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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell criticizes Astros’ recent tilt toward analytics but says he doesn’t want GM job

The Houston Astros remain in need of a general manager after surprisingly cutting ties with incumbent James Click earlier this offseason. So enter Jeff Bagwell?

The franchise legend and Hall of Fame first baseman has been a close advisor to club owner Jim Crane for some time, and the idea that he might be in for a larger and more formal front-office role gained credence when Bagwell reportedly helped negotiate José Abreu’s recent free-agent contract with Houston. On Tuesday, Bagwell leveled what seems to be thinly veiled criticism at Click and his data-driven approach:

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 29, 2022 at 12:35 PM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: analytics, astros, jeff bagwell

Monday, November 28, 2022

Astros near deal with veteran 1B José Abreu

The Astros are finalizing a deal that would bring veteran first baseman José Abreu to Houston, according to multiple reports. Bob Nightengale was first to report the news, which has not been confirmed by the Astros. When completed, the deal is expected to be for three years, according to Nightengale.

Abreu, who turns 36 on Jan. 29, played his first nine Major League seasons with the White Sox and consistently has been one of the top middle-of-the-order run producers in the game. His 2022 campaign featured a drop in power to 15 home runs and 75 RBIs, marking just the second time Abreu finished below 25 and 100 in these particular categories in a full-schedule season.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 28, 2022 at 02:27 PM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, jose abreu

Thursday, November 17, 2022

AFL performances impacting rankings: Pipeline Inbox

Given that he was a Top 100 Prospect before his health issues, does Orioles outfielder Heston Kjerstad’s solid 2022 season and great AFL performance get him back into the Top 100 conversation?—Chris W., Harrisburg, Pa.

I always caution about reading too much into Fall League performance because it’s a small sample and the hitters are significantly better than the pitchers. In Kjerstad’s case, I’ll make an exception. Because he came down with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, he didn’t make his pro debut until two years after the Orioles made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.

Kjerstad faced better arms than he ever had before in the AFL and won MVP honors while hitting .357/.385/.622 and leading the developmental circuit in hits (35), doubles (nine), extra-base hits (15) and total bases (61). He offers big left-handed power and while his K/BB ratio was 31/5 in 104 plate appearances, scouts believe that didn’t reflect any flaws with his swing or pitch recognition. He’s not afraid to fall behind in the count while zeroing in on specific pitches and zones early in at-bats, and he can make some refinements to that approach.

One evaluator I spoke to thought Kjerstad was the best prospect in the AFL, ahead of even Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker, who ranks No. 6 on the Top 100. He was one of the top five prospects in the league and that definitely will put him in the Top 100 conversation when we update the list again in January.


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Houston Astros’ inner turmoil through World Series run ($)

Did Bagwell make the case the Astros player development is too good, which is unfair to their competitors? I fear the dark times are coming back for Astros fans.

Disagreements over player evaluations furthered the chasm between the sides and further isolated Click. Baker was among those who convinced Crane to kill the trade that would have sent right-hander Jose Urquidy to the Cubs for Contreras. Bagwell, who “Jim might trust more than anyone,” according to one source familiar with their relationship and corroborated by another, was critical of the Astros’ player-development system, even as it was graduating eventual ALCS and World Series MVP Jeremy Peña. Jackson, who joined the Astros in May 2021 as an “executive assistant” despite never playing for the organization, yelled at members of the team’s front office this year and later would apologize, according to sources.

jimfurtado Posted: November 16, 2022 at 02:50 PM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: astros

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

ESPN Insider: Inside the champion Astros’ behind-the-scenes turmoil [$]

“Sometimes I wonder if Jim thinks he’s Jerry Jones,” said one Astros employee, who was among the dozen people with knowledge of the organization with whom ESPN spoke to better understand the inner workings of arguably the most successful franchise in baseball. Not since Larry MacPhail in 1947 has a championship franchise parted ways with its top baseball executive so soon after a title, but what became clear over those conversations was Crane’s willingness to meddle in baseball-operations decisions, much like the Dallas Cowboys owner who also serves as GM. It’s a path certainly in Crane’s purview as owner but rare among his peers in baseball—and it suggests that Click’s work always came with impediments.

