Point Blank

Astros Fans: Who is on your holiday wish list?

Would Nelson Cruz be a fit for the Astros? Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Now that baseball's winter meetings are over and most available free agents and trade targets are still out there, who would you most like to see join your favorite baseball team, Houston? What position group do you want Jeff Luhnow and his staff to target as the top priority? It doesn't look like Manny Machado or Brice Harper are going to be headed to H-town but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of good options that could help upgrade the roster and improve the team. The rumors have been flying about the Astros and names like Nelson Cruz and Michael Brantley in free agency and JT Realmuto and Jose Abreau via a trade. So I ask you, what player or players to you have on the top of your wish list? What position are you hoping they address first?

The choices are many and the possibilities endless, but if you had your choice, which direction to you want Jeff Luhnow and his staff to go first? Are there names you have in your cross hairs that you would give anything to see in the blue, orange and rainbow trim? I personally hope they utilize free agency to address a corner outfielder and a DH/1B type player and look for at least one starting pitcher via a trade. Obviously the price has to be right when you go out and sign players on the open market, but most players seem to want to play in Houston these days and have a chance to win a ring, so that can help find the right price to lure a few quality bats. As for a trade, there are a lot of big named, experienced and high quality, starting pitchers being dangled out there. Depending on how much of thier contract and how many years you are willing to absorb and how many decent prospects you are willing to include, you may be able to land one without giving up Forrest Whitley or Kyle Tucker.

The names at the top of my list for Houston in free agency are Brantley and Cruz. Brantley is a veteran, athletic outfielder who can fit right in defensively with his glove and arm, while adding left handed pop to any space in the lineup that A.J. Hinch decides to hit him in. He hit .309 last season with 17 HRs and 76 RBIs in 143 games and is a lifetime .295 hitter in 10 seasons with the Indians. Cruz has always seemed to be an Astros killer, whether he was with the Rangers, Orioles or Mariners. He hit 37 bombs and knocked in 97 while hitting .256 in Seattle last season and has hit at least 37 long balls and driven in at least 93 runs in each of the last five seasons. Brantley is 31 years old and in the prime of his career, while Cruz is 38 and still playing at a high level in the twilight of his career. Both have playoff experience and both would like to play with a contender that gives them a chance at winning a ring. If the price is right, both would be a great fit in Houston next year.

If you are hoping for a trade it really comes down to how many above average prospects you are willing to include? Are you throwing in a player or two off your major league roster? Are you willing to take on multiple years of big salary as part of the deal? If the answer to those questions are yes, then you may be able to get a big name that can step in and upgrade your team all while hanging on to the two biggest names in your farm system, Tucker and Whitley.

Both of those guys are said to be untouchable by Luhnow and a deal breaker with any team they may engage in trade talks with. They have been rumored to have had discussions with the White Sox centering around Jose Abreau, the Marlins in a package for catcher JT Realmuto as well as talks involving big named starting pithers like Zach Greinke and Madison Bumgarner.

I fully expect that these rumors and talks will intensify as we get closer to the end of the calendar year, with teams like Cleveland hoping to move Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer and the Mets considering relocating Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom. I would love to see the 'Stros make a move for a front line starter that can help fill the void left by Charlie Morton and Dallas Kuechel moving on, as well as better prepare for the possibility that one if not both Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole could be leaving via free agency after this season. I would take a close look at Greinke because Arizona is in fire sale mode and looking to unload big contracts. I would love to have Kluber but fear the asking price is astronomical. OK, enough from me, who would you like to see the team go get in free agency and via a trade?

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

- William Shakespeare

You might wonder why there is a puppy picture on a story about the Astros scandal. This little beauty is my Dalmatian, Dynamo. Why is she here? To distract you. To dazzle you. Who doesn't love a puppy picture? Who cares if it has anything to do with the story? She made you look.

And the point is...

Sadly, that is the role of the media these days. Please listen to my rant. Please click on my story. Who cares if the headline isn't accurate? None of that matters. Look at me! I need likes and retweets!

