Some thing to talk about while the season gets ready to begin soon, soon, soon...
1) Crane's comments last night
Last night, Astros owner Jim Crane went on the Odd Couple show with Fred Davis and Barry Warner, discussing multiple topics. I only heard the stuff before the first commercial break, but he talked about both the CSN Houston situation and the Larry Dierker mess.
Here's the quote I pulled on CSN Houston from last night:
"These deals have gone down to the wire in other big markets," Crane said. "We want a competitive deal for the city of Houston. We want a rights fee that is competitive with the Angels and the Rangers. There may be some short-term pain, but we're interested in long-term goals.
"DirecTV has 17 deals with Comcast. We want a market deal, the same rights deals as other teams have. We want to be a top six market and we have to get a fair deal. We don't want to jeopardize our future with a below-market deal."
Most of what Crane says is the same company line that Matt Hutchings gave me on Thursday. However, I found it highly interesting that Crane mentioned the Rangers and Angels as the teams they're trying to compete with in this new TV deal. The Rangers signed a $3 billion, 20 year deal with Fox Sports to televise games. Do you know who also has a $3 billion, 20 year TV deal? The Angels.
It's also interesting that Crane brings up Houston as a potential Top 6 market in baseball. While Houston is certainly a big enough city this new RSN could provide the Astros enough money to be a big spender, Crane has to be a heck of a businessman to turn a team that lost money for five straight years into a Top 6 market, right?
2) Dierker situation
Crane's first comments, though, were regarding the Larry Dierker mess. It was the first positive news I'd heard about this situation. While I didn't transcribe what he was saying, there were two good points that he made.
First, Dierker's comments came when Crane was still out of town. Once Crane got back to Houston, he sat down with Dierker and they talked out their issues. Crane's point to Dierker was that when Larry was a manager, he wouldn't have wanted a player to attack him in the press; he would have wanted it to come in a closed-door meeting.
The other good sign was that Crane seemed optimistic he could bring Dierker back into the fold with Houston. If you read Dierker's comments, that seems far-fetched, but from Crane's comments, it sounds like cooler heads prevailed in the one-on-one meeting. No deal is imminent, as the two sides will allow for a brief break before Crane sees if he can bring Dierker back into the organization.
3) Castro the Mad Bomber
One non-business related item today. A Beyond the Box Score article from Thursday tried to come up with the next, next, next Jose Bautista. Lewie Pollis talks about his methodology that figured out Ben Zobrist's breakout before it happened, Jose Bautista's breakout before it happened and now, it's predicting Jason Castro to break out power-wise.
The main thrust is that Castro saw significant increases in his power stats in September.
For those who weren't paying close attention to Houston baseball last September (don't worry, you weren't alone), the 25-year-old catcher happened into some serious power in the season's final month. He hit four home runs in 60 plate appearances after September 1 (compared to the same number in 452 career PA through August 31). He slugged .500 (career average on August 31: .333), posted a .269 ISO (.093), and reached an eye-popping 1.167 power factor (.394).
There are a lot of caveats here, but the fact that Castro has gotten endorsements from the likes of Zachary Levine already and has shown good power in the spring suggest that something may on the horizon.
Even if Castro only improves to 20 home runs this season, he'll be immensely more valuable as a catcher who hits like that. With a decent average and a good on-base percentage, Castro could be one of the better offensive catchers in the AL.
For the record, no Astros catcher has ever hit 20 home runs or more in a season. John Bateman came the closest, with 17 homers in 1966. Bateman also has a kickin' Twitter account.