The Astros report--pitchers and catchers at least--to Kissimmee in eighteen days. This, along with some uninstigated optimism has my heart pounding for baseball season. My beloved Syracuse Orange[men] are up to #3 in the AP, they have only one loss, I have tickets to the 'Nova game and yet I cannot hold back my anticipation for spring training. That's right, not the actual baseball season, but SPRING TRAINING. Any of you baseball nuts, like me, will understand where I'm coming from. At the start of every season their is every reason to believe your team has a shot--I apologize for fans of: the Nationals, the Pirates, the Royals and the Blue Jays, for whom this is not true. I fully believe, despite a myriad of doubt coming from fans, experts and most everyone--other than the usually off-his-rocker Richard Justice (of the Houston Chronicle)--that the Astros will buck the consenus and prove to be a better than expected team. Essentially, my fellow Astros fans, there is reason to watch and follow along for the next seven+ months. It also occurs to me that I am still, undeservably so, in possession of the "writer's badge" for Astros coverage. So, I might as well begin chronicling the Astros' 2010 season, beginning on February 1st--one day before the LOST premiere.
I will begin with my "Pre Spring Training Notebook." This will be a quick sum up of the offseason and the names we can expect to see come actual Spring Training--which is again, EIGHTEEN days away. This will be done in four parts: The Subtractions, The Additions, The Prospects, The Holdovers. Today I bring you...
Miguel Tejada SS - Perhaps the biggest loss for the Astros--certainly at the plate and in the clubhouse, at least--Tejada was not even offered a contract. We could debate whether Ed Wade should have made an attempt to sign Tejada back at a discounted price, but I think any conversation would be pointless. The fact remains, he was not resigned--an added bonus, he did not sign with Cardinals. The question I pose to you, the one I think matters, is: How much offense did we lose when we failed to even attempt to resign him. I would argue not much. In two seasons with the 'Stros Tejada averaged a .326 OBP and .435 SLG%. In comparison: Marlon Byrd OF (formerly of the Rangers) recorded a .329 OBP and .479 SLG% last year, Mark Teahen 3B (formerly of the Royals) recorded a .325 OBP and .408 SLG%, Cody Ross OF (Marlins) hit a .321 OBP and .469 SLG% and Melky Cabrera OF (formerly of the Yankees) hit for a .336 OBP and .416 SLG%. My point? Tejada put up solid numbers, NOT EXCEPTIONAL ONES. Not the kind of numbers you expect from one of your team's top offensive contributers. His numbers were merely good enough for average role players. Every team, of course, needs these players. However, they should be replaceable. Add to this fact his poor defensive ability--especially since he's being replaced by a good defensive reputation, Tommy Manzella--and we [the Astros illustrious fan base] don't have too much to worry about. How's that for optimism?
Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins RP - I've decided to pair these two for two reasons 1. To save myself some time (I always get excited to start writing, then twenty minutes later, yawn...) 2. These two served the same role in 2009, co-closer. Both Valverde and Hawkins are big loses. My ideal plan heading into the offseason would have been to offer both arbitration. Allow Valverde to sign elsewhere and collect the draft picks and either keep Hawkins via arb. or collect a draft pick for him as well. Half of that came to fruition. However, seeing Hawkins sign with the Brewers hurt--not only because they are a division rival too. If the Astros are going to spend 15 million on Brandon Lyon, why couldn't they have spent half that on resigning Hawkins, who proved that he could be a more than effective closer in 2009. In my opinion, letting Hawkins walk was the biggest mistake of the offseason, however, he is old and his track record isn't great, so I could be wrong here. Ultimately thhough, the production of this pair will be very difficult to make up this season--eighth and ninth innings=DANGER!
Darin Erstad 1B/OF - I know, I know, we shouldn't even have to mention him. However, is there a better guy in sports? It's sad to see the former Nebraska punter go. He was a good bench player in 2008--even if regulated to morale booster last season--and that production off the bench will have to come from somewhere. I do not like Houston's bench as it stands. His departure will open the door for Cory Sullivan or one of the prospects to become Houston's fifth outfielder.
Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz - Can you say addition by subtraction?
At first glance you may say that Houston lost too much between the trio of Tejada, Valverde and Hawkins. I will admit, all of those loses hurt, although some more than others. However, with their departures, the composition of this team will change. The team is getting younger, the team is getting better on defense. It will ultimately be tough to say which team ('09 or '10) seems better. However, I would make a case for the 2010 team's new look. Especially when you take into consideration all of the addition by subtraction--and I'm not talking about Hampton and Moehler...
Cecil Cooper - COME ON, it wouldn't be an Astros offseason post if I didn't mention the cancer that was Cecil Cooper (I am sure "Coop" is a lovely man if I ever had the pleasure to meet him). The players hated him and he was a terrible tactitian. His departure can only mean good things for the Astros in 2010, right?
Discuss these former 'Stros or anything else in the comments section.
Due Up: Additions