Was going to post a FanShot of this last night when it broke, but since there were multiple things going on, I condensed it down into this one nice post.
First off, the Astros came to arbitration agreements with two players, Jeff Keppinger, who will earn 1.15 million in 2010 and Chris Sampson, who will earn 810,000. I'm interested to know whether this is a good sign for Sampson staying on the roster? Certainly, if they didn't think he would make the team, they could have just cut him and not committed to paying him almost a million guaranteed. I'm not surprised at Kepp, even if it was mildly shocking when Richard Justice suggested recently that he could possibly steal the second base job away from Kaz. Can we be that lucky?
Not worried about any of the other guys going into arbitration. Pence, Wandy and Bourn probably wanted too much money to settle before the hearings start, but I'd be shocked if any of them actually get to the point of an arbiter deciding salaries.
Secondly, the Astros invited five minor leaguers to the big league camp. Jason Castro comes as no surprise and Chia-jen Lo is only slightly more surprising, but Brian Esposito? Lou Santangelo? Shane Loux? I'm assuming Esposito, Castro and Santangelo were added more for catcher depth to get through the long spring than anything, but as I said in my post earlier this week, Esposito has a very slight chance of winning a backup job. The organization apparently likes something about him and he probably wouldn't embarrass himself in 100-125 plate appearances. Lo probably has more of a chance, as I stated in the previous post too, but let's not get our hopes up. View this as a move to get them experience, not as a legitimate shot at a 25-man roster spot.
Though Brian McTaggart insists that Castro will be given the opportunity to win the starting catcher's spot, I'm very skeptical. The Astros sort of played this game with Hunter Pence in his rookie season, but he still became a Super 2. Monetarily and in long-term thinking, it makes sense to keep Castro down long enough to lengthen his club-controlled salary time. The capitalist in me, however, wants the Young Mr. Castro to win the job outright and earn every penny he can.
Thirdly, here's an excellent article on new pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. Everything he says in here is stuff we've already discussed, but he definitely seems to be a pitcher-friendly guy. I also like that he's going to leave the handling of the staff (when to pull guys, how many pitches, etc.) to Brad Mills. We can hope none of the relievers arms will fall of this year, right?
Lastly, here's one in a series of articles by SBNation on what the future of sports will look like in the next 10 years. Lookout Landing's Jeff Sullivan gave his ideas for how to make the game better in the next decade. I'll admit this is a fun article from the "It's the dead of winter, pitchers and catchers don't report for 37 more days, let's argue about something," angle. What surprised me was how little I agreed with him on. Yes, I do think moving to a computer-controlled strike zone will happen sooner or later, I still think human umpires will play a huge role in the game. The NFL and college football try to use replay for (almost) everything, but there are still plays every week that are just too close to call by review. Thus, an umpire's judgement will still be crucial and must be done in a situation where they don't assume whatever they call can and will be reviewed.
Oddly enough, the statement that caused the biggest reaction from me was his assertion that steroids should be legalized since they aren't harmful. I'm assuming all the weightlifters that have died from heart attacks or pro wrestlers dropping dead in their 40s was because of natural causes? Or something besides the crap they were pumping into themselves? I'm not even sure stuff like Wistrol and the other steroids being used most frequently ARE something that can be prescribed by doctors for "ordinary things." Certainly, that works for HGH, but has there been any evidence that it can improve performance? If there has, I haven't seen it. The fact is, the US governement isn't going to overturn the ban on steroids, so it's a moot point; as long as it's illegal, it'll be against the rules in professional sports.
That's all I've got for today. Sullivan's statements on revenue sharing and the structure of MLB were also very interesting, but will probably have to wait for a post next week.