Off the top of my bald head

Barry Warner: On the Astros, NCAA, Tiger Woods and more

It was a banner day for the Astros. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Last night’s home opener was incredible.  From the moment you entered Minute Maid, there was an electric feeling. Even with the roof open, the ovation for MVP Jose Altuve was thunderous.

After a 60 second snafu, the World Series banner was finally unfurled, a historical moment in our city.

On yesterday’s Reality Check owner Jim Crane shared with our listeners a few interesting facts.  GM Jeff Luhnow is not going anywhere for a “long time,”as the man behind the computers has been signed to a multi-year extension. He spent close to $5 million for 1,100 World Series Rings.  There are four levels, starting with the players and coaches, whose rings are close to $12,000 a piece. There are front office staff members, groundskeepers and support staff. The lowest level are the ushers and several game day employees.

My crystal ball has the Astros and the Cubs in the World Series.

Fixes for college basketball

Now that March Madness is over, with Villanova winning for the second time in three years, there must be some changes.

The One and Done rule has to be re-visited.  Calling freshman “student-athletes” is a joke. Most of these uber talented kids don’t go to class during the second semester.

The core strategy of the shoe companies is to identify the next Michael Jordan when he is still in middle school, have him play on a AAU sponsored team, steer him to a sponsored university, and ultimately sign him when he becomes an NBA star.  The NCAA suits are among the most pompous hypocrites in sports. They generate millions while the players are just pawns.

Another draft bust

One of the biggest mistakes made jointly by former GM Rick Smith Mc Nair and Bill O’Brien has come to an end.  Free agent guard Xavier Su’a Filo signed with the Titans. Four years ago, the Texans held the all-important first pick in the second round.  Many teams wanted to trade up to fill a specific need. But the rookie head coach and his boss held firm and took the out of shape, poor pass protector. Who did they pass up? A couple of potential Pro Bowl quarterbacks named Derek Carr and Jimmy Garrapolo.  Brilliant decision that wasted four years of progress.

The signing of QB Brandon Weeden is nothing more than a band aid.  The veteran was not good enough to beat out Tom Savage while here. The Texans need a mobile quarterback in case anything happens to DeShaun Watson.  It’s either draft a kid in rounds 4-7 or sign an experienced vet.

Bob Mc Nair, aka Mr. Goody Goody Two Shoes, would never touch Johnny Manziel.  But one team that has shown interest at the Aggies Pro Day is the Patriots.

R.I.P. Rusty

In the early sixties, I started following a high school phenom from New Orleans named Rusty Staub.  Little did I know then he would become one of my most cherished friends.

We met in 1965, then over his 23-year career, went to visits in Montreal, New York (where he became an icon) Texas and Detroit.  There is not enough space to list all the accomplishments of the first bonus baby of the Astros, getting a $100,000 check from Judge Roy Hofeinz.

When notified of his death, I cried like a baby. Upon opening both the New York tabloids, the Daily News and the post, the front- page article in color was his death.

Rusty was as iconic in the Big Apple as J.J. Watt for his philanthropy.

Rusty set up a charity in the 1980s to help the widows and orphans of police and firefighters who lost their lives protecting the citizens of New York City: the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. The charity has raised tens of millions of dollars and provided additional support to families of first responders killed in the line of duty.

Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Mets players and coaches donated their entire salaries from their first game back, about $450,000, to Staub's foundation.

Staub also has helped serve up meals to thousands of hungry and homeless people at food pantries all over New York City through Catholic Charities, with funds from his annual golf tournament and wine auction dinner. Close to ten million meals were served at the time of his death at, three days short of his 74th birthday.

Over the years he owned two successful restaurants in Manhattan and made annual trips to France to acquire wines for his collection.

His loyalty to those close to him was legendary.  If you were Rusty’s friend, your back was always covered.

Whenever he visited Houston I was part of a select group of friends to have dinner.

My life has been blessed because of Le Grande Orange.  There will be a series of mass services in New York, Montreal, New Orleans and Houston later this month.

