The All-Star break couldn't have come at a better time for Houston, who have officially become the laughingstock of the entire league. They're taking potshots on Bill Simmons' podcast, they've got the worst record in baseball and just can't win a game, much less a series. Will the break make a difference? I guess we'll see on Friday. Until then, let's look at an unusual stock watch, filled with people affected by this Astros team and not necessarily it's players. Hope you enjoy the slight deviation from the norm...
Hunter Pence, All-Star rising: The only actual Astros player on this stock watch, Pence did quite a bit to boost fan morale with his performance in the All-Star Game. He was doing Hunter Pence-y things, like taking an extra base, looking goofy and picking up hits. Oh, and he scored a run, which was novel for him, since the Astros stopped doing that weeks ago.
Jim Crane, stuck in neutral: Boy, this is the longest sale ever (that didn't involve bankruptcy or creditors...except it does sort of involve bankruptcy). He's probably trying to run the team, sort of, but he can't really talk about policy or decide not to do stupid things like play Sweet Caroline in a Red Sox game. He's also not likely to get installed permanently until August, well past the trade deadline. It's not the best scenario for Crane, but hopefully, he'll hit the ground running once he's installed as the owner.
Ed Wade, emergency sell: Sorry, that's not Wade's stock, that's what he's going to do to this roster. See, from what we're hearing, Wade's going to try and save his job by making trades. My over/under puts the number of trades he makes at two. That's not to say they'll all be big. He might make a couple Jeff Keppinger/Brett Myers trades where he tries to mine talent in the midrange prospects and show how valuable he is. It probably won't work, but I guess it's worth a shot.
Lance Berkman, rising quickly: Okay, okay, we're breaking from the normal list, but I have to point out how ridiculous Lance Berkman has been this season. He's hit one less home run than he did in his last full season in Houston and 10 more than he hit all last season. Remember when Houston didn't want to sign him last offseason? Yeah, Lance has hit half as many home runs as the entire Houston roster. And Wade made the Hall/Barmes moves to add power! Oh, and Lancelot also hit the longest home run in Busch Stadium history, after already owning the record for hitting the longest home run in Minute Maid Park history back in 2008. Add to that another All-Star appearance and Lance is getting more press than the entire Astros team these days.
Jack Armstrong, rising out of Astros plans: That may be going too far, but Armstrong is showing he's healthy in his first two starts in the Cape. His second start was a little more bumpy than the first, and he's conspicuously not listed on the Yarmouth-Dennis roster any more. I don't know if that means he's hurt again or if he's signing soon. But, this report from out on the Cape seems very positive, as it characterized Armstrong has having a very, very good fastball and decent breaking pitches. Hopefully, Houston can get him signed this summer, but he might be expensive.
George Springer, stuck on a plateau: With every day, it looks less and less likely that Springer will sign in time to make an impact in the minor leagues this season. There could be a few reasons for that. He could be hurt worse than we thought when he pulled that hamstring. If that's the case, there's good reason for Houston not to worry about getting him in the minors this season. It could also be because the Astros had agreed to a deal above slot value for Springer and the combination of ownership transition and the commissioner's desire to hold off announcing big deals until closer to the August 15 deadline may be causing the delay.
Brian McTaggart, rising by proxy: Simply because he's taking a deserved vacation and doesn't have to be around this trainwreck day-in and day-out for a bit.
Yao Ming, rising into the sunset: Now, the fact that Yao retired is big news, I'm not disputing that. But, I wonder what kind of legs this story would have if the Astros were playing well right now. Yao's a big deal, and got a pretty good sendoff in a lot of articles written lately. However, Jim Crane should be ashamed if this happens on his watch in the future. There is no reason the Rockets should steal media coverage from him in the middle of July.
Nnamdi Asomugha, rising despite a lockout: We end our round up of people who benefited the Astros being so bad here. Do you realize Nnamdi is getting more press in Houston in the past few weeks than the Astros? With so many articles speculating on what will happen with Nnamdi's free agency, the only thing more exciting from a Houston stand point is the possible Astros trade market. Sad times indeed for Astros fans.