It’s April Fools Day! Remember this, ladies and gents, and don’t believe anything you read today. Except for this.
Quick notes, as I’m pressed for time today:
- I like the Jeff Keppinger trade. He’s a significant upgrade over Geoff Blum versus left handers, he’s another versatile infielder that gives Cecil Cooper at lot of flexibility with his bench, and the asking price doesn’t seem too steep. Kudos to Ed Wade on a smart move.
- Jason Smith appears to be in as backup 2B/SS after Edwin Maysonet’s demotion, and that is fine with me.
- Coop has Wandy Rodriguez slated as the number two starter behind Roy O, and I DON’T like that. Do you really want Wandy matching up with other teams’ number twos? I’d rather see Mike Hampton here, but he’s slated as number four. Oh well… changes can always be made mid-season.
- Russ Ortiz seems all but a lock for the fifth starter’s spot now, and that is also fine with me.
- You have to feel for Alberto Arias. He did almost everything right this spring and still ends up in AAA. At least the Astros have a solid option to call on if any of the existing relievers falter or get hurt.
- Maybe I missed something while I was away last week, but where did Chris Barnwell come from? I looked up the transaction of Houston signing him back in January, but I hadn’t heard about him all spring until he showed up in last night’s box score, and I missed the radio broadcast so I didn’t hear any further explanation.
Final Florida spring game starting soon, with Roy O’s final outing before Opening Day. Much rejoicing!
Houston played Philadelphia in the Astros’ last road game of the spring yesterday… I’ve been away on business in Philadelphia for the last week plus myself. An 8-2 spring record since I’ve been gone implies that maybe they’re better off without me. Regardless, it’s six days until Opening Day versus Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs, so it’s time to be excited.
Houston has a few questions left at this juncture, and my predictions are probably obvious ones, but here they are nonetheless:
- Backup Infielder: Jason Smith over Edwin Maysonet. I don’t see them making the youngster Maysonet flounder on the bench five days a week, and Smith has shown more with the bat, so the veteran gets the edge.
- Fifth Starter: Russ Ortiz over Jose Capellan. Their stat lines are pretty much identical at this point, but Ortiz has been slightly better. He also has the much stronger resume, and Houston can option Capellan to Round Rock without losing him, which they can’t with Ortiz. I expect to see Capellan filling in for the Astros when needed during the season, though.
- Backup Catcher: Humberto Quintero over Lou Santangelo. This pick may be ripe for upset, as Santangelo has actually looked much better than Quintero lately. But Quintero has the big-league experience and he’s out of options, so the club likely loses him if they try to send him down. That may be a risk they’re willing to take, but I’m guessing no.
- Fifth Outfielder: Jason Michaels over Reggie Abercrombie. My personal preference would be to take Abercrombie over Michaels, but I very much doubt that will happen, as the club seems to like Michaels’ experience too much. Abercrombie has had one of the best springs on the team, but he’s more likely to get a call if Michael Bourn flops badly than when breaking camp next week.
- Third Base: Geoff Blum over Chris Johnson. CJ’s hot start to the spring has faded, so the Astros will want him to get more AAA at-bats before giving him a platoon or starting shot in Houston. Blum will be the Opening Day third baseman, but they’ll probably acquire another veteran to split time with him there. Tampa Bay just released Morgan Ensberg, who remains an old favorite, but I think Colorado’s Jeff Baker is the better choice at this point, depending on what the Rockies ask in return.
I’ll be among the first to say that spring training wins and losses don’t matter, but bad baseball is bad baseball, and I can’t blame Cecil Cooper if he’s mad. I was getting mad listening to Houston’s game today against the Mets, and hardly anything ever makes me mad. It’s never a good thing when your team has almost as many errors (four) as it does hits (five). It’s never a good thing when you’re halfway through the game, down 8-0 and wondering if any team has ever been no-hit in spring training. The team hasn’t scored more than two runs in a game in over a week, Wandy Rodriguez was awful today, and whether it matters or not, 1-16-3 stinks by any measure.
How in the world does the best defensive team in the National League last year keep playing so sloppily, day after day this spring? I tried to console myself by looking up the worst spring training records in history, and the worst I could rummage up was the 1985 Pittsburgh Pirates, who went 6-18 (.250). I looked up their regular season then, hoping for validation from a positive turnaround.
They went 57-104 and finished last in both leagues.
Forgive me that, please, as I’m an optimist by nature. I get far more fed up with the folks constantly spewing negativity about our team and others than I do with a poorly performing team itself. But “even narcissists and rappers need to get things off their chest,” says a musician fellow I know, and he’s correct in that.
Bright spots: Chris Johnson went 2-for-3 a day after his chances of breaking camp with the club increased. Tim Byrdak redeemed himself from his last outing with a scoreless inning today. As weak as the offense has been lately, we’ve seen five scoreless outings from Houston starters over the same stretch (Jose Capellan, Brian Moehler, Mike Hampton twice, and Roy Oswalt for Team USA), so the rotation actually seems to be shaping up.
And Pudge Rodriguez was in camp for the first half of his physical today, with the second half scheduled for tomorrow. Still no official word from the club on the signing, but that’s as solid a proof as we’ve yet seen.
One other bit of speculation: Ed Wade received a phone call about an available 3B soon after Aaron Boone’s announcement yesterday. I’m with Ed on this one, about waiting to see who’s available near the end of camp and how your own guys pan out. Many have speculated about who the mystery 3B is, with almost nothing to go on, so it’s anyone’s guess. But a couple of sources suggested that Mark Loretta might get released by Los Angeles… not having followed Dodgers camp, I can’t imagine why, but there it was. I’m still not convinced that Houston needs to make a move, and certainly not just any move, but if Loretta DOES indeed get cut, I hope Wade will snatch him up without a second thought. I’d love to have him back.
March 17 brings another grand baseball tradition, where all the players look like this:
I’ve always liked the green jerseys, so I think it’s great fun. I’ll probably buy one of these eventually.
Astros return to daytime action shortly against Detroit, which makes me happy at work. I’ll refrain from another Pudge entry here until the signing is official. But I will say I’m doubly pulling for Team USA tonight in the WBC, because 1. I’m American and I want our boys to win, and 2. I want Pudge free to finalize his deal and get in camp with our pitchers.
It’s a good day.
A win would be nice. Really… anytime now, guys. Whenever you’re ready. No rush.
Okay, it’s not truly as bad as all that. Lance Berkman’s point is a valid one: everyone is still 0-0. Jose Capellan, Mike Hampton, and (for Team USA) Roy Oswalt all posted scoreless outings over the weekend. Berkman and Miguel Tejada are swinging well, and Hunter Pence has shown signs of the same. If you’re betting on Carlos Lee to become this year’s Andruw Jones, you’d better be ready to lose your money. Kaz Matsui’s spring stats are alarming, but he’s been consistent enough for long enough that you can likely count on him coming around, too. Humberto Quintero has at least had a couple of good games at the plate, to justify his position at the head of the catching class.
My opinion on catcher hasn’t changed; make of this Saturday article from CBS what you will. Michael Bourn is… well… he’s batting below .200 now, and that’s Not Good. I believe he’ll still be our Opening Day center fielder, but with Darin Erstad on the bench and both Reggie Abercrombie and Brian Bogusevic likely looming at AAA, he’s very replaceable, so he’ll have to earn it. Third base is the other big question, and I’m starting more and more to like the idea of handing Chris Johnson the starting job. Geoff Blum is a very good bench player and utility man; leave him in that role, reward youngster Johnson’s solid spring, and option Aaron Boone to Round Rock for a backup plan should Johnson falter. What have you got to lose, really?
Other interesting tidbits: Cecil Cooper himself said “we’re down to two guys,” regarding the fifth rotation spot. Those two guys are Russ Ortiz and Jose Capellan. Fernando Nieve was already waived and picked up by the Mets; Clay Hensley is now auditioning for a bullpen role. I guess this means Brandon Backe is officially out of the running too?
And Ed Wade said Houston could have traded Brad Lidge for Cliff Lee last winter. Elaskjasdflkjassdfk. Of course hindsight is 20/20, and fans usually want to know everything that goes on in their team’s front office, or else rumor mills wouldn’t be so hot. But this is almost the sort of thing that you wish you didn’t know… imagining what could have been. Ah well…
This is quite possibly the most striking photo of Lance Berkman ever, courtesy of SportsJustice:
Also, thanks to Kaybe of Unfinished Business for the heads up that I’m today’s MLBlogs Featured Blog – wow! I haven’t even been here that long. Thanks, MLBlogs guys! And if you’re a reader stopping by from the featured link – hi, and welcome!
Houston is back in action tonight against the only non-Panamanian team they’ve beat this spring, the Nationals. Mike Hampton is back on the mound, and Miguel Tejada is back from the WBC (courtesy of the Netherlands). I’m predicting a win!
Which leaves – again – the Astros. The Twins’ news on Joe Mauer was not bad enough to warrant a replacement move. It seems the only thing keeping Houston from Pudge and Pudge from Houston is Ed Wade picking up the phone. Or, more likely, Drayton McLane letting Ed Wade pick up the phone.
Drayton? Ed? Can you hear us? Your club is off today. We the fans could really use something to get excited about! 1-11-1, even in spring training, is not it.