The Z Report
Lance Zierlein: Luhnow is hoping for his own Tyreek Hill ending
Well, you wanted a closer to help round out the Houston Astros chances at repeating as a World Series champion. Hell, I wanted a closer too. I wanted one badly! Now we got one. Somehow, this isn’t what I had in mind.
The Astros decided to cash-in their goodwill within the community and trade for a talented, yet troubled closer from the Toronto Blue Jays, Roberto Osuna. Twitter and sports talk radio is full of opinions regarding Osuna and the Astros decision to add him after serving a 75-game suspension for domestic abuse, but where will everyone stand in October?
When the Chiefs drafted Tyreek
All of us have seen how this could end up playing out. We saw it in May of 2016 when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted wideout Tyreek Hill from West Alabama in the fifth round. Hill had been a running back at Oklahoma State but was dismissed from the school after being charged with domestic abuse and later plead guilty to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend and received three years of probation. Hill eventually landed at West Alabama.
I was on the set of NFL Now’s broadcast of the 2016 NFL Draft and I was visibly dumbfounded that Hill was actually drafted by an NFL team. I simply couldn’t hide it. I didn’t think there was any chance that he would be drafted considering his guilty plea of such heinous charges. Chiefs fans weren’t too crazy about it either. Here is a sampling of some of the things were said on the comment section of Hill’s NFL.com draft profile:
Homework, time and talent
An executive from a separate AFC team told me they loved Hill’s talent and did their homework and believed that Hill might have beat the case, but that financial concerns over legal fees and fear of jail time caused him to plea out. However, pleading guilty to abusing a pregnant woman was just something they were not prepared to defend to their fans and media so they took Hill off the board.
The Chiefs did their own investigating and they believed that Hill was worth taking a chance on. He had elite speed, immense talent and they ultimately believed in the person. Despite the initial anger from fans and scrutiny of media, Kansas City was repaid with a rookie season that included twelve touchdowns combined (6 receiving, 3 rushing, 2 kick returns, 1 punt return) and a first team All-Pro designation.
After two years in the league, Hill is a two-time Pro Bowler and beloved by Chiefs fans. Chants of “Ty-Reek, Ty-Reek, Ty-Reek” rang through the Arrowhead stadium, Hill’s rookie season as the Chiefs clinched their first division title since 2010.
The Astros, like the Chiefs in 2016, are banking on their homework, the talent and time. There is no way the Astros haven’t done their homework on Osuna. Anything negative that comes out beyond this point is going to be extremely damning, but the Astros must believe they can fade it. They are getting a very talented player for a very modest price and history tells us that over time talented players who perform at a high level are shown forgiveness - especially by the local fanbase.
Paradigm shift for Luhnow and Astros?
I’m not here to argue whether or not the Astros decision to trade for Osuna is right or wrong. To be honest, the details of what went down haven’t been made public and the courts haven’t weight in just yet. What I can work off of, however, is that Major League Baseball suspended Osuan for 75 games and there was no appeal. Maintaining an adherence to “innocent until proven guilty” is challenging for all of us with that such a harsh suspension levied against Osuna.
As stated prior, I believe you will see fan anger over Osuna subside if he’s able to get guys out. It will also help his cause if the team starts winning and gets hot going into the playoffs. Is it right that our attitudes are tied to winning? Of course not, but that’s the way it is. Fight it if you want, but you’ll always find that few people show up at your meetings.
Then again, if Osuna struggles to find his form after sitting out for much of this season, Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow will find himself in the crosshairs of a portion of the fanbase. This is the kind of move that can help remove the cloak of invincibility that he deserved to wear after building the Astros into a World Series winner.
The national media is going to stay on the Astros for using their ridiculous “zero tolerance” comment at the same time they traded for a player serving a substantial suspension for domestic violence. I still don’t understand why Luhnow would make such a potentially risky move when there were other arms out there. My guess is that he simply couldn’t pass up on the perceived value.
The Astros have a great clubhouse and appear to love each other like brothers. It will be interesting to see how Osuna fits in with this tightly-knit crew. I guess time will tell whether Osuna is the next Tyreek Hill or if he becomes the player and the trade that caused Astros fans to fall out of love with this general manager.