Now that it is easy to find the names of every player who has been ever invited to Spring Training, as well as who played during the year – at least since MLB started publishing them on the site, I thought it would be kewl to go back to a time fans still cared about the team.
2006 was the year that the Organization just didn’t want Luke Scott to be on the team and didn’t want to trade him for anything good, neither, so signed a very washed up Preston Wilson, and the team didn’t take off until someone in the FO persuaded everyone else to call up Luke Scott, but by then, in spite of all the excitement at the end of the year, it was just too late. We ended up 82-80, losing out to the playoffs because of John EFF Smoltz beating us in the last game of the year while the Cardinals won their last Had To Win game, and went on to win the Series, seriously pissing off every betting service and Old Time fan who thought that only the 2 best teams should play, AND the stat geeks, who didn’t think that Saint Looey had what it took to Go All The Way stat-wise and David (5-6) “The Pest” Eckstein took home the WS MVP trophy seeing as how it sure wasn’t Uncle Albert’s prize. So there is one MVP guaranteed Steroid-Free…
2007 was The Year Of The Biggio. Biggio by the end of 2006 was a shadow of the really great second baseman he used to be, and really, no longer had any business on any major league team, let alone as a starteer on a major league team actually expected to Compete. But Drayton McLane decided, for the first time I can think of, that winning was not the most important thing with the team, marketing Biggio, getting him the extra 57 hits he needed to reach 3000 and thus secure him a Hall of Fame spot, was what mattered. No idea what Tal Smith, let alone Tim Purpura thought about it, but Pam Gardner, head of business, must have been delighted, because the fans poured in to see the Biggio, not a winning team.
Astros posted a losing record for the first time since 2000, but unlike then, the Astros no longer had either a great young core or any minor leaguers who would be good solid players, let alone STARS!!!!! as Drayton had insisted on not paying prospects (after paying Derik Grigsby 1 mill in 2000 – and he then had mental illness and left baseball, and Chris Burke 2 mill in 01 – and he screamed about paying any young unproven player more than chump change. The Astros minor leagues slid even more quickly into the garbage heap.
Oh yes, and let us not forget – 2007 was the year Drayton forfeited the first and second round picks to sign both Carlos Lee and Woody Williams, this after not offering arb to any departing players who would obviously sign multi-year contracts elsewhere, a policy that was and would continue to prove disastrous for years.
By the way, please note that of all these IF, including those invited to ST, NONE of them were prospects, by any definition of the word. The decay of the farm by this time was advanced.
- Eric Munson – ex Tiger, brought over by Phil Garner, ex-Tiger, the last manager to have any sort of power whatsoever. Had his ups and downs, played 50 games at AAA, 50 games in the majors, was usually used as a lefty PH, which really didn’t suit him, and in 150 PA, managed a .669 OPS. Wasn’t resigned at the end of the year, spent the next year mostly hurt, had a good year at AAA in 09, was called up for one PA, spent the next 2 years in the indy leagues or at AAA, then was OOB. He had been yanked around by his original team after being drafted, because he could hit for power, so he was put at third, at first, before spending 2 years at catcher with the Astros, by which time he was already old. Never got a big ML payday, but that’s OK because he got a 7 mill signing bonus. Those were the days…
- Brad Ausmus – sigh. You talk about a tough guy. Played in at least 100 games/year from 94 – 07. Spent one more year with the Astros, then left to go west, young man, spent 2 years as a backup with the Dodgers, and had to have back surgery his very last year. He’s now in the Padres’ Front Office, when he’s not involved with Israeli baseball. Fun fact about Brad – he killed the ball in Spring Training, hit over .300 every year. Now you’d wonder if he’s one of those guys who would have had a really great career as a second baseman, as he was agile, a very good and smart baserunner, and he wore down behind the plate.
J.R. Towles – he wasn’t at Spring Training. He was a 20th round pick, expected to be minor league filler, got called up to AA only because someone else got hurt. And he absolutely moided that baseball, earned a Sept callup long after the season had been punted, and he and other young players got a chance, and he not only set the all time Astros record for RBIs in 1 game with 8, but went 15 fer 40 with 5 doubles and a homer and the FO thought they had their Catcher Of The Future.
