Results tagged ‘ Miguel Tejada ’

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.

_________________

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.

1208_lobby.jpg 

The media

1208_media.jpg

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.

1208_mills_media.jpg

 

1208_mills_wideshot.jpg

And the Mets’ Jerry Manuel

1208_manuel.jpg

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

1208_larussa.jpg

Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon

1208_maddon.jpg

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.

1208_xm_sirius.jpg

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

1208_mlbtv.jpg

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.

1208_macha.jpg

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.

1208_gammons.jpg

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

1207_bobby_cox.jpg

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.

1208_mlb_network.jpg

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.

Capps takes issue with Miggy and Cheo.

Until Pirates closer Matt Capps revealed exactly why he was barking at Miguel Tejada during the ninth inning Sunday, what sparked the exchange of words was anyone’s guess. And a lot of us guessed (wrong).

Some thought maybe Capps was yelling at Tejada to run out the ball after he launched a high pop fly that eventually landed in shortstop Ronny Cedeno’s glove. Tejada’s journey toward first was little more than a casual jog, so a few of us thought maybe Capps took issue with Miggy’s stroll down the line.

(As most of you know, I detest players not running hard down to first. I absolutely hate it. But I didn’t take issue with this one because I thought the infield fly rule was in effect. Turns out, it wasn’t. There was a runner on first, but not second, which meant no infield fly. Miggy thought the infield fly rule was in effect as well, as did others. Thankfully, Jim Deshaies sat next to me on the bus on the way to the airport and set me straight.)

Another philosophy floating around was that Capps took issue with Tejada yelling at himself when he popped up Capps’ 95 mph fastball. It wasn’t that Capps thought Miggy was yelling at him, but when a player yells at himself, it indicates he felt he should have made good contact with that particular pitch. Pitchers often take that as an insult.

That theory made the most sense to me. It was also incorrect.

Capps suspected Miggy and first base coach Jose Cruz of stealing signs, and the closer minced no words when approached by reporters after the game.

“Just compete,” Capps said. “You don’t need to do any of that stuff. Those two have a thing going out there. I’m set, and he’s not even looking at me. That tells me all I need to know.”

Miggy fired back when Chronicle reporter Zachary Levine got a hold of him after the game.

“I’ve never gotten signs,” Tejada said. “If he wants to disrespect me, that’s fine. He shouldn’t disrespect any coach.”

_________________

A couple of days ago we revealed who Lance Berkman stuck his tongue out at after his home run was upheld following an instant replay review by the umpires. Puma confirmed it was first baseman Adam LaRoche, who had been teasing his first-base counterpart during the waiting period, mouthing “It’s going to be a double” and holding up two fingers.

Astros team photographer Stephen O’Brien captured LaRoche’s antics (all in good fun), and I wanted to share that with you:

0913_laroche.jpg

Astros are on Facebook

Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter  

The final installment of Hunterpalooza. What a couple of days.

Sure, the All-Star Game doesn’t affect the regular-season standings, and it’s not the end of the world, obviously, to lose. But that doesn’t mean the players don’t care. They’re competitors by nature, and they care a lot. And the National League team was plenty disappointed when it lost to the American League, again.

The sting of the loss probably wore off quicker than a loss during the regular season. And once players started talking to the media about the pomp and circumstance, the visit from President Obama, the hype and the fun and mingling with fellow Major Leaguers, the mood lightened.

But there was disappointment — from Ryan Howard, for falling short of delivering the big hit in the eighth inning; from Heath Bell, for giving up the winning run; and from Hunter Pence, for watching his NL team lose, and for not playing in the game.

The bigger letdown for Pence was the loss. He wanted to play, but he put that second while itemizing the priorities.

“I still felt like I was part of the team,” he said. “It was great meeting all of the personalities and legendary players and legendary managers.  It’s disappointing, but it gives me a reason to fight even harder next year and get a chance to play.

“It was a great experience. It wasn’t everything I hoped, because I wanted to play and I wanted to win. But it was definitely a great experience.”

________________

Earlier that day, Pence and Miguel Tejada participated in the All-Star Red Carpet event, which involved all of the ballplayers piling on to trucks with their families and traveling parade-style from the headquarter hotel to Busch Stadium.

