They Hate Me: The Media and the Houston Astros

UPDATE: Read more here about Brett Wallace released.

By Brian Todd

A few weeks ago I made a comment and used the phrase “boot-licking, bi-coastal media.”

I was rather proud of myself. In fact, I strained a ligament trying to pat myself on the back.

But the fact is, the media tends to look down on our beloved Astros. And while it would be easy to say that this bias against the H-Town Nine can be explained away by three straight years of 100-plus losses, the fact is, the major media in this country has been snubbing all things Astros for years.

My proof? Well, to be honest, sometimes it seems pretty plain. Ken Rosenthal wasn’t complimenting The Luhnow Plan when he wrote in 2012 and 2013 about the low payroll. Buster Olney basically accused Crane and Luhnow of aiming more for that top draft pick than for extra wins.

Then there are the Hall of Fame slights to Biggio and Bagwell. Bagwell is a mystery to me, but due to the bogus PED arguments—though I don’t agree with them—I can understand writers’ hesitancy to vote for him. But how anyone doesn’t vote for Biggio is beyond me. And, frankly, the snubbing of Houston in general can be the only explanation.

But sometimes the slights toward the Astros are more veiled and harder to spot.

Take the Luhnow Plan vs. the Moreno Plan. When the Angels went out and signed Prince Albert to a $254 million deal—just days after shelling out $77.5 million over five years to C.J. Wilson—no one talked about the way Moreno was killing the game with loose money. In fact, while both deals were heralded as the wave of the future for the franchise, only now has the media done more than vaguely hint that signing an aging slugger might not have been the best plan. Meanwhile, Luhnow gets kudos for the farm system, but no one is looking at Houston and saying the obvious: Bet you big money the Astros make the playoffs before the Halos do.

The Angels of Some L.A. Suburb, in case you didn’t realize it, went from just missing the playoffs in 2012 to underwater in 2013. And it’s not just the Angels. Anyone think the Phillies are headed in the right direction? The media is kinder to their organization than Houston’s.

Need more proof. How about Derek Jeter. Now Jeter has had a great career. Only man to collect 3,000 hits in pinstripes. The Captain. A true leader on the field and one of the best players of his generation. I hate the Yankees (spit) but even I have to admit Jeter has been a great ballplayer.

But that’s the key phrase here. “Has been.” Last year, Jeter posted a negative batting WAR. His defense—did he win another undeserved Gold Glove?—was only really bad instead of horribly bad. How bad? Well, his Total Zone Runs Average based on 1,200 innings (basically, how many runs would you have saved above average over a season) was minus-48. Jonathan Villar’s was only minus-18.

Ok, you say, Captain Clutch isn’t the player he used to be. Well, neither was Craig Biggio in his second-to-last season. But he still put up a plus WAR. Yet when Biggio came back for that final season—after still contributing positively to his team—he was derided nonstop. Jeter will be hailed all season as a demigod. Why the difference, especially when Jeter has already posted negative WAR? Seven letters: Y-A-N-K-E-E-S. (Spit.)

You see it in other little things. Jason Castro is, correctly, referred to as the Astros’ lone All-Star. But looking at the stats, he was a very legitimate All-Star. Still he’s always called “the Astros’ lone All-Star” like he made the team without merit.

Speaking of All-Stars, Houston had two other players at the All-Star Break who had good cases to be included. At the time of the break, Altuve was just starting a decline, but still looked like a legit All-Star. And Bud Norris was putting together a good season despite his team. If our uniforms had said “Dodgers” on them, would one or the other have been selected?

Then there’s the hoopla over Byron Buxton. Hey, the guy is amazing. But Houston has a shortstop who might be the next non-Roided A-Rod. Still, I’d be shocked if we’ve seen the last of the national media stories wondering if Houston got it wrong … even after Carlos Correa put up amazing numbers as an 18-year-old at full-season A-ball.

Finally, there were the “home” games in the middle of a playoff race that were played in Milwaukee. How nice of Bug Selig (rot in Hades, Bud!) to offer his home stadium. I’m sure he didn’t make a cent off of that. But did anyone in the national media call out Bud for his sketchy hospitality? If they did, I missed it.

