Welcome to an Astros-less World Series.
With four appearances in the fall classic over the prior six seasons, it’s really no wonder why it feels as if something is askew in the world of baseball. Add to that consideration that the Arizona Diamondbacks are playing the Texas Rangers, their respective leagues’ sixth- and fifth-seeds. Looks like a ratings nightmare for the commissioner, Gary Bettman? Paul Tagliabue? Fay Vincent? I can’t remember, but they’re really all the same anyway. Exorbitantly-paid executives doing a below-average job with more public scrutiny than most execs have to deal with, but that’s why they get the big bucks.
Houston Astros News
The Curious Case of Cristian Javier’s Fastball (Fangraphs)
AL West News
With A’s lease expiring, Oakland Coliseum pursuing 2025 events, even possibly the World Cup (The Business Journals)
Kevin Ginkel Whips His Hair Back and Forth (Fangraphs)
Houston Astros Birthdays
LHP Eric Bell (60) appeared in 10 games for the 1993 Astros, with a 1.636 WHIP over 7 1⁄3 innings.
RHP Kirk Bullinger (54) appeared in 34 games for Houston between 2003 and 2004, pitching to an ERA+ of 70 and a 1.397 WHIP. over 38 2⁄3 innings.
IF Tim Bogar (57) played with some regularity for Houston from 1997 through 2000. In 392 games, he slashed .219/.297/.327 with 16 jacks and 102 RBI.
RHP Mark Knudson (63) pitched in 11 games for Houston in 1985 and 1986, racking up a 5.20 ERA over 53 2⁄3 innings.
IF Dauri Lorenzo (21) just hit .225 in 72 games with the Single-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers.
RHP Jose Varela (19) was 5-1 with a 2.49 ERA at the rookie level this season. He struck out 71 in 47 innings with a 1.085 WHIP and an opposing slashline of .166/.284/.276.
1B Tyler White (33) played 244 games for Houston between 2016 and 2019, where he slashed .241/.319/.420 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI.
Countdown, Chapter 3
945. Arnold Earley was a lefty pitcher from Flint, MI. Born in 1933, Earley made his major league debut in 1960 with the Boston Red Sox. In 208 appearances with them, he was 10-19 with a 4.45 ERA and 14 saves. After spending the 1966 campaign in the Chicago Cubs’ system, he played the first half of 1967 in their high-minor level. Near the end of June, the Astros sent Marv Breeding over for Earley’s services.
If you’ve been paying attention to this series at all, you’ll know roughly what happened next. Earley made two trips out of the bullpen for Houston near the end of July, and allowed five runs (four earned) over 1 1⁄3 innings, on a walk and five hits. He spent the remainder of the season at the Triple-A level with the Oklahoma City 89ers, and didn’t appear in affiliated baseball after 1967. SABR Bio
944. Before being a major league manager, Aaron Boone was a corner infielder for six major league teams (but not at the same time). He concluded his playing career in 2009 with the Houston Astros, for whom he appeared in 10 games. In his first and his last appearance with the team, he caught a complete game but went 0-for-3 both times. Outside of that, he pinch-hit in eight games, going 0-for-7 with one HBP. At least he only struck out twice!
943. Raúl Valdes is a left-handed pitcher hailing from La Habana, Cuba. Due to that, he didn’t make his major league debut until he was 32-years-old with the New York Mets. He later also pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. Between 2010 and 2013, he totaled 95 games pitched between the four clubs, during which he struck out 143 in 136 2⁄3 innings.
After the 2013 campaign was in the books, the Astros picked Valdes up from the Phillies on waivers. Although he started the season with the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks, striking out six in 3 2⁄3 innings while allowing only one run, he was soon thereafter promoted to the Houston bullpen.
Between April 18 and May 3, Valdes pitched in eight games for Houston. He did earn a save, and also limited inherited runners to two runs (out of six baserunners), but it wasn’t as clean as all that. He also racked up a 12.27 ERA in just 3 2⁄3 innings of work, striking out four but also registering a 2.182 WHIP. Sent down to the RedHawks on May 5, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for cash.
But that’s not the end for Valdes! Far from it. In fact, Valdes is still playing competitively for both the Dominican Republic’s national team and also the Toros in the Dominican Winter League in every year all the way back to 2009. Now 45-years-old, he’s currently 1-1 in the DWL, with a 4.00 ERA.
942. Ken Ramos was an outfielder from Sidney, NE. Drafted in the sixth round back in 1986 by the Chicago Cubs, he made his major league debut 11 years later with the Houston Astros. Ramos took a very long path to the majors, but didn’t make so much as a dent when he finally got there. He drew two walks and collected one RBI, but other than that went 0-for-12 in 14 appearances.
