I haven’t written much on the baseball beat lately. That’s primarily because I needed a break from the Astros, and I thought all of you probably needed a break from the Astros. But things have been happening, so…
First, nice work Drayton. When your team’s coming off a dreadful season and there’s no sign of hope, you raise ticket prices. Sure, you’re not raising the prices for every game. You’re just raising prices for games with the Yankees and Red Sox. And it’s quite a substantial price increase for those games. That leaves me to wonder if you’re going to drop the price of tickets for games with the Pirates, Nationals and Marlins. If the fans have to pay a penalty to see the best in baseball, shouldn’t they get some kind of reward for coming out to see the worst in baseball?
And it appears the Astros have decided that their primary need this off-season is adding a centerfielder. Which is kind of surprising in that I thought that Hunter Pence guy did pretty well there last season. Sure, he’s not a natural centerfielder. And his best position is supposedly right field. But let’s look at the guys the ‘Stros have trotted out to centerfield for the past decade or so. There’s been Chuck Carr. And Richard Hidalgo. And Carl Everett. And Roger Cedeno. And Lance Berkman. And Craig Biggio. And Chris Burke. And Jason Lane. And Willie Taveras. And I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten a few.
Hunter Pence looks pretty damn good when compared to that bunch. Look at it. Yeah, Carl Everett’s easily the best of that bunch. So Hunter Pence is really an improvement. And while I think Carlos Lee is a bit of a loafer, he’s actually a decent fit for MMP, just like’s Manny a perfect for the Green Monster. He really shouldn’t play in any other outfield, but he’s okay in Houston. And while I’m not sold on Luke Scott as an everyday player, he’s surely a huge improvement over Jason Lane and some of the other losers who have inhabited right field for the Astros.
So, while it would be nice to add another quality outfielder, outfield isn’t the Astros primary problem.
Does anyone who is not affiliated the Astros think the team can win with an infield consisting of Chris Burke, Adam Everett, and Ty Wigginton? And is anyone really confident in a starting rotation of Roy Oswalt, Woody Williams, Wandy Rodriguez, Troy Patton, and Chris Sampson?
Yet the Astros seem intent on the outfield. And only the outfield. (I don’t think Ed Wade asking Curt Schilling to add the Astros to Schilling’s list is indicative of real interest, nor do I think it would really help the team – the team already has one old, washed up pitcher in the rotation in Woody Williams, and I don’t think another one is needed.)
Sure, the best players available in free agency are mainly outfielders Aaron Rowand, Torii Hunter, and Andruw Jones. And I would really love to see Hunter in the MMP outfield. But adding a Hunter isn’t going to help the Astros. Primarily because it doesn’t solve any of the areas where the team is really weak.
If Drayton really wants to win next season, there are only three players he should be looking at. The first player is Alex Rodriguez. I know lots of people don’t like Rodriguez, and I can’t understand why. The guy’s one of the best shortstops ever. EVER. His defense is as good as Everett’s, and he definitely hits better than Everett. Then the team should to do everything possible to get Mike Lamb and Mark Loretta back. Yeah, I know, Lamb sucks with the glove, and Loretta’s got no range. Well, tell you what, that wouldn’t matter if A-Rod was at short.
That would be a team that could compete.
I know Jose de Jesus Ortiz doesn't want A-Rod because he’s not a champion. Well, I’d argue that Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell weren’t exactly champions either. And A-Rod is a team player. Remember, even though A-Rod is one of the greatest shortstops ever, he voluntarily agreed to move to third upon coming to the Yankees so that the mediocre Derek Jeter could stay at the position. A selfish player would’ve demanded Jeter switch his position. But not A-Rod. Yet A-Rod’s selfish. And he’s not a team player. And he’s not a champion.
How do you define champion? By the number of World Series rings? So Julio Lugo is a champion, but Jeff Bagwell’s not, right? And Barry Bonds isn’t a champion, but Chad Curtis is? That means Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire are champions, but Ernie Banks and Ron Santo aren’t. So this whole “he ain’t a champion” thing is stupid, but what other kind of argument should one expect from Mr. Ortiz?
Do you define champion by the basis of being clutch and by postseason numbers? Well, it might surprise everyone to know that A-Rod’s postseason numbers are better than those of Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Barry Bonds. And his numbers the past several postseasons have been as good as Derek Jeter’s, who’s supposed to be Mr. Clutch. And A-Rod is one of the few players in baseball who is capable of carrying an entire team by himself. If not for A-Rod’s fantastic April and May, the Yankees would not have made the playoffs.
And enough about how A-Rod violated the integrity of baseball by declaring his free agency during the World Series. How is that any less offensive than Joe Torre campaigning for the Los Angeles Dodger managing job while the Dodgers still had a manager? But Torre’s supposed to be class. Class would have been telling the Dodgers that he wouldn’t talk them while they still had a manager.
Look, I know, A-Rod’s never coming to the Astros. But Drayton doesn’t mind forking out the equivalent cash for Roger Clemens, so why not doing it for someone who could really help the team? Yes, A-Rod would destroy Drayton’s budget, but Hunter/Rowand would also destroy the budget without noticeably improving the team.
But I don’t really want Drayton to get A-Rod. Or Hunter or Rowand. Or any big name free agent.
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I think I’ve made myself clear on this topic before. Don’t make any big free agent signings this season. Blow up this team and start over. The Astros have one of the best starters in baseball in Roy Oswalt. And Hunter Pence has a bit of the Jeff Bagwell swagger about him. See if Lee and Berkman will waive their no-trade clauses. Try and restock the minor league system. This team as constituted can’t win. It won’t win with Torii Hunter in centerfield. It won’t win with A-Rod at short. Kenny Rogers, Curt Schilling, and Andy Pettitte won’t turn this team into a winner.
The Astros have to forget the short-term answer. The Astros have to follow the paths of the Cleveland Indians. And the Detroit Tigers. And the Colorado Rockies. And the Arizona Diamondbacks. And the Milwaukee Brewers. Right now, Drayton’s following the path of the Baltimore Orioles. And that’s not a path that should be followed.
The long-term answer is blowing things up. The long-term answer is what the John McMullen Astros did in the early-90s. And it was the McMullen Astros who led the Drayton Astros to success up through 2005. It’s time for another of those long-term answers. It’s time for players to traded. For the farm system to be stocked. It’s time. It’s time, but it’s not going to happen.
But hey, at least we get to fork out more bucks to see the Yankees and Red Sox next season. Thanks for that, Drayton. Thanks a lot. -- John Royal