Astros want to sign one of the top free agent closers

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MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros are “going hard” to get one of the top free agent closers. They currently have David Robertson, Sergio Romo, and Andrew Miller (who could close) on their wish list.

The Astros finished with the worst bullpen ERA in baseball this past season at 4.80. Chad Qualls led the team in saves with 19 along with a 3.33 ERA and a 43/5 K/BB ratio in 51 1/3 innings, but obviously, the Astros feel they could do even better.

The Astros improved 19 games from their 111-loss 2013 season, and they’ll look to make further progress next season in the next phase of their rebuilding process under GM Jeff Luhnow.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?