Just When You Think Things Can't Get Worse for the Astros, They Prove You Wrong
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 Astros could be characters in one of Elmore Leonard's novels.
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.