Dying Love?

AJ Hoffman: Osuna trade makes Astros a little less lovable

The Astros appear to be willing to win at all costs. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Astros were the feel-good team of last season. They persevered and won a championship in a year when their home city was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey. The team had great chemistry and for the most part was an extremely likable group of players. If you are a fan of the Red Sox, Yankees or Dodgers, it makes sense that you cheered against the Astros, at least in those particular series.

For the majority of people who didn’t have a dog in the fight, however, the Astros were an easy team to cheer for. 

This year’s squad added a few pieces, but for the most part had the same feel. That all changed with the Roberto Osuna trade. I know, “we don’t know the details” behind his domestic violence accusation. We do know that police found enough to warrant arresting him. We do know that he didn’t appeal his suspension, even though it was the longest suspension handed out for domestic violence in the history of the game. We do know that Jeff Luhnow said that the team had done their due diligence and that Osuna is “remorseful” and has “willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior.” 

That last nugget is interesting for multiple reasons. Doesn’t Luhnow saying Osuna is remorseful mean that he is admitting to the accusation? Does anyone have remorse over something they didn’t do? Secondly, how is it possible to say that he has “willingly complied with all consequences” when he still has a court date, where he plans to plead not guilty. 

When video surfaced of Astros prospect Danry Vasquez hitting his girlfriend multiple times in a staircase, the Astros acted quickly, releasing him from the organization. 

Well respected players on the team, including Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers tweeted strong statements about the video, including Verlander saying “I hope the rest of your life without baseball is horrible. You deserve all that is coming your way.” 

Today, video of Verlander was released asking his thoughts on the signing. Of note, Verlander, arguably the most accomplished player in the organization, said that management did not discuss the move with him. Verlander said that he stands by his words, but has now been put into the obviously awkward situation of having to “wait on all the information.” It’s pretty clear that he isn’t happy about the trade, and I highly doubt that many in the notoriously light and fun-loving clubhouse are. 

This trade has turned maybe the most likable team in baseball into something that feels slimy and gross. They have put winning above all else, which in this case means above their integrity. 

It reeks of desperation, particularly because it seems like it wasn’t necessary. There were plenty of relief pitchers on the market if they absolutely had to have one, but most considered them amongst the favorites to win again even as they were constructed. 

In 2003, the Astros announced that Julio Lugo, their starting shortstop, was no longer on the team a mere 8 hours after he was accused of hitting his wife and banging her head off of his vehicle. The decision was quick, and it was the right call. It definitely hurt the team (who by the way finished 1 game out in the NL Central that year), but then GM Gerry Hunsicker decided that the organization’s integrity was more important that any one individual. 

Jeff Luhnow felt differently. He decided that the team’s “zero tolerance” policy on domestic violence, actually left room for a little bit of tolerance. 

The fact of the matter is if the Astros win another World Series this year, most fans will forget about Osuna’s past over time. But right now, it seems like the Astros are hurting their reputation and the chemistry of their team in order for them to feel a little better in the 9th inning. 

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ALL THE BLAME CAN'T FALL ON O'BRIEN, WATSON HAS TO STEP UP

How a win in Pittsburgh could drastically shift a popular Texans debate

Franchise quarterbacks win games like this. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Let's be honest, the schedule makers in the NFL didn't do the Texans any favors to begin the 2020 season. They've faced the toughest schedule in football through two weeks opening up on the road in Kansas City against the defending Super Bowl champs and then against a Ravens team that went 14-2 last year with the reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson.

Mix in a global pandemic that eliminated OTAs, most padded practices, and all preseason games and it's understandable why the Houston offense has only averaged 18 points per game. However, It doesn't get any easier on Sunday though for Houston as they will travel to Pittsburgh for a matchup against the 2-0 Steelers. Nobody will feel bad for the Texans though. The time for excuses is over and the Texans need to get a win.

"We've got a long way to go. We've got to get going here this week," head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien said. " We've got to score more points than the other team. We've got to get going, so it's not where we want it to be quite obviously but we're working hard to get it better."

Despite what O'Brien might think, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that the Texans need to 'score more points than the other team.' O'Brien certainly deserves a large amount of blame for the offensive struggles. He's an offensive-minded coach that has never had a top 10 offense in first six seasons as the teams head coach, and he traded away the best wide receiver in football in DeAndre Hopkins but I don't need to remind Texans fans of that.

"Nobody wants to be in this position," O'Brien said about the 0-2 start. "We just have to improve and try to basically let's just everybody, coaches, players alike, try to do the next right thing. Get the call. Execute the call. Make sure we're on top of everything, substitutions, and all that. Eliminate turnovers and line of scrimmage penalties…Same thing offensively, we've got to be more consistent. We've got to stay on the field. We have to work hard to get better."

O'Brien obviously bears a lot of responsibility, but he isn't alone. Deshaun Watson has to start playing better too. Watson was paid a four-year, $156 million extension that averages $39 million annually so even after losing his best weapon in DeAndre Hopkins, the expectation is that Watson even with a shaky offensive line can raise the level of play of everyone around him. Including the new guys at wide receiver brought in to help replace the production of Hopkins.

That's what a franchise QB does. Period.

"We just keep continuing to build chemistry," Watson said. "We didn't have an offseason. It's a whole new receiving core except for (Kenny) Stills and (Will) Fuller (V), but bringing those guys along and just getting on the same page. What are those guys good at? What am I good at throwing with those guys? Just trying to continue to build that chemistry and that trust within each other. That's coming along well. Sometimes it takes time and we've just got to not get discouraged and just keep pushing forward until it actually takes off like we want it to."

Unfortunately for Watson and the Texans, time is not on their side anymore. If Watson doesn't start playing like a franchise quarterback, the Texans very easily could start 0-3. Through two games, Watson has thrown just two touchdowns and has two interceptions. Watson also has a pedestrian QBR of 55.1 which ranks 20th among quarterbacks. Beating the Steelers who boast arguably the NFL's best defense and have a healthy future hall of fame QB in Ben Roethlisberger isn't an easy task but this is why you pay Watson all that cash. You are supposed to have a chance in any game with #4 under center.

"We're just worried about doing what we need to do out there on Sundays and playing our best football," Watson said. "We'll see what the outcome comes. That's all we can do is just put our head down and grind. Just work and try to do what we do and see what the outcome comes like. Of course, we don't want to be 0-3, but that's not the main thing that's on our minds right now."

He's right. You don't want to be 0-3.

It's on Watson to make sure that doesn't happen.


Jake Asman is a national host on SportsMap Radio. You can listen to The Jake Asman Show weekdays from 8 AM - 10 AM Central.

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