Fellow 3,000-hit member Craig Biggio counts himself has a huge fan of Yankees legend Derek Jeter, who announced on Wednesday he was retiring at the end of this season. Biggio, a New Yorker and 20-year Astros legend, has great admiration for Jeter and the way he played the game.
“I guess you know all good things come to an end,” he said. “For Derek, he’s had an unbelievable career. his legacy with the Yankees and in baseball is really second to none. He’s got a long of things to be proud of. I think the biggest thing is, the most important thing, is the respect he got from his teammates and the respect he got from other players.”
Biggio announced he was retiring before the 2007 season, so he knows what Jeter will be going through when he makes the rounds to different ballparks. He received several gifts along the way, including a grill and a supply of bratwurst prior to his final games in Milwaukee.
“I just think the biggest thing is to enjoy it, and I think it’s such a classy move,” he said. “If you know what you’re going to be doing, to be able to announce to the fans so they can get an opportunity to watch you play one more time, that’s great. A lot f times when players don’t know or keep holding on, the fans will be held at bay because the players don’t know. If they know it’s going to be the end, the fans could go out and show their kids and grand kids and say ‘Hey, I watched him his whole career. He played the game the way you were supposed to play.’ It’s a classy move on his part. He knows what he wants to do, and I think it’s just great.”
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has no inhibitions about the team’s hiring of Nolan Ryan, who’s coming aboard as an executive advisor. Ryan will assist not only Luhnow, but also president of business operations Reid Ryan in the operations of the club.
How big of a role Ryan has remains to be seen. He’s not going to be a daily fixture at Minute Maid Park because he prefers to commute occasionally from his home in Georgetown, Texas, but the Astros certainly would be wise to lean heavily on Ryan. He was the CEO of the Rangers, who were successful under his tenure, and he definitely knows a thing or two about pitching.
“He has so much experience and I think he can be used in a variety of ways,” Luhnow said Tuesday. “He definitely is going to have his opinions about our players and opinions about players on other teams. He’ll help us from a player evaluation standpoint ‘cause the more points of views you get, not only on your own players but on players you’re potentially trying to acquire outside the organization, the better off you’re going to be.
“From a player development standpoint, he’s got experience and can help us there. There’s countless areas where he can assist and help out. He’s been part of the game for so long and done so many different types of things.”
Luhnow has helped rebuild the Astros farm system the last two years, and it’s widely considered the deepest in the game. The club has sacrificed success at the Major League level to get that done, but Luhnow believes the Astros are poised to begin trending upward. The arrival of Ryan won’t hinder his plan, which is based heavily on data analysis.
“Clearly Nolan Ryan on board is huge for the city and organization,” he said. “I did spend over an hour with him [two weeks ago] and had several conversations with him prior to that as well, really trying to understand what the role would look like so he was comfortable with it and it made sense. He’s really anxious to help out, he’s anxious to be involved in various areas. The role that ultimately we created for him is going to allow him to help out across all the areas of the organization, which will maximize his impact.”
The Astros have a wealth of young, promising starting pitching – arms that will be able to learn from Ryan, as well as special advisor Roger Clemens.
“He already knows some of our players by being with the Rangers and living near Round Rock (Texas) and seeing Triple-A players and going to Corpus Christi and so forth,” Luhnow said. “He’s got a pretty good feel for our players right now.
“I do expect he’s going to deepen that understanding of our own players and be able to provide his point of view. I don’t know if he’ll go out and see players for the Draft, but our Triple-A players, Double-A, Major League players, he’ll be able to give us valuable opinions about.”
Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, one of the most popular players to ever wear an Astros uniform, is returning to the organization in an advisory role, a source told MLB.com on Tuesday.
The team wouldn’t confirm the agreement, but an announcement could be made later Tuesday.
Ryan met with Astros owner Jim Crane and president of business operations Reid Ryan, Nolan’s son, last month, and Nolan Ryan has been mulling an offer to return to Houston since. He worked for former owner Drayton McLane in an advisory role from 2004-08.
Nolan Ryan, citing a desire to spend more time on his ranch and with his family, stepped down as the chief executive officer of the Rangers at the end of October.
“I think to have an opportunity to work with Reid and what is an organization that is headed in the right direction and has turned the corner and the potential they have, to be involved in that would be fun and be exciting,” Nolan Ryan said last month.