It was a cross between a motorcade (it involved famous people), homecoming (there was waving) and Mardi Gras (players threw beads to fans).

I positioned myself inside the waiting area, where players lined up before heading out to the masses. Here’s Hunter and his mom, Gail:

0714_hunter_gail.jpg

The Pence clan, minus dad Howard…Hunter’s brother, Howie, his wife Allison, daughter Hayley, son Striker, Hunter and Gail.

0714_pence_family.jpg

Miguel Tejada and his family — wife Alejandra, son Miguel and daughter Alexa – soon join the Pence clan.

0714_pences_tejadas.jpg

The families pile on to the truck and soon, they were off.

0714_pence_truck.jpg

 

Couple of non-Astros shots: left, Prince Fielder, right, Trevor Hoffman.

0714_hoffman_fielder.jpg

Ryan Howard with his son.

0714_ryan_howard.jpg

Nope, not a burglar…it’s the NL starting pitcher, phenom Tim Lincecum.

0714_lincecum.jpg

And finally, it was time for batting practice…

0714_pence_side.jpg

 

0714_pence_swing.jpg

Pence and Justin Upton run to the outfield for the NL team photo.

0714_run_picture_team.jpg

Miguel Tejada chats with FOXsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.

0714_rosenthal_miggy.jpg

Batting practice isn’t just a time to watch ballplayers. There are plenty of interesting people on the sidelines as well…here’s Bob Costas…

0714_costas.jpg

…and LL Cool J…

0714_llcoolj.jpg

…and two guys I assumed were responsible for the safety of LL Cool J. They do a heck of a job. I know it detered me from going anywhere near LL. (or is it Mr. Cool J?)

0714_body_guards.jpg

And finally, anthem singer and St. Louis native Sheryl Crow.

0714_crow.jpg

0714_crow2.jpg

 

Astros are on Facebook

Alyson Footer is on Twitter  

Questions? Send to askalyson@astros.com.  

Hunterpalooza, Part 2.

 

0713_pence_grin.jpg

What a day. An exhiliarating, exhausting, exciting, activity-filled day that consisted of, in no particular order:

1. Taking pictures of Hunter.

2. Shooting video of Hunter (please bear with me on that one. The videos have been safely saved on my computer. That’s the easy part. Editing them and posting on my blog? Well, let’s just say that’s not the easy part. They’ll be posted ASAP. Soon. I promise).

3. Giving Hunter the camcorder so he can shoot the All-Star experience from his vantage point.

4. Taking pictures, shooting videos and following Hunter, while avoiding being stepped on by ESPN crew, which was also shadowing him (By far the biggest challenge of the day).

__________________

Hunter had a full day, as you can imagine. The beauty part of the big Major League Baseball events — All-Star Game, World Series, Hall of Fame inductions — is that you never know what you’re going to see, or, more accurately, who you’re going to see.

The one thing I’ve learned is that famous people like being around other famous people. Apparently, Cards skipper (and NL coach) Tony La Russa and legendary college hoops coach Bobby Knight are buddies. Pence happened to walk by Knight near La Russa’s office before batting practice Monday, and the two struck up a conversation.

“You’re from the Dallas area, aren’t you?” Knight asked Pence.

“Yes, sir, I am,” Pence answered.

“The first time I saw you, I couldn’t believe you weren’t a basketball player,” Knight said.

The two continued to talk, until La Russa cut short the conversation and ushered Knight into his office. Later, Knight laughed and apologized to Pence for being so abrupt, and La Russa also said something about it in a semi-joking manner, which sounded to  me like he felt kind of bad for interrupting the conversation.

Pence, in typical Pence fashion, shrugged his shoulders and laughed it off.

“That’s something I won’t forget, I can tell you that,” he said. “La Russa and Bobby Knight arguing over where to talk to me.”

___________________

Shortest team meeting in history: Monday, in the National League clubhouse. NL manager Charlie Manuel walks into the clubhouse and says, “listen up, gang, just a few words…batting practice is in a few minutes, and we’ll have a quick meeting before tomorrow’s game.” Meeting over. Great stuff. I mean, really, what do you say to a roomful of players you are normally trying to beat over the course of a season? What are you going to go over? Signs? Probably not. Rules? There are none during the All-Star Game. Better to keep it short.

