Saturday, June 23, 2012

Anthony Davis Doesn't Pass the Eyebrow Test

Now that King James has finally won his crown, we can look to the NFL season NBA draft that is less than a week away. Don't worry......despite the title of this post it will NOT be a 4,000 word rehash of the 20,000 uni brow jokes on Twitter. I think those have been exhaustive and Twitter has once again succeeded in beating a dead horse, but I do think there is something to Anthony Davis' look (both his refusal to shave that thing and his actual basketball game) that doesn't exactly blow me away.

When New Orleans won the draft lottery it spawned 5,000,000 "The NBA is fixed" blogs/tweets. Everyone thought that Stern fixed it so the Hornets could select Anthony Davis and suddenly be a juggernaut in the West......I'm not so sure. Look around the NBA.....much like in the real world the good looking people tend to also, in an unfair twist, be the most successful. Lebron, Wade, Kobe, DHoward, Jordan....the best players in the NBA might not be Brad Pitt, but they almost all have style and a certain magnetism. Of course I guess you could argue that none of those guys have had their image immortalized with breakfast cereals. Something tells me Anthony Davis will likely not grace the cover of GQ during his career. Remember some other #1 picks who didn't exactly "look the part"? Greg Oden, Andrea Bargnani (double whammy of also having a girl's name), Michael Olowokandi........ actually there's been a lot of first round "can't miss" bigs who missed. And let's be honest here, Davis brings an entirely new meaning to "face of a franchise".

"That's ridiculous, you can't say a player will be a bust because of how he looks?!?!?!?" Okay, fine, then let's discuss actual basketball. Remember the much ballyhooed NCAA Championship game? Davis played spectacular defense, but was 1-10 from the field for 6pts. He's 6-10 220.....pretty big for today's one and done NCAA field, but not exactly a giant in the middle in the NBA. I saw him struggle a little bit when opponents got physical with him. Davis averaged 14 and 10.....not exactly Lebronesque stat stuffing numbers against mostly undersized competition. In his senior season his high school began the year 0-6 and finished 6-19!!! Surround Lebron, Kobe, or Rose with 5th graders and I'm not sure they'd lose 6 straight games as seniors! Especially at 6-10! Of course he grew some 10-12 inches during HS and saw his basketball hopes skyrocket and his game change (he was the primary ball handler in HS....which I doubt he will serve as in the pros). Can he play D? The answer would seem to be a resounding yes, but when has Serge Ibaka been the face of the OKC Thunder?

Davis does have some unique skills, and pretty much only has a season or two of post development under his belt. I like his intensity, which when applying the eyebrow  eyeball test is one of my first questions, but how will he fare against consistent NBA bigs over 82 games? My guess is he will be an average NBA big somewhere in the Samual Dalembert, Marcus Camby mold with a Serge Ibaka ceiling. He seems like a good kid and I wish him the best. NBA fans know the league could use a few more dominant big men for fans to watch, and I would be glad for him if he became one, but I'm not holding my breath. Sometimes you just have to throw the hype out the window and listen to what your eyes and head say. Good luck New Orleans.....I'm sure the billboards for next season will be traffic inducing at the least.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Carlos Conundrum

Why do you hate Carlos Lee? If you follow my twitter feed or listen to one of my random Carlos rants, you are likely to ask this question.....several people have before. However, I in fact do NOT hate Carlos Lee. Carlos actually provided a walk off grand slam at one of my greatest "I was there moments", at the end of the Biggio 3000 hit game. I also briefly met Carlos at Gallery furniture the week he was signed by the Astros (I can neither confirm nor deny that Carlos was asking for "the largest bed you have"). Carlos Lee is universally recognized as a "nice guy" and my own experience along with others cannot refute this. So let's start by acknowledging that I do not hate Carlos Lee.

