Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wandy Goes In Grapefruit League Opener

The Houston Astros open their Grapefruit League action against the Atlanta Braves on Monday at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This will be the first of 37 games the Astros will play this spring before the season opener at Philadelphia. This is a road game for the Astros so some of the regulars will not make the trip and will wait until Tuesday for the Astros home opener of the spring.

Wandy Rodriguez will get the first start on Monday at 12:05 CT against the Braves and will pitch two innings. Wandy had a tough spring last season and it carried over into the regular season until the second half when he got back on track. Henry Villar, Wesley Wright, Lance Pendleton, Sergio Escalona, Enerio Del Rosario and Fernando Rodriguez are scheduled to pitch in the game for the Astros.

Hunter Pence, Jason Castro, Chris Johnson and first baseman Brett Wallace are all expected to make the trip to play the Braves. Chris Johnson took over at third in June last season and had a good rookie seaon. Brett Wallace and Jason Castro both struggled in their rookie season but both are expected to be starters this season unless they struggle in the spring.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rockets Trade Brooks, Battier

The Houston Rockets made two trades on Thursday just before the trade deadline passed. The Rockets sent  point guard Aaron Brooks to the Suns and forward Shane Battier and guard Ish Smith to Memphis in separate deals to bring Goran Dragic and center Hasheem Thabeet to Houston. The Rockets also received first round picks from both teams and will have four first rd. picks in the upcoming draft.

Thabeet was the second pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and at 7-foot-3 has been a disappointment averaging 1.2 points and 1.7 rebounds in 45 games this season. Thabeet is a native of Tanzania and attended high school in Houston.

Dragic is a 24-year old point guard who averages 7.4 points and 3.1 assists but just 27.7 percent from 3-point range.

Memphis gets Battier, who they drafted in 2001 and traded him to the Rockets after the 2006 season for the draft rights to Rudy Gay.

Brooks was drafted in the first round in 2007 by the Rockets and was the most improved player last season but has struggled this season in part to an injury.Since returning from injury he has been unable to regain his starting spot and the Rockets suspended him one game for leaving the court during a game after he was taken out.

Ish Smith is a rookie point guard out of Wake Forest who averaged 2.6 points and 2.3 assists in 28 games with the Rockets this season.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Astros Rotation

The Houston Astros have their question marks as they are just a week into the spring workouts but the starting pitching should be the strength of the team. The number one through four positions are set as long as they stay healthy and there will be stiff competition for the fifth starter. Here is a breakdown of how the rotation may look if everyone stays healthy.

1. Brett Myers - Had one of his best seasons last year and earned a contract extension. Good for 200 plus innings and 14-15 wins.

2. Wandy Rodriguez - Struggle the first half of last season but regained his form in the second half and like Myers he should be good for 200 plus innings and 14-15 wins. Could be number one if they the team wants a righty between Rodriguez and  Happ.

3. J.A. Happ - Acquired in the Roy Oswalt trade last season. Happ is a lefty much like Andy Pettitte in appearance and the way he pitches. At 6' 6'' he doesn't over power the hitter but mixes his pitches well. Another guy that could go over 200 innings and could be the most likely starter to win twenty games.

4. Bud Norris - Throws hard but needs to work on his control this spring. Started slow last season but pitched well after coming back from an injury in June. Had a career high 14 strikeouts on Aug. 14 last season. After a 2-5 start finished 9-10 for the year.

5. Ryan Rowland-Smith - Signed as a free agent from Seattle. Jordan Lyles - 20 year old top prospect. May start season at AAA but will not stay there long. Has future staff ace written all over him. Lance Pendleton - Rule 5 pick in the off season from the Yankees must stay on roster all year or be offered back to Yankees. Aneury Rodriguez - Rule 5 pick from Tampa in the off season and has to stay on roster all season or be offered back to the Rays. Fernando Abad - A lefty that pitched 22 games in relief last season with a 2.84 era. Pitched in Dominican Winter League and went 3-0 with a 2.34 era in 10 games (six starts) striking out 37 in 34 innings. He will get every chance to win a bullpen spot and maybe the sleeper as a fifth starter.

