Results tagged ‘ Ed Wade ’

The Phillies trade got a lot more interesting when the Blue Jays jumped in.

Got this tweet from @comahan13:

“Wow they flipped Gose for Wallace? That’s a great move if it’s true, and almost single-handedly changes my opinion of all this.”

That was exactly my reaction when I heard the Astros traded one of the Phillies prospects they acquired for Roy Oswalt for a 6-foot-2, 205-pound first baseman — a former No. 1 draft pick whose future is at first base.

My original reaction to the players the Astros acquired in the Oswalt trade wasn’t so enthusiastic. I was glad they received J.A. (pronounced “Jay”) Happ, a bona fide Major League ready pitcher, but when I looked at outfielder Anthony Gose’s credentials, he seemed so much like Michael Bourn and Minor League outfielder Jay Austin and I was wholly disappointed that the Astros did not go for a slugging infielder, something sorely lacking in the upper levels of their farm system.

Then the Astros flipped Gose to Toronto for infielder Brett Wallace, a power-hitting corner infielder. He appears to be a blue-chip offensive player who hasn’t established himself at a particular position, and he’ll report to Round Rock immediately to begin honing his skills at first base.

The other prospect in the deal, shortstop Jonathan Villar, will go to Class A Lancaster. He was described by general manager Ed Wade as having “very significant tools — speed, good hands, above average arm. Good instincts to hit.” Villar is a step behind ’09 first-round pick Jiovanni Mier, who’s playing at Class A Lexington.

I received a lot of questions from you throughout the day on Thursday, so let’s get cracking…

Q: Looking at the season Wallace is having at AAA it looks like a great trade. Any idea why Jays would trade Wallace for Gose?

My take: It comes down to the individual needs of an organization. Some teams have a surplus of players at one position and can use that to replenish another area that isn’t so strong. I’m not an expert on the strengths and deficiencies of very Major League team, but it appears the Jays had a need for a speedy top-of-the-order outfielder, and the Astros already have that in Bourn and Austin.

Q: If Wallace is all that, why is he on his fourth organization?

My take: Valid concern. But if you look at the transactions, he’s been in the middle of some pretty big deals. The Cardinals drafted Wallace as their first-rounder in ’08 as a third baseman, but over the course of his first season, it became pretty obvious he didn’t have much of a future at that position. First base better suited him, but he was obviously blocked by the best hitter in the game and one who isn’t going anywhere for a long, long, time in Albert Pujols. So Wallace became both expendable and a huge trading chip for the Cardinals, who included him in a package to get Matt Holliday from the Athletics.

Wallace was then traded to the Blue Jays for Michael Taylor, who had just been traded to Toronto as part of the Roy Halladay trade.

So, in essence, Wallace isn’t so much someone that teams want to get rid of as much as someone who helps them fill important needs elsewhere. From what I’ve been told by friends who cover some of the other organizations Wallace has played for, he’s the real deal offensively. Projects to hit for a high average and most importantly, he has power. The knock on him is his defense, which Wade acknowledged during Thursday’s press conference: “There’s some finishing school left to be attended on Brett’s part. There are some rough edges to clean up. This is a pretty special bat as far as we’re concerned. He needs to learn his position. That’s why we have player development system, to help these guys in all phases of the game.”

Q: What does this mean for Lance Berkman? Are the Astros going to try to move him for prospects?

My take: While I do not believe this necessarily pushes Lance out the door this season, this definitely protects them for 2011 and beyond. Berkman has a $15 million club option for ’11 (with a $2 million buyout), and judging from his offensive production this year, it would be hard to imagine the Astros picking up that option. In fact, you can pretty much bet they won’t. So either they try to re-sign Berkman at a lower cost after this season, or they find someone more economical to take over at first base. Wallace gives them that option.

