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These Houston Astros hacks are a grand slam to beat inflation

Here's how to score a deal! Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Last week, a website called The Hustle reported the 2022 MLB Fan Cost Index, revealing the typical cost for a family of four to attend a Major League Baseball game for all 30 teams. Like we need more reminders that prices are crazy high these days?

The Fan Cost Index's criterion was the total price of four tickets, two sodas, two beers and parking. The Astros finished fourth most expensive with, as the Price is Right would say, an actual retail price of $293.74. That included four tickets at $58.61 each, two sodas at $5.50, two beers at $7.50, four hot dogs at $6 and parking for $9.30.

The most expensive team for a family of four is the Boston Red Sox at $324, the cheapest is the Arizona Diamondbacks at $126. There is a problem with attending a D-Backs game at Chase Field in Phoenix, though - the seats face the field.

The Fan Cost Index's rankings got a ton of responses by media commentators. Most missed the boat: the findings were misleading and meaningless. Here’s why:

We hear warnings about visiting some cities, say Tokyo, “where hamburgers cost $50.” It’s a ridiculous statement. Answer me this - how much is a hamburger in Houston?

A few years ago, I ate the “Bistro Burger” at a restaurant called 60 Degrees Mastercrafted on Westheimer. It was made from chopped ribeye steak and topped with foie gras, onions, bordelaise, mushrooms, caviar, and shaved white truffles. It was wrapped in a 24-carat gold leaf.

The burger cost $200 (don’t worry, I expensed it). While it did come with fries, it still was obscenely overpriced and frankly awful. Caviar is disgusting on a burger, and foie gras is cruel, and you shouldn't eat it on anything. Bordelaise? I have no idea what that is.

Last week, I ate a couple of Rodeo Burgers with onion rings and bbq sauce at Burger King - $1.49 each. OK, the patty was the size of a poker chip and the o-rings were made with reconstituted onions, but no complaints.

So how much is a burger in Houston? It's really whatever you want.

I once ate a $125 hot dog at B&B Butchers on Washington Avenue. It was made with Wagyu beef and topped with truffle-infused honey, bacon and bleu cheese. I scraped off the honey and bleu cheese, and rescued the dog with spicy brown mustard. It went right on my expense report, too.

The hot dogs at Minute Maid Park are a much better deal. They taste better, too. Plus at MMP you get to watch Jose Altuve hit a leadoff homer instead of some fat cats sitting in a dark corner with their daughters.

Yeah, their “daughters.”

Let’s break down the Fan Cost Index's methodology that came up with $293.74 for a family of four to attend a game at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros are hosting the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night. That’s a pretty attractive game against the Astros chief, though ego-crushed, rivals in the American League West. The Fan Cost Index says tickets are $58.61 each. I’m sure there are tickets at that price, even higher. But I went on astros.com and found seats in Row 8 in Section 420 for $21.36 each. Yes, that’s the upper deck, but Minute Maid Park is an intimate stadium and the upper deck provides a good view of the game. Besides, who’d you rather sit near, real fans on the 400 level or those 1-percenters who show up late and leave early in the Diamond Club. Give me the nose bleeders.

You can get an even better deal on secondary market sites. I found four seats in Row 8 of Section 420 for $16 each.

I also found tickets in the second row of Sec. 313 on the Terrace Level, a really terrific place to watch an Astros game, for $33.23 each. The Terrace Level is a prime area for catching foul balls. I used to bring a baseball glove to games until friends begged me to stop.

As Dr. Rick warns at movie theaters, food is expensive at baseball stadiums. The Fan Cost Index says beer is $7.50. But Minute Maid Park has a happy hour when beer is $5.79. Also, the Astros have Dollar Dog Nights on Tuesday when franks go for a buck. The Astros allow fans to bring in food as long as they keep it reasonably sized, like sandwiches and bottles of water. Don’t try to bring in a picnic basket, charcuterie board, ice chest and hibachi grill.

