I’m watching the Astros battle the Cubs last night, and Jim Deshaies and Bill Brown start talking about how Cecil Cooper’s not playing J.R. Towles in the games against the Cubs because he doesn’t want to mess with the dreaded integrity of the game. You see, the Chicago Cubs, unlike the Astros, are involved in a pennant race, and the integrity argument is that you always play your best team so as not to give an advantage to another team.
(For any of you with a memory, the Astros benefited from Davey Johnson, then managing the Dodgers, ignoring that argument and not pitching Kevin Brown on the final day of the 1999 season when the Astros were in need a win to clinch the division.)
I’m all for the integrity of baseball, but here’s where the argument breaks down with the Astros. First, Mark Loretta’s batting fifth and playing shortstop. I like Loretta, but batting him fifth and playing him at short is not fielding your best team. Second, Craig Biggio’s playing at second. So I don’t really seeing how playing September call-up J.R. Towles is going to screw with the integrity of the game. And if Cooper’s so concerned about integrity, shouldn’t he have Brad Ausmus or Eric Munson catching? Those are the two guys who have caught the majority of this season, not Humberto Quintero, who got the start last night.
And there’s one more way that the integrity argument breaks down: Next week, the Astros play the Milwaukee Brewers, who are tied with the Cubs. So if Cooper plays Towles against the Cubs, then he plays him against the Brewers.
See, just that simple.
Oh and here’s my final response to the integrity argument: Catcher is one of the many positions that the Astros have a problem with next season. There’s some talk that Towles might be that answer. But the only way to find out if he can handle the position on the major league level is to play him on the major league level. Otherwise, when the Astros are trying to convince Brad Ausmus to strap on the gear one more time next season, at least they can say that yeah, they played the end of the season with integrity.
And before I get on with the summary of the game, I’ve got to actually link to something in the Chron I found amusing and interesting – hint, it’s not from Jesus Ortiz. I’ve got my reasons for watching the rest of the Astros games: I promised the Press and I’ve got a free lunch riding on the outcome of the season – if the ‘Stros win less than 75 games, I get the free lunch. But the Chron’s Brian McTaggart goes all David Letterman and provides us all with 10 reasons why we should keep watching. And Brian, for what it’s worth, you’re not the only one who hates the Astros stadium experience, but we don’t matter. Just like the Texans don’t care about people who actually go to watch the football game, the Astros don’t actually care about the people who go to watch the baseball game.
And here’s something else I really really hate to do, but Richard Justice of all people made a good point yesterday: The primary reason that no one from inside the Astros should be hired for the GM job is that the Astros are soon to be ranked as 29 out of 30 in organizational development of players. Does Drayton really think that the team will be improved by hiring someone who helped to make this team number 29 out of 30?
Oh, yeah, that’s right, it’s Drayton we’re talking about.
But beyond that, I’ve finally figured out what’s really bugging me about the Astros GM search. The Astros are interviewing the baseball equivalents of Paula Marshall. Who? Well, go with me.
Some of you might actually remember Paula Marshall. She’s an attractive actress who, for awhile, was seemingly cast in the lead of a new series every year. She got this because the shows in which she was cast were invariably cancelled before the first season was over. Some of these shows were very good. Some of these shows were very bad. But for about a half-decade or so, you just knew that, come the new TV season, Paula Marshall would be starring in something. The problem wasn’t that she wasn’t talented. The problem was just that she didn’t have what it took to help push the show over the top. And it got to the point where she wasn’t being cast as the lead anymore – the last that I heard, she was playing one of David Duchovny’s conquests on his new Showtime series.
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What’s this got to do with the Astros? Simple: The Astros are interviewing the Paula Marshalls of the GM-world. They’re settling for the so-so talents. They’re not going for the stars. They’re talking to people from the Kansas City Royals and the Philadelphia Phillies of the baseball world, teams that aren’t known as the best in baseball. They should be calling the Oakland A’s and the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox, those teams that have developed good farm systems – and with the A’s and the Twins, have learned to deal with budget constraints. So instead of casting about for a Felicity Huffman or a Tina Fey, they’re settling for Paula Marshall.
And as numerous TV producers will tell you, if you’re settling for Paula Marshall, you aren’t going to succeed.
The Astros pulled off the win last night, and the Milwaukee Brewers are really happy. Luke Scott’s 11th inning gapper to right-center field scored Eric Bruntlett and gave the team a 5-4 win over the Cubs, the team that had been tied with the Brewers for first place. Brad Lidge got the win, after walking the bases loaded in the top of the 11th, but still holding on to get the necessary outs.
The Astros take on the Cubs again tonight with Matt Albers getting the start. – John Royal