October 2010

Astros release statement regarding agreement with Comcast

The following is a statement from the Astros regarding their agreement with Comcast:

 

“The Astros and Rockets look forward to continuing our partnership in our regional sports network, and we are excited to have Comcast join the group.  Comcast’s expertise in the management and delivery of sports coverage in networks across the country will bring many positives to the brands and presentations of our teams.  Comcast SportsNet Houston will be an exciting way to view our local sports teams starting with the Rockets preseason games in 2012.”

Some thoughts on hitting coaches as we wait for the Astros to hire one.

Now that the Astros have had a hitting coach — albeit a temporary one — who was once one of the best hitters in the game and is considered by many to be Hall of Fame worthy, it’s easy to assume that the next one needs to bring the same type of resume of greatness as a player.

That is simply not the case.

Jeff Bagwell’s .297 average and 449 home runs had absolutely nothing to do with his ability to be a good coach. He succeeded in the role for the exact reasons we thought he would — he’s smart, he understands both the mental and mechanical side of hitting, and he relates well with today’s players, possibly better than anyone who’s ever coached in the Astros’ organization.

Bagwell came here and immediately worked on getting the hitters to relax, to have good at-bats, to clear their heads and stop analyzing every motion of every at-bat during hours spent in the video room. Many of the hitters did enjoy quite a turnaround after he took over as coach, which is a credit, on some levels, to Bagwell. On other levels — and Bags will be the first one to acknowledge this — the hitting came around because inevitably, the good hitters who spent much of the season being bad hitters eventually became good hitters again. That’s what happens over a six-month season. Things even out. (It’s that whole “law of averages” thing we talk about so much in this game.)

So as disappointing as it was to hear that Bagwell isn’t coming back, it’s important not to get caught up in thinking the Astros have to find another Hall of Fame worthy player to take over. The Astros are in the process of searching for a new hitting coach, and I would expect the list to consist of a blend of candidates, from those with impressive resumes as players to those who have experience in the coaching ranks. I’d also expect their statistics as players to have no bearing on their chances to land the hitting coach job, because, quite frankly, how they hit as players just doesn’t matter.

Take for example, hypothetically, Brad Ausmus (who, for the record, is most definitely NOT a candidate for the Astros’ hitting coach job). Over an 18-year Major League career, he proved to be a really, really…mediocre hitter. Not terrible and not terrific. Over 1,971 games, he posted a .251 average (average being the operative word).

Does this mean he had less of an understanding of hitting than Bagwell? Of course not. Ausmus knew what he needed to do at the plate. He just didn’t have the same physical gifts as some of his contemporaries to parlay the knowledge into results we saw from the Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman. I would feel entirely comfortable with him as a hitting coach (although, as a former catcher, I think he’d make a better pitching coach).

There are instances, in fact, where the really great players don’t make very good coaches because often, things just came naturally to them and they can’t relate, or understand, players who cannot simply roll out of bed and hit .300.

Often, it’s the guy who spent 10 years in the Minor Leagues and had the proverbial “cup of coffee” in the big leagues who makes a great coach, because he was never able to let his guard down, even for a minute, as he fought for playing time.

A hitting coach needs to be able to detect flaws and, more importantly, understand what each hitter, as an individual, has to do to get the absolute most out of his ability. I do like that Bagwell steered away from the video room and didn’t try to overload his guys with too much information. So much of being a good hitter is being able to deal with failure. I have seen many players over-think themselves right out of the game, leaving their raw ability largely untapped because they were too busy worrying.

Hopefully, the next coach will bring with him a to-do list consisting of one item: “Keep it simple, stupid.”

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With the help of our #astrostweeps, we threw together a last-minute party Thursday night at Lucky’s Pub to watch Game 2 of the World Series. The group was united in rooting for the Rangers, even through the late-game bullpen meltdown. Disappointing result to the game, but losing is a lot easier to take when surrounded by lively conversation, piping hot pizza and cold beverages. Thanks to @xtinedp, @itsallaboutde @lnzy04 @EdBashinski and Jesse Gonzalez for the good times…

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And in closing, it’s time to dip back into the photo vault, where we found some fun shots of our Astros of yesteryear going airborne.

Adam Everett

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Bagwell

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Biggio

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On Carl Crawford, the 2011 infield, and our own Emmy winning TV star.

