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Holy crap, a good Richard Justice article!!!

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by MadMax, May 29, 2006.

  1. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    I guess he learned his lesson. He even acknowledged within the article that people like me would think the whole thing a little bit hypocritical after last season.

    This is sort of a Costanza moment for me. If Richard Justice said it, then the opposite must be true. I'm struggling with this, now. Thanks, Dick.

    http://houstonchronicle.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/justice/3912375.html

    With 111 left, be patient with Astros


    By RICHARD JUSTICE
    Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

    My five-point plan for fixing the Astros comes without a guarantee. So we begin with a larger truth.

    Even good decisions sometimes turn out badly. The Astros didn't screw up by doing almost nothing last winter.

    Here's the part some of you will have trouble accepting. They are a team in transition.

    Just because they won the National League pennant in the first year of the transition changes nothing. From the moment Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran departed after the 2004 season, there was going to be uncertainty.

    General manager Tim Purpura made exactly the right call in opening his roster to so many young players. He could have acquired enough veterans to fill out the lineup, but he believed better options might already be on the roster.

    He was patient when those players performed badly at the beginning of last season. He believed in Chris Burke, Jason Lane, etc., when others in the organization didn't.

    Patience is still a requirement. Scouting reports have gotten around. Weaknesses are being exploited.

    Some of these players won't make it. But there's just one way to find out. Play 'em.

    Don't fret over Lidge

    No one knows who'll make it and who won't. Lane, Burke, Eric Bruntlett and others simply haven't been on the field enough.

    Brad Lidge is the exception. He was one of baseball's best closers the last two years and will be one of the best before this season is over.

    He has looked terrible at times. Big deal. All closers occasionally get screwed up. Their failures are magnified because they have no safety net. They thrive under pressure that would crack others.

    Billy Wagner and Mariano Rivera have had bad stretches this season as well. Lidge may have more. He still deserves to be the closer.

    Teams enter seasons certain of only a few things. Lidge was supposed to be a certainty. So was Andy Pettitte.

    If both of them have poor seasons, the Astros won't be back in the playoffs.


    Let the kids play

    As for the others, Phil Garner should keep writing their names on the lineup card as often as possible. That goes for Lane and Burke and Bruntlett and Willy Taveras. Don't give up on a single one of them.

    Only 32 percent of the season has been played. There are 111 games left. Nothing will look the same a month from now.

    Speaking of Lane, he might want to take next May off. He's hitting .160 this month after batting .118 last May.

    He has played his way out of the lineup the last two Mays. Last season, he came back to hit .285 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs over the final four months. Will this be a repeat?

    Maybe he'll play only against lefthanders for a while. Maybe Burke and Bruntlett won't play as much as they'd like. The point is that the names won't change significantly.

    Garner and his coaching staff did wonderful work last summer in coaxing the young guys through the highs and lows. Their patience, their ability to teach and find a silver lining in almost every cloud, was one of the reasons for last season's success.

    Besides, everything can't be fixed that's now broken. Life would be simpler if this season was about shoring up a single weakness. If they needed a starting pitcher, Purpura could package Burke, Jason Hirsh and Fernando Nieve and possibly get Tim Hudson or Dontrelle Willis.

    At the moment, fixing one area would deplete the farm system and help the bottom line only marginally.

    The Astros should do what they did at this time last season. They should sit tight.

    Sit tight? Hey, that's a good one coming from the Houston Chronicle. You guys couldn't wait to bury 'em the last two years. And now you're preaching patience? That's like Mark Cuban giving a talk on sideline behavior.

    This time I'm right. I think.

    The Astros have to find out if they're the team that started 19-9 or the team that's 7-16 since.

    The truth probably is somewhere in the middle. If the young pitchers are as good as they appear to be, if Garner finds the right lineup combination, the Astros can again be in the mix in September.

    Wait, there's more. Here are five tips for the always-open-to-new-ideas men who run the local baseball team:

    1. Patience, my sons. Things will look better on July 1. Trust me on this one.

    2. Sign Roger Clemens. He'd do more than shore up a weak rotation. He'd create a buzz around the clubhouse. He'd give everyone a shot of adrenaline. He might even help get Pettitte out of his funk.

    3. Don't worry, be happy. Players sometimes become consumed with their problems in tough times. Cancel batting practice and infield for a day. Do less work, not more. Maybe the bats will be gripped a little less tightly.

    4. Play Burke and Bruntlett more. They deserve it. They make things happen.

    5. Strengthen the middle relief. If this is the season of the young starting pitcher, then it also must be the season of a better bullpen. Take another look at the Round Rock and Corpus Christi rosters. Surely there's someone who could help.

    That wasn't tough, was it? For the second season in a row, the Astros are being tested in the most basic of ways.

    Should they trust their original blueprint? They stuck to it the last two summers and were rewarded. No reason to change now.
     
  2. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    He is saying sit tight with the Roster, which everyone here has been saying, but he is ALSO saying play the young guys, which is what everyone here has been saying too.

    What he is not saying is whom to bench in order to play the young guys.

    Lane is NOT a young player any longer, Everett just is not a major league hitter, and the rest have too small a sampling to find out.

    I do agree that they need a spark, but Roger may have seen enough to simply sign with Boston........

    I think this team lacks leadership at the player level.

    DD
     
  3. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    He did suggest that Lane may only play against LH for awhile... and he also cautioned that Lane had a worse stretch last year, only to turn it around for the final 4 months.

    And as I said in the other post... you're not going to fix the SS part of this lineup (which is batting 8th if its either Bruntlett or Everett) to the point that it becomes a main offensive weapon. Its just that when the other parts of the lineup that should be good are bad (like guys at the top of the order, or when your best hitter has a knee injury), it gets magnified.

    If the Astros had a guy with a great OBP, and speed, he'd be given the job as the new leadoff man even if he didn't know what a baseball glove was (ie - couldn't play defense). THAT is the main problem with this lineup, which gets compensated for by great 3 and 4 hitters.

    Also, as far as "leadership" goes... Ausmus has been running this clubhouse ever since he came back in 2001. He's the first player Phil will go to for advice, and he was the first player who would openly question Dierker's moves and challenge him on it. You could say the team "misses" Roger... but you do realize that he never made any road trips where he wasn't starting, and often was MIA in home games either prior to one of his starts, or right after.

    Roger may help Pettite get more focused... but he's not gonna be a "rah-rah" guy in the clubhouse (and frankly, baseball teams don't need that...)
     
  4. Kerfeld

    Kerfeld Contributing Member

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    The one major change in my opinion that needs to be made is Everett needs to be benched. I know his defense is a plus and he is a class of his own, but he is a rally killer. you cant go the whole season with two automatic outs in your lineup.
     
  5. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    Everett may very well be the best defensive SS in the game today.

    Ozzie Smith had seasons where he hit around .215...or .230. You wouldn't think of taking that guy out of the lineup.

    No, I'm not saying Everett is Ozzie Smith...but I am saying his defense is worth a ton.
     
  6. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    we went last season with it. won a pennant that way.
     
  7. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    If Adam Everett was this team's biggest offensive problem... they'd be leading the league in runs scored.

    How about the fact that our LEADOFF hitter has one of the worst OBP, or OPS of most everyday players (let alone leadoff hitters). How about the fact that before yesterday, this team was 0-6 without their best player in the lineup?

    Also, I don't understand why everybody is suddenly talking about fixing the lineup more and more... when its been the PITCHING (starters or bullpen) that has been freakin horrible for most of this month. You can fix the lineup all you want, but we're still going to have a losing record if starters cannot give you quality starts 2-3 times out of 5 games.
     
  8. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    that's exactly right. it's THE difference from when our team was 19-9 and now that they're hovering around .500.

    you'd think everyone would get that after last season. starting pitching is THE most important component of a baseball team.
     
  9. pgabriel

    pgabriel Educated Negro

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    I need to write for the chronicle. I was telling my father just yesterday that astro fans shouldn't be too frustrated because the team has to go through a transitional period eventually. but I was talking about the young pitching mainly.
     
  10. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    The problem is that half the fans (if not more) in this city are strictly bandwagon/results-oriented type people. They don't understand that teams just don't go to the playoffs in baseball year after year like the Astros have. They don't understand that just making the playoffs in baseball is as big of an accomplishment as advancing to the second round of the playoffs in basketball.

    This is definitely a team with its flaws... but its still a good team, nonetheless. If Roger comes back, they have the potential to be a special team... but that by no means guarantees that they should be a playoff team (just like having a big payroll doesn't guarantee that).
     
  11. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    Nick,

    There are some teams that go to the playoffs every year......and the Astros have been very good about getting a chance lately.

