Friday, May 27, 2011

Rockets Hire Kevin McHale

The Houston Rockets have reached an agreement with former Celtics great and Cheers actor Kevin McHale to become their next head coach. McHale will get a three-year deal with a team option for a fourth.

Kevin McHale gewann als Spieler drei Meistertitel mit den BostonThe Rockets will have input on McHale's coaching staff and will include the promotion of Houston's D-League coach Chris Finch of  Rio Grande Valley to a roll on McHale's coaching staff.

McHale has been an analyst on TNT for the last couple seasons. Kevin McHale was previously the general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves and had a 39-55 record in parts of two seasons as their coach.

The Rockets chose McHale because they believe he will be a good communicator with their young players. This choice seems more like just picking a guy who would let them force their input for a coaching staff and style of play to me. Though this doesn't get me excited I will defer to their judgement and give them the benefit of the doubt.  They will still need a few more pieces to the roster if they expect to be a playoff team and make a deep run.

NBA Finals Preview

The NBA Finals are set to begin Tuesday between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat in a rematch of the 2006 Finals. This is a rematch in teams only as the main players have changed a bit for both teams since the '06 Finals. Five years ago the Mavs were led by Dirk Nowitzki to the Finals against Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O' Neal led Miami Heat. The Mavs jumped out to a 2-0 series lead only to see Wade lead the Heat back to win the series.

Since then the Mavs would lose in the first round three of the next four years and would overturn the roster in search of the right supporting cast to place around Dirk.

MIami heatThe Miami Heat would do some of the same as injuries to Wade and an aging Shaq would take there toll. The Heat would unload Shaq and begin to look for the right pieces to place around their star Dwyane Wade but they had to make sure they kept him when he became a free agent last summer.

Keeping Wade was the Heats first priority but with LeBron James and Chris Bosh available as free-agents the summer would definitely heat up.

The Summer of Lebron and the formation of the "Heatles"

When free-agency began last summer the players that every team coveted was Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. It was without a doubt the biggest free agent market in NBA history. The Bulls made a run at Wade but he would ultimately stay with the Heat and be the linch pin to bringing James and Bosh to South Beach.

The big moment was to come as LeBron James decided to make his decision on a live television interview on espn in prime-time. The teams in consideration was his hometown Cavs, Heat and the Knicks. He chose the Heat and with that his image took a hit from fans and the media but not for leaving Cleveland but for going on television to announce it.

The big three would struggle some early on but it wouldn't take long before they began to play the way they envisioned when the three decided to team up to win multiple championships.

In a January post-game interview James made a comment that would make fans even more critical of the collective ego of the big three. LeBron said the Heat referred to themselves as "The Heatles" in comparison to the legendary rock band, due to their ability to sell out on the road wherever they go.

Finals Preview

The Mavericks are a different team from the team that lost in '06 but so are the Heat. Dirk Nowitzki is playing better than he has at anytime in his career and he has a better supporting cast around him. He will be tough match-up for the Heat but Chris Bosh should put up some good numbers that can cancel out that match-up. The Mavs are improved in the middle defensively with Tyson Chandler and may give them a slight advantage at the position.

 If anyone is having a better playoffs than Nowitzki it would be James. The Heat have played better when it has mattered most in the postseason and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade should present match-up problems for Dallas. Jason Terry will need some help at the guard position but Jason Kidd will not be enough.
prediction: Heat 4-2

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Astros To Activate Kepp

134579 Astros Twins Baseball jpgThe Astros will activate Jeff Keppinger from the DL before the game tomorrow night against the Diamondbacks. Jeff has yet to play a game this season after foot surgery and just finished up his eleven game rehab stint at Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City.

The Astros optioned outfielder Brian Bogusevic to Triple-A after the game on Wednesday in order to activate Keppinger.

Jeff is a versatile player who can play any infield position and the outfield but played second base during his rehab stint. This could mean less playing time for 2B Bill Hall who has struggled to this point of the season with a .231 batting average, two homers and 13 RBIs and has been a strike out waiting to happen with 54.

Last season Jeff hit .288 with a a team leading 34 doubles, 59 RBIs and striking out 36 times in 514 at bats. These kind of numbers would be perfect for a number two hitter in the line-up which has been an inconsistent spot in the order this season.

Bill Hall could be moved around some and may see time in the outfield after Bogusevic was sent down. It leaves them with just four outfielders (Bourn, Pence, Lee, Michaels) meaning Hall, Kepp, and Downs could be used as they all have past outfield experience.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Top Ten Astros Prospects

The Astros have had a tough start to the season to say the least and with the new ownership (Jim Crane) expected to take control after MLB approval of the deal in the next 4 - 6 weeks it may soon be time to trade off some of the pieces to get prospects. They should make and take calls on everyone on the big league roster in order to get the best deals and players such as Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez could bring the best packages.

The farm system is improving with the last 2-3 drafts but still has a long way to go to recover from poor drafting from 2003 - 2007. This is a look at the top ten prospects currently in the farm system according to draft and prsopect expert.

