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The Astros cut Jack Cust. This is important. This means something.

Mar 27, 2012, 8:57 AM EDT

Houston Astros Photo Day Getty Images

Normally I wouldn’t even write about a bad-defense marginal outfielder being cut in late March, but with Jack Custwho the Astros just cut — I feel differently.

That’s partially because of the deal he got. Rather than a minor league deal with a spring invite, Cust actually got a one-year deal with an option (it was initially reported as a two-year deal, which caused everyone to freak out). For a guy as ineffective as he had been, and with his negative defensive value, it was odd for an NL team to guarantee him anything, even if was only around $350,000. UPDATE: I was wrong. He wasn’t guaranteed anything. My bad. Still reflecting the confusion about it from the time he signed. The point still stands that it was odd for an NL team to sign him. Anyway:

But the bigger reason I note what is likely the end of the major league road for Mr. Cust is because he represented something more than just what kind of player he is in 2012.  He was … an old flame.

I wrote about this once, many years ago, when he went on a mini-rampage after being called up by the Athletics in 2007.  It was a nice little moment for statheads, because Cust had been something of a poster boy for them/us.

Circa 2001-02, there was no doubt in our minds that he was an All-Star in the making. His triple-A numbers in the Diamondbacks’ systerm were pretty astounding, and he was the epitome of take-and-rake baseball that was then so in vogue.  This was before “Moneyball” was published, mind you, so we all thought we were really onto something new that no one knew anything about. Hipster sabermetrics, if you will.

But then he cratered. He got three whole plate appearances with Arizona. Then he went to Colorado, where folks figured he’d flourish, but he was awful.  In 2003 he got a chance with Baltimore. He had a superficially good season in 2003 — he walked a lot and had power as he always did — but he usually looked awful in a major league uniform, with his vaunted patience at the plate being accompanied by a seeming timidity. A high-profile baserunning mishap that year — Cust fell down twice between third and home in the 12th inning, costing the Orioles the game — sealed his public fate as a one-dimensional DH in a game that would soon change to not favor that dimension as much as it once had. He spent 2004-2006 almost exclusively in the minors, his prospect status transforming into “organizational soldier” mode.

Then 2007 happened. The A’s signed him up and he went crazy, hitting six homers and fourteen RBI in his first seven games. As I wrote at the time, it was like seeing that train wreck of a girl you messed around with a few years ago, only this time she seemed to have it together. Probably still bad news, but man, it was nice to see her. And to see her looking so good.

Cust spent the next few years being Jack Cust. Walking a lot. Mashing a lot. Posting low averages and striking out a lot while providing no defensive value. Even as sabermetrics became more sophisticated, with speed and defense becoming more obviously valuable, there was part of me that felt like Cust was carrying some sort of torch, honoring the Roberto Petagenies, Hee Seop Chois and Erubiel Durazos of the world who didn’t get the shot at redemption Cust got.

It had to end eventually, though. Cust’s power has declined. He can still take a walk, but there usually isn’t any room on a roster for a guy whose only skill is plate patience. Cust is 33 now. He’s not going to suddenly learn how to play left field. He probably has a few triple-A years left in the tank, but it’d be shocking if he showed up on a major league roster again.

But for a stathead of a certain age, Jack Cust’s name will always resonate a little more than your average minor league veteran’s will.  He meant something at one time. Maybe not as much as we thought he did — and maybe in some ways our fixation on him and his ilk kept us from understanding certain things earlier — but we’ll always have feelings for him and will always wish him well.

  1. cadub49er - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Jack Cust must have beat you up in high school or snubbed you at a game. This piece of writing was horrible IMO.

    • cup0pizza - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      One of his worst, which is remarkable in itself.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 27, 2012 at 11:55 AM

        It’s sad that you come here to knock Craig just to make yourself feel like you’re worth anything.

      • humanexcrement - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        Honestly, there are people in this world whose opinions I find reprehensible, whose words are so foreign from my thoughts that I cannot even relate to them. You know what I do? I DON’T FUCKING READ THEM, you goddamn idiot!

      • CJ - Mar 27, 2012 at 1:29 PM

        I’d like to propose that cup0pizza and humanexcrement swap handles, as the term “human excrement” seems to suit cup0pizza much more aptly.

    • deathmonkey41 - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:05 PM

      For your information, Jack Cust clubs baby seals during the offseason for fun, adopts kittens and puppies from non-kill shelters and then drops them off at kill shelters, and once set an orphanage on fire while the children were sleeping on a dare. Feel better about yourself now?

  2. darthicarus - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    The highlight of my day so far is seeing the name Hee Seop Choi. Thank you.

    • spindervish - Mar 27, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      Him and Erubiel Durazo. I mean damn…

  3. redscarfunion - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    Who?

  4. stex52 - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    This alarms me. I looked back at the timing of the deal, hoping it was an Ed Wade residual. But no, this is the new management. I realize, as the Master said, “When you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose”, but what was the management thinking? All I had to do was look at the Baseball Prospectus to know he was a bad bet.

