Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who are you, and what have you done with the real Astros front office?

It was brought to my attention that I didn't mention something when I was excoriating Andy Pettitte, because I didn't realize it at the time: that option Beakman wanted for 2008, the one he got from the Yankees, was a player option, not a team option. In other words, Andy gets to decide whether or not he'll get paid $16 million. The Astros' response to this was, obviously, "Um, no." So he's back in pinstripes. Oh, of course, Andy swears that he would never take the option if he were injured and unable to play. Sure. "No, thanks, you can keep that $16 mil, my arm hurts." Riiight.

So: Andy Pettitte is an ever bigger asshole that previously discussed. Hoo-rah.

But the Astros are not to be deterred. Andy's seat on the bench hasn't even grown cold yet, and they've already replaced him with Jason Jennings, a righthander from Colorado. And he's good, too: nevermind his win-loss record, which suffered because he played for a last-place team; his 3.78 ERA last year was 12th in the league. And yes, I can already hear the comments from the usual source about what a terrible ERA that is, but a) it's really not bad; and b) he pulled that off at Coors Field, which is a truly awe-inspiring feat. Forget how awful it must be to pitch for the Colorado Rockies in the first place -- the things the thin air in Denver does to a pitcher's stats are ugly, ugly, ugly. (I have a book somewhere that devotes an entire chapter to explaining how Coors Field destroys any chance a pitcher might have of being successful. And yet this guy did it.)

Now, they didn't get him cheap. They gave up a top pitching prospect, Jason Hirsh. They gave up Taylor Buchholz, who was our Jekyl-and-Hyde starter last year: he'd throw a shutout, then give up nine runs, then give up seven runs, then throw another shutout, then give up eight runs. Good luck in Colorado, sport.

But here's the one that hurts: they traded one of my favorite Astros, centerfielder Willy Taveras. He was runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2005, and he has the makings of being a star leadoff hitter in the mold of Kenny Lofton.

This trade felt really, really dumb to me when I first heard it this afternoon. Stephen and I were talking about who would fill the hole in center. And the obvious name leapt to mind, Chris Burke. Who is a far better hitter than Taveras. But then who hits in the leadoff spot? Oh, well, Biggio, obviously, who now won't have to platoon with Burke, 'cause he'll be starting in center.


So...they made a sacrifice...and boosted both their offense and their starting rotation at the same time?

Are these the same Astros I'm used to? The same guys who thought Preston Wilson was going to hit like Barry Bonds? Did they actually do something...intelligent?

They told Pettitte to go screw, made a savvy (if disappointing) trade, and improved upon their biggest weakness, offense.

Now, if only they can straighten out the mess at third base and figure out how to repair Jason Lane, they'll be all set.

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