1. Jordan Lyles, RHP - Oklahoma City Redhawks (AAA). Top 50 prospect (#28). At 20 years old he is the Astros top prospect. Throws three pitches with control of all. Pitched well in spring camp for the Astros and in 9 starts at AAA he is 2 - 3 with a 3.57 ERA. His MLB debut should come in 2011.

2. Delino Deshields, 2B - Lexington Legends (A). Speedy athletic second baseman and future leadoff hitter. Drafted in June 2010 # 8 overall. Estimated Time of Arrival in the bigs 2014.

3. Jonathan Villar, SS - Lancaster JetHawks (A+).Acquired from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal. Great defensive shortstop who can run with  a strong arm. Needs to cut down on striking out. ETA 2013.

4. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP - Lexington Legends (A). Second first round pick in 2010 and needs more fine tuning in the system. Future frontline starter potential. Could be in Houston in 2014.

5. Jio Mier, SS - Lexington Legends (A). 2009 first round pick struggled early but has bounced back. Hitting .271 with 4HRs and 17 RBIs in 35 games this season. Plus defensive player. Houston bound in 2014.

6. Tanner Bushue, RHP - Lexington Legends (A). above average fastball, curveball and changeup. Needs more consistency. 5 -1 with a 3.72 ERA this season. 2013 could be possible.

7. Ariel Ovanod, OF - Signed last summer from the Dominican. Expected to start play in system this summer. 17 years old left handed hitter with power potential. Earliest expectations 2014.

8. J. D. Martinez, OF - Corpus Christi Hooks (AA). Corner outfielder drafted in 2009. Hitting .327, 3 HRs, 31 RBIs this season. Could be up this year.

9. Jimmy Paredes, 2B - Corpus Christi Hooks (AA). Acquired in the Lance Berkman deal from the Yankees last summer. Switch-hitter with speed, 50 SB last season. Jumped to AA this season and skipped the California League. 2013

10. Austin Wates, OF - Lancaster JetHawks (A+). Good hitter with speed but lacks power. Could be in Houston in 2013.

 The new ownership will most likely make upgrading the system the top priority through upcoming drafts and possibly through the trading of players from the big league roster. The Astros will have the eleventh pick in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft that begins June 6th.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Top Ten Astros Moments Under Drayton McLane

Drayton McLane bought the Astros in November of 1992 for 117 million dollars and is expected to sell the team in the next few days for around 680 million to Houston businessman Jim Crane. Under McLane the Astros franchise have experienced success and growth that they had never before experienced.

The next 13 years the Astros would rank fifth in the Majors and second in the National League in winning percentage (.543) from 1993-2005.

In 2000 the Astros would move out of the Astrodome and into one of the best ballparks in all of baseball. Enron Field would become Minute Maid Park equipped with a train on a track above the left field wall.

The Astros would go on to make the playoffs six times (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005) under " Uncle Drayton" compared to three (1980, 1981, 1986) prior to his purchase of the team. In 2005 this would all culminate into their first World Series appearance and the first ever World Series played in Texas.

The Drayton McLane era is coming to an end and with that I have put together a list of the top ten Astros moments under his ownership.

10. Six Pitchers No-Hit the Yankees - June 11, 2003 the Astros in just their second ever regular season game against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium the Astros used six pitchers to pitch a no-hitter against the mighty Yankees. Roy Oswalt started the game and was removed after one inning because of an injury. Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge (w 4-0), Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner followed him to the mound not giving up any hits and setting a record for most pitchers used to throw a no-hitter.

9. 1997 Astros clinch division - September 25, 1997 exactly eleven years to the day the last time the Astros won a division. They clinch the first of three consecutive division titles with a 9-1 win over the Cubs at the Astrodome. The Astros would open the division playoffs against the Atlanta Braves who would sweep the Astros to end their season.

8. 1998 Astros clinch division - The 1998 Astros would set a team record with 102 victories. The July 31st  trade deadline deal with the Mariners for Randy Johnson, who was struggling that year 9-10, 4.33 ERA. Johnson would catch fire with Houston going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and 116 K's in 84.1 innings as the Astros won their second straight NL Central division title. Johnson started games 1 and 4 against the Padres and lost them both though he only gave up three earned runs combined in the two games. The Astros lost the series to the Padres 3-1 to end the season and would lose Randy Johnson to the Diamondbacks as a free-agent.

7. 1999 Astros clinch 3rd straight division - The Astros played their final season in the Astrodome as the new downtown stadium was being completed. The Astros won 97 games as Mike Hampton posted a 22-4 record with a 2.90 ERA and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting. The late Jose Lima ( 1972-2010) had his best year winning 21 games and pitching in the All-Star Game. Jose would refer to every time he pitched as "Lima Time". The Astros played the Braves in the first round and lost 3-1 to Atlanta for second time in three years.

