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Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lopez's Fantasy Team - Great Stories, Horrendous Performance

John P. Lopez of the venerable Houston Chronicle pens the latest in a seemingly endless run of mind-numbing pieces about the Astros' ongoing negotiations with future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. To John, "3,000" should be the only number of concern for the Astros this offseason. I've got a number that I suggest is somewhat more important, at least from my standpoint: "1". That's the number of games that the once-woeful Cardinals finished ahead of the Astros in the NL Central Race, before catching fire and winning the World Series in five games over seemingly invincible Detroit. Remember that? Look, I have voiced my opinion about this matter in the past (here and here, among others) and will do my best to prevent redundancy here, but I don't think it's healthy for me to contain the frustration that I feel after reading such backwards analysis.

Lopez attempts to make the case that the Astros must do whatever it takes to sign Craig Biggio for 2007, not because it will make the Astros a better team but because it may help the Astros become the franchise with the most impressive revenue stream or the franchise with whom the most SportsCenter reporters travel. This is just the type of thinking in which Drayton McLane himself apparently engages on a regular basis, but I can promise you that it is not the type of thinking that Walt Jocketty or Dave Dombrowski will be doing this offseason. Winning franchises would not be worried about accomodating their bad players at unlimited prices; they would be looking to improve their team's on-field performance, to strengthen any weaknesses that last year's edition had (and we all know that the Astros had plenty).

I understand the fans' undying love for Biggio and appreciate his legendary effort, relentless dedication and admirable loyalty to the Astros franchise. But waaaayyy too much import is being placed on the 70-ish hits that Biggio is chasing. He is either a Hall of Famer already or he is not. Sure, it's a nice personal milestone, but it is not Pete Rose's record, and last I checked, individual accolades were supposed to come along innocently in the course of helping your team win, not in conflict with the team's best interests.

Also, I simply do not understand the blind faith that Lopez and his ilk have that allow them to so resolutely declare that "[Biggio] will make this a productive year", apparently because he is too proud to play badly. Of course Bidge does not intend to become a "sideshow act" or a "bumbling shell of what he once was" as Lopez suggests, but as harsh as it may sound, I believe those transformations have already begun to materialize. He is certainly not one of the better defensive second basemen in baseball anymore, and his offense has been in a rather precipitous tailspin for several seasons, a tailspin which is accelerating rather considerably with his increasing age. Handing a 41 year-old second baseman who is coming off back-to-back seasons of marked decline in performance (see the .306 OBP that JPL references in his article) six million dollars when you have an alternative who is younger, cheaper and quite simply a better player who is more than ready on the bench is asinine.

Of course it is a difficult situation for ownership from a public relations standpoint, as you do not want Bidge leaving town in a spat over money, when you, the franchise, are drowning in revenues. But do you really believe that a bad team with Bidge starting 75% of the games at second base and chasing 3,000 hits would be more popular in this town than a winning team with Bidge starting only two or three days a week?

T-Poo has made no bones about the fact that he intends to have Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus in the everyday lineup come 2007. That's bad enough on its face, but to include a .300 OBP, defensively-limited second baseman in the lineup with him, not to mention at a price that will take a not-so-insignificant bite out of the Astros' roster budget for 2007, is just dumb. Sportswriters may want Bidge around full-time in 2007 so that they can write another dozen easy "Bidge is King" columns next summer, but signing Bidge to such an outrageous deal and promising him a large role on next year's team sends a message to your fans and to all of baseball that you are more concerned with the material pursuits of a single player than you are about the success of your organization, and as a fan, that is the opposite path I want my team to take.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't argue with the logic but you gotta consider that letting Bidge go would be the end of an era. My ultimate hope is the Bidge takes one for the team and we try to capture the magic of '05 and try to get RC and AP back. Maybe wishful thinking but we were damn close and it would be a sad thing to see the Stros with neither Bidge or Bags out there.

Thu Nov 09, 12:37:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

There is no room for sentiment in Scott's world. That's why he supports mandatory euthanasia for all people over age 60. Once their production begins to fall off, BAM! Off with their heads.

There's no way on God's green earth that Bidge isn't starting at 2B for the 'Stros on Opening Day. And that's the way it should be. He isn't an everyday player anymore, but he should still be getting three starts a week.

Thu Nov 09, 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Opening Day starter? Absolutely. Three days a week? Eh, I'd rather it be two, but I could live with three, I guess, as long as Burke is playing shortstop the other three days. Five or six million dollars for 2007? Absolutely not.

I appreciate Anonymous' candor re: my logic, and I understand how others could disagree. If you love Biggio so much that you're willing to short-circuit the team's potential, that's your choice (and Tim's). I think there's a really simple compromise. Bidge gets his ABs off the bench and as a utility man and gets paid accordingly, and Burke gets regular PT.

Now if Drayton decides to consider Bidge's money for 2007 Clemens-like in that he will pay for himself such that the team's overall budget will not be negatively impacted by giving him a pay raise, that's a whole different story. It's Drayton's team, and he can pay as much as he sees fit. But if Bidge's money comes at the cost of improving the overall roster or with a guarantee of substantial playing time, then I think it's a terrible idea.

Thu Nov 09, 10:19:00 AM  

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