In Play: Soundout - Astroball

Updated: Apr 12

Whether you’re in isolation, wishing you were in isolation, working from home or in an empty office wishing you were working from home- there is a good chance that you have some spare time on your hands.


With no everyday baseball and/or baseball news, content for podcast on America’s past time has been somewhat quashed within recent weeks.


Consequently, I have since turned to Amazon’s audio book service, audible in search of high quality audio content to suppress my cravings for baseball. After each completed title, I will be leaving a little synopsis and review of how I found the audio book. First up…..



Astroball

Length: 7 Hours 51 Minutes

Written by: Ben Reiter

Narrated by: Ben Reiter

Rating: 3/5


Houston were without doubt the worst team in baseball when Sports Illustrated claimed that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series. Led by Astros GM; Jeff Luhnow and former NASA scientist; Sig Mejdal- Astroball dives into the top to bottom overhaul of Houston’s transformation from a laughing stock to World Champions.


The story begins with Luhnow and Mejdal’s origins in St. Louis as they remodeled the Cardinals approach within the first year player draft. Despite varying success within their results, Reiter explains nicely the lengths and depths at which player evaluation went when assessing players such as Jed Lowrie, Matt Carpenter and Trevor Rosenthal.


Despite both on and off the field successes in St. Louis, Astroball follows Luhnow and Mejdal as they relocated to Houston to turn around baseball’s poorest team into the game’s best. Looking to rebuild through the draft, Reiter describes and deep dives into the scouting and player development of franchise cornerstones; Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and former starting pitcher- Dallas Keuchel.


One of the most interesting parts of the story I personally found, was the Astros handling of premier All-Star slugger, JD Martinez. Having struggled within Houston’s farm system, the story describes how Martinez went away to re-develop his swing, buying into the modern day launch angle belief.


Despite being in part a narration of a known outcome, Reiter provides a comprehensive breakdown of the Astros 2017 season paying great attention to the mid-season acquisition of Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers and fallout from the heart-breaking, Hurricane Harvey.


If the book consisted of just the above then I think I would have enjoyed the entirety of the story significantly more. Despite a huge underlying personal interest within player analysis, player development and a fly on the wall view of the acquisition of a hall of fame pitcher, I was left with a somewhat sour taste in my mouth at the end.


I would like to highlight the fact that none of this was through Reiter’s doing but more so what came to light in the Fall of 2019. With Jeff Luhnow and Carlos Beltran disgraced by both Major League Baseball and its fans for their roles within illegal sign stealing by the 2017 Astros, the story at times felt dirty rather than intended ground-breaking.


A specific example of this can be seen within one of the final chapters regarding Carlos Beltran’s locker room presence and willingness to spend time in the film room, a room later found to be directly linked to the Astros disgrace.


On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed the listen and would recommended it to every baseball fan, regardless of their knowledge and/or interest in the Astros. The tempo, length and depth conveys a nice balance for both enjoyment and education.


It is a shame that what has come to light in the years since has significantly tarnished what was and still is- ground-breaking advances within player evaluation.