It’s never too early for a little Hot Stove chatter…

Let’s get this one out of the way now: Carl Crawford is from Houston, he’s only 29, and he can do a lot of things really well — hit for average, hit for power, play tremendous defense…plus, he’s fast (as kids, he and childhood buddy Michael Bourn were pretty much considered the fastest runners in Houston and used to go toe-to-toe, literally, for bragging rights.) In a nutshell, Crawford is that five-tool player worthy of a nice, fat contract and appears to be the most attractive free agent about to hit the market this winter.

A lot of you have asked what the odds are that the Astros will be the team to sign him to that nice, fat contract. I put the odds at slim to none.

The numbers I’m hearing bandied about from industry insiders is six years at $120 million or seven at $140 million. Yes, there will be a team out there goofy enough to shell out that kind of cash. I cannot envision it’ll be the Astros.

The payroll is not yet set, but it’s going to be somewhat lower than the $93 million it was when the season started, and higher than the $50-some million it was when the season ended. The Astros will be able to retain all of the arbitration-eligible players they want to bring back, and they’ll have some wiggle room to fill in gaps (fifth starter, utility infielder, bullpen, etc.). But to sign Crawford means allotting what could be as much as one-quarter of the entire payroll to one player. That’s a bad blueprint, regardless of how great of a player Crawford is.

Plus, you know how I feel about signing Type A free agents, which will cost the team its first-round draft pick. Losing first-rounders is part of what contributed to the dip in Minor League talent over the last decade, and while the farm system is slowly replenishing itself, the Astros are not yet to the point where they should be sacrificing those precious picks.

(Update 10/20: I had that wrong…totally forgot about the rule that protects teams that finish in bottom half of standings from losing their first-rounder. Sorry about that…that being said, it won’t have any bearing on the Astros not being in on the bidding for Crawford.)

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To-do list

So what are the priorities this offseason? The Astros will be looking for fifth starter candidates (Felipe Paulino and Jordan Lyles are two internal options), a utility infielder and possibly a left-handed hitting outfielder who could platoon with Jason Michaels in left field.

Left field might be open, should Carlos Lee move to first base. That could change if Brett Wallace wins the first base job outright during Spring Training, sending Carlos back to left. These are scenarios that will sort themselves out next spring, but look for the Astros to search for some backup outfield help (Brian Bogusevic is an internal candidate to fill that role).

The Astros will also look at second base and shortstop and decide if they want to stick with Jeff Keppinger and Tommy Manzella, respectively. Keppinger had a terrific year, producing the most consistent numbers of any position player on the roster. He’s also under club control for two more seasons, which makes him an attractive piece to keep around. Manzella, and Angel Sanchez, are less of a sure thing.

Manzella needs to hit a little more to really establish himself at this level, and Sanchez, as good as he was offensively, may not be the answer from a defensive standpoint. His range was decent, but his arm strength is somewhat of an issue.

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Applause, applause

Big congratulations to FS Houston’s Patti Smith, Max Mejia and Marshall Hooker, each of whom took home a Lone Star Emmy under the category of “Sports — One-time Special” for their “Spotlight” show about Miguel Tejada in 2009.

Our own Jim Deshaies also won an Emmy in the “On Camera Talent” for, well, be an outstanding on-air analyst.

The eighth annual Lone Star Emmys took place Sunday night in Dallas. Kudos to all of the winners…

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Terribly tragic news from out Latin American operation: Astros Venezuelan Scout Luimac Quero passed away in the early morning hours on Sunday from a heart attack at the age of 26. He is survived by his wife Klineidy Leon, who is three months pregnant, and his one year old daughter, Megan Quero. Deep condolences to his family.

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From the photo vault…

Here we have an image of one of the first photo shoots for the Astros pet calendar, probably taken about four years ago. My only question is, what were they feeding that cat?!?! (The kitty cat, not the Puma.)

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Mish mosh Part II: Stats, scoreboard, Spring Training, photo vault and parties galore

A few interesting year-end notes as we look toward the Hot Stove season:

* At the start of the season, the average age of the Astros starting eight was 31. After the July 31 trade deadline, that average age was 27.

* Rookie Wilton Lopez stranded 32 of 33 inherited runners this season, which was the top percentage in the Majors (97%). Lopez also had a club-best 20-inning scoreless streak, which was third-longest among National League relievers.

* Despite missing the final 13 games due to injury, Michael Bourn became the first player in franchise history to lead the league in steals in back-to-back seasons with 52. Bourn led the NL with 61 steals in 2009.

