PORT ARTHUR —
Rebuilding is no fun.
Building is fun, sure. But, rebuilding? It can be like watching grass grow. Or paint to dry. Or another opposing team’s home run to leave the park with a Houston pitcher on the mound.
Since 2007, at least, there has been a section of the Astros fanbase that has called for a complete rebuild. Trade away players, pick up young guys and get a few high draft picks. That’s what Tampa Bay did and look how good they are now.
Then-owner Drayton McLane was having none of it, though, and did all sorts of things that he thought would turn his team into a champion. He signed old players, gave out a huge contract to Carlos Lee and finally brought Miguel Tejada to town. Trouble was, it wasn’t enough.
Drayton didn’t want to go through a rebuild. He wanted to maintain.
New owner Jim Crane is okay with a rebuild, but Houston fans (all 10 of you) are finding out why it’s such a tough road to take.
Building is fun. People who call for a rebuild do it because they know how cool it can be to see a team of precocious young ballplayers figuring it out together. Just thinking about seeing powerful young slugger Jonathan Singleton in Houston can give you goosebumps. How about seeing a multi-talented star-in-the-making like George Springer hitting homers, stealing bases and playing great defense in the outfield?
That’s all fun and something a fan can look forward to.
The problem is, any building has to happen after a teardown. The first part of a rebuild is usually about demolition. There are no half-measures here. You either go all-in or go home 19 straight years like the Pirates have.
For weeks now, new Houston GM Jeff Luhnow has been completing the teardown of Houston’s roster that started two years ago. That’s when Ed Wade started the effort by trading away Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. He then followed it up by flipping Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn.
Luhnow, for his part, simply gutted the roster of the leftovers. Can you guess who the longest tenured Astro is now? We’ll accept either Bud Norris or Wesley Wright.
Since trading away Carlos Lee on July 4, Houston seemingly hasn’t won another game. With the big Toronto deal and by sending Wandy to the Pirates, things have gotten much more Triple-A in the Astros clubhouse. There’s just not a lot of talent left on this roster.
This is the bottom for Houston fans. A 2-21 record in July through Friday’s game, compounded by being outscored by over 60 runs in the past month. There is no quick fix to this team. Brett Wallace cannot turn this team around even if he hits like Glenn Davis incarnate.
If you’re looking for a reason why Drayton may not have signed off on a rebuild, look right there. The brand of baseball in Houston right now isn’t very good and doesn’t look to improve quickly any time soon. Attendance is down, but interest in the team online seems to be strong. Look on Twitter during games, and there are plenty of Astros fans tweeting. They’re just usually tweeting something funny about this woeful bunch.
Yes, there are bright spots, but two of them are sitting on the disabled list. Injuries to both Jed Lowrie and Jason Castro couldn’t have come at a worse time. The offense they were providing, even with Lowrie slumping since the first of June, was pivotal in this lineup. Now? Chris Johnson has to do superhuman things just for Houston to score runs.
The organization is changing, though, and changing for the better. Luhnow may not have gotten A-level prospects on par with the Bryce Harpers or Mike Trouts of the world. But, he added a ton of quality young arms. If you have read any Bill James or Baseball Prospectus, you’ll be familiar with the term TINSTAAPP.
It translates to There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, and was thought up because of the terribly high attrition rate on young pitchers. Remember the Braves four stud pitchers that they wouldn’t include in the Bourn deal last summer? Three of them are hurt, which led to Atlanta almost trading the other one to Chicago in that failed Ryan Dempster deal.
Pitchers get hurt, which is why Luhnow took a chance on quantity over quality. He didn’t reach for one great pitcher, he got a bunch of good ones in the hopes that more than one might hit it big.
Luhnow is looking to the future. He’s building this team from the ground up, but he had to tear down the ramshackle thing that was in its place first. It hasn’t been a terribly entertaining process, but it was necessary.
Now, we’re all one step closer to getting to the good part. Until then, take comfort in watching Jose Altuve play or Jordan Lyles pitch. It may be the only silver lining Houston fans see for a while.
David Coleman is a sports writer for the Port Arthur News. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.
PORT ARTHUR —
Rebuilding is no fun.
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