What are you going to do when you spot the Kobayashi Maru in the Neutral Zone?
Here’s a hint: This ain’t working out for you.
You fly into the Neutral Zone to save those civilians on that spaceship, you’re going to die saving them. If you don’t fly into the Neutral Zone, you’ve condemned those people to death at the hands of the Klingons.
You’re damned if you do. You’re damned if you don’t. And damned if this doesn’t bring me to the Brady Aiken debacle. This was a no-win scenario right in line with the Kobayashi Maru.
Setting The Scene
As the high school-college baseball seasons progressed Carlos Rodon’s stock dropped and Brady Aiken’s rose. Everyone said so. I’m not the expert, but the folks who are were high on Aiken. The Astros picked him. He came in for a physical … Kobayashi Maru.
So, I haven’t seen the medical reports or talked to the doctors, and neither have you. We’ll have to take the rumour and conjecture as fact.
The fact is, the Astros didn’t like Aiken’s ulnar collateral ligament. It’s too small. If it goes bad, it won’t repair right. Damn it, Chip, I’m a blogger not a doctor!
If the Astros spent $6.5 million on a bum elbow, that’s no win. If the Astros don’t sign him, they lose their 1-1 and another top pick. That’s another no-win situation.
Once Brady Aiken took that physical, the Astros had a no-win scenario. And guess what? They didn’t win.
But neither did Brady Aiken. His “advisor” Casey Close, he lost. Jacob Nix, loser. Jeff Luhnow and his front office, losers.
The Biggest Loser
OK, so I switched TV-Movie metaphors. But if you look at the players in this Shakespearean tragedy, everyone loses. It’s very Romeo and Juliet (they all die in the end) and very Hamlet (tragedy everywhere).
So let’s look at the players in this race and see who is the biggest loser, and who had the most blame in this mess.
This is an easy one. Nix lost $1.5 million, and he basically had no fault in this. His deal was contingent on Aiken signing. Aiken didn’t, and it took the money off the table for Nix. Bet they aren’t best friends anymore.
Brady Aiken and His Family
This is an 18-year-old kid, and I hate to put any blame on him. Allegedly, he’s got an elbow that’s begging to fail. But he handled this wrong. He had a soft offer for $6.5 million. He got a $3.1 million offer just so the Astros covered their bases. Then he got an offer for $5 million. And he’s got none of it. Worse, he’ll never get that kind of offer again. Why? Because every offer he gets will come with a physical. And I’m betting most teams will likely come to the same conclusion as the Astros.
Jeff Luhnow didn’t make this decision in a vacuum. He talked to doctors. He talked to experts. He ran it up the flagpole to Crane. And I’m sure they did a major risk analysis that told them, no. Not at $6.5 million.
By not signing, he screwed himself and his buddy Nix. But if he’d have just taken $5 million — a lot of money for an 18-year-old kid — then he’d be rich, have his guaranteed money no matter what happens to his elbow, and have his friend back.
Both Aiken and Nix are his “clients.” Say his advice was worth 10 percent. Then he missed $650,000 on Aiken and $150,000 on Nix. When was the last time you spent a year and a half or so advising some kids and their families only to get stiffed?
He gave his client, Aiken, horrible advice. I could understand being insulted by the 40 percent offer at $3.1 million, but the $5 million deal should have been signed. The ONLY way Aiken tops that is to be declared a free agent by MLB (unlikely) then get a huge offer after taking a physical (more unlikely). And if Aiken hurts his elbow before signing a deal, Close looks like the fool who told his client to play chicken with the Astros only to see him lose.
Jeff Luhnow and the Astros
Well, the old ball club is getting a lot of negative press. That’s bad, but by next May all anyone will talk about is how they have two top-five picks and a huge bonus pool.
They lost Aiken, but if they are right about his elbow, I don’t think they care. Besides, we’re talking about a draft pick in a sport where kids get selected high and, at best, are seen in two or three years.
And all this talk about how this will have a chilling effect on them signing free agents is hogwash. Do you really think some seven-year MLB veteran cares if the Astros didn’t sign a draft pick? If it’s me, all I care is if the money is right.
The argument that makes me laugh is the one about how it shows the Astros are penny-pinching tightwads. Really? I’m pretty sure they spent just about all their bonus pool in 2013 and 2012 under this regime. They came to long-term agreements with Altuve and Singleton. Heck, Singleton had never played a day above AAA and they gave him a lot more money than they had to.
So, here are my questions to ponder:
Who lost the most in this deal?
Who was most at fault?
Are the Astros a miserly bunch of bumbling idiots?
Or did they just run across a Kobayashi Maru?