The Houston Astros understand that sweet and salty, like Biggio and Bagwell, are one of the best combinations of all time. That’s why they’ve decided to take crazy to a new level with the Chicken & Waffle Cone. Your eyes do not deceive you. That’s chicken in a waffle cone, served with mashed potatoes and a honey mustard sauce.
The replica ring is a staple ballpark giveaway these days, one that fans will line up hours to get. We’ve seen plenty of teams giving away recent World Series replica rings, even World Series replica rings from 50 years ago. But we’ve never seen a future World Series ring.
he report provides details on the following recommendations from the panel:
Recognize the Astrodome’s iconic status with a museum celebrating its history as the world’s first domed sports stadium and create a new vision that rehabilitates the dome and the surrounding portions of NRG Park.
Redevelop the Astrodome as a multi-use facility.
Develop 1,500 additional parking spaces in the lower levels of the Astrodome.
Create a new ground floor in the Astrodome interior that can accommodate a variety of uses, including a park.
Create a new outdoor public space of live oak allée as a promenade between the nearby light rail station and the east entrance to the Astrodome.
Construct permanent outdoor covered pavilions along the allée.
Enhance the outside of the Astrodome with hardscape and landscape features.
Reuse the various floors of the Astrodome for a variety of programmable space, such as new space to extend the game-day experience for Houston Texans fans, new spaces for the HLSR, and additional space for the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC is another major user of NRG Park facilities).
Use the transformed space for activities such as community festivals, farmers markets, movie nights, charity events and private events that will generate new revenue streams.
Identify and tap new sources of capital and operational funds.
Create a new leadership initiative to unite vision with action.
[ Astros owner Roy ]Hofheinz told reporters that if the Astrodome had turned out to look “like a tobacco-spitting venture,” it would have failed; he said that no one who saw his stadium could ever again dismiss Houston as merely “Indian Territory.” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram called the park “a glorious victory” for “all of Texas.”
With its Jetsons-like design, the Astrodome was a gargantuan symbol of the glittering possibilities of American technology, crowned by the biggest clear-span dome on earth (642 feet in diameter), with 4,596 Lucite skylights. (Hofheinz claimed he had decided on the general design while visiting Rome’s Colosseum, where the Emperor Vespasian had protected spectators from the sun with a movable shade.)
Maybe it’s not a good idea to sign minor leaguers to long-term contracts.
General manager Jeff Luhnow is invested in both youngsters; he signed Singleton to a five-year, $10 million contract last June, and acquired Marisnick from the Marlins last July 31 in the six-player Jarred Cosart trade. But the Astros, acting on a mandate from owner Jim Crane, also are trying to improve quickly, as evidenced by their active offseason and increase in payroll.
To that end, yes, of course, some teams invest more in analytical personnel, and some do a better job of integrating that into strategy, tactics, and method on the field or court. But try naming some and why, specifically, they’re successful. You’ll get as far as an accommodating owner or infrastructure, like the Mavericks or Rockets enjoy, or the efficiency of scale the Red Sox or New York Yankees can sometimes employ in turning small-market tactics loose with big-market ruthlessness (and margin for error), but not much further. There’s a reason for that: the actual work of transcoding data to usable intelligence involves the most closely-kept industry secrets in sports, to the point that, as I heard it from some of the private analytics crowd, multiple NBA teams were furious last year when Kirk Goldsberry and the Harvard group made public their models for parsing SportVU data in a useful way. As a rule, no one shows their work; no one shows proofs or models or submits to peer review that extends beyond the trade deadline. Yes, it’s probable that the Rockets really do have some great quants working in-house—who, like the best quants at your local Evil Finance Operation, are likely kept chained in a dark room being fed graphing paper so competitors never learn their names—but that probability rests in the team’s proven record of turning observation into philosophy into decisions into on-court success. The irony is that for all the complications added to sports organizations over the last several years, because of those complications and their secrecy, simple old wins are just about the only honest metric available to the public by which to judge whether or not a team’s analytics department has done a good job.
That doesn’t mean no one tries to prove otherwise. In the absence of any way to check everyone’s homework for bullshit, it’s very easy to just praise the teams who seem most vociferous about abiding by the maxims of analytics as good-faith practitioners. Draft picks and youth are valuable; roster flexibility is key; defense is cheap, and maybe the new (or now just recent) inefficiency—all the little truisms distilled and disseminated in that ESPN analytics package are basically just talking points when coming from teams that promise they’ve done the math even if you can’t see it working yet.
As such, the analytics story right now isn’t just about a standard-issue business division being imparted divine powers by the media and the people who benefit from such coverage; it’s about right-minded and unverifiable claims being attached to all manner of disasters as a way of reassuring fans that they shouldn’t worry, that there is a plan, and that the plan is based on smart-people things.
