I love when national sportswriters provide analysis of the Astros’ roster or offseason moves, even when it’s just a tiny blurb at the end of a news and notes piece. This is because those writers are disinterested and detached enough from the club that they don’t come accross as Drayton’s spin doctors. Ken Rosenthal had this to say about the Stros’ catching situation:
The Astros need a catcher after losing potential backup Toby Hall to shoulder surgery, but the team continues to indicate that it cannot afford free agent Ivan Rodriguez unless his price drops significantly. That’s a problem: Humberto Quintero probably is more of a backup than a five-day-a-week catcher, J.R. Towles batted .137 last season and Rule 5 pick Lou Palmisano is not the answer.
How is it that we don’t have $1 mil to spend on Ivan Rodriguez? Granted, Pudge today isn’t the same guy that put up some decent numbers for that other Texas baseball club, but he would certainly provide plenty more than what we’ve got. I’m not even a guy who expects a lot of pop from the catcher’s spot. I love Brad Ausmus types. The catcher’s primary role is to handle the pitching staff.
However, last year in 447 innings under Quintero, Astros pitchers had an ERA of 4.89. By contrast, the team ERA under Ausmus was 3.65 in 569 innings. Like Ausmus, Pudge knows how to call a game, and with so many question marks in our starting rotation, he would be an instant pitching upgrade.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a “Q” fan all the way. Not so much because of his numbers (not good), but because of the effort he puts in. He’s done everything the club could ask for, despite the fact that they have passed him up, taken him for granted, and stunted his development for so long. This spring he has made an effort to meet with all the pitchers to put in all the preseason prep work he can, realizing that so much of what a catcher does is off the field. Still, there’s a reason he has cleared waivers multiple times. Rosenthal is right: Q is a back up, and strictly a back up.
Pudge would pay for himself. Houston fans love the big names. Unfortunately, they sometimes care more about what a player has done than what he will do (see fans expectations of Miguel Tejada last year or Mike Hampton this year). Even if Pudge is a Brad Ausmus equivalent, the fans want to see him with a star on his hat. How many $1 million deals have the potential to wake a hibernating fanbase? This would show Astros fans that Wade and McLane are still trying. I’m ready to be excited about something, and seeing Pudge as our backstop would get me out to Minute Maid.