Things are pretty friggin’ bleak in Houston

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The Astros’ biggest fault in the past few years was delaying a necessary rebuild. They put hopes on the Biggio/Bagwell core for too long past its sell date, and then stumbled for a few more years thinking that the likes of Carlos Lee was someone around whom you built a team. In light of that, you knew eventually that things were going to crash hard and a total to-the-foundation tear-down was gonna happen and it was gonna be ugly.

Well, it’s happening. The Astros have lost 23 of 25 games and they’ve been outscored by 75 runs in that time. It’s Astrospocalypse.  And, not surprisingly, that total disaster has carried over to the box office and TV ratings too:

Home attendance, as measured by tickets sold, is averaging less than 20,000 for the last 11 home games since mid-June. At this rate, season attendance will be the worst ever at Minute Maid and the team’s lowest total since the post-strike season of 1995 … Through Tuesday, Astros games on Fox Sports Net Houston had an average Nielsen rating of 1.2 percent (about 26,000 of the market’s 2.1 million TV households), down 25 percent from 2011 and down 71 percent from the 4.1 rating during the World Series run in 2005.

It’ll get better. It has to. But in the meantime, ugly city.

Giants nearing deal with Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin
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The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.

Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.

The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.

In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.