All Things Astros and a whole lot more
I’m still a Jeff Luhnow fan. His resume as the Astros’ general manager is replete with success stories. Yes, sure, just as with any leader in an organization, you can point to weak spots or failures. Overall, though, Luhnow has guided the Astros to the best record in the American League. He has used every tool in his belt — including an open check book from the owner — to navigate the hazardous stream to the top. Yes, it took him several managers, a few dozen trades, countless minor-league signings, some high draft picks and even a few radio and TV teams, but today, the Astros are one of the best organizations in all of baseball.
No one can argue otherwise. No one can take that away.
While the focus is on the short-term goal of a World Series championship, Luhnow also has the same focus — and responsibility — for the long-term. Continued, stable, steady, repeatable performance, year-in, year-0ut. Quite frankly, it’s one reason he may not have wanted to mortgage the future. And, honestly, he does have the roster here to win it all. Now, if that roster isn’t healthy, we have another story of course.
But let’s look forward just a bit and past 2017. Yes, yes, the story line can change. If the Astros falter down the stretch, lose the division, get kicked out of the playoffs in the first round, can’t recover, have more injuries, can’t pull off a big trade this month, players revolt, then Luhnow may be more than just on the hot seat. But Jim Crane has been on one crazy roller coaster ride for several years now and my guess is that he’s committed to Luhnow and The Plan for the rest of the decade at least.
But Luhnow has a bigger problem than winning the World Series in 2017. He has a bigger challenge than pulling off a trade in mid-season. He has a bigger mountain to climb in 2018, 2019, 2020 and beyond.
It’s much easier to get to the top than to stay on top. Just ask the Giants, Mets and Royals, all World Series participants in the last three years. Brief stops at the top aren’t the long-term goal. Sure, everyone wants to get to the pinnacle and in baseball, the World Series is the pinnacle. But many “in the business” are striving to produce a winning product year-in and year-out. That means a steady hand at the helm and a delicate balancing act. By my judgement, that’s some of what we have seen this summer. The delicate balancing act, that is.
The big trades and the names that we know about were too much to give up. And, in the case of the Orioles, they apparently nixed trades because of some so-called health issues in certain Houston players. Otherwise, Zach Britton may have been in the fold by now.
And, you can bet that Luhnow was looking at 2018, 2019, 2020 and beyond and just got queasy.
Do you mortgage those years from one shot at winning it all? Do you give up three top picks like the Yankees to pick up a pitcher you can argue may not be a top-of-rotation guy? Do you dig into the stash or a minor league system you have built so intricately over the years to solidify an already-best record in the AL? Or do you try to mitigate the injury damage by putting your finger in the dam, praying, crossing the fingers on the other hand and holding your breath?
Here are some thoughts of what Luhnow may be looking at in 2018, 2019, 2020 and beyond.
The threat of a $200 million payroll.
Depleting a farm system.
He knows his weaknesses.
Just a few thoughts to whet the conversation appetite on this Tuesday. I’m sure you have some thoughts. Stay clean. Keep it above-board. And let’s have some fun out there.