Of Myers, Moehler, and the Limits of Snark

In the event that you haven’t heard, the Houston Astros have gone and signed Brett Myers. The deal itself — one-year, $5 million with an option for 2011 — seems entirely reasonable to my semi-trained eye. As our man on the scene David Golebiewski notes, Myers has chronically underperformed his xFIPs, a fact almost wholly attributable to an inflated rate of home runs per fly ball, a fact itself that is likely attributable to Citizens Bank Park. Translation: Provided that he’s healthy — which isn’t a guarantee given his injury problems last year — but given that he’s healthy, Brett Myers figures to post a better ERA than we’ve seen from him in a while.

Here’s the thing, though: the signing of Myers gives the Astros six starters. Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, and Myers himself are likely candidates to fill the first three spots in rotation. Which, that leaves Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino, and Brian Moehler to compete for the last two.

For a number of reasons, those two spots should go to Norris and Paulino. It’s not just that Norris (4.38 xFIP, 4.25 tERA*) and Paulino (4.10 xFIP, 4.07 tERA*) are likely better than Moehler (4.67 xFIP, 4.49 tERA*), but also that, if Houston has any sense of building for the future, it would make a priority of developing the two young pitchers with upside. Brian Moehler is the absolute knownest of the known quantities. It’s not a terrible quantity, but it’s no great shakes, either.

I’m worried, though. I’m worried that the Astros will somehow see fit to go with Moehler. Yes, there’s a chance that they’re creating the illusion of a competition so’s to prevent their young starters from becoming complacent, but I’m worried that’s not the case. I’m worried they like Brian Moehler. I’m worried he’ll be their fifth starter heading into the season.

Here’s how I’ll feel if such a thing were to happen: sad. Not joking-around sad, but legitimately sad. Way sadder than at the end of a Lars von Trier movie, for example. And while I recognize that may sound melodramatic, I should note that I’m not the sort of person who’s otherwise prone to strong emotion. But I care about baseball, and I look to baseball to provide ethical cues for my life. And it frequently does that. Jack Zduriencik? Yes. Andrew Friedman? Yes, awesome. Brian Myrow? Right on. But this particular move — should it occur — will only reinforce for me that people in charge are fallible to a greater degree than I’d care to acknowledge.

Of course, there’ll be ways to deal with it. As Matt Klaassen showed us on Friday, the power of snark is mighty. (I mean, seriously, that post is brilliant.) Fire Joe Morgan raised snark to the level of high art. But snark isn’t an end in itself. It’s merely one way of coping with flagrant injustice or misbehavior. Snark is the mode to which we resort when we are powerless to protest in any other way. It’s fun, sure, but it’s not ideal. Ideally, men in charge — that is, men whose acts are conspicuous and, for better or worse, provide a model for the rest of us — make decisions using the faculty of reason. Ideally, the Astros make Brian Moehler their long reliever. The alternative will be disappointing.

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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where do you get tERA from?