Friday, October 28, 2005

What does the future hold?

I figured I'd take a minute and try to do a bit of baseball analysis. I make no bones of my being a huge Houston Astros fan. Have been since '89 when I moved to the Houston area with my family. Glenn Davis was the first player I ever idolized and followed. I was distraught when he was traded to the Orioles, but it was for the best as Jeff Bagwell was only a couple years away.

Anyway, I figured I'd take a look at what the future might hold for the Astros. Where my ignorant opinion thinks they can improve, what players I think they should hold on to, so on and so forth. I'm not an expert, I barely qualify as an ignorant outsider. But I like baseball, and I love the Astros, and I have a medium which allows me to write about them. Yay.


Brad Ausmus: The Astros long-time catcher. He's done two tours with the 'Stros and is a good friend of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. He's got a reputation as a good defensive catcher and as someone who works very well with pitchers. He also entered the season 35 years old and deep into the decline phase of his career. So what does he do? He might have just had the best year of his career. His OBP was the fourth best of his career, and his best since 2000. His power was down though with only 3 HRs, but he walked more than he struck out (48/51 K/BB) and he wasn't the GIDP machine he's been in years past.

Going forward Ausmus is a potential free agent. He earn $3m from the Astros last season and will probably command a similar annual salary on the market. There are not a lot of top-tier catchers hitting the market this season. Although I'd like to see the Astros make a play for Eli Marrero if he files for free agency they'll probably stick with Ausmus. And then be stuck when he goes pumpkin for the rest of his career. Dear God let the Astros sign him to an incentive-heavy contract, not big guaranteed money.

Jeff Bagwell: With Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell is the face of the Astros. There are children in Houston who's first phrase was "Biggio to Bagwell for the double play". He's my all-time favorite Astro. I've got dozens of his baseball cards, several with his signature. All of them are precious and treasured and will be passed on to any future SSG B Jrs. He's also the albatross around the Astros neck.

His $18m salary, and the $17m he'll receive next year, make up a sizable portion of the team's budget. Paying that much for an aging hitter not named Bonds is a gross overspending. If Bagwell was able to be 50% of the player he once was his contract would still be bloated, but at least it'd be acceptable. As it stands though there is serious doubt if he'll ever be more than a PH or DH. His right shoulder is shot, and it makes him a serious liability on the field.

Going forward the Astros do not really have a whole lot of options with Bags. He's expensive and it's not clear if he'll even be able to hit (it was painful to watch him pinch hit and DH during the WS. It hurt me to see such a great player overmatched by Bobby Hill, I mean Jenks). His performance and contract make him immovable. The Astros will probably get to spend next season saddled by a sizable resource drain.

Lance Berkman: Every Astro with a last name that starts with "B" gets roped into the "Killer B's". Berkman is the latest one to deserve such high praise. He's probably one of the five best hitters in the game. Although he's going to be 30 this coming season he should remain a valuable hitter for years to come (and hopefully so, his contract is a biggun). Although he probably won't return to CF again (He was the Astros' CF in 2002, and doing an adequate job for a guy drafted as a first baseman) he plays LF in MMP very well and has the arm for RF. His only weakness is against left handed pitchers. He's actually a slightly better hitter from the right side (.294 avg and .419 obp vs. .292 and .409 from the left) but he loses over 100 points of slugging when facing a southpaw (.558 down to .429). He's improved over his career but his power just disappears when he switches sides.

Going forward if Bagwell can't play the field next year Berkman is the natural replacement for him. If Bagwell does play the field Lance will return to the OF with occasional forays to 1B to spell Bags. Hopefully he'll do it all while healthy and sending 40 some odd balls into the stands.

Craig Biggio: Opening Day 2006 will mark Craig Biggio's 19th year with the Astros. He's been an Astro for about 6 months longer than I've been a Texan. At age 39 he set a new career high for home runs at 26. His previous high of 24 was set last year. He's well removed from his peak, but at his peak he was an MVP-caliber talent, even far removed he's still a valuable player. He signed a new contract that will make him an Astro for next year, at a very reasonable $4m. He remains one of the best 2b in the game, even as one of the oldest players on the team. However all is not rosey. He's a liability in the field. His range is very limited now, and his arm has never been that great. There were many slow rollers through the right side that an average defender would have gotten to that Biggio didn't.

