    Astros manager Dusty Baker said the team’s trainers went back & looked at which players came in close contact with Hunter Dozier, who tested positive for COVID-19. Dozier played against Astros on Monday.

    “We feel very confident nobody came in close contact to him,” Baker said.

    Jose Altuve said he knee feels fine.

    Dusty Baker said it’s likely Framber Valdez will be the fifth starter, as expected. He’ll throw a live BP tomorrow.

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  5. Framber it is, then!
    Gets to take on LAD in the 2020 starting rotation.
    Looking forward to it.

    People say we don’t develop players, when really they seldom have an opening. Not only do we develop pitchers, but we do it for much, much less!

    Valdez signed for $10,000 (same as Javier)
    Brady Singer is starting for the Royals, and signed for over $4,250,000
    See you at the finish line.

    Now’s your chance, Framber, to show what you’re made of.

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  6. saw the cardboard cut out fans today.
    i looked at the crowd and who did i see, it was mr and mrs OP. i looked around for more friends and started to chuckle, down the first baseline was uncleknuckle. if the roof is closed there wont be much sun, but right behind the plate is gostros1. if i eat any more hotdogs ill get a big gut, hey look in the crawford boxes theres astronut. more cupholders would be handy, im gonna wave at sandy. look at those two smiling like they are in heaven, sitting together is sargeh and devin. hope everyone enjoys the game, if you dont like this comment, well im to blame.
    GO ASTROS!

    Liked by 3 people

    • rj, I’m not too proud to admit that I’m the kind of person who would have purchased a cardboard cutout of myself wearing an Astros hat, making a funny face with tongue sticking out and thumbs in my ears, and placing it by the Rangers (or some other team’s) dugout in their stadium. I’m sure MLB wouldn’t accept that though.

      By the way, did you see they are letting fans cheer/boo remotely through an app? It’s a bit misleading – if they get a lot of people hitting the cheer button then they will pipe in fake clapping/cheers/etc. If too many people are hitting the boo button they will keep things more on the silent side. This might be the appropriate action given how we like to do funny things like name a research vessel Boaty McBoatface.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Well done, my friend.
      That’s the spirit of Opening Day!

      I like a well-prepared Nats team with Scherzer on hill to touch up Cole today. Let the games begin.

      Liked by 2 people

    • My understanding is that the cutouts at Minute Maid are being bought by fan donations to the Astros charity – so that is pretty cool.

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  7. Anyone also notice that since Sanabria, Castellanos, Scrubb, Blanco, Garza are all R5’s, they need to be vetted before starting Bielak and Whitley’s clock (in Dec ’20).

    This is another huge indication of how deep we are, that we save every last year of our future players. We don’t dare sign minor league contracts, and take away innings from AAAA players on the cusp, in effect.

    Think of Jones Cionel Armenteros; or Colin McKee! who’re all on the clock, and can be called immediately. So much talent chomping at the bit, friends.

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    • Interns, ya get what you pay for, Dan.

      Look how stout this team is.

      Tony Kemp was sent to OAK as back up OF, ends up winning 2B and supplants their star prospect.

      Jon Arauz can’t be protected, a mere AA depth piece, and throw-in in the Giles trade. Makes Boston’s Opening Day roster.

      Wonder if Yohan Ramirez does the same in SEA?

      We’re just too loaded and can’t keep them all.
      if I were another team, I’d take McKee and De la Cruz from us this Dec. I’d even take Osvaldo Duarte as utility IF, or Chuckie Robinson back up catcher.

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  8. I have seen where MLB is going to allow political statements to be placed upon jerseys and on the playing field. I have completely turned away from NFL and NBA watching because of this. Now, MLB is right on the edge of the cutting room bench for me. I want entertainment, not political advise from my sports enjoyment. If, IF, the Astros participate in any of this unwanted opinion being forced down my throat, I will drop them in a hot Texas summer sun moment.

    ‘Nuff said.

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    • I just turned on the Yankees/Nationals game and they showed the players kneeling before the game and were honoring BLM. They are wearing patches of various kinds and the announcers were making a big deal out of it. We want to watch our sports as an escape from all of the day to day BS and now Baseball is no longer sacred. I will not watch the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, or Tiddlywinks anymore. And with that I’m turning the game off and I’ll watch reruns of Sesame Street . I don’t know what the Astros will do but I’ll wait and see. Dan, I know you don’t like this type of post but I’m at a point where I have to agree with Sargeh.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Also stout considering that Jose Urquidy, Yordan Alvarez and Austin Pruitt are on the IL…..and Joe Smith on the restricted list.
    Let’s see how these young arms do along the way.

