“IT” will be brought up this season. But it feels like when it does, it will be with a more forced tone.
The cheating scandal’s time and distance allow the Astros’ fandom to get up each day without it being the first thing that pops up in their brain every day. There will be booing at times, there will be some tough questions and some tough announcers on out of town games, but it is not the same as last season, when “IT” weighed heavy on fans’ hearts and, judging from their performances, weighed heavily on many of the players.
So, as the Astros start working through the early days of Spring Training, how many other things have changed since last year?
- A year ago, most of us were skeptical of manager Dusty Baker’s hiring (for some reasons, I almost typed Springfield). He did a terrific job considering how a combination of “IT” and a ton of injuries to the pitching staff had affected the team. He kept them afloat and seems to have settled in nicely for a second season.
- A year ago, we did not know what the team had in the new General Manager James Click. He basically had inherited the team as-is when he was hired last January and took Jeff Luhnow’s team to Spring Training. Fans have seen him show he would not panic in 2020 as he stuck with in-house resources to fill the pitching voids. He showed that he would spend money judiciously in the off-season as he brought Michael Brantley back but passed (or lost) when it came to George Springer. He filled the backup catcher spot (Jason Castro), bucked up the bullpen (Pedro Baez, Ryne Stanek, Steve Cishek) and worked to address the three-man hole in the outfield (Brantley, Steven Souza Jr., Jose Siri, Pedro Leon). We may not agree with all the moves, but we cannot say he has not been working to address obvious need areas.
- A year ago, we did not know whether a lot of young arms were prospects or suspects. We did not get the answer on all our young pitchers (Forrest Whitley, Brian Abreu), but we filled the starting rotation with Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy, all young and mostly unproven. The team also filled out the bullpen with rookies like Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb and Brooks Raley. The feeling is that they know a bit more about their young pitchers heading into 2021.
- A year ago, we did not know if Kyle Tucker would live up to his high draft choice and untouchable position in the organization promised. After a strong 2020, he has moved from a question mark to an exclamation mark.
- A year ago, we had no idea what was to come mere weeks later as far as a virus derailing the start of the season and almost the whole season. This year the sport is expected to go forward as close to normal as possible under the circumstances. There will be some fans in the stands. They will play 162 games or somewhere close. Things will likely be better this season than last.
What are the top changes that have happened since last season, and how do you feel about it?
A big difference is that a year ago we thought we had Verlander and Osuna and Devenski and Peacock and McHugh and Joe Smith. It turned out we had none of those guys. Huge difference.
We thought we had the best DH in the league. We didn’t.
We thought we had premium hitters at 3B, 2B and SS. It turned out we didn’t.
So, this year we are in the “prove it” mode.
This time last year, we were in the “it” world.
This spring I’m in the “prove it” world.
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Last year we went to war with an All-World CFer. This year I will be happy if we get 1 WAR from our CFer.
Last year we thought our starting infielders were potential Silver Sluggers. This year our starting infielders are potential Comeback Player of the Year candidates.
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The offseason is not over yet. More than 4 weeks until opening day. A lot can happen in that time.
Those are accurate statements and they are raining on my parade.
Even if we open with Straw in center, a guy I don’t expect much from, I’m not at all concerned about our offensive production in 2021. Of course health is essential, especially because I don’t see a lot of offensive depth hanging around.
Just for comparisons – let’s look at WAR for the position players for 2019 and 2020. For 2020, I’ve multiplied their WAR numbers by 2.7 to factor up from 60 to 162 games.
Gurriel 3.9 (2019) -0.54 (2020)
Altuve 3.8 (2019) -0.27 (2020)
Correa 3.5 (2019) 4.86 (2020)
Bregman 9.1 (2019) 2.7 (2020)
Springer 6.4 (2019) 5.94 (2020)
Brantley 4.8 (2019) 4.59 (2020)
Reddick 1.4 (2019) 5.13 (Tucker 2020)
Chirinos 3.8 (2019) 2.43 (Maldonado 2020)
Hard to look at the DH spot – Alvarez put up 3.7 in 2019 in only 87 games. His DH ABs got scattered to a number of the folks above in 2020, so the dip in everyone’s numbers is even more pronounced.
2020 was a catastrophic offensive drop off for the Astros (even with league wide drops in offense). Tucker and Correa were the only real positives, the Bregman, Altuve, Gurriel drops were totally off the board.
Yep, I’m an Astros fan. But this is still heartbreaking to see, because I’m a fan of baseball, too!
You know, I’m thinking about Tiger Woods today. The guy has led an imperfect life. He had become an underdog and it seems he had been accepting of that new status gracefully. I still wanted to watch him in that role at Augusta each Spring. Sadly, even that’s a long shot now.
This makes me think of Ben Hogan today.
In my opinion, Ben Hogan was the greatest golfer ever and I got to see him at the Champions GC for the Houston Open in his last tournament. He won 63 tournaments even though he had 2 major interruptions to his career.
First he was in the military during WWII for 3 years from age 31-34.
Then at age 36 he was driving back to Fort Worth from a tournament. It was foggy and an oncoming Greyhound bus tried to pass a car on a narrow bridge and Ben had nowhere to go.
He dove across the front seat to protect his wife, which saved his life as the steering column was driven through the spot he just vacated. He had a broken pelvis, ankle, ribs, etc. but almost died from blood clots. They weren’t sure he would ever walk much less play golf.
He came back 9 months later to play and ended up losing in a playoff in his first tournament back. He dealt with pain and other side effects the rest of his life.
He won three Grand Slam tournaments in a single year a few years later including his only entry in the British Open. He had no shot at the fourth, the PGA, because it overlapped with the British Open.
In the “old” days, watching Tiger play was must see TV like a Yordan Alvarez at bat. I was not so excited after his fall, but I did enjoy his Masters victory a couple years ago.
Hopefully Tiger will come back from this and play again. But he will never be better than Hogan.
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I saw Tiger on video with Dwayne Wade (was it hours before?), and he looked uhh, kinda under the influence — maybe you could be the judge. I liked Tiger’s dad, not a big Tiger fan myself with some major character flaws. Aside from his very public marriage, rumors floated of his Houston (for lack of better word) women’s dance club exploits. Truly hope he gets his act together, and that his accident is the last of his tragedies.
Much more of a Phil fan, and the way he stood by Amy.
On Hogan, I didn’t know the details of saving his wife’s life. [A different era, my mom once did the same for me in an accident.] I’d always heard instead the stories of the fellas walking by Hogan at the bar alone, saying, “look, there’s Ben Hogan sitting with all his friends.” Yep, I was much more a Byron Nelson fan, who I was lucky enough to have met and played with, as he was a donor of our college and friend of the church. He told a story that night at a dinner about his 90-something yr old mother who still walked and gardened everyday. Byron was 76 then, and he shot 74 on our home course he’d never seen. Sweetest, most pure swing I ever saw. And even finer human.
I wish I was old enough to have remembered Sam Sneed. I played barefoot oftentimes because of him, and that is why, Dan, they never had me out at Champions or Lochinvar much haHa.
I do remember the moment I first saw Tiger though, on That’s Incredible. A 5-yr old hitting the ball over a lake?
If you told me in February ’20 that Verlander would blow out his elbow and miss two years for us I’d have responded that the Astros chances were going down the drain with it. Then, I’d think about it a bit more and tell you that the offense should be good enough to compensate. Now, in February ’21, I think the offense is not good enough to compensate for the lack of a true #1, but believe the young arms we saw last year can compete and that we have enough bullpen depth to weather some rough stretches. But maybe I’m wrong – maybe Altuve and Bregman are still All Star caliber hitters. I know Brantley still is. I think Tucker is ready to be. If Alvarez and Correa are healthy they should be. So maybe we have enough hitters to overcome some real dead spots at the bottom of the lineup AND a lack of true dominance in the rotation. I think that’s what’s changed.
Devin, I’d like to convince you that Bregman has some great years ahead of him, but we’re just going to have to wait until it plays out.
Waxing philosophical: everything has changed and all that remains is the Now (Tolle, T.N. Hanh, Osho, Dyer, Tolstoy, Cohlho, Watts).
Hanging a whole lot predictive on 2020 is such a stretch both in terms of change, but also how disjointed that season was. Even ol’ dave called it an extended Spring Training, which just about covers it.