Going forward Biggio is in the twilight, and I sincerely hope that he'll ride off into the sunset wearing the star. Having Biggio on the Astros is something emotional to me. I like him on this team. He's overcome some personal demons to become the Houston icon he's become. He's a genuinely nice guy who's earned the chance to to finish his career with the team he helped build. Sure, his presence at 2b blocks the development of Chris Burke, or some other future prospect, and will hurt the team in the long run. But you know what? Biggio bats and throws right handed, but writes left-handed. That's something in short supply in the world.

Eric Bruntlett: Jose Vizcaino's heir apparent. He plays all infield positions well and hits for nothing. Despite a couple of big, huge, game winning homeruns it's not something he's going to do with any consistency. But he's young, cheap, and has a year until he's eligible for FA. Going forward he'll remain a glove off the bench in the late innings to keep slow rollers from getting by Biggio.

Chris Burke: Drafted as a SS, groomed to play 2B, moved to the OF to have a place to play. His sub .400 slg was probably the lowest by a corner OF ever. Despite some rookie miscues in the OF he's got the speed and arm to make it, but he can't hit enough to play there. He's a 2B playing in the open spaces because the Astros don't think he'll outperform Biggio at this point in time.

Going forward the Astros are going to jerk Burke around this coming season. He's got too much potential to let go in a trade, and they know they're going to need him when Biggio finally hangs it up. Hopefully he can rediscover his batting eye (.396 obp in AAA last year) and force the issue of why he isn't playing. The Astros will be better in the long term if he does.

Raul Chavez: Why? When Brad Ausmus is your catcher why have a back-up who has Ausmus' offensive skill set, but worse? His OBP flirts with sub-.200 and his slg is .268. Going forward the Astros picked up Humberto Quintero during the season in a trade w/ San Diego. Quintero is similar to Chavez in that he's a catcher who can't hit. Be he's 6 years younger and earns less money. At least Quintero has the potential to possibly not totally suck.

Morgan Ensberg: The Astros savior. This was the sort of season predicted for Ensberg after his break-out 2003. Instead he spent 2004 as one of the most disappointing players in baseball, and jerked around by Jimy Williams until his well-earned departure. Ensberg played 2005 like 2004 never happened. He hit more homeruns (36) than in 2003 and 4 combined (25 and 10). He set career marks in obp and slg. He made the All-Star team and without him the Astros don't make the playoffs, let alone their first WS. He also plays plus defense at 3b, with a solid glove and a strong arm. He's a smart hitter who only gets better when the game is on the line. His poor performance in the playoffs can be attributed to a broken hand he suffered when he was HBP in September. He wasn't the same after that, but with surgery to repair the bone, and an offseason to recover, I think it's a legit chance that he'll retain his gains from this season.

Going forward Ensberg gives the Astros a big advantage. He is past his prime in that he's now 30, and will turn 31 before the end of the season. But he's gotten a late start and his skill set, obp and power, tend to age well. He also provides good offense from a position, 3b, which is pretty weak in the NL. Ensberg is a smart player who should be an Astro for a while to come.

Adam Everett: All-glove, no stick poster boy. He somehow poked a career high 11 HRs, but 7 of them were hit at home by poking them into the inviting Crawfish Boxes in MMP. On a team without Brad Ausmus (or Chris Burke playing an outfield corner) Adam Everett would be the 8-hitter, increasing his obp as teams mysteriously walk him to face the pitcher who is only a marginally worse hitter than Everett. Instead the Astros spent the year essentially giving the pitcher a free inning when Everett-Ausmus-pitcher went down quickly and quietly. He's a defensive whiz though. In a world before A-Rod, Jeter, Nomar, Tejada, or Renteria his lack of offense wouldn't be noticed. Everett has good range, smooth hands, a strong arm, and he turns the double play well. Defensive statistics are not well-developed, but when looking at Everett's numbers he's always on the good die of them. Plus he's one of Mrs. SSG B's favorite players.

Going forward the problem the Astros have with Adam Everett isn't Adam Everett. It that the Astros basically punted offense from three positions with Ausmus, Burke when he was in the OF, and Everett. That might not have been a problem with a full year of a healthy Bagwell and Berkman. But they didn't get that. Everett is a good enough defender to allow his glove to carry his bat, but as long as he's on the Astros they cannot afford to sacrifice a corner outfield position the way they did with Burke this year. As fond as I am of Everett I'd almost like to see what would happen if the Astros can get Nomar for a cheap, incentive heavy contract. I feel dirty for saying that.

