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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Have the Astros turned a corner? Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

After finishing up with the Guardians the Astros have a rather important series for early May with the Seattle Mariners heading to town for the weekend. While it’s still too early to be an absolute must-win series for the Astros, losing the series to drop seven or nine games off the division lead would make successfully defending their American League West title that much more unlikely.

Since their own stumble out of the gate to a 6-10 record the Mariners have been racking up series wins, including one this week over the Atlanta Braves. The M’s offense is largely Mmm Mmm Bad, but their pitching is sensational. In 18 games after a 4-8 start, the Mariners gave up five runs in a game once. In the other 17 games they only gave up four runs once. Over the 18 games their starting pitchers gave up 18 earned runs total with a 1.44 earned run average. That’s absurd. Coming into the season Seattle’s starting rotation was clearly better on paper than those of the Astros and Texas Rangers, and it has crystal clearly played out as such into the second month of the schedule.

While it’s natural to focus on and fret over one’s own team's woes when they are plentiful as they have been for the Astros, a reminder that not all grass is greener elsewhere. Alex Bregman has been awful so far. So has young Mariners’ superstar Julio Rodriguez (though not Breggy Bad). A meager four extra base hits over his first 30 games were all Julio produced down at the ballyard. That the Mariners are well ahead of the Astros with J-Rod significantly underperforming is good news for Seattle.

Caratini comes through!

So it turns out the Astros are allowed to have a Puerto Rican-born catcher who can hit a little bit. Victor Caratini’s pedigree is not that of a quality offensive player, but he has swung the bat well thus far in his limited playing time and provided the most exciting moment of the Astros’ season with his two-out two-run 10th inning game winning home run Tuesday night. I grant that one could certainly say “Hey! Ronel Blanco finishing off his no-hitter has been the most exciting moment.” I opt for the suddenness of Caratini’s blow turning near defeat into instant victory for a team that has been lousy overall to this point. Frittering away a game the Astros had led 8-3 would have been another blow. Instead, to the Victor belong the spoils.

Pudge Rodriguez is the greatest native Puerto Rican catcher, but he was no longer a good hitter when with the Astros for the majority of the 2009 season. Then there’s Martin Maldonado.

Maldonado’s hitting stats with the Astros look Mike Piazza-ian compared to what Jose Abreu was doing this season. Finally, mercifully for all, Abreu is off the roster as he accepts a stint at rookie-level ball in Florida to see if he can perform baseball-CPR on his swing and career. Until or unless he proves otherwise, Abreu is washed up and at some point the Astros will have to accept it and swallow whatever is left on his contract that runs through next season. For now Abreu makes over $120,000 per game to not be on the roster. At his level of performance, that’s a better deal than paying him that money to be on the roster.

Abreu’s seven hits in 71 at bats for an .099 batting average with a .269 OPS is a humiliating stat line. In 2018 George Springer went to sleep the night of June 13 batting .293 after going hitless in his last four at bats in a 13-5 Astros’ win over Oakland. At the time no one could have ever envisioned that Springer had started a deep, deep funk which would have him endure a nightmarish six for 78 stretch at the plate (.077 batting average). Springer then hit .293 the rest of the season.

Abreu’s exile opened the door for Joey Loperfido to begin his Major League career. Very cool for Loperfido to smack a two-run single in his first game. He also struck out twice. Loperfido will amass whiffs by the bushel, he had 37 strikeouts in 101 at bats at AAA Sugar Land. Still, if he can hit .225 with some walks mixed in (he drew 16 with the Space Cowboys) and deliver some of his obvious power (13 homers in 25 games for the ex-Skeeters) that’s an upgrade over Abreu/Jon Singleton, as well as over Jake Meyers and the awful showing Chas McCormick has posted so far. Frankly, it seems unwise that the Astros only had Loperfido play seven games at first base in the minors this year. If McCormick doesn’t pick it up soon and with Meyers displaying limited offensive upside, the next guy worth a call-up is outfielder Pedro Leon. In January 2021 the Astros gave Leon four million dollars to sign out of Cuba and called him a “rapid mover to the Major Leagues.” Well…

Over his first three minor league seasons Leon flashed tools but definitely underwhelmed. He has been substantially better so far this year. He turns 26 May 28. Just maybe the Astros offense could be the cause of fewer Ls with Loperfido at first and Leon in center field.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTube with the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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