The Fan Cost Index says the parking rate at Minute Maid Park is $9.30, which they cite as the lowest in the Majors. I have attended hundreds of Astros games at Minute Maid Park. I have never paid a penny to park. There is parking on the street in downtown Houston if you don’t mind walking a few (sometimes many) blocks. If you choose to use a private parking lot, that’ll run you $10 to $30. For some attractions up to $50.

Bottom line, and that’s what the Fan Cost Index was addressing, a family of four doesn’t have to pay $293 to watch the Astros punish the Mariners. Astros games are on the open market, it’s up to fans to dictate their price tag.

The real value of watching the steamrolling Astros in 2022, though … priceless.

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DeMeco Ryans feels like the perfect fit. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

There’s one big difference between the Houston Texans and the Canadian Mounties.

The Mounties always get their man. The Texans not so much. That’s how second and third (and desperation) choices like David Culley, who never even was a coordinator in his nearly 30-year NFL career, and Lovie Smith, whose top credential for the job was being in the building, got to be Texans head coaches the past two years. Both of whom were one and done – summarily fired after disheartening, aimless seasons.

But that all changes with the imminent hiring of 38-year-old DeMeco Ryans as Texans head coach. An announcement could come any moment.

With one bold stroke, the Texans will be cleaning up a mess that took years to fester. Ryans is the perfect candidate for the job. He was drafted out of Alabama by the Texans in 2006 and became Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-Pro linebacker. He played six years in Houston when, lest we forget, the Texans developed into a winning team bound for the playoffs.

After retiring in 2017, Ryans became a successful coach with the San Francisco 49ers, rising quickly from defensive quality control to inside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator the past two seasons. This year, the 49ers had the stingiest defense in the league with the fewest points and yards allowed. They allowed their opponents to score on less than 25 percent of their drives – far and away the best performance in the NFL.

The Texans want Ryans and Ryans, who was the hottest head coach candidate on several teams’ wish list, wants the Texans. He’s reportedly said no thanks to the Denver Broncos, a team which appears to have a faster track to rebuilding than the Texans. Contrary to Thomas Wolfe’s classic novel, Ryans believes that you can go home again.

Ryans will accomplish some immediate fixes for the Texans – like bringing respectability to the franchise and soothing wounds with the fan base. The team desperately needs a kick in its image. As recently as five years ago, the Texans were selling out every home game at NRG Stadium with tens of thousands of home-viewing fans wishin’ and hopin’ to buy season tickets.

Then came Bill O’Brien, criminally one-sided trades (in the wrong direction), a divisive and unpopular executive with the owner’s ear, the Deshaun Watson scandal, two head coaches plucked off the scrap heap, and losing … lots and lots of losing. The Texans finished their recent season with three wins and the undisputed crown of most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL.

The jewel of that damning crown was winning a game they needed to lose to guarantee the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. You’d think that losing would be the easiest thing for the Texans. It’s sort of become their thing.

Not only did they win, they did it the hard way, by going for two in the last minute of their last game and winning by a single point. By winning they forfeited their unobstructed and worry-free path to drafting the quarterback of their choosing. Who thinks to do that? Now they have to wait to see what the Chicago Bears will do with the No. 1 pick.

Ryans will require time, probably a few years at least, to restore the Texans to the ranks of playoff contenders. In blunt terms, the Texans currently stink. They won three games in 2022 after back-to-back four-win seasons. On defense, they were 27th in points allowed. They were 31st in rushing yards allowed. On offense, 31st in yards per game, 31st in rushing, and 31st in third down conversions. There’s only 32 teams in the NFL.

Of course you can cherry pick stats to make a team look good or bad. With the Texans, they’re all bad.

Their returning starting quarterback won’t be starting next season. That’s the plan, anyway. The Texans are expected to draft quarterbacks Bryce Young of Alabama, C.J. Stroud of Ohio State or Will Levis of Kentucky with their No. 2 pick. The Texans may sign a free agent veteran signal caller or trade for one.

And start from scratch. Again. At least this time with a coach that brings hope back to Houston.

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