Luhnow – Hero or Villian by Bob Ryan

Jeff Luhnow –say his name and you’ll ALWAYS get a reaction….some StL fans drool over him and his work….others think that he’s a descendant of Satan…others have heard his name but know little about him and his work @ St Louis & Houston.

….Luhnow was hired by the Cards to implement the ideas of the moneyball philosophy and it was thought that he had an “eye” for talent. However, He was described as a “polarizing executive” and almost immediately had issues with ol’ school Exec Walt Jocketty.  So much so that Jocketty was fired in 2007…just after the Cards has won the 2006 Championship. Why?  Here’s Bill DeWitt’s response, “I think we had a little different philosophy and vision with respect to some baseball issues,” DeWitt told AP, “There was clearly tension. We couldn’t achieve our goals given what was going on.”  However, Luhnow was excellent at his job of player development. While he led that department, the Cards organization, according to mlb.com, had “the best system record in baseball in 2010 as they won 5 minor league championships. Further, it states, the Cards developed 24 Major League Players from his first 3 drafts in 2005-2007—more than any other Major League team in that same time.But…. Jocketty wasn’t the only fatality of Luhnow’s reach in the Cards system. You were either with Luhnow or you weren’t, and as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch describes it, “The turf war left a high body count.” However, on Dec 11, 2011, Luhnow was hired by the Houston as GM.

…Luhnow apparently convinced the Astros new owner, Jim Crane who had purchased the Astros at the price of $680m in 2011, that a massive “rebuild” should take place. It’d pay dividends in the long run. That it’d take time but …that it would be worth it. In the 2011 season, Houston posted a 56-106 record with a payroll of $85m. 2012 Season saw more deterioration on the field—55-107 but a team slimmer payroll of $54m. 2013 was rock bottom for the ‘Stros 51-111 with a miniscule payroll of $35m…for the entire TEAM, not one player! As a result, the new owner actually MADE a profit! It was said that the raked in an estimated $99 million in operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) this season. That is nearly as much as the estimated operating income of the previous 6  WS championship teams.  Sooo….Luhnow bought his time to develop the star players that he had drafted. 2014 saw some improvement on the field as they went 70-92. By 2015, Luhnow knew it was time to produce on the field. He hired a new manager, HIS manager,  AJ Hinch. Houston went 86-76 with some of the future stars appearing early in their careers. In 2017-18-19,Houston won over 100 games & 3 consecutive division titles.  No team has since the Cardinals in the 1940s has reached that plateu. This year’s “really good” Houston team is the sixth in major-league history to win 100 games in three consecutive years, the first since the 2002-2004 Yankees. But the Yankees didn’t win a World Series in that span. Neither did the Braves from 1997-99, and the 1969-71 Orioles went to 3 consecutive World Series, but won only 1! Many viewed Luhnow as a terrific hero!

….But….all isn’t rosy for Luhnow now. His team…and him…are coming under heavy scrutiny and criticism. The Athletic (subscription required) reported on Tuesday that 4 players, including Mike Fiers, on the 2017 Astros–World Series winning team , admitted that their club stole signs using illegal electronics during games. The Astros would look at a monitor in the tunnel to see what a catcher’s signs were and then if it was a breaking ball or changeup they would bang a trash can to alert the hitter. First released by The Athletic and confirmed by ESPN, Goldstein — a special assistant to GM Jeff Lunhow — sent out email, leading up to the 2017 postseason, to Astros’ scouts with instructions on picking up opponent’s signs with the use of “binoculars or cameras”.  The exact wording in the August 2017 email went as follows:“One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. “What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings. Apparently a similar procedure was implemented again  in 2019 post-season games! Now….some say he’s the dastardly villain of the MLB. It isn’t over yet though…keep your eyes…with or w/o binoculars, on Houston & Luhnow J    ..btw…does this change our view of our Jeff Albert? Reportedly, he was brought in to implement the Astros “way” of hitting. The Cards batting marks in 2018 did not come close to our expectations.  Just wondering….did Albert’s skills lie in batting or subterfuge?   …Maybe it was just me being naïve…..I thought that NCAA D-1  football & basketball players received Free Tuition, Room, Food, Medical treatment, Free time with educational advisors, free tickets for their parents, etc. Now I learn that some schools…..which probably means ALL of them..pay a stipend to these players. I’ve learned that it varies with the school. Alabama pays a $5000 to at least SOME of their football players. Mizzou seems to be around $2500. I don’t know if that is just for the starters, upper classmen, or EVERYONE. I’m sure that the remaining SEC schools…and for that matter, all D-1 schools are dishing out these stipends also. Sooooo…..what’s all the fuss about players earning MORE money with their facial resemblances on other products. Or…on the other side of it…why do they even need it? The cat is outta the bag…and out of control. I’m wondering if these “students” are paying taxes on all their benefits across the board?                                                                                     …Robert Thomas, Blues forward, seems more comfortable playing center. His shifty, elusive moves with the puck followed by dazzling passes seem far more suited in the middle of the ice than packed against the boards…oops…now they call it…. the wall.        

