THE PALLILOG

Here's how the Astros could learn a lot about their future as soon as this Sunday

The clock is ticking. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If he is indeed to become an ex-Astro George Springer can officially sign with his new team starting at four PM Houston time this Sunday. Michael Brantley the same. All free agents can sign contracts starting Sunday afternoon. If the die isn't cast that Springer is leaving, it certainly feels like his renewing vows with the Astros would be an upset.

The Astros will make Springer a 18.9 million dollar qualifying offer for 2021. He will of course reject that because contract offers of at least five years and over 100 million dollars likely await. Should Springer move on the Astros would then get a compensatory draft pick. Brantley won't get anything in close range of Springer's haul-to-be but still should at least get multiyear offers. The Astros should make the qualifying offer to Brantley (if they don't they forfeit any compensation for his departure). If they don't out of fear that he'd accept the one-year deal, the Astros would look lame. I don't think it comes to that. Losing Springer would be a huge blow on multiple levels, but if somehow they were to keep Brantley while getting back Yordan Alvarez at even 80 percent of his rookie performance level the Astros' lineup would look to be in decent shape.

With MLB's economic outlook shaky for 2021, it's unreasonable to say Jim Crane and his partners should give Springer whatever he wants. A six or seven year megadollar contract for a 31-year-old player with some durability questions on his resume is an iffy proposition. At the same time, the Astros have been quite profitable in recent years (before 2020), and Crane said over the summer the Astros were positioned to be "aggressive, whatever the market looks like." 13 million Josh Reddick dollars are off the books for 2021, 10 mil of Roberto Osuna is gone. After next year more than 57 mil of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke clear.

MLB's postseason awards will be doled out over the next couple weeks but for the first time in years the Astros don't have a credible candidate for any of the big ones (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year). The Astros do have three American League Gold Glove finalists. I think Carlos Correa wins the shortstop honor. Correa had a weak regular season at the plate but his defense was stellar, plus the two guys who divvied up the last four AL SS Gold Gloves (Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons) had down seasons and aren't finalists. Quick: name the teams of fellow finalists J.P. Crawford and Niko Goodrum. Hard to see either winning over Correa. Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker were also named top three at their positions. For the first time the finalist selections were driven entirely by stats and analytics.

Big week for the Rockets

With the Rockets settling on Stephen Silas as their new Head Coach, that hire coupled with the in house promotion of Rafael Stone to General Manager makes it appear as though owner Tilman Fertitta is doing more things on the cheap. The NBA economic environment is challenging and huge portions of the rest of Fertitta's portfolio are submerged in a COVID-driven bloodbath. Silas has paid his dues for a good while and most recently worked under the outstanding Rick Carlisle in Dallas. He has earned a lead chair opportunity. But with no prior head coaching experience and no bidding war for his services, Silas signs on at a much lower rate than, say, Jeff Van Gundy would have commanded. Former head coaches (and former Rockets' player rivals of the 90s) Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan would make for two strong Silas assistants. From their playing days if you combined Hornacek's offense and McMillan's defense into one player you'd have one of the top 20 or so greatest guards in NBA history.

Silas and Stone take the reins at a challenging time for the Rockets with their messy salary cap sheet, reduced draft capital, and one of the oldest core player groups in the league. Polite public statements aside, it's part of why Daryl Morey left. Maybe Mike D'Antoni too though that seemed more about feeling disrespected by the lack of a contract extension before this past season. D'Antoni may have overplayed his hand since he did not get fill any of the coaching vacancies elsewhere in the NBA. Only Oklahoma City remains open, and D'Antoni has gotten no run there.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It seems sadly appropriate that the first meaningful positive in the Texans' 2020 season came in form of a COVID test result.

2. If we all commit to getting through it together, I think we can get by without a Texans' game this weekend. Remember, it's their open week, not a bye!

3. One hit wonder goodbye songs: Bronze-Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun" Silver-Norman Greenbaum "Spirit In The Sky" Gold-Steam "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

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The Astros play game one of the ALDS on Tuesday. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

It's October. Fall is upon us. In Texas, that means the high temps won't be above 92 or so. Low temps dip into the low 60s. Your air conditioner only runs for about 50-60% of the time it did during Summer. Well, that depends on your thermostat. NFL and NCAA football seasons are in full swing. NBA training camps and preseason have opened. You get the picture I'm painting here. This is a wonderful time to be a sports fan.

MLB is wrapping up its regular season and the Wild Card series in both leagues are already scheduled. Your Houston Astros won't have to play in one of those. Instead, they'll be waiting to see who they play in the next round (Mariners or Blue Jays). As the team with the best record in the AL this season, they hold home field advantage throughout their stay in the AL playoffs. The path to the World Series will go through Houston.

Seeing this team in this position has become very familiar. Since 2015: they've missed the playoffs once (2016), won their division five times, made three World Series appearances, and have the lone ring from 2017. That ring is lonely because it needs a playmate. That playmate has been elusive. It would also validate the dynasty by helping erase some of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. However, I believe the window may be closing.

For starters, Jim Crane and James Click seem to have some relationship issues. Click is operating without a contract beyond this season. Crane has said he'll address Click's situation after the season. Does this mean they're headed for Splitsville? Justin Verlander will be a free agent. Will he re-sign? If so, how much will he command and will it restrict the team from making other moves? Jose Altuve is getting older. So is Yuli Gurriel (Free Agent), Martin Maldonado, Christian Vazquez (Free Agent), Aledmys Diaz (Free Agent), Will Smith (Free Agent), Hector Neris, and Ryan Pressley. All these guys are 32 years old or older. There are young guns in the pipeline at different positions and on the team already, but they aren't all proven commodities.

That is why I believe the time is now. A sense of urgency must be taken with the opportunity to win it all this year. We can't rest on "we'll be back next year" because next year isn't promised. At some point, things will need to be rebuilt and/or replaced. It took 10 years from their World Series appearance in 2005 and their next playoff spot in 2015. That gap could've been a year or so longer because NOBODY expected them to make it in 2015.

Astros fans have become accustomed to this team being in contention for a title every year. What if the pieces that helped get them get to this point are no longer viable? The fantastic voyage won't last forever. All dynasties come to an end at some point. Unless you're a college team that can consistently reload every year. The one thing I want more than anything else is another World Series win. This would silence the haters by validating 2017, seal some Hall of Fame legacies, and potentially signal the lengthening of the window. They're the John Cena of MLB: their fans LOVE them, their haters HATE them. Ultimately, their time is now.

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