Every-Thing Sports

Jeff Luhnow is frustratingly smart and frugal

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has done a tremendous job since being hired on December 8, 2011. That was a month and a few days after he helped the St. Louis Cardinals winning their eleventh title. He's used his analytic/Moneyball style of team building to build the Astros organization into a perennial contender. The crowning achievement was the World Series title in 2017. Not too bad for a guy who was hired into the Cardinals organization in 2003 without any prior experience in baseball besides playing in high school. He had previously worked for McKinsey & Company, a global strategy and management company.

He's made a career of analyzing data, making sense of it, and using what he's found through analyzing said data to give an advantage to whoever he's working for. This is a valuable skillset, whether in the business world, or in MLB. Luhnow has proven he can provide an extremely high level of efficiency and production with his work.It's the same qualities that make Luhnow a pain in the ass when it comes to making trades involving high ranking prospects.

He won't quit Kyle Tucker

As presently constructed, this team needs another arm in both the starting rotation, as well as in the bullpen. The Mets wanted a package centered around Tucker, the tall, lanky left-hand hitting outfield prospect for perhaps their best pitcher Noah Syndergaard. When I heard Luhnow was unwilling to send Tucker, I was upset. Tucker came up last season and couldn't cut it. Yordan Alvarez has more than proven himself in the opportunities that he's been given this season. So much so that manager AJ Hinch finds ways to get him into games, despite Alvarez being a defensive liability. If Tucker was deserving of the nickname "Ted" (as in Ted Williams because of his supposed sweet lefty swing), he'd be up taking the at-bats Alvarez currently occupies. Alas, Tucker is still in the minors while Alvarez is putting up rookie of the year numbers.

Ditto for Forrest Whitley

The same can be said for Forrest Whitley. Whitley is the organization's best pitching prospect. He was hurt this year and not able to be called up when Alvarez was called up. He was originally thought to be called up in June so the team would hold off another year of arbitration. However, his injury set back those plans. Not to mention he hasn't been as sharp as everyone would have liked for him to be. That being said, he could've been flipped into a big leaguer that can help this team now instead of hoping he develops into a top of the rotation guy later.

Hoarding prospects has its advantages

Remember when Alex Bregman was a hot prospect? Remember when it was thrown out there that the Astros should trade him for Chris Sale? Remember when last season Bregman finished top three in the AL MVP race and earned a five-year $100 million dollar extension? Sometimes Luhnow's stubbornness pays off. He's shown that he's made the right calls so far for this organization. Winning that World Series title gave him some equity. So did restocking the minor league system and building a stacked big league roster. Maybe this guy knows what he's doing after all?

Bottom line: Luhnow knows what he's doing. Whether we believe in his methods or not, he's rebuilt this franchise from the ground up. However, it is still quite frustrating to see guys out there that can help this team win another title and Luhnow not going after them for fear of having to part with prospects he holds in high regard. Where does the chase for another title outweigh the potential future of the franchise? In my opinion, the title chase now outweighs the future. Winning another title can seal your legacy, as well as the legacies of everyone involved. Luhnow needs to realize that the guys he's trading away aren't future Hall of Famers. They'll probably be really good, but that's not enough to turn down proven big league talent that can help you now. I truly hope this article is rendered inconsequential by Wednesday at 3PM. That's the hard trade deadline. That's when we'll know if Luhnow thinks this team is ready for a World Series run as constructed, or he's made a move to reinforce what he's already built. As hard as it is for me to say it, in Luhnow I trust.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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