On May 16, 2016, Ramos killed his wife then committed suicide in Pueblo, CO. More on that story here.
941. OF Walt Williams made his debut in 1964 with the Houston Colt .45s, appearing in 10 games as a pinch-hitter. He went 0-for-9, with a sacrifice hit, a stolen base, and a run scored. Just over a month into the season, the St. Louis Carindals acquired Williams through waivers.
Williams didn’t get back to the major leagues until 1967, but he stayed awhile once he returned. He appeared in another 832 games between the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians, and the New York Yankees.
940. Tomás Pérez is an infielder from Barquisimeto, VZ. Skilled at second, third, and short, Pérez carved out a solid 11-season MLB career from 1995 through 2006, playing in 781 games between the Toronto Blue Jays, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He had a .240/.291/.343 slash, with 24 home runs and 180 RBI. That total output equaled exactly replacement level over that time, with a 0.0 bWAR.
The 2007 campaign would see Pérez ensconced at the Triple-A level for the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He followed that with a full season in the Venezuelan Winter League. On November 22, 2007, Pérez signed with the Astros through free agency. He opened the season with the parent club.
Pérez appeared in eight of Houston’s first 20 games, going two-for-10 at the plate with a pair of strikeouts. dropped back down to the Triple-A level with the Round Rock Express near the end of April, Pérez hit .275/.319/.366 in 79 games for the farm club. That was his last exposure to affiliated ball.
939. Dan Osinski was a right-handed pitcher from Chicago. He made his major league debut before the draft became a yearly event, and got his first look in 1962 with the Kansas City Athletics. He also played with the Los Angeles Angels, the Milwaukee Braves, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox between his debut and the 1969 season. Before showing up in Houston, he was 29-27 with a career 3.30 ERA, mostly as a bullpen innings eater. Following the 1969 season, the Astros purchased his contract from the White Sox.
Osinski, also known as “The Silencer” was one of baseball’s first dedicated “firemen.” He started the 1969 season with the parent club proper, where he made three trips for the Astros out of the bullpen. The results were....suboptimal. He gave up four runs, all earned, in 3 2⁄3 innings of work on five hits and two walks. After that start, the Astros dropped him down to Oklahoma City, where he went 6-8 with a 2.42 ERA as a relief pitcher, tossing 67 innings and posting a 1.313 WHIP. Osinski didn’t suit up again at any level after that season. SABR Bio
938. Jason Alfaro was a five-foot-10, 185 lb. Shortstop from San Antonio. Born on November 29, 1977, the Astros chose him in the 22nd round of the 1997 draft. In 2002, his sixth season in Houston’s system, he was chosen as a Texas League All-Star after hitting .314/.393/.508 over 124 games. Late in the 2004 campaign, he made his first major league appearance.
On September 9, in the bottom of the sixth inning and leading the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-2, Alfaro entered as a defensive replacement. He got his first plate appearance in the top of the seventh, hitting a single to right field and later scoring on a Jeff Bagwell groundout. Alfaro struck out in the eighth, but Houston ended the game with a 9-2 victory.
After his debut, Alfaro appeared in another half-dozen games, completing the season two-for-11 with no walks and five strikeouts. He was granted free agency following the season. He later played in the minor league systems of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Pirates, the Cleveland Indians, and the New York Mets, but never again ascended to the major league level.
937. Joe McEwing was a super utility player who specialized at middle infield, but appeared everywhere but pitcher and catcher over a nine-season major league career. In his pre-Astros days from 1998 through 2005, McEwing played in 747 games between the St. Louis Cardinals, the New York Mets, and the Kansas City Royals, hitting .252/.303/.356 with 25 jacks.
After most of the 2006 Spring Training was over, the Astros purchased McEwing’s contract from Kansas City. He spent most of the season with Houston’s Round Rock affiliate at Triple-A, where he finished with a .792 OPS. He did rise to the majors with Houston in May, where he got into seven games. Unfortunately, he went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts and three perfect innings at second base. McEwing spent the 2007 season with the Triple-A club for Boston, and didn’t appear after that. SABR Bio
936. RHP Mike Grzanich was Houston’s 19th round pick back in 1992. Over the next six years, he made 239 minor league appearances for the Astros. Finally, on May 14, 1998, he made his major league debut with Houston.
On that date, Grzanich came in to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates to open the fifth inning, trailing 4-1. After issuing a pair of walks, he got Jose Guillen to fly out to center field, moving the runners up, then surrendered another fly ball sacrifice to bring one home. After a single, Grzanich closed his night with a strikeout of Jose Silva. That was Grzanich’s first, last, and total major league appearance.
935. Ronnie Dawson was a second-round pick of the Houston Astros in 2016 out of The Ohio State University. Through his rise in Houston’s minor league system, he displayed both power and speed, hitting 62 home runs and stealing 92 bases. After sitting the entire 2020 season (along with everyone else), Dawson got his first look in the show in April 2021.
