Believe it or not, our do-nothing Houston Astros’ management actually was one of the most active teams at the winter meetings that concluded recently.          

Of course it became a necessity when a large number of last year’s players declined arbitration and decided to hang their hats in another team’s locker room for the 2010 season. 

If someone were to look at some of the players’ names who will be on the 2010 Houston Astros’ roster, they would probably do a double-take.

Gone are inconsistent, overpriced closer Jose Valverde, who declined arbitration, and his usually-effective set-up man LaTroy Hawkins, who agreed to a $7.5 million, two-year contract with NL Central rival Milwaukee.

However, last weekend Astros General Manager Ed Wade made a couple of deals to already replace that twosome with Brandon Lyon from the Detroit Tigers and Matt Lindstrom, who was acquired from the Florida Marlins for right-handed pitcher Robert Bono and

Lyon and Lindstrom are a pair of hard-throwing right-handers who both want to be the closer, but one will end up as the set-up man depending on which one new manager Brad Mills chooses as his closer. The two relievers reportedly will cost the Astros $15 million over three years.

Wade also signed veteran Philadelphia Phillies’ third baseman Pedro Feliz Thursday which became one of the team’s top priorities after rookie Chris Johnson failed to hit last September when he was brought up from Round Rock. Now Johnson will have to produce a great spring training to beat out Feliz for the starting job.

Other Astros who opted for free agency at the end of the 2009 season include first baseman Aaron Boone, shortstop Miguel Tejada, outfielders Darin Erstad and Jason Michaels, plus pitchers Doug Brocail, Mike Hampton, Hawkins and Valverde. The loss of these players freed up enough money for Wade to do some shopping during the winter meetings.

Although most Astros’ followers believe the team needs a good front-line starting pitcher, Wade disagrees. “We still have a little bit of pocket change left and we need some help in the outfield,” Wade said. “Maybe we can pick up a quality player at a bargain price.”

The Astros’ starting outfield positions seem set with veteran slugger Carlos Lee in left, speedy Michael Bourn in center and productive Hunter Pence in right. The organization’s outfield depth chart shows Buna native and Lamar University star Collin DeLome, Yordany Ramirez and Brian Bogusevic but all three probably need another year of seasoning before they’re ready to compete at the

Unless Wade picks up a starting shortstop to replace the brilliant hitting Tejada, the job will belong to 26-year old Tommy Manzella, who has the defensive skills for the tough position, but needs to show more patience at the plate. In five minor league seasons, Manzella has never had more than 40 walks.

Owner Drayton McLane wants a contending team each year but then in almost the same breath says he wants to lower the payroll considerably from last season’s $107 million.

Mills, who was named last fall to replace Cecil Cooper, is the fourth Astros’ manager since the 2004 All Star break. He has played and coached in the majors and managed in the minors, but this will be

His style will reflect managers such as Dick Williams and Bill Virdon, for whom he played in the majors and Terry Francona, where he spent 10 seasons coaching for him with the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox. Together they helped Boston win the World Series twice and reach the playoffs five of the last six seasons.

“One thing I think I bring is freshness,” Mills said in a recent issue of USA Sports Weekly. “Being with a champion and bringing that freshness, a new voice, I’m excited about that. The experience I’m

“This organization has a very good name,” Mills continued and added, “I’m excited to get on board and help get us going in the right direction.”

KWICKIES…This Korner believes Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy had the inside track to winning the Heisman Trophy, but his mediocre performance against Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game hurt his chances. And Mark Ingram certainly helped his chances when he led his team to the upset victory over Florida in the SEC championship game the same day. Actually Stanford running back Toby Gearhart finished second in the balloting, followed by McCoy, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and finally Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Accenture, a global consulting firm, has become the first major sponsor to end its relationship with Tiger Woods since his alleged infidelities surfaced recently and he announced his “indefinite” leave from the sport of professional golf. “After careful consideration and analysis, the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative for its advertising,” the company stated.

The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints are two of just seven NFL teams to go 13-0 to start the season. The Colts’ 28-16 victory over Denver was their 22nd consecutive regular-season victory. In that game Broncos’ receiver Brandon Marshall broke the league’s single-game record with 21 pass receptions.

A tip of the Korner Kap to Sunset Grove golfer Oliver Seastrunk who recently got a hole-in-one on the 140-yard No. 12 hole. Seastrunk used a six iron for his first career ace.

It’s really painful to watch the defending World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers tumble from the penthouse to the outhouse so rapidly. They’ve dropped their last five games and were favored to win each one. Even our feeble Dallas Cowboys can beat most of the last five teams that upset the Steelers—Cincinnati, Kansas City, Baltimore, Oakland and Cleveland.

For the second straight year the Kirbyville Wildcats have reached the Class 2A state championship finals and lost, this time falling victim to undefeated Pilot Point 35-18 Saturday afternoon in San Marcos. But there are a ton of high schools who would love to swap places with the talented Wildcats and still be playing high school football in December.

JUST BETWEEN US…During the pre-game show before San Diego played at Dallas on Sunday, Chargers head coach Norv Turner was asked how he felt about playing against the coach (Wade Phillips) who beat him out for the Dallas head coaching position. Turner, who was the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator when Troy Aikman was quarterbacking the Pokes, said that he would like to show that he’s a better offensive coordinator than Jason Garrett and a better head coach than Phillips. As far as this Korner is concerned Turner out-coached both of them, utilizing the running game to set up the Chargers’ final touchdown—which was the difference in the game that was won by San Diego, 20-17—while Garrett abandoned the run which brought Dallas down the length of the field in the first half and tried passing in the fourth quarter, which failed until two seconds remained when Dallas scored its final touchdown and was still three points shy. The Cowboys, who haven’t had a winning record in December since 1996 when they also won their last NFL playoff game, will try to break their long December jinx Saturday night against the 13-0 New Orleans Saints in the Louisiana Superdome.