A common thread I have noticed when I talk about the Astros lately has revolved around armchair managing (or armchair front office-ing). Those are not bad things. In fact, they are part of a long time tradition in sports fandom. It brings new ideas out that we may not have considered before. All the comments on TCB giving each persons take on lineups or possible trades are always interesting, even if they are sometimes a little wacky. At times the ideas are good, other times they are bad, and most of the time they start a totally civilized internet conversation.
A common example of this over time has been the Backup Quarterback Effect. Being a lifelong resident of Texas, home of football myopia, this example is the most ingrained in my mind. Whenever the starting QB runs into hard times the conversation naturally turns to "why don't we bring in the backup" and "we know the starter is bad, the backup couldn't be any worse". So why is the grass always greener with some other player on the field?
There has been a lot of this type of discussion involving the Astros. A big reason is the fact that the team matters more, both because they are a better product and because people can watch them. It seems more pronounced this season, so I did a totally unscientific survey (yeah...I just talked to my friends and coworkers) to see why they think this is the case. This post is totally opinion. Some, all or none of it may be correct. If you have any other ideas feel free to chime in.
The Revolving Door of 2011-2014
In case you needed a reminder, the Astros were not very good for a few seasons. Once the Luhnow process was fully implemented the team was a mix of hit-or-miss current prospects, former prospects, free agents, etc. It was easy when someone was playing poorly to just replace them. Then when that player was performing poorly, bring back the first guy (or go find someone else). There seemed to be a permanent shuttle between Will Rogers Airport and IAH. A lot of casual fans (and some more hardcore fans) got used to the fact that if someone was not doing the job, just send them to OKC until someone else wasn't doing the job...then they suddenly looked like the better option.
The 2015 Season Has Spoiled Us
I see this more when folks are talking about prospects. The main thing to remember is prospects will break your heart. Whether it is ineffectiveness or injury, not all of them will make it as everyday players. Yet that hasn't been the case this season here in Houston. Let's look at the rookies that have been called up this season. Lance McCullers looks like a future top of the rotation starter. Vincent Velaquez is in the same zip code as McCullers. Preston Tucker has become an everyday starter type. And who can say enough about Carlos Correa? In other words, none of the rookies have stumbled in a big way. This makes it easier to quickly say CALLAMUP! when someone struggles.
Not all of them will be that way in the future, and if they are we will have had the most amazing run of player development in the history of ever. This is what fuels all the "Call A.J. Reed up to play first base this weekend" talk. Now A.J. may end up being a great player, but how many guys can come up straight from Double-A and be starters on one team before one of them has a huge learning curve? Every good looking prospect is not necessarily a better option than the player already here, regardless of our bounty this season.
Lots of Deserving Players Already On The Roster
As I write this, the Astros are playing the Rays. I can guarantee there is someone right now making a comment about how if Jake Marisnick was in center instead of Carlos Gomez we would be out of that first inning without giving up four runs. The good part about this is it shows that in 2015 we have a lot of actual major league caliber players on the roster.
Each one of the Astros players has their pros and cons. Gomez has a better history of hitting than Marisnick, but Jake may be a better fielder. If one was in the game, there would be a group of fans somewhere arguing the other should be. It's not just in the outfield. Try first base...or third base...or catcher...or the bullpen...or anywhere but shortstop or second base.
Unless you bring Tony Kemp into the conversation. He makes Altuve totally expendable.