Tag:Astros
Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:37 pm
 

Report: Astros broadcaster to retire after 2012

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Astros radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton will announce his intent to retire following the 2012 season, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports.

The team will have a press conference for Hamilton, 84, on Wednesday.

Hamilton has announced Major League games for 59 years and won the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award in 1992.

Hamilton's started broadcasting big-league baseball in 1953 with the St. Louis Browns. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, he stayed in St. Louis, where he worked with Harry Caray and Jack Buck in 1954. After just one season with the Cardinals, he caught on with the Cubs, working with Jack Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd. He served three years with the Cubs and after four-years out of baseball, moved to the White Sox in 1961.

Hamilton was the first voice of the Braves, getting the job when the team moved from Milwaukee in 1966. He worked in Atlanta until after the 1975 season, calling Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th career homer.



From Atlanta, Hamilton had stints with the Pirates and Cubs before joining the Astros in 1985.

Since 2006, he's mostly called only home games for the Astros. He will, however, make the trip to Miami in April to broadcast in the new Marlins ballpark, marking his 60th different ballpark in which he's called a game.

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Posted on: February 13, 2012 6:23 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 6:41 pm
 

AL West will be the new AL East



By Matt Snyder


The AL East has been pretty widely regarded as the best division in baseball for a while. And with good reason, as the numbers don't lie. In the past 15 years, the AL wild card has come from the AL East 11 times. The best record has also come from the AL East 11 times. The American League World Series representative has come from the AL East nine times, while the World Series champion was an AL East team six times. Also note the '96 Yankees won it all, 16 seasons ago. Simply, it's a dominant division.

But with the events of this offseason, we're liable to see a shift in power to the west coast. Monday's Yoenis Cespedes signing for the A's wasn't a seismic shift type deal, but it shows they're focusing on winning within the next four years. Also note that the extensions of general manager Billy Beane and club president Michael Crowley are a true sign the A's will eventually get their new stadium in San Jose. When that happens, they'll start to have some extra revenue. So things should be looking up for the A's in the next few years, right? Well, not so fast.

AL West offseason
In fact, the A's might be looking like the AL West's version of the Baltimore Orioles. Since 2000, the Orioles haven't finished better than third -- which happened only once -- and have come in last the past four seasons. They've also had a payroll of at least $72 million seven of the past 11 seasons. They aren't poor by any means. They just can't keep up in the monster of a division that is the AL East.

Let's see what's in store for the A's in the next decade or so, in terms of their divisional competition.

• The Angels have an owner who just shelled out over $300 million to land Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in free agency. It probably didn't seem like much of a big deal to Arte Moreno, considering he's looking at a local TV contract of 20 years for $3 billion. Plus, the Angels play in the mega-market that is Los Angeles. They aren't going away.

• The Rangers paid over $50 million just for the right to negotiate with Japanese phenom Yu Darvish and then paid him over $50 million more to sign. The have a front office and ownership group that can compete with anyone in terms of brains and most teams in terms of dollars. The Dallas area is a large market and the fan base is continuing to grow after two straight World Series appearances. They aren't going away, either.

• The Astros are moving to the American League West, and while it's gonna be a few years before they can compete, remember they have a new owner, Jim Crane, who likely didn't pay $680 million to own a doormat of a baseball team. Plus, Houston is one of the largest markets in America -- and the Astros had a nine-figure payroll in 2009. Don't discount how they'll play in this division come 2015 or 2016. They can spend, and will have to in order to keep up.

• The Mariners are in the 12th biggest market in MLB, which isn't bad at all. But they'd be at risk of falling far behind if not for a lucrative TV deal in their near future. Last week, a USA Today report noted the Mariners are among a handful of teams ready to cash in with a mega-TV deal like the Angels just did. Prior to the 2015 season, the Mariners can opt out of their current local TV deal with Root Sports and hit the open market. The Seattle Times also pointed out that the Mariners have trimmed their bottom line to the point that the only long-term investment is the reliable ace Felix Hernandez. So they could be positioning for a major strike within the next few years, after landing the aforementioned lucrative TV deal.

