Joe Sheehan offered a nice epitaph for now former Brewer manager Ned Yost over at Baseball Prospectus on Monday; that's "nice" as in well written, not nice as in sentimental or flattering.
After excoriating Yost for his in-game strategies, particularly his deployment of the Brewer bullpen during this past weekend's pivotal Brewers/Phillies series in Philadelphia, Sheehan addresses the widely perceived injustice of the Cubs/Astros games being moved to Milwaukee.
If the Astros fail to pass the Phillies and Brewers to land the Wild Card slot—following Monday's loss to the Cubs, Houston trails the two frontrunners by 2 1/2 games—we will certainly hear a lot, for a very long time, about how the relocation of these games was the undoing of Cecil Cooper's team.
As someone who recognizes that the home-field advantage in MLB isn't very large, it's not a big deal to me. Most of the home-field advantage stems from the tactical advantage of batting last, and the Astros still had that. Far too much was made of the crowd makeup and the travel difference; these things are terribly minor concerns in the outcome of baseball games. No one was crossing time zones or playing in front of 55,000 hostiles.
There was no plan in place to harm the Astros, and the solution is the best one available under the circumstances. Had Drayton McLane and the Astros players elected to play the series beginning Friday, perhaps Tampa's Tropicana Field would have been an option. (With the wet weather across the country, a covered field would be something of a priority.) McLane held out the absurd hope that Houston would be a suitable location for baseball come Sunday, and when that was revealed to be ridiculous, he lost the right to complain about the solution handed down. The Astros players are a bit more sympathetic, as staying in Houston with their families during the storm was one reason they didn't want to play elsewhere, but again, that's the choice they made, and by making it, they lost Tampa as an option. I completely agree with how MLB handled it, and the only thing I might disagree with was that they were too accommodating. If Astros fans, the media, management, or the players themselves end up using this arrangement as an excuse, ignore them; the location of [Sunday] night's game was a nonfactor in its outcome.
Personally, I think this club, which clawed back from an 11-game deficit to the Brewers just 19 days ago, has accomplished a lot. But it's still a team that's missing the big bat of Carlos Lee and one that grants an awful lot of at-bats to guys like Darin Erstad, Mark Loretta, and Brad Ausmus.
In other words, maybe the move to Milwaukee was unfair and squashed the Astros' momentum, and will ultimately cost Houston its shot at the post-season.
Or maybe this has been an overachieving team for many weeks; a team whose fairy tale was just due to end.
Labels: NL Central