Dawson started at DH for the Astros on April 14 against the Detroit Tigers. He grounded out in the third and fifth innings, hit a single in the seventh and drew a walk in the ninth, scoring both times. Despite his contribution, the Astros lost, 6-4. Dawson appeared twice more in a pinch-hitting role, but came up empty. Sent down to Sugar Land, he put up a .715 OPS but didn’t make it back to the majors until one game the following season with the Cincinnati Reds.
Unable to garner interest in the world of affiliated ball, Dawson has split his 2023 season between the Kiwoom Heroes (KBO) and the Lexington Counter Clocks (ATLL), hitting .308 overall with 16 home runs and 22 stolen bases.
934. Gary Majewski is a RHP and a Houston native. In the 1998 draft, he was taken by the Chicago White Sox in the second round. After two trades, a rule 5 pick, another two trades, and two bouts of free agency, Majewski signed with the Astros through free agency after the completion of the 2009 campaign. He had made 229 major league appearances, all in relief, between the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, and the Cincinnati Reds and going 9-13 with a 4.61 ERA.
Most of Majewski’s 2010 was spent at the Triple-A level for Houston, where he was 4-5 with a 6.24 ERA in 53 1⁄3 innings. In July, he got called up to the Astros for a pair of relief appearances on consecutive days. He pitched a scoreless ninth on July 19 in an 11-5 win over the Chicago Cubs, then followed that up the following day by surrendering five runs in the eighth inning in a 14-7 loss, also against the Cubs. Although he wasn’t charged with the loss, that would be his final major league appearance (to date).
933. Jim Busby was a centerfielder from Kenedy, TX. Born in 1927, he started his major league career in 1950 with the Chicago White Sox. He also played for the Washington Senators, the Cleveland Indians, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Boston Red Sox. Through his first 12 major league seasons, he hit .262/.315/.351 with 48 home runs and 437 RBI.
That guy there catches singles off his shoetops and steals second base on pitchouts. - Casey Stengel, as quoted by Arthur Daley in “Sports of the Times.”
Prior to the 1962 season getting underway, the Houston Colt .45s signed Busby as a free agent. He hit .195 as a member of the OKC 89ers, and spent two months with Houston between early May and early July. Busby got into 15 games for the Colts, as a pinch runner, pinch hitter, defensive replacement and a pair of starts in center field. He went 2-for-11 with two walks, three runs, and an RBI, along with three strikeouts. In the field, he was perfect in 26 2⁄3 innings in the outfield, and one inning at catcher. Busby concluded his playing career following that season. SABR Bio
932. Escondido, CA native Troy Afenir was initially a first round selection (second overall) by the Chicago Cubs in the January, 1982 draft. A six-foot-four, 185 lb. catcher, Afenir remained at Palomar College. The Baltimore Orioles spent a second round draft pick on him in June of that year, but were also turned down. Houston chose him 11th overall in January, 1983, and he signed.
In 1987, Afenir led the Florida State League while playing for the High-A Osceola Astros with a .218 ISO, and ranked second in the circuit with a .493 SLG. Also that season, he made his major league debut with the Astros. He made his first appearance on September 14, striking out in a pinch hit appearance.
After collecting one hit over his first seven plate appearances (along with five whiffs), Afenir closed the season on a four-game hitting streak. He went five-for-13 over the stretch, with seven strikeouts. He closed the campaign hitting .300 with a 60 percent strikeout rate.
Afenir spent the entire 1988 season with the Astros’ Double-A club, the Columbus Astros, and hit .247 with 16 jacks and 66 RBI. He also stole a career-best 11 bases. Just prior to the 1989 season, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics for Matt Sinatro.
Afenir would appear in another 35 major league contests between 1990 and 1992 for the A’s and later with the Cincinnati Reds.
Afenir hit .240 over his minor league career, with 125 home runs and 513 RBI. That power never manifested at the major league level, resulting in a career .190/.235/.266 slashline over 45 games.
931. Tripp Cromer is a middle infielder from Lake City, SC. He was a St. Louis Cardinal draftee in the third round of the 1989 draft, and eventually spent significant time at the major league level with them, appearing in 105 games in 1995. He appeared another 67 times in the majors for the Los Angeles Dodgers between 1997 and 1999. After the 1999 season, the Astros signed Cromer to a free agent deal.
Most of Cromer’s time with the organization was spent with the triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs, where he played in 227 games. He appeared in nine games for Houston in 2000, and another three in 2003. He was two-for-12 with a walk, a triple, two runs scored, and one RBI. Cromer didn’t appear in organized baseball past the 2003 season.