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Bud Norris on the Astros: “They are definitely the outcast of major league baseball right now”

May 24, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has a very interesting and in-depth piece on the Astros’ radical rebuilding plan. While the team’s farm system is brimming with young and exciting talent, their progressive approach is drawing some criticism from both outside and inside the organization.

Bud Norris, who was traded from the Astros to the Orioles last year, had some pointed comments about how the team is being perceived in the industry:

“They are definitely the outcast of major league baseball right now, and it’s kind of frustrating for everyone else to have to watch it,” said former Astros pitcher Bud Norris, now with the Orioles. “When you talk to agents, when you talk to other players and you talk amongst the league, yeah, there’s going to be some opinions about it, and they’re not always pretty.”

Some of this criticism is centered around the team’s perceived approach to analytics and service time. Look no further than the George Springer contract situation as a significant example. Put it all together and you have some unhappy players.

“I don’t think anybody’s happy. I’m not,” one Astros player told the Chronicle recently on the condition his identity not be revealed. “They just take out the human element of baseball. It’s hard to play for a GM that just sees you as a number instead of a person. Jeff is experimenting with all of us.”

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow spoke with Drellich and said that he expects some unhappiness and resistance to their approach, but insists that they are doing what they are doing “for the right reasons” and won’t divert from their plan unless it starts to affect them in “a meaningful way.” Ultimately, he expects winning to cure all ills, but they obviously still have some work to do on that front.

There’s a lot more to Drellich’s piece, so I recommend you all go and check it out. Great stuff about a fascinating organization.

  1. zackd2 - May 24, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    George Springer isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. 48ks in 125 ABs is scary.

    Of course players aren’t happy, team is not very good at the moment. As for future FA, money talks. They’ll gladly find Houston attractive if they pay them.

    Also, people may disagree with Astros plan – but at least they’ve spent time and analysis putting a plan together. Better than signing 35yo to multi year deals and whatnot.

    • dan1111 - May 24, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      Yeah, I agree.

      Also, there is always criticism around rebuilding teams until they start winning. In the Astros’ case, it just happens to take the form of criticizing their philosophy, but if not that, it would be something else.

      People just don’t like losing.

    • yahmule - May 24, 2014 at 8:20 PM

      Actually, his K rate is gradually shrinking as his walk rate improves. Something that wasn’t going to happen @ AAA.

      • zackd2 - May 24, 2014 at 11:11 PM

        His K-rate is 34%, highest at any level. It was 31% in Mar/Apr and 36% in May.

        I’m not saying he’s not good or won’t improve. But fans saying he should be called up opening day to add “excitement” to the team, while ignoring the benefit of having arbitration rights for another year. He’s not the final piece to a playoff or championship team.

      • yahmule - May 25, 2014 at 12:43 AM

        Yeah and only three strikeouts, balanced by three walks, in his last 24 PA. Plus, you know, the three home runs and 7 RBI over the same span.

        This kid will be among the league leaders in strikeouts annually, even as he makes the All Star team repeatedly. He swings incredibly hard.

        The Astros won’t have to worry about being a contender for a good long while. This owner is not going to suddenly start spending money on the team. He’s a tightwad, who, at best, failed to perform due diligence before making a breathtakingly huge purchase, but is more likely trying to scapegoat prior ownership over supposedly exaggerated TV revenue. In reality, nobody watches the team because the product is disgraceful as they’re actively trying to tank their way into an unprecedented fourth consecutive number one pick.

  2. thekingdave - May 24, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Ditto for the rest of the organization as far as looking at people as numbers or whatever. I just graduated from a top 10 business school and was willing to take less to get my foot in the door. Apparently must have been quite an impressive candidate pool for the Houston sports guru to not qualify for a phone screen for a job paying in the low 30ks. Good job director of ticket sales Andre Luck! Real thorough! Keep hiring people like Zach from Wisconsin who’s been harassing me for a year and hasn’t been able to comprehend that I’ve been in Austin and am unable to buy season tickets at the moment!

    • asimonetti88 - May 24, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      you mad bro?

      • thekingdave - May 24, 2014 at 6:05 PM

        yes, hence the “that really pissed me off” comment immediately after this which you sure as hell saw. but cool cliche comment, though i would say that was an “epic fail”. wait, should i drop a hashtag on that?

  3. thekingdave - May 24, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    I apologize for being off topic, that just really pissed me off. Also off topic, I’m going to Kansas City Tuesday to visit my 27th MLB stadium and St Louis Wednesday for my second trip to new Busch Stadium. Any suggestions on why to do during the day from people in the know besides the Negro League baseball museum, Oklahoma Joe’s, and the arch?

    • pinetarhomer - May 24, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      If you like Native American history, check out the Cahoikia mounds across the river from St. Louis. It’s about 20 mins from downtown. The biggest earth mounds in North America and they are fascinating. Lots of good stuff in the visitor center as well. I went there while my wife was attending a conference in StL. It was much more enjoyable that way cause I got to look at and read anything I wanted without her standing around being bored!

      • thekingdave - May 24, 2014 at 6:07 PM

        I appreciate your input. Must say I was expecting more from the elitist crew that posts here regularly and knows more about baseball than everyone else.

  4. mc1439 - May 24, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    If someone currently on the 25 man did in fact say that, then they really just need to shut up. On any other club they would be getting paid the same exact amount being on a rookie deal. So guess what? You might as well play the GD game. If you’re any good you’ll get your arbitration raises just like every other player before and after you. If you don’t perform you’ll get sent down to AAA just like any other sh**ty player.

  5. paperlions - May 24, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    Every organization views players as numbers and not people. Anyone that thinks differently is kidding themselves. Organizations LOVE productive players. It doesn’t matter how nice a guy you are, if you don’t produce, you are gone.

    Every contract that is offered is about expect player production, not you as a person and not intangibles….really, the only way personality or intangibles can affect an offer is negatively (work ethic, legal troubles, etc.). Any positive effect of so called intangibles is still based on how they translate to production. If you work hard and a team expects that you will stay healthy and in shape, they don’t offer you money for that…but for how they expect that to translate into on-field production.

    I read the story, and it comes off as a reporter that disagrees with a team philosophy that went in search of people to support his view. Grossman turned down a $14-15M contract offer? Well, then he’s an idiot because he’s a replacement level player. Grossman is in AAA because that is where he belongs, even on the Astros, not because he turned down a contract offer.

    Springer didn’t start in AAA to save Houston money, he started there to guarantee a 7th year of team control. If Houston was a good team, he’d still be in AAA because he can’t help a good team win right now….but Houston is letting him learn in the majors because they don’t think he can learn what he needs to in the minors. Promoting real prospects is not and should not be about whether or not there are better players in front of them, it is about the development of that player.

    One can disagree with whether or not Houston should have thrown away $100M so that they could lose 85-90 games/year instead of 100+ the last few years….those years were never going to be competitive. If the goal is to win championships, then what they are doing is the best path there….if you win 90 games those years, you don’t have Correa or Appel in your system.

  6. socalcharger - May 24, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    Teams with low payrolls are forced to hold their prospects back. Can’t really fault the Astros for that. The bigger issue would be if the farm system was failing, but by all accounts it’s fairly strong. Astros fans just need to be patient and hope their players develop and stay healthy. Oakland is the model all small market teams should follow.

  7. jsala02 - May 24, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    I went to a game that Bud was throwing a couple of years ago and I was sitting right in front of his mother. She hit me in the head with her purse at least 3 times and not once did she say “I’m sorry”.

    • gloccamorra - May 24, 2014 at 7:15 PM

      Well, that tells you everything you need to know about Bud Norris!

  8. rhannah78 - May 24, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    I don’t see anyone complaining about how the Oakland A’s are run and they perfected treating players as a number(ie. analytics).The only difference is the A’s are winning and the Astros are not. The Astros were run into the ground by previous front office management/ownership, so it takes awhile to rebuild a consistent winner from scratch.

  9. drewsylvania - May 24, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    My opinion of the Dodgers throwing money at every lousy has-been is pretty poor, too.

  10. apmn - May 24, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    Why do players care if the Astros shift the infield more than other teams?

