How Astros & Rockets fans could find themselves with more money in their pockets

Photo by Bob Levey /Stringer/Getty Images.

If you signed up for home delivery of bottled water, agreed to pay $20 a month for the service, but two months go by and no water … wouldn't you want your money back?

Well, I signed up for AT&T SportsNet because they said I'd get Houston Astros and Houston Rockets games, and two months have gone by and no games … so I want my money back. Or at least credit on future cable bills.

I sure didn't subscribe to AT&T SportsNet for taped replays of old footvolley (volleyball played with your feet) tournaments or IFA Redfish kayak races or the dreaded "paid programming." I watch AT&T SportsNet for one reason, two reasons really, and those are Astros and Rockets games.

So far, not a peep from the cable or satellite TV providers. I called Comcast, the biggest cable provider in Houston and asked, will you offer refunds or credit to AT&T SportsNet subscribers for no games, but lots of pain and suffering and fishing shows?

Comcast hasn't made an announcement yet, but here's the plan: "Any rebates will be determined once the NBA, NHL and MLB announce the course of action for their seasons, including the number of games that will be played, and of course we will pass those rebates or other adjustments along to our customers," said Michael Bybee, Comcast's director of external communications.

Plus I'm sure programming providers don't want to wait for the Texas attorney general to force them to refund money, like what's being threatened in New York.

Right now, and everything is totally tentative, baseball is hoping to re-start (it's still) spring training in June with Opening Day slotted for July 1. That would allow big league teams to play about 100 regular season games in this highly irregular season.

Baseball has a few scenarios up its sleeve. Teams may play home games in their usual home ballparks. Or teams could be grouped by geography and play in certain designated stadiums. Or they could play only in cities with smaller numbers of coronavirus infections.

NBA is trickier business because its season was almost completed when play was halted in March. There are several scenarios being discussed, including resuming the season in June or July, heading straight to the playoffs, or canceling the 2019-20 season altogether. As you'll recall, the Rockets had a 40-24 record, with 18 regular season games remaining. If the NBA moves directly to the post-season, the Rockets, sitting in 6th place in the Western Conference, would make the cut.

In all scenarios discussed, games will be played without fans in attendance. While I don't doubt that the Astros, like all MLB teams, are disappointed that the season is on hold, I'm thinking maybe the Astros are a little less disappointed. At least they have the most to gain if the season is played with reduced travel and no fans. It wouldn't be the worst thing for the Astros to play in empty stadiums.

Consider what's happened the past six weeks of no games. Star pitcher Justin Verlander was able to rehab his lat strain injury. How long was he supposed to be out of action? Six weeks. Meanwhile, Alex Bregman has been able to rehab his image by forming Alex's Army to raise $2 million to feed families facing financial problems due to COVID-19.

When games resume, oh no, you mean the Astros won't have to travel to New York, America's city hardest hit by coronavirus, to play the Yankees in front of 50,000 maniac Yankee fans who absolutely hate the Astros for cheating during their 2017 World Series season? Yankees fans are crazy enough without having an ax to grind. And the Astros won't have to play road games in front of Dodgers, A's and Red Sox fans who hate their guts, too? Such a pity. Thank you, coronavirus' silver lining.

If the Astros have to wait a whole year to play in front of fans, that's OK. America is a forgiving nation. Shoeless Joe Jackson got a lifetime ban for allegedly helping his White Sox team throw the 1919 World Series. I say allegedly because he went on trial with seven of his teammates in 1921 and a jury found them innocent. Two days later, the Commissioner of Baseball took it upon himself to ban the now-Black Sox forever. You didn't know that the Black Sox played the 1920 season, did you? Shoeless Joe played 146 games and batted .382 the year after he allegedly helped throw the World Series.

Now Shoeless Joe is some kind of folk hero. According to a poll, most Americans would like to see him in baseball's Hall of Fame. It was a lifetime ban, right? Well, the guy's been dead more than 70 years. His lifetime is over.

Pete Rose also was banned for life in 1989 for betting on baseball. Now most Americans think 31 years is enough and it's time to let the Hit King back in the game.

Yes, we may not forget but we forgive. In 1966 John Lennon proclaimed that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Some Americans, particularly in the Bible Belt, were so outraged that radio stations refused to play Beatles music and there were public bonfires to burn Beatles records. Lennon has since become a cherished (I almost said worshipped) icon of popular culture and his song Imagine is performed during the Olympic closing ceremonies.