Crane, sources said, felt coming into the 2022 season that the team needed more “baseball men” involved in operations decisions and invited Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Reggie Jackson into the team’s weekly senior baseball-operations meetings. Crane, sources said, killed an agreed-upon deal for Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras at the trade deadline. Crane, sources said, this week personally negotiated the three-year, $34.5 million contract that brought reliever Rafael Montero back to the team—a deal that was widely seen in the industry as a hefty price to give a 32-year-old with only one good full big league season….

Disagreements over player evaluations furthered the chasm between the sides and further isolated Click. Baker was among those who convinced Crane to kill the trade that would have sent right-hander Jose Urquidy to the Cubs for Contreras. Bagwell, who “Jim might trust more than anyone,” according to one source familiar with their relationship and corroborated by another, was critical of the Astros’ player-development system, even as it was graduating eventual ALCS and World Series MVP Jeremy Peña. Jackson, who joined the Astros in May 2021 as an “executive assistant” despite never playing for the organization, yelled at members of the team’s front office this year and later would apologize, according to sources.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 15, 2022 at 10:46 AM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: astros

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sources: Astros, Rafael Montero reach 3-year, $34.5M deal

Reliever Rafael Montero agreed to a three-year, $34.5 million contract that will bring the right-hander back to the Houston Astros’ dominant bullpen a week after the team rode its pitching staff to a World Series title, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN.

Montero, 32, thrived in his first full season with the Astros, posting a 2.37 ERA in 68⅓ innings and allowing just three home runs while striking out 73. The deal came together on a transformative Friday for the Astros, who saw general manager James Click reject a one-year contract from owner Jim Crane and leave the organization.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 13, 2022 at 11:05 PM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, rafael montero

Watch: ‘Mattress Mack’ Gives All-Time Flex With World Series Winnings - Sports Illustrated

There is gambling and there is GAMBLING!

jimfurtado Posted: November 13, 2022 at 10:20 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, gambling

Friday, November 11, 2022

Astros and general manager James Click are going their separate ways after winning World Series - CBSSports.com

“Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan”

Jim Crane thinks he’s a single parent.

jimfurtado Posted: November 11, 2022 at 01:08 PM | 43 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, james click

Rosenthal: Uncertainty surrounding Astros GM James Click marring World Series shine - The Athletic

Crane evidently doesn’t care. Maybe he shouldn’t care. But his handling of Click is another unfortunate episode for a franchise that has had too many under his ownership, a franchise that should be basking in the glow of its untainted World Series title. It would be difficult to blame Click if he told Crane to stick his offer you-know-where.

jimfurtado Posted: November 11, 2022 at 06:45 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, james click, pay site

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Dusty Baker likely to be back with Astros, James Click in limbo

Dusty Baker received a one-year offer to manage the Astros in 2023, and his return is said to be likely. Baker, 73, seems to be OK going one year at a time.

Astros GM James Click also is believed to have received a one-year extension offer on a contract that expired Oct. 31, which obviously isn’t much of a reward for a young GM after winning the World Series. Click told reporters in Las Vegas he’s “in discussions” about a new deal, though it isn’t known whether Astros owner Jim Crane is willing to alter the one-year offer, which is stunningly light following two straight World Series appearances. Click didn’t reveal any upset about a situation that is said to be upsetting, it’s unknown whether he will accept a one-year deal from Houston.

The Astros have called a press conference for Wednesday, and uncomfortably Click was unaware about this until told by reporters at the GM Meetings — though he handled the whole interview session with grace and even humor. The short extension offer for the GM hasn’t been explained, but sources suggest they believe Crane credits Baker more for the title, appreciates his old-school baseball calls and doesn’t want to emphasize analytics even more.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 09, 2022 at 01:47 PM | 15 comment(s)
  Beats: astros

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

If MLB’s postseason roulette is so unpredictable, how do Astros continue to beat the odds?