Humberto Quintero – who had been obtained from the Padres after the 05 season for Tim Redding, one of the guys who, along with Roy Oswalt, Carlos Hernandez and Wade Miller, were supposed to be The 4 Aces for the Astros for a decade. Didn’t work out that was, did it? Q spent most of the year in the minors, in spite of hitting .283 in ST – he posted a ML line which was essentially his career line: .226/.281/.244/.545. He wasn’t the devensive catcher that Ausmus was, couldn’t run like him, couldn’t even hit as well, but yet the fans never screamed about how his bat was killing the team, as they did with Ausmus. Of course, he wasn’t outrageously handsome and you didn’t see tons of females wearing his jersey, neither.
Just appeared for ST props:
Lou Santangelo – Went 1 fer 10. My GAWD he’s youngern me. Picked in the 4th round of the 04 draft, couldn’t hit for spit at any level. Busted for roids, which obviously did zero for his production (you notice that all the folks who insist that roids turn guys into great hitters never mention guys like Lou). Made it as high as AAA in 09 (man I don’t remember that – tells you what you need to know about the Astros minor leagues over the past 7-8 years) then was demoted to AA, then has been in the indy leagues for the past 2 years. There really are guys who love playing baseball they actually DO play basically for free.
Kevin Davidson – picked in the 27th round of the 02 draft. No sort of speeper or prospect by anyone’s standards, not even sure why he was at ST, except that they need SOME body to catch all those pitchers. He’d posted a .602 OPS at AA in 06. He was OOB after the year, so I guess he’s always have that ML ST uni to treasure.
Jeffrey Mackor – who??? Picked in the 15th round of the 02 draft, had posted a .711 OPS at high A in 06, and got exactly one ST AB. Like with Kevin Davidson, he’ll always have that ST uni to treasure. He posted a .640 OPS at AA in 07, then was OOB.
Lance Berkman – anyone remember that he came in 6th in the 2000 ROY voting behind Mitch Melusky? Hardly anyone ever heard of the guy because he played in a small market like Houston that The Media didn’t and doesn’t bother to mention, but he’s one of the best switch hitters of all time. 2007 was a very down year for him, as he only posted a 130 OPS+ and most important to Astro fans, hit only .286 – Astros fans weren’t into saber anything, they wanted to see high batting averages and really didn’t respect much of anything else. He now has a lifetime OPS+ of 146, really has a HOF quality career. He FINALLY got that Ring after signing with Saint Looey in 2011, after finding out that, to his surprise, the Astros didn’t want him back after he generously agreed to be traded to the Yankees For The Good Of The Ballclub in 2010 (the Mark Melancon/Jimmy Paredes trade). After all his anti-DH talk, he signed with the Rangers to be their – wait for it – DH.
Mike Lamb – his last good year. Had the lead-est of gloves at third, was acceptable at first. But was also a lefty like Lance, so he didn’t get that much time at first, except when Phil put Lance in the OF. He posted his usual good .820 OPS, but by September, it was obvious that the team was going to get rid of him – they didn’t TRADE him, oh no, they might could have gotten something in return. Instead, they let him walk at the end of the year. And although he had more ML ABs from 08 – 2010, he never hit. Not sure what the FO saw, but for once, they were right.
And just in ST:
Neil Sellers – yeah, I know, who??? Got 2 PA, didn’t hit. Drafted in the 32nd round of the 04 draft. He wasn’t exactly a prospect, had posted a .732 OPS at high A Salem, no idea why he got a ST invite. He posted a .738 OPS at AA in 07, ended up in the Phils Organization in 08, so just might could have been a throw in in one of Fast Eddie’s many giveaways to the Phils. Played in the minors until last year.