And one housekeeping note: The Astros outrighted three players to Triple-A Oklahoma City: catcher Brian Esposito and infielders Anderson Hernandez and Wladimir Sutil. The move removes all three players from Houston’s 40-man roster, which now stands at 37.

Esposito and Hernandez can elect to become free agents, while Sutil will be placed on Oklahoma City’s roster.

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Mark your calendars

Who says it’s too early to talk about Spring Training? (Well, me, come to think of it, but that’s neither here nor there.) Ed Wade and Brad Mills have already hammered out the dates that your Astros will begin shaking off the offseason dust and getting back in the swing of things, so to speak.

“Report dates” have become a thing of the past, replaced simply by the first day players need to be on the field and ready to work out. For pitchers and catchers, that day is Feb. 16. Position players will arrive four days later, with the first full-squad workout slated for Feb. 20.

The first Grapefruit League game will be on Feb. 28, when the Astros travel the very short distance to Disney to play the Braves.

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One more note about that new video board…

The recent announcement that the Astros are installing a brand new high def scoreboard and moving the press box up one level to make room for a new club area was, for the most part, well-received by those I heard from. I do want to reiterate the explanation of where the funds are coming from, to assure the few of you who expressed some concern that spending money on the scoreboard would take away from the product on the field.

The money to pay for the renovations will be taken from an Asset Renewal and Replacement Fund, which the Astros, as part of their lease with the Sports Authority, have contributed to since the ballpark opened 10 years ago. As tenants, all repair and maintenance issues are the Astros responsibility, and they’ve put $2.5 million each year into the fund. Think of it as a savings account of sorts, solely there to fund large renovation projects and repairs that are inevitable over the course of time when you’re running a venue of this size.

The funds cannot be used for anything other than the physical building. It is Astros’ money that goes into the fund and Astros money that is spent, with the restriction that it’s used for building improvements only.

The Astros cannot, as part of their lease, use that money to, say, buy relief pitching. Hope that clears up any confusion.

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Parties, parties, parties

What’s a girl to do when the final out of the season is made and she’s left with only a long, dreary, boring offseason ahead of her? Put on her party shoes, of course. Another winter brings a flurry of golf tournaments and charity functions, with dozens of current and former sports stars making appearances and supporting some pretty worthy causes.

Houston is a hotbed for such events, considering how many past and present athletes from all major sports make their year-round homes here. That, along with the pleasant fall weather, makes is easy to lure participants, especially for golf tournaments. Read on…

***Astros Alumni

The Astros will host their annual Alumni Golf Tournament at Wildcat Golf Club on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. with an 11 a.m. shotgun start. The luncheon and awards portion of the event will begin at 3:30 p.m.

1013_jd.jpgThe Astros are still recruiting participants, but so far, the tentative list of Astros alumni who are expected to participate includes: Eric Anthony, Alan Ashby, Kevin Bass, Enos Cabell, Bill Dawley, Jim Deshaies (shown above), Larry Dierker, Phil Garner, Bill Heath, Xavier Hernandez, Art Howe, John Hudek, Mike Jackson, Cliff Johnson, James Mouton, Shane Reynolds, Mike Simms, Billy Smith, Carl Warwick, Brian Williams, Woody Williams, Glenn Wilson, Jimmy Wynn and Anthony Young.

For more information or to register for the tournament, click here.

***”The Greatest Save” Banquet

In conjunction with the Alumni Golf Tournament, the KinderVision Foundation is hosting “The Greatest Save” on Monday, Nov. 15 at Minute Maid Park. KinderVision is a national campaign that, with the assistance of law enforcement, provides education and instruction to families on how to protect their children from sexual exploitation, molestation and abduction. Supported by Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, one of the organization’s most visible spokesmen, KinderVision’s catch phrase is “The Greatest Save” — the one they never have to make.

Fingers and other Hall of Famers will be on hand for the event, which will take place in the lobby of Union Station and will be emceed by Astros Hall of Fame radio announcer Milo Hamilton. Packages for the golf tournament and banquet are available, but they’re also offering banquet-only tickets, which start at $100 or $1,000 for a table of 10.

For more information, visit KinderVision’s web site or contact Alicia Nevins at 713-899.9812 or anevins@kindervision.org.

***Knuckle Ball

Minute Maid Park will also serve as the venue for the second annual “Knuckle Ball…A Pitch for Life.” On. Nov. 13, athletes from all over the country will gather in Houston in support of the Joe Niekro Foundation, formed after the former Astros pitcher died from a brain aneurysm in the fall of 2006.

