So it’s the All-Star break and our Houston Astros are in last place. I didn’t even see that coming – seriously, I figured the St. Louis Cardinals were so devoid of talent that there was no way they could win; that shows just what I know about baseball, and just what, exactly, a good manager can do for a team. So I thought this might be a good time to give some mid-season grades.
First Base – Lance Berkman: A solid A+. He’s been slumping the past several weeks, but is still the most dangerous batter in the lineup. And while he will never be Jeff Bagwell with the glove, he’s developed into a solid first baseman. I’d hate to think of how bad this team would be without Berkman around.
Second Base – Kaz Matsui: C-. It’s really hard to grade him because, as most baseball fans expected, he’s missed a lot of time because of injuries. Sure he’s a defensive improvement over Craig Biggio, but I think a log would have been a defensive improvement over Craig Biggio.
Third Base – Ty Wigginton: C-. Wigginton has been playing so damn good that the mediocre Geoff Blum has been eating into his playing time. There’s a reason the Mets, Pirates, and Rays all dumped this guy, he’s not that good.
Shortstop – Miguel Tejada: F. It’s more than just his being on the Mitchell Report. Or his lying about his age. It’s the fact that he was an aging, declining player in Baltimore and has shown no signs of being anything but an aging, declining ballplayer here in Houston. I can’t fathom how a team trying to win games continues to bat this guy in the third or fifth spot in the order every single game. A huge, huge waste of money that has helped to make the Astros a national laughingstock.
Left Field – Carlos Lee: D. It’s not so much that he doesn’t have any range in left field, or that he has no speed. It’s that he doesn’t even seem to care about winning. I know he cares about his cattle, but I would like to know that he cares about baseball. I would like to see him once make an effort to do something. Once again, a huge waste of millions of dollars.
Center Field – Michael Bourn: D. I like Bourn. I like the Lidge-for-Bourn trade – primarily because I don’t think Lidge could pitch in Houston anymore. But the guy’s not hitting, and hitting coach Sean Berry can’t seem to get through to him. And it bugs me that Carlos Lee of all people is lecturing this guy about his lack of hustle.
Right Field – Hunter Pence: B. It would be hard for Pence to top his rookie season, and he’s having trouble doing so this season. But most of his problems seem to be related to the stupidity of manager Cecil Cooper. Whenever Pence starts hitting, Cooper starts moving him around in the batting order. I think his numbers would be great if he was the one batting fifth every night.
Catcher – J.R. Towles: D. I’m not ready to give up on Towles. I wonder how good he could be if there was some real management involved with this team.
Darin Erstad: A+. I didn’t like this signing originally. But Erstad has been a tremendous pickup and has won games with his bat and with his glove. He needs way more playing time than he’s been getting.
Mark Loretta: A. Loretta can play any spot in the infield. And no matter where he plays, he hits. It continuously amazes me that the Astros wasted big money on Kaz Matsui and Miguel Tejada when Loretta was around.
Geoff Blum: C. Hey, he’s better than Ty Wigginton. As if that really matters.
David Newhan: C. Who?
Brad Ausmus: B. I like Brad, and I don’t care about his bat. However, it shows just how bad Towles and Humberto Quintero have been that he’s still catching most of the games.
Humberto Quintero: C. Not good. Not bad.
Reggie Abercrombie: D. Destined for minor league stardom.
Jose Cruz, Jr.: F. Wouldn’t have made the club in the first place if not for his last name.
Roy Oswalt: C. I’m not sure how much his problems this year are related to injuries and how much they’re related to lousy coaching. But Oswalt has been a huge disappointment so far this season.
Brandon Backe: C-. On most teams, Backe is a fourth of fifth starter. The Astros treat him like an ace.
Wandy Rodriguez: C. If you look up “mediocre starting pitcher” in the dictionary, you will find his picture.
Brian Moehler: B. That this guy is starting speaks to how bad Astros pitching is.
Shawn Chacon: A. He gets this for shoving Ed Wade. He gets a C- for his pitching. But from what I’ve read over the internets, Wade has had it coming for a long time.
Chris Sampson: C. Sampson is the classic overachiever. I like his guts. I don’t always like his pitching.
Runelvys Hernandez: F. There’s a reason he couldn’t even start for the Royals, he’s bad.
Dave Borkowski: D. Wait, this guy is still on the roster? Amazing.
Oscar Villarreal: F. Wait, the Astros actually dumped this guy after giving him a two-year contract? Amazing.
Doug Brocail: C. I’m not a fan.
Jose Valverde: B-. Not a fan of his, either.
Wesley Wright: C. Has had more good moments than bad. Shows promise.
Geoff Geary: C. So so.
Tom Byrdak: C. I’ll give him points for going to Rice.
Cecil Cooper: F. I don’t care if this is his first year. Or that this roster sucks. He has yet to show me that he has any clue as to what he’s doing. And someone’s got to be responsible for the toxic clubhouse environment.
Dewey Robinson: F. I hope he’s enjoyed his time as a major league pitching coach because I don’t think he will last long.
Sean Berry: D. There’s not much he can do with aging players like Tejada and Wigginton. But he’s been unable to help Michael Bourn and J.R. Towles.
Jose Cruz: C. Does he do anything at first base besides give fist bumps?
Ed Romero: C. Some bad decisions, some good. Primarily mediocre.
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Jackie Moore: F. He’s the bench coach, so gets this failing grade because Cooper doesn’t seem to know shit.
Ed Wade: F-. I don’t know if it’s possible to give a lower score, but if it was possible, he would get it. I’d really like to see the pictures he has of Drayton McLane that allowed him to get this job.
Tal Smith: F. At some point in time, he needs to answer for some of the decisions that have been made about the management of this club.
Drayton McLane: F. Raised ticket prices. Raised concession prices. Turned off the air conditioning. Hired Ed Wade. Hired Cecil Cooper. Fired Bill Wood, Gerry Hunsicker, and Larry Dierker. Didn’t make a real effort to keep the likes of Darryl Kile, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent, or Billy Wagner. Would probably give Roger Clemens a couple of more million dollars if Roger said he wanted to come back. The guy’s a disgrace. – John Royal