__________________

My Aha! moment…
Ever looked at someone and thought, I know I’ve seen that person before. I know that person. Who the heck is that person? Who? Who?

0713_part2_sully.jpg

Fortunately, I figured this one out within about an hour. When you’re at one of these events, there’s a list of criteria that helps to narrow down the field pretty quickly. For example:

1. He’s in the home clubhouse, receiving a tour from La Russa. This means he’s someone established, and probably famous.

2. He doesn’t look quite comfortable with his surroundings. He appears to be really impressed with the clubhouse scene. That eliminates the possibility that he’s a former Major League player.

3. Yet while he doesn’t look comfortable, he carries himself with a lot of authority. He’s confident. Clearly, he’s quite accomplished in his particular field of expertise.

Ah-ha! It’s none other than Capt. C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who made an emergency landing in the Hudson River and saved 155 lives.

And now, for the rest of the pictures from Hunterpalooza, Part 2:

Padres reliever Heath Bell and Pence, hamming it up for the camera.  

0713_part2_bell_pence.jpg

Pence takes swings in the cage during the NL team’s batting practice.

0713_part2_cage.jpg

Everywhere Hunter turned, there were more cameras in his face. I am partial to this particular crew, because it belongs to the MLB Network. Best national baseball programming on the air, by a landslide.

0713_part2_cameracrew.jpg

Prince Fielder takes BP.

0713_part2_fielder.jpg

Batting practice is always a madhouse during the big events. Here’s ESPN’s Peter Gammons, getting ready for a live shot near the visitors dugout.

0713_part2_gammons.jpg

Two NL Central stars, Pence and Ryan Braun, hang out before BP.

0713_part2_hunter_braun.jpg

Bobby Knight and Capt. Sullenberger. Really, how often do you see pairings like this one?

0713_part2_knight.jpg

Barry Larkin and the MLB Network crew do their show from the sidelines, near the home dugout.

0713_part2_larkin.jpg

American League manager Joe Maddon.

0713_part2_maddon.jpg

Pence chats with NL skipper Charlie Manuel during BP.

0713_part2_manuel_pence.jpg

Miguel Tejada, during BP.

0713_part2_miggy.jpg

Hall of Famer and Cardinals legend Ozzie Smith.

0713_part2_ozzie.jpg

Pence takes in the scene as the NL team files onto the field.

0713_part2_pence.jpg

Pence and Heath Bell sign autographs…video rolling,  of course.

0713_part2_pence_bell.jpg

0713_part2_pence_camera.jpg

 Astros are on Facebook

Alyson Footer is on Twitter  

Got a question? Send to askalyson@astros.com.  

Hunterpalooza, Part 1.

 

0713_locker.jpg

Hunter Pence vowed to enjoy every moment of his first All-Star experience, and with only a half-day in the books, it’s clear he’s having a ball.

Heck, he even enjoyed the hour-long media session, the one activity on the schedule that most players would probably rather just skip. Not Pence. Not only did he grant interviews, he even conducted a few himself, grabbing my handy camcorder and working the room, asking questions of some of his favorite players: Ted Lilly, Brad Hawpe, Orlando Hudson…and, of course, teammate Miguel Tejada.

We’ll have more on that later. In the meantime, here is the first batch of pictures, accompanied by a play-by-play account of Hunterpalooza, Part I.

11:35 a.m. CT:
All-Stars filed in the interview room and found their booths, marked by a nameplate with their team’s logo. Pence, not one to sit still for very long, used the final minutes before the doors opened to reporters to mingle with his National League teammates. Here he is chatting with Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

 

0713_pence_zimmerman.jpg

11:45 CT:
The doors open, the media pours in, and Pence grabs my video camera and goes to work. His first interview is with Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe.

0713_hawpe_pence.jpg

Pence moves on to Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson, who says to Pence, “Every now and then you go deep, and I say, “OK, that was a two or three-run shot. And now, I’ve got to get him back.”

