The Astros and the Brett Wallace Dilemma

Brett Wallace.jpg
Matt Downs started at first base for the Houston Astros yesterday. Brett Wallace is on the team, and he's healthy, yet Matt Downs started at first base for the Houston Astros yesterday. Maybe it's just me, but Matt Downs should never be starting over Brett Wallace.

But in the end, it's probably no big deal because Carlos Lee has started a rehab assignment with the Corpus Christi Hooks. This means that Lee is close to coming off of the disabled list. And when Carlos Lee returns to the Astros, he's going to return to the lineup, which means that Brett Wallace will be returned to the minors because Carlos Lee has that huge contract which essentially dictates that he must be played.

This bugs me. I know most fans are more concerned about Matt Cain tossing that perfect game against the Astros several nights ago (the first time in team history the Astros have ever been part of a perfect game), but Matt Cain is one of the best yet most underrated pitchers in baseball, and he has been flirting with no-hitters and perfect games for several years now. And there are probably more fans that are worried about the team's recent play, and how they haven't looked that good recently. But the Astros are a bad team; they're a young team, but they're still mostly bad.

It's the Astros being bad yet knowing that Brett Wallace is probably on his way back to the minors that bothers me more than the team being bad or the perfect game. Maybe it's just me, but it seems to me, like it did last season, that the Astros should be taking advantage of this opportunity to see if Brett Wallace is a long-term major league player. He's been a good hitter since he joined the team several weeks ago, and he's displayed flashes of power that he didn't display last season. But he got off to a hot start last season, then Brad Mills started screwing around with him, and his season quickly went into a dumper from which it never recovered.

I know one argument is going to be that the Astros need to play Lee so that they can display him for other teams in hopes that some sucker can be found who'll trade for him. But let's face it, there's nothing to display about Lee. He's a known quantity. He no longer hits for power, can't play in the outfield and is a so-so first baseman. Players like that can be found throughout the majors and minors, and they all make a lot less money than Lee. (Of course, with Ed Wade working for the Phillies, maybe there's a chance that Jeff Luhnow can trick them into trading for Lee.)

There's no real reason to display Lee, and the Astros aren't in contention. So why punish Brett Wallace? Let him play. Let him bat against lefties. Let him go into a slump and see if he recovers instead of going through the crap from last season when Mills decided the best way for Wallace to break out of his slump was to sit on the bench in favor of the immortal Jason Michaels. In other words, let's give Wallace the same treatment the team's giving to J.A. Happ, J.D. Martinez, Chris Johnson and Jose Altuve (and to lesser extents Jason Castro, Jordan Schafer and Brian Bogusevic).

This brings us to Matt Downs. There's no way the Astros will bench Carlos Lee to play Brett Wallace. But there's no understandable reason why the likes of Matt Downs starts a game instead of Brett Wallace. Yes, there's the whole lefty-righty match-up scenario, but really, come on, the Astros aren't in contention, Matt Downs is nothing but a mediocre player and at some point it's got to be determined if Wallace can play every day on a major league roster. But as anybody who sat through the whole #freebrettwallace movement last season knows, it's this: If you give Brad Mills a mediocre player who can play multiple positions, then Mills is going to play that player instead of Brett Wallace.

As I said, this is all probably just academic. Carlos Lee probably returns to the roster on Sunday, which means he's back starting every day. Matt Downs will continue to play whenever Brad Mills can find the slightest excuse to stick him in the lineup. And come Sunday, Brett Wallace is likely on his way back to Oklahoma City.

These aren't the Astros of Drayton McLane. These Astros are now being run by adults. And it just seems like the adults should forget about Lee and Downs. Let's finally see what Brett Wallace can do so that we don't have to deal with this whole thing again next season.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal