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Monday, January 20, 2020

Astros superfan ‘Mattress Mack’ loses $2 million betting against Chiefs

It hasn’t been a great year for a certain Houston gambling enthusiast’s bank account.

Houston-area furniture chain owner Jim McIngvale, better known as “Mattress Mack,” lost nearly $12 million last year betting on the Astros to win the World Series, ostensibly as a way to hedge against a refund promotion for his stores. He had done the same thing in 2017, but it obviously worked out much worse last year.

McIngvale kicked off a new year of sports betting by turning his attention to a new sport, according to The Action Network. His bets: $1 million on the Houston Texans to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC divisional round, then $1 million on the Tennessee Titans to beat those same Chiefs in the AFC championship game.

Yeah, that didn’t work out.

Turns out it’s been a bad last few days for even people only tangentially tied to the Astros…..

 

QLE Posted: January 20, 2020 at 12:29 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, fans, gambling, winners and losers

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

To view the matter in utterly cynical terms, hiring some locally-beloved player with minimal relevant experience does seem to be a way for Crane to appease the fans without solving the problems that led to this situation in the first place…..

 

QLE Posted: January 19, 2020 at 12:30 AM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, craig biggio, jeff bagwell, jim crane, lance berkman

Astros stars letting others take blame for player-driven sign-stealing scheme

When A.J. Hinch took a baseball bat to at least one of those television monitors, as one source said he did, maybe this was the day he had in mind.

This was the day he stood alone.

He’d been in the end overrun by his players and members of his own coaching staff and who knows who else, along with his own ambitiousness. That is his to bear.

The Houston Astros went dark one day. Hinch was the man on the top step. He stuck to the shadows like the rest of them, celebrated its bounty like the rest of them, surrendered when the lights came up and was punished for it.

So, what do we make of this line of analysis?

 

QLE Posted: January 19, 2020 at 12:27 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: a.j. hinch, astros, dirty rotten cheaters, players

Friday, January 17, 2020

MLB Ineligible List Ends at Death for Banned Players

So there’s this minor kerfuffle about how maybe Joe Jackson can get into the hall now, because MLB has this new rule that you’re removed from the ineligible list when you die.  Except here’s the quote from ESPN’s source:

“From our perspective, the purpose of the ineligible list is a practical matter,” the source told ESPN. “It’s used to prevent someone from working in the game. When a person on the ineligible list passes away, he’s unable to work in the game. And so for all practical purposes, we don’t consider a review of the status of anyone who has passed away.”

Which sounds to me like it means that you don’t get removed.  Jackson is banned, and they stopped reviewing his case after he’s dead - which means that he stays banned.


Thursday, January 16, 2020


Carlos Beltran: Mets manager out after Astros’ cheating scandal

Another casualty. At this point, if MLB is really serious about really getting to the bottom of this problem and fairness, they need to investigate *EVERY* team. Let’s get another 20 managers and GM suspended.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 16, 2020 at 01:19 PM | 120 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, carlos beltran, mets, sign stealing

Yes, more teams than the Astros and Red Sox stole signs, but that doesn’t excuse them

There’s an element to all of this Astros and Red Sox news that keeps coming up that I want to dig in to. Indeed, it’s a thing that comes up every single time a team or a player gets in trouble for something. It’s the “hey, they weren’t the only ones doing it! They were singled out!” defense, almost always mounted by fans of the teams or players who get busted.

First, let’s be 100 percent clear about something: the Astros and the Red Sox were not — not by a long shot — the only teams stealing signs. To suggest that they were is to live in fantasyland. Tom Verducci reported the other day that the investigation of the Astros led to at least seven or eight other teams being mentioned. Last night Michael Baumann of The Ringer linked to stories over the past couple of months in which sources said they believed that the Diamondbacks, Indians, Rangers, Cubs, Blue Jays, Nationals and Brewers have engaged in sign-stealing shenanigans as well.

