Enos Cabell would prefer the Houston Astros stay in the National League. That is where his heart is.
“I was a National League guy,” Cabell said. “I like the National League game better. I like the pitcher being in there, and I like the maneuverability of the manager. The manager has to manage a little better in the National League than in the American League.”
Cabell, 62, played 15 seasons with five different teams in the major leagues, mostly as a third baseman. His best years were in the late '70s with Houston when he was slapping the ball around the Astrodome, setting a club record in 1978 with 195 hits.
Now, Cabell works for the Astros as special assistant to the general manager where his duties include scouting the talent in the minor leagues. Cabell is in Oklahoma City this week to watch the RedHawks in their four game homestand with Nashville at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
“We got a pretty good team (in Oklahoma City),” Cabell said. “We got a lot of young kids for a change with some veterans. Some of these kids here, you might not see them for a long time because they are probably going to be in the big leagues.”
The Astros are trying to rebuild a minor league system that had been depleted because of free agent spending and poor draft choices, Cabell said.
“We spent money on free agents and you lost your draft choices and the draft choices that we did take didn't do very well,” he said. “That combination brought you with a bad minor league system.”
Cabell gives a “C” grade to Houston's current overall talent pool in the minors, but says it's improved from a year ago. The trades last year of Houston outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn immediately brought more talent into the organization.
“Until we traded Pence and Bourn, our pitching wasn't very strong,” Cabell said. “We got about seven pitchers out of those trades that we didn't have before. You got about three or four really good pitchers here (in Oklahoma City). More than likely, in the next couple of years we are going to have a pretty good pitching staff and all of them are going to be from 22- to 26-years-old ”
Cabell also is impressed with other RedHawk players such as infielder Jimmy Paredes and outfielder Fernando Martinez.
“Paredes, the second baseman, is probably one of the best athletes we have in our organization,” he said. “Martinez, the kid we got from the Mets, he is going to be a pretty good player.”
And the Astros are also keeping a close eye on Brett Wallace, who they are playing more at third base in Oklahoma City because Carlos Lee is playing first base in Houston. Wallace has 166 games of big league experience with Houston, mostly at first base.
“It makes him more valuable,” Cabell said of the switch. “Brett has played third base before but he hasn't played it consistently, and he already is swinging the bat well. We are watching him. Next year, we are going to be having a DH so we will be moving players all over the place.”
Cabell said the new Astros owners didn't want to move to the American League but had to agree to the move to get ownership of the team.
“The commissioner (Bud Selig) thinks he can fix baseball, and that's the way he did it,” he said.
Going to the American League has the Astros organization looking for more offense, Cabell said. The Astros will be placed in the AL West Division with the powerful Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels.
“In the American League, you got to score almost two more runs a game just to compete,” he said. “Texas and Anaheim (Angels), they maul people to death. We got to up our offense.”
The Astros are in such a youth movement that last season they promoted players from Double-A Corpus Christi straight to the major leagues. Outfielder J.D. Martinez and infielder Jose Altuve played well in their quick rise to the majors, and both made the big league club this season out of training camp.
“This is probably one of the best organizations to be in right now,” Cabell said. “If you are young, and you can play a little bit, you have a chance to move real quick and that's what's happened with some of our guys.”