Friday, February 15, 2013

How I learned to buy in to the rebuild

I'm in.

I'm totally on board with what Jeff Luhnow, Sig Mejdal, Mike Fast, Kevin Goldstein, etc. are doing. (Not you, yet, Postolos. I've still got my eye on you.) But before we begin this little writing assignment, we must first examine the alternatives of not buying in to what the Astros are doing.

1. Yell and complain.
2. Become a fan of another team.
3. (...)

That seems to be it. Option 1 is the most rampant and most popular. Soapboxes have been mounted like Trina from 4th period French, yelling about how what the Astros are doing is sullying the pure name of Baseball and how the Astros are ruining the integrity of The Game. And we've mentioned, almost ad nauseum, about how the Astros care not for what the rest of MLB thinks. Nor should they. The Astros shouldn't have to spend an extra $30m in order to keep the Yankees from yelling about how easy the Angels have it.

Option 2 is no option at all. If you bail on the Astros now, you were never an Astros fan to begin with. you just liked Winnin' and that makes you a not-fan. I'm getting to the point where I'm even starting to get over the American League. Some team was going to have to move. And once that team moved to the American League, we were going to have Interleague Play throughout the season, anyway. If you cheat on your significant other as soon as something bad happens, you were going to cheat on them at some point, regardless. That just means you were a latent pudnut, and you're not needed for anything.

So I'm in. But not for reasons that you might expect.

I'm in because the people running this rebuild have far more at stake than we do as fans. Consider the backgrounds of the front office personnel with whom we are at least remotely familiar: MBAs, Ivy Leaguers, Bloggers, Writers, NASA, law.. This is, as you are well aware, not your typical front office.

I bring that up because front office personnel are sort of on a carousel. Ed Wade did not do a great short-term job as General Manager (the long-term evaluation cannot yet be determined). Yet within weeks of his firing as GM, he was back in baseball with the Phillies. This happens across all sports, and isn't surprising. Rather than going out and hiring outside-the-box, owners and CEOs tend to hire a guy who was just determined to be incompetent by a rival.

Yet what the Astros are doing/have done over the last 18 months is unprecedented. It would have been easy enough to not trade Wandy Rodriguez. It would have been easier still to re-sign Lance Berkman this winter. Other major franchise rebuilds have not gone about their business in the way that the Astros have. The Marlins, the fraudulent team with whom every "sports writer" tends to compare the Astros, didn't.

In 1997, the Marlins won the World Series, with Alex Fernandez, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Moises Alou and a total of 12 players who made over $1m. According to Baseball-Reference, the 1997 Marlins paid $48,417,500 in payroll. The 1998 Marlins came off their fire sale winter (the first Winter of Discontent for "Marlins fans") and paid their players $34,694,667, but still paid Alex Fernandez $7m.

No front office has had the balls to do what the Astros are doing right now. We don't have to go over all the trades of the last two seasons, because it would turn a long post into a tl;dr. Here's the point: I have bought into this rebuild, first and foremost, because I don't have a choice. But second of all, if this doesn't work out - and it may take a while to get the result - the front office is going to have a hard time working in baseball ever again, at least not on this level. And smart people don't like to be ruined in the eyes of their chosen field.

The Astros are staking the reputations of the franchise and their front office on the Astros getting good again very soon. If they don't, they are responsible for the destruction of the Astros - and, no, I don't think that's hyperbole.

The Rangers are good, maybe even great. If you are from Houston and are both morally bankrupt and baseball ambivalent, it's really easy to pull the "Texas Forever!" card and just be a Rangers fan. They're on ESPN all the time. They have Nolan Ryan. Now they have Lance Berkman. Every baseball writer you read has played Just The Tip with the Rangers.

Furthermore, the Texans are good enough that if the Astros aren't within spitting distance of the division lead, even Astros fans are going to check out and pay attention to the Texans (this was brought up in the Feb. 11 Baseball America podcast - and it's absolutely correct.) Good luck getting fans on a Friday night in September, competing with high school football.