Oh, and the whole move to the American League. Look, I’ve long come to terms with the DH and 50 years of NL tradition being flushed down the drain. (Remember hating the Dodgers?) But again there was a paucity of stories on how several other teams—the Rockies, the Brewers—made more sense, but because Bud had Luhnow and Drayton over a barrel, he forced the move to the AL.

So, as we gear up for another season of Yankees (spit), Red Sox and Angels on ESPN, and short-sighted articles on how Houston is purposely losing games to pick 1-1 for a fourth time, what stories are you least looking forward to reading?

Which media slights from the past bug you the most? OK, what besides the Hall of Fame thing?

Does George Springer have a disadvantage in the ROY race just because he plays for Houston?

Any chance—any at all—that the Astros land a second player on the All-Star team … and that either actually plays?

What’s your over/under guess on the day you throw your TV out a window for one-too-many fawning Jeter stories?


61 comments on “They Hate Me: The Media and the Houston Astros

  1. Brian – I think some of the media negativity is deserved or at least expected. When you gut a team to start over there will always be people who don’t appreciate the sausage making process so to speak.
    What always bugged me was the lack of uproar for moments like the critical post-Ike games played in Milwaukee and the move to the AL. If something like that happened to the Bosox or Yanks what do you think the media would be doing to Selig. The same thing with forcing us to open the roof during the WS.
    Some of it may be lack of local media clout or apathy. Would the NY media have stood by while Steinbrenner cow towed to Selig on draft slottings and let players slip away like the grocer did.
    Hey I’m glad I don’t live in NY and I am resigned to the fact that life will never be fair.
    Let’s see Springer – he better start hitting or he will start the season in OKC. The ROY is the kind of award that will go to the hinterland – MVP and Cy Young – not so much.
    2nd player on the All Star team – maybe in a couple years.
    Sick of Jeter stories. At the CPAC conference they were promoting sponge “bricks” with your least favorite politicians name on it. You could throw it at the TV and not hurt it. I like that idea.


  2. Oh – I was also going to say that the title for your posting could be interpreted as “the media and the Houston Astros hate you”. I know Bo would agree to the second part of that.


  3. Brian: Excellent points. But going back to when CBS owned the Yankees and you HAD to watch them – the media had and continues to have a love affair with Bosox and Yankees. If one is a true baseball fan, they want to see every team once or twice a year to see the young players coming up. The article could be written about 10-15 teams. And if the Chron is your only shill, it will not get any better.


    • OK, that was CBS’s excuse. What is ESPN’s excuse? And why have I seen nothing in SI, ESPN or anywhere about events from Ike to the AL move? Frankly, those two items make it look like Selig has a vendetta against the Astros.

      Personally, I just think it was all examples of us being convenient victims.


  4. I’ve mentioned this before, and I will repeat it – only two players in the history of baseball have 3000 hits, are eligible, and were not first time ballot hall of famers. One is practically permanently banned after a finger wag and getting got with his hand in the cookie jar. The other played in polar opposite of a media mecca – but was ever as consumate a professional, work-a-holic and has ever as good a resume as Derk Jeter.

    One could argue the resume is better – sure Jeter has the much better career batting average, but they are very similar in runs scored, home runs, rbi, stolen bases, triples, a myriad of stats they bounce back and forth on which one has more, but are basically within 10% of each other. Jeter played better than average defense early in his career, but has basically spent the second half of his career being below average, while Biggio played 4 different positions regularly at some point (C, 2B, LF, and CF), bouncing around to fill the need of the team.

    Bill James wrote in one of his books that from 1994-1997 Craig Biggio may have been the best player in baseball. Derek Jeter never garnered that kind of attention from the guru.