And hey, from the “it takes one to know one” department, let us not forget this little thing from last summer when, after the Yankees pounded the Red Sox in London, Alex Cora said that the Yankees’ biggest offseason addition was Carlos Beltrán, complete with a wink:

He follows that with “we have to clean our details,” which is an obvious reference to signs. If you think he’s not talking about the Yankees engaging in some sign-stealing, you’re deluding yourself. Which, of course, becomes the jumping off point for that “no fair, we were singled out!” sentiment so many Astros and Red Sox fans have shared in the past few days.

A consideration of a certain kind of commentary- might as well have it in mind now, as I anticipate seeing it deployed shortly…..

 

QLE Posted: January 16, 2020 at 12:21 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, red sox, sign-stealing

Potential targets in Astros’ managerial search

HOUSTON—The Astros’ search for a manager to replace AJ Hinch will stretch beyond just bench coach Joe Espada, with owner Jim Crane opening up a national search that will include experienced names like Bruce Bochy, Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter.

Espada, Bochy, Baker and Showalter are among the candidates Crane is considering, a source told MLB.com on Wednesday. Other names on the team’s early list are former Rangers manager Jeff Banister, Cubs third-base coach Will Venable and Dodgers special assistant Raúl Ibañez. KRIV-TV in Houston was the first to report the names.

The Astros are moving quickly in their efforts to replace Hinch, who along with general manager Jeff Luhnow was fired on Monday after MLB had suspended them for one year for their role in the sign-stealing scandal. With only four weeks before pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach, Fla., for the start of Spring Training, time is of the essence. The Astros would like to fill both positions by early February, a source said

The Astros, a source said, are expected to hire a manager before they hire a general manager. Crane said Monday he would run the baseball operations until a new GM can be hired. A source says Crane met with the coaching staff Monday at Minute Maid Park for the first time since Hinch and Luhnow were dismissed.

So, if you were in this position, who would you hire?

 


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

MLB’s punishment for Astros was both harsh and not enough

After an investigation into allegations of the Astros stealing signs and relaying them to hitters during games, Major League Baseball suspended GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch each for one year. In a press conference this afternoon, Astros owner Jim Crane announced that Luhnow and Hinch had been dismissed. The Astros’ punishment also includes a $5 million fine and the loss of their first- and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and ’21.

MLB’s report on the Astros’ cheating scheme was damning. Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote, “But while no one can dispute that Luhnow’s baseball operations department is an industry leader in its analytics, it is very clear to me that the culture of the baseball operations department, manifesting itself in the way its employees are treated, its relations with other Clubs, and its relations with the media and external stakeholders, has been very problematic. At least in my view, the baseball operations department’s insular culture – one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations, combined with a staff of individuals who often lacked direction or sufficient oversight, led, at least in part, to the Brandon Taubman incident, the Club’s admittedly inappropriate and inaccurate response to that incident, and finally, to an environment that allowed the conduct described in this report to have occurred.”

There is no question that the punishment handed down to Luhnow and Hinch was harsh. Both have been fired but cannot work in Major League Baseball until their suspensions are over following the completion of the 2020 season. They will not be paid for this season, and their careers have each been tarred by the cheating scandal enough where it may be difficult for them to find work in the sport in 2021 and beyond. Losing four high draft picks will also hurt; it is likely the aspect of the punishment that stings the organization the most.

That being said, the punishment did not go far enough to make the Astros regret having pulled off this caper. Crane, for example, was more or less exonerated by Manfred in the report, not that we should have expected anything more. Manfred wrote, “Jim Crane was unaware of any of the violations of MLB rules by his Club. In fact, Crane told Luhnow after the Red Sox discipline was announced that Luhnow should make sure that the Astros did not engage in similar conduct.”

A commentary on the meaning of today, and of various aspects associated with it.

 

QLE Posted: January 14, 2020 at 01:29 AM | 77 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, dirty rotten cheaters

Monday, January 13, 2020


Astros’ Jeff Luhnow, AJ Hinch suspended for 2020 | MLB.com

Wow1

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch have each been suspended without pay for the 2020 season by Major League Baseball, which on Monday released the findings from its investigation into Houston’s sign-stealing allegations.

Houston also forfeits its first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Drafts as part of the penalties. In addition, the Astros were fined $5 million, which is the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution.