There has been speculation that now that they have Wallace, the Astros will try to trade Berkman between now and Saturday’s trade deadline in an effort to get something, anything, for him. There is a report that the White Sox might be interested. We’ll see. Like Oswalt, Berkman has a full no-trade clause and I haven’t been given any indication he’s anxious to get out of here just yet. That said, there’s plenty of time between now and Saturday at 3 CT, so we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.

Q: I know it’s part of the business, but how do you deal with the trade of someone you’ve covered for years?

My take: It depends on the player to be honest. This one is sad for me because I’ve known Oswalt since the day he was called up nearly 10 years ago, and we’ve been close friends for most of that stretch. At the same time, this trade was inevitable and I’ve had it in my mind for so long that he’ll eventually be moving on — longer than anyone can imagine — that as I sit here in the press box a couple of hours after the trade was finalized, I’m kind of numb to it. It wasn’t a matter of “if” on Roy, it was a matter of “when.”

Over the years, saying goodbye to players gets easier, because you learn it’s just part of the business. I remember being pretty upset when the Astros traded Mike Hampton after the ’99 season and Jose Lima in 2001 and really, really bummed when the offseason of 2003 produced trades of two of my all-time favorites in Billy Wagner and Geoff Blum. And obviously, Craig Biggio’s last game in ’07 and Brad Ausmus’ last game in ’08 were sad, sad, sad. But for the most part, you get used to the revolving door of players that come in and out of the organization and if you stick around as long as I have, your favorite players eventually reappear as coaches and broadcasters, so there’s always that to look forward to.

Q: So does Milo call J.A. Happ “Happie?”

My take: After consulting with Baggy, Millsie, Keppie, Blummy and Bournie, put me down for “yes.”

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Randoms:

* Happ finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting by the baseball writers in 2009 after posting a 12-4 record and a 2.93 ERA over 35 appearances (24 starts).

* Happ, a former Phillies third-round pick, was on the disabled list this season with a flexor strain, but was activated about a week ago after making five rehab starts.

* Happ will start Friday’s game against the Brewers at Minute Maid Park.

* Villar hit .272 over 100 games at Class A this season with 18 doubles, four triples, two home runs and 38 stolen bases. He was signed by the Phillies as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 and has tallied 82 stolen bases over 204 career games, mostly as a shortstop.

* Wallace played in the Futures Game during All-Star Week in 2009 and was named to the Arizona Fall League All-Prospect team in ’08. He played college baseball at Arizona State University and was named Pac-10 Player of the Year in both 2007 and 2008. In ’07, he captured the conference’s Triple Crown, hitting .423 with 16 home runs and 78 RBIs while leading his club to the College World Series.

Signability an issue? Not this year.

The Astros are in some ways still stuck with the reputation that they don’t sign their draft picks — a stigma attached to them three years ago when they had a disastrous couple of months after making their selections.

That was a tough time for the organization, but since then, a new regime has taken over and the very capable Bobby Heck, the club’s Assistant GM in charge of scouting, has changed a lot about how the Astros go about their business once the Draft is over. Last year, they signed all but one pick — their 12th rounder — and they did so in record time. The signing process began immediately after the picks where announced, and within a few weeks, it was done.

Three members from the front office — Heck, GM Ed Wade and national cross-checker David Post –  hosted a media briefing before Friday’s game to answer any last-minute questions reporters might have regarding the upcoming Draft. The one statement from Wade that stood out to me more than any other was in reference to the issue of signability.

Or, more to the point: Signability. Is it an issue?

According to Wade, no.

“We have the budget capability to take the best player available with each of our picks,” Wade said. “We’re not drafting the most signable player. We’re drafting the best players available.”

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Other Draft news and notes:

From Brian McTaggart’s notes:

Heck said former Draft picks Derek Dietrich, Brett Eibner and Chad Bettis have all signed consent forms to be drafted by the Astros again. All three were drafted in 2007 but didn’t sign with the club and attended college instead.

