December 2006

Thank you

Isgeayp37151206222042photo00There are moments for which you prepare yourself mentally for a while; but that didn’t help us at all today. When you deal with a situation as emotional as Jeff Bagwell announcing his retirement, all the words you had prepared for it suddenly are erased and you are left speechless.

It isn’t enough just to thank him for the class, respect for the fans and the fine way he behaved on and off the field. Just to think that a ballplayer was able to stay throughout his whole career with a single ball club, in these times of free agency and inflated markets. He did not just manage to stay there, but also become a franchise symbol.

There is no doubt in our mind that Jeff Bagwell is one of the great baseball players of all time. Five years from now, we shouldn’t be having a lot of discussions regarding his merits for a Hall of Fame berth. He sure has them. In the meantime, we’re glad to see he’ll remain in the organization in an active role.

And it couldn’t be any other way. He IS the Houston Astros. His image will always be synonymous with this organization. And those who are involved in any way with the Astros thank him for becoming such a huge example and a blueprint for the way we do things. He showed us that great things can be done with hard work, a lot of effort and class along the way.

Thank you so much, Jeff.

JEFF BAGWELL ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT, REACHES PERSONAL SERVICES CONTRACT AGREEMENT WITH ASTROS

Former MVP, Rookie of the Year hit 449 home runs for Houston franchise

HOUSTON, TX ? In a press conference held this morning at Minute Maid Park, longtime Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell announced his retirement.

The Astros also announced an ongoing personal services contract between the club and Bagwell, through the 2009 season.  As part of the agreement, Bagwell will assist the club?s Major League baseball operations staff with its Major and minor league player development programs, the Astros hitting development program, the amateur draft, scouting and minor league team operations and evaluations.  He will also spend time with the club in Spring Training, providing instruction to players and staff and evaluating both Major and minor league players.

Additionally, the annual Astros Jeff Bagwell Elite Hitters Camp in late January will be an opportunity for the club?s young hitters, including some with Major League experience, to refine and work on their game before Spring Training.  The camp will be held at Minute Maid Park each year in conjunction with the Astros Nolan Ryan Elite Pitchers Camp.

Bagwell will also travel with the Major League club on selected road trips and will observe the organization?s minor league clubs during the regular season.  He will also make various promotional appearances during the year, including the annual Astros FanFest and Winter Caravan.

The 38-year-old Bagwell finishes his career as the Houston franchise?s all-time leader in home runs, runs batted in and walks.  A four-time All-Star, Bagwell played in 15 Major League seasons from 1991-2005, winning the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1994 and the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1991.  He is one of only nine players in NL history to win both the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in a career.

Bagwell played in 2,150 games during his Astros career, trailing only Craig Biggio (2,709) in franchise history.  He hit .297 (2314×7797) with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI.  Bagwell also hit 488 doubles and 32 triples in his career while stealing 202 bases and scoring 1,517 runs.  He is one of only 10 players all-time with more than 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases and the only first baseman.  Additionally, Bagwell is also one of only six first basemen all-time with 1,500 runs batted in and runs scored.

In 1994, Bagwell was a unanimous choice as the National League MVP after hitting .368 (147×400) with 39 home runs and a league-leading 116 RBI.  He also led the league with 104 runs scored and became the first player to finish first or second in the league in average, runs, RBI and home runs since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

During his rookie season of 1991, Bagwell became the first Houston player to earn Rookie of the Year honors after hitting .294 (163×554) with 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 156 games.

Additionally, Bagwell joins Cal Ripken as the only players to join the Majors after 1972 and hit 400 home runs while playing their entire career with the same franchise.

Bagwell joins Barry Bonds as the only players to record as many as two seasons of 40 or more home runs with 30 or more stolen bases.  Bagwell hit 43 HR with 30 steals in 1997, and his 42-homer campaign in 1999 also included 30 steals.  Bonds accomplished the feat in both 1996 (42 HR, 40 SB) and 1997 (40 HR, 37 SB).  There have been only 10 instances all-time of players recording a 40 HR/30 SB season.  Bagwell?s 1997 season also represents the only season of at least 30 homers and 30 steals for a first baseman in Major League history.

The last Major League game played by Bagwell was Game 4 of the 2005 World Series, the first Fall Classic for the Astros in franchise history.  Bagwell contributed a key pinch-hit single in Game 2 of the Fall Classic at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox, scoring on a pinch-hit single by Jose Vizcaino that also scored Chris Burke to tie the score in the ninth inning.

Bagwell earned three NL Silver Slugger Awards at first base (1994, 1997, 1999) and a Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 1994 for the Astros.  He collected 30 homers, 100 RBI and 100 runs scored in six consecutive seasons from 1996-2001, and at the time, he joined Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth as the only players all-time to accomplish that feat

Jennings is an Astro

Captny17012122304rockies_astros_trade_baThere has been plenty of speculation about the fact Taylor Buchholz and Willy Taveras could be the subject of a possible trade. In the beginning the destination for both was Chicago. Today, there are moving indeed, but somewhere else.

Buchholz and Taveras, alongside prospect Jason Hirsh, have been sent to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitchers Jason Jennings and Miguel Ascencio. Undoubtedly, this deal gives the starting rotation even more depth, trying in a way to fulfill the void left by the departure of Andy Pettitte.

In the end, it wasn’t Jon Garland, but is a welcome addition nonetheless. I can’t stop thinking about Willy and Taylor, though. We saw them at their best more than once at Minute Maid. Taveras was particularly kind to us and he told us a lot of interesting aspects of his life in an interview for Cronicas de los Astros. Best of luck to all.

