A few days ago the Houston Astros continued their fire sale and traded last year’s starting short stop for five minor leaguers, or “prospects.” This is far from the first time that this has occurred but they are definitely into the marrow at this point since they stopped having meat on the bone a long time ago.
Of course, as with the previous salary dumping trades the team tried to spin it as part of their multi-year rebuilding program. As part of the process the Astros are on pace to have the worst record in baseball for the third year in a row. The team is trying to say all the right things about how the trades make them more competitive in a few years while allowing them to keep salaries in check as they try to build a competitive product. Time will tell if their efforts are shown to be worth the sacrifice though.
The team’s activities of shedding more payroll then they are turning around and spending reminds me of a scene from the holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In the movie Clark W. Griswald is upset to learn that his boss, in an effort to save money, has eliminated the long standing Christmas bonus program and replaced it with a Jelly of the Month Club. And while, in Cousin Eddie’s words, the Jelly of the Month Club is the gift that keeps giving the whole year long it is not what Clark was expecting. To make a long story short, Clark blows his top, Cousin Eddie kidnaps the penny pinching boss and the police bust the doors and windows down to try and recuse him. Of course, in true movie fashion the boss learns the folly of his ways and reinstates the bonus program since sometimes things look better on paper than they do in the real world.
So, on paper the Astros have this grand plan to build cheap and trade players that make too much money and lather, rinse, repeat, turn around and get more cheap players that can be traded for more prospects. Now, on paper it seems like a winning formula but the reality is very few prospects will ever make it to the majors and there is something to be said for not turning over the full roster every year. Further trades are bound to happen in the next few weeks and months as the Astros seem determined to field the best Minor League team that plays against Major League opponents.
I have followed the Astros for around 10 years and have to admit that all of the roster moves have left me scratching my head trying to figure out who is and who is not on the team any more. It has turned into some sort of comedy routine like the famous, “Who’s on First” Laurel and Hardy skit. But unlike the skit this is as real as it gets. I am not a fair weather fan by any means and I still support the team but even my loyalty is being tested by the management’s cavalier approach to sacrificing the present completely in the name of team building. I am sure it is difficult for the players as well to not know when they will be traded or when their next victory will occur. There really seem to be more losers than winners in the short term of this plan to go young and cheap.
This season will mark the first season in the American League for the Astros and instead of fielding a team of stars they are fielding a team of could be stars and may never will be stars. Major League Baseball seems perfectly fine with the salary saving measures. Contrast MLB’s lack of response to the Astros fielding what could be called a non competitive team for the third straight season with how things are handled in the NBA.
A few months back the coach of the San Antonio Spurs decided that most of his star players could use a night off. Unfortunately the team had a game scheduled with the Miami Heat instead of an off day. Still, the coach stuck to his guns and sent the star players home early and played against the Heat with a roster of bench players. Fans who had payed to see the superstars of the Spurs were livid. Some even sued for damages because they didn’t see the people that they paid to see. The bench warmers actually played a competitive game but in the end the Heat won and the coach of the Spurs was fined by the league and reprimanded for not putting his best team on the court.
The Miami Marlins recently traded most of their stars away in a similar salary dump and were put on notice by the league as well. Yet, the Astros who are moving into one of the more competitive divisions in baseball are not receiving any warnings from the league for the quality product they are putting on the field. Granted the Marlins are repeat offenders at dumping salaries at the end of each season but still they seem to field a way more competitive product than the Astros.
Another example of lousy ways to save a buck comes to us from the federal government and in particular a certain division of the government that shall not be named. Yes, I know it is hard to believe that the government would try to save money since most of the news always covers the spending overages but there are always exceptions to every rule.
Around the first of the year it was decided by this particular government agency that in an effort to save money from purchasing individual trash can liners the custodial engineers would no longer pick up trash at individual desks. Instead, several large trash cans were placed strategically around the building and people were responsible for taking their own trash to these collection points. It was believed that this process could be done with fewer people as well which would lead to additional cost savings. On paper it seemed like a sound idea. In reality it was one very smelly issue. The cans were only emptied twice a week so the halls became littered with overflowing trash and a stench that one should really not encounter in an office building.
After a month of centralized trash, logic prevailed and the desk side trash pick up was resumed. It seemed that the powers that be decided that saving a buck that way was not worth the stench that it caused. Here’s to hoping that the Astros realize the same thing and do not put a stinker of a team on the field. Although, the past two seasons do not leave a warm and fuzzy feeling that it will happen. Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about trash has reminded me that it is time to take out the garbage.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson