The Astros play game one of the ALDS on Tuesday. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.
It's October. Fall is upon us. In Texas, that means the high temps won't be above 92 or so. Low temps dip into the low 60s. Your air conditioner only runs for about 50-60% of the time it did during Summer. Well, that depends on your thermostat. NFL and NCAA football seasons are in full swing. NBA training camps and preseason have opened. You get the picture I'm painting here. This is a wonderful time to be a sports fan.
MLB is wrapping up its regular season and the Wild Card series in both leagues are already scheduled. Your Houston Astros won't have to play in one of those. Instead, they'll be waiting to see who they play in the next round (Mariners or Blue Jays). As the team with the best record in the AL this season, they hold home field advantage throughout their stay in the AL playoffs. The path to the World Series will go through Houston.
Seeing this team in this position has become very familiar. Since 2015: they've missed the playoffs once (2016), won their division five times, made three World Series appearances, and have the lone ring from 2017. That ring is lonely because it needs a playmate. That playmate has been elusive. It would also validate the dynasty by helping erase some of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. However, I believe the window may be closing.
For starters, Jim Crane and James Click seem to have some relationship issues. Click is operating without a contract beyond this season. Crane has said he'll address Click's situation after the season. Does this mean they're headed for Splitsville? Justin Verlander will be a free agent. Will he re-sign? If so, how much will he command and will it restrict the team from making other moves? Jose Altuve is getting older. So is Yuli Gurriel (Free Agent), Martin Maldonado, Christian Vazquez (Free Agent), Aledmys Diaz (Free Agent), Will Smith (Free Agent), Hector Neris, and Ryan Pressley. All these guys are 32 years old or older. There are young guns in the pipeline at different positions and on the team already, but they aren't all proven commodities.
That is why I believe the time is now. A sense of urgency must be taken with the opportunity to win it all this year. We can't rest on "we'll be back next year" because next year isn't promised. At some point, things will need to be rebuilt and/or replaced. It took 10 years from their World Series appearance in 2005 and their next playoff spot in 2015. That gap could've been a year or so longer because NOBODY expected them to make it in 2015.
Astros fans have become accustomed to this team being in contention for a title every year. What if the pieces that helped get them get to this point are no longer viable? The fantastic voyage won't last forever. All dynasties come to an end at some point. Unless you're a college team that can consistently reload every year. The one thing I want more than anything else is another World Series win. This would silence the haters by validating 2017, seal some Hall of Fame legacies, and potentially signal the lengthening of the window. They're the John Cena of MLB: their fans LOVE them, their haters HATE them. Ultimately, their time is now.
With a new season on the horizon, the Astros have high hopes for 2024 after coming just one game shy of being in the World Series for three consecutive seasons.
If Houston wants to get back to the Fall Classic in 2024, they're going to have to rely on their pitching. Owner Jim Crane believes the club has 8 starting pitchers when Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. return mid-season.
Which allows several of the starters to move to the bullpen and provide even more depth. Add those guys to Bryan Abreu, Ryan Pressly, and Josh Hader and you have a recipe for success.
Check out the video above as ESPN Houston's Jeremy Branham goes through the entire staff and makes his case for the Astros having the best pitching staff in baseball.
You can listen to The Killer B's with Jeremy Branham and Joel Blank every weekday on ESPN 97.5 & 92.5 from 3 pm - 6 pm!