added 9/24/2002 by Greg Lucas

Greg Lucas, longtime Astros and
Fox Sports broadcaster


As many of you know, I take e-mails from Astro fans from my field-level position at Minute Maid Park during Fox Sports Net telecasts.

Actually, I receive letters every day and answer them all, which, as far as I know, makes Astros telecasts still unique in Major League Baseball.

At the same time, I am pleased to add this feature by answering questions, and am ready to tackle the latest submissions...


What do you make of the recent rumors that Mike Hampton might come back to the Astros? Whom do you think would be traded to make room for his salary?

Ray

Right now I wouldn't put too much stock in them. Several of Mike's former teammates would love to have him back, but the reality of his contract coupled with his ineffectiveness since he signed it do not work in his favor. Nothing in baseball is impossible, but a deal for Hampton unless something could be done with his contract, is a large order.


Mr. Lucas;

Alan Zinter is one of this year's great stories. What do you think of the job he's done and what do you think his chances are to stick with the Astros next year?

David Patent

Alan Zinter will have a tough time sticking with the team since he is in reality not a player or type of player the club needs. It has been a great story with him finally getting a chance. However, he really has not shown enough in the limited opportunities he has had to open any eyes I am afraid. He conceivably could be made an offer to come to camp. But this time if he didn't make the club his career might have to shift into coaching if he wanted to stay in the game. With all he has gone through he might be a good coach. He certainly could teach young players never to give up.

Greg


Looking at pitching tandems such as Maddux-Smoltz-Glavine, Schilling-Johnson, Hudson-Mulder, it would seem that the Astros would need to build around their young guns. So what would be the plans of the Astros to keep their top three pitchers, Oswalt, Miller and Hernandez, for many years to come when they become free agents.

Bill - Corpus Christi

Certainly if Oswalt and Miller (and hopefully Hernandez) become solid, healthy and as dependable as Roy and Wade have been the last two seasons the club will try very hard to come up with acceptable contracts before they become free agents. Fortunately, that won't be for a few years yet.

Greg


I was a little disappointed in the way the starting rotation was managed (or rather, not managed) during the 2-3 weeks leading up to the team's elimination in St. Louis. I found it perplexing that Wade Miller was pitched with FIVE days rest just one day after we were eliminated with Pete Munro on the mound. Do you have any insight as to why manager Jimy Williams did not use the recent off days to skip some of the weaker pitchers in the rotation, or why Oswalt and Miller weren't pitched on three days rest to get them more starts against key teams?

Ray

Jimy has said that the position the club was in, number of innings his main men had pitched and the need to look at an even bigger picture than this season all went into his decision. Essentially, had the race been closer he might have done some rotation shuffling. But the Astros were not in a realistic position to win. Plus, those same pitchers (Munro, Saarloos, etc) would have still had to pitch against someone and trailing by five or more those games would have to be won as well. Jimy says he felt chances for success for all pitchers at this stage of the season was better with normal or even more rest than normal instead of less. The Astros had a stretch in which five of their six losses were by one run. And in all cases the club had chances to tie or take leads with one base hit, but could not get it. The pitching did not let the club down in those final series as much as lack of clutch hitting.


Dear Greg,

What do you do during the off-season? Do you broadcast games other than Astros' baseball?

Sincerely yours,

Susan

For one thing I contribute a piece to the Southwest Sports Report on Mondays that can be a story, a commentary or an anecdote. But I do that every Monday all year. Once the season ends I have a much lighter schedule until I start doing play by play on college basketball games in late December. Normally I will work about 15-20 games in the Big 12, Southland, WAC and Sunbelt Conferences. I also do a great deal of interviewing and feature work for segments used in Rocket and Spur pre-game shows. (At one time I did features for EVERY team on our air... Rockets, Spurs, Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Astros AND Rangers.) Now, I am only working Astro, Rocket and Spur features and may not be doing Rocket features if Fox Sports Net does not work out a new deal with the team.


Mr. Lucas,

How would you rate Jimy Williams' performance as the Astros' manager in his first year?

Did he make the most of what he had? What did he do right, and wrong, this season?

Thanks,

Darrell Pittman

Jimy was different, but definitely in charge. He commanded respect not only for that but also for his attention to details. And I have not seen a manager in the last two decades that does as much hands-on teaching as Jimy Williams. Too many pitching changes? Maybe...or maybe not. It is not my preference but he has reasons why he feels making as many strategic changes as he does is correct..or why his starters rarely ever get a chance to finish a game. Jimy really tries to manage for the long term. Sometimes that means he will use a pitcher that has been ineffective but has to be used as long as he is part of the roster simply because the GOOD guys just can't pitch every day.

I don't really have a problem with his lineup changes since it has resulted in a solid bench and really hasn't hurt anyone who has established themselves as real stars. Biggio, Bagwell and Berkman still played virtually every game. Next season if the bench guys who get more playing time under Williams don't get the job done I would presume they would play less. But Blum, Vizcaino, Hunter and Merced earned their playing time. The players the fans were most upset with like Ward and Hidalgo ultimately played less. So did Zaun whose batting average took a dive. Everett was quickly dispatched to New Orleans when his lack of hitting ability was apparent. Ensberg just never did enough to impress. So, I would have to say that I have no problem with Jimy. Even his relations with the media was much better as the year wore on when he discovered this isn't Boston and the media is not always looking for an angle or a way to "nail the manager" with every question. He actually tried to answer questions that were only asked to hear the manager's thoughts with no other ulterior motive.

I do believe that having spent the season with the club and back in the National League Jimy has a much better idea what is needed to make the club even better. Jimy was pretty much told what his lineup would be when the season opened by the front office since he really had no deep knowledge of the players. He has some ideas now. I believe the club's start will be much better in 2003.


See you next time. In the meantime, the Fox Sports website -- FoxSports.com with the keyword phrase "Astros Booth" gets you in touch anytime.

Greg Lucas

You can submit your own questions for this column by email to astrosdaily@yahoo.com.

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