The top four maybe set but as you can see there will be stiff competition for the final spot in the next 3-4 weeks. The top four for the Astros should match up well against any of the N.L. Central teams.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rockets First Half Review

The first half of the season hasn't gone the way the Rockets had hoped when the season began. The Rockets were expecting to have Yao Ming back and healthy when the season started but after starting 0-5 injuries began to infect the starting lineup.

Yao Ming injured his leg on what seemed to be a routine play that at the time team officials said was nothing serious and would be back after 2 weeks. After a month of the foot and upper ankle still bothering him it was discovered he had another broken bone and would be done for the season.

Aaron Brooks was last seasons most improved player and after expressing his desire to get a new contract he injured his ankle and would miss a couple weeks. Since his return, he has struggled to regain the form that he had last season, his shooting percentage has been down considerably this season as he deals with being injured for the first time and unable to get back in the starting rotation. Just recently the team suspended Brooks for one game for leaving the bench during a game after he had been taken out.

The Rockets have had a few bright spots as Kevin Martin has had some big scoring games and finding ways to get to the foul line. The last few games he has struggled from the floor and the scoring average has dip some. It appears that Martin can put up points in a hurry and be an elite scorer but doesn't play defense as well.

Luis Scola is having one of his best seasons in the NBA averaging over 19 points a game and nearly 9 rebounds.

The Rockets are trying to make a deal to improve the team by the trade deadline and were interested in Carmelo Anthony but he seems to prefer going to New York and it would be hard for them to sign him to an extension. They would also have to give up to much to get him for 2 months and with the Rockets about five games back of the final playoff spot look for them to go after another name.

The Rockets have a lot of young talent and a couple of first round picks to part with if a deal presents itself. They would most likely be willing to trade any player on the roster if they get a big name in return but if they could get someone and keep Martin and Scola they would have the makings of a contender.

If the Rockets over achieved last season they may be under achieving this season and with about twenty six games left it looks as though they will be on the outside of the playoffs looking in at the end of the season.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Position Players Report Early

MLB-Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks

The Astros started their workouts with pitchers and catchers on Wednesday and had some position players to report early for workouts. The full squad workout doesn't begin until Sunday.

Hunter Pence, the Astros team MVP last season and newly acquired shortstop Clint Barmes were two of the players working out on a back field of the complex while pitchers and catchers were getting in their first day of work.

The other players that were in getting their swings in the cage were Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace and Tommy Manzella. Manzella was the starting shortstop last season but his bat never came around prompting the Astros to trade for Clint Barmes and now may find it difficult to make the Major League roster.

The Astros had a few youngsters in Major League camp for the first time who showed early. Koby Clemens, J.D. Martinez, T.J. Steele and Jack Shuck to name a few are in camp for the first time and are already showing a good work ethic. J.D. Martinez is an outfielder who had a huge year last season in the minors and could be in the bigs in the not to distant future. Koby Clemens put up big power numbers at AA level last season playing first base but is down on the depth chart as the team is expecting a lot from Brett Wallace.

Hunter Pence is definitely showing leadership by getting in early and showing the younger guys how to be a big leaguer. Lets hope that Carlos Lee shows up on time and in shape as he will be looking to have a bounce back year after his average and power numbers declined in 2010.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Astros Spring Training

Spring Training brings hope and optimism for baseball teams this time of the year. That is true for the Astros this season after a roster overhaul last season and they still put together a strong finish with 3-4 rookies in the starting lineup on any given night.

The Astros management is hoping the energy and excitement will carry over into Spring Training when pitchers and catchers report for workouts on Wednesday. The Astros first full squad workout will be Feb. 20 at Kissimmee, Fla.

The Astros have a trio of outfielders with All-Star experience: Carlos Lee in left field, Michael Bourn in center and Hunter Pence in right. Carlos Lee will be looking to bounce back after a sub par 2010 season.

