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Fans and national columnists alike have been very upset with this year's Astros team. Let's break down their arguments and see how valid they are.
After Jed Lowrie was shipped off to Oakland, a host of arguments seemed to spin up on the Astros, Nationally, columnist ripped the team for bottoming out on payroll and becoming an embarrassment to baseball. Locally, commenters here criticized the move for the way it seemingly gives away any possible competition this season.
There's also been arguments made about how the team is handling the media/broadcast outfits right now and one about how the farm system will save us all. I thought we'd break down all these arguments, weighing both sides and putting a number on how mad Astros fans should be about each one.
Feel free to make your own arguments or rebuttals in the comments.
The Payroll Is An Embarrasment
Yeah, when Felix Hernandez makes as much on his own as the entire Houston payroll, things are not going well. Everyone from Ken Rosenthal to Danny Knobler to, I don't know, Peter Gammons have ripped the Astros for what they've done to the payroll this season.
The question is: is it a valid criticism?
The cynical fans out there believe that Jim Crane is broke and doesn't have enough money to run a first-rate team. Thus, cost cuts across the board. No money for the business side, no money for long-term team employees and certainly no money for free agents.
This is going to be what the team is until Carlos Correa is up in the majors. Maybe longer.
There's a less cynical argument about the payroll that simply thinks the Astros could have spent a little more money, been a little more competitive while still having one of the worst records in baseball. This is the camp that thinks Houston could have traded Lowrie earlier in the winter, then signed a shortstop like Alex Gonzalez to fill his shoes.
It's silly to think that Houston's plan for its roster is an embarrassment to baseball. The Marlins essentially traded their entire team for a twinkie and it's Houston who's a joke? None of the free agents out there really would have fit into Houston's plans and the ones young enough to make a different never would have signed with a last-place team (see: Greinke, Zack).
As to the other, I'd have to support the idea that they could have spend a little bit on shortstop, right field and the bullpen to help this team out without hurting the rebuilding effort.
Reason to be upset: Reasonable
Rebuilding Will Never End
This is one that Steve Campbell has pushed on Twitter a time or two and some of you commenters have made before. The Astros are in dangerous territory right now. If something goes wrong with the current plan, they could easily end up just like the Pittsburgh Pirates, losing all the time and never ending in fan despair.
Teams that have torn everything down and hoped for the best later on don't come along often in MLB history. The only two in the past 30 years that I can think of who actually won eventually were the '91 Astros and the '03 Marlins.
The Marlins are not a bad example, as they tore everything down following the 1997 World Series to get good enough to win again in 2003. However, they did so by getting lucky on a few prospects like Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera.
The '91 Astros also tore everything down and started with a very young, inexperienced team. But, the big difference between those Astros and these Astros is that the drafting prior to 1991 was pretty good. Houston had a number of prospects and young big leaguers who could be plugged alongside the prospects like Curt Schilling and Jeff Bagwell.
This Astros team has neither the Marlins option of a World Series team's worth of players to sell off or a solid draft/development base with which to supplement a teardown. They had a fairly barren farm system with few top prospects along with no real star major leaguers to send off in trades for impact players.
That shouldn't dampen your spirit for the rebuild, but it does make the process more dependent on Jeff Luhnow's brilliance. So we're good.
Reason to be upset: Low right now, higher in a couple of years
Broadcast Media Choices Show The Astros Don't Care About The Fans
It starts with CSN Houston, which most fans don't get right now and everyone is worried that will bleed over into the regular season. George Postolos was pretty adamant with David Barron earlier this week about having a deal done by April 1, but that doesn't stop fans from seeing the end times and no Astros baseball on at all in 2013.
But, it goes deeper than that. Letting Jim DeShaies leave was a break with many fans, who see DeShaies as an integral part of the experience watching Astros games. Hiring Alan Ashby was a good compromise, but it won't heal the wounds from JD heading to Chicago.
Then, the radio team was unceremoniously dumped and no replacements have been found. John Royal has been all over this on Twitter and brought up a good point the other day. The front-runners right now appear to be Steve Sparks, Wayne Hagin on play-by-play with Robert Ford rounding out the team. Postolos alluded to a big move when the radio guys were not renewed, and none of those three seem like that bold move.
Oh, and the newest controversy is that Astros radio games are going from a 50,000 watt station on AM 740 to a 5,000 watt station on AM 790. That effectively cuts off wide swath of Astros fans who can no longer listen to games.
Most of this argument rounds back on Crane's new ownership group being cheap and cutting as many corners as it can on the business side. They're not willing to do a deal like the Dodgers with DirecTV to get the channel on the air now and they're more worried about money made than the fans they're losing.
I'm torn on this one. The TV side of things is complicated, and I've argued before that the Astros are right to hold out for a better price point before getting locked into a sub-average deal for the next 25 years. If they strike a deal before April 1, all this hand-wringing will be for naught (at least for Astros fans...sorry Rocketeers.) JD leaving was also a good move for him and is a step up in national prominence, so you can't really fault him for that.
Some of the moves do look to be cost-saving, though, and until the team shows fans otherwise, they have to be worried about the direction of the non-baseball operations.
Reason to be upset: High