2017-01-18T13:00:02-08:00A Lookout Landing exclusive Here at Lookout Landing, we’re spending the week providing extensive coverage of the Houston Astros. From a rotation glance to bounce back candidates to a love letter to Jose Altuve, we’ll cover it all. In an attempt to get an even clearer look at the club, I decided to interview one of the more prominent members of the Houston Astros over the last sixteen years: Tal’s Hill. Unfortunately, the hill’s life came to an end this offseason, leaving me with no more than a ghost of what used to be. Like that was ever going to stop me. Here’s the story of what happened that night. Being alone in a Major League Baseball stadium is a weird feeling. Perhaps it’s the emptiness of it all, and the brain’s yearning to bring imaginary sounds into play. You want to hear the chatter of the silent crowd. Off in the distance, you expect to hear the faint snapping of a glove as a pitcher warms up in the bullpen. You know these places as ones of life and seeing them in a hollow, deserted state leaves you feeling a bit uneasy. I make my way out to center field, making sure to avoid stepping on the finely-dragged warning track. I’m still not sure why exactly I’m here. When I repeated the scenario out loud to myself, it all seemed so bizarre: I am here to speak to a hill–not Rich Hill or Aaron Hill or Grant Hill, but an actual hill. Mick, an aging grounds crew member I had met at a local pub, swore to me that it was there. Perhaps an old man in a pub at midnight on a Friday wasn’t the most trustworthy source, but there was something about that look in his eye. “I’ll tell ya this,” Mick said with such conviction, “it’s there. Every night, it is there. We knocked that so-nuf-a-bitch down–I saw it with ma own eyes–but every night I look out and it’s there.” And so I was here, twenty-four hours later, walking towards center field of the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park. A few lights were on–a favor from Mick–but the field was still fairly dim. I shined my flashlight out towards center field, but the light pierced nothing but flat land, not a hill in sight. I was crazy. Mick was crazy. We were equally crazy. The ghost of Tal’s Hill. I’m not gonna live that one down. I shined my light back up towards the stands, expecting to see a whole grounds crew standing there, peanuts and cracker jacks in hand, laughing at me. “My name is Colt, you know.” I turn back around and flash the light towards center field. Tal’s Hill sits before me, looking out over the rest of the field. He seems neither angry nor sad, just entirely neutral, as if he were waiting for a bus that he knows is still a fair distance away. “Excuse me?” I ask. “You get tired of being referred to as ‘Tal’s Hill’ all the time. One day I was looking out over the crowd and a guy was wearing a shirt that said ‘Colts’ on it. I thought it was a pretty cool freaking name, so I took it.” “What’s wrong with the name ‘Tal’s Hill’?” I reply, half curious and half amazed. “What’s your father’s name?” Tal’s Hill asks. “Jerrold.” “Alright, Jerrold’s son. Imagine if for your entire life, you were just referred to as ‘Jerrold’s son’ over and over and over and over and over and no one ever called you by your name. Would you like it?” “Not at all.” “Nice to meet you, then. My name is Colt.” Tal’s Hill and I spend the next hour talking. It tells me of its time in Houston over the years and how it winced every time a player had to run up him to make a catch. “You never get used to a player running up me,” it said. “I was so certain that one day someone was going to break their leg on me and I’d be taken out back and pitchforked to death. Imagine if something had happened to Berkman!” It tells me of Biggio and Bagwell and how much it hurt to never see them in their prime. We talk about the 2005 World Series and Tal’s Hill breaks down into a teary-eyed mess when I mention how wild Games 3 and 4 were. I attempt to mend the situation by li[...]
but what if
Today at 3 PM PST on MLB Network, the 2017 Hall of Fame baseball class will be announced. According to the most updated vote totals over at Ryan Thibodaux’s vote tracker, it looks like the class will probably be Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Iván Rodríguez. Vlad Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman both hover close behind, at about 72%; there’s a good chance Vlad, at least, took somewhat of a leap forward once all the ballots were tabulated. For the Edgar faithful, we are hoping he ends up somewhere in the 60s, which is pretty amazing considering just a month ago I would have been happy if he ended up in the mid-50s. He’s currently right around 66%. As Ryan Divish writes, this year Edgar will be tuning in to see the vote announced:
“This time I will,” he said. “In the past, I knew I didn’t have any chance. And even this year, it’s only a slim chance that it will happen. But it looks like there might be a good increase from last year. I’m interested to see how much it will increase.”