In addition, former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman, who was dismissed by the club in October after he made offensive and insensitive comments directed at a group of female reporters at the conclusion of the American League Championship Series, has been suspended for one year. Taubman, who is currently not employed by a Major League club, will not be able to work in baseball during that time.

The suspensions of Luhnow, Hinch and Taubman are to begin immediately, ending on the day following the completion of the 2020 World Series.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 13, 2020 at 02:09 PM | 257 comment(s)
  Beats: a.j. hinch, astros, jeff luhnow

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Sources: MLB near decision on discipline for Astros

Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Houston Astros’ illegal use of technology is in its final stages and members of the organization expect commissioner Rob Manfred to decide on the severity of discipline within the next two weeks, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.

With witnesses admitting that the Astros used a system to relay pitch types to batters before they were thrown, according to sources, MLB’s coming decisions are twofold: whom to discipline and how harshly to do so.

The targets for discipline will be employees of the team, including the front office and on-field coaching personnel, but will not include the players involved in the scheme, according to three players who have been interviewed. Those who could face discipline include Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, Astros manager AJ Hinch and other front-office members, sources said. The team also could face a record fine.

An MLB spokesman declined to comment.

Given how much sign-stealing has been on our minds today, I’m surprised we hadn’t linked to this before- something of interest to follow in the coming weeks…..

 

QLE Posted: January 08, 2020 at 12:26 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, dirty rotten cheaters, sign-stealing

Monday, January 06, 2020

Astros sign-stealing scandal: Carlos Correa, Joe Musgrove open up about allegations against 2017 title team

Per the Chronicle, Correa was asked by reporters if the allegations were true, and he said he could not answer the question since he had already been interviewed by MLB. Ha.

MuttsIdolCochrane Posted: January 06, 2020 at 04:26 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, mlb

Friday, January 03, 2020

Will Harris gets 3-year, $24 million deal with Nationals - HoustonChronicle.com

Free-agent reliever Will Harris is in agreement with the Washington Nationals on a three-year deal, removing one of the most valuable, consistent relievers from the back end of the Astros’ bullpen.

The signing ends a five-year Houston tenure that took Harris from a relatively unknown waiver claim to one of baseball’s most sought-after relievers. Multiple reports late Thursday put Harris’ deal with the Nationals at $24 million across three years — a remarkable contract for a soon-to-be 36-year-old reliever.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 03, 2020 at 06:46 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, nationals, will harris

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

The All Decade Team

Second base: Jose Altuve, Astros

Hey, another six-time All-Star and a former MVP. But unlike Posey and Votto, who have faded of late, Altuve’s still a high-end performer. The diminutive 29-year-old’s fresh off his sixth straight outstanding season after beginning his career as a fairly non-threatening hitter. Between 2014-19, Altuve hit .327/.380/.497 with 114 dingers and helped his team to a championship. He ranked fourth in the majors in fWAR (32.4) and fifth in stolen bases (179) during that span.


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Astros Re-Sign Joe Smith

The Astros have announced a two-year deal to bring back reliever Joe Smith. The deal includes $8MM in guaranteed money, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter). Smith is a client of Excel Sports Management.

Smith missed a big chunk of 2019 owing to a torn Achilles, but bounced back with aplomb and threw 25 excellent innings down the stretch. The 35-year-old sidearmer obviously convinced the Houston brass that he has plenty left in the tank.

Though he has rarely been a major strikeout pitcher, Smith has always produced strong groundball numbers. Outside of his tendon tear, he has been quite durable. And he has a long and consistent history of befuddling opposing hitters. In 695 1/3 frames at the game’s highest level, he carries a 2.98 ERA and has yet to finish a season with an ERA over 3.83.

There are times when the jokes about generic relievers just write themselves, aren’t there?

 

QLE Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:23 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, joe smith

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sources: Astros witnesses admit sign stealing to MLB, but deny special camera | SNY

Believing that other teams used technology to decode signs, a group of Houston Astros asked the organization for access to a live feed from a centerfield camera in 2017.

They did not install a new camera for sign-stealing purposes, and the players and coaches involved did not even know which camera the feed was coming from. They wanted a monitor closer to the dugout, because their video room was too far away. They considered their actions to be in line with industry standards.

