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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Why losing Justin Verlander marks beginning of the end of Astros’ sad legacy

In the big picture, I do wonder whether this is the end of the era, this run that started in 2015 and included the now-controversial 2017 World Series title and three straight 100-win seasons from 2017 to 2019. They will now be without Verlander for 2021, and George Springer, Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel and Josh Reddick are all free agents. Given the current stink hovering over the entire organization, what are the odds any of those players are wearing an Astros uniform in 2021? These guys are all 30-something, so the Astros would possibly go in another direction anyway.

Springer would be the one guy you would most want to bring back, but there’s a longstanding grudge between him and the organization after it tried to sign him to a long-term deal when he was still a minor leaguer and delayed his promotion to the majors. In a thin free-agent market, he’ll also be one of the most sought-after players available.

Then Greinke, McCullers and Carlos Correa are all free agents after 2021. Depending on which direction the Astros go, those three could all be trade bait this offseason. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve are signed long term and Yordan Alvarez will be a monster after missing all but one game in 2020, but Altuve in particular has been terrible and will turn 31 next season. He’s signed through 2024, but it’s fair to ask what kind of player he’ll be the next four seasons.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 20, 2020 at 04:09 PM | 47 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Walt Davis Posted: September 20, 2020 at 05:06 PM (#5977779)
Oof. That is quite the dramatic "fall" for Altuve from a 130 OPS+ to 65. Of course it's still just 175 very crappy PA not a full season but it's a big enough drop it's reasonable to conclude at least some of it is real. The K-rate is a career high, the speed seems to be gone. I hadn't realized how much last year's good performance was due to a power spike (superball) with 17% HR/FB.
   2. JRVJ Posted: September 20, 2020 at 05:22 PM (#5977781)
I enjoyed the 2017 - 2019 Astros a lot. I particularly enjoyed the wonderful 2017 WS, and I don't particularly care if certain writers want to focus on the sign-stealing scandal to the detriment of all else.

Having said that, the Astros are going to go through a very fallow period, and I doubt Verlander will ever play for them again.
   3. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 20, 2020 at 06:10 PM (#5977785)
If Verlander is done, he's a really good Halladay clone. ERA+ slightly lower, IP slightly higher, but still a nice match. Of course he might come back, but then again, he'll be 39 and will have not pitched in two years, so he might not.
   4. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: September 20, 2020 at 07:11 PM (#5977797)
If he does come back, there's still time for him to surpass Hooks Dauss! Per wiki:

On September 10, 1925, in the first game of a doubleheader, Dauss and the Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians, 6-1; this gave Dauss his 210th win in a Detroit uniform, surpassing George Mullin's 209. Dauss has held the Tigers record for pitcher wins ever since: 95 years as of 2020. He is likely to retain this record for some time to come, unless Justin Verlander (who was traded to the Houston Astros in 2017) returns to Detroit. (Verlander has 183 wins as a Tiger, 40 shy of Dauss; Matthew Boyd's 30 wins as a Tiger is currently the most among pitchers on the Detroit roster in 2020.)
   5. Astroenteritis Posted: September 20, 2020 at 07:11 PM (#5977798)
It's been a great run from 2015-2019, and Verlander certainly had a big hand in winning two pennants and a championship. Great memories, and the Verlander acquisition worked out just fine. I'm just sorry to perhaps see his career ending prematurely. A really great pitcher, I'll always have wonderful memories of his time with Houston.
Nothing sad about the legacy of this group at all; it's been great fun, but this success cycle certainly looks to be winding down. I would try and keep Correa and Brantley for now, if possible, but with free agency it's largely up to the player as to where he wants to play, so it's thanks for the memories and good luck to those who depart. That's baseball.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: September 20, 2020 at 08:15 PM (#5977804)
what the hell is a "sad" legacy for a franchise that won its first title just a couple of years ago?

