Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Luhnow’

SABR At The Ballpark Scripts Perfect Day

May 20, 2012

After the meeting in the board room at the ballpark’s Union Station, our view of the game from behind the Astros bullpen in right center field at Minute Maid Park. was good enough. I just had the misfortune of being the only aisle seat out for a line of fans who all suffered from the dual afflictions of unquenchable thirsts and unrelenting bladders.

When it gets down to the really important stuff, who could have asked for anything more?  We of the Larry Dierker SABR chapter pretty much had it all our way yesterday at the May 2012 meeting: a day at the ballpark with family and friends; a meeting that placed us directly in touch with the vision of Jeff Luhnow, the new Astros General Manager; some walk-off out-of-the-park status of change comments by Astros radio broadcaster Dave Raymond; and a beautiful from-the-heart and generationally connected presentation of an incredible West End Park photo from 1921 as shown by Billy Behler of LaGrange, Texas, the great-grandson of Bill Buscha, a pitcher for the 1921 Houston Buffs; and an exciting game in  which the scraping young Astros played exactly as Dave Raymond described them, coming back for an 0-4 deficit to homer they way past the big goats on the hill, the Texas angers, by a final score of 6-5.. All of that joy and the quiet satisfaction of walking outside after the game to be duly reminded by our cityscape, Thank God,  that we live in Houston, not Dallas – regardless of what all those “Hamilton & Co.” blue and re jerseys we saw on the inside suggested. The double play ending of the game was worth the price of admission in self, with Astros closer Meyers running down Ranger shortstop Andrus at second to end the monkey business at Astros 6 – Rangers 5.

There must have been more than 50 members in attendance. Thanks again to chapter leader Bob Dorrill the program was strong, attractive, and nothing but easy fun. Each member also went home with a new Nolan Ryan Bobble Head figurine. And most competed for prizes in the monthly trivia contest.

This photo of Dave Raymond is from an earlier MMP event, but the SABR radio air king was at the top of his game again yesterday, calling all the right shots on how and why the 2012 Astros are playing so much better than the 2011 club. The team then went out and did just about everything Raymond claimed were their capabilities. When it comes to the ripple of future personnel settlements, put me squarely on the “KEEP RAYMOND – AND MAKE HIM THE MAIN RADIO AIR GUY” side.

That’s me (L) with Billy Behler and the beautiful 1921 panorama of Opening Day at West End Park in Houston between the Houston Buffaloes and the Galveston Sand Crabs.

Someone asked yesterday for the names of notable Buffs from the 1921 team picture. – To that request, I say, please go to Baseball Reference.Com immediately and check that question, and any others like it, for yourself. The 1921 club that included Behler’s great-grandfather, pitcher Bill Buscha, also included a 21-year-old first baseman named Sunny Jim Bottomley and a 24-year-old outfielder named Ray Blades. Both men went on to outstanding careers with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bill “The Bulldog” Buscha (far right) in photo with army buddies during WWi.

Bill Buscha’s young career was pretty much over, even at the time the 1921 glorious West End Park panorama photo was taken. A short time earlier, as verified by former Buffs General Manager Fred Ankenman in a Chronicle story written years later around the time of Buscha’s death from accidental drowning, the 1921 Buffs were playing an exhibition spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

With Buscha pitching, Jack Fournier of the Cardinals had reached third base with one out and Johnny Levan was batting. Levan then lashed a wicked liner through the box that bounced off Buscha’s head, directly back to the catcher for an out. The Buffs catcher then threw the ball quickly to third, doubling off Fournier before he could return to the bag after the catch,

Papers at the time kidded that it should really have been recorded as a triple play since pitcher Buscha was also rendered “out” on the play, but the long-term results were not really funny. Buscha suffered visual, balance, and performance problems after the injury and was soon out of baseball.

No matter what. Bill Buscha was still there in baseball long enough to make a great-grandson proud of him nearly a century later, proving once again, that the wake of baseball rumbles forever down the ages. And yesterday, we were all a part of this particular shake. Who among those at West End that day in 1921 could have known that the day would be seen and celebrated again – just a few downtown blocks away – on May 19, 2012?

Thank you, Billy Behler, for bringing Bill Buscha of the Buffs back into the light of day!

