Is the Astros' Magical Mystery Tour About to Go All Helter-Skelter?
The last true collaboration of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (writing together and harmonizing on vocals) was "I've Got A Feeling" off of "Let It Be," which would turn out to be The Beatles last album. The start of the song's written by McCartney, an ode to the soon to be Linda McCartney. Lennon harmonizes on the chorus then takes over as lead vocal for the last third of the song. It's a happy moment, joyous, two greats putting aside their differences to once again create music.
But there's an undercurrent of unease. The band's been feuding. George Harrison's walked out and returned. Yoko Ono's working to turn Lennon against the rest. And they're all tiring of McCartney trying to control everything. And whereas McCartney's portion of the song is a joyous celebration, Lennon's portion is a response to the crap he's experienced the past year, his divorce, an arrest, Yoko's miscarriage, tensions in the band. The result's a conflicting vision resulting in greatness, but exposing to careful listeners the forces tearing apart the band.
The Houston Astros made the cover of Sports Illustrated last week. It's a long, detailed, inside story of the front office minds tasked with rebuilding the Astros. It's all essentially a big gamble, based on an understanding of the percentages, the probabilities, the numbers, factoring in all of the information on players and situations and adjustments. The mastermind's Jeff Luhnow, the genius GM who came into baseball from the consulting business. His chief lieutenant is Sig Mejdal, a rocket scientist who helped put himself through school by working as blackjack dealer in Lake Tahoe and realizing that despite everything, the winning move when the dealer's showing seven against your 16 is to hit.
The story goes into the draft room, putting the reader inside the discussions as the decision to draft Brady Aiken with the first pick is made despite past evidence that drafting left-handed high school pitchers with the first pick of the MLB draft results in failure. It discusses the scouting strategy employed by the team and details how the Astros approach is superior to Billy Beane's "Moneyball" approach because it incorporates and embraces the work of the scouts instead of being heavily sabermetric.
The end result, according to the SI cover, is that the Astros will win the World Series in 2017. And it's all because of the harmonious approach of smart people working together. Of the smart people devising a plan that restocks the worst farm system in baseball. A plan that puts the team at the forefront of defensive shifts that, in turn, cuts down on runs scored. A plan that sees the team eschewing seemingly easy free agent fixes that will keep the team competitive.
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Sure the team's had three straight 100-loss seasons. Sure there have been several games with 0.0 TV ratings (the story leaves out the whole CSN Houston fiasco). Sure attendance has plummeted. Sure the team's a punchline on Jeopardy! and is facing the anger of the players' union due to the low payrolls. It's all going to be worth it.
The Sports Illustrated story is the McCartney part of the song. The Lennon part of the song comes several days later -- Saturday night in fact -- when Chronicle beat writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz lets loose with some tweets that show everything's not quite as harmonious inside the organization as Sports Illustrated would have everybody believe. The clubhouse isn't happy. The coaches want to win. They're upset by quotes in the story. They think the story's a slap in the face. They're dismayed that the front office won't promote certain players from the minors who they believe would be huge improvements over current players on the roster and who would lead the team to more victories.
Jeff Luhnow's the guy running things with the Astros. If push comes to shove it'll be Bo Porter and his coaching staff looking for jobs before Luhnow. Luhnow's got the history, his work building the Cardinals farm system, if anybody disputes his plan. The Astros are Porter's first try at managing a major league baseball team. He's not been that adept at handling the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen, but still, there's only so much a guy can do in respect to some of the players on the roster.
The Astros are currently on a pace for 70-plus wins. That's something to celebrate knowing just how bad they've been the past several seasons. The cornerstones are in place for a really good team that might actually be able to fulfill Sports Illustrated's prophecy. But there are some cracks in the front office/dugout relationship, and at some point the coaches have to decide if they're going to just all "Let It Be," or if they're going to go all "Revolution." But if the coaches don't get in line, they probably won't be around to see culmination of the "Abbey Road" melody resulting in that predicted World Series win.