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Some low-key reasons Astros could be players in the Juan Soto sweepstakes

With news of Juan Soto turning down a monster contract with the Nationals for over $400 million, we discuss the possibility of the Astros trading for Soto before the trade deadline.

Plus, we discuss some scenarios that could play out for Houston if they make a blockbuster deal for Soto, and what the Nationals would have to receive to consider trading the young star to the Astros.

Finally, we discuss the Astros philosophy on signing players to long contracts, and question if Houston would be comfortable with Soto walking after his contract expires after the 2024 season.

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Composite image by Jack Brame

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. – Abraham Lincoln.

But in the case of Dusty Baker, at least on Twitter and talk radio, he can’t seem to please anybody any of the time.

Mind you, that’s Dusty Baker Jr., a lock Hall of Famer and current manager of the first-place Houston Astros who have the best record in the American League and pretty much have wrapped up a bye in the first-round of the playoffs.

It wouldn’t be surprising if MLB gave the Astros permission to start printing World Series tickets in the middle of August.

So why all the griping and head shaking about Baker from Astros fans? Let’s take a look at Twitter to perhaps find the reason for the fans’ summer of discontent … despite the team’s dominance, out-of-reach spot atop the American League standings and cheering crowds filling Minute Maid Park. Remember, Twitter can be a bloodbath of whining. If you don't have anything nice to say, say it on Twitter.

Maybe it’s because Baker can’t seem to make up his mind about a batting order. And sometimes the batting order makes no sense. For instance, last night Baker had Mauricio Dubon filling in for the injured Jeremy Pena and batting leadoff. Dubon is batting .195. That’s not good. Statistically, the leadoff hitter gets to the plate more often than the No. 2 batter, who gets to the plate more often than the No. 3 batter, etc. and so on.

There is a chance that the leadoff batter will be a team’s last hope to tie or win a game with two outs in the ninth inning. Last night, the Astros had a .195 hitter with a .257 on base percentage batting leadoff.

(Twitter: “We get our 94th – yes, that’s accurate – different batting order of the season for game 117.”)

But somehow the Astros are in first place and the odds-on pick to win the American League pennant and play in the World Series for the fourth time in six years.

Maybe it’s because Astros management went out and traded for Christian Vazquez (.286) to bolster the team offense, and Dusty is using him as a backup for Martin Maldonado (.186). Yes, Maldonado is popular with his teammates, but Vasquez is hitting 100 points higher than Maldy. A hundred points trumps popularity. Sure Maldonado is gunning down potential base stealers, but algorithms don’t lie – offense scores more runs than defense saves. And Vasquez’s pop time, the time it takes from the moment a pitch hits the catcher’s glove to the moment his throw reaches the fielder on an attempted steal, is about the same as Maldonado’s. Neither Maldonado nor Vasquez’s pop time is considered elite, by the way. And here’s one that might surprise you: Maldonado currently leads all American League catchers in passed balls.

(Twitter: “I’m still annoyed a game was lost because of a bad managerial call. Should have kept Urquidy in or brought in Stanek.”)

Maybe it’s because Baker seems insistent on sticking with the players who brung him. Monday night, Baker’s lineup included Dubon (.195), Yuli Gurriel (.243 in decline), Jake Meyers (.216 in steep decline) and Maldonado (.186). The Astros scored two runs, none after the first inning.

Yes, the Astros have the best record and are leading their division by 12 games. But maybe if the Astros had a set lineup and played Mancini and Vasquez more, the lead would be more, Twitter argues.

(Twitter: “This L goes on Baker. He is going to cost us playoff wins. Pulling Urquidy was stupid. He shouldn’t be our manager next year, there are better options available.”)

After last night’s loss, Baker told reporters, “That was tough to take. You can put it on me.”

Astros fans, at least those on Twitter, are saying “Ya think?”

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