The Astros cheating scandal is the latest story to be overblown, overanalyzed and overexposed. Why? Page views. Ratings. A failing media.

Exploring every angle

None of that is meant to excuse the team. Let's be honest; the Astros cheated. They will be punished, and they should. Draft picks, fines, suspensions. All are possible, and whatever they get is probably warranted.

And that is where the story should end. But that is not what the world is about anymore. It has to be endlessly debated. Pictures of a laptop on a table become the Zapruder film. There HAS to be a conspiracy. Every detail has to be debated. Which side you come down on depends on your biases.

Stupid takes

Some have even said the Astros should be stripped of their World Series title. This isn't college. It's a dumb, look at me take. It will never happen. This is not Avengers: Endgame where you can enter the quantum realm and change the past. It is real life, where events can't be changed. Did the cheating help them win? Who knows? You still have to hit the ball, even if you know what is coming. And it did not make a difference for the Astros pitchers. And harkening back to the steroid era, how do you know the other teams did not do it too and just did not get caught?

The big argument about PEDs was "oh, look at the big numbers the hitters put up." But how do you know the pitchers weren't doing it, too? The same goes here.

Truth is, you don't know. Which is why results can't and shouldn't be changed. Period. To suggest it is just dumb.

More stupid takes

On the Astros fan side, the defenses are just as silly. "They did nothing wrong. Where is your proof? Why aren't there other players coming forward?"

As an aside, let's not leave out the great misleading phrases. "Due diligence." (In other words, we know this is a bad idea, but we want to sound like we know what we are doing). "Witch hunt." (Yes, I am guilty, but this is how I deflect it).

As another aside, if you find an actual witch on your hunt, let me know. I always wanted to meet one.

They cheated. Period. And they will be punished. But the point is not that at all. It's to find every possible angle to get people to read and react. To care more about something than we should, when there are far more important things we should be riled up about. But you are being told to care, so you will keep clicking. It's the new normal, where reporters make themselves the stories and insert themselves into it. And that's why they turn stories like this into major issues. For their own benefit.

Nothing new

This is just the latest media distraction. The Patriots deflated balls saga was the most overplayed, overanalyzed scandal in sports history. Why was it so important? Because hot takes, web sites and analysts told us so. Many hinted at even bigger conspiracies. Why? Because we are a society dazzled by puppies.

Just this past weekend, the entire Colin Kaepernick story was over reported from all sides. The NFL was just doing a PR move. He just wants to be a martyr.

The NFL's waiver was broken down word by word.

Over a guy who hasn't played in three years.

The reason? He gets page views and clicks. And ratings. We keep getting told how important every aspect of the story is to our lives. In truth, it's just another distraction, a false narrative created to keep us dazzled and up in arms. Do we really care about these things? And if we do, what the hell is wrong with us?

Just like the Astros scandal. Is it a bad look? Of course. Are they guilty? Sure looks like it. But punish them and let's move on. We get it. They banged trashed cans. But punishment is never enough. People have to post pictures that might be something. Videos that might be something. Emails that might be something. Add it all up and it doesn't make things any worse. It just creates talking points. And people wonder why so many people consider the media - and social media, as the lines are completely blurred - "fake news."

In the end...

It's not fake news. It's misguided attempts to to keep us coming back for more. And too many of us fall into the trap. We are too distracted by everyone telling us these things are so important that we keep clicking. It takes on a life of its own, and then any theory is possible. Any conspiracy is possible. So we keep reading and digging and we are immersed in it. Look at this! Click on me! In a few weeks the Astros will be the most evil organization that ever lived and should be disbanded. And some of you will believe it and buy in, because that's how distractions work. And once we are distracted? We can believe anything.

Hence the picture of Dynamo. To distract you. By the way, did you notice one of her spots looks like Mickey Mouse? Let the Disney conspiracy begin. We shall start our own tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.

And we all know what that signifies.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome