Every-Thing Sports

Gov. Abbott's soft reopen: what does this mean for sports?

Gov. Abbott's soft reopen: what does this mean for sports?
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott

On Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott decided to let his stay-at-home order, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to expire Thursday April 30. Per his orders, businesses like retail stores, malls, restaurants and theaters to reopen Friday May 1, but limits occupancy to 25%. Museums and libraries are allowed to reopen as well. I'm assuming they'll be under the 25% limit as well. Barbershops, salons, gyms and bars are to remained closed, but it's his hope to have them reopen mid-May. Some places have defied the stay-at-home orders. Culture Map's Eric Sandler wrote about a restaurant in Houston that decided to reopen its doors on Friday April 24. There have also been protests around the country about the right to gather, wanting to get back to work, and playing in public parks. So what are the possible effects this soft reopening will have on the sports world?

Trial Run

Allowing for some public places to reopen at a 25% capacity will let us see if we're ready to go back in public. If we see the number of positive cases go down or stagnate, it could allow for things open back up more quickly. On the flip side, if we see a spike, things will get shut back down. Maybe if the former happens, stadiums and arenas could reopen at the same 25% capacity with the same social distancing orders in place.

Texas Could Be A Host Site

Let's say all goes well and the soft reopen lasts for the month of May. Could we see leagues wanting to come to Texas to resume their seasons? Would the NBA consider using Houston and it's numerous world class facilities to finish its season? Would MLB follow suit? Other potential sites mentioned like Vegas for the NBA, and the traditional Spring Training states of Arizona and Florida may be behind in reopening. This could entice those leagues to come here and get some sort of revenue going.

Setting the Standard

This could set the standard for the rest of the country. If all goes well in May, standards loosen in June, we could see schools reopening soon after. If the schools are open, everything else would follow suit, more specifically, football. Football is as engrained in the fabric of this country as anything. Even if the NCAA and NFL seasons get off to a delayed start, it'll be a welcomed sight. Schools reopening is a major key. Maybe Gov. Abbott will reopen schools at a capacity limit. If that goes as planned, sports will be sure to follow.

This could always go south. Positive test numbers could spike dramatically leaving us in a worse position than before. That would restart the clock on quarantining. Sports have always been our escape from reality. During the Harvey aftermath, we had the Astros and football started soon after. When you're dealing with a worldwide pandemic, the game changes. Personally, I think this soft reopen is a bad idea. However, the capacity limits give me hope. But people are dumbasses and will find a way to ruin things. My family and I won't be out there standing in lines to get in any of these places initially. Besides getting live sports back in some form, I am looking forward to one of my guilty pleasures returning: mall Chinese food.

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How significant Astros spring training revelation highlights even more reasons for optimism

The Houston Astros had a very successful season in 2023 which led them back to the ALCS for the seventh-straight season, but despite another deep playoff run, their pitching did regress from the prior year.

While many would point to their historic bullpen in 2022 and say they had nowhere to go but down, that doesn't paint the full picture. It was the starting rotation that really fell off in 2023. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, and Jose Urquidy all saw a spike in their ERAs from the previous season.

According to a recent report from The Athletic's Chandler Rome, we might have an explanation for Jose Urquidy's down year.

The Astros and Urquidy believe he was tipping his pitches. Which would explain why the slugging percentage against his fastball jumped from .482 in 2022 to .632 in 2023.

When hitters know a pitcher is tipping, they often start hunting fastballs. Also, his strikeout percentage went down last year and his walks went way up. He had 2 more walks per nine innings in 2023 than he had in 2021.

Part of that could be him aiming for corners and refusing to give in to hitters because his fastball wasn't performing up to expectations.

His WHIP in 2023 really jumped off the page as well. He finished with a WHIP over 1.4. While his career WHIP is 1.143. That's a huge difference.

Back to the big picture

Until last season, Urquidy never finished with an ERA over 3.95. He recorded a 5.29 ERA last year. So when we factor in his shoulder injury that cost him three months of the season, and the fact he was tipping pitches, we believe he's in store for a bounce-back season.

And the Astros are going to need him, especially with Justin Verlander and JP France possibly not being available for the start of the season.

What will the rotation look like early on?

The Astros haven't ruled Verlander out yet, so he could be ready to go. But if not, and we base this off what we saw last season. The rotation will likely include Valdez, Javier, Brown, Urquidy, Ronel Blanco, and Brandon Bielak.

Don't miss the video above for the full discussion!

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