I mean, from a sportsmanlike standpoint, sure.

but otherwise? not so much
   7. puck Posted: September 20, 2020 at 09:40 PM (#5977815)
Oof. That is quite the dramatic "fall" for Altuve from a 130 OPS+ to 65.


Before the restart we were speculating on possible good short-season flukes, looks like there some bad ones (with some possible aging mixed in, as you note).

JD Martinez, Christian Yelich, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant...Nolan Arenado isn't doing too well, either.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: September 20, 2020 at 10:00 PM (#5977821)
what the hell is a "sad" legacy for a franchise that won its first title just a couple of years ago?

I mean, from a sportsmanlike standpoint, sure.


Which is what they're saying. "Man the 2017 Astros were awesome dude!" "Because they cheated dude!" takes a bit of the fun out of reliving fond memories no?

EDIT: As to Verlander, I can think of worse fates than being paid $33 M to spend more time with Kate Upton.
   9. Howie Menckel Posted: September 20, 2020 at 10:15 PM (#5977839)
I know a lot of NY Giants fans who chuckle at the legitimate suggestion that their last two Super Bowl-winning teams are the worst in history.

"Who cares?" they note.

And I don't expect Astros fans to cower in a corner over their duplicity. count the ring, and all.
   10. Rally Posted: September 20, 2020 at 10:43 PM (#5977846)
Not just Altuve, the entire infield has been crap this year.

By OPS+, from 1b to 3b:
2019: 127, 132, 138, 163
2020: 92, 64, 93, 109
   11. DFA Posted: September 20, 2020 at 10:58 PM (#5977848)
I think it would be great if JV could sign with the Tigers for the 2022 season.
   12. DFA Posted: September 20, 2020 at 11:00 PM (#5977849)
The Astros legacy will be similar to that of Barry Bonds. Cheaters win, they get the money and the accolades, but it's not like the Cubs or Hank Aaron.
   13. Dr. Vaux Posted: September 20, 2020 at 11:11 PM (#5977852)
It's not very similar, because what the Astros did was actually against the rules.
   14. DFA Posted: September 21, 2020 at 12:13 AM (#5977856)
I suppose that's a defense...
   15. bookbook Posted: September 21, 2020 at 12:18 AM (#5977857)
I’m expecting a full bounce back season from Altuve in 2021. I’d peg the Astros for 85 wins.
   16. BrianBrianson Posted: September 21, 2020 at 02:21 AM (#5977859)
Ah, give it a few years, the memory may well be that everyone was stealing signs, and it may be all Field of Dreamsy (or, similar to the jokes about the guy who finished 542nd in the Tour de France getting Armstrong's medals), that don't make it seem all that "tainted".

If you ain't cheatin', you ain't competin', 'n' all that.
   17. MuttsIdolCochrane Posted: September 21, 2020 at 05:13 AM (#5977861)
what the hell is a "sad" legacy for a franchise that won its first title just a couple of years ago?

The sad legacy is that they cheated to win and then smarmily acted as if nothing was really wrong about it.

"So, yes, the Astros won a lot of games. The Verlander trade minutes before the deadline in 2017 will go down as one of the most important in franchise history, as they probably don't beat the Dodgers without him that October (let alone the Yankees in the ALCS)." They also probably don't beat the Dodgers and Yankees without cheating.

The sad legacy will continue until every cheating Astro, including Jose "The Buzzer" Altuve has left the team.
Even then, the taint abides.
   18. bfan Posted: September 21, 2020 at 07:45 AM (#5977863)
It's not very similar, because what the Astros did was actually against the rules.


The distinction is that what Bonds did was not against the rules, or that he did not break the rules with what he did?
   19. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: September 21, 2020 at 07:56 AM (#5977864)
The distinction is that what Bonds did was not against the rules, or that he did not break the rules with what he did?


Can you explain the difference between these two things? Maybe with an example.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: September 21, 2020 at 08:03 AM (#5977865)

It's not very similar, because what the Astros did was actually against the rules.


