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Beckett and Kazmir: The Battle for North Houston; The Rays and the MLB Draft

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It's I-45 vs. Hwy 290 tonight in Tampa. Sure, there is the small matter of deciding whether Boston goes up 2-0, or Tampa Bay punches back to even the series up at one game a piece. For Astros fans, the game has a special twist that comes with being from a professional sports incubator like Houston. Josh Beckett of Spring H.S. and Scott Kazmir of Cypress Falls H.S. got their starts pitching in the same muggy, suburban Houston air that many of us played sports in as well. A friend of mine lives in the same neighborhood as Kazmir's parents, and Scott still spends a great deal of his off-season back home. So, while their addresses may have changed, this is a matchup made for Houston. It'd be like if Pappasito's had a cook-off against Saltgrass and we all got to sample an enchilada or a chicken fried steak....sorry, I haven't eaten lunch yet. Anyway- these are two of the best arms in the game, and tonight they play a large role in deciding who will advance to the World Series. We've all been bummed that we no longer have a dog in the pennant race, but hopefully this matchup perks all of our ears up a little more.

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A lot of the talk on this blog deals with mistakes and short comings that the Astros have had with personnel decisions. Perhaps Bobby Heck turned that around this year, and we can return to being one of the more successful teams in regard to drafting players that turn out to be contributors to our major league club. Until then, let's take a quick look at a team that has done this, and has done it well. Tampa Bay amassed a considerable amount of high draft picks, and coupled this with savvy drafting. Here's a sample of the results since 2000. The players I mentioned are guys that are currently on the Rays' roster (active or 40 man) or players that were on teams that at least challenged for a post season spot this year:

2007:

David Price, P

2006:

Evan Longoria, 3B

2004:

Fernando Perez, CF

Jeff Niemann, P (Rice product; not on active roster)

Andy Sonnanstine, P

Reid Brignac, SS (not on active roster)

2003:

Delmon Young, OF (traded to Minnesota in the Matt Garza deal)

James Houser, P (not on active roster)

2002:

BJ Upton, CF

Mike Pelfrey, P (chose to attend college at Wichita State rather than turn pro)

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (drafted by team in the 23rd round, but not signed)

2001:

Jonny Gomes, OF (not on active roster)

Jason Hammel, P (not on active roster)

Dave Bush, P (drafted but not signed-now a starter for the Milwaukee Brewers)

2000:

Rocco Baldelli, OF

James Shields, P

Shawn Riggans, C (not on active roster)

Nick Blackburn, P (drafted for not signed-now a starter for the Minnesota Twins)

Luke Scott, OF(had to throw him in there)

After seeing this, my expectations for Bobby Heck and Ed Wade rose about ten-fold. If Tampa Bay can do this, every team should be able to as well. Both men have a track record of making superb decisions in personnel matters. It will be interesting, if nothing else, to see what our recent draft picks from June do this winter, along with Michael Bourn and JR Towles.