Trying to find himself

Capttxtj10612091825yankees_pettitte_baseI hadn’t written about it earlier, because I really wanted to digest it. I didn’t want to react immediately in the same way we’re forced to do so every time due to immediacy and our competition.

What does a Yankee return mean to Andy Pettitte? And what does it mean to the Astros?

It’s true, Pettitte was the beginning of a buzz, a noise and a feeling that got us aboard a magical train that took us in these past three years to two NLCS, a World Series and being eliminated in the very last day of the regular season. It’s very true that Pettitte was the catalyst in helping us being blessed to see Roger Clemens wearing an Astros uniform.

It’s also true this is not the Andy Pettitte we saw for the first time in Houston, when he told us he wanted to be closer to home, so he could avoid so much traveling back and forth between Texas and NY. Maybe, after sitting down and seeing his 14-13, 4.20 record for 2006, he thought a second chance at Yankee Stadium could take him back to those years in which he was one of the game’s dominant pitchers.

I hope it goes down like that. Honest. You see, it’s not easy dealing with the pressure of playing for the Yankees. And it’s not just hearing Bob Shepard reading your name. Pettitte must know this quite well; and if he is not fully convinced of this, he can ask Randy Johnson how it feels up there right now. Or ask Alex Rodriguez, a guy who saw his bobblehead doll in the New York Times Magazine with a title asking what was going on inside his mind because of all the defensive gaffes and his continuous and bitter struggle with the strike zone.

Playing with the New York Yankees is playing with fire. It can be seventh heaven or the worst place in ****. And worst of all, the keys to both places are secured by the same folks: Mike Lupica, Mike and the Mad Dog, WFAN, the YES network, the New York Post and Murray Chass.

With this deal, the Yankees are dancing to the same beat that is making owners offer preposterous sums of money to the likes of Gil Meche. Pitching is quite scarce these days, not to say nonexistant. At least in the free agency stock market.

Pettitte told us that the Yankees kept on pushing, while the Astros stayed put. I will always thank him for what he did with the Astros, but it’s no less true that he kept on showing shame for his latest performances, while telling astros.com once he even contemplated retirement for this season. And that was before the All-Star break.

Only time will tell us if Houston made the right decision or not. However, I do believe Andy Pettitte didn’t choose the best place for trying to find himself.

Lanegate is over

The Venezuelan daily La Verdad reports that finally the feud over Jason Lane has a winner. The Caracas Lions have finally hired the outfielder, and he should be arriving to Venezuela at any time.

What does Magallanes manager Al Pedrique think of all this? According to the paper, nothing nice. "Caracas has handled itself unprofessionally in this matter", starts the quote by La Verdad. "The Astros had already given us the rights to deal with him (…). He will have the last word on this, it’s all up to him".

More Winter baseball notes on astros.com, and for those of you who can read us en español, head over to astrosdehouston.com

Bagwell, Clemens, Huff, Pettitte and Springer Free Agents

As you might have expected, the Astros will not offer arbitration to Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Russ Springer. But also Aubrey Huff is a new free agent. Here’s the official press release.

ASTROS DECLINE TO OFFER ARBITRATION TO FIVE PLAYERS

Club?s Free Agents are Bagwell, Clemens, Huff, Pettitte and Springer

HOUSTON ? The Houston Astros announced today that the club has declined to offer arbitration to the club?s five free agents: Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Aubrey Huff, Andy Pettitte and Russ Springer. The announcement was made by General Manager Tim Purpura.

Bagwell, 38, is the career leader for the Astros in home runs, runs batted in and walks. He ranks second in club history with 2,314 hits and leads the Houston franchise with 31 career multi-homer games. The four-time All-Star missed the entire 2006 season with right shoulder arthritis. In 15 seasons with the club, Bagwell hit .297 (2,314×7,797) with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI.

Clemens, 44, finished 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA (29ER/113.1IP) in 19 starts for the Astros in 2006. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner (most all-time) ranks eighth on the MLB career wins list with 348 and trails 7th-place Kid Nichols (360, 1890-1906) by 12 victories. His 2.30 ERA in 2006 led the Majors since his first start of the year on June 22. The 11-time All-Star is 38-18 with an MLB-best 2.40 ERA (144ER/539IP) since joining the Astros in 2004.

Huff hit .267 (121×454) with 21 home runs and 67 RBI in 131 combined games between Houston and Tampa Bay in 2006. He was acquired by Houston from Tampa Bay in exchange for RHP Mitch Talbot and IF Ben Zobrist on July 12, 2006. In 68 games for the Astros last season, Huff hit .250 (56×224) with 13 home runs and 38 RBI.

Pettitte, 34, was 14-13 with a 4.20 ERA (100ER/214.1IP) in 36 appearances (35 starts) for the Astros in 2006. He posted his 12th consecutive winning season, which includes all of his big league seasons, tying him with Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell and Juan Marichal for the third-longest streak of consecutive winning seasons to start a Major League career. In three seasons for the Astros, the left-handed pitcher is 37-26 with a 3.38 ERA (195ER/519.2IP).

Springer went 1-1 with a 3.47 ERA (23ER/59.2IP) in a career-high 72 appearances in 2006. He did not allow a run in 58 of his 72 games pitched for the Astros during the season. Since rejoining the club in 2004, Springer is 5-6 with a 3.94 ERA (58ER/132.1IP). He also appeared in 54 games for Houston in 1997, finishing 3-3 with a 4.23 ERA (26ER/55.1IP).