Should you need it, here’s the definitive list of why it’s happening for Astros

The Astros' magic number is 2. Composite image by Jack Brame.

With a nod to Rod Stewart, tonight's the night. The Astros will be crowned American League West champs if they beat the Tampa Rays at home and the Mariners lose to the A's on the west coast. Yeah, the Astros are slogging their way toward the finish line, it's not fun watching the other team walk it off of late, but the pennant is there for the taking, and it's gonna happen. It's just a matter of time zones, tonight, tomorrow or the next day. But it's gonna happen.

It can't not happen. The Astros' magic number is 2, so any combination of Astros wins or Mariners losses equaling two, and it's a done deal - the Astros will take the AL West title and open the post-season next week most likely against the White Sox, probably (hopefully) at Minute Maid Park.

Stop worrying. For the Astros to blow their 4-1/2 game lead with only six left to play, all at home, would take a monumental, catastrophic, unimaginable collapse unprecedented in baseball history.

To quote another music legend, Justin Bieber, never say never, but I'm saying never, not in a million years will the Astros throw away this division title

The Astros have too much going for them. First baseman Yuli Gurriel is battling for a batting title. Jose Altuve is having a terrific power season. Shortstop Carlos Correa has $300 million in his eyes if he's a hero in the playoffs, third baseman Alex Bregman is back in full swagger, Kyle Tucker may be the best hitter in the league right now and the Astros have the "problem" of three future outfield stars – Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers and Jose Siri – with steady Michael Brantley champing at the bit to return to the lineup.

You need a civil surveyor to measure the distance of a Yordan Alvarez homer. Lance McCullers is a full-fledged ace starter. Ryan Pressly is a dependable closer – sometimes. This is a solid, star-packed roster. All that's left are hat and horns and goggles.

As they say in the business world, the Astros are too big to fail. Then again … Enron.

To date, the most horrendous collapse was in 1964, when the Phillies had a 6-1/2 game lead on Sept. 21 with 12 left to play. The league had given them permission to print World Series tickets, back then the sign the pennant was locked up.

The Phils proceeded to lose 10 in a row and actually fell behind eventual pennant winning Cardinals by 2-1/2 games that final week. The Phillies rallied the last weekend to finish one game out, tied with the Reds for second. The Phils didn't make the post-season for another 12 years.

The Astros do have real problems beyond capturing the AL West. Let's hope the White Sox don't catch on to Jose Altuve trying to crush the first pitch every game. Everybody at home watching on TV knows it's coming. Like the Progressive commercial with the guy with blue hair – we all see it. And the opposing pitcher still starts Altuve off with a fastball down the middle.

Something else I haven't understood all season – the sound quality of manager Dusty Baker's post-game press conferences. We can talk to astronauts in space like we're calling Domino's for a pizza, yet Osama bin Laden's videos from a cave in Afghanistan had clearer sound quality than Dusty's press conferences. Heck, the speaker at Jack in the Box is easier to understand than Dusty explaining why he pulled Yordan Alvarez from a tight game.

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A new hotel is in the works near Minute Maid. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros owner Jim Crane says the team is ready to break ground on a major construction project that will include a hotel and entertainment complex across the street from Minute Maid Park as soon as the 2023 baseball season wraps up – hopefully with another World Series parade in downtown Houston.


But another hotel? Another entertainment complex? More construction downtown? My first reaction was, how much more does Houston need? I remember when the Super Bowl was held in Houston in 2004, clubs and restaurants sprung up downtown practically overnight, only to disappear virtually the morning after. When it came to downtown development, the expression “less is more” turned out true. At least that Super Bowl.

I asked my contacts in government and the Houston welcome wagon, is this a good idea, building a hotel and entertainment complex next door to Minute Maid Park? Do we need it? Can we sustain it?

The answer every time was a resounding yes! For a couple of reasons: first, downtown Houston, coming out of Covid, is booming, leadership is creative and budget-minded these days, and most important, if Jim Crane is behind the idea, you can trust it’ll work. The guy’s got a track record.

“In 2004, the idea was to turn downtown’s Main Street into Bourbon Street. Is that what we really want? It was a misguided plan, the wrong philosophy, and businesses opened and closed in short order,” a source told me.

It was a different story when the Super Bowl returned to Houston in 2017. This time Houston saw the Marriott Marquis, a 1,000-room hotel complete with an iconic Texas-shaped swimming pool, open in time for the tourist onslaught. Also, Avenida Houston greeted downtown visitors with new restaurants and entertainment venues. Both the Marriott and Avenida Houston have continued to thrive long after the Super Bowl left town.

“We want our downtown to attract visitors while providing services for the growing number of singles and families who are making their home downtown. As we continue to host major events and conventions, there will be a need for more hotel rooms,” the source said.

The Astros’ plan to build a sprawling hotel and entertainment complex originally was discussed in 2021 but was put on hold due to Covid. Now Crane and the Astros are ready to come out swinging. Similar complexes operate successfully next to the baseball stadium in St. Louis, Chicago and other cities.

An Astros-themed hotel adjacent to Minute Maid Park is particularly intriguing. The lobby could be home to an Astros museum and team Hall of Fame. Rooms and restaurants could be decorated in honor of Astros legends – the “Nolan Ryan honeymoon suite,” or “Strech Suba’s Bullpen Bar and Grille.” There could be meeting space for autograph and memorabilia shows. There could be a broadcast facility for post-game interviews and analysis. And maybe one day, fingers crossed, a betting parlor like the Cubs have at Wrigley Field.

The Astros have a contract to play at Minute Maid Park through 2050 – the only long-term contract that doesn’t make Crane cringe. Anything that enhances the fan experience and generates revenue is good for the team and the city. I might even consider going downtown on non-game nights.

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