Random Astros Thoughts: The Farm and Peter Gammons

I have read so many thought-provoking articles today, that I literally can't even start my own. I have effectively given myself writer's block just by reading and thinking about other incisive work. Where can I go? How can I build on what Peter Gammons laid out in his column? I don't have GM contacts to bounce this stuff off of. How can I effectively discuss this takedown of WAR with respect to relievers? I don't have the statistical chops to support or refute. I'm a liberal arts major, for gosh sakes! How can I even respond to this article by Sky Andrecheck about the predictive value of Baseball America's rankings? Not only did I attempt to do the same thing (but poorly), the entire thrust of my discussion tangent would have been why do we take the BA rankings as gospel. Andrecheck basically answered that question by the end of his piece.

The offseason is tough, sometimes, people. You have to write about this game and this team that doesn't do ANYTHING interesting for weeks. Sure, they sign some arb-eligible guys and the owner tries to sell the team. Sometimes, they make a trade. Other times, they get a draft pick for doing nothing (except offering arb). But, mostly, our time is spent pondering that ever-present quote from Rogers Hornsby and I am left struggling to say anything insightful.

It's tough being a blogger.

See, if I were to say how great an idea it could be to form an independant medical board that players and teams could go to for diagnoses, well, isn't that the same thing Gammons dropped casually in his article? What can I say to support that? Same for his bombshell that some doctors actually pay teams so they can offer their services to players. That kind of exposure is great, I'm sure, but Gammons also beat me to the punch on it. Think about the money Dr. James Andrews has made just from being mentioned every time someone has a knee or a shoulder injury. That's free publicity. Do you think some doctors are going to be willing to serve on a board where they lose that pub? I can't even justify the ideas I think are solid.

And sure, I could point out that simply moving a team to a better, more friendly location (see: Braves, Boston; Braves, Milwaukee; Senators, Washington; Senators, Washing-you get the idea). Of course, Craig Calcaterra beat me to it. Fans rail against team movement as taking something away from the sport, but it's not any different than a company shutting down a failing plant an opening another, more modern one in a new town. Sure, the people will be angry that their old plant shut down, but didn't they create a ton of new jobs with the new plant? The hardest thing for me to do is to stop thinking like a fan about pro teams and start thinking of them as a business. That's not ground-shaking analysis either, people. Teams are always threatening to move, but as Gammons points out, the smart teams are able to make it work. Do you realize Green Bay has supported a professional football team for, like, 70 years? Green Bay! How can you blame an entity for admitting their mistake and moving a team to a more appreciative city. You can't tell me that the Tampa Bay Rays wouldn't make more money playing in Oklahoma City. Look at how embraced the basketball team has been.

I'd like to believe these owners that they are put in difficult situations and their money is stretched thin. Be sad for these poor millionaires. Then I see this article about the umpire's union rolling over immediately with their new labor agreement and this one about the gap between the minors and the majors. We're supposed to feel sorry for them? How can they even justify giving major leaguers nearly 90 dollars a day in food budget, even after they pay for hotels on the road, set up a post-game buffet, fly them wherever they are going AND pay them millions of dollars? Sheesh. At some point, the money we talk about with sports economics just gets ridiculous.

But, I'm basically just providing examples of other people's arguments again. What can I do? Should I make a snarky comment about the first Astros-related "he's in the best shape of his life' comment from Alyson Footer? Have you seen Twitter lately? I'd be the 50th person today to do that. It's hackneyed by now. It does make me feel better about his production this season, but talk to me in August. If he's still in good shape and holding up, I'll remember that Footer story as genius.

Same for the article about reliver valuation. Many of you on this site have said the exact same thing many, many times. It gets brought up here more often since the Astros were one of the team that 'over-valued' a reliever this winter with the Lyon signing. They were repeatedly kicked for it, but  aren't we arguing in a circle here? First, people said relievers were overrated and used stats to back it up. Then, they changed that and said they were valuable, creating stats to back THAT up. Then, things like WAR attempted to provide a clear snapshot of every players' relative value, which then devalued relievers. Now, this story about why that shouldn't be the case. If you get away from the statistics, it makes sense right? Relievers finish games. The point of baseball is to be ahead at the end of the game. Thus, relievers play a role in either keeping their team in the lead or close to the lead when there is little time left to make up a difference. That seems important, right? Of course, people are working on properly valuing all this, because everyone understands this. I basically just stole the same argument as all the 'old-school' reporters who hate OBP. I officially am out of original thoughts.

Before I go, though, I do want to talk about something I haven't seen anywhere else today (at least in regards to the Astros). Calcaterra brings this up in relation to the Giants catching situation and how they are handling Buster Posey. It's no secret that people have compared Posey to Astros prospect Jason Castro. It's not necessarily their profile as a player that's so similar, it's how the teams have used them. Posey was run through a very long season at catcher and tired near the end. The Giants may justify this because Posey wasn't a catcher in college and needs the time behind the plate. Castro also had a similarly long season, but he did play catcher in college. He had a (slight) edge in experience since he spent a year at Stanford wearing the tools of ignorance. Why did the Astros choose to play him so much in 2009? With the only prospective catchers on the roster were a guy that spent a good chunk of time on the Triple-A disabled list and a 30-year old who has 589 plate appearances in seven big league seasons, why risk a guy who could be your starting catcher in 2010?

I have heard nothing from the organization about whether Castro is 'run-down' or if he is ready to play in the majors (except Wade's statement that he'll get a shot in spring training), but isn't it a risk to play a guy that much for no reason? Oh wait, we already made that point back in November. It seems this column just got more redundant.

Tomorrow is another day, however, when I'll try to give you some actual, original analysis on a couple of relievers. Until then, go read someone more interesting.

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