As always, with apologies to Peter King...
-- Now that spring training is beginning to roll, we need to cover the serious topics. Like, what nicknames will we give to Bill Hall and Clint Barmes? The Astros tradition of adding "-y" to the end (Baggy, Doggy, Cammy, Millsy, Arnie) doesn't work do well with Hall-y. Would they go with Billy? Not nearly cool enough. Why don't we take a page out of Tim Riggins playbook and call him "Twos." Because his number is 22. Get it?
-- Barmes is also a hard nut to crack, but his number (14) doesn't lend itself as well to a nickname. One-four just doesn't jump out like Twos. So what about The Deer Hunter? Too long? Too obscure? Or should we just make it Deer Meat and call it a day.
-- I don't think it disappointed me nearly as much as some of you that Fernando Abad was pulled out of consideration for the rotation so quickly. I think he can be a pretty good asset in the bullpen and may even transcend the traditional lefty specialist role. But, as clack pointed out in the comments of that FanShot, Abad just hasn't thrown big innings in his career. To think he could come out in 2011 and throw 150 innings is just not a good baseball decision.
-- I know there's a sentiment among Houston sports fans that the Chronicle sports section isn't very good. I hear it most often over at SBN Houston, but I know they got ripped pretty good around these parts before I came around. I'm probably too much of a Justice apologist, since he's a very polarizing figure on his Astros views (read: reversals). But, unlike the complaints about John McClain, I think the Astros are sitting pretty with their coverage team right now. Did you read that piece from Steve Campbell about Hunter Pence? Just excellent work.
-- The guy I'm more and more impressed with is Zachary Levine. Being a stat geek, I've read his stuff since he joined the Chronicle and have really enjoyed seeing him thrive on the baseball beat. His stories are engaging and often pretty innovative. Of course, I've also become somewhat of a newspaper geek, but hear me out. This story from Wednesday on the waiver wire is a great example of an explanatory piece. Z gave us a very good idea of the waiver process, complete with the money involved, without getting bogged down in the details. It should be a fun year to follow the team.
-- Have you heard of this MLB Dream Job contest? Basically, you get to live in New York, get paid to watch baseball and then blog and video journal your thoughts, experiences, etc. It'll get turned into a web series and might just be your ticket to stardom. Just remember us back here at TCB when you're rich and famous. We'll say we knew you when. (Don't worry; I'm not applying. The requirements are to have a "witty and creative personality." I put our dog to sleep telling a story...)
-- Carlos Lee faked being unconscious during conditioning drills? Is that what happened to his 2010 season too?
-- BA's Top 100 prospect rankings came out the other day. Some of you may have seen my post over at SBN Houston, where I talked a little about how subjective the rankings can be. Basically, don't take them as gospel, but do use them as a tool if you know where they're coming from. For instance, do I think Jonathan Villar is the second-best prospect in the Astros system? No. Am I upset that BA put him in the Top 100? Not really. Villar has a lot of potential at a premium position. That's worth something. Yet, he hasn't quite put it together in the minor leagues. I'll believe a little more when his numbers start matching his skills, but in the mean time, I don't blame scouts for rating him more highly based on what might be.
-- It still killed me a little to see Josh Sale in that Top 100, especially since his best skill was power. Is there a player in the Astros system right now that has a 70 power grade? Anyone?
-- The more I look at the numbers for Jason Castro and the more I read about his offseason, his mental makeup, etc., I become more convinced he's due for a big upswing this season. With his defensive skills, a .260/.340/.400 line from the 7- or 8-spot would be huge.
-- I'm very, very happy baseball is back.
-- Don't forget, if you have questions for TCB, send them in to us at thecrawfishboxesATgmail.com. We're running a mail bag tomorrow and if you're lucky, you'll get your name mentioned in bright lights (of your computer screen).
-- Just out of curiosity, are there any students at Texas A&M out there who might be interested in a summer internship at the TCB offices? I'm considering putting something together and could offer course credit for it. If you are, drop me an email at either the above TCB account or my own, found at the bottom of this page.