Niekro’s daughter, Natalie, established the foundation, committed to the funding of aneurysm research and treatment.

Last year’s Knuckle Ball raised over $450,000 and they’re hoping to exceed that total this time around. The black-tie evening will include casino gaming, a formal dinner, and auction and the opportunity to mingle with some of baseball’s greatest legends. Drayton McLane is recognized as an honorary chairman, while Joe Niekro’s brother, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, will serve as the master of ceremonies. Country music singer Chuck Wicks will provide the entertainment.

For more information and to sign up for the event, visit the Joe Niekro Foundation web site.

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And finally, we dip into the photo vault. In honor of the postseason, check out this shot from the clubhouse in St. Louis the night the Astros won the pennant. After most of the media and other forms of riff raff had cleared out, the players could really let loose. And oh, did they. Here we have Chad Qualls and Brad Lidge getting their groove on, while the National League trophy and Brandon Backe admire from the side.

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Wishing luck to Puma and Roy, sort of. And Minute Maid gets a facelift.

Random thoughts as I rejoin the living after seven glorious days of doing absolutely nothing (other than catching up on sleep, watching the playoffs and enjoying dinner with Milo)…

1. Reds vs. Phils: Rooting for the Reds, for Roy, for the underdog, for Lidge. Yes, I’m conflicted. And exhausted.

A lot of you have asked who I was going to pull for in the Reds-Phillies division series and I honestly had no idea how I was going to feel until I actually sat down to watch the games. After a while, it became pretty clear I was pulling for Cincinnati, with the exception of Game 2, which Roy Oswalt started last Friday in Philly.

I parked myself on a stool my favorite Mexican restaurant and hoped for the best for Oswalt, but I also groaned along with the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area every time the Reds bumbled and fumbled and gave the game away to the Phillies (whom I was not rooting for, only because they’ve been there many, many times in the last few years and won it all in 2008.)

I guess you could say I suffered from multiple personality disorder through the duration of the Reds and Phillies series. Mad when Roy gave up a run, and mad when the Phillies scored. It reminded me of the 2003 World Series — I couldn’t root for the Yankees, because, well, you just don’t do that. But I really didn’t want Marlins fans, who drew about 7,000 per game for most of the season, to get a taste of World Series victory either. So I pouted the entire week and called it a wash.

Now, about Puma’s Yankees. I truly want Lance Berkman to get a hit every time he comes to the plate, but I just cannot, and will not, root for his team. Again, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel once I actually sat down to watch the Twins-Yankees series. It didn’t take long for me to realize which way I was leaning. I was completely disgusted when the series ended without the Twins getting one stinking win. I turned the TV off and tossed the remote control, so clearly, Puma’s presence on this Yankees club didn’t do much to sway me.

Because I like the underdog and root for parity in baseball, I am not rooting for a Yankees-Phillies World Series. We just watched that last year. As far as what I’ll do if it comes down to Oswalt vs. Berkman in a Game 7 situation, I’d do what any good FOR (Friend of Roy) or FOP (Friend of Puma) would do — hide under the bed and hope it ends quickly.

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2. Call Weezie. We’re movin’ on up.

So you’ve probably heard by now that the plans for Minute Maid Park renovations for 2011 include moving the press box up a level. In truth, this is hardly shocking news, considering we always knew we were on borrowed time in our current digs. The press box at Minute Maid Park provides the best vantage point you’ll find in any of the 30 ballparks, and quite frankly, it’s a view that would be an attractive draw for fans who pay to come to the games, not reporters who get paid to be there.

So we’re moving up a level, where the broadcasters live. That will require reporters and your friendly neighborhood blogger to climb an extra 15 steps per game to get there. No disrespect to my esteemed colleagues, but a little uphill exercise is probably not going to kill us, and over the course of 81 games, it might even prove beneficial. (It reminds me of one of my favorite athlete-scribe exchanges. Slumping superstar, to portly reporter: “Maybe next time, you should mix in a salad.” Portly reporter: “Maybe next time, you should mix in an RBI.”)  

Anyhoo, back to the press box. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the broadcast level, either to hang out with Brownie and J.D. or to track down Ed Wade, whose booth is also on that level. The view from up there is not only suitable for work purposes, it gives a much broader perspective of the seats, field and dugouts. It’s a great view and still one of the best seats in the house.

