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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One more win and they're in. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As they were at the start of the 60 game season, the Astros are a virtual lock to make the expanded postseason field. Unexpectedly, the only reason the Astros have a shot in October is because the field is expanded. Still, all they need is one win in three shots at the Rangers or one Angels loss as they play three at the Dodgers and the Astros are in and an absolute threat to win another American League pennant. This Astros squad is an average squad. The losses of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Yordan Alvarez combined with all their key hitters dropping off from 2019 make Astros' mediocrity a simple fact of life. A mediocre but potent team can beat any better team in a best of three, best of five, or best of seven series. Heck, a bad team can beat a great team two out of three. The format is such that the Astros will be the sixth seed among the eight AL playoff teams, so they will be the road team in each game of a best of three series at the number three seed. They could be headed to Oakland, Minnesota, or Chicago.

A couple of peripheral bummers of the Astros to this point disappointing 2020…

One, Justin Verlander's dream of 300 career wins pretty much died with the ulna collateral ligament in his right arm. Verlander's one win this year combined with zero next year will have him at 226 career wins when he turns 39 in February of 2022. That Verlander can then average 15 wins per season through age 43 isn't utterly impossible but is extremely unlikely. While cementing his Hall of Fame credentials, Verlander didn't average 15 wins per season from 2015 through '19.

Two, Jose Altuve's collision course with the 3000 hit club has hit a major detour. I'm not declaring Altuve washed up, though only apologists and homers would describe his short season performance as better than feeble. He's been among the worst regulars in all of Major League Baseball this season. Altuve's best baseball is behind him. If he can get back to 2018 or 2019 Altuve that's plenty good, though not close to 2016 and 2017 Altuve. Well, Altuve failed to reach 170 hits in either 2018 or '19. Giving him 170 hits per season for each of the next eight seasons (bet the under), Altuve would be within about 30 hits of 3000 when approaching his 39th birthday at the start of the 2029 season. Craig Biggio remained a lineup regular at age 40 only so he could get to 3000.

Texans face another tough test against Steelers

It's no shocking upset if they win but the Texans probably come home from Pittsburgh Sunday night with an 0-3 record. As only four point underdogs they should have a much better shot than they did against the Chiefs and Ravens. Not that that is saying much. The Texans were pretty pitifully overmatched by the Chiefs and Ravens, the faint silver lining is that they're the two best teams in the AFC. It's possible the Steelers are the third best team (I'll take the Bills but it's possible). So even at 0-3 the Texans' season wouldn't be dead. Just two years ago they opened 0-3 before ripping off nine straight wins and finishing 11-5. But just as the 2018 Texans wound up, this season's team would be a total pretender.

All five starters back on the offensive line was supposed to be a boon to the Texans' offense. The pass protection has been porous and now has to deal with a top tier pass rushing Steeler defense. Deshaun Watson has been his usual terrifically elusive self, but merely okay throwing the ball. Offensively, 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger has looked all right at quarterback after missing all but the opener last season with a blown out throwing elbow. Big Ben is not close to the mobility threat Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are, but the Texan D which has thus far been sieve-like against running backs will see two backs each over five yards per carry thus far in James Conner and Benny Snell.

At least the Texans will have no crowd noise to deal with at Heinz Field. The Steelers are 2-0 but have only beaten the awful Giants and the injury-battered Broncos.


Buzzer Beaters:

1. One game is one game but Bregman, Altuve, and Springer all homering Thursday night had to create some warm feelings for any Astros fan.

2. The Lakers-Nuggets series has been outstanding. Number of Rockets you think are watching any of it: over/under 2 1/2.

3. Greatest Bennys: Bronze-the one with the Jets Silver-Jack Gold-Goodman

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