Luhnow’s bamboo tree beginning to sprout growth

Perhaps Jeff Luhnow has adopted the growth and maturity timeline of the Chinese bamboo plant.

The growth pattern of the Chinese bamboo tree is unusual, virtually unlike any other plant on the planet. Farmers plant the seed and then for four years, water, nurture and carefully care for the seedling, which shows absolutely no outward signs of growth.

Then, in year five, the plant shoots up as much as 80 feet, finally showing all the fruit of the tender care of the farmer. Plenty of time for moaning and groaning, deviating from the plan or just plain giving up.

For two years, the Luhnow Plan has been in place. Without any signs of growth, sprouting or improvement, the nurturing and special care has been taking place. But why now? Why this fall? What was happening in the background and in the soil that makes now the time that we’re seeing some signs of growth?

It would be really cool to get a peek behind the veil to see what has been taking place. In the mean time, most of us are enjoying watching the first sprouts of Luhnow’s bamboo tree.

But why now? Why let the organization fall all the way into the deepest abyss? Why not intercept a third 100-loss season with a Scott Feldman or Dexter Fowler last off-season? Obviously, some of the best growth in plants and trees occurs after pruning. And, indeed, the Astros have been pruned, sheared, shaved and snipped.

It seems clear that Luhnow and owner Jim Crane wanted to strip the club of any connections to the past. Any “connections” being those who clung to the lifestyle and philosophy of the previous administration. Any “connections” meaning any player who couldn’t get with the Luhnow or Porter programs. It was more about attitude than not spending money. It was more about philosophy than cutting budget.

Virtually an entire 40-man roster has either been traded, released or has chosen to play elsewhere since Luhnow became GM. It seems almost an eternity since we were debating Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon, Brian Bogusevic and even Jordan Schafer, Humberto Quintero, J.B. Shuck and Jason Bourgeois. All of those and others played during the Luhnow Era. Many of those didn’t fit into the gameplan.

But therein lies the answer. Perhaps. The only veterans on the 2014 version of the Astros will either have joined the team under Luhnow or will have become veterans under Luhnow. They’ve learned the ways of Luhnow and Porter. And, perhaps most importantly, they’ve bought into the doctrine, the philosophy and the attitude.

Bottom line: This is Jeff Luhnow’s team. At least, his players dominate the roster. His players will lead the team in 2014. And, it’s his players who will shape the future of the organization.

The trades and replenishing the minor league system were only the watering and nurturing part of the growth process. The growth couldn’t begin until the foundation was completed. It’s the only answer to “why now”?

Unless you have another viewpoint.


23 comments on “Luhnow’s bamboo tree beginning to sprout growth

  1. I trust Jeff a lot more than Bo – I’m sure Jeff’s way is patient growth – I am not sure what way Bo goes – yet.
    If this team does not start the year with George Springer in the lineup I would not count on much growth this year – not with three punch n Judys in the OF. Gotta get some more punch in this lineup.
    I have been patient over the last 47 seasons – but I need a shot of growth and optimism this season.


  2. Can you imagine drafting a rule 5 player that would have to stay on the team all year, while last year’s minor league offensive player of the year starts off in OKC?
    I just couldn’t imagine having an outfield of Grossman Fowler and Hoes playing those six games against the Yankees and Angels. What good would they be doing for Houston if that guy starts the year off in AAA?
    This team has a chance to really do something if they go get Choo, Veras, Crain and put Springer in the OF. It would be the most exciting opening night in years. It would be hard to stomach an additional $35 mil payroll and still have your potentially most talented player in Kissimmee on opening night against the New York Yankees at home.
    If Luhnow does that, I know where he can put that bamboo tree.


    • Oldpro i agree that Springer needs to play and play now, no way he should start in AAA to keep a rule 5 player on the team. However, i think we could pick up a pitching prospect that could help the bullpen and take up a slot there, while Springer is in the outfield.


      • rj, I agree that they could pick up somebody worthwhile in Rule 5 and I’m not totally opposed to that. My thinking is that there is not a top 200 prospect in the entire bunch of Rule 5 eligibles, and if they choose 1 of them and keep him on the team and not put Springer on that team on opening day for future contract considerations three or four years from now it would be a travesty!


  3. I know I’m starting to sound like the bopert on the subject of Springer – but we don’t even “know” if the guy is going to be a successful major leaguer yet. When are we going to find out? When he is totally discouraged by not getting a deserved promotion?
    It is time – it is way past time.


    • They’ve already publicly stated that Springer is going to play. Yeah, it’s conditional upon “making the team out of spring training” , but we all know he belongs. And there’s a screaming need. So, come mid May, he’ll play every day.

      But the ridiculous dream of signing Choo is NOT going to happen. Never in a hundred million years (dollars) will this come to pass.

      I once again stress the future of this team is less contingent upon the quality of the winters signings than a decent TV deal being worked out.

