Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The A's and the Astros

In Buster Olney's recent hatchet job on the Astros rebuilding plan, he contrasts the win now mode of the A's versus the "tanking" of the Astros in recent years. This is expressly a criticism of Luhnow, calling his process "the easy way out." Right, cause its entirely easy to risk everything on a unprecedented rebuild during your first GM job, surrounding yourself with people in their first jobs as well, knowing that failure means you are all likely out of baseball.

But Buster's analysis ignores a fundamental point, and it makes his criticism as close to meaningless as you can get. Billy Beane ran the A's from 1997 to now. The A's have operated under a unified vision from that time. Through the ups and downs, Billy Beane was guiding the team, making the decisions. After a run of success started to fade, he made decisions that would get them back there quickly. He never let them get to the point where they were losing 106 games with one of the worst farm systems in the league.

 And that is where the Astros were already at when Luhnow took over the team. People talk about the three consecutive 100 loss seasons, and pin them all on the drastic rebuild model, but that's not the case. The 106 loss season wasn't part of a plan and wasn't by design. It represented the bottom falling out of a poorly run organization.

 Maybe there was something Luhnow could have done to immediately turn the team back to mediocrity. But there was nothing he could have done to immediately do what the A's are doing now. He didn't have the resources, and he didn't have them because he wasn't given them. The A's have never been in that position under Billy Beane, and likely won't be while he is running the team.

Luhnow has stated the goal is to get to a run of sustained success like the A's have had, and continue to have. Maybe he'll do it, and maybe he won't. But to suggest he could have the Astros doing what the A's are doing now ignores the reality of the situation.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was so annoyed reading Olney's article. Thank you for your post. You guys rock.
Adam Bishea

Anonymous said...

Buster has fallen in love with his own bullshit. He used to be a good writer. Now he's just an ESPN hack!

wwschields said...

Well let's take a look. Back on March 13 of this year, Olney teamed up with Bowden and Law to examine each team's long term sustainability. They were not huge fans of the Astros (surprisingly), ranking them 17th with a score of 45.4/100. But, the FABULOUS Oakland A's, according to ESPNs Holy Trinity of Baseball Smartypantsness, came in at 16th with a score of 47.5/100. This, of course,was before the A's traded some of their future away in Addison Russell, to, you know, do the noble thing and "win now."

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the article, but your using facts, like much of the public has, incorrectly or at least in a misleading way. Luhnow inherited a team that technically was rated the worst farm team in baseball, but the moves that contributed to the previous 100+ loss season had effectively done much of the restocking of the farm. So soon, coinciding with his arrival, the farm rating improved, but that was due to his predecessor's moves. He's done his part to build the farm, not much from his complete annihilation/tear down, but through his drafts.

(Not Hank) Aaron said...

Except you are ignoring a pretty salient fact yourself. Yes, the farm system began the process of coming back with the Pence (and less so the Bourn) deal. But at the time of those deals, the team was already 35-72. The rest of season winning percentage actually went up following the trades. Also, the talent in the system, to the extent it was there, was years away. The on the field product was the worst in the league, and there was nothing in the system that was going to help in the near term. I don't think you can overstate how bleak the situation was when Luhnow took over.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I agree that the situation was bleak. I am just tired of hearing that he inherited the worst farm system in history, and everyone overlooking the fact that almost all of the present core guys were not acquired by Luhnow.

And, it is debatable whether Luhnow's further tear down was worth it. I still don't think most of the Luhnow's tear down was part of his plan, but a consequence of shaky financials by Crane (lots of debt and miniscule TV revenues) who needed payroll cut.

wwschields said...

Before Luhnow...Telvin Nash and Jordan Scott were top 10 organizational prospects. Nice guys and at least Scott still has MLB possibilities, but, c'mon. To boot, the type of "winning" that Olney speaks so highly of regarding the A's recent trades, are exactly the philosophy that got the Astros in trouble in the first place. We continually sold the farm to stay relevant, destroying the system top to bottom. We cannot fully judge the Luhnow experiment until 2020, which hopefully is year three or four of consecutive winning seasons. I see a great future for the Astros. But, we are talking about prospects where there are no guarantees. Even still, the A's have won the same amount of World Series titles as the Astros in the last 25 years. The A's have their way, the Astros have theirs.

Anonymous said...

Please, I'm not going to go look up some BA or BP list, but before Luhnow was:
Singleton, Springer, Cosart, Folty, Tropeano, Deshields, Keuchel, Obie, Villar, Hernandez, and others I am most likely missing.

Saying it was Telvin Nash and Jordan Scott is soviet style propaganda.

Ralph said...

Crane and Lunhow inherited a sinking ship with a few decent aging vets and no farm system. It takes time to rebuild the correct way. Fans have to be patient.
What are fans looking for ? Instant mediocrity, or a chance at building a competitive young team ?

wwschields said...

Lol! Ok I was unintentionally misleading, although I am recovering Marxist! I meant that it wasn't too long ago, when Wade was also deconstructing the Astros, that Nash and Scott were top ten. The Luhnow tear down was actually the Wade/Luhnow tear down. Good and funny call out "anonymous".

Anonymous said...

And Altuve was signed in 2006 in the ,I believe, Tim Purpurra era. Even the blind squirrel finds the nut once in a while. Proof all GMs make good and bad decisions.takes time to tell if there are more good than bad.

Anonymous said...

Ralph is proof that mistruths often become reality. Apparently, it's much easier to tightly hold onto misinformation than it it is to seek the truth.

Anonymous said...

He will be judged by his draft picks. We are still on the Wade show. If the talent at Lancaster flops then his ass needs to be out the door. Best draft pick so far is Tony Kemp.

Anonymous said...

Couple of comments, mainly becuase the number 13 is unluckly, and this allows for 14 comments to be registered
(i) I seem to remember Drayton drafted at exact slot to not piss of Bud Selig, and as a result, the Astros passed up on some good talent becuase they could not sign them at the informal slot suggested amounts.
(ii) If I purchased the Astros, I would have done exactly what Crane instructed Luhnow to do. That said, Luhnow has gotten quantity rather than quality in his trades. Wade traded for the high end guys - esp the Pence deal, but he also had a lot more to work with - Pence was a bigger chip than Luhnow ever had. I am impressed for how Luhnow turned melancon into lowrie into peacock, stassi and carter, and Luhnow's trades need to be seen in that light, not compared with Wades

Kyle said...

Best draft pick so far is Tony Kemp.

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Uhh .. some guy named Carlos is here and wants you to, quote, "kiss his Puerto Rican ass."

The General said...

Anonymous,

Wade traded high end guys (Oswalt, Pence, Berkman, etc) for high end talent (kinda). Luhnow hasn't had anyone better than Bud Norris and Wandy to send out. Not going to get the same kind of return for those guys.