Tag Archives: Astros

MLB Realignment – More is More

This post was originally published on the Emerson College Sports Business Society Website – but it’s genius must be shared

come at me, bro

In many ways, I think of myself as a baseball purist.  I have serious reservations about designated hitters.  I have a firm belief that Nolan Ryan is the only one who understands that regardless of what anyone says, there is nothing magical about that 100th pitch. Just get out there and throw, divas! The most exciting play in the game, for me, is watching a team react to a double-steal bunt.  So with the recent announcement that MLB will be expanding its playoffs, I found myself debating along with millions of other fans whether or not this was a good decision for the sport.

 

On one hand, part of what has made baseball’s playoffs impressive is the level of difficulty it takes to get there.  Unlike football or basketball (hockey doesn’t count because I’m pretty sure they let pee-wee teams into their playoffs until recently), where half of the teams routinely win their division and go to the playoffs, baseball has always been ruthless about who gets in.  They play by far the most games, grinding out victories for months, yet every year there is a team with ninety wins who is left watching from home.

As maddening as it could be for a fan, it’s also pretty cool.  However, this system has always been a double-edged sword, especially in more recent decades, as ballooning payrolls have created a more distinct “class system” among MLB teams.  While we all have every right to moan when a 7-9 team makes the NFL playoffs, the level of parity in football is unmatched in other sports.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, in all likelihood, will not make the playoffs in 2012.  They’re simply not very good.  In most sports, it’s pretty easy to tell which teams will probably be good. In baseball, more so than the other sports, it’s easy to tell, with some certainty, which teams are going to be bad.

Baseball’s playoff structure, while doing a good job of getting the best teams in, has gotten stale.  Nationally, ratings have been in steady decline and there is a general resentment/frustration with the same teams getting in every year (with the occasional oddball like those pesky Rays).  But as I lamented in my MLB Reboot pieces, baseball as an entity is very, very, very painfully stubborn.  And I am too.  I liked the old system and my initial reaction was trepidation.  If they’re not going to go with the widespread change I call for, I’m not one for tinkering.

this was never a good idea.

But that’s why we shouldn’t rush to judgment.  The more I read about and think over this change, the more I like it.  Even as I write this piece, I realize that no, the current Wild Card system is not fair.  The Wild Card is a ‘bonus’ spot.  They did not win a division.  Therefore, common-sensically (a lethal combination of hyphenating and making up words), making the Wild Card teams win an additional game to ‘deserve’ their advancement seems not only reasonable, but also logical.  Of course, the MLB will play up the drama of adding a built-in one-game playoff and there is truth in that notion.  But this decision ripples through baseball on a much broader scale for us as fans.  Maybe the Nationals will make a huge jump this year and sneak into a one-game playoff for the Wild Card.  Perhaps the new rule will jumpstart the Chicago Cubs (laughable).  As a Red Sox fan, though, this new system means only one thing: now we have to worry about those darn Blue Jays too.

 

-w

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Texas Two-Step

As in, step one: buy a sports team.   step two: PROFIT!

Not Jim Crane. Sadly.

Baseball is shaking things up.  Let me rephrase that.  As much as they can allow themselves to become more exciting, baseball is making some changes.  As I outlined brilliantly in my 3-part “Gritty MLB Reboot” series (or rant, depending on how you take it), baseball is in dire need of some different spices in the pot (Part One, Part Two, Part Three).  Perhaps this purchase and movement of the Astros, and the dominoes their scenario knocks around, is a step in the right direction.

Let us address the sale of the Astros and subsequent move to the AL West.  Effective 2013, the Houston Astros will join their Texas brethren in the AL West.  This instantly creates a legitimate in-state rivalry, unlike the ones MLB and Fox try to force upon us when interleague play arrives (my distaste for interleague is a different story for a different day).  The battle for Texas will provide an interesting tweak on both the division it is entering and the one it is leaving.  Competitively, the NL Central loses  a punching bag, as the Astros have been downright astro-cious the past few years.  Horrible puns aside, the World Champion Cardinals especially benefitted from the Astros, going 10-5 against the 100-loss Houston team.  With the additional wild-card games and an added loser (the Astros, undeniably, will be bad for several years at the very least), the AL West becomes legitimate players.  Do the Athletics take a big step forward?  And does their impending success help persuade the A’s move out of woeful Oakland?  The ramifications of this move could prove to be far reaching competitively, financially, and emotionally – if Nolan Ryan would just say something outlandish to stir the pot (I sincerely hope this happens).  This nugget does not suffice:

“I’ve always thought of the Astros as a National League team,” said Rangers team president Nolan Ryan (who played for Houston from 1980-1988.)  “But when I look at it from our perspective, I like it.”

With a big, big TV deal in place and a mini-dynasty in the making, the Rangers surely like the idea of having a bad team to beat up on.  But the Astros, bad as they might be, will benefit from this too.  Texans are stereotypically a competitive lot, so, somewhat counter-intuitively, two teams in the same state should build up both teams’ TV share and attendance.  Jim Crane paid a pretty penny for a struggling team.  But he may have lucked into the perfect storm of circumstance.  Additional playoffs and a Champion-caliber, in-state rival should put the Astros in a good position financially going forward.  Now if they could only find some players.

Here are some other bits from around the league:

–> Infielder Matt Antonelli will undergo a physical on Monday to finalize his major league deal with the Orioles, tweets Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun.  Matt’s a good dude.  And he’s from Peabody.  And he’s read our blog before, so he’s wicked smaht.  Good to see Dan Duquette give him a go.  Glad he’s healthy again.

—> Joe Nathan signs a 2 year (3rd year team option) with the Texas Rangers.  This really makes me mad, actually.  I have been saying for several weeks now – louder since Papelbon left for Philadelphia – that the Red Sox should make Daniel Bard a starter and sign Nathan to be their closer.  It was a concept borrowed from these same Rangers, and a damned good one, so they did it with their more-than-a-closer Neftali Feliz.  The worst part of this going forward is now the Red Sox must either overpay for a guy who’s not that good, have open tryouts a-la “Invincible” or… gulp… make Bobby Jenks their closer.

—> Philadelphia Phillies acquire Ty Wiggington for a bag of trail mix.  I’m confused by the Phillies reluctance to sign players or develop players under 30.  Between Jim Thome and Ty Wiggington, the Phillies’ bench seems better equipped for lumberjacking than winning baseball games.

—> The Red Sox are circling around Bobby Valentine for their managerial position.  More details and lots of swearing to come in the following weeks.

—> The MLB is working on a new CBA and it will allegedly address issues such as HGH testing and draft slotting.  More details will begin to emerge and once they announce the official parameters, I will break them down.

 

 

Adios, muchachos, enjoy this phenomenal new Black Keys song and the awesome dancing.  Don’t know how this guy stole my moves.

-w

 

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2011 Favorites: First Base

get it? first base?

Wanna know how I got this sweet ass piiiiiiic?  Cuz I’m faaaasssst.  No intro this time, just hope you realize this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of First Basemen, one of those deeper positions in fantasy.  No, these are some guys I’m spotlighting because they fit into these categories I have created because I have created this blog.  So there.  Read on party people (all 13 of you) and remember- it’s time for Christmas music on the radio, that means mock drafts are coming soon…

Young Studs

Freddie Freeman

Derek Lee out, Freddie in?  With all the upside and hype this 2007 draft pick… wait no that was the first round pick Mr. Heyward.  Outside of baseball circles, Freeman did not receive the same kind of hype.  The Bravos love him.  Scouts love him.  Yo momma loves him.  Honestly, though, all reports indicate that Freeman has a sweet, smooth stroke and is ready for a shot at the big show.  The Braves are on the cusp (if not already firmly entrenched) of a serious youth movement and though Adrian Gonzalez might be a fit, well, I can’t say it any better than MLBTR : “The Braves are a logical landing spot for Adrian Gonzalez, but they’re also very high on first base prospect Freddie Freeman. The last time they traded for a first baseman with a year-plus left on his contract, they basically rebuilt the Texas Rangers.”

If that’s not reason enough to give Freeman a shot, I don’t know what is.  Freeman projects to have decent power and a good contact swing.  I’d wait to hear how the Braves’ offseason goes before you slot him into your draft board, but given the shot, he could be a 15-20 homer, 85 RBI, .300-ish average guy.  Like I said, he’s got a smooth swing.

Brett Wallace

 

He almost got slid down into the “remember me?” section.  It seems like Brett Wallace has been all over in the last two years, and he kind of has.  Firmly settled in what they’re trying to build in Houston, it is time for Wallace to shine and prove all the scouts, bloggers, and GMs right.  With short porches to both left and right (and that silly-ass mound in center), a good hitter to all fields like Wallace should adjust well to his home park, much like his predecessor Lance ‘Fat Elvis’ Berkman did before he became part of the Dark Side and got old.  Wallace has put up good numbers in THREE organizations’ AAA affiliates and has nothing left to prove on that stage.  His time is now and he is worth taking a shot on.

Brandon Allen

Given some playing time in the outfield, Allen played OK for the D-Backs (and made an all-season great catch).  But with the team not picking up Adam Laroche, Allen could see more time at first as well.  He’s been kicking around for a while but is still only 24 and has always projected to be a monster power threat (the dude is 6’2” 235!) and looks to be getting a shot to showcase some of that pop for the free-swinging Diamondbacks.  Allen will  be on my watch list to start the season, to see how he adjusts.  His K-rate could be a killer but if he settles  into a role for the D-Backs, he could be a valuable power pickup as the season progresses.

