How MLB's decision on Astros ALDS will certainly be a hot topic for debate

How MLB's decision on Astros ALDS will certainly be a hot topic for debate
Will the roof be open at Minute Maid this weekend? Composite image by Jack Brame.
How Astros somehow harvested success where MLB planted a crop of excuses, failure

There’s much ado about whether the roof at Minute Maid Park should/will be open or closed for the American League Division Series starting Saturday between the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros.

Of course the decision will be made depending on the weather, but the forecast is for temperatures in the mid-70s with partly cloudy skies and no threat of rain. That’s ideal weather for baseball. Absolutely perfect. Even San Diego would be jealous.

Expect the roof to be closed.

It won’t be because Astros players prefer playing under a closed roof. They believe a closed roof is a big part of their home field advantage. Outfielders don’t have to worry about atmospheric vagaries to catch fly balls. A controlled environment gives an edge to the better team, and that’s the Astros most times. OK, maybe not this year when the Astros had a losing record at home. But still, given a choice, the Astros would rather be playing at home, under a roof, in front of their screaming fans.

During the regular season, Astros management calls the shots on whether the roof will be open or closed at Minute Maid Park. Almost always, the decision is to close the roof. You can count the number of times the roof was open this year on one hand.

For legit reasons. It does get toasty during summer in Houston. Over the years, the Astros have a higher winning percentage with the roof closed than open. It costs about $1,000 an hour to air condition Minute Maid Park, which was only slightly higher than my electric bill this summer.

It used to be that the Astros started night games with the roof open and closed the roof after the sun went down. That stopped in 2005.

But when the post-season rolls around, it’s the commissioner of baseball’s decision whether the roof will be open or closed. Last year, Game 2 of the American League Championship Series was played under the stars at Minute Maid Park, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone blamed the Yankees’ loss on the roof being open. Boone whined that an Aaron Judge fly ball would have been a home run if the roof had been closed, but wind kept the ball inside the park for Kyle Tucker to catch it.

After that, the roof was closed for all three games of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park.

I’m betting the roof will be closed for Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS this weekend because Fox is broadcasting the games and Fox loves the great indoors. TV has a mighty voice in baseball decisions, especially during the playoffs when networks pay big bucks and they want no whammies.

In 2017, the Super Bowl was at NRG Stadium in Houston and Fox did the game. That day was about 66 balmy degrees for the New England Patriots’ comeback win in overtime over the Atlanta Falcons. The roof was closed.

In 2004, the Super Bowl was at NRG Stadium. The temperature was a cool, crisp 62 degrees for the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Janet Jackson’s famous “wardrobe malfunction” at halftime. The roof was closed with CBS doing the game.

A Fox person told me that closing the roof on a sports stadium creates a controlled TV studio. The network doesn’t have to worry about drizzly weather, shadows or the sun dipping in and out from behind clouds. The entire field’s lighting is uniform. Sound technicians don’t have to worry about planes flying overhead or crowd noise evaporating into the open sky.

Unless the MLB commissioner offers divine intervention, expect Justin Verlander to deal with Twins batters under the Minute Maid Park roof.

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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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