Monday's Three Astros Things

Dilip Vishwanat

Talking about CSN Houston, Stan the Man and Earl and the Astros payroll...

Some things to talk about while we ponder a world where Rick Ankiel thinks (correctly) he can get plenty of playing time with the Astros...

1) CSN Houston in the news

We've gotten a flood of news on the new regional sports network that the Rockets and Astros get their games broadcast on. First, a report surfaced in the Houston Press citing anonymous sources saying that the Astros had blocked a possible deal to bring CSN Houston to the airwaves now.

Then, David Barron updated the situation in the Chronicle, inferring that the Press report was a "conspiracy theory" while getting quotes from all three principles saying that no deal was ever that close and they're still working on things. Barron also breaks down how many households are affected and shoots down another theory that Comcast is just trying to get people to switch cable services.

There has been all sorts of reaction, both on the web and on Twitter. All of the criticism is valid and I too am worried that the Astros will not be on TV once the season starts. That's a bad thing, but I think the Astros are looking at this negotiation like they do this baseball season. They're not overlooking the long-term outlook for short-term gains. If, as Jayne points out in this good critique, it's only a matter of 50 cents and that the Astros are asking for more than the Yankees get for YES, then sure, they should just cave and bring us Astros and Rockets games.

But, it's not that simple. This deal will likely hold up for something like 10 years once it's reached. After that, it'll be harder to negotiate deals and cause problems in the future. If the three entities behind CSN Houston get locked into a deal that may be middle of the road now, they'll be making far less by the end of the deal and probably lagging behind the rest of the league.

It's a bad situation, but until the negotiations actually scuttle games this year, I'm not going to panic or get upset. Just keep watching and waiting.

2) Stan the Man and Earl Weaver gone

Sad news this weekend as two baseball legends passed. Jeff Luhnow was pretty eloquent in talking about the legacy of Stan Musial in St. Louis here, but my favorite piece was from wgr56 on why we care.

We care (or should) because we are not casual fans. We care because we have awareness that baseball is bigger than the Astros, bigger than the city of Houston, and even bigger than the great state of Texas.

Even if we never saw Weaver throw a tantrum, never saw Musial rocket a double off the wall, we recognize them as colorful, tightly woven threads in the tapestry of baseball, a sport that honors its history and traditions like no other. Their two names — great names — are no longer part of our baseball present, only part of our baseball past.

Just a great read, so go check it out if you missed it this weekend.

3) Looking at the payroll again

Astros County has two more looks at the Houston payroll. The number they came up with was lower than my $29 million, and I think it was for two reasons. One, I accounted for the entire 40-man roster and for some of Wandy's deferred salary. Two, they assumed that most of the Astros roster would be first-year players making league minimum. I think there are plenty of second and third year players who will be making slightly more. It's not a big deal, but over the course of 25 or 30 players, it could add up.

Either way, it seems that Houston will likely be the lowest payroll in the league. AC then looks at what that means for winning percentages historically. It's not good.

I took it a little further and isolated the teams with payrolls under 25 mil. This left 8 teams with a average record of 79-82. Of these 8 teams only 3 have had winning seasons, with Oakland (2001) being the only team to win 90+ games.

So based strictly on payroll, is it possible for Houston to compete with a 23 million dollar payroll? Yes. Is it likely? No. Winning with a payroll under 40 mil is more the exception than the rule.

Tim's theory that Houston will not lose 100 games this year seems more and more optimistic each day. I hope it happens, but right now, the Astros are looking at their worst Opening Day outlook in quite a while.

But, hey, Rick Ankiel!

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