The above narrative represents the picture painted by some of the interviews conducted by MLB investigators this fall, according to sources with direct knowledge of the investigation. The league has already spoken with nearly 60 people, and SNY can now report some of what they have learned.

The overall picture painted by these sources is one that shows the Astros breaking rules, but not going so far as to install a camera specifically for sign stealing.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 14, 2019 at 08:06 PM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: astros

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Report: Investigation into Astros’ alleged cheating likely not completed until 2020

Major League Baseball is currently investigating the Houston Astros over 2017 cheating allegations, but it still has a long way to go.

According to The Athletic, MLB likely won’t finish its investigation into the Astros until the new year. That’s a pretty wide span of time — it could mean January 2020, it could mean April 2020, it could mean November 2020 — but it’s hard to imagine MLB starting the new season with this hanging over their head.

As for what’s taking them so long, commissioner Rob Manfred told the media on Wednesday that it’s the “most thorough investigation” the commissioner’s office has ever done, with 60 interviews already conducted and more to come. In addition to that, Manfred also said that they are looking through over 76,000 emails and instant messages related to the case.

An update, with aspects that aren’t surprising- perhaps the biggest news to me is at the end of this, in ways that may explain certain aspects of a certain major story during the World Series….

 

QLE Posted: December 12, 2019 at 12:39 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, dirty rotten cheaters, investigation

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Hero or snitch: Baseball has mixed feelings toward whistleblower Mike Fiers

Guardian or snitch, depends on the lighting.

Mike Fiers, the 34-year-old journeyman pitcher whose two career complete games are also no-hitters, one of those as a Houston Astro, nearly four weeks ago blew the whistle on a technology-driven, sign-stealing scheme allegedly run by those Astros. Major League Baseball has questioned dozens of potential perpetrators, accomplices and witnesses (including Fiers) in an investigation that threatens to expose the finest era in Astros history as, at best, suspicious.

Fiers pitched for the Astros for 2 1/2 seasons, the last in 2017, during which, he told The Athletic, the team devised and integrated a system that identified catchers’ signs and relayed them to hitters in the batter’s box. The Astros won the World Series. Fiers, whose ERA that season was 5.22 (and nearly 10 in the final two months), was not on the rosters for any of their three postseason series. He was non-tendered a month later. And, he told The Athletic, he spent the next two seasons warning teammates with the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s of the Astros’ deviousness.

This October, the Astros returned to the World Series. In November, Fiers went public. The league and the Astros might never be the same. Fiers, too.

An article of interest in considering the psychology concerning the reactions to whistleblowing- there are certain aspects to this that seem universal, as I’ve witnessed in my profession first-hand…..

 

QLE Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:16 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, dirty rotten cheaters, mike fiers, whistleblowers

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Mets acquiring center fielder Jake Marisnick from Astros

The Mets are acquiring Jake Marisnick from the Astros for prospects Blake Taylor and Kenedy Corona.

Marisnick, 28, is a right-handed hitter with a strong defensive acumen and appears to be the Mets’ choice to replace Juan Lagares, whose 2020 option the team decline earlier this offseason.

Taylor, 24, is a right-handed reliever who rose to Triple-A this season with a 2.16 ERA split between three levels. Corona, a 19-year-old outfielder, hit .311 for the Port St. Lucie Mets in the Single-A Gulf Coast League in his first season in the Mets system. Neither is considered a high-level prospect.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 05, 2019 at 11:42 AM | 43 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, jake marisnick, mets

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sources: MLB querying players on Astros sign-stealing allegations

An update on a scandal:

Major League Baseball officials investigating whether the Houston Astros cheated over the past three seasons by electronically stealing signs have asked players associated with the organization what they know about a range of alleged sign-stealing techniques, sources familiar with the conversations told ESPN on Friday.

Players have been asked about “buzzing,” via the use of Band-Aid-like wearable stickers; furtive earpieces; pitch-picking algorithms; and other potential methods of sign-stealing, the sources said. Accusations about the extent of the alleged wrongdoing have streamed into commissioner Rob Manfred’s office from officials of other teams, the sources said. MLB officials are endeavoring to separate fact from fiction, the sources told ESPN, and the league has not concluded whether any such methods actually have been used.

