Chris Truby and the Hard Facts of Baseball
added 5/16/2001 by Steve Cutchen
My initial thought on the Vinny Castilla signing was "Why screw with the team like this?" Castilla has shown no sign that he's still capable of reproducing his Colorado days. And how much of those days were due to playing at Williamsport?
But now that I've had time to think about it and to digest what others have said, I think this is another good move by Hunsicker that will be misunderstood by the casual fan. Not unlike the failure to resign Johnson or Hampton or the Carl Everett deal... It may look bad on the surface, but when you look at the real thought process and how the deals came to be you see the shrewdness.
First, is Castilla really a Has-Been? It's hard to say. He was hurt for much of last season, so those stats are not meaningful. And if you look at the mess in Tampa Bay, it is easy to see how anyone would play poorly there. The atmosphere is depressing. Guys on the bench with their heads just buried in their hands.
In Tampa, the umpire starts the game with "Endure Ball!" rather than "Play Ball!"
So I'm willing to believe that Vinny is not done.
Second, can he hit anywhere but Colorado? Well, in his four full seasons in Colorado, he averaged over 16 home runs per year on the road. So I think it is fair to say he has more than warning track power. Besides, I have to believe there is a real effect on an opposing pitcher of having a Vinny Castilla batting in the seven hole versus a Chris Truby.
Third, what have we got to lose? There is no commitment past the end of this season. And the financial cost is insignificant.
So at this point, I've convinced myself that Castilla is a Good Thing from a pure third base standpoint. Especially with no real financial or long-term organizational risk. Like Todd eloquently stated in his column, signing Castilla is a no-brainer.
But what do you do with Truby and Hayes? Why in the world wouldn't you keep Truby on the bench and release Hayes?
The most important point when examining this question is to realize that Castilla is going to be the starter. With his poor performance in Tampa Bay, a lot of folks were saying, "Continue to start Truby. Replace Hayes on the bench with Castilla." Well, if that was the deal offered to Castilla, he might have not signed. The Cubs offered him a part-time role, and he came here because we didn't. The starter's every-day position was a key bone tossed to Vinny to get him in an Astros uniform.
The question then boils down to who do you have on the bench, Hayes or Truby?
I think it literally boils down to the fact that Truby is not the long-term solution at third. Morgan Ensberg is. Chris had an advantage in that he was ahead of Morgan in the minors progression. And so he was the one called upon last year from AAA New Orleans when Morgan was at AA Round Rock. And this means that next year Chris would have the advantage of incumbency. He could use this year to try to establish himself and make it more difficult for the Astros to replace him with a player unproven at the MLB level.
Certainly in Truby's world, this was the plan. Take advantage of this year to show he deserved the job over Ensberg. But this is not going to happen if Vinny Castilla is starting. Chris would not be getting the reps at third even if we kept him and released Hayes. This forces the decision on Ensberg versus Truby to be made with the data we have now. The shot Chris has had up until now is the shot he's going to get to make his case. And guess what. He has not performed well enough. The winner is Morgan Ensberg. The fact that Chris is playing first base in New Orleans is the Hammer of Truth come down on Chris Truby. And if he is truly behind Ensberg, why keep him in Houston? Instead, keep Hayes and keep all options open.
Gerry IS the Hun
Yes, this deal makes sense. It makes sense to sign Vinny Castilla. It makes sense to keep Hayes over Truby. And it makes sense to keep Ensberg at third in New Orleans.
Be glad, Astro fan. We could have a sucky franchise like the Mets or Rangers, with a terribly unbalanced team on the field, no one to trade for help and no hope of prospects from the development pipeline. Instead, we have a team that is combining great offense with what now looks to be a very good bullpen and serviceable starters. And an organization that is packed with good prospects from Rookie to AAA. We may not be the Yankees. But we are not in any danger of becoming the Rangers, Rays, Royals or Pirates, either.
Give it up for Gerry and the Astros organization.
That's my Knuckleball. Try to hit it.