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Offseason Swap Series: Houston Astros

| On 23, Jan 2012


By Mike Brandyberry

Like a starting pitcher in a big game, I thought I was done, but Matthew Van Wormer sat at the other end of the dugout and never gave me the hook, so I’m going back out to keep throwing. This week we talk with Greg Thurston of Climbing Tal’s Hill, a blog dedicated covering the Houston Astros. The Tribe will travel to Houston in late June to face a team deep in the rebuilding process, but it will be the first of many because the Astros will become American League foes in 2013. With so many changes taking place in Houston, let’s get to Greg’s thoughts.

DTTWLN #1-Last season was another tough one for the Astros. Two years ago, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman were traded away, and last season saw Hunter Pence dealt to Philadelphia. How are fans handling and reacting to a complete overhaul and rebuild?  

The majority of Astros fans are not taking it well. But we diehards are optimistic that the team is on the right track.

DTTWLN #2-The Astros have just completed an ownership change and agreed to move to the American League West in 2013. What are your thoughts of the new ownership and the decision to move to the other league?  

The move to the A.L. is what has many fans up in arms. Jim Crane was basically held hostage by Bud Selig and the owners and had no other choice in the matter. In reality, I think the rivalry with the Rangers has the potential to become much bigger than any other rivalry the Astros have ever known. The Astros are not going to be a factor in any pennant races for the next couple of years, so I don’t have a problem with the move. The timing is right for a new adventure. I have been impressed with the way the new regime has gone about their business. Jeff Luhnow looks to be an excellent hire and he has been aggressive in implementing a plan to build for the future.

DTTWLN #3-We’ve all heard rumors that Carlos Lee is on the market. Any chance the Astros are willing to eat more than half his salary to move him, or are they willing to wait it out until the trade deadline?

I think the Astros are probably willing to eat a substantial amount of the $19.5 million owed to Lee this season, perhaps as much as $15 million. That being said, I would be somewhat surprised if a deal came sooner rather than later. I suppose if the Tigers or Indians were willing to pay half of Lee’s salary (and include a top notch prospect) Jeff Luhnow would go ahead and pull the trigger on a deal now. However, Lee would have to approve any trade and that could be a stumbling block. He has expressed an interest in staying in Houston and doesn’t want to be a DH.

DTTWLN #4-Why is Jeff Bagwell not a slam dunk Hall of Famer? Do you think it has everything to do with speculation he did steroids (even though he has never been directly linked)?  

You hit the nail on the head here, Mike. But I do expect Bagwell to get in within the next couple of years. Several voters have said they will vote for Bags eventually but didn’t think he was a first ballot guy.

DTTWLN #5-The Astros aren’t contenders this season, so considering their rebuilding plan, what do you think would make 2012 a successful season?

That’s a hard one to answer. Expectations are at an all-time low. I guess anything short of utter embarrassment should be considered a success. For one, attendance needs to improve. As I said earlier, many fans are quite upset. If the new ownership can get fans in the seats it will be step one on the road to regaining respectability.


Thanks Greg! Check out his blog and either of his two Twitter accounts for all your Astros news. Hopefully we can talk to Greg this summer when the Indians head south to Texas and into the future when the Astros become an American League team. Next week we’ll see if I’m left in the game again and where our travels through interleague will take us.

Photo: Associated Press

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