This weekend, The Common Man and The Uncommon Wife were helping a friend, watching her tween son and daughter while she was out of town. The Boy loved having a temporary brother and sister, and we enjoyed their efforts to keep him busy. Upon coming back from the store with TUW, the kids brought The Common Man an assortment of beers to bolster the mind and spirit. Some were excellent (TCM’s looking at you, White Rascal Belgian-Style Wheat Ale...mmm). Some…not so much.
Staggering Elk Lager, from the Estes Park Brewery in Colorado, is one such disappointment. The Common Man doesn’t know much about Estes Park, except that it apparently is too busy brewing to actually put up a website of its offerings; instead, it offers this amateurish mea culpa. (Yeah, there’s so much to do, Estes Park. How about you hire a decent web writer for a couple thousand bucks to put up even the smallest reference to what beers you make, where to find them, and something about your restaurant? No? OK, you just continue to suck then.) Even the label is ugly and uninspired. The beer itself is incredibly underwhelming. There is almost no carbonation, leaving a very small head that quickly disappears after you pour it. The lack of carbonation severely affects the taste of the lager, making it flat and stale.
Flat and stale almost perfectly describes one of the Astros’ big free agent signings this offseason, Pedro Feliz. Feliz was inked to a one year, $4.5 million contract by GM Ed Wade to bump Geoff Blum off of 3B and into a utility role in 2010. Feliz has never been much of a hitter, (.252/.291/.418, 82 OPS+ for his career) and has been especially poor this year (.210/.235/.301, 42 OPS+). And his defense, admittedly his biggest asset, has been in decline since 2007 (according to UZR), and has collapsed so far this year (UZR suggests that Feliz has cost the Astros almost three and a half runs in the field). At 35 years old, Feliz shouldn’t have been seen as a solution to anybody’s problem. For a team that should have been rebuilding, like the Astros, Feliz’s presence only underscores how misguided the team’s priorities have been, filling its roster with known names, rather than productive players. Things are so bad in Houston that Feliz has batted 3rd 8 times this year, and 5th 7 times. And he’s playing so poorly that, even if the club decides to rebuild by trading away Roy Oswalt (who has requested a trade) and Lance Berkman (who is open to one), Feliz will have no value.
Meanwhile, Chris Johnson is 25 years old and is blowing away the Pacific Coast League in his third go-round in AAA, to the tune of .389/.433/.722 with 3 homers and 7 doubles in 60 plate appearances. Johnson may not wind up being a long term solution at 3B, as he has hit just .280/.321/.455 in 579 plate appearances overall for Round Rock, but he’s clearly learned everything he needs to in the minors and now needs an extended exposure to major league pitching to see what he has. At present, he’s only had 55 major league at bats, and has started three consecutive games just once in his career, before he strained his oblique and was put on the DL. Now healthy, he’s stuck in AAA until the Astros wise up.
That stale and flat taste in your mouth is the Pedro Feliz era in Houston. The team has the worst record in the National League and is already 10.5 games out of 1st. Forty-four games in, they’ve already been outscored by more than 70 runs, and have scored exactly 3 runs per game. Five members of their eight-man starting lineup have an OBP below .300 (in addition to Feliz: Quintero .250, Manzella .259, Lee .236, and Pence .268). The highest slugging percentage on the team (.462) belongs to a pitcher (Felipe Paulino). The highest among real players is Lance Berkman’s .437. The Astros are last in the National League in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, hits (by 33), and walks (by 45, they are the only NL team under 100 walks). As a result of their free swinging ways, they have almost 100 fewer plate appearances than the next closest team. Hilariously, yesterday David Coleman of Crawfish Boxes actually listed the 10 Dumbest Yet Plausible Moves the Astros may yet make in 2010, so by no means is the horror show likely to abate.
And frankly, ugly and uninspired is another great way to describe these Astros. Like the label of Staggering Elk, no one should be forced to look at this team. Scuffy Moehler? Bud Norris? The since jettisoned Kaz Matsui? Carlos Lee? Houston has become the place where bad ballplayers go to die. Indeed, as Pedro Feliz flails his way across the diamond like a honest-to-god staggering elk, remember that the most humane thing may, ultimately, be to put it down so it doesn’t take resources from younger and stronger members of the herd.