Why all signs point to a changing of the guard between Yankees and those 'Damn Astros'

Why all signs point to a changing of the guard between Yankees and those 'Damn Astros'
We can get used to this! Composite image by Brandon Strange.

I attended elementary school at P.S. 125 in Manhattan. We lived in an apartment building across the street at Grant’s Tomb.

Yankee Stadium was 3.3 miles away: four stops and 12 minutes on the subway. We went as kids. Safest place in the world. Then.

Kids and their parents and everybody else in New York loved the Yankees, the winningest team in American sports lore. There are 27 World Series pennants blowin’ in the wind above Yankee Stadium. I didn’t realize then that everywhere else, everybody else hated the Yankees. Winning is easy to hate when it’s the other guys doing it.

First there was the book called The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. It was made into a long-running and still occasionally revived Broadway musical called Damn Yankees. The plot has a long-suffering baseball fan, not a New Yorker, who despises the Yankees so much that he sells his soul to the devil in exchange for the Bronx Bombers losing the pennant. The musical was even made into a movie.

Now, I’m a Houstonian. I live 6.4 miles from Minute Maid Park — just double the distance of my old home to Yankee Stadium — and I drive to the ballpark on the Southwest Freeway. Takes me 15 minutes. Unlike Yankee Stadium now, Minute Maid Park is a safe, fun place.

The Yankees then. The Astros now.

Striking similarities

Beloved at home. Hated in 29 other baseball towns. The Yankees used to win, win, win. The Astros now — good luck trying to beat these guys.

This year, it may take more than the devil to stop the lovable, Damn Astros from winning the World Series.

It was poetic justice, straight from a Broadway script, that the Astros went to New York to complete a merciless sweep of the Yankees on Sunday, October 23. A week before, New York fans pleaded, “We want Houston.” Be careful what you wish for. Better, just keep quiet.

Astros pitchers struck out Yankees batters like a video game set on “easy.” Astros rookie Jeremy Peña won MVP of the American League Championship Series. Remember when Astros fans were worried if he could fill Carlos Correa’s shoes at shortstop? Manager Dusty Baker is headed to his third World Series as a manager. Justin Verlander could win another truck to drive his wife’s horses around. How cool is José Altuve? Mired in a historic postseason slump, Altuve was willing to pose for a selfie with a lunatic who ran onto the field in the ninth inning of a close ALCS game.

The nanosecond that Yankee slugger Aaron Judge tapped back to Ryan Pressly, who’s been more untouchable than Eliot Ness, for the final out, my email lit up – the Astros store at Minute Maid Park would stay open night and day to sell ALCS Astros gear. Dick’s Sporting Goods would have extended hours and curb service for T-shirts, hats and other commemorative apparel. Academy has everything Astros you could want.

And all those hip, fashionable fans have options, too.

Some sweet World Series action

Astros fans should be well dressed and with a little luck, well rested if the Astros go all the way. Mattress Mack is still running his promotion – buy a $3,000 mattress and you get your money back if the Astros win the World Series. When the promotion started, the Astros were a longshot. Now they’re the favorites. As Cosmo Kramer would say, that’s some sweet action.

The Astros promotions department is on high alert: more replica ring giveaways for fans in 2023. Championship rings are the most popular giveaways in the team’s history. At this rate, Astros fans will have more rings than Jennifer Lopez and Pam Anderson (currently tied at 4 — both active).

A word of advice for politicians attempting to glom onto the Astros popularity – don’t. Senator Ted Cruz posted photos and congratulated the Astros on Twitter. The replies were brutal (just scroll down—sad!)

Defeating the empire

Where do the Astros and Yankees go from here?

Continue on CultureMap to learn more!

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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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