After one recent list named Pedro Feliz as the worst player in baseball this season, Joe Posnanski lays this on us.
Not only does he come to the conclusion that Carlos Lee is the worst player in baseball right now. Here's the money quote:
It wasn’t hard to predict because Lee was, at his best, a one-dimensional player. He was a terrible base runner — he has scored minus-28, minus-15, minus-36 and, this year, minus-15 bases in his Houston years. He was a below-average outfielder. He never did walk enough to sustain his on-base percentage. What Carlos Lee could do was swat 30 or so homers a year with good enough batting averages to put up 100-plus RBIs a year. Well, it’s no secret that players like that do not age well.
it was, however, a secret to Drayton McLane and Tim Purpura. Those two teamed up to give this one-dimensional player a 100 million dollar contract that left him as the albatross around the Astros necks. He's the one player they'd have most liked to move at the deadline and the one with the lowest possible chance.
What I wanted to talk about quickly is how three Astros players can crop up on this list.
First, it's not all Purpura's fault. He only had a hand in the Carlos Lee deal. It was Ed Wade who added Miguel Tejada and Pedro Feliz, also players honored as LVP candidates by Pos and others. Wade banked on each of them being vital members of the team and did not get the return he needed. Sure, Tejada was good offensively, but he wasn't great. He didn't hit many home runs, he struggled mightily defensively and hit into a ton of double plays. Feliz had many of the same problems, if you'll notice.
So where's the problem occurring here? Why did these three scouting reports miss so badly? I find it hard to believe the Astros couldn't see the effects of aging on these guys or have some contingency for diminished ability. Heck, Drayton was the first to see that with pitchers after the Greg Swindell/Doug Drabek signings. That's why he famously wouldn't give Randy Johnson a fourth year on his contract.
I also don't entirely buy that it was Drayton's call alone on the Lee and Tejada deals. I know that's what Richard Justice has said on multiple occasions regarding Lee, but I don't see it. He might have had a hand in the contract negotiations, but he's not telling his baseball people who to get. He's a good enough manager to understand that.
If he's not, and he was more involved, we've got more problems than Ed Wade can overcome.
The larger point is to ask if the Astros have a problem predicting how a player will age. Teams are bad at this, but for the past four years, Houston has made multiple bad deals where a player suddenly is much worse after signing his contract. I'm sure Posnanski didn't mention Woody Williams because he's currently in a retirement home. Is this something that they need to improve in their scouting reports? Is this the most glaring case where the team could benefit from someone with a more saberist bent in the front office?
We're obviously dealing with a small sample size, but I'm struck with how these three moves have adversely affected the team. It takes plenty of work to become one of the worst teams in baseball. These kinds of moves explain the how.