Probably the most important aspect this season is the incredible foresight of Crane, et al. for hiring Baker. He brings a strong sense of continuity and normalcy, having weathered so many storms. The first skipper to take 5 teams to the playoffs, wow!
I watched these minor leaguers vs the other players, like Royce Lewis — remember clearly when Whitley wiped him out — and I know they’re going to do just fine. We added a nice mix of vets to show them how to prepare, but really with all this protocol stuff, many are trying to find their own way of getting physically and mentally prepared.
My desire is to see the fellas who have put in the work for our org get the first call. In the case of CF, the Astros have done exactly as I’d hoped since last Fall! Maybe some of you still want us to sign Bradley.. not me! They brought in a few guys to compete ON THEIR LEVEL with Straw and McCormick, but to follow through they must allow them to get some rhythm and consistency. I’d give Myles 4 straight starts, then sprinkle in Chas for 2 starts a week . . . unless Souza goes off in Spring; and I don’t foresee Siri simply capturing the spot either. I’m pulling for McCormick, just an incredible story.
We’ll mix up the lineup a bit and see how that pans out. A big plus is how baseball is changing more toward demonstrative guys, and being largely a Latin vibe and culture we have, I can see this team gelling in short order!
Back in the day this was unheard of — but why not? I’m ready for some excitement, and tired of “IT.” Our guys deserve a fresh start, and all my support.
And then I called it the Exhibition Season.
Altuve says he practiced more this offseason:
And this fills in a lot of queries from last season, too. One occasion is vivid when he came up with RISP to win the game, looked teary-eyed & out of sorts, and proceeded to strike out flailing. Apparently, dealing with a lot more than publicized.
He’s far from done!
I also read somewhere today that Altuve had some tragedy in his family last year that affected him.
Oh, yeah, GoStros1 just posted it above.
Framber Valdez followed me today on twitter Woo Hoo!, and just after this was posted by Mark Berman, Framber wrote, “Second mvp” for Altuve. The team is totally behind their humble leader.
And that is precisely why I put Altuve at the top of my most important Astro list in the previous blog, just ahead of Bregman.
I never judge anyone for what happens in their private lives.Unfortunately Tiger was such a big star in golf his “dirty” laundry was front and center.
Whether he comes back to play competitive golf is probably doubtful, but who knows never say never. AND before we start saying he was drinking the day before…let’s step back from that, unless you have proof of that.
Now the Astros:
I had no idea Altuve had suffered a death in his family last year, and I can only imagine his pain trying to keep playing. I’m glad to see positive changes he’s made over the winter. Correa seems to have a good frame of mind as well. Dusty probably told a couple of guys to get in shape or else, and it seemed to work. Abreu came to camp minus 25lbs, Bregman also lost some weight, and focused on hitting. I’m very excited to see Valdez…especially to see him run! Stubbs has made it known that he’s willing to play some infield and possibly the outfield he just wants to play. I’ve said for awhile now they need to let him play or trade him…he’s done all he can do in minor league catching. I’m curious to see the bullpen competition, Paredes is going to be a force this spring.
If not this year, I see him in a closer role in his future. I’m not concerned with the position players, there’s a lot of very good talent with this team.
We will miss George no doubt about it, but he’s gone and someone else will have to man the “club astro”…and trust me someone certainly will! I hope he didn’t take all that cool stuff with him to the Jays!
That’s all I got fellas….you fellas keep posting because I’m always reading!
P.S. Dan you get my MVP trophy for all the GREAT ideas for your posts!
You’re just the BEST! *I was only out of power for 25hrs and our pipes were fine…thank the Lord!
OP….I worried about you because you guys really got hammered.
Thanks Becky – I would not keep this up in a vacuum, I do it because I get responses and comments and know this means something to folks.
I was going to point out that Bregman actually put weight back on.
I did not like seeing that Bregman is dealing with a tweaked hamstring again. That really derailed him last year.
They are being careful with Yordan and I hope that is just precaution and not due to any residual problems.
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We got hammered. The little town we live in has been without water for a week now. We have a well and my son and his wife have carried water several time to town hall to give to people who need it.