The vitriol that I and other Astros fans direct toward Carlos begins with a number........18.5 million. That is what the Astros are paying their "1st baseman" this season. So far that has bought us a .263 hitter with 2 home runs and 14 RBI's. AL East lover Richard Justice (who used to cover our beloved team) would like you to know that Carlos is the toughest hitter to strike out in the NL, but what he and others haven't told you is that he is the easiest to pop out as well. Carlos routinely hits infield flies (on his bad swings) or warning track flies (on his good swings). His power that once produced 30+ homers is all but gone. If you're looking for a 1B for your fantasy team, you'd be much better off with Billy Butler, Bryan LaHair, or pretty much any 1B besides Pujols (just felt good to drop that jab in there).

Most of my subtle jabs at Carlos revolve around his waistline. I'm over 30 now, and do not get paid millions of dollars to perform physical tasks, but somehow I manage to keep myself in decent enough shape that I could run from home plate to third base without knocking on death's door from over exhaustion. When whispers started growing after Carlos was the last man to arrive at Spring Training that he was "out of shape", fans continued to pile on Lee even as the media defended him because of his happy-go-lucky demeanor. I can't speak for every fan, but it is much easier for me to forgive Yao Ming's injury plagued drop off amidst his tireless hours of playing basketball, than it is for me to forgive Carlos for his drop off amidst years of apparent physical apathy. So yes Carlos Lee is FAT, and in light of the amount of money and time I spend supporting the Astros I feel justified in throwing some jabs his way.....even if he is a "nice guy".

The biggest issue I have is that the Astros are good. Yes! Those Astros who the media dismisses at every turn, are turning heads and overachieving this season. We are young, hungry, and play with fire. None of those adjectives accurately describes Carlos......except hungry, but more for wings than wins. Unfortunately, in light of the above reasons it may be highly unlikely that GM Luhnow can move Carlos this season for more young prospects who are turning this organization around. So, the best we can do is start a CarlosWatch to count down to the last day of his massive contract. I know I won't be the only Astros fan celebrating the day his 18.5 million comes off the payroll.

So I don't hate Carlos, but I do hate that he plays for my team. Some of my hatred stems from things outside his control (payroll) and others he clearly can be blamed for (Fat). I wish Carlos nothing but the best when his time in Houston is done......I just wish that time would come sooner rather than later.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Must Win????

The Astros had a wildly successful Opening Day last night, save for the minor detail of not winning the game. Tonight is obviously not a "must win" game in the long 162 game season. That phrase is thrown about in sports too often, and the reality is that game 2 counts exactly the same as game 162. But the Astros, possibly more than any other team in MLB, cannot afford to get off to a slow start. They absolutely need to win tonight and/or throw at least 3 wins together on this home stand to begin the year. Why? Well, if you're reading this blog you're probably a die hard Astros fan who is excited about the new ownership and future no matter what happens on this home stand, but look around you. A LOT of those "fans" who packed MMP last night don't understand a double switch, let alone the intricacies of a rebuilding process. New ownership will need more to hang their hat on when the second home stand begins than just $5 beers and bringing your own peanuts to the game. The crowds will return when they start to see the fruits of the rebuilding process on the field, but it would be great for this franchise, under new ownership, to generate some early excitement about a competitive ball club that can carry throughout the long summer.

Let's be honest too, if the Astros were to begin the year 0-5, the idiots in the media would be circling like sharks. You know the ones, they cracked ridiculous jokes about the Astros in their season previews. They've already started with the, "Astros are on pace to go 0-162" jokes. They are looking for ANY reason to flex their humor muscles at the expense of our hometown 9. Personally, I think a good start could be extremely valuable for this young team. Getting some positive media, and a boost in support from the fans could go a long way toward expediting this rebuilding process we have begun.

