New Post for the New Year

Hello, world.

Hope everyone had a good holiday break. There are a few things I want to cover, so let’s dive in.

Three Months To Go

A typical question I get during the off-season is, “When do you start to get busy?” Well, I’m always busy, but once the calendar hits January 1 is when things really start to pick up. At the end of last week I started to plot things out on the calendar between now and Opening Day (April 3), and there’s a lot on the horizon.

In the the very near future we should be announcing our 2014 coaching staff. Also, we’re starting to get ready for the annual Astros Caravan, which will come to OKC on January 27. All the details will be available soon.

Throw in National Anthem Tryouts, the Gameday Job Fair, and oh yeah, all the baseball information stuff (media guide, stats, etc.) just to name a few, and it’s easy to see time is starting to become a precious commodity.

Roster Roundup

Still no official word from the Astros on minor league free agents, although mlb.com’s Brian McTaggart recently reported the Astros signed pitcher Peter Moylan to a minor league deal. You can find his stats here. 

However, the Astros have been fairly active with free agent signings to bolster to the big league club, which should create a domino effect upon the RedHawks roster. After signing guys like Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, and Jesse Crain, it means younger players who might have been slated to make the Astros will end up in OKC instead.

And of course there was the trade with Colorado that netted Houston center fielder Dexter Fowler. Many have predicted this will result in a move to right field to George Springer, which in turn means he could start the year back in OKC to get used to the position. We’ll just have to wait and see…

Man With The Plan

The guy behind all those moves is Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow. I highly recommend listening to this podcast he recently did with Jay Mohr.  It’s lengthy, but well worth it.

The great thing about the podcast is that it’s not really baseball heavy. Instead it mostly focuses on Jeff’s career path and how he applies his background in both management consulting and engineering to his current position.

I’ve been fortunate to get to know Jeff a bit the past couple of seasons. I appreciate how he’s always willing to chat and his candor while doing so. The podcast reinforces he’s very committed to sticking to the plan he and his team have put in place to revive the franchise.

Small Shakeup

Yesterday the Astros announced a series of coaching moves. Third base coach Eduardo Perez resigned in order to spend more time with his family, and as a result, first base coach Pat Listasch will slide across the diamond to fill that role. The Astros then hired Tarrik Brock to be the team’s new first base coach. He spent the past seven seasons with the Marlins as the minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator.

Honestly this doesn’t really have an impact on the RedHawks. So why bring it up? It gives me an excuse to post this spectacular baseball card from Brock’s playing days…

tarrik_brock_autographSo, so many early 90’s things going on in that picture. Simply outstanding.

Biggio Bummer

I have been delaying this post was because I wanted to wait until after the Hall of Fame results were announced. By all accounts it seemed Craig Biggio was going to get in, and I had it planned out how I would write about what a great moment it was for the Astros and the city of Houston.

Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way. He fell two measly votes shy. 2013 was a tough year for Houston sports, and this was not an ideal way for 2014 to begin.

I’ve gone on record in the past discussing how my support of Biggio has nothing to do with the RedHawks being an Astros affiliate. I really feel for him since he’s going to have this lingering for another year. I also feel for the Astros and all their fans, who are anxiously waiting for the first true Astro to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

A few people have hypothesized that he would have gotten in if voters were allowed to select more than 10 players. This makes no sense to me. Outside of the three that got in, were there really seven more worthy candidates on the ballot than Biggio? Let’s even take it a step further. I personally believe Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should both be in–that’s a whole other conversation–and even in that case I find it hard to believe you could include five others, but not Biggio.

There’s has also been a narrative developing that he was part of a “stacked” ballot. Like this year’s ballot, next year’s will feature three sure-fire Hall of Famers: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. Not sure how that make it any easier, but results tend to usually improve with time.

Tremendous Trio

However, we shouldn’t let Biggio’s omission completely overshadow how three well-deserving players did get the nod. This is really the first class full of players from “my generation.” I’ll touch on all three briefly.

Greg Maddux

Like most kids who were not Braves fans, I couldn’t stand him because he was just so damn good and would usually beat my team. Now that I’ve grown up, I have a huge appreciation for his career and his modus operandi. I described Asher Wojciechowski’s complete game this past season as “Maddux like” because he did so using only 97 pitches. Thing is, Maddux would routinely throw complete games using much less than that. Former big leaguer and current ESPN analyst Doug Glanville wrote a great piece about what it was like to face Maddux. The headline says it all.

Tom Glavine

I don’t really have an anecdote about him, but he’s prominently featured in one my favorite books, Living on the Black. It’s a wonderful read.

Frank Thomas

Easily my favorite non-Cardinal as a kid. My father was once at a function “The Big Hurt” was at and got me his autograph. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and I kept it meticulously protected in a very specific location. Who knows where it is now, but for many years I considered it a prized possession.

New Chapters

We’ll end on this. Things are a bit different around the office these days. In the weeks preceding the end of the year, we lost some really, really good people to other opportunities. It’s a bittersweet situation. I’m very happy those individuals are able to further their professional lives, personal lives, or both, but at the same time, I wish they were still here. I’m not going to eulogize or embarrass them, but they know who they are.

The sports business is a transient one both on the field and in the front office. Players get promoted, traded, or released. Coaches are widely recognized as nomads. On the business side, we work crazy hours, and most don’t get rich doing it either. Those factors plus an unending crop of people who want to work in sports equals a fair amount of turnover.

Although we sustained some losses, it created opportunities for others. We’ll always have memories with those from our past, but we can always look forward to creating new ones with those in our present and future.

Before I go off the philosophical rails, I’ll bring this to an end. Thanks for reading.

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