Mike Lamb: Lamb had a career year at the plate last season when he his 14 HR, with a .288/.356/.511 batting line. 2005 wasn't as good, but that was due to a big drop in his walk rate. He's a career .329 obp so his .284 this year is out of line. Hopefully it's a fluke because if it is the Astros are a better team. Lamb is a left hander with some pop who can fill in at the corner infield positions. Although he's a poor defender at 1b and 3b, he's not totally lost and the Astros don't suffer horribly if they need to give Ensberg or Bagwell/Berkman a day off.

Going forward Lamb will probably become the Astros number on leftie off the bench if Orlando Palmerio is allowed to move on. Either way he'll continue to be a valuable member of the brick and tan.

Jason Lane: Last year was a lost season for Lane. He spent most of the year miscast as a PH. This year, given the starting RF job, he rewarded some of the faith the organization had in him. He's not perfect. His k/bb this year was 105/32, and he had some pretty hellacious droughts during the year where he wasn't putting the ball into play. But he also jacked 26 HR, 34 doubles and 4 triples for a .499 slg. He's got power. He just needs to use it more. Batting behind Ensberg he provided him with the protection that a clean-up hitter normally needs. I'm curious if Lane would improve marginally if he had someone more threatening than Adam Everett batting behind him.

Going forward Lane should remain in the Astros outfield until either free agency/ arbitration make him expensive, or a better options comes through the system. In the mean time the Astros have a RF capable of getting on base occasionally with 30 HR power. It's a nice thing to have.

Orland Palmerio: OP is a free agent this year. He's a PH specialist who excels when he plays ~100 games a year w/ about 200 ABs. Anytime a manager has gotten too entranced with Palmerio's success it's turned out badly. He's a quality player off the bench. He can draw a walk if needed, has some doubles power too. He's also an acceptable defender in any outfield position, but better in LF or CF because he doesn't have a strong arm.

Going forward I hope the Astros resign OP. They paid more money for a poorer hitter in Jose Vizcaino. That being said, if he's seeking over $1m per year left him go. There are other players out there with his skill set. Maybe $1m is a bit high even

Humberto Quintero: A younger Raul Chavez. Like The original Quintero is a catch-and-throw receiver who doesn't have a lot of pop or get on base.

Going forward he'll be cheaper than Chavez, and there is a chance he might become useful.

Luke Scott: Scott had a red hot spring training and played his way into the Opening Day roster. His lack of April production, total lack of production, resulted in him being sent down in May. While at Round Rock he set fire to AAA pitching hitting .286/.360/.603 with 31 HRs and 60 extra base hits. He earned a call-up in late August and was put on the NLDS roster. He can hit, but he'll have to do so at the ML level to avoid being branded as a AAAA player and doomed to a life of mid-season injury replacements.

Going forward if Scott can somehow catch lightening in a bottle and hit in the majors like he did in the minors the Astros could find themselves in a nice situation.

Willy Taveras: Willy T. Speedy. His two doubles in Game 2 of the WS went farther than 90% of Willy's other hits combined. He don't have power. Every time I saw him bat all I could think of was the scene in the movie Major League where the manager would make Wesley Snipe's Willy Mays Hayes do push-ups for every ball not hit on the ground. Willy T's entire game plan is to hit the ball on the ground and try to beat the throw. There is nothing wrong with that gameplan, but it will make for a very short career if he can't figure out how to hit the ball out of the infield. Once defenses figured out that Taveras couldn't hit the ball past a drawn-in infield his season declined. Willy needs to learn the strike zone too. His k/bb ratio is 4/1. And his 529 ABs as the Astros lead off hitter were painful since his obp is only .325. Taveras does make good use of his speed. He swiped 34 bases while getting caught only 11 times, keeping his percentage over the magic breakeven point for SBs. If he learns to study tape and gets better at identifying pitcher's moves he'll become a better thief. The Astros may be willing to live with his poor hitting though because, like Everett, he's a good enough defender to make it palatable. Despite taking some funky routes to fly balls and occasionally making rookie mistakes he's a plus defender in CF, and uses his speed to make up for some bad jumps and reads. An up-the-middle defense of Burke, Everett, and Taveras would probably make the Astros pitchers very happy. At least on defense, when they lose 3-1 it might get a bit annoying.