    In past years I would have written it off as a cheap bet that didn’t pay off. But everything about the Astros looks like a bad bet these days.

    • jwbiii - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:41 AM

      Cust was just a flyer, redundant if Carlos Lee couldn’t be traded. More alarming is Zach Duke. Just a few days ago, he was touted as a replacement for Tommy John surgery bound Sergio Escalona and now he’s gone?

  5. mgv38 - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Did you really have to misspell Petagine’s name? *sigh*

    • cup0pizza - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      T.J. Simers even would have fact checked his article before submitting, but then again, the difference is that Simers is reputable.

      • scatterbrian - Mar 27, 2012 at 5:54 PM

        If you hate it so much here, why are you here?

  6. jwbiii - Mar 27, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    You’re Simers’ youthful traveling companion, right?

    • djpostl - Mar 27, 2012 at 5:07 PM

      And by “youthful traveling companion” he means “filipino boy toy”

  7. humanexcrement - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Also, I’m pretty sure “This is important. This means something” is a quote from UHF, starring Weird Al, as he’s looking over his plate of mashed potatoes.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      Actually, that first happened in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” with Richard Dreyfuss doing it with his mashed potatoes. Weird Al was parodying that.

      • humanexcrement - Mar 27, 2012 at 2:09 PM

        Honestly, I’ve never seen Close encounters all the way through. Now I get it.

      • deathmonkey41 - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:44 PM

        Yeah, but Spatula City was all Weird Al.

  8. gibbskins9 - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Graig,
    Way to kick someone when their down. Can’t believe I read part of this trash.

    • cup0pizza - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      “Graig” is like many of the stalwarts here who fellate each other all day. Hypocrites. “Graig” becomes indignant when journalists that work for world-class newspapers criticize crap players, but is more than willing to pass off snide, disrespectful comments about crap players as it suits him.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 27, 2012 at 12:45 PM

        Heh, “disrespectful.” This coming from the guy who shows up in posts about people who have died to make Fred Phelps-level comments about them. Viva self-awareness.

      • stex52 - Mar 27, 2012 at 2:54 PM

        I have to ask, Cup. Understand, I really don’t care. You can do what you want. But if Craig is such a hack and the rest of us are all idiots and sycophants, why do you hang around? If it is so unpleasant you must have something better you can do with your time.

      • professor59 - Mar 27, 2012 at 3:14 PM

        It’s called trolling. It doesn’t need a reason. Just a keyboard, free time, and precious anonymity.

      • stex52 - Mar 27, 2012 at 3:17 PM

        Best explanation I can think of. But he occasionally seems to want to be taken seriously, so I wasn’t sure.

      • jimbo1949 - Mar 27, 2012 at 3:56 PM

        Since I don’t know this alleged life form, please allow me to speculate that it has to drink it’s pizza from a cup ever since the time it unfortunately expressed it’s thoughts to a live person.

      • djpostl - Mar 27, 2012 at 5:16 PM

        Now we know what @TreyHickman, internet tough guy, has been dong with his time lately =P

      • cup0pizza - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:24 PM

        Hey stex52, you can ask, and thanks for the question. I don’t have a problem with you at all (actually never specifically took notice of any post you’ve made until this one, and I am not saying that in a condescending tone or implying what you may have posted isn’t worthy of notice), nor do I with the vast majority of commenters here. I’m sure most hate me, but I don’t have interactions with a great many people here. I do have unpleasant interactions with the VOCAL group of holier-than-thous here, that’s all. Missed in this are a couple of things, then I’ll shut it here: I DO make legit comments here, more than the assemblage of the most vocal regs here will ever acknowledge, particularly in any posting about the Dodgers and NL west as well as to a lesser degree the Red Sox. I may annoy and agitate, but I don’t cheapen my crap further by adding profanity, so I’m not a hypocrite when I mention that. Lastly, since Calcaterra personally asked me to “knock it off” as far as snide comments about tragic deaths that occur in the MLB communiity, I stopped and have refrained from doing so. After that, I did state in one of the Gary Carter articles that he was not good during his stint with the Dodgers. It was a factual statement as well as an mlb-related comment, and was not n overt attempt to minimalize Carter’s passing. But the guys who already hate me and wrongly state that I never, ever post in a serious manner freak out on me and the song & dance kicks in again. Sorry or the length of my response, and have a good one.

  9. cup0pizza - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:27 PM

    Oh yeah sorry but I never have stated here that rest of you were all idiots. Not at all. I often see great points raised by commenters here, but the chaos when there’s a cup0pizza vs. vocal clique dudes throwdown mutes that, I suppose.

    • stex52 - Mar 27, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      Fair enough. I have read enough of your posts to know that we probably won’t agree much, but – like I said – that doesn’t bother me. I didn’t get on this blog to agree with everything I read. I don’t like trolls, but I don’t mind heated discussions.

      I promise that I won’t make it personal.

      • deathmonkey41 - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:03 PM

        Your mother wears combat boots. Yeah, you heard me correctly.

      • stex52 - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:07 PM

        Thanks for raising the level of the conversation. :-)

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