“We’ve reached out and re-established a relationship with the three players,” Heck said. “They’re all players who we do have interest in, and we’ve continued the evaluation process. They have signed consent to re-select [forms] if we decide to select them. We’ve done the work there, and they would like to be Astros.”

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Jeff Bagwell will represent the Astros on Monday at the MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, NJ, where the first-round selections will be announced. Bagwell will be joined by Astros amateur scout Everett Stull at the Draft.

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Beginning at 6 p.m. CT, Commissioner Bud Selig will announce each club’s first-round selection. The intervals between each selection will be five minutes during the first round and one minute in the compensation round.

After Monday, the Draft will resume on both Tuesday and Wednesday at 11 a.m. CT via conference call from the MLB headquarters in New York City. The Draft will have a total of 50 rounds.

Our Latin American Home is open for business. Moises Alou says hello.

Dorm rooms, computer rooms, English classes and a mess hall. This sounds a lot like college life, with one exception — in college, athletics are an elective. Here, they’re the focus.

The Astros officially opened their brand new Latin American Home in the Dominican Republic on Monday, a ceremony attended by a large portion of the front office staff, including owner Drayton McLane, general manager Ed Wade and president of baseball operations Tal Smith.

Such facilities in the past have been called “academies,” but the newly coined phrase “home” is probably more appropriate, considering Latin American ballplayers don’t come here only to hone their baseball skills. They also learn to get along in a country they hope to someday call home — the United States, “home” to Major League Baseball.

The Astros’ nine-person traveling party was given a grand tour of the new facility, which houses approximately 35 players and, if all goes as planned, will provide a bridge between two areas rich with baseball talent and the big leagues. Players living at the Latin American Home are from the Dominican and Venezuela and were signed as teenagers. The majority of the roster consists of talent no older than age 20.

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Ed Wade addresses players in the clubhouse. His comments were interpreted by Felix Francisco.

They’ll play baseball approximately 10 months out of the year, and along the way, they’ll learn life skills during extensive English lessons that take place in both classrooms and a state-of-the-art computer lab.

Dorm rooms line the top floor of the facility. There are 16 player rooms, with four players bunking per room. The computer room has 15 work stations and internet access, and will help to enhance learning, English-speaking skills while also giving often homesick players an easy way to communicate with their families.

Computer lab

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Wade in a dorm room.

The complex consists of 2 1/2 fields and is located a half-mile from the new Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles facilities. Those fields are located in close proximity to dozens of other academies opened in recent years by nearly every big league club.

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After receiving the grand tour from Astros Player Development Coordinator Allen Rowin, McLane was duly impressed with the state-of-the-art facility.

“I’m overwhelmed,” McLane said. “I’d seen pictures, I saw the plans a year and a half ago and it turned out much better than I even anticipated. It’s a credit to the construction industry here in the Dominican that they can accomplish this in such a short period of time and of the high quality that it is.”

Several Dominican dignitaries attended the ceremony, including Minister of Sports Felipe Payano. Former Astro Moises Alou, who enjoyed tremendous success during his four years with the club and who is one of the best players to come from the Dominican Republic, was also present.

Moises Alou, Astros head of security Angel Zayas and Asst. GM Dave Gottfried 

Another special surprise was the appearance of Epy Guererro, best-known for being the pioneer of Astros Dominican scouting several decades ago and who signed Cesar Cedeno in the 1960s.

The months-long planning process to get to this day was largely due to the work of Rowin, Julio Linares (long-time special assistant) and Felix Francisco, the club’s Director of Latin American Scouting. The process to open the facility began about two years ago, when the Astros decided to close their Venezuelan Academy, upgrade their facility in the Dominican and start a Gulf Coast team in the States.

The goal? Sign better players, bring them to the States when they’re still young and accelerate their path to the big leagues. The more advanced Dominican players will go straight to the GCL, where they’ll find a more even competition level and won’t be pushed to the next level in Greeneville before they’re ready.

