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An open letter to the readers of The Crawfish Boxes

An open letter to the readers of The Crawfish Boxes

The Astros have not started 2014 very well.  The fans are frustrated, and it shows.  In the two-and-a-half years that I have been writing for The Crawfish Boxes, never have I seen the type of venom and antipathy in the comments sections as I do now.  Disparaging the front office.  Disparaging the on-field management.  Disparaging the writers of TCB, my esteemed colleagues who deliver volumes of daily Astros content to you without any sort of compensation from SB Nation or anybody else.  Disparaging other commenters.

That frustration is shared by the writers, who exchange around 200 emails a day (seriously) behind-the-scenes discussing every topic imaginable - only a bare few of which reach TCB's home page.  We speculate on many topics.  Has all the defensive shifting and data overload overwhelmed this young team?  Is the rebuild working?  Was signing a particular player a mistake?  Or was it genius?  Are we about to give up on the team?  Believe it or not, TCB has already lost a couple writers who have felt either let down or fed up by the Astros and their apparent lack of progress into respectability.

If you sense my frustration in some of my comments, which some of you surely have, I wish to take this opportunity to explain my viewpoint.  If you wish to do the same, I encourage you to write a fanpost about your own fandom and your perspective, as Trips and I did once.  It was very helpful in me understanding him, and I feel that he understands my viewpoint better as well.

About me.  I get extremely frustrated when I am taken to task for defending the Astros' front office.  Despite rumors to the contrary, it is not because I am a goose-stepping automaton marching in a legion of drones brainwashed by the spreadsheets of the decision sciences department.  I was critical of the Jerome Williams signing.

Just to show you I’m not a crazy Luhnow bandwagon follower guy….I don’t like this signing. There, I said it.

I was critical of the 2014 draft, and was an advocate of drafting Kris Bryant, who is tearing up the minors right now.

The Astros don't have a bat like this anywhere in the minors

If I wasn't angry about Carlos Pena or Rick Ankiel at the time of their signings, or if I wasn't livid over Jesus Guzman...well, that's because I recognized those as inconsequential moves.  I also recognize that every front office makes moves that don't turn out well, and often.

But this isn't about me being right, wrong, or indifferent.  This is about my perspective.

See, everybody is entitled to their opinions, and mine might differ from yours.  For example, I believe that two seasons is way too quickly to judge a baseball front office, one way or another.  I come to that opinion for simple reasons.  It takes 3+ years to develop a college player into a major leaguer.  It takes 5+ years to develop a High School player into a major leaguer.  It takes more than one or two draft classes and offseasons to build a respectable team, because of the scarcity of quality players available.  Through no fault of any front office, players get injured.  Or they bust.  Or they get suspended for drugs.  Or they don't choose to come play for a losing team even though a contending team offers them less money. I point to the fact that we are only just now able to begin evaluating Ed Wade's tenure as GM of the Astros, and he was fired almost three years ago.  We have Castro, and Wallace, and the myriad of not-so-great free agents that Wade acquired.  But we only just begin to see Villar, Springer, Cosart, and Oberholtzer.  Frankly, the jury is still out on a guy who was hired in 2007 and fired in 2011.  So how can I make a black-or-white statement about a GM who was just hired in 2011?  That is where my opinion comes from.  If yours differs, that's okay, as long as we are respectful of one another.

That's just one example.  I've made no secret of what a disaster I think the franchise was in prior to its sale.  I've derided the state of the farm system, in a time where the most successful clubs have built from within, and then supplemented with free agents and trades.  I cautiously liked the Feldman signing, though it still has a potential to not work out.  I extolled Dallas Keuchel last year before his breakout.  I defended J.D. Martinez before his trade.  I wanted Scott Kazmir.  But I also wanted Ubaldo Jimenz.  I also defended Brett Wallace.  And Carlos Pena.  And Angel Sanchez (not really).  I've been proven right, I've been proven wrong.  Doesn't bother me...I don't require that I be right all the time.

As I've written before, I take a long view approach to a lot of things in life.  Part of that is just the way I'm wired and part of that is by training and experience in my profession.  I fully understand that, like a lot of engineers, I can be annoying dispassionate, rationalizing, and almost Vulcan in my attempt to apply logic to every problem.  I also, coming from a family of musicians and being a musician myself, fully understand that many people are not like me.

Do you think this front office has failed after three years?  Fine with me, but I may respond and try to convince you otherwise.  Do you think it's time to give up on Chris Carter?  I get that, I really do.  But I may present a differing viewpoint to try to explain why I think that might be premature.  And you might be right!  I might be wrong!  I don't care, it's just conversation.

The problem is that most of us (and I include myself in this) are letting our frustration spill over into the TCB community, and I don't think that's okay.  The frustration shows in David's sarcastic post about "Losenow", in which an alarming number of commenters ignored his satire and pointed out that they agreed with his most intentionally-inflammatory statements.  The frustration shows in my snap reactions to being called a front office suck-up.  It shows in commenters complaining that the front office ignores the fans, despite that one member of the front office answers your questions on a daily basis here in the message board.  It shows in every email I get from Tim, Sean, and others writers who are close to their breaking point.

Why, just the other day, I only half-jokingly told Anthony on GChat, "You know, I'm really close to saying, 'screw it, I'm going back to being a Reds fan.'"  I'm sure he feels the same at times, but we both agree we're too invested in this club and its "process" to give up now.  We made it this far, darn it.  We want to see how the movie ends.

Ladies and germs, please don't let the visceral agony of watching the Astros pee in the pool of community we've all tried to build here with your participation.  We all need to take a step back and realize that we have allowed our passion for the sport dictate our reactions towards our friends.  Understand that when you are answering with sarcasm, the person who wrote the comment above you may feel that you are mocking them or being condescending.  Yeah, your reaction is due to the Astros, but don't take it out on the people here.  We're all career folk and students and parents and children and Astros fans, just like you are.  Try to remember that.

With that said, I'd like to remind everybody (including myself and the writers) of how we try to run things around here.  This is doubly important during this incredibly frustrating time to be an Astros fan.

  1. We do welcome opinions contrary to our own.  That's what drives discussion, which is what we want.
  2. We do not tolerate rudeness.  This may include:  blatant name-calling, passive-aggressive mockery, putting words in other people's mouths just to win an argument, or excessive profanity.
  3. We only rarely feel compelled to ban a commenter, and we always discuss it in detail beforehand with each other.  When we do ban somebody, it is only after several warnings sent through official channels (SB Nation has a back-end widget to do this).  We do not do it in the comments section, so you never know if we have begged and pleaded with somebody before banning them.  Assume that we have.  In my two-and-a-half years, we have only banned two people that I am aware of.
  4. If you feel one of the writers has been rude to you or to another commenter, we encourage you to email us.  Our email addresses and other contact information are freely available in the Masthead link of the site, at the bottom.

Thanks!  And I welcome an explanation of your own perspective in the comments below, or in a separate fanpost.


P.S.  This post was not directed at anybody in particular.  It reflects my frustration with what I see happening in the TCB boards, on both sides of all arguments.