Carlos Lee Goes AWOL: At Least Someone Noticed

So the Astros were upset that Carlos Lee missed a voluntary workout in Pittsburgh on Thursday, and as a result, he was benched on Friday night.

The puzzling thing is trying to figure out just why it is the Astros were upset. The workout was voluntary. What part of "voluntary" doesn't the Astros brass understand?

Sure, players who actually give a damn were able to show up to their teams across MLB for voluntary post-All Star game workouts, but no one has ever confused Carlos Lee with a player who actually gives a damn.

This is a guy who has a contract clause that allows him to skip out on Spring Training so that he can come play around at the Houston Rodeo. So his missing a voluntary workout really shouldn't have shocked or surprised anyone.

Besides, it's not like Lee didn't have an excuse.

He was in Panama. And as he was preparing to leave Panama on Thursday morning, it was discovered that the license of the pilot of his chartered plane had expired on Wednesday so he couldn't fly.

Sure, someone else might have tried to find alternate travel plans for that day. Or else that person might have actually tried to contact someone with Astros management to let them know he was stuck in Panama and wouldn't be in Pittsburgh, but this is Carlos Lee we're discussing.

And that's the real reason the Astros were upset. Lee didn't bother to call his buddy Drayton McLane and let him know he would miss the workout. He didn't call Tal Smith. He didn't call Ed Wade. He didn't call Brad Mills or any of the coaches or any of his teammates. He just didn't show up.

So since he missed the workout, he was benched for a game. He still got paid, so he probably wasn't too upset. And since Ed Wade didn't physically attack Lee, it's probably safe to assume he doesn't consider missing a workout to be as bad as a player being pissed about being pulled from the starting rotation.

But in reality, one really has to wonder why the Astros are upset because it's become pretty standard practice for the Astros to find the wishes of individual players to be more important than the needs of the overall club.

Who can forget the epic Craig Biggio and the Quest for 3,000 Hits from 2007? Or who remembers the sequel, The Craig Biggio Magical Retirement Tour that occurred after he got hit 3,000?

You remember, knowing that Biggio was retiring, the Astros decided it was better he keep playing rather than seeing if Chris Burke was actually a major league-caliber starting second baseman.

Then there's this past week, where Roy Oswalt was suddenly moved from the first guy in the rotation to the third guy in the rotation so that, magically, he was lined up to set the Astros all-time record for wins by a starting pitcher at home, and not on the road?

Sure, Brad Mills says it was all his idea,  and that he made the move of flipping Bret Myers and Roy Oswalt in the rotation because he wanted to slot Bud Norris in between them. That story, however, was kind of thrown out the window when Oswalt went on the record that he requested the move because he wanted to set the record at home.

In the end, Carlos Lee not showing up for a workout means absolutely nothing. Making the workout wasn't suddenly going to turn him into a productive player. He wasn't suddenly going to learn the definition of "run," or even "jog." Showing up wasn't going to make him suddenly learn how to play left field. Being in Pittsburgh on Thursday wasn't suddenly going to make him give a damn.

The Astros are stuck with Lee and his doesn't give a damn attitude. And even though his no-trade clause expires at the end of this season, no team is going to want to trade for a non-hustling underachiever with a lousy attitude and a huge contract that only Drayton McLane was stupid enough to hand out.

In the end, Carlos Lee missed a voluntary workout, one that the team couldn't even order him to attend because of the collective bargaining agreement. It's nothing new. And the team's anger just seems misplaced. Then again, this is the Astros, and lots of things seem to be off and misplaced.

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