I've mentioned this on a number of occasions, but Luhnow & Co. are either going to be Branch Rickey Reincarnate, or they're going to be the reason my kid doesn't like the Astros (and there's no way she's going to be a Rangers fan). If the Scorched Earthstro campaign doesn't work, the Astros are set back for years, and not just on the field, but in the stands.

Of course, no promises can be made. Five years ago you never would have been able to guess that Brett Wallace would get platooned. Prospects - for a variety of reasons - sometimes just don't pan out. They kill it in Lancaster, and get released after struggling in Corpus. They can't adjust to the adjustments the league made to them. The Astros have built such minor-league depth that it's almost like they're throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping a few key pieces stick.

The Astros are forcing us as fans to make adjustments to the approach. If the front office is going to stake their reputation on their process, I can certainly respect that.


Anonymous said...

Why the hate for Postolos? He's a stand-up guy and sharp as hell.

Ted said...

It's a fine point all around.

The Astros are basically what happens when a team of smart people has free license to take a concept to its extreme. The concept is sound, I think we all agree. Now it remains to be seen if it works in practice.

Astros County said...

There's no hate. I'm sure he's stand-up and sharp. I want to see this TV deal get done

farmstros said...

Well put, Ted

Tyler in SA said...

"Just the tip with the rangers" is pure poetry. I have enjoyed this site for just over a year for several of which is your sense of humor. Thanks for helping ease the pain of this rebuild. Beer also works.

Anonymous said...

Prospects are just that......and
none of us know if they will end up with the big club, but I'm willing to take this ride for another year. BUT....I want to see Crane & Company spend some extra money to help us get there.

Anonymous said...

I don't care about all of the trades. I'm fine with rebuilding. What I can't understand though, is why we couldn't overspend to bring in some free agents to fill the spots where we currently have no talent at the MLB level nor anyone knocking down the door in the minors? I'm not talking multi-year, just over-spend on one or two year deals to get decent talent on a horrible team. WE CAN AFFORD IT.

Anonymous said...

I love the slash and burn. Watching Kyle Lohse pitch would not make me feel better about losing 93 games instead of 108. Burn it to the ground, sift the ashes, and then re-burn it until the young kids are ready.

astrosjordan said...

In what world is Kyle Lohse worth 15 wins?

Anonymous said...

I hope they lose 120, as that means they will be better sooner. Or so the logic goes.

Anonymous said...

The guy above me is a dumbass. Nobody said losing more games just to lose games makes you better faster. Just that there's no point wasting money THIS season to win a few more games.

Anonymous said...

"Option 2 is no option at all. If you bail on the Astros now, you were never an Astros fan to begin with. you just liked Winnin' and that makes you a not-fan. I'm getting to the point where I'm even starting to get over the American League. Some team was going to have to move. And once that team moved to the American League, we were going to have Interleague Play throughout the season, anyway. If you cheat on your significant other as soon as something bad happens, you were going to cheat on them at some point, regardless. That just means you were a latent pudnut, and you're not needed for anything."

I'm sorry but this is pure BS. I'm sick and tired of that argument. It's self-righteous, pompous, and pathetic.

If you're angry or want to bail on the Astros; if you start paying attention to another team; if your passion for Astros baseball is almost totally reduced; if you’re still bitter, then you just weren’t a fan. You were just a fair weather fan. I’m a real fan & I’m better than you.

That’s pathetic and pretty insulting. To be sure, there are a great many fair weather fans out there & I’m just as disgusted by them as any other true fan. But what Astros fans have been through on this epic spiral down reads like a list of war crimes. Given everything that’s happened, why would someone be wrong for walking away?

I won’t begrudge anybody that went through all that (or even most of it) & just had enough. These were not fair weather fans who threw up their hands in desperation the first time a game was lost or the playoffs missed. They didn’t just “cheat as soon as something bad happens”. In fact, there should be a memorial outside MMP for fallen Astros fans.

The time for whining about it may be over. Even I’m getting sick of it. But just because you’re a fan doesn’t mean you have to smile & cheer blindly all the time.