  11. hvoigt21 - May 24, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    Winning solves a lot of problems. The Astros will be good real soon. What people outside of Houston need to know is Drayton Mclane is the reason Houston is bad right now.

    He neglected the life blood of his’s farm system. And the new ownership is now having to fix years of neglect by a greedy owner not wanting to spend the money. Many people think was a smart businessman but neglecting the life blood to your business is not being smart in terms of being loyal to the fans who supported the team. Because sooner or later it will catchup with you.

    Or whoever owns the team if you sell..which is what Mclane ended up doing, Deserting a sinking ship.

    Norris probably did have a miserable time in Houston and he is bitter. being with a team during a transition such as what The stros are going through is not fun. For players, fans or whoever.

    what the stros are doing is the only way to fix an inherited problem. build from the ground up. And it will take time.

    • paperlions - May 24, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      Exactly. When the current owner/GM took over, the system was bare….no MLB talent, no MiLB talent, and no modern coherent organizational philosophy. They didn’t just have to start from scratch from a talent perspective, but from front-office, scouting, player development, and analytical perspectives.

      • gloccamorra - May 24, 2014 at 7:18 PM

        Well, they had a few good players, but they traded them all to restock the farm. Don’t forget, even the Astros front office was shocked at how bad they were afterwards, apparently thinking even marginal talent will win a decent number of games.

      • dan1111 - May 26, 2014 at 1:45 AM

        @gloccamorra, was the front office really shocked, or were they just putting an optimistic spin on the season? It is not good management to announce “we are going to lose 100 games this year”, even if you think that is the most likely outcome.

  12. Bob - May 24, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    Friendly advice for Bud Norris: Enjoy your undeserved millions as a way-below-average MLB pitcher and STFU.

    Good job, Drelich, in finding bitter ex-Astros (Norris, Lowrie) to gripe about their former team. Real investigative chops. How long did you have to twist their arms to talk?

    Norris couldn’t handle being an ace, and now he’s just an arm in the bullpen. So shut up, Bud.

  13. savior72 - May 24, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Kingdave- checkout Crystal City Underground. A bit south of St. Louis but pretty cool.

  14. Robert - May 24, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    Las Vegas Astros 2016.

    • gloccamorra - May 24, 2014 at 7:23 PM

      That’s shared territory for the Dodgers, Angels, Padres and Diamondbacks. Also, gambling. Plus, you don’t leave the 5th largest metro area in the country for the 31st.

      • Robert - May 24, 2014 at 7:36 PM

        Oklahoma City Astros.

  15. jkaflagg - May 24, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    While the article was interesting and brought up many valid points, I find it reassuring that most people’s comments reflect Luhnow’s overall philosophy – once the team begins to win, the happiness will ramp up quickly.

    As far as the comments from Norris and Lowrie, I didn’t find them especially offensive; in fact, they seemed to be careful not to make them outright “rips”…..I think everybody is somewhat reluctant to flat out rip the Astros, because if it all works out they could become a powerhouse very quickly, and nobody wants to be remembered as haters when that happens….especially players looking for a job.

  16. yahmule - May 24, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    Intentionally tanking isn’t progressive. It’s stealing.

    • chill1184 - May 24, 2014 at 8:44 PM

      True but I honestly think its very hard to intentionally tank in MLB (or at the very least prove, it’s not like in the NBA in which the number 1 pick is a 8/10 chance at being a superstar.

      • yahmule - May 24, 2014 at 8:49 PM

        IMO, they’ve failed to select the best player with the number one pick the last two years. That whole just-you-wait-and-see attitude they keep preaching might come back and bite them.

  17. lgwelsh1 - May 25, 2014 at 4:31 AM

    The Astro’s are starting completely over from pretty much nothing. It won’t happen overnight and the ownership is doing the right things, by building up their farm system, getting those young players

    It’s going to take some time, I have a feeling in 2016 this team will be very tough to beat.

    • yahmule - May 25, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      They’re going to be a Texas version of the Marlins.

    • yahmule - May 25, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      They’re going to be a Texas version of the Marlins.

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