By Justin Carter
In Zachary Schomburg’s poem “Because It Comes Right At You Does Not Mean It Comes To Save You,” a boat comes directly at the speaker & his father. Do you think it has come to save us, the speaker says to his father. Well, it is coming right at us, the father says to the son. This poem makes me think of the Houston Astros, circa 2010-2013, & our reliance on a (hopefully) strengthened farm team.
We continually have “can’t-miss” prospects heading to the majors. In some cases (Jason Castro, Jared Cosart) the prospects come directly at us & do their best to save us. In other cases, though, the prospects function in much the same way as the boat in Schomburg’s poem. They come to the majors. We say to our fathers they are here to save us. At the last moment, just as the boat in Schomburg’s poem refuses to stop for the speaker, the players fail to save us.
I’m not arguing against the idea that the best way to save the Houston Astros is to tear the team to pieces, let youth rise from the ashes. Houston trading Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, & Lance Berkman was the right move for the team’s future. Still— there’s a sense of helplessness that comes along with this process. In Schomburg’s poem, the boat does not stop for the characters. It splits them, leaves an icy rivulet between the speaker & the father, leaves the father face down in the ice.
As an Astros fan, this current rebuilding process (maybe on of the largest top-to-bottom rebuilds in baseball history for a team that doesn’t play in Miami) leaves us afraid that we’ll be that father— face down, our breath gone.
Enough of the metaphor, though. Let’s look at a few of the recent “can’t miss”ers that seem to have missed:
J.A. Happ: Happ was the second major piece (along with Jonathan Villar) of the trade that sent Roy Oswalt to the Phillies. Oswalt played well in his year & a half with the Phillie, while Happ…well, Happ looked good the season he was acquired, then put up a high ERA & a negative WAR in his second season. Happ was shipped to Toronto as part of a package for more youngsters.
Jordan Lyles: Lyles was only twenty when he got to Houston & some people thought he’d turn into a top of the rotation starter for the ‘Stros. Baseball Prospectus ranked him the #42 prospect in baseball in 2011. What’s happened? Lyles has an ERA of over five in each of his three seasons with Houston &, for those looking for proof from the metrics, Lyles career line looks like this: -2.4 career WAR & -54 career Runs Above Average. Can Lyles career be salvaged? Maybe in the bullpen, but he doesn’t look like a player that will stick around the rotation.
Brett Wallace: The jury is still out on Wallace, but mostly only because the Astros just won’t stop giving him playing time. Wallace finally hit double figures in homers this season, but he’s still a negative WAR player. Wallace was expected to be a long term replacement for Berkman at first base. Instead? Houston has to hope Jonathan Singleton can come up next season & take over.
Will the Astros end up like the father in Schomburg’s poem? Not likely, with a strong batch of minor leaguers coming up over the next year. They won’t all work out, though. After three straight 100-loss seasons, we’ve started to lose faith in ever being saved. Each ship that passes us without pausing is another blow to our hopes for rescue.