Second Base -
Biggio – who could only hit at all vs leftys and at home, and had nothing left resembling legs or gloves, only Da Grit. But played full time even after getting That Magic 3000 because he was the Boss and what he wanted, he got. Like Lola. Team player my ass. He should be in the Hall of Fame, but for reasons I do not get, except maybe because he was friends with Ken Caminiti before he left for San Diego in 03, he has gotten hit with steroids!!!!! accusations (how else could he hit 20 el-cheapo homers into the Crawford Boxes in 04 after changing his stance and pulling every single ball?) and has so far been kept out of the Hall, which he won’t sniff with all The Designated Clean!!! guys coming up.
Just curious – why is Biggio being blasted with steroids accusations because he knew Caminiti and lasted forever without injuries except in 2000, but Brad Ausmus, who lasted forever as a catcher without injuries until he was like 41, is not? Neither has big muscles or changed size, so why is one a dirty guy and the other isn’t?
I guess that The Media has decided they have the Devine Right to accuse without proof, seeing as how it isn’t court, after all, and who needs proof when you got a right to suspect and publish it without the slightest fear of reprisal? I don’t know why I bother to even think about it, it’s not like it’s worth worrying about as The Media has all the powah and I have none.
Other players will all be listed under Utility. Because they were.
- Mo Ensberg. Kept in the minors way too long. Was a guy the Organization didn’t like, never knew why, was always looking for an excuse to bench or platoon him, but wouldn’t trade him even when he was valuable and get something for a guy they didn’t want or like. This was a policy that the post Hunsicker Astros stuck to like a drowning person to a life raft, and I still do not get. Anyway, he had hurt his shoulder in May of 06, came back way too soon, and never ever found his swing again. Had a lot of value anyway because he got on base a lot, and when he did hit, he hit for power, good enough for a 120 OPS+ but in 07, he was simply lost. He hit decently in ST, went 16 fer 57 with 2 doubles, 4 homers and 6 walks, but he wasn’t right. He got traded for nothing at the deadline, and basically was OOB within a short time. At least he got paid.
- Ty Wigginton – at age 29, was a much traded guy who had been signed by the Mets in the 17th round of the 98 draft and had already been with the Mets, Pirates and Devil Rays. He was obtained for Dan Wheeler, mired in a lousy season after the firing of Jim Hickey (what a STUPID decision on Drayton’s part). Ensberg was benched and Wiggy posted a 106 OPS+ over 50 games. He didn’t have a very good glove, but the Astros fans already hated Mo, so because Wiggy hit over .280, the fans didn’t have any problem with the glove.
And just for a ST tip of the hat:
- Danny Klassen – second rounder in the Brewers’ 93 draft, had come to the Astros in 04 after being in the Tigers’ minors. I would guess that he was one of Phil Garner’s Tiger Boyz, but Phil didn’t start until July, so I think he must have been a minor league FA. He was already 31 at ST, hadn’t sniffed the majors in a few years, not that he was any good, so it must have been a bone to a minor league soldier. He ended up spending a total of 10 years at AAA, with 2 more at Round Rock, mostly as a SS, to my surprise, I always thought of him as a first/3rd baseman, had a .752 career AAA OPS over 10 years. Another guy who was gonna play until either he broke down or couldn’t get a job. Six year AAA vets are well paid, compared to the rest of minor leaguers, and unless a guy had some kind of degree/skills that would land him a good job, he wouldn’t be much better paid In The Real World.
- Adam Everett - the best glove, next to Ozzie, that I have EVER seen. Brendan Ryan coming in second. Didn’t nevah get no respect from Houston fans because they didn’t give a damm about glove and wanted him to hit like A-roid and Miggy Te-roider. We had lost the 04 playoffs because Adam had a broken arm, and we had Jose Vizcaino “playing” short and he couldn’t hit OR field. His hitting had suffered because of injuries in 04 and 06, but his career really ended for reals when he had a horrific collision in short left with Carlos Lee, who was lumbering in to catch a popup – really, REALLY stupid seeing as how Adam was 10 times the runner and fielder. He was out the rest of the year and we suffered with Mark Loretta’s terrible glove, but fans didn’t care because Mark could REALLY hit. Anyway, in case you’re curious, Adam didn’t hit in ST, was 7 fer 49.