Was it though? Was there a specific rule in the MLB record book the Astros were breaking, or was it more like Fay Vincent's don't use steroids memo years prior? If it's the latter, then it would be very similar to roid usage, as both would be examples of obvious cheating even though the action wasn't codified.
   21. Bourbon Samurai stays in the fight Posted: September 21, 2020 at 09:07 AM (#5977870)
I'm a bit conflicted about this. One the one hand, the Astros basically transformed themselves into 80's movie villains, and it was especially satsifying for my favorite team's first world series win to come against them. On the other hand, I have been a big Verlander fan for ages, and I love Dusty Baker and it's kind of sad for him to wind it all up shepherding the shell of this team.
   22. The Duke Posted: September 21, 2020 at 09:55 AM (#5977876)
15. Bounce back, huh? Isn’t it looking more and more likely that altuve was cheating in some systemic way. There’s really no obvious reason why he should have collapsed so completely. He must be multiple standard deviations from his expected production

We will see but I think the scandal is far bigger than we ever heard.
   23. The Duke Posted: September 21, 2020 at 09:58 AM (#5977878)
Verlander and his Hall hopes. Obviously verlander knew what was going on with the cheating. Does tacit knowledge harm
His Hall chances? If I were invited I might be inclined not to put him in. Not sure, but the best way to keep this from happening again is to penalize players who turned a blind eye. Thoughts ?
   24. SoSH U at work Posted: September 21, 2020 at 10:09 AM (#5977882)
15. Bounce back, huh? Isn’t it looking more and more likely that altuve was cheating in some systemic way. There’s really no obvious reason why he should have collapsed so completely. He must be multiple standard deviations from his expected production


There's also no reason why anyone could possibly expect to get that kind of gains simply from knowing which pitch is coming. Teams have stolen signs for generations, though not necessarily going to the lengths the Astros did. There's no previous examples of some player seeing that kind of benefit.

Verlander and his Hall hopes.


He's a lock.
   25. gef, talking mongoose & suburban housewife Posted: September 21, 2020 at 10:45 AM (#5977891)
It's probably mentioned in either TFA (which for once I actually read) or in the thread (which isn't that long, but I'm far from fully awake), in which case I missed it & beg forgiveness or at least only mild contempt, but maybe Altuve is just the latest case of Second Baseman's Decline? Agewise, he's more or less halfway between Carlos Baerga & Roberto Alomar at the outset of their cliff dives.
   26. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: September 21, 2020 at 11:13 AM (#5977897)
I think 25 may be onto something. I'm more of the opinion that any established stars having a bad year this year (Bryant, JD Martinez, Altuve, others) are just filed under "weird #### happening in a weird season."

Javier Baez last three years OPS+ 116, 2020 61
Altuve 142/61
Eduardo Escobar 111/52
JDMartinez 159/77
Arenado 131/84
   27. Loren F. Posted: September 21, 2020 at 12:11 PM (#5977908)
The fact that Altuve had excellent seasons before 2017 (the supposed start of sign stealing, according to my understanding of MLB's report) suggests that he had real talent before the sign stealing -- and thus suggests that this year may be partly age-related decline or partly a fluke (as others have suggested) and not entirely due to the loss of that secret edge.
   28. Howie Menckel Posted: September 21, 2020 at 12:23 PM (#5977910)
he's more or less halfway between Carlos Baerga & Roberto Alomar at the outset of their cliff dives.

minus the late-career trade to the Mets.

(Cano ruining the bit by raking this year, alas)
   29. Ron J Posted: September 21, 2020 at 01:35 PM (#5977923)
#25 Particularly after he reinvents himself as a left-handed knuckleballer in his 40s.
   30. TJ Posted: September 21, 2020 at 01:55 PM (#5977929)
Verlander and his Hall hopes. Obviously verlander knew what was going on with the cheating. Does tacit knowledge harm
His Hall chances? If I were invited I might be inclined not to put him in. Not sure, but the best way to keep this from happening again is to penalize players who turned a blind eye. Thoughts ?


