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The Arms of Texas: Vince Young still looking for a job, is Seattle a good fit?

The landscape has changed recently for the former Arms of Texas, Colt McCoy and Vince Young, after the Bay Bridge cities of San Francisco and Oakland decided to bring in new quarterbacks.

San Francisco reportedly acquired McCoy and a sixth-round pick in a trade with Cleveland, and Oakland (who seemed to be the lead suitor for Young) traded two draft picks to Seattle for Matt Flynn and are currently looking to deal Carson Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals.

While Vince will have to once again test his options, McCoy may just have had the best possible transaction.

Now that Matt Flynn has officially become part of the silver and black, Young must look elsewhere. Oakland made the move they felt worked best for them: investing in a young player who has shown signs of leadership and talent instead of investing in age. They made that mistake already with Carson Palmer. It’s a more conservative move, unlike those seen when Al Davis was at the helm. One can’t help but think Davis would have taken a chance on the 29-year-old Texas legend.

But that door has closed. And so have many others. Backup roles have been filled all around the league with Chase Daniels signing with the Chiefs, Matt Cassel with the Vikings, Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Titans, and Carson Palmer reportedly heading to Arizona. The Bills have signed Kevin Kolb recently and probably wouldn’t take a second chance on the same player they cut just seven months ago.

Oakland just may have opened an avenue for Vince in their acquisition of Matt Flynn. Now Seattle has only one quarterback on the roster in Russell Wilson. Although Jacksonville, Chicago, and the New York Jets could be potential landing spots, Seattle is Vince’s best shot.

Head coach Pete Carroll might still have some hard feelings over the 2005 National Championship, but he out of anyone else in the league knows what Young’s ‘A’ game looks like. Although the offensive development coaches aren’t any Jim Harbaugh’s, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell could certainly help out the veteran. Bevell knows how to work with quarterbacks looking to come back.

Bevell has been in a similar situation as offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings during Favre’s fight with the hourglass. In Bevell’s offense, Favre threw for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns and came one gutsy pass away from a Super Bowl. Although the difference between Favre and Young talent-wise could be discussed longer than all of Favre’s retirement speeches combined, the experience of handling a player looking to revamp his career could easily applied.

Young would step into a backup role. Wilson is the future, and from what he showed last year a pretty decent future. But it would be Young’s ticket back in. After spending the season wandering around at home, appearing at UT football games, and being the subject of countless stories regarding his financial status, Young would seemingly prefer playing back-up to Wilson than having to endure that again.

Perhaps Seattle will make the move. The draft is still a month away, but top quarterback talent will be hard to locate in the later rounds and Young is a candidate the organization would be surer of. Perhaps they won’t.

Uncertainty seems to be the theme for both Vince Young and Colt McCoy during this offseason. But McCoy is getting his shot, Young is still waiting for his but probably won’t be for long.

A shot is all you can ask for in this league. Few get more than one. Both these players have been given extra opportunities and will have to make the most of them to keep from being players with jerseys hung up in the halls of the NCAA and cast into the waste basket in the NFL.


Useless division projections: American League West

The weather is getting warmer. The days are getting longer. Spring training is in full swing, and you can almost smell the freshly cut grass, hot dogs and peanuts of your local ballpark. The Rangers and Astros will kick off the season in just a few short weeks, and it is now time for a round of useless division predictions so we can all start getting our mind out of basketball mode and into its baseball preset.  If you saw the Orioles finishing in second place in the notorious American League East or the Oakland A’s winning the AL west, then these projections aren’t useless. As it stands, we never know what twists and turns will take place over the course of 162, but we’re going to try to look into the future and see where things will stand come October.

American League West:

Houston Astros, 5th place

Sorry, Astros fans. 2013 is going to be just as forgettable as the last couple years of baseball in H-Town. Coming off a miserable 55 win season, the path to relevance gets a bit harder with their transition to the American League West, home of a couple of the best teams in baseball and the DH. The Astros will begin the year with the lowest payroll in the league by far, and their current roster would have trouble competing in AAA, let alone the big leagues. But I am really excited to see the retro uniforms they’ll be rolling out this year. They’re going to be put to shame on the field while dressed to the nines.

Seattle Mariners, 4th place

Slowly but surely, they’re putting the pieces back together. Felix Hernandez will do Felix Hernandez things, but the putrid smell of the offense can still be smelled all the way from the East coast. Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero should begin to take the next steps in their progression into impact players, and the additions of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales will aid the cause. If the offense can hold up and the rotation can find someone to help out King Felix, the Mariners could be primed to make some noise in 2013.

Oakland A’s, 3rd place

I refuse to believe they can catch lighting in a bottle twice. Refuse. The 19-5 record they posted in July surely can’t be replicated again, and surely the amazingly young pitching staff can’t repeat their out of mind performance of 2012. A healthy season from Brett Anderson will help in their defense of the American League West title, as well as a full season from the Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. I don’t think they can repeat, but I also had them finishing last in the predictions last year. Who knows with Billy Beane’s group.

Texas Rangers, 2nd place

Following a rough offseason that saw almost nothing go according to plan, the Rangers have some doubters heading into the 2013 campaign for the rest time in awhile. The starting rotation led by Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison should be formidable, but Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando are going to have to have solid seasons if they want to reclaim the AL West title. Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and the rest of the gang are going to have to make up for the loss of Josh Hamilton, and A.J. Pierzynski is going to have to replicate the solid season of 2012 he had with the White Sox in the heat of the summer. The Rangers have as good a chance as anyone, but they have some work to do.

Los Angeles Angels, 1st place

Sweet, sweet Déjà vu. Seems as though it was only a few short months ago I picked the Angels to win the American League West a season ago after a big offseason, only to watch them fall flat on their face coming out of the starting blocks. Josh Hamilton, Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout probably represent the most compete outfield in the big leagues, while Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo hold down the corners of the infield. The starting rotation could be an Achilles heel after Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, but on paper, it looks like it should hold up. I’ve done this before and it didn’t pan out, we’ll see if 2013 is any better for the Angels.

Five potential breakout players to watch in 2013

With April rapidly approaching, America’s pastime is almost upon us. Unfortunately, this could be a rough year for Texas baseball. The Astros are on the verge of another 50-win season, as they are welcomed to the AL West and the Rangers will fight for one of the top two spots in the division with youthful Oakland, the up-and-coming Mariners and the lavish Angels.
Though, this doesn’t mean we still can’t look forward to another memorable season. At the end of the season, it is always intriguing to take a look at the breakout seasons certain players had, especially when those player began the year as sleepesr or relatively unknowns.

Here are five players I predict will have breakout seasons in 2013:

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs:
Last year, Rizzo was called up to the majors after tearing it up in Triple-A, hitting 23 homeruns and batting .342. Then, in 87 games with the Cubs, he hit .285 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs. Chicago padded its lineup a bit this offseason with the additions of Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston, and this should only improve Rizzo’s production by giving him more opportunities. Only 23, the first baseman has a great capacity for improvement. Don’t be surprised if Rizzo posts a .280, 30-plus home run and 100 RBI line this year for the Cubbies.

Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics’ signing of Cespedes was a big headline during last year’s offseason, but when the leftfielder got off to a slow start in his first MLB season, us fickle sports fans almost seemed to forget about him. He finished last year batting .292, with 23 home runs, and 82 RBIs in 129 games. I fully expect Cespedes to start at least 140 games this year, and after making the adjustment to MLB pitching, I expect a 30-plus homerun season and a possible all-star selection. While I see his batting average dipping a bit, I also see a noticeable increase in power, giving Oakland a potent one-two punch with Josh Reddick.

Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
In his first full MLB season, Moore exceeded expectations. While finishing with a 11-11 record doesn’t seem that impressive, his 3.81 ERA and 175 strikeouts show that he has great stuff. He averaged close to nine K’s per nine innings and held opposing hitters to a .238 clip. He does need to improve his control some, as he finished 7th in the AL in walks, but he will need to be a central part of the Rays' season if they wish to make another postseason run. Don’t expect Clayton Kershaw-like numbers just yet, but he owns a devastating changeup and an overpowering fastball that can get up to 98 on the gun.

David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Baseball fans will not soon forget Freese’s 2011 World Series heroics, especially during the legendary game six. While Freese did get voted to his first All-Star game last year, I can’t help but see his numbers as underachieving for a player of his talent. My view of his production lies in his power numbers and run production. From what I saw in the 2011 postseason, Freese has the potential to be a 30-plus homerun third baseman. Unfortunately for Freese, a loaded Cardinal lineup takes some production away from him. I don’t see the Cardinals lineup producing the way it did last year, and should Craig, Beltran, Hollida, or Molina go down with an injury, expect Freese to be the guy to pick up the slack.

Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Last year, after the month of June, Minor held an ERA greater than 6.00. He was 3-6 and struggling to challenge hitters. But after an outing against the Yankees, in which he went 7 1/3 innings and only allowed one run, it was smooth sailing. Minor finished the season with an 11-10 record and a 4.12 ERA, including a 2.16 ERA after the All-Star break. If he can continue where he left off in 2012, Minor should be one of the centerpieces of the Braves' rotation for years to come. Perhaps Medlen-Minor will develop shades of Maddux-Glavine.

As part of a five-player deal finalized Monday, first baseman Chris Carter (22) along with two minor league players from the Oakland Athletics’ minor league system were traded to the Houston Astros for infielder Jed Lowrie and right-handed pitcher Fernando Rodriguez. The Athletics and Astros will play each other in the AL West following the Astros’ move from the NL Central in 

Photo Credit: John Smith | Daily Texan Staff

OAKLAND, Calif.  — The Oakland Athletics acquired infielder Jed Lowrie and right-hander Fernando Rodriguez from the Houston Astros for first baseman Chris Carter and two minor leaguers on Monday.

Right-hander Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi also went to Houston in the deal between franchises that will be playing in the same division for the first time following the Astros’ move from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013.

Lowrie batted .244 with 16 homers and 42 RBIs in 97 games with Houston, missing two months with ankle and thumb injuries. Despite the limited playing time, Lowrie tied for the fourth most homers among all shortstops last year.

Oakland general manager Billy Beane said he has had interest in Lowrie for years and was glad to be able to get the chance to add him to the roster.

“He always had good power for a guy in the middle of the infield,” Beane said. “It’s just hard to find that kind of power from a guy who can play the middle of the infield and doing it as a switch-hitter.”

Lowrie played exclusively at shortstop last season but previously played first, second and third base as well during his four years with the Boston Red Sox. The A’s had previously signed Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima to a $6.5 million, two-year contract.

Nakajima starts off as the shortstop but Beane said there will be plenty of chances for Lowrie to play all over the infield.

“I feel most comfortable at shortstop,” Lowrie said. “But I’ve played some second base in my career as well. I’m certainly more comfortable up the middle than anywhere else on the diamond. But I’ve had some experience at third base.”

Lowrie, who played his college ball at nearby Stanford, agreed to a $2.4 million salary to avoid arbitration. The Astros are likely to have the lowest payroll in the majors in 2013.

The move sends Lowrie from a rebuilding franchise that had a major league-worst 107 losses last season to a young club coming off a surprising division title in 2012 and one with high hopes for this season.

“Considering everyone had pegged either the Rangers or Angels to win it, it was a great story to watch from a distance,” Lowrie said. “It’s a group of young guys that obviously knows how to win. Hopefully, we’ll just continue to get better.”

Rodriguez went 2-10 with a 5.37 ERA in 71 relief appearances last year. He struck out 78 batters in 70 1-3 innings. Despite the poor record and high ERA, Beane sees plenty to like from the hard-throwing Rodriguez.

“He’s got a real big arm,” Beane said. “His record, his ERA are probably a little bit misleading. He’s another guy to add to our bullpen depth, which was one of our strengths last year. We felt like we were giving them a pretty good package. This addition helped us get over the finish line.”

Carter batted .239 with 16 homers and 39 RBIs in 67 games with Oakland last year, platooning at first base with left-handed hitting Brandon Moss. He provides needed power for the Astros and could thrive at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.

Beane said it was difficult to part with a player like Carter who twice won the award as the organization’s top minor leaguer, but he saw little opportunity for Carter to get substantial at-bats with four regular outfielders who would rotate at designated hitter and Brandon Moss likely getting most of the first base at-bats against right-handed pitching.

Lowrie provided much more immediate help.

“Given where this club finished last year and that we have the chance to compete this year we wanted to do whatever we could to help us out right now,” Beane said.

Peacock was acquired by Oakland from Washington in the deal that sent Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals following the 2011 season. After going 15-3 with a 2.39 ERA in the minors in his final year in the Nationals system, Peacock was 12-9 with a 6.01 ERA at Triple-A Sacramento last season. He was ranked as Oakland’s top pitching prospect for 2013 by Baseball America.

The 21-year-old Stassi batted .268 with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 84 games at Class A Stockton in 2012 and was considered Oakland’s top catching prospect.

“This trade gives us power, pitching and catching,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a statement. “Three valuable commodities that will help improve our organization.”

The Rangers closed the 2012 season in dismal fashion, blowing a five game division lead to the Oakland A’s with eight games remaining.

After being bounced by the Orioles in the inaugural Wild Card play-in game, the Rangers went into the winter with more questions than answers. Would Josh Hamilton return after his abysmal final four months, capped by the dropped fly ball in Oakland on the last day of the season that helped cost the Rangers the division? Would they land Zach Greinke off the free agent market to help beef up the rotation? Would Mike Napoli start the year in Arlington, or elsewhere?

When the hot stove started heating up at the Winter Meetings in Nashville during early December, it appeared as though the Rangers had their hand in every rumor out there. There was a point when it seemed like a certainty that they would land the biggest prize on the free agent market in Greinke. There were talks of them trading a few top prospects to Tampa Bay for starter James Shields. There were talks of them making a trade for Arizona’s slugging outfielder Justin Upton, and there was talk of them retaining Hamilton on a somewhat team-friendly deal.

And then, as fast as all the buildup came, it all came crashing down around the head of GM John Daniels. The first domino to fall was Mike Napoli taking a three-year contract to go play in Boston, although there are still some issues getting his contract finalized. Greinke landed a huge contract from the now budget-less Los Angeles Dodgers to the tune of $147 million over six years, the largest contract for any right handed pitcher in MLB history. Kansas City emptied the top half of their farm system and sent it to Tampa Bay in exchange for Shields. Hamilton took his 125 million dollar contract offer from the division rival Angels and jumped to the enemy, all while the Rangers were trying to figure out how everything unraveled so fast.

Even though the Rangers appeared primed to be the offseason winners in early December, all is not lost in Arlington. The winter is not over, and some minor moves have been made to combat the flurry of activity elsewhere. They added former White Sox Catcher A.J. Pierzynski on a one-year deal to replace the departed Napoli. Pierzynski is coming off a career year with the Sox as he belted a career high 27 home runs and had 77 RBIs, and should be an upgrade for the pitchers while calling the game from behind the plate.

They signed former Kansas City closer Joakim Soria to a three-year deal to bolster the bullpen. Soria didn’t make a single pitch in 2012 after being shut down on April 3rd for the second Tommy John surgery of his career. The Rangers are planning on Soria being ready to go by June, and should provide a nice boost to the back end of the bullpen. Soria was a two-time All-Star with the Royals, and if he can come back healthy, will provide the boost the front office was looking for.

The Rangers also landed Lance Berkman, inking him to a one year deal to fill the DH hole left open by the trade of Michael Young to Philadelphia. Berkman only played in 32 games in 2012, but is expected to be healthy for Opening Day and should be a decent bat in the middle of the order.

While the Rangers didn’t make the big splash everyone was expecting, they have constructed a roster that should compete for the AL West crown again. Hamilton’s departure will sting, but Daniels made the right move by not tying his financial flexibility over the next five years to an injury riddled, middle aged outfielder who has probably seen his best days. Pitchers and catchers report in 26 days and there may be more moves to be made, but Daniels has said he feels comfortable with what they have on board. Now we’ll have to see if he has an ace up his sleeve to help solidify that feeling.

When asked earlier this year what his favorite rule change in Major League Baseball was, Elvis Andrus didn’t say it was instant replay. Or the designated hitter.

He didn’t say it was interleague play or the fact that the All-Star Game determines which league’s representative will get home field advantage in the World Series.

No, instead, Andrus expressed his approval of the new Wild Card system.

“All of those games make the game more interesting,” he said. “I love the idea of the extra Wild Card. Fans will enjoy that extra game and it’s a chance for another team, so it’s always good for fans to be able to see that.”

“Interesting” may not be the word Andrus would use to describe the new playoff format now.

Not after the Rangers blew a four-run lead for the second time in three days, falling to the A’s, 12-5, Wednesday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in their regular season finale. The Rangers were swept by the A’s and did not win the American League West despite leading the division for 178 days — the most by a team that didn’t win its division since the divisional era began in 1969.

Instead of popping champagne, Texas will try to regroup in time for its Wild Card game against the Orioles in Arlington. For a team that has lost five of their last six games and nine of their last 12, that will be much easier said than done for the slumping Rangers.