- Mark Loretta – by FAR the best of the utility guys. Was actually a second baseman, although he ended up playing mostly at SS, where he didn’t belong. Really lousy glove, but no fans cared because he hit better than Adam Everett. His hitting had suffered because of injuries in 04 and 06, but his career really ended for reals when he had a horrific collision in short left with Carlos Lee, who was lumbering in to catch a popup – really, REALLY stupid seeing as how Adam was 10 times the runner and fielder. He was out the rest of the year and we suffered with Mark Loretta’s terrible glove, but fans didn’t care because Mark could REALLY hit. He hit .321 in ST and .287 with a .724 OPS the rest of the year.
UTILITY INFIELDERS: (you will note that there wasn’t a single prospect in the bunch)
- Cody Ransom: just looking at this name makes me mad. Picked in the 9th round of the 98 draft by the Giants, had a .660 OPS over 4 years, 117 PA with them, disappeared into the minors. Signed by the Astros in 06 as a minor league FA, he was second on the AAA team to SupahStah Supah Joe McEwing, who won team MVP honors with a .7 something OPS. Really. Cody hit .247/.349/.479/.824 at age 30, was kept instead of promoting anyone from AA like, say, jonny Ash, who might could have had a future. He hit .300 with a .817 OPS in ST, but never had any chance of making the ML team even if he had gone 30 fer 30. Got called up for a couple of ABs mid year, went 8 fer 35 with 2 doubles, a homer and 9 walks. Released at the end of the year, he went to the Yankees, where he filled in for ARod in 08, posting Arod like numbers over 51 glorious PA. Got a Ring with them in 09. Has appeared with SOME ML team every year since and had a career high 168 PA last year with the Crew. You talk about veterans blocking promising youngsters in the majors – well, Ransom did that in our minors for 2 years.
- Eric Bruntlett – drafted by the Astros in the 9th round of the 09 draft. A true utility guy who had a really good glove everywhere, including center field. Hit .250 in ST with 2 doubles and 2 homers, but started on the AAA team after a good year in 06. I was surprised and I’ll bet he was even more surprised. But he ended up playing 80 ML games with a .629 OPS over 15 PA. Got traded to the Phils after the season in the Brad Lidge/Michael Bourn trade and won a Ring – had a really important hit, or was it play, in the deciding game – reminded me of that fabulous DP to win the Astros 04, or was it 05 NLDS. This stuff fades over time and I’m too damn lazy to search my archives. He did the bounce between majors and minrs thing in 09, played strictly in the minors in 2010, then retired.
And just a ST invite:
First, guys who eventually made it to the majors, just not with the 07 Astros:
- Brooks Conrad: picked in the 8th round of the 01 draft, a switch hitting second baseman. Astros never had any interest in the guy, don’t know why. They exposed him to RuleV after he had a .840 OPS at AA and no one else was interested neither. He continued to post high .800 OPS at AAA for 3 years, yet the Astros wouldn’t promote him and they wouldn’t trade him. Yeah, another one of those guys. You sign Mark Loretta, you KNOW you aren’t gonna use Conrad, but make zero effort to get anything for him. Same old Astros. Oakland picked him up as a 6 year minor league FA at the end of the season and he got a couple of ML Abs at age 28. He went to Atlanta in 09, spent 2 full years in the majors as a utility player, got famous for hitting a bunch of homers at the end of the 2010 Braves season, as well as making unbelieveably TERRIBLE plays – like 4 of em, in 1 game that cost the Braves the game. And really, the playoffs. Got 106 PA last year between Tampa and Milwaukee and I think he’s finally done at age 33. 481 major league PA over 5 years with an 82 OPS+ starting at age 28. And just think, the Astros didn’t think he was worth anything.