Going forward Taveras is still young enough to make a step forward, but will he? I'm not alone in hoping that some team, somewhere, decides to pair Rickey Henderson up with some young, over eager speedster. I'd like for it to be the Astros with Taveras. Who knows if it would work, but Rickey has too much knowledge to waste it in Independent League teams in Arizona. Taveras is young, two years from arbitration, and he had an acceptable rookie year. If he takes a step forward this year the Astros will be in good shape, if he doesn't at least they were the NL champions in 2005.

Jose Vizcaino: He's been an Astro since 2001 when he came over as a free agent from the World Champion Yankees. As a free-swinging contact switch hitter he's had some value off the bench. Although he's got a good glove at both SS and 2b his range is lacking for both. Like many older role players Vizcaino's problem isn't himself, but what is being spent to have him around. His two year, $3m contract was a lot of money for production that can easily be gotten from a younger player for the league minimum. Although part of Viz's value is tied to the fact he's taken several young Spanish-speaking players under his wing, giving them some help and guidance at adapting to the major league level. I do hope he'll find Ozzie Guillen-like success as if he decided to move on to coaching.

Going forward the Astros are not likely to resign Vizcaino. Bruntlett is viewed as a better gloveman who provides a similar batting eye with a little more power, for about $1m less per year. There are always decent hitting bench players available on the FA market or through the minors. The Astros will do well to search for someone at the league minimum to replace the uber-pinch hitter role that Vizcaino has filled.


Ezequiel Astacio: One of the three pitchers received from Philly in the Billy Wagner trade. Brandon Duckworth has been the worst pitcher the Astros have had for the past two years. Astacio wasn't much better in his rookie year. Unlike Duckworth though there is hope for Zeke. He's still young (he'll turn 26 next week) and he strikes out more than 6 batters per 9 (6.8k/9IP). He allows too many baserunners though (WHIP 1.54) by giving up a lot of hits and walks (10H/9 and 2.4BB/9). But the real bane of his existence has been the long ball. Astacio is tater-riffic, giving up 2 per 9 innings.

Going forward Astacio will be given every shot at earning a spot in the rotation next season. He has the stuff, he just needs to learn to control it a bit better and not allow so many long flies. Playing in MMP a pitcher cannot afford to allow a lot of homeruns. If everything about Astacio remains the same, but he cuts his HR rate next season it will be a big step forward.

Brandon Backe I'll admit to a bias about Backe. I like him. He's excitable, always moving, always hanging on the railing cheering for his teammates, and to top it all off he's got some good stuff. He's a converted outfielder who's only been pitching for the past four years. It's starting to look like the conversion is going to work out very well. His strike out rate dipped a bit this year (from 6.3 to 5.3 per 9), but he had an injured muscle in his abdomen which was affecting his play. When he returned to the team in early September he struggled a bit before kicking it up a notch in the playoffs. The postseason is where Backe shines. He's got a career ERA of 4.95 from April to September, but when the calendar switches to October and he gets into the post season his ERA is 2.95. It is a small sample size at a little over 36 innings in 7 games, but his control improves significantly when he's pitching in October. Joe Sheehan from Baseball Prospectus thinks there is a slight chance that Backe's October success is tied to his concentration. If so, and Jim Hickey can get him to pay attention, 2006 could be a huge year.

Going forward Backe will be the Astros third or fourth starter, depending on what Clemens does. There are many poorer 4th starters out there, but if he begins the year as the number 3 the Astros might be in trouble. Then again Backe has some good stuff, and he would surprise some people, if he hadn't showcased his stuff in the WS and NLCS.

Roger Clemens: Best. Pitcher. In. Baseball. When Chris Carpenter or Dontrelle Willis have their Cy Young award dinners they need to invite the Astros offense to the banquet, because they wouldn't have won it if the Astros hadn't been shut out in 9 of Clemens' starts. His 1.87 ERA was the lowest of his 21 year career. He was at or near his career averages for hits, walks, home runs, and strike outs per 9 innings. And he did it all in a season where he turned 43. In a world where the baseball writers looked beyond W-L record for deciding pitching awards this wouldn't even be a debate: Clemens would win his 8th Cy Young.