There’s an asterisk after “LSD.” The asterisk refers to some words just below the hand of the Astros player in the rocking chair. According to Hartig, those words read: “Leo S. Durocher,” apparently trying to call the Cubs manager a crybaby.
Now, Durocher’s middle initial wasn’t “S”—his middle name was “Ernest.” It does appear that it could have been a drug reference, which seems very odd in that buttoned-down era. Some have speculated it was for “Lake Shore Drive” in Chicago—but no one in Chicago referred to Lake Shore Drive as “LSD” in 1966. That didn’t happen until the 1970s. It did, however, make the Durocher-Astros feud even worse, and it didn’t help the team any, either. The Cubs had a horrendous record in the Astrodome not only during Durocher’s tenure as manager, but during its entire existence from 1965-1999: 83-137, by far their worst record in any park outside Wrigley Field in that era.
The kicker to this whole thing, of course, is that Durocher wound up his managing career in Houston, as Astros manager in 1972-73.
“There’s a few questions, but more about what specific role they’re going to play,” Luhnow said. “What role Evan Gattis is going to play, what role Chris Carter is going to play, those are two fundamental questions we need to answer because there’s only one DH position. So that’s a big piece for us.
I’m just the messenger: Just pointing out that Lester had a 4.82 ERA in 2012 and 3.75 in 2013. Yes, big 2014, new league, no DH and more cutters instead of four-seamers and he could be even better. But you never know. He may not be as good as he was last year. And then there’s Jake Arrieta, former faded prospect turned rotation anchor. He looks like the real deal but ... again ... you never know. Hey, I’m trying. I like the Cubs! I have them ranked 13th!
The final word: If I had more guts I’d predict them to win the division, but they have two strong clubs ahead of them and even the Brewers or Reds are capable of 90 wins. The Cubs are still sorting a few things out and waiting for some of the young guys to mature. Sometimes, teams do break through right away; if Bryant and Jorge Soler are 3-4 win players as rookies and Lester and Arrieta throw 400-plus innings of great baseball, the Cubs could be the big surprise of 2015.
2. Blue Jays: Were Dalton Pompey more established, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak more reliable and second base not such a worry, I’d strongly consider the Blue Jays for the top spot on this list. Alas, those are, of course, all big questions.
Still, there is a lot to like about a lineup that begins with Jose Reyes, Russell Martin, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion. Those are five steady on-base presences and a middle of the order that can straight-up mash.
There are big questions to be answered in Toronto, but you’d be hard-pressed to find (on paper, at least) a lineup with a better top five.
The Nationals and Astros made incremental progress toward a joint spring training home Monday night when the West Palm Beach City Commission approved a non-binding agreement with West Palm Beach County to swap the land to be used for the site. Progress continued Tuesday morning when the Palm Beach County Commission voted 6 to 1 to approve the term sheet, according to the Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post.
The terms of the agreement include the environmental provisions required for the project to move forward. Palm Beach County, which would trade 1.8 acres of downtown land to the city for the 143.3 acre former landfill on which the facility is to be built, agreed to that swap with its vote Tuesday morning.
. . .
If the facility does materialize, the Nationals will join the Astros, Mets, Marlins and Cardinals as teams training on the state’s East Coast, reducing travel and giving the other teams in the area reason to continue training there.
That’s considerably south of where the Nationals & Astros are now, but closer to the other teams training on Florida’s East Coast.
I like Fowler because he’s, like, the last leadoff hitter left.
The Cubs are close to acquiring outfielder Dexter Fowler from the Astros, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. The Astros will receive big-league players in return, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets, and one of those is pitcher Dan Straily, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle notes (on Twitter)...
Fowler, 28, hit .276/.375/.399 in 505 plate appearances in his first season in Houston in 2014, though he posted poor defensive numbers in center. He’s in his final season of arbitration eligibility and is seeking $10.8MM, with the Astros filing at $8.5MM.
The Astros have reportedly agreed to acquire Braves catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis. In return, Atlanta will acquire a trio of prospects: righties Michael Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman as well as third baseman Rio Ruiz.
For Houston, it is not entirely clear how the team would use Gattis… Gattis stepped things up with a .263/.317/.493 line and 22 long balls last year in 401 turns at bat.
Of course, Gattis also comes with an attractive contractual situation. He will play at league minimum for the final time this year before qualifying for arbitration in 2016…
Foltynewicz, who briefly reached the bigs last year as a reliever, sat at number three on Baseball America’s list of the best ‘Stros prospects and at fourth on the MLB.com version... Ruiz… slashed .293/.387/.436 with 11 home runs in 602 plate appearances at High-A last year… Thurman, 23, was taken in the second round in 2013 but has struggled to adapt to pro ball…
The deal is not yet complete, caution [the New York Post’s Joel] Sherman (via Twitter) and MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter), with the former saying the terms are settled upon pending physical and the latter warning there is still a chance that Gattis could be moved to another club.
