TOO SOON?

Del Olaleye: Hey baseball, it's not your time yet

The Astros just celebrated a World Series win. Harry How/Getty Images

When did the final whistle of the NFL season start the clock on the baseball season? The moment Tom Brady’s final pass hit the turf and the Eagles won their first Super Bowl twitter took a dark turn. I don’t follow many people to avoid clutter but my picky twitter habits didn’t stop the onslaught of baseball tweets and retweets. It came from team-run accounts, media members and fans. Everyone was celebrating the start of the baseball season. On Feb. 5. The same Sunday night as the Super Bowl. What the hell is wrong with these people?

Baseball is fine if you like that sort of thing. That “sort of thing” is a sport that has traditionally frowned on players showing emotion that falls outside of what is deemed acceptable. A sport that features an archaic set of unwritten rules that you have no idea exist until one is broken. Do you think you might enjoy a sport that polices itself by hurling a hard fist-size projectile at a person’s ribs? Then I’ve got 162 games for you. That’s right, 162 games. Games that can range in length from two-plus hours to double the length of a feature film.  The following will be a common scenario at the beginning of April:

“Meet me at Cinemark at 9:30 for Black Panther? I’m watching the Astros right now.” - Baseball Fan

“But it’s only 4. I was thinking 7:30. How long can a game take?“ - someone smarter than Baseball Fan

“We never really know.” - Baseball Fan says wistfully

There is more than enough baseball to go around. The games that count begin in early April and end in October, if we’re lucky. In the case of the 2017 season we were “treated” to November baseball. A logical person might say that is way too much baseball for anyone reasonable. I’m resigned to the fact that the season won’t be shortened to 100 games or to my preferred 80. But baseball fans will not convince me that the third most popular sport in America actually begins in February. Don’t get too comfortable with that distant bronze medal either. Soccer is gaining and if the US Soccer Federation could put together a decent product baseball would get knocked off the medal stand.

There are multiple major sporting events on the calendar before baseball actually begins to matter. NBA All-Star weekend begins on the 16th of this month. The NFL Draft starts April 26th. The NBA Finals begin May 31st. The World Cup begins June 14th. These are all things that will take over the national conversation while baseball twitter is telling us “it’s too early to make draw conclusions” or “there is still so much baseball left.” Your favorite baseball team could put together a ten-game winning streak and it wouldn’t cause a blip. No one will care but the seven percent of the American population that still considers the sport America’s Pastime. By the way, a 10-game winning streak in baseball happens to equate to just under 6.2 percent of total games in a season. Yeah, the season is way too long.

I’m getting distracted. This isn’t so much about baseball as it is about baseball twitter. Twitter accounts operated by the Astros, MLB and something called Cut4 immediately announced the start of baseball season after the Super Bowl ended. They weren’t the only ones. Of all teams, the Marlins decided to tell us it is “their turn.” The Marlins? How many people in south Florida could name four Marlins? Just stop it. You have your place, baseball twitter. There is that little sweet spot after the Final Four and before the conference finals in the NBA. A little over a month to try to not overwhelm us with early season stats that you readily admit don’t mean much. Until then keep quiet. The rest of us just tolerate you.

The World Series lasted into November and the Astros defeated the Dodgers in Game 7 to win their first World Series. Baseball season was taken to the very limit and I guess it was so great people can’t wait to start it all over again.

Well I can wait.

The season really begins July 4. You know this baseball twitter. Don’t try to change the rules now.

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All 3 major sports teams in Houston appear to be in good hands.Composite image by Jack Brame.

Houston is a strange sports town, professionally speaking. Football is the undisputed king. That's evidenced by the undying love fans show the Texans. Baseball is second, even though the Astros most recently gave the city a title and have given them a consistent winner to cheer for since 2015. Basketball is a clear third, since fans won't show up to a Rockets' playoff game until after the game has started.

At one point, all three teams were competitive and provided the city with a good deal of excitement. They also had competent general managers, though not all at once. The Texans had Rick Smith, who some say was hit or miss, but he was by far the team’s best GM in their history. The measuring stick isn’t very high, but Smith normally hit on 1st rounders. Jeff Luhnow was in charge of the turnaround for the Astros. His work environment may have been contentious according to rumors, but he brought the city a World Series and built a consistent contender. Daryl Morey may have left a hot mess, but the Rockets were always in the playoffs. He was able to keep a winning team, while reshaping the roster.

Fast-forward to today, and the city has a competent GM in every major pro sports team at the same time. James Click has kept the Astros on the winning track. While the penalties for the sign stealing scandal were hefty, he’s managed to make some shrewd moves. Signing Yordan Alvarez before he hit arbitration and free agency was huge! If he can get Kyle Tucker locked up as well, he’s definitely on the right track. Not going crazy over losing key guys and trusting his process has paid off handsomely so far.

Rafael Stone has had the best luck of all. It started very rocky for him by having to deal James Harden and Russell Westbrook at the beginning of his tenure. The return on investment was initially laughed at and thought to be pennies on the dollar.

Considering they drafted four 19-year-olds last draft (headlined by Jalen Green who looks like the real deal), taking a chance on Kevin Porter Jr, landing Jabari Smith Jr in this draft (Tari Eason not to be forgotten), and the inevitable collapse of the Nets, I think Stone has done well for himself. He may not have had the ideal background for the job (he was a lawyer by trade), he’s done well so far in trying to build this team back into a contender. If these kids develop and grow together, I think they can be what Boston and Golden State have been: a homegrown team contending year in and year out.

Nick Caserio of the Texans had perhaps the tallest mountain to climb. The quarterback position is the most important. He inherited one of the best young QBs in the league, but he also inherited his desire to leave and his alleged bizarre fetish that led to civil lawsuits. Some thought the haul he got was fair, while others thought it wasn’t enough. Did I mention his predecessor left the team in cap hell? Through it all, Caserio has managed to turn this team around and has them headed in the right direction. If Davis Mills proves to be a competent QB, that’ll be HUGE! However, the draft capital they have moving forward will help them draft or trade for their franchise QB if Mills isn’t the guy.

While the Astros are the only team currently in contention, the Rockets and Texans are looking like they may not be too far behind if things continue going their way. I’d LOVE to have a sit-down with all three and talk about philosophy and strategy! Houston sports are in good hands with these guys. Here’s to hoping they keep it going!

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