“The Houston Astros will win the NL Central in 2011. I’m calling it right now — Astros ’11 division champs.”
— ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume, waxing a bit too optimistically, methinks, over the Astros downright respectable second half.
I don’t want to take too much away from the Astros’ impressive in-season turnaround, but there’s no escaping the fact that, in addition to the legitimate improvements the team has made, the Astros’ schedule has gotten considerably easier in the second half of the season than it was in the first half.
Obviously a lot will happen in the offseason. As I sit here today I’d feel fairly comfortable picking them to finish third again, depending on what the Brewers do. But first place? Sorry, can’t feature it.
This is more significant for basketball fans than baseball fans, but Magic Johnson is taking over basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. Dan Feldman over at PBT has the full story on that.
For our purposes, you probably know that Johnson is part of the Dodgers ownership group. Anthony McCullough of the L.A. Times got comment from the Dodgers, saying that despite his new full-time job, his status with the Dodgers will be unchanged:
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’m not entirely certain what Magic does with the Lakers, so the first clause in Kasten’s comment may be doing most of the heavy lifting here.
Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals are closing in on a deal with catcher Matt Wieters. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that it’s a two-year deal. UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is for two years, at $21 million. There is an opt-out for him after year one. He will get $10 million in 2017 and, if he returns in 2018, he’ll get $11 million.
Wieters was not expected to go this long without signing, but his market, which many thought would be robust, never materialized. The Nats had been rumored to be interested for months, but they were apparently waiting to swoop in late and get what one presumes will be a bargain.
Wieters, 30, finished last season hitting .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI in 464 plate appearances. The Nationals currently have Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton, so who falls where in the catcher fight in Washington is unclear, but one presumes that Wieters getting a two-year deal puts him at the top of the depth chart.