Just When You Think Things Can't Get Worse for the Astros, They Prove You Wrong

Categories: Sports

The Astros could be characters in one of Elmore Leonard's novels.
Elmore Leonard's novels are full of guys and girls who think they're smarter than everybody else. Crooks, con men and cops who know better than their rivals. Who have figured out all of the angles. They're arrogant about this genius, bragging to anyone who'll listen about just how damn smart they are. But then the plan's put into play and things fall apart. The mark doesn't respond properly. A confederate chickens out. Or, usually, it's because the hero or heroine, who's been dismissed as a plodding fool, figures out the genius's plan and pounces on the mistake. And there are always mistakes.

The Houston Astros would be the perfect antagonist of a Elmore Leonard novel, were Leonard still alive, and were he to have written about baseball teams and not petty criminals. The team's an arrogant bunch of wise guys convinced they're smarter than everybody else and they're not afraid to tell everyone about just how damn smart they are. They're a bunch of guys who have failed to win anything and who, in fact, built a team that for the past several years has been known more for tanking games to get high draft choices than it has for being a competitive on-field product. And just like Elmore Leonard's villains, the so-called smartest guys in the room have started making mistake after mistake.

Let's start with the known facts. The baseball team inherited by Jeff Luhnow was awful, both on the major league level and on the minor league level. His predecessor, Ed Wade, had made some trades attempting to restock the farm system, and it was Wade's group that drafted George Springer and Jason Castro. Luhnow and his group of gambling rocket scientists have worked diligently on building the farm system, taking it from the worst in baseball to the best. And with the first draft under his charge, Luhnow was able to get the team's first pick, Carlos Correa, to accept a highly discounted signing bonus that allowed the team to play games and sign two other players at numbers that would otherwise have been above the MLB-allowed cap.

But here's the thing about being the so-called smartest guy in the room: At some point, you have to actually prove you're the smartest guy in the room. The Astros like to talk about how smart they are, but if you're going to talk to Sports Illustrated about improving on Billy Beane's so-called Moneyball system despite once again competing for the worst record in baseball, you'd better be able to prove that you're actually improving upon what Beane's doing in Oakland.

But the Astros have yet to show they're improving upon Moneyball. The free agent acquisitions have been questionable, the team overpaying for a mediocre back of rotation starting pitcher and trying to turn him into a staff ace while wasting millions of dollars on back-end bullpen guys, one of whom was injured when signed, who have barely pitched this season. The major league roster is still awful, with the only real points of light being players drafted/acquired by Wade or by the man Wade replaced, Tim Purpura.

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This was written entirely way too soon. To think these grievances are worrisome is idiotic. All teams are delaying their players clocks. If anything Gregory Polanco had a much more palpable argument. The truth is Luhnow is the smartest guy in the room. Jeff Luhnow built the Cardinals young, cost controlled core. The organization had to be rebuilt, the team essentially was left with a product that rivaled most expansion teams.  

To expect it to be turned around by now not only shows how little you know about baseball, but also about building a sustainable business. Unlike other American sports, baseball is capitalism. Yet teams with small budgets still succeed. This isnt the NFL where teams go worst to first. The Astros were so irresponsibly owned in the 2000's by only spending money on the product on the Minute Maid field and ignoring the next wave. Where were the articles when the Astros were constantly the teams spending the minimum in the draft and internationally?

I assume you also think the Astros somehow lost out in the Brady Aiken situation. The pick is not gone and nor will the picks allotted value. The Astros will have a record amount of money to spend in the 2015 draft. This can be spread out to intake previously deemed unsignable players.

You seem to be missing the part where the product is actually getting better. 

You cant file for bankruptcy and expect to finance a Lexus 2 years later.  


All the gossip floating around my family about Crane & Luhnow, both from people who used to work for the Astros and people who run in Crane's same circles, I am thrilled to death to see them implode. I just wish all the stories I've heard were being told.


This isn't going to end well for Jeff Luhnow.  Or the fans (those that are left, that is).

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