Only two teams have erased deficits bigger than the 13-game hole Oakland dug itself out of to win the AL West this year, as the A’s went 57-20 (.740) in their last 77 games, winning their last six.

But even numbers as mind-boggling as those don’t explain the full magnitude of what happened in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday afternoon.

Josh Hamilton settled under a fly ball in shallow center field off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. What should have been an inning-ending can of corn turned into a two-run error as the A’s took a 7-5 lead in a six-run fourth inning, one frame after the Rangers pushed five runs across. The A’s would score the last 11 runs of the game.

Hamilton was one of the biggest reasons why the two-time defending AL champion Rangers were in such great position to win a third straight division title. But that moment epitomized Texas’ recent struggles. The Rangers, who held a 13-game lead over a previously nondescript A’s team and who held a 5-1 lead over this same squad before the fourth inning began, were suddenly trailing and eventually without a division crown that seemed wrapped up this time last week.

It will be interesting to see how the Rangers respond.

Rangers’ manager Ron Washington converses with second base umpire Lance Barksdale after Adrian Beltre  was forced out of second base in the third inning in a 12-5 loss to the A’s.  

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — Josh Hamilton made one thing clear: The Texas Rangers will forget their stunning season-ending sweep at Oakland and regroup as an American League Wild Card.

So much for a third straight AL West crown. Texas needed one win against the upstart Athletics in three games, and didn’t get it.

“You guys have a hard time believing we can forget about it and move ahead,” Hamilton said. “But that’s what we get paid to do. We’ll go home, regroup and go figure out what we have to do.”

The Athletics captured the AL West with another improbable rally in a season full of them, coming back from four runs down and a 13-game division deficit to beat the two-time defending league champion Rangers 12-5 on Wednesday.

Hamilton dropped a fly ball in center field for a two-run error that put the A’s (94-68) ahead 7-5 in a six-run fourth inning. The A’s only added to Texas’ troubles the rest of the way.

“You can have all the experience as you want but when you run into a team that’s hot, experience has nothing to do with it,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Texas (93-69) is headed to the new one-game, Wild Card playoff at home against Baltimore on Friday night, with the winner playing the New York Yankees in the division series.

The A’s get some time off before opening the division series in their first postseason appearance since 2006, playing Game 1 at Detroit on Saturday.

The Athletics needed a sweep and they delivered to win their first division crown in six years and 15th in all. They overcame a five-game deficit in the final nine days and took sole possession of the West’s top spot for the first time this year.

“We knew this is a beast of a team we would have to beat, and to be able to beat them three games in a row and win the division on top of it, really it’s a magical type thing,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Grant Balfour retired Michael Young on a fly to center for the final out, then raised his arms in the air as the A’s streamed out of the dugout and began bouncing up and down in the infield.

“2012 AL WEST CHAMPIONS” flashed on the scoreboard two days after the A’s clinched a playoff spot Monday and held a wild dance party in the clubhouse.

“I’m glad there’s not one tomorrow or Friday,” owner Lew Wolff said. “I can relax and go home. I’m running out of underwear.”

Players high-fived fans while taking a victory lap through the rundown Coliseum, where the outfield still has a light patch of grass from football in the venue shared by the NFL’s Raiders.

Soon, the celebratory champagne and beer made its way to the field — and players sprayed it into the stands. The A’s returned to the field almost an hour later to greet fans still gathered along the top of the dugout.

Oakland pulled off another remarkable performance in a season defined by thrilling walkoffs, rallies and whipped-cream pie celebrations by a team that was never supposed to be here.

A club that trailed Texas by 13 games on June 30. A club with a $59.5 million payroll, the lowest in baseball. General manager Billy Beane found ways to get a blue-collar franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since being swept by Detroit in the 2006 AL championship series.

Coco Crisp hit a tying two-run double in the fourth against Derek Holland (12-7) and Brandon Moss drove in three runs, including a two-run single in the four-run eighth.

Rookie winning pitcher Evan Scribner (2-0) left the mound in the sixth to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 30,067. He allowed two hits and struck out two in three scoreless innings after replacing struggling starter A.J. Griffin.

Ryan Cook, pitching for a fifth consecutive game, gave up a double to Nelson Cruz before retiring the next three Texas hitters with strikeouts of David Murphy and Mike Napoli. Catcher Derek Norris pumped his right arm as the Coliseum fans jumped to their feet.

Norris then homered leading off the bottom of the eighth for his second RBI. It was his seventh homer and Oakland’s majors-leading 112th since the All-Star break.

“Ever since Day 1 I’ve been here, it’s been, the A’s can’t compete with the payroll, can’t compete with this team or that team,” Norris said. “We’re better off if we’re down. It just gives us the extra energy.”

The A’s join the NL West champion San Francisco Giants as division champions. The Bay Area is already buzzing about a possible Bay Bridge World Series like the 1989 championship swept by Oakland, one interrupted by an earthquake.

Hamilton’s miscue while charging forward might haunt the to-be free agent if his Rangers don’t get past their Wild Card game.

“I just missed it, man,” Hamilton said.

Murphy’s two-run single highlighted a five-run third inning that put Texas in prime position.

In the fourth, Moss drew a leadoff walk and Josh Reddick followed with an RBI double. Josh Donaldson singled and Seth Smith’s base hit made it 5-3 and chased Ryan Dempster with none out and runners on first and second.

Washington turned to the lefty Holland, a starter who was tagged for four runs in the first inning of the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader with the Angels before working into the seventh.

He retired the first two batters before Crisp’s double down the right-field line.

The only other teams to come back from at least 13 games down to win the division were the 1914 Boston Braves, the 1951 New York Giants, the ‘78 Yankees and the ‘95 Seattle Mariners.

“Anything can happen in the long season,” said Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, who will start the Wild Card game. “That’s why we play 162 games. We’re going to forget about this and get ready for the next one.”

Now, Texas has all the pressure as they try to make another run deep into October.

These are the same Rangers who twice came within one strike of the franchise’s first World Series championship before losing Games 6 and 7 to the wild-card St. Louis Cardinals. It was Texas’ second near miss in as many years after losing the 2010 World Series to the Giants.

“We have to go win that playoff game,” Napoli said. “We didn’t come here to lose. They got it done and we didn’t, plain and simple. It’s going to be a tough road.”

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve (27) is forced out at home plate on an infield grounder by Astros' Justin Maxwell in the first inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Monday, Sept. 3, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Houston Astros are on track to turn in its second straight 100-loss season. They have not had a winning season since 2008. They are clearly in a rebuilding phase, but how long will it take for them to be competitive once again?

With the many trades the Astros (42-93) have finalized throughout the season — shipping Justin Ruggiano and Carlos Lee to the Marlins in separate packages, moving J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter to Toronto and many others — it has slashed its payroll drastically and is looking toward the future. The idea is to have room to add players who can fit and continue moving forward in hopes of achieving more wins.

“The good thing about our situation is we’ll have a lot more money than [the A’s] will at the end of the day, so we should be able to build,” Astros owner Jim Crane said. “We’re certainly optimistic that speed can come into the program. When you look at Oakland, they weren’t supposed to be able to compete for a few years, and they are running after a wild card.”

The Astros are relying on the development of its Triple-A Oklahoma City prospects, pitcher Jarred Cosart and third baseman Matt Dominguez. José Altuve, the 22-year-old second baseman who was named to his first All-Star team this season, is hitting .291 with 33 RBIs and 27 stolen bases and will be a key piece heading into the future. Brett Wallace has bounced between Oklahoma City and Houston this season and is expected to stay with the Astros for good now that the team can contribute.

This year’s No. 1 overall pick, Carlos Correa, who the Astros believe can become the face of its franchise, will be returning next year as well. The Astros will also probably receive the No. 1 pick again for the 2013 Draft, which will be another opportunity to pick up good, young talent.

“They understand where we’re going and what we’re getting to and it’s easy to see, and they want to put themselves in a position to be aboard when we move forward,” former manager Brad Mills, who was fired last month, said. “And I think that’s a big, motivating factor in itself. To be with the ballclub when it moves forward.”

It is unlikely that the Astros will be competing for a playoff position in the next couple of years like Oakland, unless some sort of miracle occurs, but they have certainly see an instant improvement from the past few seasons with good draft picks and an active offseason. It may be possible for the Astros to compete in the next four to six years if the players in the farm system continue to grow and learn from what they’ve been through.

Editor’s note: Figures released later by Oakland police place the number arrested closer to 400.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland police say they arrested a total of about 150 people Saturday as protesters spent a portion of the day trying to get into a vacant convention center, and later broke into City Hall and tried to occupy a YMCA.

