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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The Coogs play Miami on Friday night. Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images.

Number one seed University of Houston is favored by 7.5 points over No. 5 Miami, and No. 2 University of Texas is favored by 4 over No. 3 Xavier Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals in Kansas City.

Talk about opening acts. If both UH and UT win, they’ll meet Sunday in a good ol’ WWE-style Texas death match for a berth in the Final Four at NRG Stadium in Houston. Thank you, Mr. Schedule Maker.

How much do you think Cougar fans would love for UH to get their hands on the Longhorns with so much at stake?

For one example, let’s go back to the future, Oct. 21, 2023, when Big 12 rivals UH and UT meet in football at TDECU Stadium on the Houston campus. The game already is a lock sellout with tickets in the upper deck commanding $141 per ticket on the secondary market. It will be UH’s first year in the big boy Big 12 and UT’s last go-around before heading to the SEC.

One last opportunity for lasting bragging rights.

That’s for a UH football game. At home. Where the Cougars typically have trouble packing half the house. For example, the Cougars will be hosting the Sam Houston Bearkats at TDECU Stadium a month earlier. Tickets for that game, the same exact seat going for $141 against UT, can be had right now … $17.

Yeah, there’s something special about UH getting the opportunity to face UT. In anything. Anywhere. And it’s been a long time since the two teams, once co-members of the Southwest Conference together, have met on the basketball court. A full decade, in fact. The last time they played was March 20, 2013 with the Cougars prevailing 73-72 in something called the College Basketball Invitational. The UH coach was James Dickey. UT was coached by Rick Barnes. Joe Young led the Cougars with 18 points. The Horns’ leading scorer was Julien Lewis with 28. UH finished that season with a 20-13 record. UT limped home at 16-18.

That was then, this is now. The UH-Miami game will air at 6:10 p.m. Friday on CBS with UH grad Jim Nantz calling the play-by-play. The game will alsO stream on Hulu +++. ESPN’s BPI (basketball power index) gives the Cougars a 90 percent chance of winning. We’ll take it.

The UT-Xavier game will follow at 8:45 p.m. on CBS. The Horns have a 70 percent chance of beating the Musketeers. If both chalks come through, they’ll meet Sunday afternoon with the game on CBS.

The Cougars have made six Final Four appearances: 1967, 1968, 1982, 1983, 1984, 2021. The Horns have made three Final Fours, the last time two decades ago.

Here’s the only sure bet if UH and UT meet Sunday - get to your sports bar early if you want a seat. This could be memorable.

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