There is good news to report. There are actual signs of life in the Astros' front office. While it appeared GM James Click and staff were in hibernation for a long, cold winter, they did appear just long enough to bolster the bullpen recently when they inked righthander Ryne Stanek to a one-year, $1.1 million contract according to sources.
Stanek: Project for Strom
(c) Getty Images
The 29-year-old St. Louis native who attended the University of Arkansas was a former first-rounder in the Tampa Bay system so it's natural that Click is familiar with him. While with the Rays, Stanek compiled a 2-5 record with a 3.55 ERA (2017-19) while making 56 starts. Remember, though, that the Rays have a different way of looking at starting pitching than most other clubs. Those 56 starts generated only 83 innings pitched, meaning most of his starts were short relief-style appearances.
However, his numbers as a starter were commendable - a 2.71 ERA, .192 opponents' batting average with a 11.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate. That's enough to show he could be another of Brent Strom's reclamation projects although he projects more as a reliever than a conventional starter.
A deadline trade sent Stanek to the Marlins in 2019 where he was used as a traditional reliever with worse results, including 10 innings during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. The hope is that he can have his effectiveness corrected.
Also in the news, the Astros are tied into another cheating scandal and (surprise!) this time it is the pitchers being accused, including Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole regarding some substance that improves the grip on a baseball. The allegations come from fired Angels clubhouse manager Brian Harkins who claims the practice has been around "for years".
Shocking! Pitchers loading up has been winked at for ages, most notably by Hall-of-Famer and master chemist Gaylord Perry. Go back to the 2004-05 playoffs against the Cardinals and tell me Julian Tavarez wasn't loading up. It's why I sneer at the outrage over batters using steroids or stealing signs. Every team has pitchers who doctor pitches and the league does next to nothing about it. The players don't complain much about it because some of the most obvious cheaters could become teammates next week so there's "omerta", just like in the Mafia. Everyone knows it happens and it's just part of life in baseball.
But the Astros' scandal had traction so the baseball media finds it convenient to portray them as cheaters alone. This has gone on from Mike Scott to Roger Clemens to Verlander and Cole. This will fall on deaf ears eventually.
Somebody should ask Mike Fiers if he doctors pitches.
Now that the Houston front office is showing signs of awakening, let's see if any other signings or trades will soon emerge.
- Bob Hulsey