Is game 2 a "must win"? Of course not. But if this team struggles to get out of the gate the effects WILL be felt. The bandwagon fans will hop off, and the Houston-bashing media (sometimes the most brutal are the local ones who should have our back) will pounce. I'll be there for all 162 games like every season, and I'm sure if you're reading this you will too, but there are a lot of fans who will turn on this team quickly. Here's hoping a strong rest of the home stand will kick start a new era of Houston baseball. Despite the result, last night was a great hint at how this city can become a terrific baseball town. Go Astros!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Puma on the Prowl for Houston

"I feel basically like the commissioner extorted Jim Crane into moving the Astros." - Lance Berkman

I have been itching to write on this subject for several days now. I've always appreciated Berkman's candid responses to questions, and his self-deprecating humor. Baseball is sorely lacking players who both speak their mind, and don't take themselves too seriously. Lance was a fan favorite while crushing baseballs from both sides of the plate and constantly producing during the Astros most successful decade in their history, but little did we know his Houston legacy would be cemented while playing for the hated Cardinals.

Back in November I wrote an article for asking who would be the DH for Astros fans. Little did I know four months later that the DH who would step up to bat for the city of Houston would be a current St. Louis Cardinal! What Berkman said was what we as Astros fans have been trying to convey (all while being drowned out by our apparent East Coast transplanted Houston media). Moving a team that has been in the NL for 50 years is unfair and it sucks! We didn't have a say in it, and we've been told at every turn to shut our mouths and enjoy it (because, after all, the great Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers play in this new superior league!). But Lance Berkman has a much bigger pedestal than some dinky blog that a few dozen people read. He was able to express the outrage of what happened to OUR team in a way that got the attention of the heavy hitters. As Andy from  The Houston Sports Counterplot likes to say....the Puma will #DefendHouston, and for that, Astros fans will never forget him.

Had Lance stopped right there and left his comments about Darth Selig and MLB speak for themselves, he would have solidified his place in Houston lore, but he went on this week to make the rounds on Houston radio sounding like someone who was trying to run for mayor of Astro Nation. I heard him interviewed on both 790 and 1560 this week, and while he toned down the "extortion" vernacular (he was probably threatened by Selig's henchmen), he continued to defend his position that the Astros fans (himself as a Houstonian included) had received a raw deal from MLB. He was also asked about the best all-around players he's played with. I'm sure Richard Justice and the rest of the baseball "know-it-alls" would expect Puma to wax poetic for 30 minutes about the great Albert Pooholes (a recognized villain in Houston), but instead Lance didn't skip a beat by naming Jeff Bagwell the best all around player he's played with. GASP! You could hear the outrage from Bristol! Surely Pooholes was second right? NO! He then quickly added that Craig Biggio would come in a close second. I am not ashamed to admit that I have never had feelings for another man quite like I did for Puma at that moment.

On Tuesday I joked that Crane should immediately erect a giant Puma statue in front of MMP, but is it really that far fetched? Lance was already beloved by Astros fans. A hometown hero from Rice whose outspoken honesty was a welcome departure from the ho hum daily detachment of Biggio and Bagwell. Jimmy Wynn's jersey is retired (rightfully so), but in one more season Puma racked up 103 more HR's and 371 more RBI's! He holds the single season records for extra base hits and RBI's. No decade in Astros history was as successful as the one Puma played in. And now, we find out that more than anybody else associated with the team, Lance Berkman cares deeply about our beloved franchise. Last season I took a picture with my newborn son and 4 year-old daughter next to the Biggio/Bagwell statues behind the Crawford Boxes. I look forward to telling them how their Dad got to see Biggio's 3000th hit in person, and the magical MVP season Bagwell had in 1994. But rest assured, I will also tell them about one of the greatest switch hitters of all-time, who not only played on our first ever World Series team, but who loved our franchise long after he left. Thank you Lance Berkman. Houston will not forget how you stood up for us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I just came to.......Is that Lasagna?

I'm still here?

