Way back in the spring of 2017, when we neither knew nor cared about video cameras and trashcans, the Astros had an unproven pitcher named Brad Peacock. Brad had come to the Houston organization from Oakland in the first Jed Lowrie trade with Chris Carter and Max Stassi. (Oh the Golden Era of Astros baseball). He then pitched mostly in the minors, when he wasn’t injured, and did have some small unsuccessful shots in the biggies. He pitched pretty well in a 30 inning trial in 2016, but it would be truthful to say that he was a candidate to be DFA’d in the spring of 2017. Then something wondrous happened (at least wondrous for Brad) and Collin McHugh went down with an injury and Peacock was a beneficiary of an open spot in the Astros’ pitching staff.
This is a post your loyal writer started about 3 weeks ago (that is if you count writing only the title as starting a post). In truth, the question here is a little broader as the Astros lost one great starter (Gerrit Cole) and one good starter (Wade Miley), who collapsed down the stretch last season.
Today we play that time-honored game of Would You Rather, where you the loyal readers of this blog get to choose your answer to either/or questions and explain your reasoning.
Heading into the Astros second weekend of Spring Training, it is time to make a bit of a mind dump.
In the modern media world, it is pretty normal for the “fake news” folks to throw out an item without much thought or research and then to walk it back in the new vernacular. Today we will take a quick look back at some AJ Hinch / Jeff Luhnow related posts and see what if any we would like to walk back. Note – I do not have access to any posts when Mr. Luhnow was hired.
The hiring of A.J. Hinch
In that post Chip was less than enthusiastic about Hinch and who could blame him. He did not have a lot of managerial experience and what he had was really bad. He did point out that catchers are usually good candidates for such jobs and coming out of Stanford he might be a better fit with Luhnow than Bo Porter ever was.
And before everyone here says – they always thought this was a great hiring – see the results of this poll at the time where only 6 people gave him a big thumbs up.
What do you think of the A.J. Hinch hiring?
I’ll keep my powder dry and wait and see – 34.55% (19 votes)
Just another bad move by the front office – 21.82% (12 votes)
Who? – 20% (11 votes)
Meh, don’t care one way or the other – 12.73% (7 votes)
Love it, he’ll do well – 10.9% (6 votes)
So – looking back would the team have been better off with a manager, who could tell everyone to sit down and behave and stood up to the front office? Or would they have fired Hinch like they fired Porter?
2016 – When Luhnow and Hinch were not so popular
The Astros spoiled the fans a bit by making an unexpected playoff run in 2015. When this particular post was written towards the beginning of the next season, the Astros were 7-17 and had dug a hole that they never could really escape. They did end up over .500 on the season, but back in late April, the populace was very grumpy about how the team and the organization was being run.
Tandem pitching in the minors, the Mark Appel and Brady Aiken 1-1 drafts, the young studs, who were sent packing – everything about the way the team was run was an irritant when they were losing.
Luhnow and Hinch were never really in danger of being fired back then, but it was an interesting time leading up to the 2017 championship season.
As they started to launch
It was May of THE season and Hinch at 21-11 looked like a genius. Of course you look like more of a genius when you can roll out a lineup without Carlos Gomez, Colby Rasmus, Jason Castro and with Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, a full season of Alex Bregman and the can bangingly improved Marwin Gonzalez. Also getting Dallas Keuchel back as an uninjured stud was a big step towards a team that took off and never was headed.
This was when the fans really bought into the thought – this could really work.
A look back at Luhnow moves
After the brilliance of the 2017 season and the solid start to 2018, it felt like a good time to look back at all the big moves Jeff Luhnow had produced that led to what looked like a sustainable machine. Of interest here that included the hiring of Hinch at #4 and the Carlos Beltran pick-up at #27. In retrospect, we need to erase that Beltran pick-up……
Luhnow’s last hurrah
This post looked at what had to be considered Luhnow’s last hurrah, the 2019 trade deadline moves. He pulled off the biggest trade at the deadline to bring in Zack Greinke and he was able to pick up Martin Maldonado, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini for very little outlay. None of this guaranteed a World Series victory, but for the 3rd year in a row the Astros were within sight of winning it all.
Who would have thought this would basically be it for what seemed like the best GM in baseball.
Tweaking karma’s nose?
This was not written to tempt fate. It was written in response to the Red Sox unloading the GM, who (with potential electronic sign stealing help) had just helped steer them to a WS championship one season ago. It was just speculating on how Luhnow and Hinch would seem to be on much more and much longer solid ground than what was under Dave Dombrowski’s feet. There was no way of knowing that in a matter of months that the Astros dynamic duo would fall from the sky.
If I knew what would happen would I ever have even broached this subject? If I did I might have included speculation that a sign stealing cheating circus might take them down. But my psychic power was and is limited.
Personally, I hark back to that Stealers Wheels’ classic song “Stuck in the Middle With You” today. I would like to do what friend of the blog – Mr. Bill – eloquently asked us to do in a recent comment when he said: “We can stay mad, or we can find a way to move on and overcome”. But I can’t yet do that. I am caught in that no man’s river between thinking about baseball and thinking about cheating on baseball and I can’t yet swim to either shore.
Over the last few seasons, the Astros team salary total has been edging upward along with their average team age. Last season their everyday players were the second oldest in the majors at 28.9 years old (a weighted average based on ABs and games played) and their pitchers were fifth highest at 29.9 years old again based on a weighted average. Back in 2017 they were ninth and 16th in the majors for everyday players’ and pitchers’ age respectively.