Tagged: kevin cash

At the midway mark

Great win for Houston last night over a great San Diego club. Given Houston’s performance against the first-place Yankees and Rangers last month (1-8), I wasn’t too optimistic going into this series, but with Roy pitching tonight, they’ve got a chance to take the first two. That is, if they can solve San Diego ace Mat Latos; the Astros haven’t done so great against opposing aces this year. Regardless, if they can pull off a split of this four-game set, I’ll be pleased.

The Astros ended up splitting the month of June at 14-14. That’s unspectacular for any team, but for a team that was 17 games under .500 by the end of May, to remain 17 games under .500 by the end of June means they’re making progress. Much has been said already about their 12-4 record against NL opponents in June, but unfortunately you can’t selectively ignore portions of the schedule, so the 2-10 in Interleague remains. That 1-8 v. NYY and Texas underscores that these Astros cannot compete with the elite, but I think that their 13-6 record against everybody else reinforces that this club is not as bad as their first two months. They may actually be set up for a pretty good July: after this weekend in San Diego, they’ve got nothing more challenging this month than one series each in Houston against the Cardinals and Reds. Who are virtually tied for first in the NL Central, granted, but the NL Central is baseball’s weakest division this year. And these Astros have already swept St. Louis once. Not that I expect another late season run – I don’t – but I don’t expect these Astros to lose 100 games any more either.
A trade! A trade! Only July 1, and Ed Wade is already dealing! Nothing of nearly the magnitude that we were (and still are) expecting, however – swapping Kevin Cash to the BoSox for AAA SS Angel Sanchez. Sanchez reportedly joined the Astros in San Diego yesterday, which implies that he’s being brought up to the big club, but no corresponding roster move has been announced yet. Zach Levine analyzed the possibilities and concluded that the unlucky victim will be either Pedro Feliz or Oswaldo Navarro, which seems logical. I doubt that Houston is ready to cut Feliz loose yet, though, especially after his recent 3-for-5 game. It’s more likely they’ve decided that Navarro’s .063 batting average isn’t likely to improve much, which is perhaps unfair after only 19 plate appearances. I would rather they give Navarro an extended trial than increase Geoff Blum’s time at shortstop. I believe this move is in response to the same problem I blogged about when discussing Adam Everett: neither Blum nor Navarro is a natural shortshop. Sanchez is, so he figures to be a stopgap until Tommy Manzella is ready to return next month, and unlike Everett, Sanchez can be expected to accept a minor league assignment later on. Cash was not going to make it back to Houston this year, so I like the move.
Tonight’s game will be #81 in the books for 2010. I know it’s been a “long year,” but are we really halfway done already?
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Dawning of the age of…

The Astros just spent the weekend getting swept by another first place team (Texas), immediately after dropping two of three in Kansas City (really??), to finish their nine-game interleague jaunt at 1-8. And I begin to doubt myself that maybe this IS a basement-bad baseball team. But then the news following yesterday’s bitterly disappointing loss suddenly instills hope – the Astros may not necessarily be a better team when they open against San Francisco on Tuesday, but they’ll certainly be more interesting.

Kevin Cash, Cory Sullivan and Casey Daigle have all been designated for assignment, and Houston is calling up Chris Johnson, Jason Castro and Jason Bourgeois to fill their spots. Castro and Johnson will now be the primary starters at their positions, too, and suddenly Jeff Keppinger becomes one of Houston’s oldest regulars at age 30. Perhaps watching Justin Smoak burn the Astros all weekend provided the impetus; Smoak was selected by Texas with the #11 pick immediately after Houston drafted Castro #10 back in 2008. Chris Johnson will get the shot to take over 3B for Houston that perhaps he should have been given over the winter, when the club christened Tommy Manzella a starter untested but gave a vote of no confidence in CJ by signing Pedro Feliz. The Bourgeois move is interesting, seemingly in defiance of the “don’t let young guys languish on the bench” rule, but I suppose that at age 28, Bourgeois is too old to be considered a “real” prospect, so it’s considered justifiable if he’s asked to fill a bench role. Interesting too is the loss of a left-handed bat by swapping Bourgeois for Sullivan, but looking at Sullivan’s stats this season, I suppose it would be hard to convince anyone that a righty like Bourgeois couldn’t have done at least as well. So why not give it a shot.

And then there’s Jason Castro. Has any Astros prospect been so hyped from the day he was drafted since Lance Berkman in ’97, or even since Phil Nevin’s #1 overall pick in ’92? Castro has been the poster child for the organization’s re-commitment to developing farm-grown talent. He’s not here to be the savior of the 2010 season, as Ed Wade is quick to emphasize, but he does represent the beginning of a new era in Houston. Or he might. We don’t know yet, but Ed (and most of Houston) hopes that he does.
The Houston Astros franchise may not have the glorious history of the New York Yankees or St. Louis Cardinals to build fan pride, but we have been remarkably blessed to watch our most favorite sons stay rooted here, even as the team evolves (or devolves) around them. Craig Biggio made his big league debut in June of 1988; he was joined three years later by Rookie of the Year Jeff Bagwell, and the pair carried and characterized the franchise throughout the ’90s. Lance Berkman made his debut in July of ’99, then was joined in 2001 by Roy Oswalt; their stars rose as Bags’ and Bidge’s set, and they became the face of the franchise for the 2000s. Now the team is entering into their biggest rebuilding project since Bagwell’s rookie season of 1991, and Lance and Roy have both offered themselves to be traded for the good of franchise. The day seems to be fast approaching when we’ll have to stomach seeing them in uniforms other than Astros’ brick, and it’s time for the torch to be passed again. Is Jason Castro the new bearer? He’s poised to be. Will he have a cohort, as the previous cornerstones have? Jordan Lyles? Delino DeShields, Jr.? Or maybe he’s already here, if Hunter Pence or Michael Bourn survives the tear down, perhaps. Only time will tell.
Tuesday’s game is Roy Oswalt v. Tim Lincecum, Round 3 for 2010. I know that Q usually catches Roy, but I hope that “Castro the Astro” gets the start anyway. Houston’s 1991 team was officially the worst in franchise history, but I look back on them fondly anyway, because that year sowed the seeds for a new generation of stars. This year’s team is on pace to finish with roughly the same record as ’91, but if they can likewise replicate the nurturing of new talent, then the season will be a success. The future is now.