Only some teams have captains. Have the Astros ever given out the honor? If the Astros did name a captain, would they do a co-captain idea since Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt are the voices of the team?
-- Andrew B., Scarborough, Maine

The Astros have always shied away from naming captains and I can't envision that changing anytime soon. During the Jeff Bagwell-Craig Biggio era, it was always understood who was running the show. They were the two who stood at their lockers night after night and spoke on behalf of the team, policed the clubhouse and represented the club on the field and off. Now that that era is over, I don't see any reason why they would start naming captains. I don't think Berkman and Oswalt would want that distinction anyway, to be honest with you.

I have heard rumors that several teams, including the Astros, will go through some really serious financial trouble around midseason. If that is true, are they going to trade their best players (Berkman, Oswalt)? They have no-trade clauses in their contracts, right? So what would be their alternative?
-- Emmett R., Virginia Beach, Va.

No idea. From what I'm hearing, the problem isn't so much with season tickets as much as it is in the sponsorship area. Stadium signage sales are weak, considering how many companies are either out of business or heading that way. If the Astros find themselves in dire need of dumping salaries, they're not going to have much flexibility with Oswalt, Berkman or Carlos Lee, who, like you said, have no-trade clauses and therefore dictate whether they stay or go.

I know that Ed Wade has firmly said that Houston will not pursue Ivan Rodriquez, but with the recent "voiding" of Toby Hall's contract leaving the Astros without a veteran backup, will Wade re-think this or is it still a dead topic?
-- Jon B., Cleveland

It appears to still be a dead topic. My gut feeling, initially, was that the Astros may soften their stance on Pudge if his asking price came down to, say, less than $1 million. But now I'm getting the impression they're just not interested, even for a bargain price. I think they're leery about Pudge's production. He hit only .219 after being traded to the Yankees last year. That said, he had a pretty good run with the Tigers prior to the trade, hitting .295.

The Astros continue to insist they're comfortable with Humberto Quintero as their starting catcher, but I'm still not convinced that's the case. We'll see how this plays out over the spring season.

Does Brandon Backe have any options left on his contract allowing him to go to Triple-A to work on everything to make sure he can be effective at the Major League level? If Clay Hensley or Russ Ortiz have a good showing then it might benefit the Astros to send Backe down and give one of the "rebounding veterans" a chance.
-- Stephen R., Huntsville, Texas

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In order to send Backe to Triple-A, he'd have to clear waivers and agree to go. He'd also get paid the full $1.55 million he signed for this winter. So a Minor League assignment probably isn't in his future. If he doesn't make the team because one of the veterans you mentioned pitched well enough to merit a roster spot, the Astros could trade Backe, or they could release him by a certain date late in Spring Training and only be responsible for a portion of his salary.

What is all this talk about Biggio getting into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and not Bagwell? People actually seem to believe that Biggio was always the better player and bigger star! Am I the only person here who grew up idolizing Bagwell, and thinking of Biggio as "the other guy?" Don't get me wrong, I love Biggio as much as any other Astros fan, but this just isn't justice! As far as I can see, all Biggio has on Bags is having outplayed him by a few years.
-- Miriam G., Houston

Biggio is considered a first-ballot Hall of Famer because he hit the magical number of 3,000 hits, which pretty much guarantees entry to the Hall on the first try. Bagwell did not reach the magic number for power hitters, which at this point is 500 homers. Also, you have to keep in mind players are judged on how they compare to other players at their position. First base is a power position, while second base is not. Biggio has more doubles than any right-handed hitter in the history of baseball, which also pretty much makes him a lock. I do believe Bagwell is a Hall of Famer, but writers appear to be on the fence about him, while most are in agreement Biggio is a no-doubter.