I had a bad dream last night, and it involved the Houston Astros letting go closer Jose Valverde without a fight.
In the dream, the Astros offered salary arbitration to Valverde. Just as I thought Houston would sign Valverde and preserve their closer role in the bullpen, all kinds of other evil large-market teams arose: Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and others.
Each team had representatives dressed like some surreal caricature of a used-car salesman: a suit of some strange plaid pattern that was the rage of 1975, enough rings to have made Liberace jealous, hair slicked back with baby oil and a stinking cheap cigar protruding from their mouths.
Each waived huge stacks of $100 bills and asked Valverde: "Jose, why play for glorified minimum wage in Houston when you can come here and earn real money? You know Drayton McLane will try to tighten his financial belt and will never pay you what you're worth! We can. Believe in us. Sign with us!"
And, sure enough, with or without Jedi mind tricks, Valverde will probably not be an Astro next season. He'll go someplace else.
Valverde, in short, will become the new Danny Darwin.
You remember the Bonham Bullet, don't you, Astros fans?
He came to Houston in 1986 and originally struggled. He was moved from starter to reliever, where he flourished. Then, with his fastball working, Darwin had an outstanding 1990 season where, in 17 starts, he had an astonishing win-loss record of 11-4, a 2.21 ERA and won the National League ERA title.
Great job, Danny , then-owner John McMullen no doubt said to him. We're going to reward you by offering you less money. More specifically, we won't try to match anyone's offer to you. But you're a Texas guy, so you'll stay with Houston .
Darwin left for Boston as Houston struggled to replace him. McMullen's experiment with what's now called "Moneyball" failed miserably. (You know, trying to save on expenses by choosing el cheapo players based on outside-the-box analysis). He sold the team to McLane.
Yes, I know baseball can be expensive, but I sincerely hope Houston doesn't try to save money by letting Valverde go and try to replace him with some has-been, never-will-be or some rookie who will look at Albert Pujols and wet his jockstrap.
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