Saturday, May 24, 2014

Evan Drellich takes a flame-thrower to the Astros

So Evan Drellich got some very interesting quotes regarding how the Astros do business, in which we find that there are apparently "pockets of internal discontent" and a "potential reputation problem" throughout baseball.

Former Astro Bud Norris:
They are definitely the outcast of major league baseball right now, and it's kind of frustrating for everyone else to have to watch it.

Drellich interviewed 20 players, coaches, agents, and others connected to baseball for their opinion on the Astros, and here issues that were repeatedly brought up:

*The de-humanizing aspect of Astros' business negotiations, including contracts and call-ups in a manner defined as a "dehumanizing, analytics-based approach."

The most damning quote comes from an anonymous Astros player:
I don't think anybody's happy. I'm not. They just take out the human element of baseball. It's hard to play for a GM that just sees you as a number instead of a person. Jeff is experimenting with all of us.

Luhnow's response? Drellich says "feelings aren't high" on Luhnow's list of concerns:
We're not running for election here, it's not a popularity contest.

So, explosive stuff from Drellich and the Chronicle, and it's impressive to see such reporting from the Chronicle - who I admittedly thought have been overly-critical in 140-character bursts. But this is a thorough take. It's gonna take some time for me to wade through my thoughts...but I'm happy to hear yours...


Anonymous said...

This article is basically piling on and doesn't really offer anything new to the conversation.

For one, the current state of the Astros is mostly on Drayton and his "sell the future for the present" style from basically 1998 on. Once he saw the benefit of the Randy Johnson trade, we saw a very talented farm system become the worst in baseball (and it was actually even worse than that). Eventually, the talent on the major league club couldn't keep up and the big name free agents that were needed to sustain the run saw the writing on the wall and stayed away. Crane and Luhnow came in with basically nothing except 1-2 decent draft classes right at the very end and have been trying to do anything to get the system up. It's a process, but I'm not sure the Astros signing a number of mid to low level vets would actually improve things. Does it do good to mention how they have the lowest payroll in baseball when the alternative is to bring in 5-10 Scott Feldman's (no offense to Scott Feldman) who probably aren't much of an improvement over what they have, and even if they are, would only allow them to lose 85-95 games and compete for fourth.

The problem with pieces like this is that it portends that a number of upper level free agents would consider the Astros if they were willing to open their purse strings when that is about as far from the truth. Maybe they would be, but what good does it do to sign a guy for a ton of money if the rest of the players on the team are still below replacement level. Let's ask Seattle after signing Cano. Pieces like this also quote guys like Bud Norris who was unhappy when he left and may have an axe to bring, Torii Hunter, who isn't coming to Houston, Scott Boras who is an agent and has never been on the side of ownership, and an unnamed Astros player, which could be Lucas Harrell for all we know since the quote used "recently" or could have been made up by the reporter since the "player" wasn't willing to go on record.

Lastly, this piece does not bring up a suitable alternative to what the Astros are doing considering the situation they were/are in. Saying that the Astros were wrong for the Springer situation is a valid complaint, but they did it within the rules and are not the only club that has used these measures (Nats and Strasburg come to mind). Using Singleton as another example isn't exactly the same decision since he had a terrible season last year (not to mention the drug suspension) and the fact that they probably want to see him sustain more than a quarter season's worth of success before deciding he's ready. He's also much younger than Springer. Using Grossman is also misleading in regards to the contract discussion, especially insinuating that he was sent down due to it, as he was clearly overmatched, not only offensively, but defensively as well. He was also sent down for Springer, who also declined his contract, not to mention that the third player, Dominguez, hasn't been "punished" at all. There is no evidence stating for or against what the Astros are doing other than the quotes and the random opinions tossed in. I mean this entire piece is just conjecture and piling on which is something that the local media is definitely good at. There are plenty of ways to validate the negative feelings and question their business sense with good hard evidence and analysis, but this did none of that. Good journalism this is not

Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that an anonymous commenter criticisms use of unnamed sources and players not being willing to go on the record. But you make some valid points about how team got where it is and the comparison to how teams operate. Nance

Anonymous said...

I don't care if Luhnow cr*ps all over the players, that's his right as GM and this is a business, after all. But the franchise has used the fans as toilet paper long enough, time to cut the dead wood (carter, krauss, hoes, etc) and bring up the kids. If the Astros have no interest in winning or competing (owens, oberholtzer call ups), at least lose with excitement. Watching this team is just painful, and results in 0.0 ratings and an empty MMP.
Won't even address the ridiculous chinese firedrill shifting that luhnow insists upon. Too ragey.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see some still blame Drayton. That will likely never end.

Honestly, I expected the criticism to come from outside. You know, reporters tired of the SABR focus or other front office types who found all the Luhnow fawning irritating. But, I didn't expect the criticism to come from the inside. It would be nice to have the players buy in and feel like they are building something for the future. However, it sounds like most would bail the first chance they get.

JoeinAlaska said...

We're reminded that baseball is a business every time a player whom was brought up through a system decides to sign with a team who throws money at them. How often have you heard that, "It's not about loyalty, it's just business."
I believe Luhnow and the FO are making wise business decisions to improve the team. Just because they try something different doesn't mean they are RADICAL.
This article is very an example of very poor journalism. Using an unnamed player as a source is inexcusable. When the Astros win the division everyone will be talking about what a genius Jeff is.

Anonymous said...

"When the Astros win the division.."?!

That sunshine pump ever need any oil? Good grief.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it is rather pathetic how some react to any criticism of the Astros and the Luhnow way. Poor journalism, unnamed sources, ignorant fans, yada yad yada.

It's fascinating to me to try to understand these reactions. Is it tribalism, and Luhnow is in their tribe? Is it related to group think where few want to step out and face the feces throwing monkeys. Bottom line, a journalist wrote an article that is critical using ample named sources and one or more unnamed sources. BFD. I guess it is always easier to attack the messenger than discuss the message.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

If you're too stupid to appreciate what the FO is doing right now then just realize that's what you are. The only thing that ever pisses me off is when people do anything to pressure the FO to change their course. That's how this would get fucked up--you fucking analytical plebians taking comically myopic viewpoints.

There's no magic baseball jesus that will redeem the traditionalists. Their gods are all dead, were always dead, and if you bought into the Jon Heyman bullshit then yours were too.

Obviously I've had a few Springer Spritzers tonight but if you had any brains at all you wouldn't be significantly swayed by this ephemeral shit that shows absolutely no significant deviation from The Plan.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to see here. This would be a nonissue if the team was not bad right now. It will not be an issue in a year or to. Do not get sucked in by the troll.

Anonymous said...

The Springer spritzer guy is an ignorant moron, not because of his desire to stick to the plan (is there even another option?), but because he sees future success of the club as validating some "anti-traditionalist" understanding of the game.

The immediate bright spots on this team were not a result of some anti-traditionalist theory, but came straight out of traditional regimes. Springer, Altuve, Villar, Castro, Keuchel, Obie, Cosart, not to mention those in waiting (Singleton, Folty, Santana, Deshields) and Fowler being acquired using resources (Lyles and Barnes) obtained through traditional ways.

Luhnow will no doubt add to that list, and the final product will hopefully win championships, but to declare it as a triumph of anti-traditionalist thinking is ignorant of the facts.

Btw, I like Luhnow, but his reactionary defenders are way more myopic than the strawmen they continually throw out.

Teddy said...

I have to say, I happen to agree with Anonymous, whereas Anonymous is completely wrong, although he did make a good point about Anonymous' comment. I think we can all agree that Anonymous is right , while Anonymous is completely wrong, totally on the side of idiocracy.