The off-season comes to a halt

Let’s face it. Even in the most active times, the baseball off-season is pretty patchy as a source for new writing material.

There are definitely some peak times that get things roiled up a bit, but there are some slow times, too, in between the tendering and non-tendering, the 40 man roster manipulation, the Rule 5 draft, etc. Waiting for arbitration numbers to be exchanged and decided upon. (Do we really care if Player X gets $4.2 or 5.7 million?) Waiting for your team to sign a couple free agents, etc.

But now we are past that as the MLB and the MLBPA head into a standoff during the lockdown. It kind of reminds me of a line from that holiday classic The Christmas Story. The neighbor’s hound dogs have broken into the house and took down and took away the turkey. The narrator, who is the young boy, Ralphie, as an adult, says, “The heavenly aroma still hung in the house, but it was gone, all gone! No turkey, no turkey sandwiches, no turkey salad, no turkey gravy, turkey hash, turkey a-la-king, or gallons of turkey soup!” We are still clinging to the hope that the turkey will return before the season is trashed, but all we are left with is a wrecked and empty kitchen.

I do take inspiration from this rather odd posting on the Astros mlb.com website …..

https://www.mlb.com/astros/news/a-note-about-our-website-content

I can only assume they posted this because there is some legalese reason to avoid some subjects while negotiations are ongoing.

Our blog will continue and cover whatever odd-wad thing this odd-wad writer can pull up out of the morass of ideas in his all too clogged mind. Suggested topics are always welcome!

I did want to touch on the death of one of the best managers the Astros ever had, Bill Virdon. Virdon always reminded me of my dad. They were both Midwesterners, Virdon from Michigan, my dad from Wisconsin and born a few months apart back in 1931. Both of them played sports despite having that handicap of glasses in that pre-contact lens time, and more importantly, they both were solid, good citizens and hard workers in their chosen professions.

After winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1955 with St. Louis, Virdon enjoyed a good, not great 12-year career spent mostly with the Pirates. He was on the 1960 World Series winners, the series where Bill Mazeroski hit the biggest walk-off homer to that time in Game 7 of the series that caused the Yankees to nudge Casey Stengel out the door.

When they cut the cord, the Astros had been suffering through an awful 1975 season under Preston Gomez, 47-80. Virdon was available because the Yankees had fired him for a slightly over .500 start to the season and then replaced him with the first version of the mercurial Billy Martin. As a manager, he brought in a solid, professional demeanor, often missing in the Astros dugout.

The Astros went 17-17 the rest of the way under Virdon, and then he led them to primarily competitive seasons the next 8 years as he was and still is the winningest manager in Astros’ history. But the most important thing he did for the team was to lead them to their first postseason appearance in 1980 as they got nudged by the Phillies in a thrilling series. They blew a 2-0 lead to the Dodgers in a mini-series in 1981, and he was fired during a less successful than expected 1982 season.

Bill Virdon is an integral part of the Astros’ history. He was a winner, and he taught his team to be one. Maybe he managed too conservatively, as was sometimes pointed out about him. But like my dad, that was the kind of person he was; solid and not flashy, but steady and dependable.

61 comments on “The off-season comes to a halt

  1. With Joe Espada being mentioned as a possible manager for the Mets, and if an offer is made and accepted, who could bein line to take Baker’s place after next season?

    I still stand with Carlos Beltran but I am certain Crane will stay far away from him.

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    • My guess he or she is still in college. Going to an Ivy League. Majoring in something that has math and or statistics in its name. Love’s baseball. Is writing a Thesis on “Why wins or losses is a terrible way to choose managerial talent.”

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    • I think they will stay in house if Baker leaves after this coming season. Because of the sign stealing thing. Might be better to have someone who has been through the repercussions with the team but wasn’t here when it occurred.
      On a side note, who is the new pitching coach?