“It’s a really hard question to answer, but obviously our guys have continued to come through in those big spots, year in and year out,” Houston general manager James Click told the Post-Dispatch during a recent conversation. “So, while there is a level of unpredictability in the playoffs and I think we all understand that this is a game of inches — talent still plays in the playoffs. Nobody is suggesting that it’s all luck. It’s probably a little bit more of a question of luck and skill than the regular season, but three is still plenty of room for skill to play up.”

jimfurtado Posted: November 08, 2022 at 08:46 AM | 17 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, cardinals, playoffs

Monday, November 07, 2022

2022 World Series- How Dusty Baker’s Astros beat the Phillies

The Astros and Chicago Cubs were in agreement on a trade to send star catcher Willson Contreras to the Astros for starter Jose Urquidy, four sources familiar with the deal told ESPN. The straight-up trade was agreed upon, pending owner approval. That approval never came.

During the 2022 season, as the Astros churned toward a regular-season win total one shy of their franchise record, relationships outside the clubhouse soured, according to sources. Owner Jim Crane, who paid a record $5 million fine levied by commissioner Rob Manfred for the cheating scandal, took a more hands-on role in baseball operations. New voices, such as Astros Hall of Fame first baseman Jeff Bagwell, grew in prominence. And when Click tried to execute the trade for Contreras—a pending free agent who is not regarded as a good defensive catcher but would’ve ably filled the hole at designated hitter that plagued the Astros during the postseason—another prominent name let his opposition be known: Dusty Baker.

“Much as I like Willson Contreras, Urquidy was one of our best pitchers then,” Baker said. “I needed a guy that wasn’t going to complain about not playing every day. And this is his [free agent] year. See, that’s tough. When you trade for a player in his [free agent] year. Everybody’s about numbers and stuff, and I can’t blame them, no doubt. But that’s not what we needed.”

In the best organizations, the general manager’s and manager’s aspirations cohere. Both Click’s and Baker’s contracts are now expired, and the 2022 season illustrated how lame-duck status for both simultaneously can influence something as seminal as player acquisition. Dealing Urquidy, a 27-year-old right-hander with three years of team control until he reaches free agency, made sense to the Astros’ front office, particularly with the team’s starting pitching depth. Crane—who when asked for comment walked into the clubhouse that was closed off to reporters—disagreed and spiked the deal, only furthering widespread concerns among front-office members that despite maintaining the Astros’ success, Click’s return is no given. Click declined comment.

jimfurtado Posted: November 07, 2022 at 05:54 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, phillies

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Dynasty! Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Astros are an all-time team | ESPN

That part was novel, but much else looked familiar. For the third time in four seasons, the Major League Baseball season has ended in Houston. The Astros’ two titles have come in a six-season span, with the first the infamous championship of 2017. In each season between that title and this one, the Astros advanced to at least the ALCS, pushing their streak of appearances in that round to an amazing six.

Given these simple facts, one obvious question springs to mind: Are we watching baseball’s newest dynasty?

Hombre Brotani Posted: November 05, 2022 at 11:31 PM | 60 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, world series

Bomb threats and prank calls: ‘All hell broke loose’ for Philadelphia restaurants in World Series food fiasco

It’s not often that the citizens of Philly are the victims of pro sports-related abuse, rather than the perps.

Mike’s BBQ and Angelo’s Pizza, two popular South Philly businesses that often provide food to the city’s professional teams, even engaged in social media posts joking about not accommodating the opposing team.

Danny DiGiampietro, the owner of Angelo’s Pizzeria on 9th Street, told The Post that Houston fans have been prank-calling his eatery nonstop — with some hecklers even tracking down his license plate and his home address to share online.

On Tuesday, an individual claiming to be a cousin of an Angelo’s staffer tweeted that Astros fans “threatening to bomb his store.” They explained the pizzeria closed at 7 p.m. and did not want to make food during the game.

However, there is more to the story.

cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: November 05, 2022 at 08:20 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, fans, food, philadelphia, phillies

Thursday, November 03, 2022

NYT: These Guys Are Nasty’: Houston Thrives With Unexpected Stars [$]

Javier switched from outfielder to pitcher at 16, the age when many prospects from the Dominican Republic turn pro. He signed just before his 18th birthday for $10,000, the same bonus the Astros had given Framber Valdez, a Dominican left-hander, in 2015. The team gave a $100,000 bonus that year to José Urquidy, a right-hander from Mexico, and $20,000 in 2017 to Luis Garcia, a right-hander from Venezuela.

Add it all up and the Astros spent $140,000 to sign four pitchers from Latin America who combined to make 112 starts this season. None of the four were ever listed among the top 100 prospects by MLB.com.

“When I got here, I only knew what I’d read, that the system is a little empty,” said reliever Ryne Stanek, who signed with Houston before last season. “But then you see these guys come up and you’re like, ‘What do you mean, empty? These guys are nasty.’ Obviously the prospect rankings mean nothing when those guys weren’t prospects.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 03, 2022 at 10:59 AM | 15 comment(s)
  Beats: astros

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Javier, bullpen combine on no-hitter as Astros tie Series

Looking forward to hearing all the hot takes tomorrow about the Astros having momentum.

Earl Weaver had it right.

jimfurtado Posted: November 02, 2022 at 11:37 PM | 28 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, no hitters, phillies, world series

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Rob Thomson & Framber Valdez discuss Twitter “sticky stuff” rumors.

jimfurtado Posted: October 30, 2022 at 08:39 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, framber valdez, phillies, rob thomson, sticky stuff, world series

Astros win World Series Game 2 2022

“It was almost a mathematical must, actually,” said manager Dusty Baker, “because it’s tough when you lose the first two games at home.”

jimfurtado Posted: October 30, 2022 at 08:09 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, phillies, world series

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Can this World Series match the madness of the 1980 Phillies-Astros NLCS?

“That to me, it was probably one of the greatest playoffs ever,” then-Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa said recently on MLB Network….

Then came Game 4—one of the weirdest and wildest contests in postseason history.

There were five double plays turned—four started by an outfielder. There was a sacrifice fly that was then taken off the board when the Phillies appealed that the Astros’ Luis Pujols had left third base early. A fourth-inning triple play was even changed into a double play following a 20-minute argument among the umpires that led to both teams protesting the game.

Despite it all, when Philadelphia came up to hit in the eighth inning, the Astros held a 2-0 lead and were just six outs away from the World Series. The Phillies then scored three runs in the inning on four straight singles and, naturally, a sacrifice fly double play from Manny Trillo to take the lead, 3-2.

After Puhl hit an RBI single to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, fans were treated to more free baseball.

With two outs and Pete Rose on first in the top of the 10th, Luzinski doubled off the wall and Rose raced around third base, ignoring the stop sign, and collided with catcher Bruce Bochy at home to take the lead, 4-3.

“What I saw when I came around third was the catcher fighting with the throw,” Rose said at the time. “The throw wasn’t a good one. It would have been hard for anybody to handle it. So I went in any way I could.”

“He keeps saying that was the first time he ever missed that and ran through a sign,” Luzinski said on Wednesday, incredulous about Rose and his baseball instincts. “I said to him, ‘Well, it was a good time to do it!’ It was a game-winner.”

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 27, 2022 at 12:07 PM | 26 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, phillies

Bryce Harper an Astro? Deadline trade in 2018 almost happened

Four years ago, the Astros agreed in principle to acquire Harper from the Nationals a day before the July 31 deadline, former general manager Jeff Luhnow said this week. The five-player package headed to Washington included infielders Abraham Toro and Randy César along with pitchers Josh James, J.B. Bukauskas and Kent Emanuel, Luhnow said. ...

A need for offense became apparent, but as Luhnow remembered it, he and Rizzo opened dialogue on July 30 discussing bullpens. The two executives first discussed another player — Luhnow believes it was reliever Kelvin Herrera — before Luhnow mentioned Harper “sort of in jest.”

According to Luhnow, Rizzo responded that “for the right package,” Washington would move its franchise centerpiece. Luhnow pounced, sensing the sort of blockbuster he authored a year before to acquire Justin Verlander. Long thought of by some as a prospect hoarder, Luhnow was willing to give away five pieces of his farm system for two months of Harper’s services.

