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Friday, October 27, 2017

Lucky, Good, and Ruthless

The Houston Astros’ players are easy to love. Their front office is not. Should we care?

Perry Posted: October 27, 2017 at 11:39 AM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, front office

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: October 27, 2017 at 12:56 PM (#5563583)
What an awful article.

1. The Astros were not "ruthless" IRT Aiken and Nix. Signing Nix depended on them signing Aiken for a certain amount below slot. Then they found out Aiken might be hurt - no team would've kept the same offer on the table at that point. And once Aiken turned them down, by MLB rules they didn't have the money they promised Nix. There was no deception involved; Casey Close, the agent for both, knew the entire deal going in. It should also be noted that the Astros were right to be concerned - Aiken pitched less than 1 inning after the draft before he needed TJ surgery.

1b. They didn't "get rewarded" for drafting Aiken; they lost the pick that was Nix.

2. Giving up on J.D. Martinez wasn't an "unmitigated mistake". Much like Houston saw something in Verlander's mechanics that they were able to fix, so too the Tigers saw something in Martinez's swing. Happens all the time.

3. He insinuates that it's somehow Luhnow's fault the Cards broke into the Houston database.

4. Luhnow didn't draft Springer.

You can say the Astros got lucky with the success of their recent draft picks, but they would probably tell you they've done a good job finding talent. And Luhnow may be a jerk but Billy Beane seems much worse and has had much less success both in the draft and in the post-season, yet he's called "intense" and an "innovator".
   2. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:04 PM (#5563587)
Good lord. I read comment #1 and read the article anyway and it is painfully bad. Honestly this thing cries out for the FJM treatment but I'm not going to waste my time (and I wouldn't be good at it anyway). I'm sure the Astros front office can be cold and ruthless but so can every other front office in baseball? Three other playoff teams have fired their managers this year, that's pretty ####### ruthless.

The bit about Lunhow and the Cardinal hacking thing though man...that's just horrible. That really should be singled out for how bad it is.
   3. PreservedFish Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:08 PM (#5563592)
The dangers of Luhnow derangement syndrome can be seen most clearly in St. Louis. After Luhnow came to Houston from St. Louis in December 2011, Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa broke into the Astros’ player information database, a crime that led him to be sentenced to 46 months in prison.


Yeah. What the ####? Luhnow taught Correa to be deranged, is that the argument here?
   4. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:14 PM (#5563596)
3. He insinuates that it's somehow Luhnow's fault the Cards broke into the Houston database.

It's a Cardinals fan talking point, and has been, since the story broke. Some even claim the Astros also should be punished because the hacker said he thought the Astros might have also hacked the Cards, although there's been no evidence of that.

It's also funny to criticize them for passing on Carlos Rodon, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola, and Michael Conforto for Aiken; but not on passing Kris Bryant for Appel because they traded him for Giles.

4. Luhnow didn't draft Springer.

He doesn't say he did (or the article was updated):
The draft makes no guarantees. Springer, the final first-round pick of the old regime (selected 11th overall in 2011),
   5. Stormy JE Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:18 PM (#5563601)
Wait, Steven Goldman wrote this dreck? That's bizarre, as his baseball pieces are usually solid reads.
   6. PreservedFish Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:22 PM (#5563606)
Goldman used to be linked here all the time when he wrote about the Yankees, and even though he he rose to prominence right around the time that stathead writing was seeming to get stale, his pieces were notable for their quality. He was a good writer. Maybe still is?
   7. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:29 PM (#5563621)
. . . read the article anyway and it is painfully bad.

Slate may have an across-the-board strategy of publishing click-bait outraged opinion, and maybe it even works financially, but … not a good look.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:42 PM (#5563634)
1. The Astros were not "ruthless" IRT Aiken and Nix. Signing Nix depended on them signing Aiken for a certain amount below slot. Then they found out Aiken might be hurt - no team would've kept the same offer on the table at that point. And once Aiken turned them down, by MLB rules they didn't have the money they promised Nix.

one could argue they should have stood by their offer to Nix and taken the penalties for going over.
   9. Astroenteritis Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:47 PM (#5563641)
but not on passing Kris Bryant for Appel because they traded him for Giles.


Absolutely. A lot of Astro fans really wanted Kris Bryant, and were bitterly disappointed that he wasn't the pick. Bryant would certainly make a bigger difference long term than than the others.
I was OK with picking Appel at the time. I am stupid, though.
   10. oscar madisox Posted: October 27, 2017 at 02:01 PM (#5563667)
Without reading the article and just looking at the headline, Perry's blurb and comment No. 1 I would have assumed it was written by Jon Heyman.

   11. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 27, 2017 at 02:26 PM (#5563714)
I'm sure the Astros front office can be cold and ruthless but so can every other front office in baseball?

I hear that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are quite warm and ruthful, actually.
   12. shoewizard Posted: October 27, 2017 at 03:36 PM (#5563786)
Scouting, Draft, Trades, Free Agency, that stuff is always covered in these types of articles. Player development seldom is.

