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Morning Astros News and Notes

I meant to post this Tuesday, but I got caught up with other things and didn't get a chance to finish a notes column. So, you get a special morning edition now and the TCB Players of the Week later today. Tom Martin of Dream Shake and SB Nation Houston fame posted this in a FanShot, but I think it deserves more discussion. In his weekly Top Five, he broke down the top five Houston ballparks. This is what he had to say about our favorite Astros watching ground:

No. 3 - Minute Maid Park (Astros)

I'm on record, right here, saying that I love Tal's Hill, the flagship criticism amongst most Minute Maid Park whiners. The flagpole that sits on it? Not so much, but hey, if you can dodge a ball, you can dodge a flagpole, yes? Moving on.

Minute Maid's got just about everything sans a giant playground for the kids, which doesn't matter anyway. Though it has good barbecue, adequate pizza and plenty of other goodies, the food is all over-priced. Thankfully, we here at SB Nation Houston have devised a cost-efficient plan for you to attend your next game at Minute Maid Park.

1. Buy the cheapest tickets available. In some cases, these can be from one to five dollars. Let's call it $5. I know you want good seats, but keep reading.

2. Eat before the game. Go to Lefty's BBQ or to the Home Plate Bar and Grill. They've got a much better selection for a better price. You still get the whole "baseball atmosphere" thing, too, as these are situated right next to the stadium. Zero dollars spent on average food, $7.00 spent on fresh wings from Home Plate. Round it up to $10 for a drink and/or appetizer.

3. You don't need any shiny memorabilia or nameless jerseys. If you are going to buy something, buy a hat. But I'm not going to. Zero dollars spent at the team shop.

4. Sneak down. No, seriously -- sneak out of your nosebleed seats, presumably around the fifth or sixth inning. Take advantage of your bird's eye view in between innings and scope out a row of empty seats close to the field. If nobody shows up for five innings, chances are, you're all set. The Minute Maid ushers, while being very nice people, get bored after the first few innings and begin to let people in without checking tickets. If they go against their nature and try to check someone in front of you mid-sneak, go back and grab an ice cream cone - they never ticket-check someone carrying food

5. Fine - if you're still hungry after the wings, get some ice cream. That's like, what, five dollars? Yes, we'll go with $5. That's being generous, too.

Total Money Spent: $20

Dugout-level seats for half a game, delicious wings and an ice cream cone. All for 20 bucks. And the nosebleeds are quality seats as well - you get to experience just about everything.

And there you have it: SB Nation Houston's Guide To Cheap Living At Minute Maid Park.TM   If you do things the right way, this can be a very inexpensive place to attend a ballgame. There's a great atmosphere, even when the team is losing. Chalk one up to Astros fans for always showing their support.

What I'm wondering is what your strategies for dealing with MMP are. Do you give in and buy food at the park? Do you eat beforehand? Have you had any success seat-hopping?

One thing that Tom leaves out in his costs is parking. I usually can find a close lot for about 10 dollars, but those prices seem to go up every time I go to the park. If you're lucky enough to live close to downtown, I guess it's a different story.

The other thing he brings up is the pole and Tal's Hill. I've watched so many games at MMP and on TV that I usually forget they're out there. Most of the time, they're just landscape, but every now and then, they provide more memorable moments than they do ridiculousness.

For instance, I remember when Richie Sexton tripled by hitting  a ball halfway up the flag pole. Last time I looked closely, you can still see the mark where he hit it. As for Tal's Hill, my favorite catch on it has to be Lance Berkman's catch back when he still played center field occasionally. He went ass-over-teakettle once he hit the incline, but managed to stay with the ball and make one of the most graceless catches I have ever seen. He was just a heap of arms and legs rolling around out there, but somehow he held onto the ball. It was epic and I really wish I could find a clip of it. What are your favorite memories about the quirkiness of MMP?

Blum to miss a month: After having surgery to clean out loose bodies in his elbow, Geoff Blum is expected to spend the next month on the disabled list. That's bad news for Blum but good news for both Angel Sanchez, Ozzie Navarro and Jason Bourgeois. Word should also come down this morning on how Tommy Manzella's latest round of x-rays went on his broken finger. Footer tweeted that the doctors would reevaluate him at that point to see how his hand is healing.