The process is going to be gradual, especially and obviously with the Mariners, Astros and A's.

Just don't be surprised if a decade from now the AL West is viewed as the best division in baseball. The resources are all falling into place for a westward move in the balance of league power.

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Posted on: February 9, 2012 4:51 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 10:47 am
 

Spring position battles: National League Central



By C. Trent Rosecrans


The National League Central is often looked down upon, but it produced both teams in the National League Championship Series last year, as well as the World Series. Both the Cardinals and Brewers have large voids in their lineup due to free agency, but all the teams have some questions when pitchers and catchers report to camp. Here's the NL Central spring position battles:

Chicago Cubs
Old vs. Young: Bryan LaHair and Marlon Byrd vs. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson

For so long the Cubs' motto has been "wait 'til next year" -- that may have been changed to "wait 'til a couple of years" as Theo Epstein has fully embraced the rebuilding effort. The question is whether the braintrust thinks it's better for some of their younger players to learn at the big-league level or continue in the minors. The two biggest choices will be Rizzo and Jackson. Rizzo, 22, struggled in his call-up last season, hitting .141/.281/.242 with a homer in 153 plate appearances, but that was as a 21-year-old in San Diego. LaHair may only have 65 games in the big leagues, but that doesn't make him young -- just inexperienced. LaHair turned 29 in November and spent eight years in the minors. He hit .288/.377/.508 in his 20 games with the Cubs last season, but he's hardly anyone's idea of a long-term solution. Epstein drafted Rizzo while with the Red Sox and then traded for him when he took over the Cubs. It's Rizzo's job to lose. Meanwhile, Byrd is in the last season of his three-year, $15 million contract, so he's more likely to get traded than to be unseated in spring. The 23-year-old Jackson put up a .297/.388/.551 line at Triple-A Iowa with 10 homers in just 48 games after being called up from Double-A. The team's first-round pick in the 2009 draft will have a chance to show he's big-league ready. If the team does go with Rizzo and Jackson, it could be a sign of the team's future and the patience that Chicago will show going forward.

Cincinnati Reds
Left field: Chris Heisey vs. Ryan Ludwick

The Reds signed Ludwick to a bargain deal, hoping he can find the stroke he left in St. Louis. The 33-year-old has always hit well at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, putting up a .276/.321/.600 stat line with nine homers in 30 games and 112 plate appearances in his new home park. Both Ludwick and Heisey are right-handed batters who fare better against right-handed pitchers. Ludwick is a career .272/.339/.464 hitter against righties and .237/.316/.435 against lefties. Heisey's split is more extreme -- .288/.346/.539 against right-handers and .180/.248/.300 against lefties. One thing that helps Ludwick's case may be Heisey's strength as a pinch-hitter. Last year the 27-year-old Heisey hit .324/.333/.529 with two homers as a pinch-hitter. There's another option here, as well. If Drew Stubbs struggles at the plate, Hesiey could be an option to play center alongside Ludwick in left. That's a remote possibility, though. The Reds are high on Stubbs' power/speed combination and he is an excellent defender in center.

Houston Astros
Third base: Brett Wallace vs. Chris Johnson vs. Jimmy Paredes

The fact that the Astros are looking to move Wallace to third base may tell you what they think of Johnson and Paredes. If Wallace shows he can play third, he's the likely favorite. Johnson struggled in 2011 after showing promise in 2010. Paredes hit .286/.320/.393 after taking over the position for the last two months of the season, but he's not seen as a long-term solution. Wallace could be.

