added 12/15/2002 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...


Mr. Lucas,

When Kirk Saarloos was asked what was different in his pitching between September (6.75 ERA) and July and August (3.88 ERA) indicated that he wasn't physically ready for the demands of pitching a full-length MLB season and that his pitching suffered as a result. He believes that if he does conditioning during the offseason he can prepare for a full season of quality pitching. Do you believe this to be the case? What do you think are his chances of being a quality #4 starter for the Astros in 2003?

J-Mag

Conditioning is very important and one must remember it was his first full professional season. The fact that he spent some of it in the major leagues was likely less a factor than the length of the professional season in total. A pitcher like Saarloos who must have pinpoint control to succeed obviously has to be in tip top shape. Just being off a little bit can make a major difference. That is perhaps what he learned the most during his major league stint.

We all remember Jose Lima who lost the fine command of his pitches and never was the same after two outstanding seasons. And one of the suggested reasons why Lima dropped off was his lack of conditioning.

I think Kirk Saarloos has an excellent chance at winning a regular spot in the rotation and doing well.


Mr. Lucas,

If it's true that Richard Hidalgo's weight is back down and he has no nerve, tendon or ligament damage from his gunshot injury, do you anticipate him having a come-back year in 2003?

J-Mag

From what I have heard he was on the right track to being back in shape prior to the gunshot wound. Apparently he did suffer some nerve damage in his left arm, but all reports and conversations I have had seem to indicate he should be OK by spring training.

Hidalgo knew after last season that he had to make changes in his physical condition. While he still has two huge money years left on his contract he also knows his career could end after that if he doesn't make a comeback.

I believe the Astros have mixed feelings about Richard. On one hand they would have been very willing to trade him in the right deal. On the other hand they have hope he can rebound still wearing a Houston uniform.

Based on his contract and the gunshot wound recovery and doubts it is far more likely he will go to spring training as an Astro. I have no predictions on how he will fare only to say that it will depend more on his mental outlook (which includes the will to be in top shape) than anything else in my opinion.


Do you think Pete Rose should be reinstated to baseball, and most specifically, made eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Darrell Pittman

In an ideal world Rose would be put into a special category which would make him un-hireable by baseball in anything but a part-time instructor category due to his alleged (and likely) gambling experiences. At the same time this would allow his career to be honored with a plaque in Cooperstown.

But I don't think baseball has any "half-way" plans such as this. He will either be afforded full re-instatement, or not. I tend to think that since so many polls of baseball fans are calling for his re-instatement baseball will ultimately do just that.


Do you get as many e-mails from fans about basketball as you get about baseball, and do you find that basketball fans are as knowledgable about their sport as are baseball fans?

Susan

Actually, baseball is the only sport that I deal with through e-mail connections. Since we currently don't have a contract with the Houston Rockets on Fox Sports Net I don't know if e-mails have become a part of the FSN pro basketball world. I know that Rocket games on Channel 51 do something with one question a night. And judging by most of the questions, the answer to yours is "No", they are not as knowledgeable.

But there is no sport in the history of American sport that has a core of passionate fans as baseball. There may be more Americans who say they follow football more, but most of those fans are far more "casual" than baseball fans. With us the game has been part of us in most cases since we were small boys and girls.

Baseball is the father of everything in American professional sports. Every other sport modeled itself after baseball in the beginning.

Fantasy leagues which are so popular now originated with baseball. Baseball was the first full time radio and television sport. All that is changed is that our game has to share the stage with other professional sports now. But it is still the greatest game ever invented.


See you next time after the first of the year when spring training will almost be in the air.

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

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