      Without the needed cash, our hitters might as well trade in their white ash for bamboo, because it ain’t going to be pretty.


      • Bo, last year, by mid-May they were 20 games under .500, so they should start Springer from opening day.
        I didn’t mention any ridiculous dream about Choo. There are 30 MLB teams and one Choo so I know what our chances are of signing him. What I said was, if they want to really do something good they should go out and get him. With Choo and Fowler in the lineup, Springer doesn’t have to be Superman, he just has to be himself.
        I am going to walk in the beautiful green meadow of this strory all day, even if I get some Bo on my boot. For the last month I have talked about Choo and for the last two years you have spewed your rants against the Astros. Your rants will change nothing about what I think. When I talk about what I think you start ranting about the TV deal. I like flipping the “on” switch.


      • Bo you’ve got to admit, the “some Bo on my boot” was a pretty good line. I too think it’s a long, long shot, but assuming Choo is willing to come here, his over market signing would certainly serve to add some much needed credibility to the organization. Maybe it’s time to buy some credibility.


    • Indeed, Oldpro’s bootsauce comment was humorous. But he’s willfully ignorant about the ramifications of no TV deal. Soon, he will only wish there were some fertilizer for which to keep his meadows green.

      (Let me spell it out, once again: the franchise needs legit money to compete. Otherwise, it’s all just a fool’s dream.)

      Regardling Springer, I think Luhnow needs to hold Springer out until mid-May, or he becomes arb-eligible a year sooner than otherwise.

      THAT’s why they held him out last year. The only reason: money (or lack thereof).


  4. This can be a better team in 2014, but based on the moves made to date, we can also lose 100 games again. Feldman and Qualls might show us what they did in 2013. But they could just as easily revert back to their own recent forgettable histories.

    Fowler certainly makes the worst outfield in MLB better, and gives us a leadoff man for the first time in years. But I’m with oldpro. Pay the money and get Choo signed. And unless Springer falls on his face in ST, he’s got to be our centerfielder to start the season.

    But let’s not forget all the question marks. Will Dominguez get on base at a clip better than .286? Do we have a shortstop? Will Altuve give us more than a .678 OPS? Do we have a first baseman? Certainly not Mike Morse. Can Castro stay healthy behind the plate?

    I think the biggest single factor will be how our young pitchers perform. Time to find out.

    2014 really becomes the first of the Luhnow years. His stamp is all over it. We’ll have a lot more to say about our GM as the season progresses, or regresses.

    One thing is certain. Let’s not forget that Porter is in the midst of a 14 game losing streak. He’s really on the clock this year. He won’t get another full season if things go south.


    • daveb – yes lots of question marks.
      When you look at Cosart’s stats last season it is hard to figure how a guy who was walking more batters than striking them out ended up with an ERA under 2.
      Oberholtzer has not put up this good an ERA above A ball.
      Peacock had a handful of decent starts at the end of the season – not sure if this is the real him or not.
      I will say this – Matt D improved his OBP markedly in the second half – he was above .310 for each month from July on – not great – but way above the pitiful .257 of the first half.


      • Yeah Dan, Dominguez is the least of our worries in 2014. I think we’ll see some, but not remarkable improvement from him both defensively and offensively.


    • “This can be a better team in 2014, but based on the moves made to date, we can also lose 100 games again.”

      Bingo. You nailed it.

      Better? Yes. Good enough to compete? Ummm, no.

      Enough resources to eclipse mediocrity over the medium-to-long term? Just watch what unfolds (or not).


  5. I agree that there are still a lot of question marks. One of the big variables in 2014 will still be depth. If Dominguez doesn’t perform or is injured, who’s his replacement? Who will play first base? The rotation is setting up nicely, but if the young guns don’t shoot at top form, we’re back to square one, at least early in the season. If Springer or Singleton have bad springs and struggle early on, who replaces them. There just aren’t a lot of guys knocking at the door.


  6. What happened to “In Luhnow we trust”? In two years he has taken an absolute train wreck and done exactly what he said he would. Turn the minor league system into one of the best in baseball. He also has shed alot of chaff in that time. Are any of the players listed above tearing it up elsewhere? He also said that once the minors are providing players in a sustainable, consistent manner, then would be the time to go after the bigtime free agent(s) or trade to put us over the top. Well the minors are stocked, but not yet providing the players that they will in another year or two. So he is plugging a few holes to get to that point. Spending 100 million dollars just isnt gonna happen this year and wouldnt provide a championship if it did, we just dont have the core yet. In a couple of years when players are coming up, we have Boperts TV deal and a big trade or a couple of big FA signings do occur, then we are in business.


  7. rj – the problem they have is that they have great talent in the system – but not quite at the upper levels – but that will change over the next two seasons. Of course – anyone who has talent that gets to the upper level of the system will get sucked into the dark hole that is the Astros for awhile. Eventually – it will be a better flow of talent all the way to the top – it is just taking patience as the once dry pump is primed.


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