Milwaukee Brewers
First base: Mat Gamel vs. himself

With Ryan Braun's status resolved, the Brewers don't really have many question marks. All five starters return, as do its closer and top set-up man. The lineup, with a platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan and newcomer Aramis Ramirez at third base seems pretty much set -- barring injury. The only hole is a big one -- the one left by first baseman Prince Fielder. The position is Mat Gamel's to lose. The 26-year-old played in just 10 games last season, getting 27 plate appearances. His only extensive big-league experience came in 2009 when he hit .242/.338/.422 with five homers, primarily playing third base. However, he's never been able to establish himself and after playing both third base and the outfield, he played primarily first base at Triple-A Nashville last season, while making six errors in 20 games at third base. He's a first baseman now and a first baseman only. He's hit  well at Triple-A, hitting .301/.374/.512 in parts of four seasons at the top level of the minors, hitting 28 home runs for Nashville last season. Gamel will probably start at first on opening day even if he struggles in spring, but right fielder Corey Hart could be used at first if Gamel struggles even more. The team did sign Japanese outfield Norichika Aoki, who could play right if Hart moves to first.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Third base: Pedro Alvarez vs. Casey McGehee

Acquiring the veteran McGehee from Milwaukee could be seen as a kick in the pants for the second-overall pick of the 2008 draft. Alvarez hit just .191/.272/.289 in 74 games last season and the team may be getting worried about whether he'll ever develop into the star as expected. McGehee is coming off a rough season of his own, hitting just .223/.280/.346 with 13 homers after hitting 23 homers and 104 RBI in 2010. McGehee was replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base during the playoffs and by former Pirate Aramis Ramirez after the season.

St. Louis Cardinals
Second base: Skip Schumaker vs. Daniel Descalso vs. Tyler Greene

General manager John Mozeliak has insinuated he'd like to see Greene win the job. The 28-year-old has yet to produce at the level expected of him, hitting just .218/.307/.313 in 150 games and 359 plate appearances. Descalso filled in for the injured David Freese last season and responded with a .264/.334/.353 line, while Schumaker is the incumbent having hit .283/.333/.351 while starting 89 games at second, but none in the World Series. All three have some positional versatility.

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:47 pm
 

Astros will experiment with Wallace at third

Brett Wallace

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Moving to third base is the new black.

Kevin Youkilis did it last year, the Tigers say they'll do it with Miguel Cabrera, the Marlins hope Hanley Ramirez will do it -- and now the Astros want Brett Wallace to move across the infield as well, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.

Wallace, drafted as a third baseman by the Cardinals in 2008, hasn't played anywhere but first base since coming up with the Astros in 2010. But the Astros have Carlos Lee's $18.5 million contract at first base for one more year before they could actually use him as a designated hitter in their move to the American League. By that time, though, the Wallace experiment at third base will likely have failed and Wallace can play first (or DH) and Lee will be somewhere else making much less money.

Wallace, 25, has hardly lived up to expectations since the Astros traded fellow prospect Anthony Gose to Toronto for the left-handed hitter. Wallace was traded twice in a year and five days, first by the Cardinals to Oakland for Matt Holliday and then to Toronto for Michael Taylor. Since being called up in 2010, Wallace has managed to hit just .248/.323/.354 with seven home runs in 537 plate appearances. Last season he hit .259/.334/.369 with five homers in 115 games.

Wallace hasn't played third base since 2009, when he played 52 games at the position for the Cardinals' Triple-A team in Memphis. Toronto and Houston never used him at third.

Levine writes that Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow, who drafted Wallace for the Cardinals in 2008, said Wallace has been taking ground balls at third base this offseason and will continue to play there in the spring.

The Astros hardly have Mike Schmidt or George Brett in waiting at the hot corner, as the other candidates for third base are Jimmy Paredes and Chris Johnson.

Johnson, 27, started 98 games at third base for the Astros last season, hitting .251/.291/.378 with seven home runs in 107 games and 405 plate appearances. Paredes, 23, played 46 games for Houston last season, hitting .286/.320/.393 with two homers in 179 plate appearances. Paredes hit.270/.300/.426 with 10 home runs in 93 games at Double-A Corpus Christi before being called up to Houston.

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Posted on: January 31, 2012 5:53 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 6:03 pm
 

Livan Hernandez signs with Astros

By Matt Snyder

Free agent pitcher Livan Hernandez has signed with the Astros, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has confirmed. The news was first reported by Fox Sports.