Hey, look! An article that’s NOT about the Hall of Fame voting! WOO HOO!!
West Palm Beach will negotiate a land swap with Palm Beach County for 160 acres of land targeted for a joint training facility for the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, Mayor Jeri Muoio announced Monday, smoothing the path toward a new spring training home for the Nationals. The announcement represents a reversal on the part of the city, which previously had refused to negotiate such a swap.
Palm Beach County voted Tuesday to continue negotiations and potentially make an unsolicited offer to the city of West Palm Beach for a land swap that could give the Nationals and Astros the needed site for a two-team spring training facility.
The Astros and unsigned pitching draftee Jacob Nix have quietly and confidentially come to a monetary settlement over the team’s decision not to follow through on an agreed-upon $1.5-million deal with Nix that was negotiated but never signed following last June’s first-year player draft.
Nix and the Astros by all accounts had the agreement, but in a very unusual case, the Astros decided they couldn’t sign the deal with Nix after they failed to sign No. 1 overall pick, lefthander Brady Aiken. Since the Astros failed to sign Aiken, they no longer had the slot money to sign Nix—a top righthanded high school pitcher out of the Long Beach, Calif. area. Under MLB’s rules, signing Nix after failing to sign Aiken to Aiken’s under-slot deal would have required the Astros to forfeit future top draft choices, so instead they chose simply to pass on the deal for Nix, a talented fifth-round selection accorded an unusually high bonus designed to get him to pass on a UCLA scholarship.
The financial settlement between the Astros and Nix, the amount of which isn’t known, was agreed to after the players union, on behalf of Nix and agent Casey Close, filed a grievance citing the unfairness of Nix losing his deal over something that allegedly came up in Aiken’s physical. The monetary payout helps the Astros avoid having to forfeit the picks, which was a possibility had an arbitrator ruled against them and ordered them to sogn Nix. It isn’t known whether he preferred to pitch for them, anyway, bu this point.
Well the first thing you know ol Jed’s a millionaire,
Kinfolk said “Jed move away from there”
Said “That A’s team is filled with playoff hexes”
So he loaded up his truck and moved to Texas.
Houston, that is.
Infielder Jed Lowrie is back with the Astros after agreeing on a three-year deal, the team announced.
The deal, which is worth $23 million guaranteed according to the Chronicle’s Evan Drellich, runs through 2017 and includes a club option for 2018 that could boost the total value to $28 million. To create room on the 40-man roster, the Astros will announce a corresponding move on Tuesday.
Lowrie, 30, was the Astros everyday shortstop in 2012 before spending the last two seasons in Oakland (2013-14). He can also play third.
In the last three seasons, Lowrie has 35 home runs and 155 RBI while posting a .747 OPS, which ranks sixth among all shortstops.
The Houston Astros have agreed to a three-year, $18.5 million contract with Luke Gregerson and also have agreed to sign reliever Pat Neshek, sources told ESPN’s Buster Olney, confirming multiple reports.
Gregerson is expected to take over as the team’s closer in 2015 with Neshek, coming off a career season, helping to fortify the back end of the bullpen.
Gregerson’s total compensation from the Astros can increase to $21 million if he is the team’s closer, a baseball source told ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.
His agreement comes after the Astros reportedly made attempts to sign both David Robertson and Andrew Miller this offseason to take over their closer’s role. Robertson ended up agreeing to a four-year deal with the Chicago White Sox, while Miller reached a four-year contract with the New York Yankees.
Neshek is guaranteed $12.5 million over two years, a baseball source told Crasnick. He’ll make $5.5 million in 2015 and $6.5 million in 2016. The deal has a $500,000 buyout, and includes a third year club option for between $6.5 million and $9 million. The amount of the option will increase depending on the number of games Neshek finishes in his first two seasons.
Note: the date of the Taylor Swift 1989 tour show at #MMP is subject to change if it conflicts with an #Astros postseason home game.
MLB.com: Castro and center fielder Dexter Fowler have been the subject of trade rumors. What’s the market like for them?
Luhnow: I think it’s primarily Internet rumors, to be honest with you. Clearly, they’re both good players that have one year [Fowler] or two years [Castro] left of control, and those players are always going to be talked about in trade rumors. I’m sure there’s a lot of teams out there that have interest in them, and some have reached out, but we’re not actively looking to deal either of those guys, because they both provide value to us in 2015, and we want to make sure any moves we make are keeping an eye on improving this team in 2015.