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  2. I did follow the link to the News on the Astros site. I read it. I then read it again. And I can truthfully say that I knew more BEFORE I read it the first or second time. Can’t believe an attorney got $300 a hour to write that. (I am probably just jealous)

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  3. “Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
    You gotta have somethin’ if you wanna play for me
    Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
    You gotta have somethin’ if you wanna play for me”
    Fingernails tapping on the table waiting for someone to blink😠

    Liked by 1 person

  4. https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/12/bud-fowler-gil-hodges-jim-kaat-minnie-minoso-tony-oliva-buck-oneil-elected-to-baseball-of-fame.html

    Interesting group. Jim Kaat was similar to Dallas Keuchel. Fielded his position exceptionally.
    Minnie Minoso played in 5 decades. Yep was just for publicity. Great Story of him in a slump. After one game he took a shower WITH HIS UNIFORM ON. He said to “get rid of evil spirits.” Next day he gets 4-5 hits. After that game, the entire team took a shower with their uniforms on.
    Tony Oliva was a terrific hitter with bad knees that did him in.
    Gil Hodges led the Miracle Mets to a World Series championship.
    Buck ONeil was a great ambassador for the game.

    So not eligible for the Hall with just their stats but all are so close, no argument with the Veterans Committee.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ~ The Astros web site is as informative during the lockout as James Click is year round.
    ~ I don’t see the problem with Verlander not signing. If he didn’t pass a physical he wouldn’t pitch for us anyway. He has until the lockout ends to either get healthy or face the music.
    ~ Reading about Korean or Japanese baseball signings does nothing for me. Korean signings won’t take the place of Correan signings.
    ~ Now seems like the perfect time to let guys into the HOF who weren’t good enough to get into the HOF.
    ~ Anyone else notice that all the owners, GMs, agents and players knew there was going to be a lockout, but not one of them or their media buddies found it necessary to let the fans know about it until it happened. Tens of millions of baseball fans and not one bit of respect for them by anyone connected to baseball.
    ~ Since the lockout began, I have been hunting.
    ~ When I’m not hunting, I watch Christmas movies. They are everywhere, they are festive and most of them don’t acknowledge what it’s really about, but are still a lot better than watching the news.
    ~Christmas tree is up and the lights are on. Ornaments tomorrow.
    ~ If you froze every team’s roster right now and made them play the 2022 season the way they are I think the Astros would make their sixth ALCS in a row.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I know that I am out of touch in this lockdown argument. When you or I go to the store, we tell our kids or grandkids we only have $100 to buy the birthday present. So we don’t look at something that costs $500 or $1000 or $10,000. When I read snippets that say the Owners will allow the Salary Tax Cap to be $220 Million but not $240 Million, I know they are just posturing. BOTH SIDES. When an owner throws $300 Million to ONE player, then balks at one year less for arbitration, then BOTH SIDES are just posturing. When a player says he will NOT play for one penny less than $300 Million, I know he is just posturing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The whole idea of a union for guys making a minimum of about $550K/ year is about as disturbing as having a baseball commissioner who is supposedly working for the good of the game, while reporting to the owners.
    As somebody whose whole work life is tied to project schedules, there are certain deadlines you don’t miss. They have known since they signed off on the last agreement in 2016 that they needed to come to a new agreement by Dec. 1, 2021, but as stated above they felt the need to roll past that into lockout so they can posture about all sorts of issues.
    I don’t think they realize how this dampens the enthusiasm of those who actually pay the bills – us.
    It does not matter that this MAY not affect the season. It bothers the fans of the game that there is a threat of this. We understood that games would be lost in the pandemic-crossed season of 2020, but there is no understanding if it happens as a self inflicted wound this time.
    Wake up baseball – owners/players – get ‘er done.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. It’s the year 2068 and a special committee of 14 year-old sport writers and broadcasters unanimously voted Joe Kelley and Carlos Gomez in the MLB 3rd Hall of Fame. Another great day for baseball as these two make a total of 15,369 baseball celebs enshrined into the hallowed halls. They are the first honorees inducted since Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston received their posthumous honors last month.
    Among the guests attending was two-term governor Romo Cuomo. The weather was sunny and warm in New York and the temperature was a perfect 118 degrees as a cool front passed through from Northern Mexico.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This kind of reminds me of a funny snippet from The Office. Kevin is talking about “odds” and says if you are ever offered 10,000 to one odds on anything – you take it. He then says if John Mellencamp ever wins an Oscar, I’m going to be a rich dude.