The Astros found that players who “graduated” from the Venezuelan Academy were more prepared for life in the States than others who did not. Now players will converge together in the Dominican to start the process in a brand-new facility that offers the comforts of home with top-notch baseball instruction.

“I think it’s an attraction to get more players into our organization, because the new facility plays a role in it,” Wade said. “But once they get here, the fact that we have 2 1/2 fields to work on from a physical standpoint is very important, but also from the standpoint of nutrition, English classes and everything involved trying to create a whole person from the kids that are here, we’ve got everything right here.”

More images from the facility:

The building includes replica championship banners that hang at Minute Maid Park.

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The lunchroom.

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Players can relax in this gameroom.

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Ceremonial first pitch: Felipe Payano, Drayton McLane.

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Ribbon cutting: Wade, McLane, Payano, Francisco.

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Photo albums, videos, and you.

“Social media” is a relatively new term, but it’s quickly changing the way companies do business. In sports, social media is opening up all kinds of new avenues for teams to directly communicate with their fans. With Spring Training upon us, there is no better time for Major League Baseball — and more specifically, your Houston Astros — to bring you every nugget of what is going on, through articles, pictures, videos, blogs and Twitter updates.

If you haven’t joined the Astros Facebook page, I invite you to do so. We’re posting daily photo albums from camp in an effort to give you the fly-on-the-wall perspective that is now available with a simple click of the mouse. All blogs, as well as Brian McTaggart’s outstanding mlb.com coverage, can be found there.

We’re also posting daily videos, which live on both the homepage of astros.com and a special video section which you can find here. Those videos are also linked to my Footnotes page, which is a landing page that includes blogs, videos and links to my Twitter account.

So far, we’ve posted a Roy Oswalt interview, two workout videos, a Brad Mills segment and footage from Drayton McLane’s announcement of Ed Wade’s contract extension. You’ll also find archived segments from the Astros’ recent offseason caravans.

Our goal is to bring you close to the action, even if you can’t be there in person. We have a ton of new faces in camp this year, so there’s no better time to start getting to know the new Astros, as well as say hello to old friends.

Enjoy!

Tim Byrdak, Jeff Fulchino

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Roy Oswalt

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Oswalt practices fielding grounders back to the mound. That’s Jose Cruuuuz at first base. 

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Bud Norris, Brian Moehler throw bullpens.

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Felipe Paulino throws a bullpen (with the Astros braintrust watching from behind). 

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Catchers Humberto Quintero and Jason Castro.

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It’s like the first day of school, only better.

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Pitchers and catchers began slowly trickling into the Astros’ spring complex as far back as last week, but Saturday was the big day — everyone had to be accounted for, in uniform and ready for the first official workout of 2010.

It really is, in some ways, reminiscent of the first day of school: you see some people you know, a few who you don’t, and it’s always nice to reconnect with those who you haven’t seen in many months.

Astros pitchers and catchers took physicals, unpacked their lockers and spent 2 1/2 hours on the backfields Saturday morning to begin the 41-day process to get ready for the regular season. New bullpen coach Jamie Quirk began to get acquainted with the catchers, new pitching coach Brad Arnsberg met his full staff for the first time and first base coach Bobby Meacham gave several tutorials about the importance of successfully bunting.

Manager Brad Mills (pictured above) looked at ease through the process, although I have to assume he was (understandably) feeling a little jittery. While addressing the media, he worked hard to deflect the attention away from himself and toward the business on the field, but seeing he’s a first-year manager taking over a team that desperately needed a clean start, Mills had no choice but to talk briefly about what appears to be his least favorite topic — himself.

Asked when it finally hit him that he was solely in charge of this club, Mills, who spent the last six seasons as Boston’s bench coach, admitted he felt it when he arrived to Kissimmee more than a week ago.

“The first day, I felt it, that’s when it set in,” Mills said. “When I got down here, they gave me a tour of the facility, we had five or six players already here…and that’s when it first hit me.”

A look at Day One, through the camera lens:

Mills, with Oswalt standing to his right, addresses one group of pitchers.

