Buster Olney and Diamond Talk

Buster's crystal ball has some interesting insight. Photo Courtesy: Nicolas Stafford
Buster’s crystal ball has some interesting insight. Photo Courtesy: Nicolas Stafford

By Will Martin

History was made last Sunday Night in Houston Texas as the Astros joined the American League West. ESPN was on hand to cover the game.

ESPN Senior Writer and sideline reporter Buster Olney took a moment to Hang with Mr. Will and address the Blitz Baseball Brigade. An honor and a privilege!

Buster, Happy Easter and thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Does being at Opening Day ever get old or tiresome for you?
No, you get really excited, especially during a long spring training when it starts to feel like Ground Hog Day by the end. You’re chomping at the bit but I know that what I’m feeling is only one tenth of what the players are feeling.

The people of Houston now make an adjustment after 52 years in the National League. First team to switch to the American League. First team to switch since the Brewers in 1998. In your opinion what is the consensus of how long it will take the Astros to get good and break out, if you will?
Well I think it’s going to take the Astros some years to rebuild. There’s no question and when you think about that there are 23 individuals who make more than the entire Astros team.

So…they have to draft and develop players. They are very early in that process. A #1 pick in the draft last year with (Carlos) Correa, a #1 pick this year. Maybe a Mark Coppell. Probably the #1 pick in the draft next year if they struggle the way a lot of baseball evaluators expect but…if you have access to that talent…and the Rays have shown this and the Nationals have shown this…you can be a great team eventually.

If you’re picking at the top of the draft it’s a good thing but I do think it’s going to be a struggle and about playing in the American League, I wonder if this is going to lead to some conversation about having the DH (designated hitter) in both leagues.

Funny you say DH because on April 6th the DH will have a 40th birthday. Yankee Ron Blomberg was the first. It didn’t help in a 15-5 loss to the Red Sox and Rogelio Moret. It has come a long way, if the DH indeed is used or not at all in both leagues why do you think that will be?
Well, I wonder how teams are going to adjust to the idea about having year round inter-league play. You know, for the last 15 years we’ve had a situation where teams have been able to prepare American League teams with two weeks of batting practice for the pitchers, getting used to their style and making plans with their outfielders but…this is going to be going on every day.

That there will be teams that play in rules that don’t suit their team, and that’s why I wonder whether it will fuel that conversation.

We just had the conclusion of the World Baseball Classic happen prior and parallel to the start of spring training. Speaking personally do you think this takes away from a player getting ready for a season to represent a country in a playoff style atmosphere?
It can. I think, for example of Fernando Rodney who pitched eight times in thirteen days for the Dominican Republic and you can understand why the Rays are upset.

The Braves weren’t too thrilled at how Craig Kimbrell was used. I mean I think what really has to happen is for Major League Baseball to get all in or stop doing it and get to the point they shut down spring training and devote baseball to making that event.

It could be phenomenal but not all the best players play. You had a World Baseball Classic without a Verlander, without a David Price. The best guys need to be there!

Final question Buster. You mentioned Justin Verlander. Let’s add the name Buster Posey. Two record setting contracts for these two players. is it safe to say the economics of baseball is in good standing
(slight pause) Overall I think they are and I wouldn’t be surprised if later in the week we hear about (Highland Park prodigy) Clayton Kershaw getting a deal in the neighborhood of 200 million dollars.

I think that’s coming down the pike as well and…if you’re a fan of the Giants that a great thing but I do think that more and more small market teams are feeling pressure and feeling that things are not going well for them.

They don’t like the way the rules are going and I have had some General Managers tell me there’s going to be a labor war in four years. Thankfully it’s not something we have to worry about in 2013.

Buster Olney being gracious with his time. You now get busy and stay busy well into the fall. Keep doing what you do and thank you for this moment!
Sure. Thanks for having me!