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  9. A classic motorcycle cruised down Crawford Street. It eased to a stop right in front of the main gate of Minute Maid Park. Who could it be, I wondered? I quickly found out, as dismounting the great suicide machine was the Boss – and his best girl Wendy, of course. To their chagrin, however, the gates are closed. No one was home. There was not going to be any baseball, apparently for a long time. There nothing going on. No shops, no bars, and no restaurants were open. In fact, there were no signs of life whatever. The Boss shook his head. Wendy stared in unbelief. Was it my post-Covid mind-fog imagination – or did Big Clarence step out of the shadows and begin to play softly on the saxophone? Am I crazy? Or did the Boss break out in this song:

    ‘I was 8 years old … runnin’ with … pop’s glove on my left hand;
    a heard mom yell; I tripped and fell, ate so much infield sand.
    I got embarrassed, my face turned ashen, I felt lower than slime;
    then someone yelled, ‘Good hustle, kid! You’ll get that ball next time!”
    That was my home town!
    MY home town.
    It was my home town.
    MY home town.

    In ’62, saw my first big-league game … cheered Aspromonte on;
    We played the Reds, they boxed our heads – creamed us 6 to 1!
    But I snagged a pop fly, and 20 strangers came by,
    said “Son, you’ve got some skill!’
    I grinned so wide, dad blushed with pride, said ‘Well done, Little Bill!’
    That was my home town!
    MY home town.
    It was MY home town.
    MY home town.

    Well, now the home team’s ballpark’s a Juice Box; and no one’s there;
    the little league field’s a Wal-Mart; and I’ve got less hair.
    The owners and the players can’t agree on spit;
    and though the game we love is sufferin’, we’re never gonna quit
    rootin’ for our home town.
    OUR home town.
    It’s our home town.
    OUR home town.

    This too will pass, dear friends. Someone will win, someone will lose – and we will probably not agree with the way it all goes down. But it will not be anything that a true baseball fan’s love of the game – and of our hometown team and its heroes – cannot endure. And when springtime rolls around, the smell of glove-leather wafts our way, and spheroids fill the air in Arizona and Florida, the wounds will heal – and our ears will be peeled for the sound of an ump somewhere – anywhere – on a little league field or at a major league ballpark – shouting those two wonderful words we love so much to hear: ‘Play Ball!’

    Liked by 2 people

    • Another classic, Mr. Bill – sprung from cages on hiway 9 – my wife grew up in Freehold, NJ – the Boss was about 10 years older and was friends with her friend’s brother.
      Best concerts I ever saw before he went all political….

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Astros have already moved on it appears. MLB Tade rumors is reporting the Red Sox and Astros are interested in Story. Whatever that means. Meanwhile here I sit rapping my fingernails on the table waiting for someone to say SYKE!
    Try explaining all this to a 12yr old little boy who absolutely LOVES the Astros.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Did you see the story about the guy who fired 900 people over a zoom call? He apparently either wrote or spoke about how about 250 of them were only working 2 hours a day but billing full time. I wonder how many of those 250 double as sources for ESPN and MLBTR stories. I wonder how many of those writers are just making stuff up so there is something to post to sell stories.

        The Correa thing makes sense. First of all, he can’t go to a facility to take a physical. Second, why would he want any of his records shared with someone who isn’t going to bring an offer to the table his team wants to review? The Story story doesn’t make sense…except that Story is from Texas and the Rangers have already committed the GDP of a small nation to Corey Seager. He may have more interest in Houston than they have in him. It wouldn’t be dissimilar to the Tejada trade. Houston would sign a SS with good old school numbers, but bad new ones. You also have to try to ignore the huge difference between offensive output at Coors v. away. With the commitments to Bregman and Altuve there isn’t a safety net here – Story has to stay at SS and he has to remain a better option than Pena.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So you are saying he got 900 people on a zoom call and fired them all – though apparently 250 were the worst offenders?

        The only thing that makes sense about the Correa story is that he might be having continued back problems from when he was out with it a few seasons ago. I don’t want Story here – he can’t hit outside Coors but wants to get paid like he’s staying there.

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      • Dan, I believe the difference in Story with the Astros will be the fact that he will be an Astro and not Rocky.
        It had to be demoralizing to be on a team with Arenado, see him sign a huge deal and have him get traded away with the understanding that your team has given up. The Rockies management has failed their fans and their players, in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Just remember – Story’s career numbers are .303 BA/ .369 OBP / .972 OPS at Coors and his road numbers are .241 BA/ .310 OBP/ .752 OPS
    He’s predicted to get 6 years $126 MM.
    Pena is looking better every minute….

    Liked by 1 person

  12. In 2018, Charlie Morton left and the following year Tampa Bay lost to the Astros. In 2018, Dallas Keuchel left and Atlanta lost to the Cards. In 2019 Cole left and the Yankees lost to Tampa Bay. In 2020, George Springer left and Toronto did not make the playoffs. Now apparently it looks like Correa is leaving. But it is an old cliché, about the chain and the weakest (not strongest) link. I would have loved to keep all of the above, but that was not in the cards. Baseball continues to be a TEAM sport.

    The starters for the 2017 World Series champion team: Fiers, Morton, Keuchel, McHugh, Peacock, and LMJ. And JV for last 5 starts in the regular season. (Can you tell that I just watched Moneyball again?)

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  13. In worrying about Story away from Coors, does not mean I want us to toss stupid money at Correa, who I am not sure I trust once he gets paid.

    I was looking at a couple of the bigger position players who moved on from the Rockies in the last few years.

    Arenado in 8 seasons with Colorado (home and away) was slashing .293 BA/ .349 OBP/ .890 OPS. Last season with St. Louis he was .255/ .312/ .807

    Troy Tulowitzki – 10 seasons with Colorado slashed .299 BA/ .371 OBP/ .885. OPS. 3 seasons+ elsewhere he was .243 /.313/ .729

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Just wanted to note that on these Hall of Fame new entries. Bud Fowler during his 1878-1895 seasons, only 1OP and I were there. But we were very young as he was finishing his career. However, back when CBS owned the Yankees, we got to see the Yankees almost every game. And for ka long period of time, Allie Reynolds was as good as any pitcher that we got to see. His career was cut short in a car wreck or something so he didn’t last as long as some, but he was dominant for several years.

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    • On the same subject, Vic Harris has to be the one from 1920s. The Vic Harris that played for the Rangers, I saw several games. He is rated at a Negative 6.3 WAR. I think that is more than generous for his play.

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    • OP and AC –
      Did they throw overhand when you were kids?
      Was Abner Doubleday (who probably did not invent the game) a snappy dresser?
      Did you stay for the rest of the performance at Ford’s Theater?
      Did you see William Howard Taft throw out the first ball by a president?

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      • -Everyone threw underhand because we all needed TJ Surgery but didn’t know it.
        -I was working for Abner when he started his book publishing company. His sister, Cloris Rawlings, was the one who started the game. She got fired early on because she kept changing the rules.
        -I was at the Dodge Bros. Theatre that fateful night in 1865.
        -Was not there when Taft threw out the first pitch. But my son, 1op, jr., swore him in as Supreme Court Chief Justice in 1921. It was a big day for the family. Babe was there, but he would not have remembered much about the ceremony.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. No, I don’t think we would sign Chirinos unless Maldonado or Castro were injured.

