Some things to talk about while we start staying up later to watch the Astros....
1) Drinking and sports
Stepping outside the specific Astros-sphere for a minute, I wanted to call to light this longform piece over at the .com, where Richard Brodsky writes about the culture of beer drinking and sports. Houston fans haven't had many ugly incidents with alcohol, but one of my first memories of an Astros game in the Dome involves a man being drug off by security. He was passed out and they were carrying him by the arms. At the time, I thought he had gotten hit in the head with a baseball, but looking back on it, he was clearly just blackout drunk.
Maybe. Could have gotten hit with a baseball, I guess.
Still, I'm not sure I've ever felt like the Astros had a huge problem with drinking at games. Since I've been an adult and attending games, I can't remember seeing very much obnoxious behavior or seeing too many people being over-served. There's obviously a long, deep connection between baseball and beer drinking, but I'm not sure it's a connection that is strongest in Houston.
Which is why I wanted to bring it up here. Do you think alcohol consumption at Astros games is a problem? Should Houston sell seats that are "alcohol-free" or do you think that the high cost of beer and other spirits is a self-limiter? In Houston, is this a mole hill or a mountain?
2) Lowrie discussed with A's
As Jordan Sams points out in this FanPost, MLB Trade Rumors had a story last night about the A's and Astros discussing Jed Lowrie. According to Susan Slusser, those discussions included first baseman/DH Chris Carter and a young pitcher.
Carter has been traded twice already in his career, going from the ChiSox to Arizona and then from the D'Backs to the A's. He's never made much contact in the majors, but has great power potential and a good batting eye. Assuming the trade would have gone down around the Winter Meetings, Houston probably would have ended up with no Carlos Pena and a young option at DH next year to pair with Freiman.
It's an interesting trade, and speaks to Lowrie's value right now. I'm sure most of Lowrie's defenders would think that's a pitiably small offer for guy who could be an elite hitting shortstop, but I'm sure there are those who are less impressed with Lowrie who would think that perfectly reasonable.
For what it's worth, Lowrie is in the Best Shape of His Life, so maybe he puts it together this year? Could he pull an A-Rod and win MVP? Can I finish a Three Things section with a more ridiculous question? No, that one takes the (frozen) cake.
3) Braves trade for Upton
And in other MLB news, the Atlanta Braves just took Justin Upton off the market, teaming him up with Bossman and Jason Heyward in a fascinating outfield. The price, however was steep. Atlanta sent Martin Prado, a starter in left field and a utility infielder, along with Randall Delgado, only one the best pitching prospect in the game heading into last season to Arizona. In addition to that, the D'Backs got prospects like shortstop Nick Ahmed, right-hander Zeke Spruill and first baseman Brandon Drury.
Heading to Atlanta is also former Astros third baseman Chris Johnson, who should get another shot at a starting job with the Bravos. Considering he ended last season hitting pretty well, there's some hope that CJ will turn into a decent player, giving Atlanta an excellent chance of catching the Nationals for the division crown in 2013.
Since the Astros aren't in the NL anymore, it doesn't matter a ton to us, but I got to wondering what a comparative trade from Houston's perspective would have taken. As I've advocated for Upton on a number of occasions for any price, what would that price tag look like?
Well, let's sub in Jordan Lyles for Delgado. Lyles has more MLB experience, but Delgado has better big league results. For Martin Prado, Houston's closest match would probably be Jed Lowrie, who would slide over to third for the D'Backs.
As for the prospects, Jonathan Villar fits for Ahmed (not perfectly, but a reasonable stand-in), maybe Wojo or, more likely, Joe Musgrove for Spruill. And, for Drury, it'd have to be a Marc Krauss or Bobby Borchering, both of whom were just in Arizona.
That's a ton of depth going out the window for one guy. Add in the contributions of Lowrie and Lyles to the 2013 Astros going away and the addition of Upton would be a wash. It may work out in three or four years, but with that much talent drain, there's no guarantee the players would be there to support him and lead the next contender.
For the Braves, though, upgrading from Bourn and Prado to Upton and Upton means significant, if smaller, marginal gains. A good team can afford to make these swaps, because it could turn them into a special team.
What was your reaction to the trade? Was the price what you were expecting for Upton? Do you think the Seattle deal would have been better? Am I really asking more questions in this post? Yes, yes I am. It's a sickness...