Nolan Ryan grew up near Houston and pitched nine of his 27 years with the Astros (1980-88), before finishing his playing career in Arlington. He was hired by former Rangers owner Tom Hicks as club president on Feb. 6, 2008.
Ryan later joined with an ownership group put together by Chuck Greenberg that submitted the highest bid in a bankruptcy auction on Aug. 12, 2010. When Greenberg was forced out in March 2011, Ryan added the title of CEO.
As the Astros prepare for Spring Training two weeks from now, the Super Bowl is what’s occupying many minds. Not surprisingly, football is very popular in the Astros clubhouse and most players will be watching to see who wins Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and the Broncos. With that in mind, I polled some members of the front office, some broadcasters and a whole lot of players to get their predictions on who will win Sunday’s game.
Astros manager Bo Porter, who played football Iowa and briefly considered going to the game, thinks the Broncos will win. I asked him to tell me why, and it was clear he’s not your average football fan. Porter is also close friends with two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells and plans to spend a couple of days with him in Florida in about 10 days before heading to Kissimmee.
“I would think the Broncos would win,” he said. “I don’t think Seattle is going to score enough to keep up with them. When you look at both team’s strengths, Denver’s strength is their offense and Seattle’s strength is their defense. But when you look at Seattle strength being their defense, it starts with their front seven. Because of Denver’s personnel, they will not be able to play the front seven they have been planning because one of those lineman or one of those linebackers is going to have to leave the field and they’re going to play with five DBs. That changes the dynamic of their strength, and Denver gets to play with the strength they’ve played with all year.”
His prediction: Denver 31, Seattle 17
Here are some other predictions from those associated with the Astros:
Matt Albers: Denver, 24-20
Kevin Chapman: Denver, 21-17 “Broncos’ peypey MVP, Doritos best commercial.”
Chad Qualls: Denver, 27-20. “Seattle’s ‘D’ and ’12th Man’ are less of a factor with the game not being at home. Peyton adds to his accolades, al a Elway.”
Max Stassi: Denver, 35-14. “Big fan of Peyton Manning. A true professional in the sport of football and love to see him succeed after a major injury.”
Alex White: Denver, 30-17. “I’m pulling hard for the Broncos.”
Steve Sparks, broadcaster: Denver, 34-24
Matt Dominguez: Denver 35-21
Jesse Crain: Denver 27-25. “Gotta go with my team, the Broncos!!”
Brett Wallace: Denver, 24-17. “I gotta go with Denver. After the Seahawks knocked my Niners out and the way that played out after, can’t root for them.”
L.J. Hoes: Seattle, 28-25
Josh Zeid: Denver, 21-17
Dallas Keuchel. Denver, 28-17
Marc Krauss: Denver, 23-20. “The sheriff finishes his MVP season off right.”
Geoff Blum, broadcaster: Seattle, 27-21 (West Coast bias by Blum showing through)
David Stearns, assistant GM: Denver, 35-10
Robert Ford, broadcaster: Seattle, 21-17
Julia Morales, CSN Houston: Denver, 24-13
Reid Ryan, president of baseball operations: Denver, 27-24
Brett Oberholtzer: Denver, 27-23. “I have a Ray Lewis type fairytale ending for Peyton.”
J.D. Martinez, Denver: 24-20
Jarred Cosart, Denver: 24-17
Brian McTaggart, MLB.com: Seattle, 28-24
Astros pitcher Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, is recovering after undergoing an emergency appendectomy Thursday.
The Astros, in a release, said Appel’s procedure was standard and “with no complications.” He’s expected to report to Spring Training on time for the Feb. 15 date for Astros pitchers and catchers. Recovery time for an appendectomy for baseball players is typically 2-3 weeks.
“Mark will be fine,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “He will report to camp on time. Once he arrives in Spring Training, we’ll see where he is at health-wise and take it from there. We anticipate that he will either be ready to work out at the start of camp or very close to ready.”
After throwing 106 1/3 innings at Stanford, Appel was held to 10 starts in his professional debut last year. He went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA between Class A Quad Cities (eight games) and short-season Tri-City (two games), and he should get a full load in his first full season in 2014.
Meanwhile, left-handed pitcher Raul Valdes underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Thursday in Houston. Valdes will also report with pitchers and catchers on Feb. 15 and is expected to have a 4-6 weeks recovery. He was claimed off waivers Oct. 2, 2013.
