LET'S PUT THIS TO BED

The case to rethink a common (and flawed) Astros, Yankees narrative

Yankee envy needs to stop. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

What the hell happened last night?

The Astros lost a game, 7-4, to the lowly Kansas City Royals. Huh? Since when do the Astros lose? We might want to check to make sure the Earth didn’t fall off its axis, too.

You should have heard the fans wringing their hands on the radio post-game show … what about trading for another reliever, what about sitting Yuli Gurriel, what’s the deal with Kyle Tucker’s fielding, why does Dusty sit multiple starters the same game? Questions, questions, questions.

You do realize that things couldn’t be better in Astros world, right? In fact they’ve never been better. Really. Let’s Cap’n Crunch the numbers. The Astros record at the 2022 midpoint is 58-23. That’s better than the Astros four World Series years: 2005 (38-42-1), 2017 (54-27), 2019 (50-31), and 2021 (48-33).

In case you’re wondering, yes, the then-National League Astros played a tie game in 2005. Their June 30 game against the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park ended 2-2 when rain halted the action in the seventh inning. Stranger, the Astros’ two runs were driven in by starting pitcher Brandon Backe’s double in the second inning.

The game was replayed from the start a few days later, which the Reds won, 4-3. While the tie game didn’t count in the final standings – it was replayed from the start a few days later with the Reds winning 4-3 - hitting and pitching stats from the tie did count and were included in the season’s final totals. Weird rule.

Astros fans need to get over their market-size inferiority complex. Announcers last night gushed over the marvelous, MVP-level season that Yordan Alvarez is having … “but they’ll probably give the MVP to Aaron Judge because he plays in New York.”

Yes, the announcers – our announcers – said that. What are they talking about? Let’s look it up.

When was the last time a Yankee won the MVP? It was 2007 when Alex Rodriguez won it. Since then, Astros Jose Altuve was the MVP in 2017.

When was the last time a Yankee won the Cy Young Award? It was 2001 when Roger Clemens won it. Since then, two Astros have won it, Dallas Keuchel (2015) and Justin Verlander (2019).

When was the last time a Yankee won Rookie of the Year? It was Aaron Judge in 2017. Since then, Astro Yordan Alvarez won it in 2019.

Most important, when was the last time the Yankees went to the World Series? It was 2009. Since then the Astros have made three World Series appearances, including the title in 2017.

The simple fact is, the Houston Astros are a glamour team and decidedly more successful on the field than the Yankees in recent years. More successful than any other MLB team, in fact.

This year the Astros have strong candidates for MVP (Alvarez), Cy Young (Verlander) and Rookie of the Year (Jeremy Pena).

Yankee envy needs to stop. They need to be more worried about us than us about them. The Yankees have been our patsies the past decade. And still are. Didn’t we just no-hit them in their stadium? That had to leave a mark.

The Astros have a 13-game lead in the American League West, and if they don’t fall off a cliff or run into a painted tunnel like Wile E. Coyote will qualify for a first-round bye in baseball’s newfangled playoff system.

Astros management is making all the right moves. A few months ago, fans were crying in their Wheaties over losing Carlos Correa, who signed for $35 million per year in Minnesota. So we handed the shortstop position to rookie Jeremy Pena. How’s that working out? Pena is becoming a local hero while making "only" $700,000, practically to the penny 1/50th of Correa’s paycheck. One fiftieth! And Pena is under Astros’ control for five more seasons. Sometimes the best purchases are the ones you don't make.

Out of left field

Astros games on ATT SportsNet are a nightly joy, except when Apple TV steals a game and wrecks our lives with their inane announcers.

If you’re looking for an Astros social slip-up, here’s the only one I can find. How did this get past the marketing department?

You’ve probably heard the radio commercial for a wireless company that starts: “This is Geoff Blum, your favorite Astros color commentator.”

Blum works Astros games on TV. The spot runs exclusively on radio, including the Astros flagship radio station where Steve Sparks is the color commentator. How do you think Sparks feels when that commercial runs, his own station letting Blum say he – not Sparks – is the fans’ favorite?

This is like someone letting their dog poop on a neighbor’s lawn, not picking it up, and waving to the neighbor glaring in the front window.

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Dameon Pierce was a bright spot for the Texans on Saturday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans played a football game for the first time since January on Saturday, and while it was only the preseason, there were some things that should create a sense of optimism for fans.

One of those groups is none other than the running back position, which is unfamiliar territory for Texans fans to have any hope about that unit.

Since the turn of the new decade, the running back group has been abysmal for Houston, ranking among the bottom in the NFL, including 31st in 2020 and 32nd in 2021. Entering into the 2022 season, it seems like the tide has begun to shift, and that is due to rookie running back Dameon Pierce, who impressed in his first outing ever in a Houston uniform.

Pierce garnered some attention with his 49-yard rushing performance, including a 20-yard run in the second quarter. The fourth-round pick out of Florida looked like he was gliding in between the land of giants at times as he shifted through his own offensive linemen and opposing defenders.

He also displayed his ability to get to the edge and turn the corner on the outside as well, something that not many Houston backs have been able to do over the last few seasons.

Now it is early, and after one preseason game, there should be no reason to crown Pierce the second coming of Arian Foster. But the reason Houston fans should have optimism when it comes to the running backs is because of the potential Pierce has shown.

In 2021, Houston’s best running back for most of the season was Mark Ingram, and he spent half of the year with, coincidentally, the New Orleans Saints.

Running back Rex Burkhead took charge towards the tail end of the season, and finished as the team’s leading rusher with only 427 yards for the entire campaign. Pierce got roughly one-eighth of that in limited action against the Saints.

Running back Marlon Mack started the game for Houston. While he only finished with a lackluster six yards on three carries, it is also worth noting that starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil, starting center Justin Britt and guard Kenyon Green all did not play for the Texans against the Saints.

Burkhead is still on the roster. He also did not play against New Orleans, but going back to 2021, he proved that he still has the capability to make an impact on games in spurts.

With both Mack and Burkhead good veterans to help Pierce’s development throughout his rookie season, and the small sample the young back has put on film, there is reason to be enthusiastic about Houston’s running back group for 2022.

After all, the bar has been set pretty low following the past two seasons. The silver lining about hitting rock bottom is that eventually you can only go up.

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