Among them, only Bukauskas ranked in Baseball America’s Top 30 Astros prospects. James was, however, amid a breakout minor league season that eventually found him tossing triple-digit fastballs in high-leverage innings out of Houston’s major league bullpen. Toro and César hadn’t played past Class AA. Emanuel had a 5.66 ERA in the upper minor leagues in 2017.

Agreeing to names does not finalize a trade. Deals of this magnitude require ownership approval. Both general managers understood that and, according to Luhnow, communicated it to one another after the packages were agreed upon. Houston owner Jim Crane “gave me the green light right away,” Luhnow said.

“A.J. (Hinch) was salivating at the idea of writing Harper into our lineup,” Luhnow said.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 27, 2022 at 11:27 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, bryce harper

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Astros and the Phillies in a Big Series? We’ve Seen This Before.

The 1980 N.L.C.S. between Houston and Philadelphia has endured as one of the greatest postseason series in history. This year’s World Series has big shoes to fill.

ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 26, 2022 at 01:20 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, history, phillies

Monday, October 24, 2022

Astros win ALCS 2022

Congratulations to Astros fans! Yankees fans, well, this is going to be another torturous off-season.

jimfurtado Posted: October 24, 2022 at 06:26 AM | 99 comment(s)
  Beats: alcs, astros, world series, yankees

Friday, October 21, 2022

A frustrated Aaron Boone blamed the open roof for crucial Aaron Judge fly-out in Houston

It was a tough night for the New York Yankees and their World Series hopes. After a 3-2 road loss at the hands of the Houston Astros, the Yankees are now in a deep 2-0 hole in the American League Championship Series.

And it all almost changed on one key Aaron Judge at-bat in the eighth inning. With one man on base and New York trying to rally from that very same one-run deficit, Judge launched a nice shot to right field. It certainly looked like it had the distance … until it fell safely into the glove of Kyle Tucker. Threat over, and the Astros would leave the inning unscathed.

In the post-game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone asserted that Judge’s fly-out might have been a two-run homer if not for the open roof at the Astros’ home stadium.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 21, 2022 at 01:28 AM | 59 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, yankees

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Athletic: Inside MLB’s Astros cheating investigation: GM Jeff Luhnow deleted phone data [$]

Sub required.

While the exact message Luhnow told Firkus to deliver, and the message delivered, remain unknown, in the end, MLB believes it found only one person who had deleted material off their phone after the time when the league had instructed Astros to preserve their phones, a person with knowledge of the investigation said: Luhnow himself.

In a letter dated Jan. 2, 2020, Manfred outlined evidence the league had compiled against Luhnow. Many, but not all of the specific allegations included in the letter, were first published in the Wall Street Journal. Luhnow’s phone deletion was not among those previously published.

“Your credibility is further impacted by the fact that you permanently deleted information from your phone and its backups in anticipation that my investigators would seek to search your phone,” Manfred wrote to Luhnow. “You did not tell my investigators that you had done this until they confronted you about it in your second interview. While you explained that you were simply deleting sensitive personal photographs, I have no way to confirm that you did not delete incriminating evidence.”

According to people with knowledge of the league’s investigation, the GM of the Astros had wiped every back-up from his phone, besides one, and other data was missing as well.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 24, 2022 at 09:23 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, jeff luhnow, sign-stealing

Verlander 6 no-hit innings, 16th W; Astros top Correa, Twins | ESPN

HOUSTON—— Justin Verlander was totally fine leaving with a no-hitter intact after six innings against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.

“I like to go deep in games in the regular season, but I’d rather do it in the postseason or at least be fresh and strong for that,” the Houston ace said.

Verlander posted his major league-leading 16th win and the Astros beat the Minnesota Tuesday night in Carlos Correa’s return to Houston.

Verlander (16-3) allowed just one runner to reach base — Nick Gordon struck out in the second inning on a wild pitch to get aboard. Verlander fanned 10 and lowered his MLB-best ERA to 1.87 in his spectacular return after missing almost two seasons after Tommy John surgery.

Hombre Brotani Posted: August 24, 2022 at 03:31 AM | 20 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, justin verlander, twins

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