    There is one distinct difference – Biggio will be waiting another year, while the media loves Jeter so much that they would be happy to make him the first player ever to be inducted while still an active player. You best prepare yourselves for a year long Jeter fest. MLB will go all out to make the Cal Ripken going away tour look like small fry to this. They will be talking about Jeter like he was one of the top ten players in history, and this guy has never even been the best SS playing in any single season that he played. Sure – longevity wise he outlasted Tejada, Nomar, even A-Rod, but they along with Tulo and a few others have always had better individual seasons to fall back on. Jeter maybe the single most overrated player ever – but you get that when you can smile for the cameras, say the right things, and play SS in a Yankee uniform. Give me the grit and day to day, head down, work first, media love me later attitude of Craig Biggio.


    • You know where we at stand on Biggio.

      As you said Steven – Jeter’s will be an automatic coronation (I know this is evil – but I would love to hear that A-Rod and Jeter stuck their hands in the same “Medicine Jar”). What would these hypocrites do if their god – Jeter – had some dirt on his baseball soul?
      We would hear a ton of excuse making – “Everybody was doing it”, “He did it after he established his Hall of Fame credentials (tell that to Barry Bonds” “He was not a HR hitter so it did not help him that much” and on and on.


      • I’d hate to ever hear that Jeter “stuck his hands in the same medicine jar”. What good would that do anyone? Don’t blame Jeter for his good fortune. By all accounts, he’s been a class guy throughout his career. Odd thought Dan.


      • Sorry daveb
        Just an evil thought – frankly if the media had to justify Jeter – guys like Bagwell who have no evidence against them would have an easier path.


    • On baseball reference, the player who most compares to Jeter historically — it’s near the bottom of Jeter’s page — is Craig Biggio.

      Jeter could end up with 3,500 hits. He was a vital cog in a dynasty. And truth be told, MLB should celebrate his career. But Biggio should have gotten the same celebration. Instead he was vilified for coming back after a positive WAR year to collect his 3,000th hit … like that’s a bad thing.

      To me, this and how Springer is treated are the stories I’ll be watching this season to see how the media shafts Houston.


  5. I don’t really pay much attention to the press. Here in Houston, we have no real press. It is what it is. Of course Jeter gets more ink because he’s in New York with the storied Yankees and has put together a great career. But the New York metropolitan area also has a half a dozen daily newspapers, with real sports sections and real sportswriters. ESPN is out in the suburbs of Connecticut. And all the major networks have a presence in New York. All that said, miss guys like Richard Justice. When did we last have a writer willing to suggest that the Astros did not have their poop together? Justice had no problem in questioning the workings of this club. The guys we have today write feel good stories and tell us the outcome of games. Is it possible that every player in camp with the Astros is a happy guy? Do we have a writer willing to dig up any dirt? The answer is no.

    And of course Biggio has gotten screwed. That’s what happens when baseball writers get to determine when someone gets into the hall. Baseball writers don’t necessarily know more about the game than the next guy. And many like to suck up to big names, I suppose in hopes of keeping relationships intact. But the Houston Astro PR machine did not exactly launch a national media campaign on behalf of Biggio either.

    The Astro organization has certainly done nothing to bring any real level of credibility to the operation. And again, we don’t have any real baseball writers in our city, guys that might bring some attention to our organization, and to themselves, for writing good stuff. It is what it is.


  6. The TV Deal, the radio coverage, the cheap signs blocking the view, The AAA fiasco, the Spring training site fiasco, the worst record in baseball 3 years running. All those things make the Astros laughable. But there is one thing that isn’t laughable and it is hardly discussed around here fairly.
    I am happy with the two players the Astros drafted with the top pick the last two years. But the consensus in th rankings services and the people who do those kinds of things for a living have two players picked after the Astros picked ranked higher. Every system ranks Buxton #1 and He has the stats to back it up and Bryant is ranked higher than Appel. That is not a great reflection on the one area that we have left to be proud of: our drafting.
    Who expects the major media to run around looking for something good to write about with this franchise? Any positive coverage we get is a bone thrown at a dog that continues to bite everyone in the butt.


    • Exactly. Their ain’t many fans left that haven’t been hacked off, and the media knows it. Why cover a team that nobody cares about? “… a bone thrown at a dog that continues to bite everyone in the butt” — well said indeed!


