Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom: Andraes Reiner and Scouting on the New Frontier

By Milton H. Jamail | Go to book overview

12
What Happened?
Where Did the
Prospects Go?

Chicago White Sox pitcher Freddy García was a product of the Astros’ Venezuelan academy as announcer Joe Buck noted during Game 4 of the 2005 World Series. That pipeline, he explained, “also included Johán Santana, Melvin Mora, Carlos Guillén, and Bobby Abreu, and all were signed for the Astros by Andrés Reiner.”

“You could win a lot of games with those players” added his broadcast partner Tim McCarver. They did not have to point out the obvious — none were still with the Astros. By 1999 the word despilfarrado (squandered) accurately described how the Astros had lost some of the best players produced by their Venezuelan academy.

When I began to write about the Astros’ academy in 1990, I envisioned an account describing how the Venezuelan players signed by Andrés fulfilled their big league dreams with the Astros. I never imagined that of the twenty-two players who made it to the major leagues, only twelve would make their debut with Houston or that by the time I was completing the book, only two academy alumni would be playing in the big leagues with the Astros. What happened?

As the academy players began to leave the Astros, I felt I had to explain why. My intention was not to embarrass the Astros nor to rationalize mistakes that had been made. It’s easy to understand the trade that sent García and Guillén to Seattle for Randy Johnson in 1998 or earlier trades that shipped Roberto Petagine, Oscar Henríquez, Manuel Barrios, and Raúl Chávez to other organizations, but it’s difficult to explain why Abreu, Mora, and Santana went on to be-

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