The sinking ship that is the Houston Chronicle's sports department is now closer to being fully submerged. Brian McTaggart has confirmed today that he is leaving Chron sports as of June 1 and will be moving over to MLB.com to report on the Houston Astros full-time.
I'm sure this isn't a move that Chron management was expecting, in that McTaggart survived the bloodletting of a couple of months ago that saw a majority of the sports department -- as well as reporters and editorial and support staff from most departments -- laid off in an effort to stem the paper's financial losses. McTaggart, who was one of the paper's more respected sportswriters, didn't completely come out on the winning end, as he was dumped from the Astros beat and designated by the paper as the official back-up beat writer for the Astros, Texans, and Rockets.
The move will surely leave the Chron sports department scrambling even more than it has been as most of the beats are barely covered as is. While I'm not his biggest fan, I do feel for Jose de Jesus Ortiz as this now leaves him as the only guy covering the Astros, which could mean constant non-stop travel with the team for every road trip (and when the team is as bad as the Astros, you need a bit of a break every now and then). As it currently stands, most of the major papers have two beat writers per team so that the reporters get to spend some time at home. The move also means that John McClain and Jonathan Feigen are the only reporters covering the Texans and Rockets on a full-time basis for the city's leading news information source.
The move is much to the benefit of McTaggart (bias alert, I've known Brian for many years dating back to our days working on the Astrodome scoreboard) who has long wanted to be the number-one beat reporter for the Astros, which is what he will be for MLB.com. It's also to the benefit of MLB.com as McTaggart brings with him a solid reputation as a non-biased reporter who sticks to the facts and isn't afraid to blast management or say bad things about the team.
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As for Alyson Footer, she will be moving from her position covering the Astros at MLB.com to a position as the Astros' Senior Director of Digital Media.