0713_hudson_pence.jpg

Noon CT:
Pence finally makes his way back to his seat, where he’s interviewed by a handful of reporters, including the Houston Chronicle’s Richard Justice (left) and MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.

0713_richie_pence.jpg

12:15 CT:
Pence really wanted to interview Cubs lefty Ted Lilly. When the media crush finally disippated, Pence asked the burning question everyone wants to know: “Do you know what it’s like to face you? Do you have any idea how not fair that is?” Lilly: “I think I’m a little more nervous facing you than you are facing me.” (I didn’t believe him.)

 

Tejada was in a booth not far from Pence. Asked about what Tejada brings to a team, Pence answered: “Miggy’s the show. He’s always entertaining. I’m learning a lot from him. We say he has a sixth tool — when it’s clutch time, he’s one of the great players. He’ll fire you up. When Miggy says it, he has a way of firing you up. I love the way he leads. I look up to him.”

 

0713_miggy.jpg

0713_miggy_pence.jpg

0713_miggy_pence_pose.jpg

As you can imagine, Albert Pujols, one of the biggest stars in the game no matter where the All-Star Game is held, is obviously a huge story this week. It couldn’t have worked out any better for the Cardinals — the year they host the All-Star Game, their marquee player is the starting first baseman, and he’s also participating in the Home Run Derby. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was named the starting catcher.

0713_pujols.jpg

Family time: Pence’s entire family is here to enjoy the experience. Here he is holding his nephew, Striker.

0713_striker.jpg

Hunter and his dad, Howard.

0713_howard_hunter.jpg

1:10 CT
After a chaotic walk to the ballpark — ESPN crews were also following Pence around, which attracted the attention of the fans on the streets, which in turn turned the casual stroll into something more Elvis-like — we arrived to the home clubhouse, headquarters for the National League team.

Holding his BP jersey:

0713_jersey_back.jpg

0713_jersey_front.jpg

Hunter Pence, All-Star.

Hunter Pence received more than a few hugs and handshakes from his teammates as word filtered through the clubhouse Sunday morning that the Astros star outfielder had just been named to his first All-Star team.

Pence played it cool as he talked to reporters about the selection, saying it was a huge honor while pointing out that there were a lot of players also deserving of the recognition.

But Pence, who along with Miguel Tejada will represent the Astros in St. Louis, can only mask his unbridled enthusiasm for so long. As we boarded the plane Sunday, Jim Deshaies congratulated Pence again, and asked how Pence had reacted to the news. Pence said, “This has been the best day of my life. I can’t even explain it.” He went on to say how exciting it was to call his family members and tell them first, and that he had no plans for the All-Star break other than to just “chill, relax.”

Pence seems truly overwhelmed by the All-Star nod, which he was not at all expecting. It’s refreshing to see someone with so much appreciation for the game of baseball, and so humbled by the All-Star selection.

Hopefully Pence isn’t looking to chill or relax when he gets to St. Louis, because almost every minute of his day will be occupied. He’s going to have an absolute blast.

Moving on to another former All-Star — three-timer Roy Oswalt. He hasn’t had the greatest year but he’s been as dependable as any pitcher in the league lately. Including his eight-inning, three-hit performance against the Giants Sunday — not a “must-win” by any stretch but still a “much-needed win” — Oswalt has had three extremely effecxtive outings, allowing three runs over a combined 23 innings.

Sunday pictures:

Pence chats with MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart about his All-Star nod:

0705_pence_tags.jpg
Tags then moves onto the sharply dressed Miguel Tejada, six-time All-Star:

0705_tejada_tags.jpg

A shot of the dugout, from my seat in the press box:

0705_dugout.jpg

Puma bats in the ninth: 

0705_puma.jpg

LaTroy Hawkins warms up as Oswalt wraps up his stellar eight-inning performance:

0705_hawkins.jpg

After the win…a shot from the tunnel that connects the dugout with the clubhouse. That’s Puma and bench coach Ed Romero.

 

0705_puma_romero.jpg

Hunter Pence…I think I surprised him.

0705_pence.jpg

Hitting coach Sean Berry and assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones.