The infield has a couple of new faces with Bill Hall at second and Clint Barmes at shortstop. They will bring experience and pop to the middle infield that the Astros lacked last season. The Astros got just nine homers combined from those starting positions last season.

Chris Johnson will be looking to build on an impressive rookie season in which he won team Rookie of the Year honors. Brett Wallace will be given every chance to win the first base job and Jason Castro will start behind the plate.

The starting rotation should be solid with Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez as the top two starters. J.A. Happ and Bud Norris are expected to be the third and fourth starters in the rotation. Norris had a very strong finish last season and could put up some big numbers this year.

Left-hander Fernando Abad opened some eyes in winter ball and may get a shot at the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. Ryan Rowland-Smith and 20 year top prospect Jordan Lyles will also battle for the fifth spot. Rule 5 Draft picks Lance Pendleton and Aneury Rodriguez will also be in the mix for the final rotation spot.

The Astros farm system is on the rise again thanks to a few good drafts and with the trades of Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. The Astros have invited 2009 first-round Draft pick Jiovanni Mier to spring camp in what may be the first of many young and talented players to get an early look. Brett Wallace and Jason Castro were both first-round picks in the 2008 Draft and struggled at the plate last season, will have the spotlight on them this spring.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

MLB Key Additions

This week the pitchers and catchers report for spring training followed within a few days by the position players. The off season has a lot of player movement and this past off season was no different. This is a look at some of the key player acquisitions by team through either free agency or trades.

 Giants - SS/3B Miguel Tejada

Rockies - RP Matt Lindstrom, IF Ty Wigginton
Dodgers - IF Juan Uribe, SP Jon Garland, RP Matt Guerrier, OF Marcus Thames
Padres - 2B Orlando Hudson, 1B Brad Hawpe, RP Chad Qualls
Diamondbacks - RP J.J. Putz, OF Xavier Nady, IF Geoff Blum, C Henry Blanco

Cardinals - 1B/OF Lance Berkman
Brewers - SP Zack Greinke
Reds - SS Edgar Renteria
Astros - 2B Bill Hall, SS Clint Barmes
Cubs - SP Matt Garza, 1B Carlos Pena, RP Kerry Wood
Pirates - 1B Lyle Overbay

Phillies - SP Cliff Lee
Braves - 2B Dan Uggla
Marlins - SP Javier Vasquez, C John Buck
Mets - SP Chris Young
Nationals - OF Jayson Werth, 1B Adam LaRoche, OF Rick Ankiel

Red Sox - LF Carl Crawford, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RP Bobby Jenks, RP Dan Wheeler
Yankees - RP Rafael Soriano, RP Pedro Feiciano, SP Freddy Garcia
Rays - DH Manny Ramirez, OF Johnny Damon
Orioles - 1B Derrek Lee, DH Vladimir Guerrero, RP Kevin Gregg
Blue Jays - RP Frank Francisco, RP Jon Rauch, RP Octavio Dotel

Twins - 2B/SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka
White Sox - 1B/OF Adam Dunn, RP Jesse Crain
Tigers - C/1B Victor Martinez, RP Joaquin Benoit, SP Brad Penny, SS Jhonny Peralta
Royals - OF Melky Cabrera
Indians - OF Austin Kearns

Rangers - 3B Adrian Beltre, SP Brandon Webb
Angels - OF Vernon Wells, RP Scott Downs
Athletics - RP Grant Balfour, RP Brian Fuentes, DH/OF Hideki Matsui, SP Rich Harden
Mariners - C Miguel Olivo

What impact these players will have with their new teams is yet to be determined but some teams appear to have made some good moves, such as the Phillies, Red Sox, White Sox, Brewers and Cubs to name a few.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

NFL Films Ed Sabol Elected to Hall of Fame

Saturday NFL Films Ed Sabol was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011 as a contributor due to his works with NFL Films. Ed Sabol is an American filmmaker and the founder ( with son Steve Sabol, among others) of NFL Films.
 Ed Sabol was born September 11, 1916 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and raised in Blairstown, New Jersey. Ed Sabol excelled at swimming at Blair Academy and set a World Interscholastic Swimming record in the 100-yard freestyle race. He had a great swimming career at Ohio State University and was selected to the 1936 Olympic team but refused to participate because of the games connections to Nazi Germany.