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Mills conducts his daily meeting (the first of two, actually) with the media on the field, while the team stretches. This beats sitting in a stuffy office.  

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Three members of the Spring Training coaching staff: Jose Cruuuuz, Eric Young, Dave Clark.

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Oswalt looks pretty relaxed at the beginning of Spring Training. Wondering how he’ll feel after the 500th “how’s your back?” question.  

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Wandy Rodriguez insisted he had no hard feelings about losing his arbitration hearing a few days ago. “It’s reasonable,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s about the team trying to make its case and me making my case.” Wandy added that his goal is to work hard, do well this year and receive a multi-year deal next year.

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Brad Arnsberg and Brad Mills talk to the pitchers.  

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Running wind sprints following the work out.

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Bud Norris, Brett Myers, Chris Sampson, Tim Byrdak. 

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Jamie Quirk and the catchers.

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Ed Wade and Ricky Bennett. Wade was recently given a two-year contract extension through 2012. Bennett and asst. GMs Dave Gottfried and Bobby Heck were extended through 2011.

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Wade and Drayton talk with the media about Wade’s extension.

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JR Towles signs autographs after the workout.

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 Pre-workout laugh: Mills, Meacham, Al Pedrique.
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Winter Meetings, reporter-style.

Covering baseball’s Winter Meetings, at least for reporters, can be compared to taking final exams in college — it’s the most intense week of the year, and you walk out of the last one, on the last day, pretty much feeling like you were run over by a Mack truck.

Chasing rumors, attempting to separate fact from fiction, sniffing around for leads and running agents down in the hotel lobby is consistently exhausting, occasionally humiliating and all too often, it ends up taking you nowhere, except back to square one — where you find a new bulk of rumors to chase.

So, for the average reporter, the Winter Meetings are about as fun as a trip to the dentist. That said, the meetings are also in their own way fascinating. This is the only time of year that the entire the baseball universe gathers in the same city to talk business, so there’s always a chance for that blockbuster trade or splashy free agent signing. And the rumor mill never, ever stops churning.

Geographically, there are three main areas where you’ll find baseball people: the hotel lobby, the GM suite and the media area, which includes a workroom/press conference room and a long hallway occupied by the radio/television side — i.e., MLB Network, XM/Sirius satellite radio and MLB.com.

I spent Tuesday morning and afternoon floating through all three areas, with camera in tow (of course). Enjoy the pictorial tour, and apologies in advance for the lighting issues…the dim hotel lights are driving me nuts.

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The lobby
The hotel lobby is the epicenter of all Winter Meetings. It’s where reporters hang out, hoping to run into agents, and where agents strategically stroll through knowing scoop-hungry reporters are looking for them. It’s where scouts roam and exchange information with other scouts. It’s where job-seekers go to, well, find jobs.

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The media

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This gigantic room serves three purposes: it provides workspace for the hundreds of reporters covering the Winter Meetings, it serves as a press conference room when teams have trades or signings to announce (or when future Hall of Famers announce their retirement, as Greg Maddux did in Vegas last year) and provides space for the manager-reporter media sessions.

Here’s Houston’s manager, Brad Mills, addressing reporters.

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And the Mets’ Jerry Manuel

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And the Cardinals’ Tony La Russa (when I walked up he was talking about — what else? — his new hitting coach, Mark McGwire).

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Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon

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Radio/TV row

The radio and TV outlets were lined up in a nice, orderly row: first, XM/Sirius Satellite radio, then MLB Network and finally MLB.com. Not every manager was interviewed by every outlet, but the higher-profile managers usually made their way down the line over the course of about 20 minutes.

Mills, well-known as Red Sox skipper Terry Francona’s right-hand man for six years (and two World Championships) was a popular guy. Here he is with Casey Stern and Buck Martinez on MLB Homeplate on XM/Sirius Satellite radio.

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His next stop was MLB.com for an interview with Vinny Micucci.