Players who might have violated league rules have been told by MLB officials they can expect leniency in exchange for answering questions truthfully. But members of the Astros’ front office and coaching staff could face significant punishment upon the investigation’s conclusion if they’re found to have cheated, the sources said. The league has requested to search the phones of certain members of the Astros’ front office, the sources said.

 

 

QLE Posted: November 25, 2019 at 01:46 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, sign-stealing

Monday, November 18, 2019

PASSAN: Astros exec suggested using cameras to spy in ‘17, sources say

A familiar name in these circles emerges…

A high-ranking Houston Astros official asked scouts to spy on opponents’ dugouts leading up to the 2017 postseason, hoping to steal signs and suggesting the potential use of cameras to do so, sources familiar with the request told ESPN.

The reaction among those who received an email from Kevin Goldstein, a special assistant to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, was mixed, sources told ESPN. Some were intrigued by the idea, sources who received the email said, while others were bothered by the thought of pointing cameras from the stands toward opposing teams’ dugouts, a plan that could have earned them scorn within the scouting community if caught. ...

Goldstein, who did not return a message seeking comment, wrote in the email: “One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can [or can’t] do and report back your findings.”

Stormy JE Posted: November 18, 2019 at 11:04 AM | 184 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, baseball prospectus, cheating, kevin goldstein, sign stealing

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Astros stole signs electronically in 2017 | The Athletic (paywall)

Early in the 2017 season, at least two uniformed Astros got together to start the process. One was a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources; another was a coach who wanted to help. They were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good.

They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.

“That’s not playing the game the right way,” said Fiers, who was with the team from 2015-17 and was non-tendered in the offseason after the Astros won the 2017 World Series. “They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.”

Three other sources who were inside the organization in 2017 and had direct knowledge of the scheme discussed its existence on the condition of anonymity.

The article goes into detail about how the Astros did it. More broadly, it discusses the problem of teams league-wide using high tech equipment to circumvent rules, steal signs, and get more in-game information.

Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: November 12, 2019 at 02:03 PM | 195 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, because of course they did, cheating

Friday, November 08, 2019

Ranking Gerrit Cole’s Top Five Landing Spots

There’s no question Gerrit Cole will be the most sought after free agent this winter. He should be the most handsomely paid, too.

Despite a sluggish free agency period last winter that forced many players to settle for below-market deals, the top tier of players still raked in monster deals (with humongous extensions for Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado to boot). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see things play out similarly this offseason, meaning Cole appears on track to surpass David Price’s $217 million deal en route to the most expensive pitcher contract ever.

Who are the favorites to break the bank for Cole and lock up the potential AL Cy Young Award winner? Let’s assess his suitors as free agency gets underway.

So, of these options, which do we see as most likely?

QLE Posted: November 08, 2019 at 12:25 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: angels, astros, cardinals, dodgers, free agency, padres, phillies, rangers, yankees

Nolan Ryan cuts ties with Astros amid front-office shake-up involving his son

The Houston Astros are starting the offseason by shaking up their front office, but it’s raising even more questions for a team that’s been peppered with them since the start of the World Series.

Astros owner Jim Crane announced Thursday that team president Reid Ryan has been re-assigned and Crane’s son Jared is taking on a leadership role. In the aftermath of that announcement, Hall of Famer and Astros legend Nolan Ryan — Reid’s father — said he won’t continue with the Astros in his role as an executive advisor to Crane and the Astros.

Up until the change, the first three names on the Astros’ org chart were Jim Crane, Reid Ryan and Nolan Ryan.

The big question is why — and whether the move has anything to do with the controversy involving former assistant general manager Brandon Taubman during the World Series and the Astros’ internal handling of it. Thus far, the Astros’ public statements haven’t connected this front-office change with what happened last month, but the timing is enough to pique curiosity.

Well, this isn’t something you see every day…..

 

QLE Posted: November 08, 2019 at 12:01 AM | 18 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, nolan ryan, reid ryan

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