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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Yordan Alvarez came up big in Game 5. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros can win the pennant Friday night. Can't dangle the carrot any closer in front of the face than that. Taking the last two games at Fenway Park has the Astros in excellent position, but any notion that a third American League championship in five years is now inevitable, is silly. The Astros are probably 80 percent or better to advance, but of course the Red Sox could win games six and seven at Minute Maid Park à la the Nationals in the World Series two years ago. The Astros had all the momentum after winning three straight in D.C., came home for the coronation, and pfffft. You have momentum...until you don't. It's nothing to bank on. The Red Sox had all the "mo" after clobbering the Astros in games two and three of this AL championship series. Then Jose Altuve crushed the eighth inning tying home run in game four, ahead of the seven run volcanic eruption of a ninth inning. Nine more Astro runs later in game five, and here we are.

One key distinction that makes the Astros hand look stronger up 3-2 now than vs. the Nats, the Red Sox don't have Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer ready to pitch. Like Framber Valdez vs. Chris Sale in game five, game six is another starting pitching rematch. Alvin native Nathan Eovaldi grossly outpitched Luis Garcia in game two. We'll see if Sox manager Alex Cora winds up regretting even more using Eovaldi to start the fateful game four ninth inning. Eovaldi only threw 24 pitches, but three nights later we'll see what and how much he has in the tank.

After pitching horribly against the White Sox and then the Red Sox, and then citing a sore knee, Luis Garcia is his own huge question mark. So was Valdez before Wednesday spinning one of the great postseason pitching performances in Astros' history. Framber was awful in each of his first two postseason starts, absolutely magnificent in cruising through eight innings in game five. Should the Sox force Game Seven, Valdez certainly is a relief option on two days rest. Jose Urquidy would start, opposite Eduardo Rodriguez in a game three rematch.

Valdez and the Astros hope his next outing is Tuesday night in game one of the World Series. Ideally, at Minute Maid Park against the Atlanta Braves. Alas, the defending champion Dodgers remain alive and kicking, having won their fourth do or die game already in this postseason to send the National League Championship Series back to Atlanta. Now, if somehow we knew as fact that the Astros are going to win the World Series, I'd estimate approximately 99 percent of Astros' fans would prefer to beat L.A. Since we don't know that the Astros are going to win it all, getting the Braves would be more favorable for the Astros, if for no other reason than the Astros would get home-field advantage. Should the Braves make it, among other factoids Charlie Morton would be in his third World Series with three different teams in the last five seasons (Astros in 2017, Rays last year, Braves this). If the Braves can close out the Dodgers Saturday, Morton is Atlanta's likely game one starter at MMP. Provided the Astros are the AL Champs of course.

Watt a matchup for the Texans

The Texans play at Arizona Sunday. Yeah, and? You imagine that J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins find the two team's current situations amusing? The Texans are a 1-5 stink bomb that will keep on stinking. The Cardinals are 6-0 and an emerging Super Bowl contender. While Deshaun Watson continues collecting about 600 thousand dollars per week to do nothing (and waiting to become a Miami Dolphin?), Kyler Murray has made the leap to upper echelon NFL quarterback.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Decisions, decisions. Astros-Red Sox game 6 or Rockets home opener vs. Thunder. Tough call?

2. The Rockets will regularly be overmatched and probably lose 55 games or more again this season. At least they have young talent to offer some hope. The Texans presently have near nothing.

3. Best 2021 Astros' postseason journey signature food: Bronze-Atlanta/Los Angeles, anything? Silver-Chicago, deep dish pizza Gold-Boston, lobster roll

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