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On his way back to the GM suite, Mills ran into Milwaukee skipper Ken Macha (shown below). The one thing that struck me through this week is how many friends in the industry came up to me to tell me how much they like and respect Mills. He clearly has established a nice reputation during his many decades in baseball.

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Other random shots:
I took this picture of Peter Gammons on Monday, not realizing he was about to announce he was leaving ESPN and joining MLB Network and MLB.com. As a former MLB.com-er, I consider this great news. Congratulations to Peter.

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Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was a popular guest, which is understandable considering he’s already announced he’s retiring after next season.  

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I’ll admit it, I’m an MLB Network junkie. I love its Hote Stove show and all of the old “All-Time Games” it shows during the day. In this shot, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is about to go on with Tom Verducci, Dan Plesac and Victor Rojas.

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The day ends in the GM suite, where Ed Wade spends most of the morning and afternoon talking with his staff and other clubs about possible matches down the road. At the end of the day, Ed goes over the business of the day and asks for feedback. He then ends the day with a brief meeting with reporters, although the work never really ends…talks and meetings can, and usually do, drag into the night.

In Tuesday’s media session, Wade reiterated his desire to re-sign LaTroy Hawkins and admitted signing Miguel Tejada is probably not happening, given Tejada’s desire for a multi-year deal.

Read about it here and here.

Hurry up…and wait.

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above, l to r: club president/baseball operations Tal Smith; assistant GM/scouting Bobby Heck; GM Ed Wade; Minor League Field Coordinator Dick Scott, Asst. GM Ricky Bennett. The group was reviewing the dry erase boards, consisting of lists of players both inside and outside of the organization.

I just spent a couple of hours in general manager Ed Wade’s suite, where most of the morning and early afternoon were spent making lists of discussion topics for a full staff meeting, due to start around 4.

Right now, the main activity is making lists, lists and more lists. Lists of players outside the organization who might be of interest to the Astros, either via free agency or trade market.

Lists of players within the organization that might be considered as trade bait. Lists of Minor Leaguers considered untouchable.

As Brian McTaggart noted in his Winter Meetings preview, relief pitching, third base and bench help are among the Astros’ needs.

At this point, the Astros are simply waiting to hear what decision Jose Valverde has made regarding the Astros’ offer of arbitration. He has until midnight ET tonight at accept or reject.

The Astros are in a good position on this one — if Valverde accepts, they’ll have arguably the best free agent closer in uniform next year. If he rejects, the Astros can still negotiate with him, and if Valverde signs with another team, they’ll get high draft picks.

A Valverde rejection would also give the Astros some payroll to play with, which is significant considering how little flexibility the Astros have in that area this offseason.

Manager Brad Mills is in town, and I believe he’ll be the only uniformed personnel with Wade this week at the Winter Meetings. Every manager is asked to conduct a 30-minute media session in the press workroom this week, and Mills is scheduled to do so on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.

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Tal Smith, Brad Mills, Ricky Bennett

Asst. GM Dave Gottfried

Have a question for Ed Wade? Tweet me. And, Happy Anniversary, Milo.

The second installment of Astroline will take place Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CT, and this time, we’re adding a twist.

Astroline officially jumps into the 21st Century with the addition of Tweeting. If you have a question for Wednesday’s guest, general manager Ed Wade, Tweet it to me and I will pass it along to Ed during the show. I will also Tweet Ed’s responses.

Not a Tweeter? It’s never too late, and the process is simple. Go to Twitter.com and take one minute to sign up for an account. Under “find people” you can locate any Twitter account you are looking for. It’s a great way to communicate with fellow Astros fans, and anyone following my Twitter account gets Astros breaking news minutes before it is made public.

Astroline takes place at Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub at 1952 West Gray in Houston and is open to the public. It will be carried on the club’s flagship station, KTRH 740 AM, and will also streamed live on astros.com.

Archived broadcasts from this year’s shows are also available at www.astros.com.

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Speaking of broadcasts, congratulations to Milo Hamilton, who celebrated the 65th anniversary of his debut as a radio announcer Thanksgiving week.

The milestone marker did not go unnoticed by Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes, who highlights the best of Milo’s long career on a new CD available now. Hughes, who three years ago began producing, writing and narrating commemorative audio tributes to legendary voices of baseball broadcasting, has compiled a CD dedicated to Hamilton’s famous calls. At the top of the list, of course, is Milo’s call of Henry Aaron’s 715th home run, which serves as the foundation of the title of the CD: ‘A Call for the Ages.”

On his web site, baseballvoices.com, Hughes writes:

“Track 4 is all about that episode. Naturally, you will hear the call loud and clear, but you will also get to listen to Milo’s approach and assessment of Aaron’s historic homer.

“Milo’s entire career is covered, beginning with his first play-by-play in 1946 in the U.S. military, and leading all the way to his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in Cooperstown in 1992, and beyond.

“One of my favorite tracks is #11, where Milo Hamilton captures the 9th inning drama of a 1976 John Candelaria no-hitter. This is Milo at his best!

“In addition to Aaron and Candelaria, there are lots of other highlights you will enjoy on this CD – like Craig Biggio’s 3000th hit, Mike Scott’s 1986 no-hitter in Houston’s division-clinching win, and the Astros winning their 1st pennant in 2005, plus many more! Enjoy!”

Milo is one of eight broadcasters in Hughes’s CD collection. The others are Red Barber, Marty Brennaman, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Harry Kalas, Dave Niehaus and Bob Uecker.

Milo will be autographing the new CD on Dec. 15 from 2-5 and on Dec. 16 from noon to 4 in The Shed (Astros Team Shop).

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The art of the press conference, and a few Mills tidbits.

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Once I learned that Brad Mills was hired as the Astros manager,I reached out to two good friends who have covered the Red Sox for parts or all of the last decade and asked them simply, “What do you think of Brad Mills?” Here’s what I received back:

Friend No. 1:
“Mills is a genuinely nice guy and he did an amazing job turning the Sox into such a well-run machine. He’s so efficient at everything he does. He’s not a great quote but he’s friendly and respectful. He’s the ultimate taskmaster.”

Friend No. 2:
“Tremendously organized. Probably the most organized coach I’ve ever been around. He had basically every day of Spring Training plotted out weeks in advance of camp, with charts on where everyone is at all times.

“He was a big help to Francona on the bench, helping pitchers with pickoff moves, etc., and aligning the defense, etc. He had great communication skills with the players and has been Francona’s confidant since their days as roommates at Arizona.

“I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Brad Mills. And being around Francona on the Red Sox bench for the last six years can only help from an experience standpoint.”

Two things stood out to me from these responses: 1) both said Mills was incredibly organized and 2) Friend No. 2 pointed out that Mills is good at aligning defenses. And can I just say, hallelujah on both counts. The Astros are already better off in ’10 than they were in ’09, and they’re more than five months away from playing a game that counts in the standings.

I’ve heard from many of you over the last couple of weeks, and please allow me clear up a few misconceptions: coaches are responsible for much, much more than what you see them do during an actual game. Scouting reports need to be scoured. Spray charts need to be studied. Pitchers and catchers need to be prepped. And on and on and on.

Positioning has been an issue with this team for a long time — too long. Just hearing that Mills had a lot to do with aligning the Red Sox’ defense makes me feel like the Astros are on the right track. It seems like such a small thing, I know. But it’s not. It’s huge. Manager and coach pregame preparation can make all the difference between and winning and losing seasons.

Here’s what Red Sox manager Terry Francona said about his now former bench coach:

“I’ve probably taken it for granted that everybody is where they’re supposed to be because he’s so good at it. We’ll certainly have to make some adjustments. But his gain far outweighs any adjustments we have to make. Millsy embodies so much of what is good in baseball. For him to get an opportunity, it sure is nice. It sure is exciting for all of us.”