A true fan will always have a place for the Astros. But that’s all I think we can know for sure about what a fan is. As for myself, obviously I’m pretty disillusioned but I’m still here. Lord help me I can’t walk away no matter how miserable it may be.

And no, some team didn’t have to move to the AL. Baseball would not have stopped. The world would not have ended. I highly doubt there will be any measureable benefit to baseball due to the league switch and this so called balance. Will it suddenly create more fans? No. Will it increase the sport’s popularity? No. Will it increase TV ratings? No. Will it make MLB more money? No.

Anonymous said...

You are not obedient enough to be a true fan.

Anonymous said...

That's the most retarded thing I've ever heard. Obedience is for dogs not baseball fans.

hooksfan said...

Crane & Company have spent what they want to spend. Why waste further money up front just to make a poster or so feel good because they spent money getting another veteran. The Houston Astros already have a couple of veterans. Lunhow process worked in St. Louis, what makes you think it won't work in Houston? Look at the Cardinals...even when they lost one of their pitchers, their system has enough depth to replace the injured player.

Anonymous said...

WASTE MONEY????? Do you people actually pay to watch this team stink it up? How in the world would be adding talent to make them better be WASTING MONEY??? I spent thousands on tickets to watch them play. I am done with it. Crane cut salary simply to make money. Blog all you want he said it in black and white.

Read it for yourself. His TV deal is for $400 million over 10 years but he claims to be broke. He is a fraud. His affection for Obama should go over well in a our Oil & Gas town. Astros 2013 RIP

Reuben said...

The absurdly stupid and overly-entitled "fans" have really been coming out of the woodwork lately.

Personally, yeah, I would've loved to see them sign one or two more FAs, perhaps someone a little better than Carlos Pena or Jose Veras, but does it make me angry that they didn't? No, and I can understand the rationale behind not spending money... for now. I'm reserving my outrage in case they don't spend the money in a few years to lock up guys like Springer, Singleton, Correa, etc. long-term. That's what would indicate to me that Crane is a swindler - not a refusal to spend $13 mil/yr for 4 years of Edwin Jackson, or Shane Victorino, or whoever.

Justin said...

A friend sent me here to try and convince me to still support the team. First off, I talk offense to this guy who thinks that those who are no longer supporting the team were never fans to begin with. That's a load of BS.

If you are dumping the team because they are bad and look to be bad for a while then the author is right. But with the major differences in rules and strategy between the two leagues in baseball, the Astros switching leagues is a very good reason to dump the team. And honestly I believe if you continue to support the team then you were never a true fan to begin with because the REAL Astros died last year. The REAL Astros are a NL team. Any AL version is just a zombie version of the real Astros were no matter how successful they become after the switch. They aren't the same team or the same franchise. And honestly anybody who supports them is a traitor to the city of Houston and should just pack their bags and move to Dallas. If they don't mind Bud Selig crapping on their head then they shouldn't mind living in that polished turd of a city

Anonymous said...

A couple of things:

Luhnow never had a "process" employed in St. Louis. He was never the GM, nor did St. Louis ever employ a scorched-earthed rebuild job. Not saying this won't work, but let's stop acting like Luhnow has pulled this off before.

Secondly, this whole idea that someone isn't a true fan because they don't embrace the same philosophy is in such bad taste, in so many ways. So what, someone thinks there are different routes to a successful future. Wow, attack their fandom. Also, in the service of intellectual honesty, the idea that successful teams have always followed this route doesn't square with the facts.

hooksfan said...

So Luhnow never had a process employed in St. Louis? He was heavily involved in scouting and player development. Under his watch with the Cardinals system, their farm clubs won five championships and had the best rated farm system in 2010. From their draft classes from 2005 to 2007, the first group of drafts under Luhnow saw 24 future Major League players. The most for any team during that time frame. If your truly done....then you truly weren't a fan. A true fan rides out the rough patches even when they get really ugly.

Anonymous said...

The lack of patience in the world today is scary.