Nick Caserio and Lovie Smith are calling the shots for the Texans. Composite image by Brandon Strange.
Vision is one of those things we tend to take for granted. Let's be honest, do we truly appreciate all the sights we get to see? When was the last time you were impressed when you saw something so simple as some flowers? Good vision is even more precious. Cleaning my glasses 400 times a day is annoying, but so is making sure my hands are always clean when cleaning my contacts and using the rewetting drops when my eyes dry out from wearing them. I want to do Lasik, but don't want to pay for it, so I'm taking volunteers to sponsor my surgery in case anyone is interested.
Vision isn't limited to being able to physically see. It can also stand for casting a vision on your outlook on things. A plan for a course of action can be a vision. That's exactly what we're seeing with Texans' general manager Nick Caserio. After executing the Deshaun Watson trade, I wrote about how he needs to hit big with the haul he got in the next few drafts. To come into your first general manager job with a six-year deal as one of the highest paid GM's in the league, but having to rebuild a team that has fallen so hard so fast was no easy task. It was made more difficult when the franchise quarterback wants out and has complications as to why he couldn't be traded.
To make his job even more difficult, the perception that team owner Cal McNair was akin to Tommy Boy and his team chaplain/life coach/executive vice president of team development/executive vice president of football operations, Jack Easterby, was a sort of boogeyman. Cal has since proven to be a billionaire who inherited the lead role in ownership and has hired the people he thinks are right to run his team, while letting them do their jobs. Meanwhile, Easterby has been quiet as a church mouse. Long gone are the misconceptions that he's the one pulling the strings as a puppet master on Kirby.
The way Caserio has operated since he took the job initially gave us cause for pause. Too many things fed into the narrative that Cal was easily influenced by Easterby, and it was Easterby who was living his dream to run a team. Sure, Caserio owes Easterby a certain level of gratitude for helping him land the job, but that's where it stops. Caserio is fully in charge. Everything that has gone down on Kirby has his handprints all over it.
Take the draft as a prime example. Derek Stingley Jr. wasn't the consensus third-best player in this draft. He wasn't even considered the best at his position. But because he fits the profile of the type of guy they want playing corner, they took him third overall. The same can be said about fifteenth overall pick Kenyon Green. He wasn't seen as a top 15 prospect, but he fits the profile they want in an offensive lineman. Both were positions of need. Both were seen as very good football players who could come in and help a team right away.
Hiring Lovie Smith as head coach was seen as a safe move given the climate at the time. David Culley was fired after most other coaches were fired at season's end, and the perception that NFL pariah Brian Flores was their leading candidate had to give them some trepidation about hiring him. Lovie had two prior head coaching gigs and knows this is most likely his last chance. But better than all of that, he and Caserio seem to be locked in step. Nothing speaks to that more than the video of them hugging it out in the draft room. If this video and the actions of Caserio don't clear up your vision of who's running things on Kirby, maybe you're the one who needs Lasik.
It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.
Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.
While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.
On Yordan Alvarez the leader, one of two constants in a clubhouse bracing for change and the responsibility he wants to shoulder as a result - https://t.co/sZGlI5taBQ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 21, 2024
Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.
Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.
Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.
He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.
So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?
Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.
One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.
Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.
So what does all this mean for Yordan?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.