REVENGE MISSION

How giant piles of money, fearless predictions & reputations hinge on Astros World Series

The Astros are a better story than the Braves. Period. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

For the past few days, we've heard and read baseball analysts predicting who'll win the World Series, our Houston Astros or the Atlanta Braves. It's usually the same tired cliche ... the Astros (or Braves) … "in six."

For the record, the World Series has been decided "in six" only four times in the past quarter-century.

First, these experts are no better than you, me or a chimp hurling feces at photos of Orbit or Chief Noc-A-Homa. Predictions on sports shows are just a time-killer before the hosts turn it over to the midday guy.

Those pre-game, former-player hosts on Fox, TBS and MLB Network couldn't be more boring and just plain silly. They're trying too hard. A-Rod is creepy, Big Papi isn't funny and Frank Thomas just sits there worrying about his hormone levels. I can't even name the host on Fox. On top of that, they were wrong on the Red Sox beating the Astros.

I remember walking into the living room where my father was watching a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. The Browns scored and my father pumped his fist, "All right!" I asked him, "Why are you rooting for the Browns? We live in New Jersey."

He said, "I always root for the team farther east." It made as much sense as anything else he ever said. Another time he was watching a political debate between candidates for mayor of New York City. One of the candidates said the word "either" and pronounced it "eye-ther." My father was put off by his uppity pronunciation and said, "That's it, I can't vote for that guy now."

I thought, how about the fact we don't live in New York City and there's zero chance you're registered to vote anywhere, anyhow?

For the record, Pittsburgh is farther east than Cleveland. My father was never a "I'll take geography for $600" guy.

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale reportedly has bet $3.35 million on the Astros to win the World Series and stands to win $35.6 million if they do. It would be the biggest haul in the history of legal sports gambling in America.

Mattress Mack told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "I will never in my life bet against the Houston Astros. It's loyalty. And I'm loyal to the Houston Astros."

It's as good a reason as any. I will bet you $3.25 dollars that Mattress Mack can't name the Astros centerfielder.

Here's my World Series prediction, and if you've been following SportsMap you know I've been riding the Astros since spring training.

The Astros in 4. You know why the Astros will sweep? It's because they're just gonna. No analytical rhyme or reason. They're just gonna.

The Astros are a better story than the Braves. Just like it took a whole year before the Chicago Black Sox were found guilty and punished for throwing the 1919 World Series, it took years for the Astros' cheating ways of 2017 to be prosecuted. This is the Astros first venture onto baseball's grandest stage since the sign-stealing scandal went public.

The Astros are on a revenge mission to prove they can win fair and square. The team, especially the five holdovers from 2017, are seeking, not forgiveness, but vindication and respect. And they're reveling in wearing black hats.

The Astros are a curious lot. Will Dusty Baker, a toothpick-chewing, surgical glove-wearing "cool 72-year-old" be back next year? Does owner Jim Crane have the business testicles to let clutch-hitting team leader Carlos Correa sign with another team? What to do with high-priced veterans who haven't helped a lick this season?

In their own villainous way, the Astros are the glamour team in the 2021 World Series. Baseball needs a headline-grabbing Series to get back on track as the national pastime (although that door probably closed decades ago). A dismal, dull affair (credit: Jagger-Richards) with the Braves winning is the last thing baseball needs.

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Jae'Sean Tate had himself a night. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

No Christian Wood. No Kevin Porter Jr. No Jalen Green. No problem. Jae’ Sean Tate became a complete superhero for the Houston Rockets versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

He recorded 32 points, 10 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 5.0 blocks, and 2.0 steals and shot 73 percent from the field. With that stat line, he joined former Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon and other historic big men from the past, which Tim MacMahon reported.

Tate is known for his leadership and the ability to be humble. When a reporter asked Tate about the stat line, he said, “How many turnovers? Nah, 25 assists, that’s what sup! Can’t be mad at that.” An expression like that shows the importance of putting his teammates first before taking all the shine. Tate is providing more passion with communication and being the rock that the "Baby Rockets" can lean on.

Coach Silas' confidence in Tate is something built from last year and it shows. Those two have constant dialogue throughout the game, and it’s seen before the huddle or when Silas is standing on the sideline before he calls a play. Silas has run consistent sets for Tate, as he did that within the 15-game losing streak. He dialed up an out of bounds action with 33.4 seconds left, so Tate could make a clutch layup towards the rim.

“Long, long, long ago in his rookie year…we definitely have a bond and with those two guys out, we needed some scoring,” Silas said. “He was the guy who was playing the hardest from start to finish and down the stretch we ran that elbow iso for him. And he just went through his defender and finished. And he made some huge plays in the 4th quarter, which is what you need. Yeah, I trust him as much as anybody else, and he has earned that, and he deserves it.”

“That just shows the confidence Coach Silas, and my teammates have in me,” said Tate. “We lost some of our primary guys tonight. And not only me, but everybody also stepped up.”

His usage rating is slowly going up, which is posted at 18.9 percent per NBA stats. In isolation, Tate is averaging 1.00 points per possession, which puts him in the 75th percentile(!) per NBA stats. Tate is seeing more action out of the corner, so it can allow him to get to his left hand on offense. The elbow iso action is a play that Tate has run since high school, college, overseas, and in the NBA now. He mentioned that the set allows him to get comfortable when his number is called.

“That’s not my primary role and I think everyone knows that,” Tate said. “I am very confident [in] what I bring to the table offensively. Not only scoring wise but seeing the floor and being able to make [a] decision in space. And that kind of helps me when they overlook the scouting report.”

“[I've] been running that play since I was [in] high school. At Ohio St. I ran that. Even when I was overseas, Will Weaver, that was a play he put in. To have that called tonight, it felt familiar and it’s one of my strengths. And playing in the mid-post area and getting to my left hand.”

Tate was excellent for the Rockets on both sides of the ball, as he had a 116.9 offensive and 108.5 defensive rating with an 82.5 percent in true shooting versus the Thunder. Hopefully, Tate can be the leading catalyst again, as the Rockets face the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans, which are winnable games. It should become a six-game winning streak, as John Wall might play if his condition is right.

Up next: The Rockets face the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

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