The Dreaded R Word

added 12/18/2009 by Scott Barzilla

It began with a debate about Jason Michaels. That was innocent enough and Ms. Footer's response is the kind I would expect from someone on the inside. He's not that bad. He played well in the second half. His 800K salary won't really cost us that much. You've heard the drill. If you are anything like me you are fed up with it.

It was when the conversation turned to Brian Moehler that things really began to take shape. I argued that the club should guarantee slots to Felipe Paulino and Wesley Wright while she argued that they have the opportunity to make the club if they perform. Moehler has proven himself and so he deserves the slot because there really is no one better in the chain. In that exchange you learned everything you need to know about the Astros. They want to avoid that dreaded R word as much as possible.

Unfortunately, tweeting doesn't lend itself to formal debates, so this space is just as good as any to make this declaration. A season with the likes of Brian Moehler, Geoff Blum, and Jason Michaels getting significant time is a wasted season. You can always make the argument that they are better than the alternative. That's not the point. As the old adage goes, it's hard to get experience if no one gives you the job. Players like Edwin Maysonet, countless young outfielders, and young pitchers are being blocked by players that have proven themselves to be below average.

I like those guys as much as anyone else, but this is a 74 win team that lost an all-star shortstop, its closer, and two setup guys. How good do they really think they are going to be. The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent two decades rebuilding and the Royals have been at it longer. I understand the fear, but when you lace up the spikes in March you either set out to win or you set out to develop. There should be no in between. There should be no playing of below average old guys just to avoid embarrassment.

Felipe Paulino, Yorman Bazardo, and Wesley Wright may not be better than Brian Moehler in 2010, but at least one of them will be beyond 2010. They won't be better if they don't get exposed to the best competition baseball has to offer. Wandy Rodriguez spent three seasons fumbling around on the mound before things began looking up. If Paulino gets significant time now (win or lose) then he will be better in 2011 and possibly ready to be a top flight starter in 2012. Brian Moehler will be retired by 2012. If you continue to pitch him then you will still be wondering who will be in the back end of your rotation in 2011 and 2012. It may seem depressing to admit you won't win, but it is more depressing to watch an organization spin its wheels and call it progress.