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Tuesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about Jacob Nix, the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame...

Some things to talk about while the Astros keep signing them checks...

1) Jacob Nix settlement

Lost amid the infielder singings of yesterday was news that the Astros settled the grievance with fifth-round draft pick Jacob Nix. From Jon Heyman's article on the news:

The Astros and unsigned draftee Jacob Nix have quietly and confidentially come to a monetary settlement over the team's decision to nix an agreed-upon $1.5-million deal that was negotiated but never signed, following last June's first-year player draft.

The financial settlement between the Astros and Nix -- the amount of which isn't known -- was agreed to after the players union, on behalf of Nix and agent Casey Close, filed a grievance citing the unfairness of Nix losing his deal over something that allegedly came up in Aiken's physical. The monetary payout helps the Astros avoid forfeiting the picks, which was a possibility had an arbitrator ruled against them and ordered them to sign Nix. It isn't known whether Nix preferred to pitch for them, anyway, by this point.

This is probably the best outcome for all parties. Sure, the Astros would like to add Nix to the system. He's a live arm that just adds to the depth down on the farm. But, after negotiations ended the way they did, that was not going to be a great relationship between player and organization.

This way, Nix doesn't lose out on the money he agreed to with the team. The Astros also don't lose a draft pick. Nix will go somewhere in next year's draft, but it's less clear if he'll be allowed to play college baseball. The NCAA could refuse to clear him, since he probably received money from a professional team.

Nix does have options, if that's the case. Generally, junior colleges honor NCAA eligibility, but they are not beholden to do so. The NJCAA rules on that. If he cannot play juco ball, Nix could go to an NAIA school, which operates in the same way as a junior college for eligibility reasons, but isn't governed by the same system as the NCAA or NJCAA.

Either way, it's a positive step for both Nix and the Astros.

2) Hall of Fame talk, Part 1

Dave Krieger gives his Hall of Fame ballot plenty of thought. Don't hold it against him if he left Craig Biggio off. In fact, he does quite a bit of numerical gymnastics in trying to decide if Biggio deserves a spot. Just check out some of his data:

Suddenly, all the best second basemen in history didn't play 100 years ago. Why is that? Well, the guys who played 100 years ago played longer and benefited more from WAR's longevity bias. Hornsby played 23 seasons; Collins, 25; Lajoie, 21. The principal reason Morgan gets up there with these golden oldies is that he played 22. By failing to adequately mitigate this bias, JAWS reinforces it.

You will note that Biggio and Kent both benefit from the longevity bias. Their per-year averages drop them from 14th to 20th and 18th to 21st, respectively. Whitaker is a better player than both by both measures.

The funny thing about Houston's Hall of Fame problem is exactly this. Jeff Bagwell should be the no-doubt Hall of Famer. He was the better player. Biggio, though, has the milestone numbers. He will get in because of them.

I don't fault Krieger here, because Biggio was really, really bad in his last few seasons. They bring down his overall numbers. But, when he was really good, there weren't many second baseman better in all of baseball history.

Still, a good ballot. If only more voters think about things as rationally as Krieger does.

3) Hall of Fame talk, Part 2

From the defensible to the ridiculous. Murray Chass rears his head once again to rage against the steroid era. Craig Calcaterra has a great takedown of the speculative nature of Chass' arguments.

But I am surprised at is the fact that Chass seems happy to rely on secondhand hearsay like he does with Biggio. I mean, whatever you can say about the guy, he was never anything less than an assiduous reporter on other topics. He's from the "If your mother says she loves you, check it out" school of journalism. Yet "a guy told a friend of mine who told me" is good enough for him here.

We jokingly call Chass a "blogger" because he bristles at that title and thinks bloggers are awful. But I think we owe it to Chass to retire that little bit of name-calling. Because, as a guy who runs a blog, I can assure you, I'd never allow one of my bloggers to accuse someone of something on as little evidence as Chass does here. I'd probably fire him, actually.

Murray Chass: you're no blogger.

Here's the problem. I've heard some of the same things that Chass claims to have heard from writers who covered those teams. I've also heard people say they don't think they did anything wrong. Speculation gotten third-hand just isn't enough for me to sully either name.

None of the rumors I've heard stated they'd seen any Astros player use steroids. It was all speculation, much like Jeff Pearlman trots out during this time of year, about how the Houston clubhouse was a "hotbed" of steroid use.

Did either Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell use performance-enhancing drugs? Well, in all likelihood, they did. I don't know if they used steroids, but I'm fairly certain they used "greenies," or amphetamines. Those were readily available across baseball since the 70's.

It doesn't matter, though.

Bagwell and Biggio remain two of the best players of their era. Trying to parse through which players were clean and not clean is a fool's errand and leads you to rely on hearsay like Chass does. At least with other ballots, like Krieger's, there is a method to the voting.

We can only hope one of the two Astros legends goes into the Hall next summer and we don't have to have these silly debates any more.