Remember when you had that girlfriend who just wasn't the same girl you met a few months ago, was beginning to act a little crazy, and started increasing the boredom factor 10 fold every time she showed up? You tried to go to her place to drop the news softly that, "Things just aren't working out".....but when you got there she was whipping up your FAVORITE dinner? Now, you couldn't just pull the trigger and break up with her under those circumstances, so you swallowed your pride and "stuck it out" another week for the sake of stellar pasta. That's kind of how I feel today with Kevin Martin. I mean it was one thing that the Rockets couldn't make the big move that has eluded Daryl Morey his entire career, but I always felt like March 15 would be the last day KMart resided in Houston. He's played basketball like a woman scorned ever since David Stern ensured Rocket mediocrity and vetoed the Gasol trade. I guess all we can do now is hope that this "relationship extension" will reignite Martin's love for the game.....looks like we will be needing him for a first round playoff series.

What's that? Yes, even though the Rockets didn't land the big fish, I think they improved their team enough to lock down a playoff spot. We picked up Marcus Camby for a 2nd rounder, a baby giraffe(Thabeet), and a bag of peanuts(Flynn). He will surely provide better depth off the bench, and a much needed defensive presence when the Bert has to sit. Camby has a home in Houston so I'm sure he is excited to come down here and play during a postseason run. I would predict an early bump in his play for the first few weeks as he experiences some renewed excitement at the tender young age of 37. Camby will never be confused with Dwight Howard, but he is a solid pro who should do nothing but improve Houston's chances to lock one of the 8 playoff spots down.

The other move needs a little closer examination. On the surface it seems as though the Rockets traded Jordan Hill for the Los Angeles version of Stockton(Fisher). However, sources close to the Rockets have filled me in on the true reason they traded for one of Houston's most hated sons. You may remember a certain elbow that Scola took in a game against the Lakers once.....well apparently so does D Morey. Immediately after the trade, word broke that the Rockets were interested in other pg's and looking to buyout Fisher. Perfect! Apparently the Rockets will "rent" Fish for just long enough to allow Scola a chance to "rectify" the situation behind closed doors. Once Scola gets his revenge....adios Fisher....welcome back beloved Kyle Lowry. Win-win. Never fear Houstonians, you WILL NOT have to sell your soul to Stern and buy a red and yellow "Fisher" jersey(just threw up in my mouth a little). Thank God. Oh yeah....we also got Dallas' protected pick in the deal as well....that may have had something to do with it too.

One last thing. Watching THESE Rockets as constituted is not the worst job that NBA fans have. The last two games have shown that when this team moves the ball, plays motivated, and puts some effort on the glass(Camby should help) they can compete on a nightly basis with anybody in the West. How would you like to be an NBA fan in Charlotte, Toronto, or even New York? I get a lot of basketball pleasure from watching guys like Lowry, Dragic, Lee, Patterson, Scola and others each night. So Martin gets a stay of separation, the front court is improved, and Scola gets to settle an old score.......maybe not what Morey had in mind but......I for one can't wait for the stretch run. Go Rockets!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 Astros: Why Should You Care?

Pretty much everybody in the Houston media is using the first signs of Spring as an excuse to crack on the hometown Astros. "Will they win 40 games? If no fans are left, does anyone hear the outrage over moving to the American League? Can we start football season in April?" etc. etc. etc. The thing is, there are still a lot of die hard Astros fans like myself that I have met over the last few months and the common thread between most of us: growing optimism. Call me crazy (you wouldn't be the first), but I am more excited about the start of this baseball season than I have been in several years. Here's my top 5 reasons why:

1. New Ownership. Everything I have read, seen, and heard about the trio of Crane, Postolos, and Luhnow has me believing that the Astros are in much better hands. Let's get one thing straight.....I HATE moving to the AL, but that was never an option for Crane and co. (they were forced by Darth Selig). It now seems like the Astros have real plans in place to contend again. There is an emphasis on things like player development, statistical analysis, and a strong minor league system which is refreshing given that the previous regime seemed to think those things were all inconsequential. We are going to have even more reasons to get out and enjoy beautiful MMP with the reduced prices, and I think we'll be bringing our own snacks into the juicebox very soon to see a team competing in the deep AL West.