0705_berry_rex.jpg

Catcher Humberto Quintero.

0705_quin.jpg

 Astros are on Facebook

Alyson Footer is on Twitter 

Miggy, Alberto, Draft, Sunshine Kids and other newsy notes.

Cecil Cooper chuckled as he recounted his conversation with Miguel Tejada, during which he informed the shortstop he was going to be off Friday.

Apparently, Cooper pulled Tejada into his office after Thursday’s game and said, “I’m giving you the game off tomorrow.” Tejada looked to his left, looked to his right, and wearing a surprised expression said, “Me?”

“I said, ‘You, I’m talking to you,’” Cooper laughed. “Then he said, ‘OK, OK.’”

Tejada hates days off — hates them. In his estimation, the scheduled off days — every team gets three or four a month — provide more than enough time to recharge the batteries. That’s not the way most managers see it, however, especially when talking about a player at or
near the 35-year-old mark. Tejada just celebrated that birthday less than two weeks ago.

Speaking of the big 3-5, two more Astros hit that milestone this week — Darin Erstad (Thursday) and Russ Ortiz (Friday).

_________________

The Astros hosted a workout on the field at Minute Maid Park for players they have their eye on as potential draftees. Forty-eight players — a combination of pitchers and hitters — from all parts of the country traveled to Houston on their own dime to strut their stuff in front of Astros front office execs and the scouts who have pursued them.

“It was outstanding, in terms of the quality and quantity of players,” general manager Ed Wade said. “The scouts did a tremendous job putting the whole thing together.

“There was never any down time. It started at 9 in the morning and went to 2:30 There was not a minute lost. The body of work that our scouts have put in will be the determining factor as to who we take, but this is a chance for us to see these kids in our environment, give
them a chance to soak in what the Major League experience is like. We think it’s a win-win, but from a standpoint of what took place today, I thought it was a perfect day.”

The list of participants included players from the high school, junior college and college levels, and they traveled from all over: by my count, there were 17 states represented, and one country — Puerto Rico — from which three players traveled for this workout. The states
included California (11), Florida (6), South Carolina (2), Georgia (3), Massachusetts (1), Alabama (2), New York (1), Missouri (1), Texas (7), Illinois (1), West Virginia (1), Louisiana (1), Oklahoma (1), Indiana (1), Pennsylvania (1), Arizona (2) and North Carolina (2).

By school level, there were 24 high school players, 17 college and five junior college. 

__________________

News and notes:
* Assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones was dropping a few things off in the dugout when he suddenly heard his name being yelled by several players from deep in the outfield. Turns out, right-handed reliever Alberto Arias was struck in the head by a thrown ball and had crumpled to the ground — conscious, but in obvious pain. Much of the team stood over Arias and watched as Jones tended to him, and after about five minutes or so, Arias got up on his own volition and was soon carted off to the clubhouse.

0605_arias1.jpg

0605_arias_cart.jpg

Arias was experiencing mild concussion-like symptoms and later had a CT Scan taken on his head, just as a precautionary measure. The scan came back normal and he was back with the team by game time. Obviously, he was deemed unavailable to pitch in the opener with the Pirates.

I ran into Arias on my way back from the clubhouse after the game and he said the ball hit him on the right side of his forehead. “It was really scary. I didn’t see the ball until it hit me. It just came right at me and hit right here (points to forehead). But I’ll be fine, I feel better now.”

* Jose Valverde was in high spirits after throwing a 25-pitch simulated inning on Friday, facing teammates Jason Michaels and Matt Kata. He’ll throw another one Sunday and then will likely head out on a rehab assignment.

* Geoff Geary is not going to start a rehab assignment with the Double-A Hooks on Saturday as previously announced. Instead, he’ll continue a throwing program in Houston. He’s thrown two simulated games and a bullpen session so far.

__________________

From the camera:

This is a pretty typical pregame scene — Cooper meets with the media every day, and when the team is at home, he usually conducts the pregame session in the dugout. On the road, when there’s only a few of us there, it’s a more casual setting in his office.

0605_coop_dugout.jpg 
Jason Michaels talks shop with Sean Berry and other teammates that I can’t decipher from this angle. 

