Rebuilding doesn’t have to be entirely depressing.
The Astros — predicted by many to be a 100-loss team — won their fifth straight game on Saturday night in Houston, and their second straight against the defending World Series champion Cardinals.
Houston is one game under .500 (13-14), good enough for third place in the National League Central.
Jose Altuve, a 21-year-old Venezuelan second baseman, is batting .346/.389/.529. Shortstop Jed Lowrie, acquired in a steal of a trade this winter with the Red Sox, has a .979 OPS and four home runs. Wandy Rodriguez is sporting a 1.64 ERA through six starts. And left fielder J.D. Martinez ranks 13th in the major leagues with 20 RBI.
There will be regression at some point. The rotation isn’t deep and Wandy is likely to be moved near the deadline for prospects. But the ‘Stros seem to be enjoying their flirtation with relevance and Minute Maid Park is outpacing seven other MLB stadiums — including first-place Cleveland’s Progressive (Jacobs) Field.
Cardinals 2, Astros 8
Dodgers 5, Cubs 1
Phillies 1, Nationals 7
Orioles 8, Red Sox 2
White Sox 3, Tigers 2
Diamondbacks 3, Mets 4
Brewers 2, Giants 5
Reds 2, Pirates 3
Rangers 5, Indians 2 (11 innings)
Yankees 1, Royals 5
Athletics 4, Rays 3 (12 innings)
Braves 13, Rockies 9
Marlins 4, Padres 1
Blue Jays 2, Angels 6
Twins 0, Mariners 7
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.
No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.
Manfred’s job is to look out for ownership, so it’s not surprising to see him point the finger at Harper. Consider:
Manfred’s comment comes just months after the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll. And ongoing evidence that there is indeed a positive correlation between dollars spent and team success. We often hear justification for tanking/rebuilding because the Cubs and Astros did it and won championships because of it. When the Red Sox use financial muscle to win a championship, it’s crickets.
Manfred didn’t stop there, however.
An easy way to get baseball’s “glow” back would be for two of the game’s best and most popular players to be in uniform playing games. The first spring training exhibition game will be played on February 22, so it’s not looking like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Baseball’s “glow” would also come back if more teams were actively trying to win. Instead, one-third of the league is “rebuilding” or otherwise coasting on revenue-sharing. For fans of the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Marlins — to name a few — the outcomes of their favorite teams’ seasons have already been decided, so what is there to get excited about?