I have no idea what kind of manager Mills will be and until he’s actually sitting in the hot seat, none of us can make the judgment. But he was impressive during his press conference on Tuesday and I’m looking forward to seeing how he guides this team through a challenging transitional period.

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On another note, I haven’t seen the press conference room at Minute Maid Park this packed since Roger Clemens unretired for the 97th time a few years ago. When I saw Drayton McLane in the hallway a few minutes before the press conference started, I jokingly said, “Congratulations on getting this over with before the World Series.” He laughed and said the Commissioner called him three times — twice Monday and once Tuesday morning. “He said, ‘You have until 5 p.m. (Tuesday) to get this done,'” McLane recalled. That was the deadline — hire a manager by then, or wait until after the World Series. The former reporter in me was thankful this thing was over and done with.

I’m sure most of you have watched the press conference on TV or online in some capacity. Sound bites are nice and photo opps are fun, but that doesn’t give you the full experience. Here are some images from Tuesday’s presser, some of which you won’t normally see just by watching from afar. Enjoy.

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The media waited inside the press conference room, but outside, Mills and several members of the front office chatted casually before entering the room. Kudos to Mills (seen here with assistant GM Ricky Bennett) for acting naturally as three or four photographers snapped close up photos.

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A little to the left of Mills stood owner Drayton McLane and GM Ed Wade.

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PR director Gene Dias (middle) gives the gentle, “OK, we’re ready” signal, which is a nice way of telling the group, let’s go. Time to start the presser.

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The normal order of speakers at a major Astros press conference is 1)Wade; 2)McLane and 3) whoever they hired/signed. This announcement was obviously a big one, hence, the packed room. That’s Larry Dierker in the front.

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Mills came across very well at the press conference. When he was asked to hold up the jersey again, he held up the front instead of back. “The name on the front is more important than the name on the back,” he said. Good move.

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Once each speaker has answered questions at the podium, the formal part of the presser is over and it’s time for “one-on-ones.” TVs like this because it gives more of a personal touch. Beat/print reporters like this because they need more quotes than just what is said during the formal part.

Reporters headed in three directions — most went to Mills, some went to Wade, some went to McLane. It’s a media free-for-all.

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Once word spread that hitting coach Sean Berry and Mills are friends and neighbors in California, Berry became a media target. Berry happened to be in town for a Make-A-Wish golf tournament (which was rained out Monday and rescheduled for November).

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Nothing like a press conference to bring a couple of former Astros greats to the ballpark. Left, Enos Cabell. Right, Larry Dierker.

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Photo opp No. 477: Mills checks out the field at Minute Maid Park. Photographers document every move while trying not to step on anyone.

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Mills and Wade have a chuckle while getting situated:

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Tal Smith (left), Mills, Wade

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Then McLane joins in.

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Side view.

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Line of the day comes from Ed Wade.

When you watch Ed Wade being interviewed on television you get the buttoned up version of the Astros GM, straightforward and deliberate speaker who likes to keep things business-like when he’s on the record.

But Wade has a sharp sense of humor and is known to come up with more than a few one-liners when he’s speaking off-the-cuff.

Wade summed up his feelings perfectly when discussing how round two of the managerial search will be much different from the first go-around.

“We’ve been open on this thing, but I don’t want it to get to the point of ‘Dancing With The Stars,'” Wade said to MLB.com, referring to the reality TV show that votes off contestants as the program progresses.

In other words, the rest of the managerial search will be conducted privately. No more post-interview meetings with the media and no more lists of finalists made public (although I would imagine most of the names will leak eventually — that’s just how it works in today’s world).

The final two candidates were interviewed Monday — Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills and first base coach Tim Bogar. The next step will involve the search committee sitting down and narrowing the field of candidates. Wade has made it clear the next public announcement will be when they decide on a manager, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how long that process will take.

Brad Mills.

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Tim Bogar.

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