Peter Gammons missed the boat


Last night esteemed baseball writer Peter Gammons fired off a series of tweets criticizing the Astros payroll strategy. Gammons went on to accuse the Astros of purposely tanking to secure high draft picks and called for MLB to impose sanctions against the franchise. I must say I’m surprised to learn that Gammons is so uninformed about the Astros situation.

Furthermore, his timing is also peculiar. The Astros haven’t made any moves to trim payroll since the Jed Lowrie trade, which happened 45 days ago. By the way, that deal is looking pretty good right about now.

What exactly does Mr. Gammons think the Astros should do? Maybe sign Kyle Lohse to a one-year $14 million deal?  That way they might be able to win two more games this season …oh boy! (I’m giving Lohse the benefit of the doubt here. He has accumulated a total of 5.7 WAR over the last five seasons including last year’s career best 2.9) And what would the cost of such a move be? Thanks to the recent trades that have apparently upset  Mr. Gammons, the Astros 40-man roster is currently overflowing with AA and AAA talent. Adding an established player would mean someone else would have to be exposed to waivers.

If Gammons had been paying attention to the Astros at all, he would realize that they are already in danger of losing a prospect or two if they decide to add Rick Ankiel and Erik Bedard to the roster. Some hard-core Astros fans would argue that Ankiel and Bedard aren’t worth risking a prospect. And who knows? Maybe Jeff Luhnow will see it that way too, and let both of them walk. The fact is the Astros are rebuilding from the bottom up — and they are not the first team to take such an approach. It is easy to see that bringing in high-priced talent would be counterproductive in more ways than one.

As for the Astros losing on purpose –pleeeeease! I’ve got two words for you. Bo. Porter. Anyone who has ever talked to Porter (and I have) knows that the word losing is not part of his vocabulary. Porter didn’t come to Houston to lose. Granted, 2013 may be a difficult season, but it won’t be because of a lack of effort. Porter has already made it clear that he will not tolerate complacency.

As for losing “four years in a row” — I don’t think that was ever the plan, the first two years just happened. And unlike the Royals and Pirates, it was something new for the Astros. And it happened all of a sudden. When things started to go bad guys were jumping ship as though they were aboard the Titanic. Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt publicly demanded to be traded, making it difficult for Ed Wade to get value in return. Does Gammons think Wade wanted to lose his job? I sure don’t.

Peter Gammons (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

How can Gammons say the Astros actions “may guarantee three teams in the A.L. West win 90 games and make the playoffs”? Should we even bother playing the season at all? Correct me if I’m wrong but the N.L. Central didn’t produce three 90 game winners and playoff teams while the Astros were losing big in 2011 and 2012. If three teams from the Astros new division make the playoffs they will have to beat some other teams along the way too. It’s not like they will be playing Houston every day.

And, oh by the way, moving a team to the American League was supposed to provide balance to both leagues. It sounds like Mr. Gammons is convinced that the decision to move the Astros will not accomplish that goal. And who decided Houston would be the team that would be uprooted from 50 years of N.L. history and thrown into the American League? None other than our illustrious commissioner.

I don’t care what you say about Jim Crane getting a discount to agree to the move. The fact is: he never had a choice. The commish and his buddies, the owners, held Crane and the Astros hostage for several months. While running the ruse that Crane’s background was in question, they strung him along with his fate predetermined. They knew the longer they waited the less likely Crane would be to back out — especially considering his previously failed attempts to buy a major sports franchise.

So I don’t think any sanctions against the Astros are likely. Nor are they warranted. Crane, the Astros, the fans… we’ve already been shafted by MLB. And to Mr. Gammons, have another bowl of chowder and stick to what you do best — covering the Red Sox.