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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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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