The question now is when Manzella returns, who gets booted off the roster? I feel better about Sanchez being his caddy than I do Navarro, simply for the defensive ability. But, I also like Navarro's versatility to play multiple positions and swing a better bat. I guess there's a chance that Bourgeois gets moved down again, but I doubt it. Seems like Mills and Wade like having five outfielders on the roster. What do you think?

Another well-written article...: I like my job(s). I mean, it's not a great feeling when I have to dismiss students from school, but on the balance, I enjoy my full-time gig. Obviously, writing for this site is something I really love doing, as is my part-time job with a local paper. Some days, though, I get a little more kick out of things than normal. Take Monday: I sat through a little league game that lasted over two hours. The good part came when I wrote my story. I got to make an Anchorman reference, use the word "trident" and work that phrase from Monday into my story. Go take a look at the finished product:

His grounder angrily hissed with velocity as it just stayed fair inside third base, driving in two runs on a double.

I told you I'd get that phrase into a story this week! Helps that I had a good, like-minded editor on the desk who didn't cut out my little bits of creativity. Writing for you is different than writing for the paper's audience, and in a game story, there's even less room for finding a distinctive voice. That's one of the reasons I like writing on here, but it's always nice when I get to be myself in a recap.

Jerome Solomon speaks some wisdom: Two takeaways from this JS piece. First, the Roy sweepstakes really hasn't taken off yet. GM Ed Wade says the Astros are trying to do everything they can, but really, Oswalt could have been traded by now if they wanted to get rid of him. A more likely explanation is that the Astros are asking for a lot in return. One report I saw said they wanted three major-league-ready prospects AND the team to pick up all his salary. That seems a bit ridiculous, but the bigger question is what kind of ML guys are they looking for? Obviously, there'd be at least one starting pitcher, but what other positions could they want? Shortstop? Second base? Do they reach for a third baseman or ask for an outfielder?

The other point he brings up is that the Houston media tends to be soft. it's hard for beat writers to ask the same questions over and over again, especially when the job is broken up between two guys. Many times, that means the job falls to the columnist to pick up the slack. RJ can get a scathing article out every now and then, but he's not nearly on the front line day in and day out. So, who are we left with? McTaggart? Who can be the voice to toughen up the Houston Astros media? Does it need toughening? More importantly, do we need some toughening on this site? Are we too easy on the Astros here, or too downtrodden? Too focused on the minor leauges and not enough on the problems in the majors? 

Another former Astro makes All-Star team: We already knew that Jose Valverde made the All-Star team, but Andy Pettitte was recently named to replace Clay Buchholz, meaning the AL will have two former Astros on its roster with only one current Astros across the way. Why does this bother me so?

More importantly, is this the first time that's happened? Have the Astros ever had more former players on the ASG rosters than current players? First person to figure out an answer will get some sort of cool prize.

Well, I guess the Hot Sauce Race could be worse: Yeah, I'd be pretty embarrased if a giant-headed Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jimmy Wynn and Jose Cruz went running around the field each game. I'm not sure if that'd be worse than the Hot Sauce Race, but it does remind me of a couple other races out there. Like the President's race in Washington. That's a pretty cool idea. The hot dogs in Cleveland isn't original, but they're also not corporate sponsorship run amok. 

My question is: would having giant players running around the field be better than Hot Sauce packets? Do you even dislike the packets, or do you find them charming and a nice addition to the games? If you like the player idea, who would you choose as the four representatives?

Zach Levine drops some knowledge: Yep, not only does he have a great feature on Dallas Keuchel with more minor league notes, but Levine hits us with a heap of knowledge about Lancaster's home ballpark. "The Hangar" is apparently one of the windiest places in the minor leagues. That's one explanation for all those home run binges, right?

The other interesting note is the climate. Not only is it up in the mountains, but Levine's point about the heat is well-taken. The only thing I'm not sure of is whether this has been studied more in-depth in the majors. Do warmer-climate teams produce more hits? I know Arlington is a hitter-friendly park, as is Arizona, but Atlanta and San Diego have both been considered pitcher's parks for a while. What about Miami? The point, I think, is that all these factors may have an effect on the offense in Lancaster, but none is large enough to explain everything. It's good information to have, though.