If You Boycotted the Astros, Would Anybody Notice? Would It Make Any Difference?
Listening to sports talk radio yesterday afternoon, I heard a caller demanding that the fans boycott the Astros. First, it's pretty evident from the lack of attendance this season that many of you are already boycotting the ballclub, but secondly, just what it is that you want the Astros to do?
This is a ballclub that has been on a downward slide for a long, long time. While Drayton McLane was wasting money on the likes of Carlos Lee and Woody Williams and Kaz Matsui and Brandon Lyon, he was not spending money on the farm system or for draft picks. And when you don't spend money on your farm system, and when you draft players not because they're good but because you can sign them, the baseball team is on its way to sucking.
I realize that many of you are angry about the ballclub the Astros are fielding every night. There is not very much talent on this roster. And it's not fun to watch guys like Steve Pearce, Scott Moore, Tyler Greene, Ben Francisco and Armando Galarraga -- guys who have washed out with other teams -- flail around each night for the Astros. But just what was it that you expected from the Astros this season?
This team didn't just become bad this season. It was bad last season. It was bad the season before. It was bad when Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman were traded. It was bad when Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn were traded. And it was bad this season when Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez, Chris Johnson, Brandon Lyon, J.A. Happ, Brett Myers, etc. were traded.
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Yes, new owner Jim Crane and his new general manager Jeff Luhnow have blown up the Astros this past month or so. But it's not like they've blown up a pennant winner, or even a team that was competing to hit .500. Luhnow was amazingly able to find not one, but two teams desperate to take Carlos Lee -- he should win an award for getting the Marlins to take Lee after Lee had vetoed a trade to the Dodgers, a team that was competing for the playoffs -- and just weeks later, Lee vetoed a trade that had the Marlins sending him to the Yankees, another team competing for the playoffs.
What Astros fans are experiencing now is what fans of the Royals, Pirates and Orioles have been experiencing since the 1990s. Only now are the Pirates and Orioles getting good, and part of the reason it has taken so long for the Pirates and Orioles to become competitive is because they did things like signing free agents and depleting the farm system (especially Baltimore, which has to be the best comparison for the Astros with stupid ownership, inept general managers and not very bright managers), and not being very smart about which players they signed -- it's still puzzling that the Pirates thought they should make Derek Bell the centerpiece of their team. The Royals have been stocked with talent, but once again, the front office and the dugout management have been inept. The Astros aren't going to be very good next season. That might piss you off and make you want to boycott, but this is what happens when year after year a team puts off the need to rebuild. Drayton McLane didn't want to rebuild because he didn't think it would work, like many of you fans, and like many of you fans, he was more interested in seeing a team that could go out and win 70-80 games a year and look competitive while not actually being very good or very competitive.
I like what Luhnow is doing. I like the emphasis on stocking a farm system that was left nearly barren. I like spending money on scouting, and I'm especially happy the Astros have once again placed an emphasis on international scouting and signings.
Jim Crane told The New York Times that there are no shortcuts, and that a team cannot buy its way out of mediocrity -- the Red Sox have proven, however, that you can buy your way into mediocrity. And that's not only the right approach, that's the only approach. It does no good, as the Texas Rangers proved about ten years ago, to sign Alex Rodriguez to a huge free agent contract if the team around him sucks, so don't expect the Astros to waste money on the likes of Josh Hamilton when the season's over.
But know this: The Astros are doing it the right way. It's going to be painful, but it's the right thing to do. So go ahead and boycott if you want to, just don't come jumping back on the bandwagon in two or three years saying you knew all along that it would work out.
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