Posts Tagged ‘Ed Wade’

2012 Astros Are The New Houston Babies

April 9, 2012

2012 Astros Are The New Houston Babies

The 25 men on the roster for the Houston Astros on Opening Day 2012 are 27.3 years old in their average age. They aren’t exactly infants, but they are the closest thing we have in town in baseball garb that fits that description since our first professional club, the 1888 Houston Babies.

Subtract Gonzalez & Lee. Add Harrell & Downs. Equals a starting lineup averaging age 25.1.

On Opening Day, had the Astros started 28-year-old Matt Downs at 1st base instead of 35-year-old Carlos Lee, and pitched 26-year-old Lucas Harrell instead of 33-year-old Wandy Rodriquez, the average age of the starting lineup for the Houston Astros would have been 25.1  years.

Youth is no guarantee of a successful future, but there is no future without a group of talented youngsters on the roster and in the minor league pipeline to get a major league team headed back in the right direction. I think Ed Wade had started the ball rolling in 2010-11 with some of the moves he made, and I love what I’ve heard from new GM Jeff Luhnow, so far,, about his plans to combine traditional scouting with situational statistical evaluations for choosing those prospects for the club’s future. Statistics aren’t everything, but neither are they an abdication of critical decision-making away from baseball people into the hands of eggheaded math geeks who know nothing about the game. Sophisticated statistical analyses of how players perform, and how they are projected to perform in critical game situations, are nothing less than a potentially powerful enhancement to the job of  picking the best hands to build a franchise future around.

Knowledge of the game. Wisdom with people. Sensitivity to the intangibles of talent assessment. Better measurement of those items that determine future success. Bless the franchise that can handle them all under one united roof – for they shall someday be called champions of the baseball world.

While we’re waiting, I like what I’ve seen so far in the new Houston Babies, the 2012 Houston Astros. I ‘m expecting them to finish about 72-90 this year, but I like their chances of getting better, if the things we are hearing in the early stages of the new Crane Era continue to grow and get results on the young player development.

It also won’t break any hearts in Houston this year either if veterans Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and Carlos Lee play well enough to give some wings to their contract floatations elsewhere to 2012 playoff competitors before the summer trading deadline.

Youth is the thing in Houston. For now. And, in a way, forever. Carlos Lee. has convinced a lot of people, I hope. Older guys sitting on fat multi-year contracts is no way to build or sustain the successful future of an MLB franchise.

Go. Astros. Go Babies.




Astros Say Goodbye to Tal Smith and Ed Wade

November 28, 2011

GM Tal Smith (L) and Manager Bill Virdon took the Astros to their first National League Post-Season Games and Championship Series in 1980.The 'Stros came oh-so-close.

As a public figure, Tal Smith is both a baseball gentleman and a historian scholar of the game as it is best played by winning clubs. He knows the people (past, present, and prospective), the skills they differentially need to possess for success, and he understands the strategies involved in building a club around pitching, power slugging versus station to station hitting, and defense. He also know Houston and the climate and temperament of the local fans.

Over the weekend, however, Astros President Tal Smith and Astros General Manager Ed Wade ran into something their years of successful time in the baseball administrative saddle could not spare them. New club owner Jim Crane wants a clean sweep and change to his own way of doing things and Sunday he terminated both men from their long time positions.

Baseball people expect this sort of thing to come down upon them eventually. And Tal Smith, who has been with the Astros in some capacity almost from the very literal start of the franchise in 1962, has felt the local bite of termination previously. Back in 1980, when the Astros were just coming off from their one-game-away-miss flirtation with the National League pennant, then owner John McMullen fired Tal as Astros GM in days after season’s end, without ever clarifying his reasons for separating the brain power behind the talent drive that put Houston’s success as a winner on the baseball map behind a wonderful field manager named Bill Virdon. Sometimes baseball club owners don’t even need a drum to show that they are now marching to a different beat. They just beat up on the those with familiar identities and faces in the name of change for change’s sake.

Such seems to be the present fate of both Smith and Wade. I don’t know Ed Wade beyond the speaking acquaintance stage, but I felt he did a good job accomplishing what former owner Drayton McLane, Jr. wanted in peeling back the aging payroll and getting improvement in scouting and minor league talent started in the right turning-around direction, but I can also understand how new owner Crane might now want a new GM as his fresh face on change. I’m also sure that Ed Wade will land on his feet somewhere.

Tal Smith is flanked by former Astros Cesar Cedeno (L) and Enos Cabell (R) at the 2007 Induction Banquet for the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. (Photo by Bill McCurdy.)

Several adequate biographies on Tal Smith and Ed Wade are available on line. Just Google their names and pick one out.

My own enjoyment of Tal Smith’s company has been on the quiet e-mail exchange side of stories about players and strategies from earlier eras. My personal appreciation of the man also extends to the roles he played in building winning baseball into the Houston commitment and his relevantly keen ability for assessing the kind of talent that will be needed five years down the road on the roster that exists now. Tal Smith is just one of those baseball guys who understands the dynamic of aging when it comes to meting out multi-year contracts for big bucks. As Astros fans, we can only hope that the Smith-Wade successors will also be talented in that same direction.

Tal's Hill at Minute Maid Park was constructed as a quirky reminder of the outfield hilll that once existed at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati. (Photo by Bill McCurdy.)

Tal Smith also was the principal baseball executive involved in the design of both the Astrodome and the venue we now know as Minute Maid Park. With the former, Tal had to deal with the unexpected visual problems created by the original clear roof and the painting of these panes that killed the grass and created the need for “Astroturf.” With Minute Maid Park, Tal’s vision and creativity crawls all over everything from Tal’s Hill to the Crawford Boxes to the sweet retro look of the ballpark’s architecture.

Tal, we wish you well with whatever you choose to do now through Tal Smith Enterprises. Just know that we longtime fans are aware that any success the Astros now have will be building upon the foundation for achievement that you have been planking into place in Houston for nearly a half century.

Thanks for the memories and good luck, old friend!