The 60-game schedule is most important to…

For some of the Astros, the 60-game regular season in 2020 is not that important to their career arc. Main players like Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve, Zack Greinke, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly are established major leaguers who are signed beyond 2020 and really have nothing to prove. Yes, they want to continue to perform well, but if they have a hiccup in 2020s shortened season it won’t affect how much money they make in 2021 (and for some beyond that) and will be looked on as an anomaly of a small sample.

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Astros 2020: Early summer camp stuff

Time for true confessions here. The only way to write about Astros’ Summer camp “stuff” is to piggyback off of things that others have written. Obviously, even in the best of times, training camp writing is based on reading what the writers on hand at the camp are writing about and looking at box scores or watching a few innings from an MLB network broadcast of a Spring Training game or two.

But this is different this year, just like the whole world is different. So, without apologies, this writer is taking the musings of folks like Brian McTaggart and giving you his spin on it.

  • Check-in Monday night July 6th  MLB will announce the 60 game schedules at 5 PM CDT. The schedule will be of particular interest to Astro fans with the team having to play the vast majority of road games (except for the Rangers) in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. Of course, remember that we are talking about only 25 road games that are affected, assuming they play the Rangers 5 times in Arlington, so it is not quite the quantity that we might in our minds be expecting. With the assumption of no crowds allowed will that at all affect whether games are day time or night time? We shall see.
  • Reading through various articles it appears that Yordan Alvarez, Jose Urquidy, Josh James and Joe Smith are not in camp. The team cannot comment on why players are not there, though the assumption is that they might not be there due to COVID-19, directly or indirectly. Dusty Baker mentioned that James is out due to a family issue, which obviously could be related to discussions about the risk relative to the virus. He also made it seem like Smith, whose mother is suffering from Huntington’s disease may be considering sitting out this season. With a very short summer camp and a starting rotation and bullpen in flux with the losses of Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, Will Harris and Hector Rondon, this is not good news. While a late start to Alvarez’s season is not optimum, it is not that hurtful. But with Urquidy expected to slide into the 4th spot in the rotation, James competing for a 5th spot in the rotation or a more leveraged spot in the bullpen and Smith expected to be a solid choice out of the ‘pen, any kind of delay in them joining the team may well affect how the team approaches the start of the regular season. Losing any of them for the season would make it tough on the team to fill in behind them.
  •  Just received a notification that the Astros cancelled their morning workout due to delays in receiving COVID-19 test results. The Nationals did the same. The testing (and quick results) is considered critical to the safety and health protocols put in place for the league. Stay tuned on how this works itself out, though it could be something that was exacerbated by the holiday weekend.
  • Dusty Baker’s comments on Zack Greinke show that the pitcher continues to be “different”. Baker says he is in camp, but he apparently has worked out so early that Baker hasn’t seen him yet. Is it possible that Greinke’s anxiety issues extend to the virus and he is limiting his exposure from his teammates by getting in and done so early? However, they have talked about Greinke being one who has been late showing up for training camp in the past, anyway, and it does not seem to have affected him as he has put together a series of outstanding seasons.
  • Alex Bregman is fired up to be even better than he was last season. Considering he was amazing last season, this has true fans salivating. Fans hope the first thing on his checklist is to not start this season slowly as he has every season before this.

Well, that’s it for today’s news. Anything of interest there for y’all to tie into?

Astros 2020: What we are looking for

There are a lot of things that will happen in the 2020 baseball season that none of us has seen before and even four months ago could not have imagined ever happening:

  • A regular season consisting of only 60 games.
  • A regular season where your American League team will play more National League teams (5) than American League teams (4).
  • A regular season where your favorite team has a 30 man roster to start….and then cut to 28 two weeks later….and then cut to 26 two weeks after that.
  • A regular season where there will not be a whole set of minor league teams playing every day developing the youngsters at multiple levels.
  • A regular season where there will be two separate ILs – one for normal injuries and one for folks that have the COVID virus.
  • A regular season and subsequent playoff series where all 30 teams will utilize a Designated Hitter.
  • A regular season where it is unclear despite what the Astros owner Jim Crane wants ( whether there will be any fans in the stand.
  • A regular season where MLB takes an ancient term from the NFL and each team has a 20 man taxi squad on top of the 40 man roster.
  • A regular season where if teams go to extra innings, that they will start each inning with a runner on 2nd base…..say what?

But beyond all this absolute weirdness, there are things we can and should look forward to as Astro fans:

  • First of all the Astros have an opportunity to be the first team to ever win 100 games in four consecutive seasons. What? Huh? Oh, skip that one…..
  • It will be interesting to see how new manager Dusty Baker handles this situation. Folks biggest concerns about Baker revolve around a history of burning out young arms. Well, that hopefully will not happen in a 60 game season. The key thing here is that Baker is a player’s type of manager and carries a lot of weight in the game. He may be the perfect person to help his team navigate the media storm that will follow them throughout this season after the “it” scandal.
  • It will also be interesting to see how Baker’s new work buddy, GM Jim Click navigates this not so brave new world of sand shifting lineups and taxi squads and number morphing active rosters. He will be getting to know what he has on this club, especially youngsters who may have to take the place of future free agent outfielders and starting pitchers. He may have to make trades, releases, signings or whatever the team may need to win a very short sprint to the playoffs.
  • The Astros had the most explosive rookie in the history of the franchise appear on the scene in 2019, Yordan Alvarez. Fans want to see if his knee is doing better and if he is truly who he appeared to be in 2019….a hitter for the ages.
  • The fans really want to see Lance McCullers Jr. on the mound again. The last time he appeared in a game he was giving up the last run to the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS. He was also pitching through an injury that would result in Tommy John surgery a few weeks later. Can he be the bulldog pitcher in the 3rd spot in the rotation?
  • It seems like forever ago, but only one month of regular season games have passed since Justin Verlander put up the 3rd no-hitter of his career. Fans can’t wait to see him leading the pitching staff again in 2020. Is a 4th no-hitter possible?
  • Lost in the seventh game meltdown against the Nats was a brilliant start by Zack Greinke, entering the 7th inning having given up one hit. Yes, he gave up a home run and a walk-in that inning before being fatefully pulled, but along with the “What if they brought in Gerrit Cole instead of Will Harris” is the other question, “What if they had let Greinke work out of the inning”?
  • Fans want to see who the 4th and 5th starters are for the team, assuming Verlander, Greinke and McCullers are up top. Will it be Jose Urquidy, who showed well in a short time up in 2020? Will it be Brad Peacock, who has swung into the starting rotation before? Will Josh James, Bryan Abreu, Forrest Whitley, Cristian Javier, Framber Valdez, Cy Sneed and Cionel Perez have shots at those spots? Will they go with a 6 man rotation as other teams are doing? Will they do some tandem pitching? Yes they will have more players on the roster to start the season, but that number will go down in a hurry.
  • Fans want to see if Kyle Tucker is a prospect, who will earn the hype that has been heaped on him since his drafting.
  • What about all the familiar things we have missed? A George Springer Dinger to lead off a game? Jose Altuve squaring up a high pitch? Alex Bregman preening for the cameras after a home run(OK – I don’t really miss that)? Ryan Pressly tossing an unhittable breaking pitch? Yuli Guriel slashing one off the left field wall? Michael Brantley and his oh-so solid swing, sending the ball to all fields? Myles Straw streaking around the bases like a human blur? Josh Reddick stealing a home run souvenir from a waiting fan?

Those are some of the things this fan has been waiting for, how about you?