Tacit knowledge of teammates juicing hasn’t seemed to have kept anyone out of the Hall...
   31. bunyon Posted: September 21, 2020 at 02:50 PM (#5977938)
"Tainted" legacy for a team misses that >90% of the pleasure of your team winning is felt in the moment and immediate aftermath. I've seen the Braves win one championship. If I found out today that it never really happened, it wouldn't change my life much at all. If I had been in a coma for the fall and winter of 1995 and then woke up and learned that they won, I would feel almost immeasurably worse.
   32. Astroenteritis Posted: September 21, 2020 at 05:16 PM (#5977955)
"Tainted" also assumes the Astros were so brilliant at cheating (a cheating which doesn't appear to have helped them much at all) that they were miles ahead of all the other teams and all the cheating going on. No team in MLB gets very far ahead of what other teams are doing; no team is that clever. I can't speak for all Astros fans, of course, but I'm certainly not losing any enjoyment and satisfaction from their accomplishments, and I don't have any reason to give a rat's rear about how other fans feel. If it pisses off Dodger fans, than all the better, actually. I kind of feel for Yankee fans, though, I mean the Astros coming to the AL and having the temerity to eliminate the Yankees in the playoffs three times in such a short span was quite rude. Not going to go full rant here, but everyone is free to feel however they want about the whole thing. Love me some Verlander, though.
   33. puck Posted: September 21, 2020 at 05:48 PM (#5977961)
#25 Particularly after he reinvents himself as a left-handed knuckleballer in his 40s.


Is this in reference to Erik Kratz? I saw on twitter an Erik Kratz knuckleball for a swinging strike, looks like he threw a bunch of 'em Sunday. The gopher ball was a "80 mph four seam fastball."
   34. Walt Davis Posted: September 21, 2020 at 06:06 PM (#5977964)
#31: I agree that most of the pleasure is in the short-term ... but that just means there's really no such thing as a team "legacy" to taint unless maybe you're the Yanks dynasties that won all the time.

#32 (and #31): "Legacy" is supposed to be something beyond nostalgia and it's supposed to be something beyond the team's fanbase.

So "who cares about a team's legacy, I and other Astros fans had a f'ing blast in 2017" is a perfectly understandable feeling. But the team's legacy -- such as it is -- is not positive. (Note we haven't even touched on the other issues with the Astros' "culture" that have been revealed since then.) I mean -- GM and manager suspended and fired, the ####### asst GM fired, a former coach turned manager elsewhere fired (tainting his own WS-winning legacy), a former player turned manager elsehwere fired ... and a pretty good chance none of them will work in baseball again. It's not close to the Black Sox but that's a lot of consequence.
   35. Ron J Posted: September 21, 2020 at 07:19 PM (#5977973)
#33 Nah. I'm not that clever.

Just an old joke I've recycled many times.
   36. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 21, 2020 at 07:54 PM (#5977976)
GM and manager suspended and fired, the ####### asst GM fired, a former coach turned manager elsewhere fired (tainting his own WS-winning legacy), a former player turned manager elsehwere fired ... and a pretty good chance none of them will work in baseball again. It's not close to the Black Sox but that's a lot of consequence.
One would think that, along with the fines & draft pick penalties, would deter teams from similar sign-stealing schemes, but I wonder about individual players. Suppose there was a player - let’s call him Jose A. - who really wanted to know what pitch was coming and believed he was a just an average hitter, or worse, without that knowledge. Would he be tempted to have a trusted friend/employee sit in the CF stands using binoculars with a button that activated a gentle vibrator discretely concealed in a body cavity no umpire would be willing to check? Doesn’t seem implausible, assuming such technology was available & reliable - a poorly timed malfunction might be disastrous.
   37. Monty Posted: September 21, 2020 at 08:07 PM (#5977977)
I feel like that gentle vibrator would have to have some effect on a batter's swing.
   38. puck Posted: September 21, 2020 at 08:51 PM (#5977984)
#33 Nah. I'm not that clever.