6. 2001 Astros division title -  In 2001 Roy Oswalt would make his debut going 14-3 with a 2.73 ERA and finished second to Albert Pujols in the voting for NL Rookie of the Year.  The Astros won 93 games including 2 of 3 against the Cardinals in St. Louis in the last series of the season to win the division over St. Louis. The Cardinals also won 93 games but the Astros had the disional tie-breaker and the Cardinals got the wild-card. The Astros would once again play the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The Braves would once again eliminate the Astros 3-0 ending their season.

5. Andy Pettitte signs with Astros - On December 16, 2003 the Astros signed free-agent pitcher Andy Pettitte to a three year contract. This was the biggest free-agent acquisition by Drayton McLane and would lead to an even bigger one.

4. Roger Clemens signs with Astros - January 19, 2004 Roger Clemens signed with the Astros deciding to put off retirement to  pitch along side Pettitte in their hometown.

3. 2004 Astros get by the Braves - The 2004 Astros were struggling at the All-Star Break at 44-44 because of the lack of runs the team fired Williams as manager and hired Phil Garner. With Oswalt, Clemens and Pettitte anchoring the rotation and the mid season trade for Carlos Beltran the Astros would go 46-26 in the second half and getting the National League's Wild Card. The Astros would again play the Braves but this time they would get by the Braves in five games to advance to the NLCS. The Astros would fall in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Roger Clemens would win his seventh Cy Young Award.

2. Enron Field in 2000 - The Astros began the 2000 season in a beautiful new downtown retractable roof stadium named Enron Field. Enron Field came equipped with a train track and a working train above the left field wall. In center field there's a hill called Tals Hill with a flag pole in play on it. It's one of the best if not the best ballparks in baseball. After years of playing to small crowds in the Astrodome, this downtown park that would become Minute Maid Park, would be filled with Astros fans as they would push for their first World Series in franchise history.

1. 2005 World Series - In 2005 the Houston Astros behind a strong rotation of Oswalt, Clemens and Pettitte would make their first World Series in franchise history. In the first round the Astros beat the Braves in four games including a fantastic 18 inning game in which Roger Clemens appeared out of the bullpen for the last three innings to get the win. In the NLCS the Astros defeated the Cardinals in six games in a rematch of the 2004 NLCS.  The Astros would play the Chicago White Sox in the World Series only to get swept 4-0.

Under Drayton McLane the Astros reached new highs and had more success than they had under any other previous ownership. The last few years since 2005 has seen the team in decline thanks in large part to a poor farm system but the city of Houston owes a big thank you to Drayton McLane for all he has done for the team and the city in his tenure as owner.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Verlander Throws Second Career No-Hitter!

justin verlander jpg

Detroit Tigers ace starter Justin Verlander threw his second career no-hitter Saturday in the Tigers 9-0 victory over the Blue Jays. With the win Verlander takes his record to 3-3 with a 3.16 era.

Verlander nearly had a perfect game if not for a one out walk in the eighth inning to J.P. Arencibia on a full count.

Justin Verlander threw his first no-hitter on June 12, 2007 against the Brewers as he struck out 12. This time he struck out just four, walked one and threw 108 pitches, 74 for strikes.

This is the second no-hitter in the MLB this week as Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.

The Blue Jays were playing without ailing slugger Jose Bautista who has missed the last four games with a stiff neck.

Prior to Verlander the last Detroit no-hitter came on April 7, 1984 against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. Virgil Trucks also threw two no-hitters for the Tigers both in 1952.

This was the seventh no-hitter for the Tigers and the fourth time the Blue Jays have been no-hit since 1977 when they joined the AL. The last time they were no-hit was on May 1, 1991 when Nolan Ryan threw his record seventh no-hitter.

Around the MLB: Phillies place Roy Oswalt on the DL with sore back... Brewers Y. Gallardo threw a one-hitter on Saturday with that hit coming in the eighth inning by the Cardinals D. Descalso one night after J. Garcia took a perfect game into the eighth for the Cards against the Brewers...The Cleveland Indians have been a surprise team early on with a 21-10 record leading the AL Central by 4.5 games over the surprise Royals...Lance Berkman is an early candidate for NL Comeback Player of the Year Award with a .388 average, 10 Hrs, 32 RBIs, 15 BB and a .959 OPS...Mark Melancon replaces the injured Brandon Lyon as the Astros closer and earned his first save in a 3-2 win over the Pirates Friday night. Melancon was acquired from the Yankees farm system in the Lance Berkman trade, and is 2-1 with a 1.62 era in 19 games this year...Brett Wallace has been showing he belongs in the MLB with a solid start to the season at 1B for the Astros hitting .346 with 2HRs...Cliff Lee struck out 16 Braves and lost 5-0 Friday night...Rays and Red Sox have rebounded from bad starts to get within a half game and 4.5 games of the division leading Yankees...The Chicago White Sox are 11-22 and 11 games back in the AL Central all other last place teams in the MLB are within 5-7.5 games of first. Andre Ethier has a 30 game hit streak for the Dodgers and hitting .373.