In 1962 he founded Blair Motion Pictures and its first contract was to film the 1962 NFL Championship game between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers at Yankee Stadium. In 1964, Blair Motion Pictures became NFL Films, with a deal to preserve NFL games on film.

In 1995, he officially retired from NFL Films as President and Chairman. On Saturday February 5, 2011, Ed Sabol was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the age of 94.

This honor was long over due for a man who brought the fans at home closer to the action over the years. NFL Films were the first to get the sounds of the game from the sidelines that are now a common occurrence on NFL games. It is good that he was elected while he is still living so that he can enjoy this honor because so many fans grew up enjoying the work he put into NFL Films. The contributions of Ed Sabol and NFL Films help make the NFL the biggest sport on the planet. All the other shows such as Hard Knocks, etc. that takes you inside the game are just expanding on what NFL Films started.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Following A Legend

The Green Bay Packers selected Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick of the 2005 NFL draft out of California. Rodgers was 17-5 in two seasons at Cal with 43 TDs and 13 INTs while completing 63.8 percent of his passes. The Packers were looking for a guy who could serve as a backup to Brett Favre and take over for him when it was time. After three years of learning behind Brett the Packers traded Brett Favre to the Jets and handed the keys to the kingdom to Aaron Rodgers.

In the three years since taking over as the starting quarterback, Rodgers has passed for 28 or more touchdowns in each of his first three seasons as starter. Rodgers ranks first in the NFL over the last three seasons with 112.3 passer rating on third down. Now just after three years as starter he has the Pack back in the Super Bowl.

The Packers won the first two Super Bowls with Hall of Famer Bart Starr at quarterback and it took another twenty years after Starr for them to find another great in Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers may not yet be a great but he has done what many have tried and failed at by taking over for a future Hall of Famer and take that team to the Super Bowl. Steve Young took over for Joe Montana and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory.

It seems that most quarterbacks who take over for a future Hall of Famer are under pressure to fill those shoes and often are unsuccessful. That has not seemed to affect Rodgers and at 27 years old he could get the Packers back a few more times before he is finished. Brett Favre only made it to two Super Bowls defeating the Patriots in 1997 and losing to the Broncos in 1998. Sunday Aaron Rodgers can get his first.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Steelers vs. Packers Preview

The match-up in this years Super Bowl should be a good one with the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers. These are the number one and number two defense's in the NFL.

 The Steelers are playing in their eighth Super Bowl in franchise history and have lost just once.The Steelers are making their third appearance in the last six years.

The Packers won the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and 1968 under legendary coach Vince Lombardi but wouldn't win another until the 1997 Packers behind Brett Favre. That 1997 title over the Patriots is the only time since the glory days of Lombardi that the Packers have been champions.

Steelers vs. Packers Sun, Feb. 6 2011 6:30pm EST - These are the two best defense's in the NFL so the offense's will have to be on their games on Sunday. The Packers haven't had a running game all season until the playoffs when suddenly they found it. However the Steelers should be able to stop the Packers ground game. The Steelers could be without center Maurkice Pouncey who injured his left ankle in the AFC title game and has been unable to practice. The Packers should be able to move the ball through the air on the Steelers with the depth they have a the receiver position. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, will get plenty of opportunities for big catches and anyone of them can get 100 yards receiving. Aaron Rodgers was under pressure against the Bears in the NFC title game and was hit a number of times as he released the ball. The Steelers will be looking to do the same thing to try and force a few mistakes. The Super Bowl has never had a game go to overtime and has only had one game decided by one point (1991 Giants 20-19 over Bills). Aaron Rodgers will be the MVP in a Packers win. Packers 24-23.