Swing and miss on a Kratz knuckleball.
   39. puck Posted: September 21, 2020 at 08:53 PM (#5977985)
Oh wait, now there's a mlb.com article about it, including one he threw behind JD Martinez and yelled "look out!"

Spin rate of 784 rpm on the good one.

   40. Astroenteritis Posted: September 22, 2020 at 10:52 AM (#5978028)
(Note we haven't even touched on the other issues with the Astros' "culture" that have been revealed since then.)


Now that's a good point, Walt. The issues with the culture, for example the Taubman incident, and many other things that went on under Luhnow's regime, are far more disturbing than stealing signs. There was a rot in the structure, and one side benefit of the punishments handed out by MLB was that there was, at least in part, a cleaning of house and I would expect the culture to be experience an ongoing change. I believe the arrogance and frankly, stupidity, that led to the sign stealing was a result of the disgraceful culture. Doesn't taint my enjoyment of the on field accomplishments of the players, but it certainly reflects poorly on ownership, and the organization as a whole.
   41. Howie Menckel Posted: September 22, 2020 at 10:58 AM (#5978030)
Tacit knowledge of teammates juicing hasn’t seemed to have kept anyone out of the Hall...

Jeter got by just fine, judged to have been oblivious to countless 'Roid Ragers in his clubhouse...
   42. Bug Selig Posted: September 23, 2020 at 07:27 AM (#5978209)
"Tainted" also assumes the Astros were so brilliant at cheating (a cheating which doesn't appear to have helped them much at all) that they were miles ahead of all the other teams and all the cheating going on.
I'm not sure it assumes, or needs to assume, anything other than "They won while cheating."

I'm not one of the "take their children away" crusaders or anything, but the taint is both simple and obvious. Denying it... apparently much less so.
   43. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 23, 2020 at 09:50 AM (#5978231)

Regarding Altuve, I'm sure he's in decline, but weird stuff can happen in a third of a season. Jose Ramirez had a 75 sOPS+ in the first half of last season, then a 182 in the second half and a 157 this year.
   44. bunyon Posted: September 23, 2020 at 10:58 AM (#5978246)
Altuve is in a bad spot. As a second baseman, he could easily have a very natural, but steep, decline. Without knowing what we know, we'd chalk it up to the physical rigors of the middle infield and find lots of similar players in history.

But we do know what we know. So even if it is just a "normal" steep decline, no one will buy it. Some will see it as proof the cheating made his whole career while others will defend him without any possibility of proving it was a normal decline. How people view his entire career - not just his character - will take an enormous hit.

I'm not saying that isn't fair. I'm just saying without coming back and logging a solid year or two without a buzzer, he's likely to end up the biggest loser in the whole saga.
   45. oscar madisox Posted: September 23, 2020 at 03:14 PM (#5978312)
"I can't speak for all Astros fans, of course, but I'm certainly not losing any enjoyment and satisfaction from their accomplishments, and I don't have any reason to give a rat's rear about how other fans feel.


Amen, brother
   46. Rally Posted: September 23, 2020 at 03:26 PM (#5978318)
I'm not saying that isn't fair. I'm just saying without coming back and logging a solid year or two without a buzzer, he's likely to end up the biggest loser in the whole saga.


I would happily trade places with him and be the biggest loser with about 130 million coming my way.

Altuve gave the Astros 6 years of elite play, 3 batting titles, 4 times at least 200 hits, led the league in steals twice, won an MVP, a WS ring, and put the team into last year's series with the homer off Chapman. All for less than 30 million.

He would have been paid 29 this year if the season was normal, and will get that much for the next 4 seasons. If he actually is done and only give them replacement level play here on out, its a coincidence that production and pay work out to be fair, on balance, to both the player and the team.
   47. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 23, 2020 at 04:15 PM (#5978322)
I would happily trade places with him and be the biggest loser with about 130 million coming my way.
Me too, but I'm 6'2". I wouldn't fit.

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