Charlie Pallilo: Astros should have lofty goals for 2018 season
Here’s to baseball season. Especially when we have a team this good to watch for the next six-plus months. Monday night should be glorious as the Astros wave their World Series Champions flag before the home opener.
One down, 107 to go. My lofty goal for the 2018 Astros is 108 wins. That would mean winning two out of every three for the season. That is a rare stamp of greatness in Major League Baseball. Since the regular season schedule expanded to 162 games in 1961 only seven teams have won 108. Of course winning the World Series again is the ultimate objective, but in the Wild Card era a merely pretty good team can win the World Series. No pretty good team can win 108 games. The Astros start this season with a better roster than they had last year when they torched MLB enroute to a 42-16 start and 101 wins overall. It’s been 17 years since a team won 108. The Seattle Mariners won 116 in 2001, then didn’t reach the World Series. The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since.
One down, 24 to go. Here’s another extremely lofty (but not insanely so) bar for this season: Justin Verlander, 25 game winner. No pitcher has won 25 games in a season since Bob Welch won 27 for Oakland in 1990 (nevertheless Roger Clemens got shafted out of the AL Cy Young Award that year). Verlander is 35 years old, but he’s tremendous, tremendously durable (200+ innings pitched 11 of the last 12 seasons), and has a tremendous offense supporting him. The last pitcher to win 24 in a season: Justin Verlander when he won both AL Cy Young and MVP honors in 2011. Verlander is 11 wins shy of 200 for his career. He should cruise through that plateau. Add a second Cy Young Award (he’s also finished second twice and third once) and Verlander about cements a future plaque for himself in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And if all that’s not enough, I hear his wife is reasonably attractive.
In 2011 the Rangers came as close to winning a World Series as a team can come without actually winning it. In the 9th and 10th innings of game 6 they were one strike away against the Cardinals. Twice the Cardinals rallied, winning that game and then game 7 leaving the Rangers excruciatingly short of becoming the first Texas team to win it all. The Astros will forever hold that distinction over them. The Rangers had a fine run making the playoffs five out of seven seasons from 2010-2016. But that run is done. They weren’t good last year, and unless they are a huge surprise they won’t be good this year. The Rangers do not field a single player you’d take over his Astro counterpart for this season. After ace Cole Hamels the Rangers’ starting pitching rotation is a borderline laughingstock. The Astros have seven different starters who would rank at least second best if moved north.
Rockets are so good it’s boring
The Rockets are boring right now. Boringly brilliant. They win virtually every game they play, typically they win easily, and now don’t play a game with any meaning until the playoffs start in two weeks. Their latest double digit winning streak gives them three of them on the season. That obviously guarantees nothing in the postseason, in fact only two of the five previous teams to win 10+ in a row three times within a season went on to win the NBA Championship that same season.
Final Four, Texas style
San Antonio might not play host to many playoff games this spring, but has the Final Four this weekend. The delightful Loyola of Chicago story gets at least one more chapter as the Ramblers play Michigan before Villanova meets Kansas Saturday night. The NBA Bulls and NHL Blackhawks both stink like rotten eggs this season, so the Ramblers are the toast of the Second City right now. A school that doesn’t even have its games on the radio.
The Final Four is the annual site for the announcement of the year’s Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class. For another year, Rudy Tomjanovich doesn’t make the cut. It’s an ongoing bad joke that he can be considered as a player (not-worthy) OR as a coach (worthy), but not for the totality of his basketball career (obviously worthy). It’s especially idiotic given there is a “contributor” category “for significant contributions to the game of basketball.” Dick Vitale is in the Hall. Former Comets coach Van Chancellor is in the Hall. John Calipari is in the Hall. Rudy T., nope.
1. It may be true that literally nobody with a working brain thinks the Astros won’t win the AL West 2. If healthy all season Giancarlo Stanton could make a run at 70 homers 3. Best berry competition: Bronze-black Silver-blue Gold-Halle