Jeff Luhnow, General Manger, Houston Astros

Jeff Luhnow was our principal speaker and – what an infectiously focused man he turns out to be. Bright and intellectually ranging, but down to earth, connected, and pragmatic, the man has travelled through several careers before he found himself in baseball, and he has drawn upon each  experience  to help him improve at what seems to be his overriding ambition: to get the best results possible from the best decisions available to the organization. Luhnow is not the “Money-ball” stats-only guy that some have unjustly labeled him. He’s more of an “everything can teach us something” fellow, even if we do prioritize the importance of certain information sources over others. We learn from our successes and we learn from our failures. The trick is to grow from these in ways that force us to learn and take responsibility for the lessons of each policy, plan, contract, hire, or goal we put in motion.

I don’t know if the man plays chess, but, if he does, he’s got to be a force. It’s going to be as much fun to watch how the club makes decisions now as it will be to see the results on the field. All I can say for certain after Saturday is – it’s not going to be dull.

At the game, we had to share space with all of those famous Rangers fans who had descended upon us from the Dallas area. At least, I hope they were from Dallas. I would be most embarrassed to consider that Houston’s bandwagon faction would stoop so low as to adopt the Rangers now – and just because the Astros are going through a rebuilding phase.

Like it or not, you could already see from the first two games this weekend that the Astros-Rangers rivalry is going to heat up after this season. Playing against each other for best upside position in the same division is going to mean a lot more to fans than a dad gum meaningless silver boot prize ever could or will. That’s my take, at any rate.

“ROOT. ROOT. ROOT.” … but for whom? – Even the Mike McCroskey section was stacked with Rangers fans.

Closer Meyers gets pinch hitter Gentry on a fly ball to retire a Rangers threat in the 8th. In the 9th, Meyers would run down and tag Andrus to end the game.

Houston, Our Houston, Our Most Beloved Houston.
May 19, 2012.

At the end of the day, still pumped by the spirited way in which the Astros came fighting back to take a 6-5 victory in Game Two of the Rangers Series, it was just nice to hit the streets outside and see that beautiful home-is-here face of the old Gulf Building staring back at me from the base of all his now much taller modern brothers. That’s the same way he looked after Buff games sixty years or so ago. The Gulf just didn’t have quite so much company in his area back then.Nevertheless, the Gulf and Esperson buildings will always be the heart of this city for some of us.

Thanks, Houston, for a beautiful baseball day and night. As always, we press forward with the dream: Our big day will come. We simply must remain steadfast and patient as always.

2012 Astros Are The New Houston Babies

April 9, 2012

2012 Astros Are The New Houston Babies

The 25 men on the roster for the Houston Astros on Opening Day 2012 are 27.3 years old in their average age. They aren’t exactly infants, but they are the closest thing we have in town in baseball garb that fits that description since our first professional club, the 1888 Houston Babies.

Subtract Gonzalez & Lee. Add Harrell & Downs. Equals a starting lineup averaging age 25.1.

On Opening Day, had the Astros started 28-year-old Matt Downs at 1st base instead of 35-year-old Carlos Lee, and pitched 26-year-old Lucas Harrell instead of 33-year-old Wandy Rodriquez, the average age of the starting lineup for the Houston Astros would have been 25.1  years.

Youth is no guarantee of a successful future, but there is no future without a group of talented youngsters on the roster and in the minor league pipeline to get a major league team headed back in the right direction. I think Ed Wade had started the ball rolling in 2010-11 with some of the moves he made, and I love what I’ve heard from new GM Jeff Luhnow, so far,, about his plans to combine traditional scouting with situational statistical evaluations for choosing those prospects for the club’s future. Statistics aren’t everything, but neither are they an abdication of critical decision-making away from baseball people into the hands of eggheaded math geeks who know nothing about the game. Sophisticated statistical analyses of how players perform, and how they are projected to perform in critical game situations, are nothing less than a potentially powerful enhancement to the job of  picking the best hands to build a franchise future around.

Knowledge of the game. Wisdom with people. Sensitivity to the intangibles of talent assessment. Better measurement of those items that determine future success. Bless the franchise that can handle them all under one united roof – for they shall someday be called champions of the baseball world.

While we’re waiting, I like what I’ve seen so far in the new Houston Babies, the 2012 Houston Astros. I ‘m expecting them to finish about 72-90 this year, but I like their chances of getting better, if the things we are hearing in the early stages of the new Crane Era continue to grow and get results on the young player development.

It also won’t break any hearts in Houston this year either if veterans Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and Carlos Lee play well enough to give some wings to their contract floatations elsewhere to 2012 playoff competitors before the summer trading deadline.

Youth is the thing in Houston. For now. And, in a way, forever. Carlos Lee. has convinced a lot of people, I hope. Older guys sitting on fat multi-year contracts is no way to build or sustain the successful future of an MLB franchise.

Go. Astros. Go Babies.