Here's what to expect from the Astros in 2020

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The Astros failed to fulfill their ultimate objective. They didn't choke. They lost. They were beaten. Sports happens. Again and again. In this instance most of the Major League Baseball world is happy about it. After the Astros organization's disgraceful performance through the Brandon Taubman situation, schadenfreude is one apt word for how many around baseball feel about the Astros coming up one win short of winning a second World Series in three years.

107 wins and an American League Pennant don't get flushed down the toilet because the Astros lost the World Series to one of the greatest in-season turnaround stories ever in sports. The Washington Nationals opened the season 19-31. From that point forward their record was better than the Astros. There was nothing flukey about the Nats taking it away when the Astros were so close to living up to their Take It Back slogan (though the road team winning all seven games was unprecedentedly nuts). The Nats trailed by two runs in the eighth inning of their Wild Card game vs. Milwaukee. They trailed by two runs in the eighth inning of the decisive fifth game of their Division Series at the Dodgers. Finally, they trailed by two runs in the seventh inning of World Series game seven at Minute Maid Park. The more deserving team won the World Series.

Gerrit Cole is highly likely a goner. The Astros presently project as a luxury team without Cole. Adding another 35+ mil per season to keep him seems a pipe dream. Cole may also simply prefer to go home to California. The pitching-desperate Angels are a logical direction with their stadium not even five miles from where Cole went to high school. However, the Angels can't offer perennial contention. The Dodgers can.

Cole's exit leaves the Astros 2020 projected starting rotation as 37 year old Justin Verlander, 36 year old Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers off of Tommy John surgery, Jose Urquidy off mixed results and one wonderful five inning World Series start, and who knows as number five. They figure to shop the bargain bin as with Wade Miley last offseason. The best free agent starting pitcher out there after Cole is freshly minted World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg if he opts out of the remaining four years and 100 million dollars on his Nats' deal. Zero chance the Astros would be on him. Zack Wheeler of the Mets might be next best, while nowhere close to Cole/Strasburg money the Astros would have to stretch the budget on a multiyear offer.

The bullpen faces turnover too. Will Harris gave it up in games six and seven, tainting an otherwise spectacular season. He hits free agency at 35 years old seeking a multiyear contract. The Astros owe Ryan Pressly 17 million over the next two seasons, average closer Roberto Osuna probably jumps to nine mil+ via salary arbitration or settlement beforehand, Brad Peacock roughly half that. Cheap guys like Josh James and Bryan Abreu factor in, and probably Joe Biagini. Hector Rondon and Joe Smith come off the books. Smith at a reduced salary would be worth bringing back. Chris Devenski's 2.625 million dollar option could be passed on.

The top seven batters in the Astros lineup collectively had a disappointing postseason, the offense petering out with puny two run outputs in the final two games of the season. Still, no team in MLB has a better one through seven. All will be back in 2020. That leaves Josh Reddick and catcher. Reddick is a gamer, but his level of play fell off dramatically the last two seasons and his postseason resume is lousy. The Astros would give away Reddick if they could but good luck finding a taker for the 13 million dollars on the final season of his contract. If the Astros eat half that money maybe they can move Reddick. Obviously Kyle Tucker gets a shot as the primary right fielder in 2020.

Texans, college football, and Rockets

J.J. Watt's season being done is sad, and ominous for the Texans. Their porous secondary is even more compromised with the diminished pass rush. A win over the Jaguars in London Sunday gives the Texans some margin for error at 6-3. A loss, and they're in trouble with the next three games against the Ravens, Colts, and Patriots.

Tom Herman claiming last week's UT loss to a middling TCU team is not a setback for the Longhorn program is laughable. The Horns could win out for 9-3. They're as likely to finish 7-5. That would be a weak third season of the Herman Era. LSU is pretty pleased these days that Herman used Baton Rouge as a stalking horse ahead of leaving U-of-H for Austin.

Unless you're really into the Rockets and/or love the NBA, it's tough to get into basketball with baseball just ending and football in full stride. If you missed it Wednesday with your attention rightfully focused on Astros-Nationals game seven, the Rockets scored 159 at Washington. In regulation! And won by one point!

Buzzer Beaters: 

1. The Astros open as the favorites to win the 2020 World Series. Though they probably won't. 2. Clocks back an hour tomorrow night. Put me down for Team Year Round Daylight Saving Time. 3. With "cold" weather here, best soups: Bronze-New England clam chowder Silver-Split pea Gold-Lobster bisque.

CultureMap.com

The 2020 baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced on Tuesday. Here is how some of Gow Media's personalities would have voted:

Patrick Creighton


Barry Bonds: The closest thing we will ever see to Babe Ruth in our lifetime. 7x MVP, 14x all star, 8x Gold Glove, 12x Silver slugger, 4x 30/30, 40/40 in 1996, single season HR king, all time HR king, single season walks king, all time walks king, all time IBB king. Charter and sole member of the 700/500 club (also the 600/500 club and 500/500 club) The most feared hitter in baseball for nearly 2 decades (led league in walks 12x).

Roger Clemens: The greatest pitcher of the modern era. 7x Cy Young; MVP, 11x All star, 7 ERA titles, 2 pitching triple crowns, and a fastball that will take your head off. 6x 20 game winner. 5x strikeout king, 3rd all time strikeouts. 354 career wins It cant be a hall of fame without the games greatest. Bonds and Clemens are 2 of the all time top 10 greats.

Sammy Sosa: There's only 1 player in baseball history to hit 60+ HR in a single season 3x. Slammin' Sammy. One of only 3 NL players to hit 160 RBI in a season in the modern era (since 1900). 609 career HR. 1998 MVP. 7x top 10 MVP. 7x All star. 6x silver slugger. Helped put baseball back on the map with historic 1998 HR chase with Mark McGwire. 10 straight years 35+ HR, 8 straight years 100+ RBI.

Curt Schilling: 6x all star, 4x top 4 Cy Young (3x 2nd). Won 21+ games 3x. 3x 300+ Strikeouts, 3x World Series Champ, Postseason stud. 11-2 career postseason, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 WS MVP, Bloody Sock, broken curse, he is Legend. Schilling also has the highest K/BB ratio of any member of the 3000 Strikeout club.

Jeff Kent: incredibly underrated player. most HR by a 2B all time w/ 377. 2000 MVP. 5x all star 4x silver slugger. managed to become one of the all time best hitting 2B despite manager Dallas Green trying to destroy him while he was with the Mets. 9 straight years of 20+ HR and 90+ RBI (8 of those 9 over 100 RBI) 4x top 10 MVP, 3rd all time RBI as 2B. 5th All time OPS at 2B. 4th all time doubles at 2B.

Larry Walker: one of most feared hitters for a decade. 1997 MVP, 7 Gold gloves, 3 silver sluggers, 5x all star, 3 batting titles. 6x batted over .320, 4x batted .350 or better. Walker batted .313 for his career with 383 HRs and a career OPS of .965, making his career OPS higher than anyone on the ballot this year except Bonds and Manny Ramirez.

New additions to the ballot for this year:

Manny Ramirez:
"Manny Being Manny" may have started with his 1st career hit - it came vs Yankees. It was a ground rule double for bouncing over the wall but Manny thought it was a HR and started trotting around the bases. He was halfway to 3rd when umpires finally were able to get his attention. What followed was 14 years of being one of the most feared hitters in MLB history. A 12x All Star, 2x World Series champ, World Series MVP, batting champ, and 9x Silver Slugger. He drove in 100+ 12x, including 145 in 1998 and a league leading 165 in 1999. 12x 30+ HRs, including 45 in 1998, 44 in 1999, and a league leading 43 in 2004. He's a .312 career hitter with 555 career HRs. A HOFer by any metric.

Derek Jeter: In his first year on the ballot, Jeter should be an absolute lock for enshrinement. He is a member of the 3000 hit club with an incredible 3465 hits (6th all time), he's also a career .310 hitter. Jeter was a Rookie of the year, 14x All Star, 5x World Series Champ, World Series MVP, and won 5 Gold Gloves & 5 Silver Sluggers. He has a reputation for being a clutch player with a knack for big hits as well, earning the nicknames "Capt. Clutch" and "Mr. November". Most hits among any SS ever. Yankees all time leader in Hits, Doubles (544), and Stolen Bases (358). 13x 100+ runs scored, 8x 200+ hits, 12x over .300 AVG. He is also the postseason record holder for most career Hits, Singles, Doubles, Triples, Runs and Total Bases.

A.J. Hoffman

Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Derek Jeter

I like a few other guys here, namely Gary Sheffield, but Jeter is the only one in the same stratosphere of deserving as the other two guys, And until Bonds and Clemens are in, they need to limit the amount of fringe guys who do get in.

Charlie Pallilo

Derek Jeter: Only first time ballot guy worthy of election. He is both rightfully a legend, and overrated by many.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens: Two peas in a dubious ethical pod. Hundreds of guys cheated in their era. Barry and Roger are arguably the greatest all-around player and greatest pitcher ever. Unlike Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez, Bonds and Clemens were Hall made men before their later "phases."

Curt Schilling: Career of ups and downs, but the ups were way up. Bonafide top tier ace for three different franchises. One of the greatest postseason pitchers ever. Pitched through heart of steroid era, so even better than some of his stats indicate on surface.

Larry Walker: Final year of main ballot eligibility. Offensive numbers inflated by years with the Rockies and not the most durable guy, but a tremendous offensive and defensive player. It was a joke how little support Lance Berkman got last year. Walker was better.

Closest miss, for now, Scott Rolen.
Third basemen are underrepresented in the Hall. Rolen was basically Adrian Beltre with 895 fewer games played, yet with 3 more Gold Gloves and three more All Star team selections.Jeff Kent also deserves more consideration than he has gotten.

Todd Farquharson

YES VOTES

Derek Jeter: Baseball Reference lists his most "Similar Batter" over his career as Astros Craig Biggio. Jeter will fly into the HOF on the first ballot and deserves it. But why did Biggio have to wait until his 3rd ballot?

Curt Schilling: It's time. Let Curt get to the podium in July.

Barry Bonds: Barry would already be in the Hall if he hadn't been a steroid guy. He also never would have shattered Hank Aaron's homerun record if he weren't on the juice. As time passes this has become part of the history of this era and the sport, and again, he would be in the HOF if his career ended before he did his first steroids.

Roger Clemens: See Barry Bonds. I'm for putting Roger in the Hall. He's one of the best pitchers of all time.

Billy Wagner: Question for a hitter, "Did you enjoy facing Billy Wagner?" Hitter, "No!" Billy was dominant in his era and one of the tops relievers in the history of the sport. The stats back it up.

Jeff Kent: This is a close one. Most players with 1500 RBI are in the HOF (unless they are roid guys or not yet eligible). He has the most home runs ever for a Second Baseman, 5th most doubles and 5th highest slugging at the position. Also has a MVP award. Rubber stamp it, in.

Scott Rolen: Rolen is 10th in WAR among all time 3rd Baseman, of which all are HOF'ers except for future HOF'er Adrian Beltre. He keeps the right company so put him in.

Andruw Jones: Of all the outfielders that have ever played the game, Jones was one of the best all time at defending his position. Add his 434 homers, 1200+ Runs and RBI and you've got a worthy candidate.

Omar Vizquel: He wouldn't go in for his hitting. Subjectively, he's one of the GOAT fielding shortstops. Objectively, he has the highest fielding percentage for SS ever. Defense matters.

NO VOTES

Larry Walker: His best years by far were in the altitude of Colorado. A career.348 hitter at home, while only .278 on the road. Can't vote for him on my imaginary ballot.

Manny Ramirez: I'm not convinced Manny would have been as prolific a hitter without PEDs.

Todd Helton: Last year I thought Helton and Lance Berkman should have the same fate. Berkman cruelly didn't even get five percent of the vote. And Helton is another guy that benefitted by playing in Coors Field, in his case, his entire career. Home BA .348, Away BA .287. Home runs at Home, 227. Homeruns Away, 142. If you double the away numbers, he's not in the HOF club.

Gary Sheffield: See Manny Ramirez.

Andy Pettitte: Andy is on the bubble. 14 of his 18 years his team made the playoffs which is amazing, but did his W-L record benefit from being on good teams? His career 3.85 ERA is fairly pedestrian and would be the 2nd highest among all HOF pitchers.

Sammy Sosa: Poster child for PEDs elevating a player's performance. Steroids changed the entire trajectory of Sosa's career.

Alfonso Soriano: Good, not great.

Adam Dunn: If the HOF isn't good enough for David "King Kong" Kingman there's no Dunn luck here.

Jason Giambi: Evaluating HOF candidates is part a comparison game. Yet is difficult to compare guys that loaded up on HRs and RBI in the late 90's and 2000's. Especially guys mentioned prominently in the Mitchell Report for PEDs.

Bobby Abreu: A consistent, durable performer that scored and drove in a lot of runs. Not quite a HOF'er though.

J.J. Putz: Certainly not a Hall of Famer, but I give him credit for lasting ten years in the majors and earning over $38 million.

Craig Larsen

I've had the distinct honor to attend and cover six inductee classes in Cooperstown as a Media Member. In 2007, I witnessed the late Tony Gwynn, along with the "Mr. Streak" Cal Ripken Jr who arguably saved the game coming out of the 1994 work stoppage. That entire weekend, you had goosebumps. When you see a "Derek Jeter" appear on the ballot, to me, everyone else is a secondary consideration. He's in that iconic realm, much like Ripken & Gwynn were. Jeter is obviously appearing on the ballot for the first time, the only question is will he be unanimous ? I'd like to meet the writer who doesn't vote him in on his first try.
Jeter would be my "lone pick" for the 2020 enshrinement, and he's certain to bring the goosebumps !!!

Fred Faour

To me, it is not a legitimate Hall of Fame until Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds get in. The voters have put in inferior players every year. Other than that, Derek Jeter should be an absolute lock. You can also make a surprisingly good case for Jeff Kent, who was widely disliked and probably has no chance.

That is as deep as I would go on my ballot.

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