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Astros: What Happened?

I am feeling very reflective as I wake up this morning. I am taking a step back to consider what happened to put the Astros in the position they are in now. Days like yesterday are important to reset and reflect. That is what we will do today. To be clear, this will largely be my opinion.

This off-season 51 percent of you told me in a Twitter poll that the 2023 Astros were better than the 2022 Astros who won 106 games and stormed through the postseason.

I was incredulous with these polls results and tried for months to warn and explain that this year’s team would be in a tight battle just to win its division and make the postseason. I didn’t do this to be mean although I am sure it felt that way. I did it so this fan base could be calibrated with the challenges ahead and hold the team accountable to make the right decisions knowing the margin of error was small.

I did it so when the manager deployed his throwing games away strategies you would understand how inappropriate that was this year. My hope was you would demand more from him and if not him more from the owner that enabled him.

All season long I have pushed this team to make critical decisions to be better because I knew that for THIS TEAM the margin of error was too small. I have given scores of ideas what could or should be done to be better. Most of these ideas have been ignored as expected. After all, despite my branding, I am just a fan like you too. Don't worry I absolutely know this.

Yesterday, the Astros lost their 57th game this season making it IMPOSSIBLE for this team to be better than last year record wise. They did this in epically bad fashion losing 17-1. It was a display of everything that is wrong with this team right now. Despite having one of the best statistical opportunities all season, the team looked lost and broken. The truth is this owner should be embarrassed and should immediately hold people accountable for allowing this team to sink this low (not for just the loss yesterday but for the fact that this team has lost 57 games already.)

That starts with the manager. Dusty Baker has done what he has done to the 2023 Astros in multiple stops in his career. He refuses to support and play his young players, he overplays players at the end of their careers and defends it as some moral obligation for older people, he overtaxes both starting and relief pitchers until their performance craters, and he drives a wedge between himself and his front office demanding he knows better. You have witnessed and are currently experiencing the full Dusty Baker experience. It sucks.

Baseball is a sport and to win and have a healthy culture it must be a meritocracy. People must be rewarded for performance. Dusty Baker has in multiple stops approached his teams as some sort of grand social experiment. I believe the Astros culture right now is toxic in part because decisions are being mased based on factors other than performance or expected performance. The players do not see the toxicity because people in toxic cultures rarely do. You can see it though when the easiest and most obvious solution to enable actual improvement is met with "have you asked what the pitchers think about that." If our pitchers are so codependent on one of the league's worst players and would not function without him, you have a toxic non-merit-based culture that is destroying the team.

For those that excuse the team’s performance on injuries, understand that every contender has had injuries this year. Also, expecting aging players like Brantley and Abreu to not lose significant time and not have performance declines is the thing only an amateur GM would do which is what we had at the time.

Folks, I work extremely hard providing data-based analysis. I am extremely careful trying only to give you the right information. I will defend my analysis to a level you do not see anywhere else. Why? Because what I do is rare in sports media. I am focused on an objective analysis of a sport while 99 percent of what you get is a subjective opinion.

Everyone is welcome to maintain your opinions but when I SHOW you that the opinion you have is not based on fact, I expect you to at least respect and remember that I am the guy that told you in December about the risks this team was taking with this season in the face of the media narrative that this team was ready to roll. If you respond to my analysis in a snarky or disrespectful way, you will unleash the absolute worst that this 57-year-old mind and mouth can unleash. You have been warned- again.

We are where we are now. Whether or not this dysfunctional team pulls itself together or not is an open question. There are only difficult choices ahead.

The Astros are also experiencing the challenge of success. One of the hardest things to do is win year after year. It takes a leader that is focused and demanding- Bobby Cox, Saban, and Belichick. Dusty Baker is about as polar opposite of those coaches as one can be.

They have the talent to compete. Do they truly value team success more than they want what is best for them individually? That I don’t know. I also have zero confidence that the manager will make the right decisions on that front.

Next time, I will provide the few things I think can be done to save the season. None of them will be done unless Jim Crane actually steps back and asks what happened to the Astros. Are they truly #Ready2Reign Jim?

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