    I think we would be more likely to trade surplus pitching (Odorizzi, Bielak, Abreu, Solomon, Paredes, James, etc.) for more reliable pitching and/or a SS.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed. I guess I’m properly whelmed. I don’t really know what goes into most of the decisions on awards like manager of the year. I don’t think any of the playoff teams in the AL performed better than we should have expected. The only one I absolutely wouldn’t give it to was LaRussa. Did anyone else stick out? Maybe Scott Servais. That team looked like a sleeper to me during spring training, but I certainly didn’t expect them to finish so strongly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe to Aaron Boone. Not for managing. But he has done nothing with a $200 Million payroll for four (4) years and he gets to keep his job. That is a ton of patience for Yankees and their worthless fans. So maybe he gets it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe because we watched Snitker and Baker in their WS duel with one manager left standing and the other one gunned down. Baseball America must have been paying attention to something else.

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  16. Some Dusty Baker thoughts….
    Its normal to disagree with manager’s moves – I did it with Hinch and I do it with Baker – not all the time, but every now and then.
    I think the team has done very well with Baker at the helm.
    2020 was a hot mess with the start-stop-start with Covid. The team was dealing with the fall-out from the cheating scandal and then they had an overwhelming set of injuries and illness – with Verlander, Urquidy, Osuna, Joe Smith, Aledmys Diaz and Yordan Alvarez chief among them. They did not play well, but did not collapse and sneaked into the playoffs and almost into the World Series.
    2021 was more normal, but he still had to overcome the loss of Verlander and time loss with Urquidy, Framber and Bregman. They were a very good team in 2021 and made it to the WS.
    This may sound goofy, but Baker may have done a better job in 2020 than 2021 considering all he was up against. Was he the best manager in 2021? Probably not – Servais probably was – but he did a very good job, had his team behind him and took them to the cusp of a title.

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    • Dusty Baker raised my eyebrows on occaision, but ultimately he maneuvered our guys into the 6th game of the World Series. Bregman was the offensive loss of the season and never got back to being the Bregman we need to see. And our big bats forgot how to hit when it counted most.

      We had plenty of pitching issues. The dagger in the heart was losing Lance in Chicago. And as much as I love Framber, Urquidy and Garcia, they could not dig deep enough in the biggest games. And then we had 60 plus million tied up in two arms that couldn’t or didn’t help much in 2021.

      So yeah, I think we’re too hard on Dusty. That said, I was hoping he’d step away from the dugout in 2022.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. In other baseball news, Max Scherzer has informed the Mets that Buck Showalter is his desired choice for manager.
    There is no word yet who Scherzer wishes for manager of the Nationals, who will pay him $15 million extra to pitch for the Mets. I’m thinking he wants Turner of the Dodgers to move over to the Nationals so that the Mets can face Turner 19 times.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I have the MLB network on in the background with no sound. They are showing the 1965 Game 7 World Series game between the Twins and Dodgers. Things that strike me:
    – The home plate ump is wearing that chest pad on the outside as was the norm back then. I’d totally forgotten that they would be dressed up in a suit coat complete with white shirt and tie.
    – There are suit coats on many of the male fans (back in the 50’s they all would be wearing them) and quite a few hats, some fedoras — some boaters to better shade the wearer. Fair amount of ladies there – I think they are playing in Minnesota
    – Sandy Koufax is pitching, the greatest pitcher of the time, probably top five all time, but even he seemed to have a bit of a case of the nerves. In the first inning – he struggles with his control and walks Tony Oliva (newly elected to the Hall) and Harmon Killebrew (long past elected to the Hall). Johnny Roseboro and Maury Wills head out to the mound and they show a pitcher (pretty sure it was Don Drysdale) warming up quickly in the bullpen. Koufax settles down and ends up pitching a complete game shutout.
    – Another new Hall of Famer, Jim Kaat is on the mound for the Twins in a game they lose 2-0

    Liked by 2 people

  19. The Astros lost Ronnie Dawson, Brett Daniels, and Manny Ramirez in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft today and picked up a pitcher from the Tigers, Ruben Garcia. These moves are locked in and there is no returning them.
    The Astros will probably lose a couple more in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft when the lockout ends.

    Liked by 2 people

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