…NCAA –BCS (Final 4 format) began in January 2015.Thus, there has been 5 years of this format. In the 5 years of this format–the SEC has placed 6 teams, ACC-5 teams, Pac 12-3 teams, Big 12-3 teams, Big 10-3 teams and 1 Independent (of course, in NCAA-F circles, that means Notre Dame). They aren’t villians I have known personally one of the voters on the committee. He’s indicated to me all the time that the committee members watch tapes of the games and  have substantive meetings to discuss all the teams. It appears to me though, that a trio of teams monopolize the voters inclinations.. Alabama has been in the Final 4 selection  ALL 5 years. Clemson for 4 of the 5 years (and last 4 consecutive years) and Oklahoma for 3 of the 5 years. So of the 20 spots filled in the 5 years of this format, 12 of those spots have been filled by just 3 schools. Were these teams ALWAYS the best 4?….maybe, they were…..certainly, they were good teams….but maybe their history, or big name coaches, or the money generated by their conference carried undue weight. We’ll never know. On the other hand, we should not eliminate a team(s) because they’ve been there recently or frequently. From an outside perspective—again voting on the number of Good teams that these schools have beaten, not their pro prospects, reputation or history, or Coaches’ pedigree….1) LSU   2) Ohio State  3) OU 4) Utah… Clemson’s schedule (modeled after Bama’s soft non-lg) just doesn’t warrant…to me.. top 4 status.

…Early Christmas idea for ur favorite baseball fan– there’s this Astros Sign-Stealing bobblehead. The bobblehead features an Astros employee wearing a jersey that says MVP, holding a Macbook next to a trash bin. The spring effect on the mallet he uses to smash the trash can is the perfect final touch. It doesn’t appear that this is being sold anywhere, but it should be…especially in the Lou J                                                       

…Let’s hope Barry Odum doesn’t get a pink slip for Christmas….however…check this out–

2016   4-9 record–beat–E.Michigan, Delaware St, Vanderbilt, Arkansas    

2017   7-6 record–beat—MO State, Idaho, U Conn, Florida, Tenn, Vandy, Arkansas        

2018   8-5 record–beat- UT-Martin, Wyoming, Purdue, Memphis, Florida, Vandy, Tenn, Ark 

2019   5-6 record–beat- W.Va, SEMO, S.Carolina, Troy, Mississippi

Total SEC wins—Vandy-3x, Ark-3x, Tenn-2x, Florida-2x, S.Carolina-1x, Mississippi-1x

You don’t become a hero because you lose to good teams.

…Lebron James, now in his 16th year at 35 years old was moved…by his own choice…to point guard this season for the Lakers. Sooo…what are the early returns?  Many of his stats are remarkably close to his lifetime stats… FG made/gm; FG att/gm; reb/gm; steals/gm. Down slightly…maybe due to advancing age or the positional change—min/gm; steals/gm; turnovers/gm. Only  a few categories have changed markedly– 2pt % is a career low; Ast/gm at a career high (what you would expect); FT/gm at career low. Lakers record is currently 13-2! It appears that his positional move has clearly benefitted the Lakers to this point and extended his career (not taking the “beating” inside.

Comments

  1. JP1

    The stealing of signs in baseball has went on for ever, at all levels. MLB has become dependent on cyber metrics to evaluate players performance… some players benefit from these stats while others are penalized financially, dealt to another organization, or released. With all the film available for hitters & pitchers to study prior to, during and post game, it’s tough to see how this helped Houston win 100 games. Banging a trash can? No one ever picked up on it? Is this practice good sportsmanship? Absolutely not. Let’s see… corked bats, spit balls, sandpaper in pitchers back pocket, pine tar. ??? MLB is going to investigate? The league that depends on replay umps in NY to determine outcome of close plays, when scoreboard replays & local tv can determine outcome in seconds, that often takes NY 3-5 minutes or longer to determine?? Games are too long??

    What I always loved about baseball was it’s naturalness. Hitting a round ball with a round bat. Catching a ball before it hits ground. Using speed to score runs. Throwing a 90 mile an hour fastball.
    I guess growing up during the 50’ & 60’s, Musial, Mays, Aaron, Gibson, Koufax was what baseball excellence was. No cyber… no beating on trash cans… just pure talent competing!

    Boy, things are getting very ugly in Columbia, Mo. Have to believe Odom is really on hot seat. A combination of coaching & poor recruitment. 2nd Tier players can only provide average results. Coaches are responsible for the recruiting. Stadium upgrades are great, but spending money on a inferior program?? Challenge is getting a head coach that can bring a good reputation of winning/recruiting that would find Mizzou an attractive job.

    Thank goodness for SLU basketball! First 6 games have been fun to watch! Coach Ford does a good job. If Billikens could shoot free throws they’d really be dangerous!

  2. Barry is getting canned after the Arkansas game! I am not a big fan of Lebron–Too much whining to the refs for me…..If that’s true Astros stealing signs like how they are doing–Someone needs to be suspended ! Fun watching Lamar playing QB!! Have a great evening & holliday! MB

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