    • I think a Buxton v. Correa debate is entirely valid. If it were Appel v. Gray I’d be more inclined to wade into those waters. The sample size is far too small to have much of an opinion on that. As for Bryant, I’d rather see how he compares to Colin Moran at the end of 2014.


      • The Astros didn’t draft Colin Moran. My point is Bryant vs Appel. The Astros took Appel and right now Appel is #17 and Kris Bryant is ranked #9 by Mayo.
        The fact of the matter is that these rankings are by services who do it for a living and although we have two good prospects, the experts think that the guys taken after we did are better prospects.
        I don’t think they are playing politics just to knock the Astros, but I am making the point that even in the draft the Astros appear, at this point, to have fallen short of the mark. The fact that most baseball experts like Buxton and I like Correa also idicates where my heart lies and that I am biased toward my team, even though I have the baseball world telling me something else. Even though I look at the world through orange and blue lenses, doesn’t mean I am blind to the reality of the situation.


      • the way the astros went about that draft it might be more accurate for it to be a bruxton vs correa, ruiz, mccullers debate


  7. If you really think this media talk is just about the HOF and media coverage – consider this. Derek Jeter made 253 million over his career (to date), Craig Biggio made 85 million. Thats just salary, we already know Jeter made much more than Biggio in endorsements also.

    And you wonder why players want to play in those markets.


    • Steven, Biggio grew up on Long Island. I’m sure he could have gone back home to play at several points in his career. He just happened to be one of those rare guys that wanted to play a full career with one organization, and raise his kids in the same town so they could go to the same schools with the same friends. When you start looking at it that way, what’s the difference between 253 million and 85 million? I’d take the quality of life for me and my family first. And somehow I’m guessing Biggio has held on to more than that 85 million.

      It is amazing though that most guys will go where the money is.


      • Of course with NY state and city taxes and cost of living – Biggio may have made out like a bandit living here in affordable land vs. Mr. Jeter.


      • Don’t discount the age difference in this comparison. Jeter, eight years younger, will have made $113,529,000 and change since the time Biggio retired in contract payout alone. A LOT of that money could be considered as ARod escalation that the Yankees .


      • You may think they will contend again one day; I think they won’t.

        I remember with great fondness the days when the Astros were perennial contenders. Starting in 94, the team either won the division, won a wildcard, or finished second in 11 of the 12 years. One year they finished fourth (2000).

        And some of those teams were absolutely loaded. (2004 in particular).

        Now THAT’S CONTENDING. And that is (was) talent.

        I am not sure what your idea or definition of “contending” is, but I’d like to hear you try and classify it.


      • Plenty. The Ike thing is my favorite. Other than in the Chronicle, the national media’s only complaint was, well, it sort of was almost maybe like games in the Cubs’ backyard.

        Ya think?

        Basically by moving those gamesto Milwaukee, Selig was saying, “Look, the Astros would have to run the table. If we wait for them to do it at home, it’ll totally screw up our playoff schedule. So why don’t we move the games, stack the deck and just get this over with? I mean to heck with fairness.”

        Would the Adtros have run the table and made the playoffs? Probably not. But Bud essentially ensured it.


  8. Well Bo – over and over you have said they will never contend again that they will perennially be mediocre. And I’ve called BS on that – pure and simple. Now if you are saying contending is having a first or second place team every year for a decade or more – I say you have been untruthful in what you said before.
    Pure and simple contending is having a team that is playing for a playoff spot down the stretch of the season and some times makes it.
    If you say contending is a bunch of seasons in a row – I say you are back pedaling from your previous statements.


    • I am not backpedaling. I am standing firmly by my guns.

      Even with the minors bursting at the seams, this franchise is doomed to ongoing suckiness. At the end of the day, it’s all about market demand, revenue. and good leadership. And this squad has none of the above.

      Good young talent (translate: cheap talent) can only get you so far…


      • I further qualify this remark by saying that Luhnow is an above average GM. The leadership problem is not his, it’s the guy who controls the purse strings.