Going forward Clemens was only signed for one season. He's a free agent again. He pitches at his leisure. He has nothing left to prove. Unless he's on a quest to join Nolan Ryan as baseball's only 5,000 strike out pitchers if he comes back again he'll do it on his terms. The only darkside to Clemens could be his hamstring. It started to bother him late in the year and he noticeably struggled in his last few starts in the regular and post season. But even limited by injury he'll still be the leading candidate to be the best pitcher in baseball in 2006, if he comes back. And if he does I hope it's in the Astros pinstripes again.

Mike Gallo: In 36 games Gallo pitched a total of 20.1 innings facing 28 batters. He's a total one-trick pony, and he's not even good at the trick. Lefthanders hit .268/.340/.439 against him. Although Gallo did better against righties, holding them to a lower average and slugging percentage, it was a small sample size though and, over his career, he's been very flammable when exposed to righties.

Going forward the Astros will decide to continue to "need" a southpaw for the marginal value that such a one-trick pony as the lefty specialist represents. They will do well to find one that is actually good against left handed hitters. Oh, and going WAY forward I've already told Mrs. SSG B when we have a son I'm tying his right arm behind his back and teaching him to throw left-handed so he can have a long, well-paid career as a one-batter lefty specialist.

Brad Lidge: It's a shame that Lidge's 2005 is going to break down to three highlights: Albert Pujols' sending a homerun into low orbit in Game 5 of the NLCS. Scott Podsednik hitting a walk-off shot in Game 2 of the WS. Jermaine Dye driving in the winning run in Game 4 of the WS. Lidge spent most of the season being one of the most dominant closers in the game. His fastball is dangerous, coming in at 97-99 mph, and almost unhittable when he's putting it on the corners. But his slider is the out pitch. He can throw it at will and when his fastball is on, his slider is unhittable. When Lidge is not on it's because his fastball isn't going where he wants it to. If his fastball isn't on hitters can just wait for him to miss badly enough with the heat, or see if he'll hang a slider. And Pujols showed what can happen when the slider hangs.

Going forward Lidge gives the Astros a real advantage at the end of games. Phil Gardner has become too traditional with him though. Lidge can throw multiple inning appearances. He might even be a bit more effective going 1+ because he's able to adjust when something isn't right. Between Lidge, Dan Wheeler, and Chad Qualls the Astros have a trio of durable, quality relievers who can make a game 7 innings long. Phil Gardner just needs to be "scrap iron" enough to take the heat of the media when he uses his best relievers in the most important points in the game.

Roy Oswalt: The future of the franchise. Roy is a gritty competitor who came to the Astros in the 23rd round of the draft in 1996. He's a short right-hander who throws hard, soft, and everything in between. His fastball can reach 97 and his 12-6 curveball will travel at less than 70. He mixes in a good slider and will change speeds on his fastball. He also has a change-up that he can use to keep hitters off balance. Despite playing in the offense-friendly MMP Roy is better at home than on the road, holding batters to a .248/.278/.388 line at home. He's spent his entire career in MMP and he's never given up 20 HRs in a season. In a world without Clemens Oswalt is in the Cy Young discussion.

Going forward Roy Oswalt is the ace of the Astros staff. Although Clemens and Pettitte had better numbers, Oswalt will be the one wearing Brick and Tan for the next 10 years. He appears over his groin problems of a few years ago, and he hasn't missed a start in two years. As long as he remains healthy, and the Astros score more than 1 run for him in his starts, Oswalt should probably be considered a Cy Young candidate until he shows he's not.

Andy Pettitte: The Astros were hoping for something better than the injury-plagued 2004 that they got from their big free agent signee Andy Pettitte. Boy did they get it. When Roger Clemens went from UNGODLY to merely superhuman late in the season Pettitte kicked it up a notch. He went 11-2 after the All-Star break with an ERA of 1.69. He held opposing hitters to a .201 avg and was a big reason the Astros were able to charge into the Wild Card. He is lethal to left handed hitters.

Going forward Pettitte is under contract for one more year. It's a doosey though. He'll be earning about $17m in 2006. He'll be untradable, and if he performs the way he did this year, they won't want to trade him. An Oswalt-Pettitte 1-2 punch should make for one of the better top-of-the-rotations in baseball.

Chad Qualls: Another young right hander out of the 'pen, another quality reliever to end a game. Qualls got some seasoning last year, but was still a rookie going into this season. He performed up to expectations. He was able to bridge any gap between the starter and Wheeler/Lidge. He actually has a reverse split being more effective against lefties than righties. A fact that might be useful to remember when it comes time to replace Gallo.

