Hey Fool! Got No Time For The Trade Jibba Jabba
After their glorious 2015 launch into orbit, the Astros have been forced back to Earth by the reality of the game. Baseball champions do not suddenly splash onto the diamond; they are born from the hard labor of grinding out the season. There are ups and there are downs. True champions are seasoned by the downs and grit their teeth and bust ass to get back to the ups. It’s baseball, man.
I wrote of space aliens pulling me into the vortex of hope; I ain’t going anywhere because of a few disappointing regular season series. I’m settling in just like the teams in the league. The Texas Rangers are rising, as are the Angels. The chaff is sifting to the bottom. Check out Bud Selig’s lousy Brewers setting up housekeeping in the cellar (author pauses for a moment of hateful yet satisfying reflection). And so it goes with Houston; we dropped seven in a row on the road. It happens. We fell back, re-grouped and returned home to spank the Mariners with a double digit shut out. Even in the midst of a seven game losing streak there were bright spots. Fresh arm Vincent Velasquez took the mound in Chicago brandishing a fastball with movement capable of baffling the best of hitters. Two words: Carlos Correa. I’m good to go, man; let’s let the boys in orange grind it out.
However, there are others who would fall back on Houston’s historic and tragic M.O. In seasons past when we looked like contenders, management would seek out playoff insurance, cashing in young talent for a free agent. In each case, it was new superstar at the end of his contract who would never sign a long-term deal within the tight boundaries of Houston’s budget or some aging franchise player. Neither would ever solidify the team’s future. The ghosts of that ill-advised past are whispering silliness again. Trade a few young ones like Preston Tucker for Cole Hamels, they bray. “We need to upgrade with veteran arm on the mound; that will push us over the top.” Shut up, fool.
Far be it for me to staunchly support the Astros management. My bile has spilled across these virtual pages often enough to establish me as a malcontent who could not suffer the heinous move to the American League or the dismantling of our team and its rich history. But damn it; give credit where credit is due.
I remember those seasons when we swapped our future for a futile run at the playoffs. We had the Big Unit in the Dome. Carlos Beltran stopped by to jack up his market value before departing for New York. And what did it gain us? Not a damn thing. We didn’t make it to the Series. We wasted money and talent, depleting our farm league in the process thus condemning the home team to the abysmal seasons that followed.
Enter Jeff Luhnow. I grimaced as he and that bonehead Jim Crane boasted about how thrifty they planned to be with my beloved Stros. Crane even gave an interview where he openly taunted fans to “get out their checkbooks” if they wanted to see better talent on the field. And this is the guy that wants to sell me an $8.00 beer and crummy $5.75 hot dog? Dude; really?
My friend in St Louis tried to encourage me. He told me that the Cards were still surfing the tasty wave Luhnow conjured up from smart, effective spending and team staffing. Impatient and irascible, I was incapable of rational thought and dismissed his comments out of hand. In the background, Luhnow was already thoughtfully rebuilding the Houston club. Sports Illustrated offered the first notable recognition of his efforts, announcing that my Stros would be good in 2017. Well looky, looky here; we are good now. Right now, man.
The voices screeching for “veteran talent” overlook the obvious success of the Luhnow plan. His decision to opt out of the free agent bidding insanity and build from within has worked. Period. To go back to our old ways and sell out the future for the present seems a lot like buying stock a second time in a company whose owners embezzled the first funds we invested. We’ve seen that movie and it always ends the same way: bad.
The name I’ve heard bandied about by the make-a-trade caterwaulers is Cole Hamels. Explain that one to me. Our rotation includes pitcher of the month Dallas Kuechel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers and scary new guy Vincent Velasquez. It’s not like our number one or even number three is some knuckleballer limping toward retirement. Take a close look at the Astros’ bats. I cannot recall Houston ever having this many exciting impact hitters. Jose “Gigante” Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa. Our defense isn’t exactly on the crummy side either. Hell no; it is a leaping, diving human highlight reel. How many times does Altuve have to make an impossible throw to first or acrobatic double play before the doubters get it? And it isn’t just Gigante. Springer, Marisnick, and Valbuena, to name a few, put on a quite a show as well.
We need to make a trade as much as Bill Gates needs to sell a house at a steep discount to cover his kid’s college tuition. We are filthy, nasty rich with young talent, all thanks to the effective management of Jeff Luhnow. Not only are we good right now, Luhnow has all but cemented a blindingly bright future for my mighty mighty Stros. He proved he was right from the beginning. Let’s grab a board and ride this tasty wave. In the words of 80’s philosopher Mr. T: “Hey fool! Got no time for the trade jibba jabba.”