      • And what proof do you have no money will be spent? Drayton had a $100 million payroll and he didn’t have a moneybags TV deal.

        Crane opened up the wallet for Feldman, Fowler and the bullpen. He signed Altuve long term when he did not have to.

        Again, facts and more facts and some facts again are making your arguments look silly.


    • Cheap young talent got the Rays to the playoffs 4 of the last 6 seasons (including to the WS). Cheap young talent got the A’s to the playoffs 7 of the last 14 seasons.
      There is a hole in your ;logic.


      • No, not cheap young talent alone. As in exclusively. As in the point you refuse to digest properly. Young talent ALONE (exclusively) does not a contender make.

        Oh, and this is where we compare the leadership of the A’s and Rays to the Astros, do we?

        No hole in my logic. Standing by my point, whether you grok it or not.


      • How has he shown greed? How has he shown self interest?

        Let’s just look at that last one. If it was all about him and his money, he’d pay for some falling star to put butts in the seats and just collect on the turnstile. Instead, he, along with Luhnow, is taking a calculated risk to make this team better long term.

        Should he have bought a few middle level guys to waste money and take at-bats and innings from young players? Young players who need time to develop and time to be seen at the major league level? For what, five more wins? Ten wins?

        Right now, the Luhnow plan costs him money. Trading your closer, trading a valuable player like Jed Lowrie — who was not expensive at all — takes guts.

        You are short-sighted and myopic. And that’s a fact, along with so many others, you’ll never get.


  9. Just out of curiosity, does anyone know how much of the club Crane controls? What if the minority partners all got together and decided they did not like the way their investments were going?


    • I googled around daveb and found references to the ownership group but no % listed.
      I don’t know what difference that would make – I don’t see Crane selling when things are down.


      • DaveB – I am with DanP. The only thing worse than being a minority owner with the current Astros, would be the “majority owner.” Until the court decides what happens, it is in limbo. At least that would be my take.


      • I found a Chron article from March 2012 which lists a board of 13 votes with each vote representing $25 mil or more investment with some of the votes split amongst more than one investor and Crane having 3+ votes. So it appears he is the largest investor, but does not own a majority. Personally, I hope Nolan is gathering his money and his friends.
        I am excited about the future of the team, player-wise, because the minors will be bulging after this draft and next year’s draft and the prospects that cannot be crammed on the team by 2017 will be very valuable in trades, which will allow us to acquire outside talent to fill gaps since we will not be able to afford to sign free agents.


  10. That was my point oldpro. And Dan, certainly Crane would have no desire to sell anytime soon. He’d likely fight for control at all costs. But if hypothetically the majority of the ownership group became unhappy with Cranes running of the organization at any point, they then could conceivably force Crane out.

    I’m not suggesting that there is even any reason to have this discussion at this point. All I’m saying is that Crane does not necessarily fully control his own destiny. To a certain extent, Crane is still an outsider in this city and quite a few of those investors are old guard Houston. If this TV issue does not get resolved in the short term, if we go another season without a deal, there could be some grumbling in the boardroom.

    bopert, wouldn’t that be fun?


  11. Correa hitting two HR’s today, was AWESOME! What do ya do with a kid who’s so dedicated to this sport??? Start him in Corpus, or send him to OKC? I sure would like to see him at short starting next season!
    Great kid!


  12. Crane’s investor group consists of 45 people, including 10 principal investors. The deal includes $385 million in equity, of which Crane is contributing about 20 percent. The remainder came from $25 million commitments from investors and through bank loans. There will be an 11-person board of directors.

    Selig was careful to say that McLane, not Crane, was the person who accepted the pre-sale stipulation that the Astros move to the AL. Last May, when McLane and Crane came to agreement, the sale price was announced at $680 million. But when Crane was told the sale was contingent on the Astros changing leagues, he was granted a $70 million credit. That discount reportedly is being split evenly by MLB and McLane.

    doesnt answer ownership percentages but gives some facts. interesting that mclane was who agreed to move to al


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