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.