0605_jmike.jpg

Jose Valverde discusses his simulated inning. He also took PFP (pitchers fielding practice). He appears to be on track to head out on a rehab assignment in the not so distant future.

0605_valverde.jpg

The Sunshine Kids were special guests of the Astros on Friday. As I’m sure most are aware, the Astros have been closely tied to the Sunshine Kids — a support group for kids with cancer and their families — for more than two decades, thanks in large part to Craig Biggio. Here we have players signing autographs in a side room, near the clubhouse. I am including shots of Puma and Sampson but I want to make sure it’s understood most of the team stopped by after batting practice.

0605_puma_sunshine.jpg

0605_sampson_sunshine.jpg
0605_sampson.jpg
Alyson Footer is on Facebook and Twitter 

Hey, look who I ran into.

0603_biggio.jpg

You never know who you’re going to bump into when you stop by clubhouse manager Dennis Liborio’s office, the unofficial center of the Houston baseball universe. Not only do players go there for bats, balls, haircuts (yes, haircuts. Every couple of weeks, I believe on Sundays, a hairdresser comes in, sets up shop in the back room and trims a little off the sides for whoever needs it) and other equipment needs, it’s simply a place where people stop by to chat with Dennis, who has been with the Astros for about 30 years and pretty much knows everyone in baseball.

When the Phillies are in town, you’ll find Larry Andersen in Dennis’s office before batting practice. When it’s an ESPN game, Joe Morgan usually pops in. Both President Bushes have spent time in Dennis’s office, as have a slew of former Astros who have stayed in the biz, either as broadcasters, or coaches, or front office staffers — such as Charley Kerfeld of the reigning World Champ Phillies.

Most park it in the big blue comfy seat located in the center of the room, but on Wednesday, an old friend made a beeline for Dennis’s chair, as he did for the majority of his 20-year career. Craig Biggio isn’t a frequent guest in the Astros’ clubhouse these days, but when he does stop by — as he did this time, with his 16-year-old son, Conor — he knows how to make himself right at home.

Soon after Biggio arrived, Astros owner Drayton McLane strolled in and the two chatted for a while, talking mostly about the draft and the sky-high signing bonuses that are awarded to the top-shelf picks. Both men, as you can imagine, think that part of the game is getting a tad out of hand.

“What did you sign for?” McLane asked Biggio, the Astros first-rounder in 1987.

0603_drayton.jpg 

“One-hundred thousand,” Biggio said proudly.

0603_biggio2.jpg

“Too much!” McLane responded with a laugh.

________________

In baseball circles these days, much of the conversation is focused on the upcoming draft, which begins next Tuesday [June 9] at 5 p.m. CT. Biggio will represent the Astros, who have the 21st pick overall. All 30 teams are sending a notable representative to make their first selections, which will be broadcast live from the MLB Network Studio in Secaucus, N.J.

The group includes several Hall of Famers, including Al Kaline (Detroit), Bill Mazeroski (Pittsburgh) and Billy Williams (Cubs). Many former superstars will be there as well, including Seattle’s Jay Buhner, Cleveland’s Ellis Burks, Cincinnati’s Eric Davis and the Yankees’ Tino Martinez.

“That’s a pretty impressive group,” Biggio said. “This is great for the game.”

________________

The Astros, like all teams, are currently knee-deep in pre-draft meetings to prepare for the big day — or should I say, three days — next week. I’m going to sit in on some of these meetings to get a taste of everything that goes into getting ready for Draft day, and I’ll also be blogging and Twittering from inside the draft room next Tuesday and probably Wednesday. I’ve never been on the inside before and I’m looking forward to watching the process unfold. And, of
course, I’m looking forward to sharing that insider view with you.

________________

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the video chat session Brian McTaggart and I conducted Wednesday afternoon, you can find it on the third panel on the Astros web site. It will also be posted in the video section of my “Footnotes” blog, which you can find here.

Right now, we’re running the Spring Training reports in that section but our goal is to replace
those with more current videos in the near future. First up will be today’s chat session.