Trust me, it could be worse. Much, much, much worse. Try finding some of the press boxes we visit on the road. A few — not all, but a few — are located at the very top, so high that you actually are looking down at the patrons who bought the five dollar nosebleeds. To be honest, I don’t mind those high-up press boxes, but for broadcasters, it’s a nightmare. You lose all sense of depth perception, and every routine pop up to the second baseman looks, upon contact, like it could be a home run. Thankfully, we don’t have that problem in Houston.

These days, press box placement isn’t such a big deal for beat writers anyway. Here’s our dirty little secret: we watch most of the games on the five-second delayed TV broadcasts.

In the old days, beat writers were responsible for an 800 word game story and a few dot-dot-dot notes at the bottom of the game story (known as “gamers.”) In today’s era of the internet, where there are no deadlines or space limitations, covering a game (I speak as a former beat writer for MLB.com) includes 800-900 word notes packages, sidebars if there’s really big news (key player injuries, trades, controversies, etc.), a gamer and a preview for the next day’s game. Add to that tweeting, blogging and surfing our competition’s web sites to see what stories we’re being beaten on, and we are pretty much occupied throughout the duration of the game.

Subsequently, we catch most of the action on one of the five or six TVs that hang in the front of the press box and show the broadcast five seconds after it happens in real time.

It goes something like this: innings one through three, reporter hastily transcribes tape from pregame interviews and writes, non-stop, in an effort to get the notebook filed by the fourth inning. With barely enough time to look up from computer screen, reporter depends on sounds to dictate important moments during the game.

1) Hear crack of bat. 2) Hear crowd react. 3) Look up at TV and find out what happened. 4) Look back down at computer. 5) Keep typing. 6) Hear another crack of bat. 7) Look up in time to watch player run down the baseline. 8) Look up at TV to see what pitch was thrown.

Rinse, repeat.

What does this all mean? It’s simple. Where I’m watching the game isn’t as crucial as the quality of the television broadcast. So the only thing I’m really hoping for is that the Astros chuck the old TVs that were installed when the ballpark opened and replace them with shiny new HD versions in our shiny new press box.

(Years ago I vowed never to write about things the fans don’t care about, and this rambling blurb has already broken that vow. So I’ll end the press box conversation here.)

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Meanwhile, the new scoreboard sounds pretty cool. I’ve had the great fortune of checking out a bunch of the gigantic HD scoreboards in other ballparks like Atlanta and Kansas City, and I’m pretty excited that we’re going to have something similar in our ballpark. The Astros are in need of some upgrades in that area, especially if they can’t even get replacement parts for the old one anymore. The size of the new one appears to be just right — large enough to make an impact, but not too big that it’ll be a distraction.

Here is a rendering of the new scoreboard, and an illustration of how it compares to the size of the old one:

New:

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Old:

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3. Miscellany:

* We’re still waiting for Jeff Bagwell to make his decision about returning as hitting coach. Even though he’s been offered a two-year contract, if he wanted to come back on a one-year deal only, I sense the team would be OK with that. But I haven’t talked to Bagwell and I don’t know if that’s what it will take for him to return. So we wait. And hope.

* I was really happy to see the Astros extend Brad Mills’ contract by picking up the ’12 option and adding an option year for ’13. That was a mere formality; there was no way the manager was going have less job security than the coaching staff, which is signed through ’12. Wade all but solidified that last month when he said as far as he’s concerned, he’s hired his last manager. Mills did a tremendous job this year and I think we all saw what happened as soon as he was given a younger, less experienced but more enthusiastic club in the second half.

* I was terribly sad to watch Billy Wagner leave with an injury Friday night during the Braves-Giants game. An injury of that severity, at this point of the season, probably means he has thrown his last Major League pitch. Every professional athlete will tell you ending a career with an injury is one of their worst nightmares. Wagner has steadfastly held onto his insistence that he’s really, truly done after this season, and it’ll take something short of a miracle to recover from a pulled side muscle quickly enough to pitch in the World Series, if the Braves make it that far.

Every player wants to go out on his own terms, and Wags came so close to doing so. It’s a shame to see it end like this.

* Our friends in Round Rock are finding ways to keep the ballpark lively during the offseason. If you like live music, wine and/or baseball, click here.

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From the photo vault:

Here we have former starting pitcher Wade Miller, who had just made a play on softly-hit grounder back to the mound. He bends, fields, and throws to ….no one.


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The perfect ending to a picture perfect day: an Astros win.

Even after all of these years of living in Houston, it still makes me laugh how excited we all get when the weather cools off this time of year.

In most parts of the country, celebrating a 75-degree day with no humidity happens just before the beginning of spring, when the long, cold dreary months of winter are finally  over. But here, it’s the opposite — the end of winter means it’s about to get really, really REALLY hot, but the end of the summer means we’re about to enjoy spring-like weather for another month or two.

The weather was all any of us could talk about when we arrived to Minute Maid Park Sunday morning, and with good reason — it was quite possibly the most beautiful day of the 2010 calendar year. Perfect day for a ballgame, as a matter of fact, and a perfect day for the Astros to win — which they did, decidedly, avoiding a three-game sweep by the Cubs. They also avoided fifth place by one game, and although it’s not exactly something to hang our hats on, it’s something.

The postgame clubhouse scene was pretty typical for the last game of the season. Loud music, lots of hugs and handshakes between teammates and coaches, and lots and lots of packing up. As much as Spring Training is like the first day of school, the final game of the season is like the last day — people are a little anxious to get out of there, but they also take a couple extra seconds to say goodbye to their buddies before heading out.

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Sunday was all about fan appreciation, beginning with the season ticket-holder photo day with the players before the game and ending with the players tossing out softie baseballs to the fans after. This blog, too, is dedicated to all of you, with my sincere thanks for reading, responding, opining, arguing and laughing along with me as we navigated our way through the season.

I was approached for an interview by a sports web site a few months ago and they asked about how many fans I interact with during games. I responded, “Too many to count. And they always, always keep me laughing.” I meant it then, and I thank you for it now. A tip of the cap to all of you, and be sure to check back throughout the offseason. I’ll be around. As I told a fan earlier today, you can’t get rid of me that easily…

Sights and scenes from game 162 at Minute Maid Park Sunday afternoon…

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Aluminum bats, Minor League MVPs, and…Bagwell takes BP?

It’s never fun to be one of the many teams NOT headed for the playoffs the final weekend of the regular season, but still, those final moments of a 162-game grind when you know the season is coming to an end can be highly entertaining. While it’s still business as usual in terms of preparing for the game, it is also not uncommon for oddities to pop up here and there in the hours leading up to gametime.

Take “early BP” for example. Normally, early BP involves some of the younger hitters who might not be getting enough at-bats or veteran players who are struggling. On Saturday, a few folks took early BP, including…hitting coach Jeff Bagwell and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.

Arnsberg had been out early with his son, Kyle, a sophomore at the Arizona State University. Kyle was hitting with the college-issued aluminum bat, and pretty soon, so was Pops. Bagwell took a few swings, too (but I think he might have used a wooden bat).

That wasn’t the end of the aluminum bat cameo. It reappeared a few minutes later when the veteran hitters took BP, and while we all know why Major League players don’t use aluminum bats, Saturday’s session provided a nice reminder.

Hunter Pence hit the light fixture that extends a couple hundred feet above the facade in left center. Carlos Lee came thiiiiiiiiiis close to hitting Drayton McLane’s office window on the fifth floor of Union Station. A couple of balls left the ballpark completely.

It’s been a long year, and while everyone’s experiencing some level of fatigue, it was nice to see the players having a little fun as the season winds down.

We captured images of a lot of laughs, and who can’t use a few chuckles after 160 games (194, if you count Spring Training)?

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Geoff Blum.

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Jason Michaels was the first to hit with the aluminum bat.

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This is Michaels pointing to Union Station and making sure Carlos realized how close he was to actually hitting Drayton’s window. JMike swears he saw Drayton watching from his office.

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Pence takes some aluminum hacks…

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And tips his cap to…well, no one, since it was before gates open. But he was proud of hitting the light fixture.

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Humberto Quintero wasn’t part of the aluminum hitting group, but he’s always good for a pregame laugh or too anyway. 

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The pregame ceremony on Saturday was dedicated to the best and brightest of the Astros’ Minor League system: Pitcher of the Year Jordan Lyles, Player of the Year J.D. Martinez and Player Development Man of the Year, Gulf Coast League manager Omar Lopez. The three also enjoyed an up-close view of batting practice, although they looked slightly out of place being so well-dressed among a bunch of polyester-clad ballplayers. Enjoy the sights.

Lyles and Martinez are greeted at the cage by Bagwell and Co.  

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