How to avoid making another historical Houston Astros gaffe

How to avoid making another historical Houston Astros gaffe
It ain't over till it's over. Composite Getty Image.

With a nod to Mark Twain, reports of the Houston Astros’ demise in the ALCS were greatly exaggerated. The defending World Series champs beat the Texas Rangers, 8-5, Wednesday night on the road, of course, in Arlington. The ALCS stands at 2-1 in favor of the Rangers, with the next two games in Arlington.

Rangers’ fans and media were quick to shovel dirt on the Astros grave after the Rangers swept the first two games of the series in Houston.

Consider this headline in Tuesday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which is a real newspaper in a major market. In fact, it’s the 45th largest newspaper in the U.S.

“Houston Astros dynasty looks to be fading fast versus Texas”

The story contained the following bon mots:

“These Astros look demoralized.”

“The Lone Star Showdown is thus far playing more like the Whataburger Beatdown.”

“The Houston Astros won’t do it but when the history of their dynastic run is written, or turned into a Netflix documentary, there will be a “the end started here” moment.”

And to show how razor sharp the Star-Telegram’s analysis of the ALCS is, how’s this from the Game 2 wrapup?

“The fans at Enron Field were starving for any reason to get into this series.”

The Astros ballpark hasn’t been called Enron Field for more than two decades. Two days later, the online version of Star-Telegram still says Enron Field. Hello? The Astros play at Minute Maid Park. You coulda/shoulda looked it up. Dumbass newspaper.

Of course history still favors the Rangers. The team leading 2-1 in an LCS goes on the win the series 70 percent of the time. No team that lost the first two games of an LCS at home has ever rebounded to win the series. That’s true, but three times it’s happened in the World Series. And the Astros have a World Series mentality. Speaking of the World Series, the Texas Rangers have never won one. Fun fact.

My 5-cents is on the Astros. Resurrected pitcher Jose Urquidy throws Thursday night against the Rangers’ Andrew Heaney. If the Astros win and tie the series, the Rangers’ backsides will be puckered tighter than a balloon knot at a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party.

After Wednesday night’s win, the Astros are 7-1 at Globe Life Field this year. And yes, that’s the correct name of the Rangers’ stadium. See? It’s not hard to know where these games are being played.

Now a confession. In 2005, my newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, buried the Astros more embarrassingly than the Fort Worth Star-Telegraph this week.

On May 30th, the Astros were trounced 9-0 and their record fell to 18-32, good for last place in the National League Central. Remember the National League?

Two days later, the front page of the Chronicle sports page ran a huge drawing of a gravestone pronouncing the Astros dead for the 2005 season. The stone was engraved: “RIP ASTROS SEASON.” The headline read, “The cold hard truth … the Astros might as well start thinking about next year.”

Much to the Chronicle’s red faces, the Astros turned their season around, finishing 89-73 and qualifying for the playoffs. They won the Wild Card game over the Phillies, won the NLDS over the Braves, won the NLCS over the Cardinals and advanced to their first World Series in franchise history.

If ever there was proof of life after death, it’s the Houston Chronicle sports page from June 1, 2005.

Lesson learned: do not write off the Astros. Then or now.

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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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