Thats because it's the most difficult thing to do, the most difficult thing to understand and quantify.
   13. Perry Posted: October 27, 2017 at 04:00 PM (#5563805)
Without reading the article and just looking at the headline, Perry's blurb and comment No. 1 I would have assumed it was written by Jon Heyman.


Not actually my blurb, it's the subhead on the article. It was better than anything I could come up with off the top of my head, so I copped it.
   14. DL from MN Posted: October 27, 2017 at 04:03 PM (#5563807)
MLB has been ruthless since 1936
   15. Walt Davis Posted: October 27, 2017 at 04:11 PM (#5563814)
I'm not sure it's that hard to quantify ... or at least to get a starting point. OK, for the draft, not international signings. Figure out the average production for a draft slot, has the organization come out ahead or behind. Possibly ignore the first round entirely, maybe just the first 5 or so picks. Depending how far back you have data, you could look at WAR/bonus $ or something which might give you a way of assessing international development as well. If the data's available, you could include measures of minor-league success in the outcome (e.g. players drafted in this slot rarely make it past A+, the Cards got this guy to AAA).

Anything about how a team did that ... not a clue how you're going to get at that. And the outcome measures suggested above are limited by the fact that even a team's GM often has a pretty short tenure much less the churn throughout the player development team over that tenure so I'm not sure we have enough data to say anything useful about any given GM or system.

Note on the outcome measure, "the average 167th pick produces X WAR" is not what you want but more "for picks 150-200, the average WAR is Y." Nothing's perfect of course.
   16. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 27, 2017 at 04:12 PM (#5563817)
MLB has been ruthless since 1936


The Red Sox don't follow the trends, they set the trends.
   17. Bug Selig Posted: October 27, 2017 at 05:37 PM (#5563878)
Without reading the article and just looking at the headline, Perry's blurb and comment No. 1 I would have assumed it was written by Jon Heyman.
I don't understand. This article does nothing for Scott Boras.
   18. Tim D Posted: October 27, 2017 at 07:43 PM (#5563920)
Yeah I'm sure those front offices overseen by the likes of Peter Angelos and Jeffrey Loria are really warm and fuzzy. Mike Ilitch was supposedly the nicest guy in baseball, and when it came time to fire Dave Dombrowski, probably the most professional guy in baseball, after 12 years or so of running things in Detroit, he did it on the phone. Baseball front offices are likely no more or no less "ruthless" than other businesses their size. Which is to say they are impersonal "business is business" type of places.
   19. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: October 27, 2017 at 10:24 PM (#5564071)
If you own a team, don't you want your front office to be ruthless? To be able to make decisions without emotion but based on research, good analysis and efficiency? As mentioned above, I am sure Theo, DD, Angelos, etc. etc. are the most efficient, unemotional negotiators you could ever come across.


   20. Meatwad Posted: October 28, 2017 at 02:02 AM (#5564244)
12 years a morgaged farm amd no ws to shownfor it for dd.
   21. shoewizard Posted: October 28, 2017 at 11:29 AM (#5564304)
Walt, I think you came to the same conclusion I did. Since many GM's and their player development staffs don't last 10 years in the job, it's really hard to get the continuity and sample size needed to quantify, but my point was more about the HOW, as you allude to.

My personal belief is that teams should place their best and most accomplished coaches and trainers at the lowest levels. Players come to professional baseball more "polished" and trained than ever before. They are closer to the "finished product" of what that player may ultimately be than in decades past. So if a team is going to have any shot to mold a player's baseball skills, it's right after they get their hands on them. But thats not usually the way baseball organizations are structured.



   22. JJ1986 Posted: October 28, 2017 at 11:35 AM (#5564306)
It'd be fair of the author to mention what happened to Aiken so far at least in passing. The Astros obviously made the right decision on him given the TJS and the stats this year.
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: October 28, 2017 at 01:10 PM (#5564338)
My personal belief is that teams should place their best and most accomplished coaches and trainers at the lowest levels. Players come to professional baseball more "polished" and trained than ever before. They are closer to the "finished product" of what that player may ultimately be than in decades past. So if a team is going to have any shot to mold a player's baseball skills, it's right after they get their hands on them. But thats not usually the way baseball organizations are structured.


That is not how they are organized? The Cardinals have been that way for most of their existence, and I've been told on here multiple times that the Cardinal way is no different than any other organizations, so I'm assuming that that is the norm, not the exception to the rule. The entire "Cardinal Way"(which is not a thing, as I've been told) is to mold and get the kids to buy into the organizational philosophy/coaching techniques at the lowest levels. And to have a unified approach to coaching all through the minors(it's why roving instructor George Kissell was so important)
   24. cricketing baseballer Posted: October 29, 2017 at 09:30 AM (#5564788)
People have overreacted to this article. I thought it reached a perfectly sensible conclusion:

Even if Luhnow can be caustic, he shouldn’t be condemned for operating within a system he did nothing to create....

Business isn’t nice, and modernization has a tendency to leave people behind. Maybe Luhnow isn’t lovable, but he’s built a team that’s hard not to embrace.

This is one of those 'It's not your grandad's baseball any more' type articles.

And Goldman is right that luck has benefited the Astros, disproportionately, just like Branch Rickey intended it should.

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