    However, in baseball, more than any other sport it is possible to stay in contention more often if you are willing to spend the money.

    Drayton has kept us in contention, and with this teams payroll they should be again...although 18 million of Bagwell's salary is doing nothing for the team this year.

    Actually if Bags was healthy this would be a MUCH better team....the whole team is sort of paying for Bags misfortune.

    DD
     
  12. Major

    Major Member

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    Why not? The Mets have a second baseman batting 0.215 (and a LF batting 0.220 as well). The Cardinals' starting catcher is batting 0.170. No team has strength 1-8 in the national league.
     
  13. JunkyardDwg

    JunkyardDwg Contributing Member

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    The Braves and Yankees (and Boston recently) are the only clubs outside of Houston that come to mind. And of these four only the Yankees and Boston have high payrolls. The Mets however are a great example of a team with an enormous payroll but nothing to show for it yet.

    I actually kind of think the opposite; that you don't need a super high payroll to roll with the big boys (but you can't have the lowest either). And the Braves, Astros and Cardinals are a great example of that.

    In any case, this is a great read, cause what many people seem to forget is the Astros - like all teams eventually - are going through a transition period. The young guys proved to be capable winners after taking the team to the WS. This season is probably gonna be about finding out which of those guys are capable of sustaining that winning culture long term; after the adjustments and scouting reports, etc.
     
  14. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    Having good/young players, and a good pitching staff, is what allows you to be in contention year after year... NOT just having a high payroll.

    The Dodgers have had one of the highest payrolls for years... when was the last time they were legitamite championship contenders? Same with the Mets... who are only now starting to look like a viable team. Same with the Cubs. Same with the Blue Jays, Mariners, Phillies. All of the above teams have had just as high (if not higher) payrolls than the Astros... and none of them have accomplished as much in the last 10 years.

    The only team that spends a ton, and makes the playoffs consistently, is the Yankees... and that's simply because they now buy enough good players so that they just cannot fail over a long 162 game season (but they most definitely can during the playoffs). Even the Red Sox had to reduce their spending after 2002... and started spending less, but on more productive, moneyball-type players.

    If the Cardinals hadn't had Albert Pujols dropped on their doorstep from the heavens, they'd also now be forced to re-tool. (they really don't know how lucky they were to find him... nobody ever expected anything from that guy). The Astros were just as blessed to produce a Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge out of their system.

    In the end... the mainstays on this team (Oswalt, Lidge, Berkman, Ensberg) had nothing to do with money. THAT is how you make the playoffs... you build a strong nucleus within the farm system, and add pieces along the way (like Kent, Beltran, Pettite, Clemens) thru free agency or trades.

    And, as you said, Drayton has been willing to spend... its just that sometimes in baseball, things just don't always work out as they're supposed to, and you have years like the Astros did in 2002 and 2003. Regardless, this is not a team with just "one more chance"... like some of the aging 90's Rockets teams. It may be the last go-around for Roger, but for the long-term... this team is in pretty decent shape (compared to a lot of the other teams with similar payrolls).
     
    #14 Nick, May 29, 2006
    Last edited: May 29, 2006
  15. rikesh316

    rikesh316 Member

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    Bring up Charlton Jimerson and send Willy down to Round Rock. Jimerson hit 3 homers yesterday. He has a OPS around .900 in RR even though he rarely walks. Jimerson will always strikeout a lot but I think he offers more to the team on offense and defense than Willy T.
     
  16. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    I saw that boxscore yesterday.... Luke Scott also hit 2 HR's... which makes me think that the guy they were facing (Jason Vargas) had AWFUL stuff.

    Jimerson would be an offensive upgrade to Willy T... but he also is not a leadoff hitter (and he's not hitting at that spot in RR anymore as well).
     
  17. rikesh316

    rikesh316 Member

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    Probably had to do with the high altitude in Albuquerque.
     
  18. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    That would help Everett's pop ups get all the way out to the outfield.
     
  19. Kerfeld

    Kerfeld Contributing Member

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    Our pitching was better last year. If you look at the make up of this team, the Astros are going to need quality at bats down the lineup. Now, I am not stating that Everett needs to be a 290 hitter or anything like that, it is just that he is an automatic out. Dont you think we lose yesterday if Everett comes up?
     
  20. Kerfeld

    Kerfeld Contributing Member

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    Look closer ar Jimerson's numbers. He strikes out way too much and we already enough guys who dont make contact. See Preston Wilson
     

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