MLB.com broke the news Wednesday that long-time Astros slugger Lance Berkman was retiring after 15 seasons in the game, the bulk of which was played in Houston. There will be undoubtedly a lot of discussion in the coming years about Berkman’s legacy and whether he should get elected to the Hall of Fame, which seems like a long shot based on his career numbers.
There is no argument, however, that Berkman will be remembered as one of the greatest Astros players in franchise history. If you look at the Astros’ career record books, three names stick out – Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. They were the Killer B’s, the group that took Astros baseball to new heights in the mid-2000s and helped them reach the World Series in 2005. The Astros, of course, were swept by the White Sox, and Berkman eventually did win a ring following his final productive year with the Cardinals in 2011.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Astros retire Berkman’s No. 17 at some point as they did with Biggo (7), Bagwell (5) and several others. Here’s where Berkman ranks in the Astros’ career record books:
WAR (Wins Above Replacement)
1. Bagwell, 79.5
2. Biggio, 64.9
3. Cruz, 51.2
4. Cedeno, 49.4
5. Berkman, 48.1
1. Alou, .331
2t. Bagwell, .297
2t. Watson, .297
4. Berkman, .296
5. Gross, .293
1. Berkman. .410
2. Bagwell, .408
3. Alou, .403
4. Gross, .376
5. Spiers, .375
1. Alou, .585
2. Berkman, .549
3. Bagwell, .540
4. Hidalgo, .501
5. G. Davis, .483
1. Alou, .988
2. Berkman, .959
3. Bagwell, .948
4. Hidalgo, .857
5. Ensberg, .843
1. Biggio, 1,844
2. Bagwell, 1,517
3. Berkman, 1,008
4. Cedeno, 890
5. Cruz, 871
1. Biggio, 3,060
2. Bagwell, 2,314
3. Cruz, 1,937
4. Cedeno, 1,659
5. Berkman, 1,648
1. Biggio, 4,711
2. Bagwell, 4,214
3. Berkman, 3,053
4. Cruz, 2,846
5. Cedeno, 2,601
1. Biggio, 668
2. Bagwell, 488
3. Berkman, 375
4. Cedeno, 343
5. Cruz, 335
1. Bagwell, 449
2. Berkman, 326
3. Biggio, 291
4. Wynn, 223
5. G. Davis, 166
1. Bagwell, 1,529
2. Biggio, 1,175
3. Berkman, 1,090
4. Cruz, 942
5. Watson, 782
1. Bagwell, 1,401
2. Biggio, 1,160
3. Berkman, 1,040
4. Wynn, 847
5. Cruz, 730
1. Biggio, 1,014
2. Bagwell, 969
3. Berkman, 727
4. Cedeno, 561
5. Cruz, 553
Here are some photos from FanFest. I’m nobody’s photographer, but it’s better than nothing…
Galveston, oh, Galveston. Country music super star Glen Campbell sang a hit song about the island city years ago, and the city and beach looked spectacular Wednesday when the Astros Caravan come to town. Here are a few photos from the stops:
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday the club made an offer for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, who reached an agreement with the Yankees on Wednesday for seven years and $155 million.
Luhnow said he flew to Los Angeles with owner Jim Crane and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens to meet with Tanaka. The Astros, who met with Tanaka and his representatives on Jan. 8, were the first team to talk to him when he was in the U.S.
“We did make an offer and were involved,” Luhnow told MLB.com. “We did meet with him and make an offer.”
Luhnow wouldn’t say how much the Astros offered Tanaka, but a source told MLB.com it was more than $100 million. Tanaka’s agreement with the Yankees includes an opt-out clause that can be exercised after the 2017 season, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to MLB.com.
Crane confirmed for reporters on Tuesday the Astros had interest in Tanaka, but didn’t give specifics.
Tanaka, 25, went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season, pitching the team to a Japan Series title. The total value of the contract is the fifth-highest for a pitcher in Major League history, and the Yankees owe a $20 million posting fee to Rakuten under the terms of baseball’s revised posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball.
Tanaka’s first start for the Yankees will likely come at Minute Maid Park in April when the Yankees open the season with three games in Houston.
Here are some various pictures from the Astros Caravan stops on Tuesday: