Houston's horrendous spring, best bargains of the winter and more
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Astros made it to 15 or 16 straight losses here on Thursday.
Of course, Berkman may have been distracted during his interview Thursday afternoon by all the Mets circling the bases on the nearby TV or perhaps by another Astro who was letting out a blood-curdling type scream in the runway between the dugout and the clubhouse. It didn't sound like manager
Anyway, Berkman wasn't sure how many straight they'd lost -- 15 or 16 -- and as far as he's concerned, they may as well run out the string this spring. "If we're going to be bad," the longtime Astros star said, "we might as well be historically bad."
Historically bad? Maybe. Pathetically bad? Most definitely.
To be precise, the Astros made it 16-straight defeats with Thursday's 12-1 loss in a game in which Houston made three errors before posting a hit against the Mets' excellent young starter
"Spring records mean nothing, but that's a little extreme," one American League scout said.
This is how it's going for the Astros, who haven't won a game since beating the Yankees in their spring opener and have been outscored 131-53 while generally looking like the worst team ever.
"I'm sure the fans are in full panic mode," Berkman allowed.
As for Berkman himself, he isn't the least bit concerned. He looks at the 1-16-3 record (yes, they've had three ties) and sees nothing to worry about. "I think this is an anomaly," Berkman said. "It has no bearing on what we're going to do. I'm not the least bit concerned. Frankly, I couldn't care less."
In fact, he opined that he puts "zero stock" in their record. "If we were 15-1, does that make us World Series favorites?"
Umm, no. But this surely doesn't either.
Berkman pointed out that the Astros frequently turn out better than folks suspect. (Disclaimer: This applies to me. I have a history of picking the Astros very low, and they have a history of exceeding my expectations.)
I see five quality major-league players -- maybe six counting new arrival
Rodriguez does close a major hole. The catchers they had in camp,
Still, Berkman looks around and sees possibilities. "We believe we're going to win," he said. "This organization is used to winning. We expect to win."
Berkman references the 2006 Cardinals, which may be the worst team to win the World Series. "The Cardinals won the World Series with not anything more than we have now," Berkman said.
"We have arguably the best pitcher in the National League. We have the guy who led the league in saves the last two years," Berkman said, speaking of
All true. Although, he does admit there are a few issues.
"The depth is a problem," he said. "We're not deep in the starting rotation."
The problem is the Astros' farm system, which isn't keeping up lately. That may largely account for the 1-16-3 record. One scout said the only viable pitcher they have on the horizon appears to be
Cooper hasn't been as low-key about all the losses as Berkman. Occasionally, he's made remarks in the press about not being happy about the way they are playing. Perhaps with those sort of comments, he is talking to the owner
But perhaps he is genuinely worried. If I were him, I would be, too.
Not too long ago I listed
Jones -- who hit two home runs Thursday in a minor-league game -- was to decide Friday whether to declare his free agency. Jones' contract stipulates that he can opt for free agency if he's not added to the roster. But the five-time All-Star has decided to stay with the Rangers for at least a few more days.
Jones started off slow, with 14 strikeouts in 31 major-league at-bats, but he is showing signs of becoming himself again now, and the Rangers may be the best spot for Jones since
If Jones does eventually decide to leave, the Yankees, Braves and Phillies were among teams showing interest before he decided to join Jaramillo with the Rangers. The Yankees like what
The Rangers told Jones a couple days ago he probably wouldn't make the Opening Day roster, but they were interested in keeping him in the organization beyond Friday's deadline. However, with Jones now powering the ball, even in minor-league games, the Rangers want to keep him in the fold.
Jones could eventually decide to leave, as Texas is set with a strong, young outfield that includes
• Mets manager
• A part of the Mets' hierarchy saw some value in making a play for Pudge, who would've given them Hall-of-Fame leadership behind the plate.
• The Twins did dispatch a scout to watch Rodriguez, as
• I have to admit, I snickered at reliever
• The Padres are the Cactus version of the Astros. But they have an excuse:
• The Padres may regret sweeping the Nationals in games 154 through 156 last year. By doing so, it cost San Diego a chance to select right-handed pitcher
• Team USA didn't do a very good job making sure there was enough positional depth on the provisional roster. So now they'll go on without a true first baseman. Meanwhile, they have more pitchers available than they know what to do with.
• Can't blame the Blue Jays for signing Netherlands pitcher
• One advantage to signing late: More words have been written about