By NEAL FARMER
When Derek Fisher homered and had a great day at the plate in his Major League Baseball debut last week with the Astros against the Rangers, I had an acquaintance (a civilian and not a sportswriter) comment on social media that Fisher had played his way into a trade with Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh? How did that get into the picture? What did a civilian know that I had not heard?
So I looked up the pitching staff for the Pirates (through Saturday night) on an ESPN website. Certainly, I think that the Astros would look only for pitching and not hitting with an in-season trade. Pittsburgh’s starting hurlers are:
*Ivan Nova with 14 starts and 12 quality starts. He has a 2.91 ERA and a 7-4 record.
*Gerrit Cole led the team with 69 Ks. He has a 4.54 ERA and a 4-6 record.
*Jamison Taillon is 3-2 after eight starts. His ERA is 3.38.
*Trevor Williams is 3-3 after eight starts and 14 games pitched, with an ERA of 5.16.
*Chad Kuhl is 1-6 after 13 starts, with an ERA of 5.61.
*Tyler Glasnow is 2-6 after 12 starts, with an ERA of 7.45.
Then during Houston’s 6-5 loss to Boston on Sunday night (with terrible home-plate umpiring), ESPN showed a graphic with five possible starting pitchers for the Astros to trade for:
*Oakland’s Sonny Gray (nine starts, 2-2 record and 4.44 ERA)
*White Sox’s Jose Quintana (14 starts, 3-8 record and 5.07 ERA)
*Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson (14 starts, 5-5 record and 3.59 ERA)
*Atlanta’s Jaime Garcia (13 starts, 2-5 record and 3.59 ERA).
The announcers then pointed out that the Astros travel to Oakland for their next series, and face Gray on Tuesday. And one of the broadcasters said that Oakland has made it known that they are ready to make trades for younger players. So that would mean Gray could be trying out on Tuesday for the Astros. As would Fisher for Oakland.
Before being called up this season, Fisher batted .335 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI for AAA Fresno, Houston’s affiliate on that level. While in the Astros minor leagues, Fisher sported a .283 average and was slugging .486. He also had 61 home runs and 226 RBI in 354 minor league games.
The only pitchers I see Pittsburgh letting go are Taillon and Cole, unless there is a Houston Texans-Cleveland Browns lovefest going on between the two baseball franchises. I still think Yu Darvish is whom the Astros are targeting for a trade – based solely on what Dallas friends have said. But I can see Fisher being the bait instead of other young Astros.
AGGIES MAGIC – The series was in 1989 and Texas A&M was playing archrival University of Texas. It’s when A&M’s John Byington had the weekend series that legends are made of, as he had a huge impact on the Aggies sweeping the Longhorns. They still talk in College Station about Byington’s weekend.
Byington had a 9th-inning homer to help A&M beat UT on Friday. Then in a Saturday double-header, Byington hammered a majestic, walk-off grand slam in the 9th inning of the first game to beat the Longhorns, and a walk-off 3-run homer for the Aggies to push past the Longhorns in the second game at Olsen Field.
The reason that is important this week? Aggie officials at Olsen Field had kept Byington’s bat from that 1989 series. The team took it with them to this week’s College World Series in Omaha, Neb., and taped it to storage bins on the wall of their dugout. Down 5-0 against Louisville, the Aggies touched the bat singled and doubled their way – no Byington-style homers – to get to within 5-4. It was superstition at its finest. And it looked like it was Aggie Magic let out of the bat. Alas, Louisville won the game 8-4 when the Louisville pen got rocking.
The Aggies are hoping that the magic rubs off in other games in Omaha, as the College World Series is a double-elimination tournament.
That 1989 A&M team lost in an NCAA regional final at Olsen Field to LSU. Ben McDonald was pitching for LSU and was knocked out of the first championship game. But Curt Leskanic held the Aggies at bay while LSU rallied to win the first game of the regional championship. And McDonald came back to win the second game for LSU and put them in the College World Series that year. Ironically, McDonald was one of the announcers for Sunday’s A&M-Louisville contest on ESPN.
Amazingly, Texas A&M – which finished 58-7 in 1989 – was voted the No. 2 team in the country that year in the final poll, even though they did not make the trip to the College World Series. Some feel that was the best team ever in College Station, even though this year’s team has made it to Omaha.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION – Tulane football coach Willie Fritz will speak at the Touchdown Club’s noon luncheon this Wednesday. The event is at noon at the Bayou City Event Center, 9401 Knight Road near NRG Stadium. Tickets are available at touchdownclub.org.
You may remember that Fritz was the head football coach at Sam Houston State for four years from 2010-2013, and had the Bearkats into the playoff his last three years, including back-to-back appearances in the national championship game (2011-2012). His teams at Blinn College was National Junior College National Championships in 1995 and 1996. He also is one of the top 10 speakers ever at a Touchdown Club event.
HOW MANY WINS FOR YOUR COLLEGE TEAM? – Las Vegas odds-makers have put together a projection of expected wins for this fall’s college football teams. It doesn’t mean anything, but it does get people talking about football. However, Vegas does seem to have some insights that usually means they make money off of any and all bets.
TOP TRANSFER QUARTERBACKS FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL – There is a University of Houston flavor on at least one blog, which rates which quarterback transfers will have the most impact on their college football team this fall.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.”
― Oscar Wilde
HOTTIE OF THE DAY