Carlos Lee gets a fresh start, and the Astros move on

In a lot of ways, Carlos Lee got a raw deal during 5 1/2 seasons with the Astros. He became the face of the failings of the franchise, and that was never fair. The Astros went from one of Major League Baseball’s most successful franchises to one that’s being rebuilt from the ground up for a long list of reasons.

Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell couldn’t play forever. There were a ton of mistakes made in the First-Year player draft and plenty more in free agency. Jeff Kent and Andy Pettitte were shown the door. For several years, the Astros thought they were one or two players away from being back in contention, and so millions were thrown at an over-the-hill gang that included Miguel Tejada, Kaz Matsui, Bill Hall, Woody Williams, Mike Hampton, etc.

Lee stepped into the middle of it all after the 2006 season when he was signed to a six-year, $100-million contract. First, he was being asked to replace a hole in the lineup created by the departures of Beltran and Kent. Second, the franchise had a host of other needs, and without a productive farm system, they couldn’t all be addressed.

Lee was an incredibly consistent offensive player during his first four seasons with the Astros. He averaged 28 home runs and 102 RBIs a season and had an .833 OPS. His production declined the last two seasons as he got older, but that’s one of the risks of giving a 30-year-old player a longterm deal for big bucks. As former Astros owner Drayton McLane said when asked what Lee’s signing had taught him, “Long-term contracts can be painful.”

For those first four seasons, Lee was pretty much the player he’d always been. He was a very tough out. He didn’t strike out much and had the ability to produce even when a pitcher delivered his best pitch.

But…

He wasn’t a very good defensive outfielder. Never had been. Was never going to be. The Astros didn’t get him for his glove. They got him for his bat, and that’s where he excelled.

He was also never going to be Charlie Hustle. He never had been. If the Astros thought $100 million was going to transform him into something else, they just didn’t do their homework.

Besides, the Astros had so many other issues that Lee wasn’t going to turn them around if he’d shown up at 2:30 and called a team meeting twice a week.

Carlos never seemed to let the criticism get to him. He showed up everyday with a smile on his face, went about his business and did his thing at the plate.

Once Jim Crane bought the Astros last Fall and brought in GM Jeff Luhnow to build the baseball operation, Carlos was a poor fit. Luhnow wants to open the Major League roster up to young players who might improve and grow with the franchise. He now has that at every position, and if a couple of the young pitchers now performing well in the minors are the real deal, the Astros have a chance to improve quickly.

6 Comments

First two seasons: 133 OPS+
Next two seasons: 105 OPS+

Lee made $38 million dollars in that third and fourth season stretch, and we got zero defense and a .317 on-base percentage. He never played hard, never cared, showed up late with regularity, made too much money, and in the end, screwed us out of a legit prospect in Garrett Gould; now we’re lucky to have a defensive replacement (Dominguez) and sixth inning reliever (Rausmussen) to show for it…and paying the remainder of his salary too. You should know this better than most, Richie…yet it’s aaaalllll the Astros fault and poor Carlos Lee was just piled on and bullied, right? Hope you’re enjoying the national spotlight.

It may not have been fair that he became the face of the previous regime’s failures, but you said it yourself:

“He was also never going to be Charlie Hustle. He never had been. If the Astros thought $100 million was going to transform him into something else, they just didn’t do their homework.”

Maybe the Astros didn’t do their homework, but that doesn’t make it any more bearable as a fan to watch him moving at 50% down the first base line. Hustle reflects desire, and it looked most of the time like Carlos just didn’t care and was quite content just collecting his checks. That’s the real reason for the angst.

Maybe the Astros should have parted ways with Lee sooner than later. Uncle Drayton wanting to be competitive and rebuild at the same mentality hurt. New regime finally getting back where it should be. Investing in the farm system and build ing the franchise on young players and not overpaying for veterans with little time left in their careers. I think we got what we could out of Carlos Lee. It just didn’t translate into wins and being competitive.

Lee’s signing was the beginning of the end for the franchise and his should be included on the line with Tejada, Matsui, etc in the long list of Ed Wade’s failure. Hopefully, the Wallace is saw briefly this year is the real thing.

Hopefully, the Wallace we saw briefly this year is the real thing.

You call 100 million a raw deal for some one who didn’t put the effort on and off the field???. From day one he seemed to be content that his money was gauranteed and seem to make no effort to improve in any way. Yes good numbers in first couple of seasons but 100 million he should of put up great numbers and improve his game yearly from batting to his defense on field. Carlos Lee good riddance.

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