I’m not sure exactly what is going on with the Houston Astros and their skipper Cecil Cooper, but it has me particularly concerned for Astros fans everywhere. While writer Danny Knobler hung with Mr. Cooper, the Astros manager pulled his best Jimmy Rollins impression and predicted at least 90 victories for the team this season. Why, you ask, would he think that? Feast your eyes on this quotation:
“We have a terrific bullpen. We have one of the best closers in the game. We’ve got the ace in the National League. We’ve got three of the best offensive players at their position. We’ve got, if not the best, then one of the top catchers in baseball. I mean, c’mon. We’ve got what it takes. You’re telling me we’re not going to win that many games?”
Yes, Cecil, I’m telling you that you will not be winning that many games this year. Not with the current roster, at least, and not without significant visits from the luck fairy and career year wizard. I fully comprehend that the job of a manager involves motivating his players and putting them in the best possible position to succeed, but the above quote seems more like a comment a fanboy would make in one of Dave’s organizational rankings posts.
The Astro bullpen is quite capable of performing well but is in no way a lock to dominate the league. I have long been a fan of Geoff Geary but he is slightly above average at best. Doug Brocail is still a solid enough reliever albeit being interchangeable with a good number of other bullpen arms. Wesley Wright has shown signs of promise. And any of Tim Byrdak, Clay Hensley, and Chris Sampson is likely good for slightly above replacement level production. But do not tell me you fully expect Latroy Hawkins to pitch as well as he did down the stretch. Terrific bullpen? No. Solid? Maybe.
Jose Valverde is a good closer, no question about that, but I would not slot him in the top five in the entire game. Maybe in the senior circuit, but not in all of baseball. This take is at least defendable, however. Roy Oswalt has arguably been the most consistently great pitcher of the decade, but he is not the best in the entire league. Maybe top ten or top fifteen, but not the best. He happens to be an elite performer, but not the elite performer.
Cooper’s next point of contention is asinine at best, given that if a player was clearly the best offensively at his position, we would not be racking our brains trying to figure out who he is talking about.
Lance Berkman is a great player, but Berkman < Pujols. Carlos Lee can definitely rake, but Manny Ramirez and even Matt Holliday can stake claim as the best leftfielders with the stick. After that, who would even qualify as the best offensively at a position. Miguel Tejada? Pudge Rodriguez? Is he talking about Hunter Pence? I’m even willing to forgive this massive oversight because it is harmless when compared to his next statement.
I don’t know what year Cecil Cooper is living in, but Pudge Rodriguez as one of the, if not the, best catchers in the game? What is this, 1999? Rodriguez is, at best, a league average player nowadays based primarily on positional scarcity and defensive prowess. But one of the best in the game? Seriously?
Cooper and some of his players base their 90+ win logic on the fact that they won 86 games last year and have apparently improved. Astros, Pythagoras. Pythagoras, Astros. They are not going to win 90 or more games this year. End of story. Of course I don’t expect Cooper to come out and discuss the ineptitudes of the team, but he didn’t have to emphatically overestimate their talent.