Three myths about the Astros

Everyone has an opinion about a team that loses 100 games for three straight seasons. Some of those opinions are based in frustration. Others are founded in rumors or lack of information. Still, some are based in truth — or at least some truth.

For the Astros, frustration, rumors and “at least some truth” abounds and will continue to abound for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, here are three myths. Myths, at least from where we stand in September 2013.

Jim Crane will not spend money.

  • Phooey! No one knows that. He’s said even recently that the Astros payroll would be in the top 5 or 10 teams in MLB. Do you know of any facts that will refute that? Is there something in his track record that indicates he won’t invest in his product? I look at the recent signing of Jose Altuve as not only a good faith down payment, but also a good business decision. Over the past couple of years, the Astros have invested more in the minor league system than at any other time in their history. You don’t add the roof to a house before you pour the foundation. Yes, you can point to the meager signings this season (Carlos Pena, Rick Ankiel et al) but hanging your hat on those decisions alone are short-sighted. Crane and Jeff Luhnow will spend the money. In due time. Honestly, I don’t ever see the Astros as a top 5 team in payroll, but top half would be nice eventually. As an example, Washington is #10 this season at $116 million.

The Astros don’t have any good players.

  • Poppycock! Are there any stars in the bunch? Now, that’s still debatable. But there are some good players in the bunch. It’s easy to tear apart players like Altuve or Jason Castro when they’re the “best” players on a poor team. Though they are All Stars, they may not be stars on an Astros’ team in 2016. Still, they could be strong, regular contributors. Imagine Altuve in the 9-hole or Castro hitting sixth. Right now, Bo Porter has no choice but to plug them in key roles (e.g. 3-hole, cleanup) because that’s all he’s got. Brett Oberholtzer, Jarred Cosart, even Jordan Lyles may not eventually be impact players, but they’ve already proven they can contribute at this level. On a good team, you have to wonder if players like Matt Dominguez, Brandon Barnes or Robbie Grossman might improve. It’s a myth the Astros don’t have good players. Do those players make a good team? Now that’s another subject.

Luhnow is a great GM, Luhnow is a horrible GM.

  • Balderdash! You don’t know yet. Yes, there are some remarkable moves and, indeed, there have been some faux pas along the way. You can tell where a man is going by looking to see where he has been. Luhnow’s track record is quite extraordinary and even the commitment to developing talent in Houston has been striking. If George Springer, Jonathan Singleton or any of the others currently in incubation turn out to be nearly as good as Cosart or Oberholtzer, the Astros will be in good hands for years to come. No, Luhnow may not have drafted or traded for all of these players, but he and his team have been key in their development. If fans had their way, Cosart would have been in the rotation out of spring training and Springer would have be in center field in May or June. His track record may portend greatness, but the product on the field in Houston (not OKC, Corpus Christi or some other foreign field) will tell the tale. As I’ve suggested often, look at what the man was given to work with. It’s hard to make lemonade when you don’t even have the lemons at your disposal.

Crane may be PR-challenged, but he’s not stupid

There are many lines of discussion for the Astros these days, but one of the hottest and long-lasting topics of the year is the commitment of owner Jim Crane to build a winner.  Here are some Monday thoughts on that subject and others.

Jim Crane.

  • Not a fan. There’s been much written, much said about Jim Crane. While he has made many mistakes along the way, most of those have been on the public relations front. Where it concerns the on-the-field product, the ship is headed in the right direction. We may never know the real story about the Astros’ move to the American League. Did Crane have any input? Was it the only way MLB would approve the sale? That’s really irrelevant, since it is what it is. The important question is: Has Crane laid the proper framework to return the organization to respectability and contention. There’s still an incomplete grade on that one, too. But there’s plenty — yes, plenty — of evidence that indicates he’s committed. We’ll know more in 2015.

The attitude.

  • What’s up with the attitudes? First, it’s Bud Norris. Now, it’s Lucas Harrell. Is it the first chink in the armor as the team strides headlong toward another 100-loss season? Will others follow? For most of the season, Bo Porter seems to have had the clubhouse in order. Harrell may be in the doghouse, but it’s unlikely the Astros will be able to trade him now. At this point in the season, he’s also too valuable to release outright, but the Astros have certainly provided him some quality time to think about his future with the club.

The rotation.

  • With Harrell already headed to the bullpen, the Astros’ rotation could be in for a shakeup after the break. Remember, last year, Jeff Luhnow traded Carlos Lee the week before the All Star Game. Now that the Ricky Nolasco domino has fallen, Norris is one of the leading pitchers on the trade front. That could force Porter’s hand, either by naming a current reliever as starter (Brett Oberholzter?) or could bring on the promotion of Jarred Cosart. Few fans would object to the latter.

Either way, here’s predicting that Jordan Lyles leads the Astros out of the gate in the second half.

Here’s your Monday kick-starter questions:

  • Is it time for a roster shakeup?
  • If answer to first question is “yes”, then who should go?
  • Are Norris and Harrell correct in saying the shifts Porter uses are hurting the team?
  • How would you rank the rotation (1 through 5) out of the All Star break?
  • If Carlos Pena is such a steadying influence in the clubhouse, what are the odds the Astros will trade him this month? Should they?

Welcome to Chipalatta!