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  10. Some thoughts:
    – I never, for one moment, thought that Brandon Bailey would ever play for the Orioles. He won’t. I always thought he would start his career as a reliever for the Astros. This guy flew under the radar because of his build. Now, we have a chance to start evening up the Laureano trade.
    -Enoli Paredes pitches his way to the majors in summer camp. Don’t believe that would ever have happened if Luhnow and Hinch were here.
    -Fifteen pitchers and 15 position players. Jones goes and Mayfield stays.
    -Cristian Javier makes it to the final 30. This is so great.
    -Three of the Astros opening day 2020 5-man starting rotation came up through the system. Finally!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a roller coaster ride for Bailey!
      Here is a guy who came over from Oakland in November 2017 to the World Champions organization. Pitches pretty good and moves up the organization.
      Roll around and he is unprotected in the Rule 5 draft after the 2019 season.
      The Orioles take him – an organization that has former Astro front office people Mike Elias as GM and Sig Mejdal as assistant GM.
      Bailey must be thinking – all right these guys know me! These guys were part of the Astros front office and sent Ramon Laureano for me from the A’s. The O’s have to keep me on the roster for a season and they are crummy so I have a real shot at a real major league role.
      A few months later during Spring Training and right before the shutdown the Orioles change their minds and send him back to the Astros and probably the last thing going through his head is that he will start the season with the AL Champion Astros….but after a few months delay…..he will.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re Oh, So, Right about Hinch! Letting the best available get in their licks, Dusty wants to win now, and isn’t beholden to any favorites or veteran loyalties.

      Tucker is going to feel set free, and so will Straw. Both of those kids looked almost frozen in MLB compared to what I saw in RR. They’re going to be holy terrors on the bases in 2020, opening up another dimension.

      A new era is ushered in also where Dusty won’t stop the barrage of hits, in order to prove this team is Real. He wants his 1st ring, and a 2nd year in a bad way — wonderful incentives the keep the pedal to the metal.

      Much as I hate to admit it, the correlation is silly, having no yelling moronic fans in the seats will be a huge benefit our players won’t currently have to deal with. They can just go about their business like Brantley& hopefully Yordan soon, who weren’t even here in ’17.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It is great to see Paredes make the team on opening day. He last pitched in AA and is on the MLB active roster! Completely skipping AAA. I believe the last Astro to accomplish this was Roy Oswalt back in 2001.

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    • Sarge it would have been a good trivia question, but unfortunately..

      Roy O did pitch in AAA.

      And we cannot add Paredes without adding Bailey!
      It’s only these two that I know of.

      I thought it was a little amusing that I’d written here bailey has a good shot at a spot — then listened to him describe how the Astros informed him and Enoli last night on Locked On Astros. Needless to say he cried and wept thinking how much he’d gone through to get here.

      I’d told Jim Stevenson over a month ago that all is not lost on Laureano. Bailey is going to make good! I’ve told the story here that a AA friend from Dodgers was given a choice against Corpus to play one day and face Whitley or the next and face Bailey. He chose Whitley because Brandon, “has 3 pitches he throws for strikes.”

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Watched a few Yankee / Nationals innings. It’s almost funny how these announcers go way out of their way to not mention the Astros.
    Very difficult for them talking about the World Series while not saying who the Nats played and who Coles former team was.
    Referring to his past team as Houston.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. – Has anyone heard the expression WS Hangover mentioned this year?
    – Baseball has changed a lot, right? Dodgers and Yankees favored to win it all.
    -Players were laughing about the fake crowd noise last evening. What is Baseball thinking? The less fakeness there is the more real baseball will be.
    – The lack of availability of info coming from the organization is staggering. There are big changes in the roster and nobody is available to speak to the media about it. The silence is disgusting to this fan. We can talk all we want to about guys like Brandon Bailey, but I want to hear from him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we will have to visit unconventional places to get real information old pro.
      Gostros (up above) mentioned that something called Locked On Astros did a Podcast with Bailey
      https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/locked-on-astros/id1457064404?i=1000485909501