McTaggart and I answered approximately 25 questions during the 45-minute chat. A wide variety of topics were addressed, including rumors surrounding a couple of the more popular players. The recent Roy-Oswalt-to-White-Sox speculation was front and center, and Brian and I did our best to address, and squelch, any notion that the two teams were in talks regarding the star right-hander.

General manager Ed Wade has a policy to never discuss trade rumors with media, either to conform or deny. It’s a sound practice, considering discussing players under contract with other teams is against Major League Baseball rules. But Wade, as well as White Sox GM Kenny Williams, set aside this policy because they felt this was a special case. Both sides confirmed there have been no talks at all, about any players, including Oswalt.

The reports began to surface after a high-level White Sox executive was spotted at several Astros games during Houston’s recent road swing through Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and the assumption, seemingly unconfirmed, was that the executive was scouting Oswalt.

Perhaps the White Sox/Jake Peavy trade that was apparently completed and then called off fueled the rumors that they were now targeting another front-line starter. That part I don’t know. I do know that every team has advance scouts in every ballpark this time of year. It’s standard practice.

The story gained more steam when Oswalt was quoted as saying he would invoke his no-trade rights if the Astros and White Sox did complete a deal.

The Astros made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that they are not talking to the White Sox and they’re not shopping Oswalt. Confirmation from the White Sox side should be enough to put this one to bed.

I’m fairly certain Mark Teixeira’s Yankees aren’t going to be pursuing Lance Berkman anytime soon, either.

_________________

Trade rumors are part of baseball, and in general, they’re a part of why this game is fun for the fans. In today’s 24-7 news cycle fueled by the Internet, there is never a shortage of rumors, innuendos and speculation. Most of it is harmless. Every once in a while, however, it can be flat incorrect, and sometimes, cruel.

I read a recent report on SI.com that stated quite bluntly that the problem in Houston was not manager Cecil Cooper, but rather GM Ed Wade, who, according to the report, is meddling and negative and “puts everyone in a defensive mode,” including Cooper.

It goes on to say that Shawn Chacon’s actions last year involving “pushing Wade down last year” were “cheered” by other players. I read that and thought, if this is true, and I missed it, then I really had no business covering the Astros for as long as I did. So I made my way around the clubhouse to poll the players who were on the team last year. I told them about the report and the reaction was unanimously one of surprise.

“If anything, we understand (Wade is) somewhat hamstrung by the payroll,” one player said. “But we’ve always been impressed with the job he’s done, especially after he went out and got Randy Wolf last year when everyone else had counted us out of the race.”

And I can assure you, no one was cheering Chacon when he “pushed Wade down,” wh
ich is sort of like saying Yao Ming is “slightly” taller than Tiny Tim. The act was violent, it was beyond inappropriate, and not a single player was anything but disgusted that it happened.

__________________

From the homepage:

Miguel Tejada wants to remain an Astro

Jose Valverde continues to make progress

Surprising news out of Atlanta: Braves release Tom Glavine

And Wade says he’s not interested:

Alyson Footer is on Facebook and Twitter 

Odds and ends, news and notes

Jason Smith, recently designated for assignment, cleared waivers and accepted his assignment to Triple-A Round Rock.

Miguel Tejada has been named National League Player of the Week after hitting .522 over six games last week.

Still no word on when or where Brandon Backe will make his first appearance of the season, or if it will be as a starter or reliever.

Kazuo Matsui was omitted from the lineup Tuesday with a little soreness in  his right hamstring, according manager Cecil Cooper. Matsui could sit out Wednesday as well, but that might depend on Geoff Blum’s condition. Blum missed a second game with a sore left hamstring, and he could be out until the Pirates series. That could leave the Astros short too many backup infielders, which may necessitate a roster move.

Pudge Rodriguez was back in the lineup Tuesday, as the catcher promised. Rodriguez was removed in the first inning Monday after twisting his knee during a play at the plate.

A grand jury will not seek an indictment of Brandon Backe after hearing testimony from the pitcher two weeks ago. Charges stemming from an incident with Galveston police last October have been dropped. Said Backe: “I was very confident about being innocent. But you never know in those situations. It’s my word against the police. It’s a scary thought. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have been in my situation who were found guilty, and that’s just not justice.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 249 other followers