Tiger's back

The quasi spring religious golfing tournament, the Masters, has four-time winner Tiger Woods listed as the favorite. Here is the latest Vegas line: Tiger 9-1, Dustin Johnson 23/2, Jordan Spieth 11-1 Justin Thomas 11-1, Rory McIlroy 12-1, Bubba Watson 15-1 and Phil Mickelson 16-1.

Jim Nantz and his boss Sean Mc Manus, Chairman of CBS Sports, have an annual luncheon at Augusta with one of the clubs most prestigious members, Roger Goodell. At last year’s lunch Jim told them Sergio Garcia would be the winner.

A big blowhard

Mike Francessa, the out of work New York talk show host, joined his former partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo on the MLB Network; When the topic turned to the Astros, the controversial Francessa claimed Jose Altuve is nothing special, “just a singles hitter”.  And Michelangelo was just a house painter.

The Astros MVP has better stats than the ultimate “singles hitter” Pete Rose, in career batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS.

  Chirp!

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As the Ronaverse continues, emotions are high. People are getting upset over the dumbest things. Maybe it is simply because Twitter has the worst people in the world, but endless topics are being "debated" that really have no reason to be questioned.

One of the oddest of these is starting to pop up as athletes opt out of returning to play among the Covid-19 shortened seasons. People are actually critical of athletes who make these decisions.

Those people are simply what we call "dumbs."

It doesn't matter what their reasoning is. Athletes - like all of us - have the option to worry about things other than their job. Simply because they have the wherewithal to take time off without pay is no reason to be critical. David Price became one of the latest this week and explained his decision well.

But they owe it to us, the fans.

Sports is not life. These athletes do not owe you anything. You choose to buy their gear and wear their numbers. That's your right. It's also their right to be concerned for their own health and that of their families.

They are young. The disease barely affects young people.

True. But if you are the one young person it does impact? And what about your parents and grandparents? Are we to fault players for caring about things like that? They are people. There are those who dehumanize them because they are famous, make a lot of money and live lives most people will never have. But that does not mean they aren't real people with real life concerns.

They make millions. It is worth the risk.

What good are those millions if you are dead? Or a family member becomes gravely ill? This should not even be a debate. Players have the right to make up their own minds, just as you do. I am not one of the Rona Paranoid Crew, but I don't rip people who are overly careful. We should all deal with this in ways we think are best. Everyone loves to throw out terms like "personal freedom" and "it's my right" when it suits their needs. In this case, it applies to the athletes.

The sad thing is not everyone can afford to stay away from work in order to survive. Many waiters, cooks and bartenders were forced to go back to work to pay bills. Many were not comfortable doing that, but they had no real choice. That sucks.

But those who do have a choice should be able to make it without facing criticism. Maybe it costs your team a World Series if a key player opts out. Or an NBA title. So what? There will be other years, other chances. That won't be the case for a lot of high school and college athletes who may never get to play again. Sure, they might be bitter that pros can sit out, while they have been robbed of one last chance at the game they love. But the Rona is not their fault. Neither is the fact that these athletes have the means to follow their principles.

What will their teammates think of these players abandoning them?

That's a fan argument. Most players will completely understand, because they, too, are human. If the season winds up shutting down halfway through or never getting started, no one will remember who wasn't there. Nor should they care.

But for some reason, people do. They have the right to choose whether to play or not. You have the right to choose whether or not you will keep buying their jerseys. That is how freedom works.

It would be nice if we would all just allow people to make the best decisions for themselves without turning it into a stupid debate.

In today's world, I realize that is not reality. The dumbs are inheriting the earth.

So memo to athletes: If you want to be on the field, awesome, we will be rooting for you. If you believe it is not worth the risk to you or your family? Stay safe and we will see you when you feel comfortable again. Simple, right? That really should be the end of it.

Sadly, it won't be. That's not the world we live in anymore, if it ever was.

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