      Meanwhile over at chron.com (spit!!) the sports editor spends a whole article telling us how the season will never make it through October. Which is why I rarely go there.
      But yes – there is very little in real stories coming out of the Astros camp.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny you mention that – in this day and age you would expect the amount of news to be overwhelming and too much to consume…but I’m finding the same information from the same, usually singular sources is just regurgitated everywhere. During one of the intersquad games MLB Network had Christian Yelich hooked up to the mic throughout the game so they could talk to him, hear what he was saying on the field, etc. I wouldn’t want to see that in a real game and don’t need that instant access type thing, but definitely want to see more players, people from the organization, etc. giving us frequent updates. Also, maybe I’m a dinosaur now, but I really miss being able to consume the morning paper’s sports section with my coffee. I find there is no point any longer as most of what I’m reading is more than 24 hours old at that point.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would do reports on MLB and MiLB but there’s no real way to commoditize it. The few serious fans have given way to the twitter bots, who just got off the proverbial baseball turnip truck. The chron level comments go straight to banging trash cans, instead of anything about player tools, roster construction, etc.

        This is why I stick with prospect lists, despite no real interest far and wide. My way of keeping an informed opinion, where it seems obvious national writers aren’t as familiar with our system.

        After the way we were treated on Taubman, however, I think Astros *should* tighten up. Of course it’s maddening, but I have 100’s of folks I have to follow that aren’t mainstream media related. Passan Sherman Russo, a bunch of parrots. Instead, coaches, scouts and teachers give us the raw data.

        I don’t like 90% of baseball writer’s politics, like this guy. But I have to put that stuff aside to get his true expertise; which is spin rates, tilt and all sorts of measurements the Astros throw around, besides ERA. @eccentricladdie

        Thanks for posting that podcast, Dan. Well done.
        Had Brandon been reading me, he would’ve known he was definitely in the running for a spot. I thought maybe Sneed had knocked him out, but we had room w/o Urq Pea and Pruitt out.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I had read, earlier, that Brent Strom has mentioned that this could be his last year. looking ahead, any idea of who any of you would like to see or think will see as the pitching coach if Strom does pull the plug?

    I would like to see the club go after Perry Husband. Strom thinks the world of him.

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  15. Funny how things go.
    I started picking blackberries for us to put up in the freezer for the rest of the year. But we had blackberries when few others did and suddenly I started picking and selling. Next thing I know I picked enough that I was able to buy a real nice, stand up, frost free freezer. My wife and I hate our chest-type, manual defrost one, which went in the trade with the money from the blackberries. We just picked ourselves right into that deal.
    Got 14 pints of canned salsa from the garden tomatoes. Got 6 pints of canned tomatoes. Now we have more tomatoes to make a big batch of spaghetti sauce and have been giving tomatoes to our kids, too. Plus, I eat some of a tomato as fruit once a day.
    We had a makeshift compost pile which we made last year. We threw that compost into a couple of raised beds we weren’t using and now we have cantaloupe and watermelons growing there from the seeds that got put in the compost.
    This is nuts. Last summer we planted seeds for watermelon and cantaloupe
    and got nothing.
    The big difference from last year is that we made a huge pile of dirt and manure from the calf pen and turned that over into our raised garden beds.
    It has made all the difference in the world.
    The two horses we rescued are really filling out. We weaned the colt so his mother could get her weight up and she is staring to look good.
    Got 31 large round bales of hay from the new meadow and will get another cutting. Hopefully, next spring we will have the money to fertilize and weed-kill that meadow and get a lot more production and higher quality hay.
    Deer feeder is up in a new spot and there was activity within two days. Will move my blind next.
    Will record only the game tonight. No more pregame “festivities” for me. Todd Kalas has Covid 19, so Eschenfelder will do play-by-play.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the farm report OP – I picture all that going on and it is interesting to me – a whole world different from my life – but somehow we share a love for baseball and the Astros.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nothing like a homegrown tomato. We’re lucky to get them 12 months a year here from our rich volcanic soil. But as far a blackberries go, they come in on a ship and cost 6 bucks a pint. I stick with local fruit.

      Like

      • according to guy clark, “there’s only two things that money cant buy, and thats true love and homegrown tomatoes”. from the song homegrown tomatoes.

        Like

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