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Let's discuss how the 2022 Houston Astros are giving off familiar vibes

Let's discuss how the 2022 Houston Astros are giving off familiar vibes
Justin Verlander is a sight for sore eyes. Composite image by Jack Brame.
Here's what the future could look like for Justin Verlander and the Astros

2005 was almost a lifetime ago. Things were very different back then. Minute Maid had been "The Juice Box" for almost six years. The iPhone hadn't been invented/debuted yet. My son was a toddler, my daughter hadn't been born yet, and I was about 20 to 30lbs lighter. The Astros were thought to be a contender with the team they had assembled. That team had what should be four Hall of Famers on it, but that's another story for another article.

The strong point on that '05 team was the pitching staff. They had starters that could go five to seven or more innings, then a bullpen that could come in and close it out. The lineup couldn't hit its way out of a wet paper bag. Sure, they had a few guys with 20-plus homers, but batting .256 as a team didn't scare anyone. They started 15-30, the Chronicle published the tombstone, and they went on a run to a World Series appearance. They were swept by the White Sox, but only outscored by six runs total. I always wonder what would've happened had they been able to score a few more runs?

The 2022 Astros are giving me similar vibes. The biggest difference is this team is much more balanced than the '05 team. This team has a little bit of everything: pitching (starters and bullpen) and hitting (power and average). With Justin Verlander coming off Tommy John surgery, Carlos Correa gone, and a universal designated hitter, things are a lot different from previous years for the Astros.

Other than Verlander and Lance McCullers, everyone else is relatively healthy. The pitching staff isn't as dominant, but they're pretty damn good. The lineup is light years ahead of the '05 team. They also have better chemistry and a more experienced/battle-tested manager. This team can still contend for a World Series title beyond the '22 season, whereas the '05 team was on its last legs of relevancy. Guys like Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers Jr, Yordan Alvarez, and Kyle Tucker should be the faces of the franchise for years to come. In '05, their average age was over 30 and most of their careers were over not too long thereafter.

I could see this version of the Astros being counted out early on as their roster gets into shape and gets its bearings because of the shortened Spring Training, then coming on like an out-of-control freight train. After going 15-30, the '05 team went 74-43 the rest of the way. I'm visualizing Verlander getting fully healthy and starting to get into a groove coinciding with the team taking off and running away from the rest of their division to secure a playoff spot. From there, their experience should take over in crunch time to lead them on another deep run.

This team is capable of winning a World Series, but it also has deficiencies that could lead to disappointment. They haven't missed the playoffs since 2016, and I highly doubt they start now. What I would like to see is the pitching staff being able to carry the lineup more consistently. The '05 team was completely carried by their staff. If the '22 staff can at least hold teams under three or four runs on days when the lineup can't score more than four or five, this team will be really good. Bottom line: I see a World Series run in this team's immediate future. How they get there is up for debate. What isn't is my belief in this team.

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Will someone have to pay for the Astros' failures this season? Composite Getty Image.

It's no secret to anyone that the most disappointing start to the season in MLB has to belong to the Houston Astros. They are currently seven games under .500, 10 games behind the division-leading Mariners, and 7.5 games behind the Royals in the Wild Card race.

There's no question the Astros are dealing with a plethora of injuries this season, with seven starting pitchers spending time on the injured list.

Outfielders Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick have also missed time with a bruised shin and hamstring strain, respectively.

But the club can't blame everything on health. Many of the players have underperformed this season, and the team's reluctance to move on from Jose Abreu with more urgency may have put them in a hole they won't be able to dig out of.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote in a piece this week that Astros GM Dana Brown's job is “safe,” despite the team's struggles.

Brown reportedly has another two years on his contract after this season. He also wasn't here for the disastrous signings of Rafael Montero and Abreu, so he won't be blamed for those decisions.

His handling of Abreu this season certainly could have been better, many believed he waited too long to release the aging player. But once again, Brown may not have had the final say on when the Abreu experiment should have ended.

Many believe team consultant Jeff Bagwell and owner Jim Crane had to be the ones to okay Abreu's release.

But one thing is for sure, they way the organization handled the Abreu situation deserves all the criticism. If they really wanted to give Abreu a fair shot to turn things around, they should have sent him to Triple A for several weeks to try to regain his swing.

Instead, he returned after four weeks having played in only five games at the Astros Florida Complex, and two games with Triple A Sugar Land with little to no success.

So let's get this straight, they brought him back to face the Mariners, without proving he could hit minor league pitching? He struggled in the series on offense and defense, and Seattle took three of four. Which put the team even further back in the division.

And let's not forget, the Mariners have one of the best pitching rotations in baseball, and all their starters are right-handed.

Dana Brown faced the media alone after Abreu's release

Dana's comments about the Abreu saga didn't provide much clarity.

Brown talked about the Astros having a timeline for Abreu, but they didn't know what the timetable was?

Via The Athletic:

We ultimately had a timeline; we just didn't know when it was.

That's not at all confusing. So he basically said the at-bats weren't getting better, so they decided to make a change.Funny, we remember them telling us he looked much better, despite the results.

We get it. Sometimes teams have to say stuff publicly that they don't really believe. But Brown taking credit for being the driving force behind the decision to release Abreu isn't something we would bring up.

It's hard to imagine they could have handled the situation any worse.

Look at the positives

We are left with one possible silver lining. Maybe the Montero and Abreu contracts will keep former players like Bagwell from influencing personnel decisions.

And let's not forget, this mess was really created when Crane allegedly pushed former GM James Click out the door, thinking he knew better.

Add that to the list of things that aren't aging well for the Astros.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full conversation. You don't want to miss this!

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and Charlie Pallilo discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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