Going forward the Astros seem to have an assembly line of relievers. They started with Lidge-Octavio Dotel-Wagner. Moved on to Wheeler-Lidge-Dotel. Now to Qualls-Wheeler-Lidge. They parted ways with Wagner and Dotel because Wagner WAS expensive, and Dotel was going to be expensive soon. Lidge still has time before he enters the vastly overpaid part of his career, so whether he'll be used as the next trading chit for a Beltran-esque deal is iffy. But if he does go, or goes down to injury the Astros don't have much to worry about because the relief-pitching line remains strong.

Wandy Rodriguez: Ugh. Between Astacio and Wandy Rodriguez I would have been happy to see the Astros resurrect the four-man rotation. But that is unfair. Where Astacio's weakness was in allowing too many homeruns, Rodriguez allowed too many people to be on base when he'd give up a HR. Although his k/9 rate was an acceptable 5.1/9, Wandy allowed 3.4bb per 9 innings. He needs to gain some control before he can become an acceptable starter. It doesn't help that he allowed more HR in fewer innings than any of the Astros Big 3 starters. But that's a unfair comparison.

Going forward Wandy is going to be competing with Astacio, Carlos Hernandez, Taylor Buchholz, and who knows who else for the 5th starter spot. Wandy throws left handed and he breathes. He'll be around for a long time, just probably not very effective.

Russ Springer: He's 36, will be 37 in a little over a week. He's the prototypical middle reliever. He's good enough to usually not cost his team the game, but dangerous enough that you don't want him to be used too often. With three studs like Qualls, Wheeler, and Lidge Springer tended to be used in blow-outs, games where the starter got shelled, or when he just hadn't pitched in too many days. Chad Qualls mentioned that he enjoyed having Springer around to teach him some of the more important points of relief pitching, and he credits Springer with showing him a good warm-up program for getting ready to pitch. Teams need 25 players and there are worse ways to spend a roster spot.

Going forward there's been talk that this would be Springer's last year. He's got his 10 year of ML service so he's got his pension. If he stays, fine, if he doesn't, the waiver wire will hold his replacement.

Dan Wheeler: Dave Matthews, I mean Dan Wheeler, made a name for himself in last years NLCS when he baffled the St. Louis Cardinals. He built on his excellent 2004 with an amazing 2005. Although Lidge is the closer, and thus nominally the best reliever, by some stats Wheeler was really the Astros relief ace. Wheeler is hard on righties, tough at home, and does it all by relying on pin point control. Watching Wheeler pitch reminds me of Maddux (he's no where near as good of course). Everything he throws looks SO hittable, but he sets down hitter after hitter after hitter.

Going forward Wheeler to Lidge to end the game works. In a saner world the Astros would be using Wheeler and Lidge in alternating two-inning appearances to end games. They're both that good. He'll probably be an Astro until arbitration make him too expensive. As long as other teams are willing to overpay for relief the Astros really should be able to enjoy some quality innings after the starter ices his arm for the evening.


There is simply no way to accurately predict what could happen for Houston next year. Their success was completely reliant upon Clemens, Oswalt, and Pettitte turning in the second best performance by a trio of starting pitchers in history. That's the sort of thing you can't rely on. Oswalt will remain excellent, but Pettitte and Clemens were so far to the extreme of performance that even a slight drop off next season will seem like a huge loss. If Backe can remain healthy and pitch like he is capable of pitching that will go a long way to replacing the loss that Clemens and Pettitte could have.

But no matter what the mound provides the Astros need hitting. They were shut-out 16 times during the year, 6 of them were 1-0 losses. They were one of the poorest hitting teams in the majors, and the poorest in the playoffs. A full year of Berkman will help that, but they're still well-below league average every day at three positions. My dream transaction, one that would solve a lot of their production issues, involves the big Texas lefthander in Cincinnati, Adam Dunn. But I'm dreaming on that. The Reds would be foolish to part with their best hitter, particularly to their division rivals.

Oh well. I'll remain an Astros fan no matter what. 2005 has been a magical year, one that I've been thankful to ride along with. They came up 5 runs short over 4 games. It doesn't get much closer than that. Flags fly forever and Spring Training starts in 109 days. Can't wait.


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