 

Don’t-Forget-About-These Guys

Gaby Sanchez

I don’t mean this to be mean or harsh, but did anyone realize how solid a year Gaby Sanchez had?  He trailed off in September as young players are wont to do.  Would anyone in fantasy complain about a first baseman who hit .270 with 15-20 homers and 80+ RBI?  You could do a LOT worse with your CI spot or backup first baseman (I’m looking at you Chris Davis).  Take this past season as a starting block, too.  The guys just a young fella!  Sort of.  But he’ll be 27 this year, and you know what that means… right?  It means he’ll be good, science proves it.  In fact scientists in China are working on a serum to make athletes 27 forever… probably.  I foresee Sanchez improving on his already solid year and putting together a season worth owning.  Plan accordingly in your draft strategy.

Garrett Jones

Garrett Jones did not have a 2010 fantasy season to take home to Mom.  It was more like a season you regret waking up to in your dorm room the next morning – that is, it was ugly, but had a few redeeming points.  For example, Jones still hit 21 homers, proving his breakout campaign’s power was no fluke.  Jones suffered for two reasons I see: a worse walk rate and a worse BABIP.  With a better walk rate, it ensures Jones isn’t striking out as much.  With his breakout year, his BABIP was almost 50 points better than his drunken mistake of a year in 2010.  His AAA numbers continue this story, making me think an improvement in BABIP and more patience at the plate, even slightly, will improve Jones’ year enough for him to be a late round steal for someone- make it you.

 

The Inception Play

Mitch Moreland

To be fair, I was rooting hard for the Rangers in the Playoffs and developed a playoff-crush on Moreland, who had a nifty playoffs, playing his way OUT of a platoon (Jorge Cantu, we hardly knew ye).  He was solid in the minors, has a great swing and has worked hard to be a good, smart hitter.  Moreland figures to have played well enough for the Rangers to not try Chris Davis again, so fantasy owners won’t have to play him either!  Unless Chris Davis has nekked pictures of Nolan Ryan or something.  Moreland will get lots of AB’s and I am very curious as to what he will do with them.  Maybe not draft-worthy, but who knows, stranger things have happened (like the Giants beating up Cliff Lee).

 

That’s all I’m giving you.  I know there are any number of options at first base, but these are the guys I’m thinking of for the upcoming draft season.  If you disagree, do it on the interweb!  I’d love to have a discussion about guys to watch in 2011 and I’m sure many of the 13 of you all have opinions!

 

I’m done, enjoy Vodka & Milk remixes

 

-w

 

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The Roy We Once Knew

As many have heard whispers of Roy Oswalt (and his wifey) wanting out of Houston, who could really blame the 33 year old.  He has yet to win a championship but has tasted sweet victory before with visits to the NLCS in his time with Houston (remember when Carlos Beltran and the killer B’s made a name for themselves?). 

Well not only has Oswalt made it clear that he wants to move, he’s doing what he can to help the dwindling ‘stros.

The initial issue that arose in the Houston front office when Roy made his feelings heard was that the Astros would only trade him if they could receive A&B-list prospects from the highest bidder.  Well Oswalt’s value wasn’t anywhere near that high when rumors began to spread.  However, with no time missed for injury, the Mississippi-born hurler has allowed 3 or fewer runs in each of his starts this season (8 ip, 0 er, 9 k in last start vs. MIL).

Roy must really not want to be in Houston (or he just really doesn’t want his team to suck this year).  The man is proving his value by stalling NL offenses and lighting up the strike zone with that mid-90’s fastball that made him so stellar in the middle part of the decade.

In other words, he’s doing what he can to make himself tradable (you’re standard good-‘ole fashion showcase).

Oswalt’s potential suitors:

Well the Nationals can certainly offer up enough quality prospects, but will they continue to hang? And is it worth taking a 33 year old injury-prone veteran when your team is still SO young?

Cincinatti is certainly another NL squad that had surprised some folks (especially if you’re from Cinci).  While they have a bevy of young pitchers (Leake, Cueto, Bailey, and eventually Aroldis Chapman) Dusty Baker’s boys havn’t been impressed with the production from Harang, and they cannot expect Bronson ‘The Voice’ Arroyo to log 30 quality starts.  With the youth in tact and the offense to support it, I think Oswalt could see this as a top-choice destination.

In all reality Roy needs to stay in the NL and not follow the path of former fellow NL ace Jake Peavy (who left mid-season for the south side of Chicago last year).  He is much more comfortable there and the transition will be fluid.

With the emergence of Stephen Strasburg likely in early June, Washington may certainly land the ace, but if you ask me, going to team with guarenteed talented offense (which is why you’re leaving Houston) is the safest bet.

While the shopping in DC may take the cake in this battle, my inside source (Mrs. Texiera) ensures me that the difference is minimal Roy.

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Roy Oswalt Requests to be Traded

Not too surprisingly, Oswalt wants out.  He made his wish very clear by asking Houston owner Drayton McLane Jr. to trade him before the deadline Given how much he has given to the franchise, Oswalt deserves to have his wish fulfilled.  Any thoughts on who might be interest?

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