FREE AGENT TRACKER

The Astros seemed to have their starting five set in Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ and Jordan Lyles, but perhaps they'll make a trade or get the 21-year-old Lyles some more seasoning in Triple-A. I say this because signing Hernandez for anything other than the purpose of being a back-end-of-the-rotation innings eater wouldn't make much sense. The one thing he still does well is log innings.

Hernandez, 36, was 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 175 1/3 innings last season for the Nationals. He would have surely hit 200 innings had the Nats not pulled him from the rotation in early September to make room for Stephen Strasburg.

In 2010, Hernandez was 10-12 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 211 2/3 innings. He's logged 3,121 2/3 regular-season innings in his 16-season big-league career.

In addition to the Hernandez and the other five pitchers mentioned above, the Astros also have Henry Sosa, Kyle Weiland, Zach Duke and highly-touted prospect Jarred Cosart in the mix.

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Posted on: January 30, 2012 8:33 pm
 

Owner: Astros not changing name

By Matt Snyder

Last week, word circulated that new Astros owner Jim Crane and his front office were kicking around the idea of changing the team name from Astros to something else. Evidently, the fans have spoken, because it's not happening.

Via MLB.com blog network:
“You asked for change and we added several fan friendly initiatives last week and we hope you like them,” Crane said. “We will continue to listen, and to look for additional ways to improve on and off the field.

“One thing that we are not going to change is the name. We received strong feedback and consensus among season ticket holders and many fans, and we will not change the name Astros. The Houston Astros are here to stay.”
One area where Crane wasn't left a choice -- despite significant outcry from fans -- is the move to the AL West. That's still happening before the start of the 2013 season. Crane had to sign off on the move in order to become the new owner, but that still hasn't sat well with fans, as Crane obviously has an uphill battle when it comes to winning them over.

Perhaps keeping the same name will get a few fans on his side.

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Posted on: January 25, 2012 8:04 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 10:40 pm
 

Keppinger close to signing with Rays

By Matt Snyder

The Rays are close to an agreement with free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has confirmed. The news was first reported Wednesday night by the Tampa Bay Times, which reported that we should expect the signing by the end of the week.

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Keppinger, 31, split last season between the Astros and the Giants. He only appeared defensively at second base, which was a departure from his utility infielder role in the previous five seasons. He hit .277/.300/.377 with 20 doubles. He is a career .281 hitter with a .332 OBP.

Keppinger won't be counted on as an everyday starter with the Rays. They already have Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez to play up the middle. Reid Brignac can backup shortstop, so Keppinger looks likely to be the backup at second base. That also means he's an available fill-in if Ben Zobrist plays in the outfield, where he started 33 games in 2011. But, again, this won't be happening regularly as the Rays have Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce in the outfield.

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Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:02 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 3:39 pm
 

Astros claim Fernando Martinez off waivers

By Matt Snyder

Former highly-touted prospect Fernando Martinez was released by the Mets earlier this week and he's now been claimed by the Houston Astros, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has confirmed. Since the Astros had the worst record in the majors last season, they were first in the order of waiver claim priority. Heyman reports that the Astros were not the only team that placed a claim, so several other teams still hold Martinez in high regard.

Martinez was a top 30 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America, for three consecutive seasons (2007-09) before falling to No. 77 in 2010 and then out of the rankings prior to last season. The 23-year-old outfielder has hit .183/.250/.290 with two homers and two steals in 145 plate appearances for the Mets in the last three seasons. In Triple-A, Martinez has hit .265/.326/.465 with 28 homers, 91 RBI and 43 doubles in 179 games.

FREE AGENT TRACKER

The Astros currently appear to have Carlos Lee, Jordan Schafer and J.D. Martinez forming their starting outfield with Brian Bogusevic serving as the fourth outfielder. It's entirely possible Martinez finds his way into that mix at some point, maybe even right out of the gates in 2012. Still, there is no hurry, as Martinez has an option remaining on his contract and could be sent to the minors to begin the season.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com