Some things to talk about while I try not to stir up controversy this week...
1) ROOT Sports is here
ROOOT IS GREAT. THEY GIVE US THE GAMES ON TV.
(Yeah, the song kinda breaks down on that second part. Sue me.)
At long last, ROOT Sports launches today, giving fans access to the Rockets and Astros after long years of blackouts and carriage issues. From Astros owner Jim Crane on today's launch:
"We are extremely excited that ROOT Sports Southwest is on the air," said Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane. "Our goal has always been to secure a deal that will both provide broad coverage of Astros games for the fans and provide the financial revenue to enable us to compete for championships.
"We truly appreciate the patience that our fans have shown throughout this process. We are pleased that fans across our entire region will now have the chance to watch this young and exciting team."
The press release on today's launch says that ROOT will reach 4 million homes, up from the 1 million that saw Hosuton games last season. At the time, the number thrown around was that CSN Houston was in less than 40 percent of homes in Houston. The math of going from 1 million to 4 million doesn't quite work. I imagine that has to do with including many DirecTV subscribers who will get the channel as part of their package, but live outside of Houston.
Holdouts on carriage of the channel include Time Warner, Suddenlink and DISH Network. It does not appear anything is imminent with any of the three, which leaves people in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area and the Bryan/College Station area without access to the teams.
Still, Houston has to have closed the gap significantly on getting its teams on local television. If I had to guess, I'd think it's reach would be around 90 percent now, maybe higher.
Why doesn't today feel like a victory, then? Is it just me, or is the overwhelming feeling one of relief more than happiness? After dealing with these issues for so long, it's great that the teams will be on TV again. Let's just get back to business as usual.
2) Just going to leave this right here...
Martinez finished fourth in the league in homers and seventh in RBI ... for a first-place team. So he obviously deserved to finish higher than seventh, right? Well, except he finished 14th in the league in bWAR, or 18th if you count pitchers. Now, maybe you want to give Martinez bonus points for his sterling leadership and a few more for his clutch hitting. But considering what we know in 2014 about baseball and how to measure a player's worth, which seems more reasonable to you? A second-place vote, or a seventh-place vote? Well, he got 16 second-place votes and one seventh-place vote. So you tell me how far we've come since 1979.
Actually, the voters have gotten smarter in 35 years. In the National League balloting, Jonathan Lucroy finished fourth, Anthony Rendon fifth. Those results do suggest some real progress. But the writers' obsession with RBI guys on first-place teams has long outlasted any excuses for it, and I'm tired of them.
3) Cameron's Bargain Bin
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs fame talked about the free agent bargains on the market this season. I'll leave it up to you to check out all five names, but I will say the Astros have already been linked to one of them (Jason Hammels).
Cameron compares Hammels to Jason Vargas, who produced a very competent season for the Royals last season. Could Hammels do the same for Houston next year? Think of him as this year's Scott Feldman.
But, the one that got me is a name we've already discussed a few times. It's third baseman Chase Headley. Here's part of Cameron's thinking:
While analysis based on n of one is never a good idea, Headley's situation reminds me an awful lot of mid-career Adrian Beltre. Solid player, monster breakout season based on a power spike, followed by a quick regression to career averages, and then hitting free agency coming off a down year in which his primary selling points were hot corner defense and the hope that a more hitter-friendly ballpark might give him a real boost.
Lot to like there and it's a great comparison. Adrian Beltre has become a borderline Hall of Famer since leaving Seattle, so it's a leap to assume Headley will become the latter-day version of him. But, a good defensive third baseman is valuable with little else. It's why Matt Dominguez has hung around as the everyday starter for two seasons.
Add in Headley and hope his offense rebounds? He could become an All-Star-caliber player for Houston again. Even if he doesn't, there's a good chance Headley posts WAR totals around 3 for the next four seasons. Isn't that the kind of guy Houston might gamble a significant portion of their budget on?