Police spokesman Jeff Thomason says most of the arrests came around 8 p.m. That’s when police took about 100 protesters into custody as they marched through the city’s downtown, with some entering a YMCA building.

About 20 demonstrators were arrested earlier in the afternoon, after police say they threw rocks, bottles and other objects at officers and tore down fencing.

Police say three officers were injured. Officers used tear gas and “flash” grenades on the protesters after they refused to leave.

SAN FRANCISCO — As video spread of an officer in riot gear blasting pepper spray into the faces of seated protesters at a northern California university, outrage came quickly — followed almost as quickly by defense from police and calls for the chancellor’s resignation.

University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a statement Saturday she was forming a task force to investigate the police action and the video images she said were “chilling.”

However, a law enforcement official who watched the clip called the use of force “fairly standard police procedure.”

In the video, an officer dispassionately pepper-sprays a line of several sitting protesters who flinch and cover their faces but remain passive with their arms interlocked as onlookers shriek and scream out for the officer to stop.

As the images were circulated widely on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter on Saturday, the university’s faculty association called on Katehi to resign, saying in a letter there had been a “gross failure of leadership.”

At a news conference, Katehi said what the video shows is, “sad and really very inappropriate” but defended her leadership and said she had no plans to resign.

“I do not think that I have violated the policies of the institution,” she said. “I have worked personally very hard to make this campus a safe campus for all.”

Katehi remained in a media room for more than two hours after the news conference, eventually walking to an SUV past a group of students nearly three blocks long who, in a coordinated effort, remained completely silent. The Sacramento Bee said.

The protest was held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were jabbed by police with batons on Nov. 9.

Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a “compliance tool” that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.

“When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them,” Kelly said. “Bodies don’t have handles on them.”

After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of “active resistance” from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.

“What I’m looking at is fairly standard police procedure,” Kelly said.

Images of police actions have served to galvanize support during the Occupy Wall Street movement, from the clash between protesters and police in Oakland last month that left an Iraq War veteran with serious injuries to more recent skirmishes in New York City, San Diego, Denver and Portland, Ore.

Some of the most notorious instances went viral online, including the use of pepper spray on an 84-year-old activist in Seattle and a group of women in New York. Seattle’s mayor apologized to the activist, and the New York Police Department official shown using pepper spray on the group of women lost 10 vacation days after an internal review.

In the video of the UC Davis protest, the officer, a member of the university police force, displays a bottle before spraying its contents on the seated protesters in a sweeping motion while walking back and forth. Most of the protesters have their heads down, but several were hit directly in the face.

Some members of a crowd gathered at the scene scream and cry out. The crowd then chants, “Shame on You,” as the protesters on the ground are led away. The officers retreat minutes later with helmets on and batons drawn.

Ten people were arrested.

Nine students hit by pepper spray were treated at the scene, two were taken to hospitals and later released, university officials said.

They declined to release the officer’s name.

UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said the decision to use pepper spray was made at the scene.

“The students had encircled the officers,” she said Saturday. “They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.”

Many Twitter and Facebook comments supported the students and criticized the response.

“Stomach churning video of police using pepper spray on seated anti-Wall Street protesters in Davis, Calif.,” actress Mia Farrow wrote in a retweet of the video.

Elsewhere in California, police arrested six Occupy San Francisco protesters early Sunday and dismantled a tent encampment in front of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Officer Albie Esparza says police and city crews took down about 12 tents. The six were arrested on charges of interfering with officers.

The raid came several hours after police and public works crews removed dozens of tents from the nearby Occupy camp at Justin Herman Plaza.

Earlier, several hundred protesters in Oakland tore down a chain-link fence surrounding a city-owned vacant lot and set up a new encampment five days after their main camp near City Hall was torn down.

“They obviously don’t want us at the plaza downtown. We might as well make this space useful,” Chris Skantz, 23, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Occupy Oakland protesters breached the fence and poured into the lot next to the Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue, police said in a statement.

The protesters passed a line of police surrounding the lot without a struggle, used wire cutters to take down the fence and pulled down “no trespassing” signs the Chronicle reported.

Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said surrounding streets had been closed and officers were protecting surrounding buildings.

Watson said there had been no arrests or citations, but the city’s position remains that no camping will be allowed and protesters can’t stay overnight.