How Astros pitching infusion has sparked fascinating chain reaction
From the moment the Astros announced that Justin Verlander was returning to the scene of his greatest glory …
Framber Valdez pitched a near-perfect no-hitter, the Astros completed a sweep of the pesky Guardians, and the Astros now are betting favorites to plunder the American League and everything else that stands in their way.
I’m not saying the Verlander trade is partly responsible for the Astros resurgent rise to dominance … I’m saying it’s 100 percent responsible.
In a matter of 48 hours, the Astros jumped to 11-2 odds to win the World Series, passing the temporarily first-place Rangers who are now 17-2 to win the title.
B.V.T. (before Verlander trade) Astros fans wondered if the team had enough pitching to go deep in the playoffs. Well, if memory serves, Valdez won two games and Verlander one in last year’s World Series. Yeah, the Astros have enough pitching.
These are the dog days of summer baseball, when players typically drag their butts through July and August of an interminable season. Not in Houston.
You think the Astros aren’t sky high heading into New York for a four-game series against the Yankees? Did you catch Alex Bregman’s interview after hearing that Verlander was coming back? I’ve seen less excited Mega Millions winners.
While Mets and Yankees fans are wringing their hands and signing up for grief counseling, Astros fans are putting in for vacation time in October.
Think how fans in New York feel (not that we care). After winning 101 games last year, the Mets signed Verlander and welcomed the 2023 season with high hopes and the highest payroll in baseball history. Mets fans were stoked. The team sold out their allotment of season tickets, and charged record prices for individual game tickets. World Series or bust!
Bust! The Mets are now the GOAT of disappointing teams. They just unloaded most of the high-priced talent that spurred ticket sales. A departing pitcher squealed he was told the team is officially in rebuild mode and doesn’t expect to win until 2026. Fans are disgusted with the team and once-precious tickets are going for peanuts.
You want to go to Citi Field for the Pirates-Mets game on Aug. 16? The giveaway that night is Max Scherzer Sunglasses. You can get reserved seat tickets for $4 and there’s plenty available on the secondary market. Oh, the irony.
Because it’s the fans’ job to complain about something no matter how good times are, some Astros fans’ panties are in a bunch because the manager continues to play a puny-hitting catcher over a promising rookie. Why is he still playing a left fielder who seemingly hasn’t had a hit since Verlander’s first time around in Houston. And did we make a mistake trading two prospects for a 40-year-old pitcher?
Answer: the Astros absolutely did the right thing sending two coveted minor leaguers to the Mets for Verlander. Ever hear the expression, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? In baseball, prospects are two in the bush.
Verlander, after a slow start, is one of the hottest pitchers in the league. Plus his presence in the clubhouse is immeasurable. He’s here to win games and drive the Astros to another World Series, like he’s done twice before. He’s here to mentor rookie Hunter Brown. He’s here to fill the remaining empty seats at Minute Maid Park. He’s here to light up Houston.
On top of all that, the Met’s are paying a big chunk of Verlander’s salary. The 2022 Cy Young winner is a bargain.
Most important, the Astros clubhouse is a happy place. Unlike some other cities, Astros players and fans don’t wonder if the owner really truly, deep down, wants to win. Owner Jim Crane craves winning, and he’s putting the Mets’ money where his mouth is.
As for the prospects headed to New York, what’s that mean for the Astros’ future? We’ll worry about tomorrow … tomorrow. Right now the Astros are focused on winning the 2023 World Series and cementing their legacy as a modern baseball dynasty.