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

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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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.