Edgar has made more strides forward than any other candidate this year, thanks in part to vocal support from people like Jay Jaffe and Brian Kenny, along with a strong push from the Mariners’ PR department. It may not be this year, but it’s looking more and more like it will be a reality at some point.
Ex-Mariners Mike Cameron and Arthur Rhodes also appeared on the ballot this year; both of them will almost certainly fall off, as the Tracker shows that neither has captured a single vote. Mike Cameron did voice his support for Edgar on Twitter:
Love you forever, Cammy.
MLB Network is going to be vamping on this announcement for the next three hours or so, so feel free to drop into the open thread here and leave your thoughts on the HOF one last time before we turn the page onto actual baseball.
2017-01-18T11:00:02-08:00Can the Mariners steady slugger continue to age gracefully? No matter your metric, signing Nelson Cruz has been worth it. Grant wrote a piece stating as much this September, particularly as it relates to the financial value of the contract and his productivity, but it cannot be emphasized strongly enough. One of these things is not like the other. In fact, considering the combined value of the other nine players on this list over the last two seasons is 3.3 fWAR total, one of these things is not like nine combined others. A signing that we all saw coming and was viewed, at least in this community, with anything from mild skepticism to serious rage has been an absolute steal on paper. The words “Nelson Cruz” and “paper” should only exist in the same sentence, however, when describing his paycheck. If Seth Smith (RIP) has been the Mariners’ Dad over the last few seasons, Nellie has been the Fun Uncle. Cruz and his game are as far from dull and flat as anyone to wear a Mariners uniform in my entire lifetime. Whatever the exact emotion is that Jered Weaver generates, Cruz produced its exact antithesis in the usually stoic Kyle Seager. A young kid named Ketel Marte had a good day at the plate and earned a postgame interview? The oldest position player on the team is here to bring some solemnity. Quote after quote from players and members of the organization have extolled Cruz’s leadership, intelligence, and work ethic as both individually remarkable and invaluable to the team. Prior to the 2016 season, Cruz was one of the leaders called in by new manager Scott Servais, and in what I believe to be Servais’s shrewdest managerial decision thus far, he instructed Cruz, Canó, Félix, and Seager that they, not he, would be in charge of forming the clubhouse culture. Even the coldest of hearts could tell that last year’s Mariners team had a camaraderie and verve that was exuberant and fun to watch. Jean Segura, a teammate of Canó and Cruz in the Dominican Republic, raved about the opportunity to play with them both, and spoke highly of each as players and leaders. Even beyond consistent production and intangible value, Cruz’s greatness has stood out. In the darkness that was 2015, don’t forget who it was that held the night terrors at bay with his mighty Boomstick, waving it valiantly like Liam Neeson wielding a torch in The Grey. id="50c4c" data-src="https://securea.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=81240983&topic_id=70087564&property=mlb&" data-aspect="1.7857" style="width:100%" frameborder="0"> 3B - Alex Bregman 2016 numbers: .264/.313/.478 (112 wRC+), 1.0 fWAR2017 projections: .267/.330/.448 (111 wRC+), 3.0 fWAR Awesome, just what the Astros needed: another star prospect coming up and taking over an infield spot. Bregman, the second-overall pick in the 2015 draft (man, the Astros really were bad for a long time, huh?), turns 23 this March, when he’ll also represent the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic. By contrast, I’ve only ever represented the U.S. in an eighth-grade math competition, when the Washington “Fightin’ Georges” beat out Oregon and British Columbia in a fierce battle to the death over mental math. Anyway, Bregman was described as a glue guy by A.J. Hinch last September, and in the same article quoting the Houston head honcho, Altuve said to mark it down that Bregman will finish with 200 hits this year. That’s some heady praise for a rookie, and one figures his performance will go a long way to determine the Astros’ success this season. One final factoid to scare you: Alex Bregman’s top comparison on ZiPS? Adrian Beltre. The Outfield: LF - Nori Aoki 2016 numbers: .283/.349/.388 (106 wRC+), 1.2 fWAR2017 projections: .270/.334/.372 (95 wRC+), 0.3 fWAR I’m as surprised as you are to learn that Aoki finished last season worth 1.2 fWAR. All I remember is Aoki’s noodle arm in left field and his noodle bat at the plate. But who’s laughing now? Aoki f[...]