Jane Fonda was the most hated woman in America in 1972 after she was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese cannon presumably aimed at U.S. planes. She was "Hanoi Jane." Within 10 years, she won her second Academy Award for Best Actress and starred in the first of 14 workout videos.

Mike Tyson went from convicted rapist to a lovable crazy person on Comedy Central roasts and star of a one-man show on Broadway. Alex Rodriguez, suspended from baseball for steroids, is now the voice of baseball on ESPN and Fox, and he's a panelist on Shark Tank and engaged to Jenny on the Block.

So the Astros may not be the cheating bad boys of baseball for long. Time heals all wounds. In a year or two, Jose Altuve will be cuddly again.

One note: this forgiveness thing? O.J. Simpson need not apply.

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The Rockets got a steal at No. 3 overall. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images.

With the Astros absorbing their worst loss of the season Thursday night at the Yankees, here's to the Rockets! Wait, what? It's only educated guess work, but in landing Jabari Smith out of Auburn the Rockets had a spectacular night. Heaven knows they have had very few of those the last two years. After having to settle for the third pick in the NBA Draft despite being the worst team in the league again, in Smith the Rockets got the best player in the Draft. Of course Smith could be an epic flop, it’s very inexact science. But Orlando taking Paolo Banchero from Duke first then Oklahoma City selecting Gonzaga beanpole Chet Holmgren second left the "surest thing" two-way player on the board. Through most of the run-up to the draft the six-foot-10 inch Banchero was most commonly projected to the Rockets. It's not as if he would have been a bad choice as a player. Banchero certainly could turn out to be the best player in this draft class. But his game is skewed toward his offensive skills, his fit in Houston would have been quite questionable. The also 6-10 Smith has shown the vastly better outside shooting ability, and is indisputably more athletic and better equipped to defend at a higher level and with more versatility. Jabari Smith is not going to be Kevin Durant or Kevin Garnett. Let's at least call it extreeeeemely unlikely given very few in the history of the planet come close to those guys, still, envisioning Smith providing some KD and KG level moments on both ends of the floor is pretty, pretty, pretty good.

The Rockets' defense was an absolute joke last season. Little to no improvement was shown as the death march of 2021-22 dragged on and on and on to its 20-62 finish. Frankly if Head Coach Stephen Silas can't demand/develop vastly improved D this coming season he'll deserve and need to be fired. The Rockets love Alperen Sengun, and his rookie season offense showed both flair and promise. Defensively he was one of many parts of the joke. Just 20 years old late next month so some improvement should come, but Sengun is slow. Quick twitch muscles, slow. Lateral movement, slow. He’s not long, not a leaper, not thick. Sengun will be hard-pressed to become an average defender. In today's game he's the kind of big who quality small-ball opponents play off the court. Banchero would have been a lousy defensive pairing with Sengun. Smith-Sengun has a chance. Smith as a small-ball center has potential. Christian Wood was a dog, not in a good way. Smith’s character grades are very high.

The seven-foot 194 pound Holmgren has a fascinating array of skills. He could be Rudy Gobert defensively with way better offense, or a skinny guy who can’t hack it physically. Had the Thunder taken Smith at two, Holmgren to the Rockets would have been interesting. Getting Smith to pair with Jalen Green as the tent poles of the Rockets’ still long way to go reconstruction is more encouraging. With due respect to all the other first round picks added in 2021 and 2022, what Green and Smith become individually and as a tandem is what will foremost determine how long the Rockets remain horrible. It could go pretty well for the duo and the Rockets could still be awful for multiple more years. A third consecutive losing season is virtual certainty. By the end of it though at least a few meaningful rays of light at the end of the tunnel need to be peeking through.

As for the other two first rounders added Thursday night, both are interesting darts at the board. Tari Eason out of LSU brings defensive chops and size (six-foot-eight) for his position, a combo that exactly zero returning Rockets have. Jae’Sean Tate plays really hard, but he’s a six-four forward. All their Josh Christophers, Garrison Matthewses, Kenyon Martin Jrs., and David Nwabas add up to very little.

No one smart really believes in Kevin Porter Jr. as a long term winning point guard growth stock. TyTy Washington should get some rookie run at the point. He’s the only non-worthless to the team ex-Kentucky point guard on the Rockets’ roster. Yes, John Wall and his 47.3 million dollar salary are still on the roster.

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