- Edwin Maysonet: yet ANOTHER wasted minor leaguer. I hear tell he was – well, whatever the Latin word for “uppity” is. Picked in the 19th round of the 03 draft as filler. Was a excellent glove second baseman,he didn’t stand the ghost of a chance, seeing as how Chris Burke was in front of him and a 10 foot thick steel wall with endless rows of barb wire named Biggio was in front of him. Edwin wasn’t a prospect or shooting star, and in 06, had repeated high A, and posted a .254 BA/.705 OPS, which earned him a promotion to AA, where he posted a .271 BA/.675 OPS. He got for 7 AB in 08. He had been promoted to AAA, was hitting .273 BA/.721 OPS and he got called up in 09 when Glass Matsui had one of his predictable injuries. He hit .291, over 79 PA, played flawless second base, but Cecil Cooper didn’t like him and didn’t want to play him and benched him for 0fer 32 Jason Smith and Matt Suckage Kata, while Maysonet sat on his butt. Ridiculous. Of course, Fast Idiot Eddie had given Kaz a stupid stupid 3 year contract and they weren’t gonna trade him because no one else was that stupid. But they didn’t even TRY to trade Maysonet, get something, just sent him back down and let him rot. He got hurt in 2010, didn’t play much even at AAA, and was released at the end of the year. He was signed by the Brewers as a minor league FA and FINALLY got back to the majors last year for 66 PA – hit .250 with a .643 OPS (did better than Brooks Conrad) and this year, signed as a minor league FA with the C*bs. They have Darwin Barney at second, but you alwys need utility guys. Hope he makes it big at age 31. youneverknow.
- Drew Sutton: drafted in the 15th round of the 04 draft. At the end of 06, he has posted a .789 OPS at high A Salem, and the Astros farm was so terrible, that I had actually heard his name. He spent 07 at AA, repeated in 08 and tore it UP with a .908 OPS. That’s incredible for a second baseman – and they didn’t promote him to AAA during the year because that’s the Astros for you. He was traded at the beginning of the 09 season to the Reds for Jeff Keppinger, and yes, this was one of Fast Eddie’s few GOOD moves not involving a reliever. He’s had plate appearances with at least one major league team every year since 09 and has a total of 308 PA and a .708 OPs (93 OPS+) which ain’t bad. Interestingly enough, his best season was the infamous Beer And Chicken season with the 2011 Red Sox and had a .807 OPS over 60 PA. He didn’t play with them after July and I’ll bet it’s why the team collapsed. Spent last year with the Pirates (beat us with a walk off homer, I remember THAT – of course, beating the Astros happened a lot, but hey, a walk off is a walk off) and Rays and is now back with the Bosox.
And guys who just got a uni and 1-2 ABs:
- Jonny Ash – signed 11th round of the 04 draft from the CWS winning team. Was a “character guy” who fielded well, hit for high average and no power. He hit .314 with a .778 OPS at Corpus in 06, but for some reason, was not promoted. Well, the reason was that the Astros chose to play Cody Ransom, one of those AAA monster hitters instead, to enhance the chances of the team winning. So there went any chance for Jonny. When that happens to you and the Organization won’t trade you, that’s the end. And Jonny played a few more yers at AA, then hung em up.
- Wade Robinson: 13th round of the 03 Astros draft. Had a cumulative .561 OPS at AA, although he had killed the ball at AAA in 87 PA at the end of the season. Was released from the Astros at the end of ST (they really gave him a chance with his one AB), caught on briefly with the Nats for a few months, played in the indys for a few years
- Osvaldo Fernando – signed out of the DR in 02. Hadn’t hit at any level, and been promoted to AA at the end of 06 for some reason. Split the season between high A and AA, hit .250 in both with no power, was promoted to AAA for a few games, then was OOB.
- Edwin D Maldonado – I left him for last because he’s really the epitome of the emptiness of the Astros Organization by 07. He was drafted in the 9th round by the Giants in 2000, crapped out at A ball 2 years later, had played in the indys for FOUR years, had a .911 OPS for Laredo in 06, and they gave him exactly 1 AB to see what he could do vs ML pitching. Yeah, that really told em plenty. Opportunity my ass.
Which is basically true all the time. The Organizations might could say something about no posotions guaranteed/the job is open for anyone to win, blahblahblah, but it’s all a pack of lies. With very few exceptions, they have their minds long since made up by the time that players report to ST.
You notice there is no Chris Burke. Because he’s getting his own entire blog post, that’s why.