Astros remind Houston “there's still a good window available” for more championships

Astros remind Houston “there's still a good window available” for more championships
Astros look ahead after losing ALCS to Rangers. Composite Getty Image.
Another award-filled offseason could await the Houston Astros

Few people on the planet could have more reason to be devastated after the Houston Astros 11-4 ALCS Game 7 loss to the Texas Rangers than second baseman José Altuve.

This is a man, after all, who single-handedly snatched a victory from the Rangers in Game 5 when he demolished a three-run homer in the 9th inning, taking the Astros from a 4-2 deficit to a 5-4 win and thus helping cement a return to Houston and another title win.

But as he stood in a sedate Astros clubhouse in Minute Maid Park after the 11-4 stunner, Altuve displayed the calm, balanced demeanor that has made him a team superhero during the Astros recent reign.

“That’s baseball,” he told the media gathered around him late Monday, October 23. “Sometimes you’re winning, sometimes you're losing. You have good games…and not good games. I think, you know, we [have had] some ups and downs through everybody’s career…sometimes, like I said, winning, sometimes, you lose. That’s baseball — and you have to move on.”

Just how can he move on? He remembers — and wants everyone to know — that he and his teammates “never give up,” and, “that we play a hundred percent.”

Alex Bregman, who like Altuve, helped the Astros claim two World Series wins in five years, seemed to reflect the daze of so many fans swarming out of the stadium. “I respect these guys so much,” the third baseman and proverbial slugger told the press. “It’s gonna be a different team … knowing that it could be the last time playing with some of these guys is tough.”

Like Altuve, Bregman rallied in Game 7, blasting a signature Breggy Bomb against Rangers pitcher Max Scherzer in the third inning, bringing the Astros within two runs. But, Bregman added, “it comes down to execution, and we didn't do a good enough job of that. And they did, and you tip your hat to them.”

Questions rightfully turned to Bregman’s contract extension with the team; he, like Altuve, is a free agent after 2024. He hadn’t even thought of that, he revealed, choosing to focus on a Game 7 win. But the third baseman who has battled back time and time against injury and setback to ultimately hoist a World Series trophy reminded fans that isn’t closed to done.

“When you set out in spring training, you set out to win a championship,” he said. “But, you know, we failed plenty of times in this game and … it kind of keeps you hungry and keeps you coming back for more, and lights a fire in you to continue to try and get better.”

And that was the beauty of Altuve’s and Bregman’s comments that night. The duo and team have, with their success, spoiled us to the point we now just expect a World Series trophy each year — not a bad thing for Houston fans.

Hours later, as national pundits fired off articles marking the “end of a dynasty,” the two superstars responsible for the Astros two gleaming World Series trophies showed the steely resolve that the traits needed to get through a triple-digit game season, divisional and conference playoffs, and a championship: calm, grit, and resilience.

So, as the talking heads pen their “Rangers are the next dynasty” pieces (yes, those Rangers — the oldest MLB team to never win the World Series), fans can look to future Hall of Famers Altuve, Bregman, and the other pivotal player (and future Hall member) who guided a team to two titles: towering ace pitcher Justin Verlander.

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back here,” Verlander told the media of his excitement returning to Houston via a trade with the New York Mets this season for another run. “It’s a little early to say I’m excited about next year — I’m still dealing with this — but that was on my mind before.”

And then, the line that should give grieving fans hope, and those hysterically hyperbolic sports writers pause as they anoint the next kings:

“I think moving forward,” Verlander added, “there’s still a good window available.”

Not matter who returns, our Astros will be ready to reign next year, Houston. And so should we.

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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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