Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Giants place Hector Sanchez on concussion DL, call up prospect Andrew Susac

    Jul 26, 2014, 3:39 PM EDT

    Hector Sanchez AP AP

    Giants catcher Hector Sanchez suffered a concussion when he was hit in the mask by a foul tip on Friday.

  2. Angels sign Randy Wolf

    Jul 26, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT

    Randy Wolf Randy Wolf

    Randy Wolf is now with his fifth organization since spring training.

  3. Daisuke Matsuzaka lands on disabled list with elbow inflammation

    Jul 26, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Daisuke Matsuzaka Getty Getty Images

    Daisuke Matsuzaka has been surprisingly useful for the Mets this season in a swingman role, but now he’s headed to the 15-day disabled list due to right elbow inflammation.

  4. Astros prospect right-hander Mark Appel set to be promoted to Double-A

    Jul 26, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT

    Mark Appel AP AP

    Astros prospect right-hander Mark Appel had his best start of the season on Thursday and now he’s set to be promoted to Double-A.

  5. Giants acquire Jake Peavy from Red Sox

    Jul 26, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

    jake peavy getty Getty Images

    Veteran right-hander Jake Peavy is headed back to the National League and will be reunited with Bruce Bochy.

  6. Edwin Encarnacion suffers setback with quad injury

    Jul 26, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    Edwin Encarnacion Getty Getty Images

    Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion hasn’t played since July 5 due to a right quadriceps strain and now his absence appears likely to stretch into August.

  7. Cardinals officially add A.J. Pierzynski; designate George Kottaras for assignment

    Jul 26, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    A.J. Pierzynski Getty Getty Images

    The Cardinals have added A.J. Pierzynski as a veteran alternative behind the plate with Yadier Molina sidelined due to a thumb injury.

  8. Maximum stay on Hall of Fame ballot changed from 15 to 10 years

    Jul 26, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT

    hall of fame

    Big news coming out of Cooperstown this morning, as the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced their first changes to the voting process since 1991.

  9. Jon Lester is willing to return to the Red Sox as a free agent even if they trade him

    Jul 26, 2014, 10:09 AM EDT

    350fd45295c3d1be13143b1085a354f9 AP

    Jon Lester wants to stay in Boston and is open to returning even if the Red Sox trade him in the coming days.

  10. Jose Abreu is third-fastest in MLB history to reach 30 career home runs

    Jul 26, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT

    Jose Abreu AP AP

    Only Rudy York (1937) and Mark McGwire (1987) got there faster.

  11. Settling the Score: Friday’s results

    Jul 26, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

    Rays AP AP

    A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including another win for the red-hot Rays.

  12. The Dodgers are going bananas with triples against the Giants

    Jul 26, 2014, 12:28 AM EDT

    Yasiel Puig Yasiel Puig

    Triples galore for the Dodgers in San Francisco on Friday night.

  13. Video: Watch Ichiro Suzuki end his homerless drought

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:55 PM EDT

    Ichiro Suzuki Ichiro Suzuki

    Ichiro Suzuki went yard for the first time this season, taking Mark Buehrle deep. He had previously homered on August 30 last year against the Orioles.

  14. Jose Bautista isn’t impressed with Derek Norris and Sean Doolittle’s beards

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT

    Toronto Blue Jays' Bautista looks into the stands between innings during a MLB American League baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg Reuters

    Jose Bautista isn’t a huge fan of the beards Athletics Derek Norris and Sean Doolittle are sporting.

  15. The Atlantic League is adding new rules to speed up ballgames

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Alarm Clock

    The Independent League is taking measures to speed up games. Could MLB do the same?

  16. Report: Cardinals in the process of signing A.J. Pierzynski

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:35 PM EDT

    Chicago Cubs v Boston Red Sox Getty Images

    The Cardinals are trying to add yet another catcher in A.J. Pierzynski, which would mean George Kottaras could be on his way out.

  17. Daisuke Matsuzaka is back in New York to have his right elbow examined

    Jul 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Daisuke Matsuzaka Daisuke Matsuzaka

    The struggling Daisuke Matsuzaka will have his elbow examined, which will let the Mets know how to proceed.

  18. Jimmy Rollins’ 2015 option just became guaranteed

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT

    Jimmy Rollins Getty Images

    Jimmy Rollins needed 1,100 plate appearances total between 2013-14 in order for his $11 million option for 2015 to become guaranteed. He hit PA #1,100 during tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks.

  19. Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez return to Dodgers’ lineup

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    Yasiel Puig Yasiel Puig

    Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez are back. Making things even more interesting, Puig will play center field.

Featured video

Three legends off to Cooperstown
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. T. Tulowitzki (3379)
  2. R. Howard (3289)
  3. C. Headley (3045)
  4. Y. Puig (3001)
  5. H. Ramirez (2870)
  1. M. Trout (2845)
  2. B. Belt (2619)
  3. C. Lee (2494)
  4. H. Street (2375)
  5. J. Soria (2324)