2. Prospects. Prospects. Prospects. Baseball unlike other sports has the ability to get fans excited about players who won't play on their team for several years. The previous administration didn't have the faith to believe that fans would buy into an all out youth movement/rebuilding effort. The more I talk to Astro faithful, the more I think we're ready to not only buy into a youth movement, but EMBRACE I would imagine Carlos Lee embraces the last taco of a Grande Meal. We have more prospects in the minors than we have in a while thanks to some end of regime Ed Wade deals, but don't take my word for it. Check out my man Andy's top ten Astros prospects blog over at The Houston Sports Counterplot. If that doesn't get you excited for the future then maybe the upcoming inaugural draft for Luhnow and company will. The Astros have committed far more than the $5.75 (rough guesstimate) they have been spending on draft picks in recent years AND the silver lining of last year's debacle is they get the #1 overall pick. Should be the most exciting draft I can remember as an Astros fan!

3. The Young Guns. The aforementioned youth movement got a head start last season. There will be a LOT of young faces at the big league level this year, and that will make for a very interesting season. Lyles, Bud, Martinez, Altuve, Castro, Wallace etc. These will all be names the big league club is counting on in 2012. The two names I will be watching the closest are Bud Norris and Jason Castro. Bud has shown flashes of being a top of the rotation guy, and if he can become an anchor for that rotation the Astros rebuilding effort will take a major step forward. Q is really an underrated catcher. Nothing great, but he gets the job done. However you know what you're getting with Quintero, and Snyder for that matter. Castro was a former top prospect, and if he returns from injury in 2012 to show signs of being an above average bat who can also handle a big league staff.....then again, the rebuilding efforts take a major step forward. In my opinion, if just two of the youngsters who will start out as everyday players in April can show that they can be part of a contending team in a few years.... then the Astros will be happy. Hopefully we are seeing the first wave of what will be a steady stream of young talent coming to the bigs.

4. Luhnow Trade Skills. This may be #4 on the list but could be #1 on my interest-o-meter. What will the first Jeff Luhnow trades garner the Astros? Will this regime have a knack for seeing talent in other teams' systems? Obviously most fans would like to see the Astros turn Wandy, Myers, and possibly others into yet more young talent for a club at least a few years away from serious contention. Admittedly, I have been cool towards the recent news that Myers will be the team's closer. I guess I was hanging onto a pipe dream where Brett resembled 2010 Myers for a few months and tricked teams into over bidding for his inning chewing services. I'll be the first to hop on board though if a) it means more innings for the previously mentioned young arms b) Myers garners more attention as a closer and creates a wider trade spectrum for he and Wandy (separate markets for starter/closer) and c) if it means he grows the goatee 4 feet longer to become a more menacing presence out of the bullpen. If Luhnow were somehow to turn Carlos Lee by the trade deadline (I'm thinking something like the deal Stillwater got for Penny Lane in Almost Famous), then I would probably begin the petition to get a Luhnow statue erected outside MMP.

5. End of an Era. Speaking of the big fella, this should be the end of the Carlos Lee era in Houston. Despite silly rumors of him DHing next year(if there's ANY truth to that I will carve my eyeballs out with my Biggio starting lineup), there should be NO WAY he is in Astros discussions at this time next year. That my friends is encouraging news. Every game this season means we are one game closer to Adios Caballo.

Although win/loss record won't be a very good indicator of how this season goes, I will predict the Astros to finish 70-92. You may look at that and decide the Astros aren't worth your time(you probably were only a huge fan during a few months in 2005), OR like myself you may choose to look at the reasons I've outlined above to be excited about our Astros. They can take us out of the NL(BUD!!!!!), they can make us play home games in Milwaukee, they can even refuse to let one of the great 1b of all time into the HOF.....but they can NEVER take the Astros away from the fans. AL West here we come!