The cold days of winter are wearing on and the Hot Stove market is burning out – it’s been all but frozen in Houston since the Bill Hall signing – while Spring Training games remain a few weeks away yet, so there’s not been much to talk about in Astroland. Jeff Bagwell HOF talk has died down until next winter at least, and no significant news has emerged on the Astros’ “For Sale” front. This makes it a great time to look back, and while I’ve also got thoughts to share about Bagwell and about Houston’s moderate moves this off-season, a bit of research on another topic motivated this post.
Wait, so the games against WBC teams don’t count with the rest of the spring training stats? Well, that’s not confusing at all. Coop said the stats should count, and I agree. Eh, whatever.
Another tie today versus Team Venezuela, but the Astros bats showed considerably more life today (against arguably better competition), so that’s encouraging. Brian Bogusevic went 2-for-4 with an RBI as his bat continues to warm up from a slow start. Another steal for Michael Bourn. Aaron Boone finally managed a hit. Kaz Matsui was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a walk, and Reggie Abercrombie was 1-for-3 with a walk and a steal. The star on the mound today was Jose Capellan, one of the longer shots for Houston’s fifth rotation slot, but three innings of scoreless, one-hit work today certainly helped his case.
That one hit off Capellan went to Bobby Abreu, who finished 2-for-4 with a walk for Venezuela. Even as an opponent, it was great seeing Abreu again, who has remained a favorite since starting his career with the Astros back in 1996. He’s the second-best product of Houston’s now closed Venezuelan Academy (why closed???), behind only Johan Santana. But the Astros lost Abreu to Tampa Bay in the expansion draft following the ’97 season, and lost Santana to the Twins via the Rule 5 draft after ’99. Of course it hurts now to see the ones that got away, but I don’t resent the organization for it… Abreu had hit .248 for the Astros in 74 games across two seasons, but they left him exposed to the draft in favor of protecting Richard Hidalgo, who had just hit .303. Doggy went on to have about three really good seasons for Houston, so it wasn’t a total loss, but Abreu immediately turned into one of the most consistently solid hitters in the game. Santana was a rather unimpressive 15-18 with a 5.05 ERA in 54 games spread across three seasons of Rookie and A League play, then wobbled through two seasons with Minnesota and got demoted to AAA in 2002 before he hit his stride later that year. You never know quite how young players will turn out.
…but dang, Santana/Abreu/Oswalt/Berkman would have made a killer core! Ah, well.
Manny finally signed with the Dodgers – much to no one’s surprise, except that it seemed it would never happen. I’m glad, because I think it’s a mutually good fit between him and LA. But I’m also glad because I’m ready for the drama to be done. Just play ball, boys!
Team Panama tomorrow, and this one is interesting as the Astros face Carlos Lee. It’s also interesting for me, though, because my wife used to live in Panama… so I’m probably cheering for them after Team USA come the WBC. Which starts… tomorrow, come to think of it. Japan vs. China. And Brian Moehler goes for Houston. Huzzah!