Today, the wife and I travel 25 miles for our 2nd Covid vaccine shots. Other than groceries and doctors, we have been in hibernation for a year. Starting this weekend, I intend to wake up and start going out. This weekend is the local livestock show and next weekend is the county show. All four of our granddaughters have multiple entries. I will still wear a mask to make a point.
Cannot believe how many in our small community contracted Covid. It’s actually way over 60% of our listed population. People would not believe they could get it.
Have great day, all of you.
Dan, speaking of Hogan and these old hall of fame golfing legends, my wife and I were recently invited to the birthday party of Betty Foy Sanders who is the widow of GA Governor Carl Sanders. The beautiful mansion home in Atlanta was purchased from the estate of Bobby Jones. There are still various objects and photos of Jones in the house including a bust of Jones in a downstairs room. Sanders was quite an athlete in his youth also. He was the starting QB for UGA in 1942 (left handed) but left for the air force in WWII. As Gov. he received a call from Pete Rozelle of the NFL who wanted to bring a team to Atlanta. He introduced Rozelle to his friend Rankin Smith who purchased the franchise to Atlanta. Sanders once owned 10 percent of the Hawks and was on board when the Braves moved from Milwaukee. There are several photos of these older golf legends in the home as well as Hagan.
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Talking about Astro extensions….
I have to wonder if GS1 is onto something? The Astros will have lost Keuchel, Morton, Cole, Verlander ?, Greinke?, and maybe LMJ in the past few years. Does the Brain Trust think they have the guns in the minors to replace 6 starters of which two should end up in the Hall?
LMJ quote: “I actually would prefer to reach an agreement with the Astros before [free agency]. The entire organization knows I want to be there and I have not heard a word. Crazy how players are always the bad guys somehow… lots of times it is not how it seems.”
Yes, really like the depth in pitching here, however…
I earnestly believe Lance McCullers, Jr. will have his best year, and we would be more likely to re-sign him. As is the case with Correa, there are health markers to surpass where the team carries the biggest risk long-term by signing sooner than later. It’s a brutal sport, both these players are high Impact.
The interview with Click was candid re Correa, where he wants both player and team to share in the risk. That is why I say, “stop messing around, Carlos, and do it like Yuli in negotiations. Wrap it up.” The longer the team waits, the more leverage they retain, since both he and LMJ are still much higher value than salaried and deadline trade possibilities. Correa should “be afraid” of free agency because Astro will have a bigger budget and 4 outright BETTER free agents, plus Pena. Or What if Simmons (36 WAR) has a 2018 type season and can be gotten for $10million instead, until Pena is ready late’22, for example?
This is the deal to get it done, since 5 yrs is my sweet spot — I’d give Correa 6 as a gift because he’s earned it & some, with 26 WAR at only $15m!
6 yrs guaranteed @ $22-25m ea.
3 addition team option yrs with $5m buy-out clauses
@$20+ million (whatever this number is?!) per season after 2026.
Let your agent handle it, stop being so public about it by simply asking reporters to drop it. This won’t break the bank, and allows the team to extend the likes of Pressly Valdez and eventually Tucker Alvarez Javier and Paredes when Altuve comes off books.
One of the biggest things Click meant by “restrictions” on making moves is not only financial uncertainty with public health keeping fans from attending in capacity ($3billion lost in only 1/3 of a season last yr)…it’s that the Astros have plenty of cheaper and sustainable labor in pitching coming on. They shored up 2022 and beyond in the outfield, and can save money if Correa walks, thereby signing any Starters we want! Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to pitch with Strommie?
The names on Correa’s mind should be;
Alex Bregman, SS
Pena Kessinger Lorenzo
They’re all going to play,…somewhere by 2023.
On the pride and joy of Jim Stevenson finding undrafted Jack Mayfield at OU, his next under radar guy Austin Hansen has a career 13K per 9 rate. Keep your eyes peeled as he should be a diamond. It was Alex De Goti that made obsolete Mayfield and family, so they could spread their wings. Love that family! We have to cycle through a few middle infielders but the new crop is near harvest.
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Super Jack moving on….
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Hey Dan, I think your link was incomplete so try this one:
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