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Merry Christmas. . . .

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to Astros fans everywhere, and happy birthday, Brad Lidge.

I am certain that we all had hoped that the Astros would take more action than they did in the weeks leading up to the winter holidays.

But unlike in 2003, when McLane and Hunsicker presented Jeff Kent unto us, or 2004, when it was Andy Pettitte, the Astros have not left anything special under the tree.

The winter meetings came and went uneventfully, and we are left with no Giles, no Nomar, no Miggy, no anyone of substantial value.

The Astros have not been totally inactive, however.  I'm sure you caught the other day where they had signed Raul Chavez to a one-year deal worth 400K. I can't even pretend to be unbiased about Chavo; I've always had a soft spot for career minor leaguers who finally stick, and Raul is certainly that.  

The defense is certainly major league caliber, and besides, I still haven't forgiven Quintero for dropping the bat after his ONLY homer of 2005.  Chavez doesn't pull s**t like that, you can be sure.

At the same time, the Astros had offered arbitration to every remaining eligible player.  These players were Ensberg, Everett, Lidge, and Wheeler.  The players and the club will submit their figures next month.

And late yesterday, the Astros signed five players to a minor league deal.  Most noteworthy I suppose (at least to a knuckleball freak such as myself) is the signing of Steve Sparks.  True, Sparks is forty years old, and he's never been particularly effective, but with the 2005 departure from the organization of Jared Fernandez, it's cool to see that the long line of Astros knuckleballers that started with Bobby Tiefenauer and Ken Johnson, and continued through Joe Niekro, will have a chance to continue.

You also might know Danny Klassen, who's spent time with at Round Rock and New Orleans over the last three or four years.  The site said he will compete with Bruntlett for a utility infield slot in Spring Training, but that's a race Klassen is unlikely to win.

Rounding out the quintet were pitchers Dave Borkowski, and well-traveled infielders Kevin Orie and Eric Munson.

None of these players are likely to make a difference, but at least it's something I can write about during an offseason where the pickings have been slim.

To all Astros fans everywhere, I hope that your personal Santas are more generous than McLane and Purpura have been.  Enjoy your holiday, as I plan to, and here's to actions worthy of debate and/or celebration in the first month of 2006.