CHANGING OF THE GUARD?

Is the Texans' reign as kings of Houston sports coming to an end?

Is the Texans' reign as kings of Houston sports coming to an end?
Is Bob McNair losing the city to the Astros? Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Fall of the Kingdom on Kirby

We are living in the midst of a regime change. An uprising has taken place, the ruling party is faltering, and some upstart rebels are storming the palace.

For 15 years now, the Texans have ruled the Houston sports landscape with unchecked power.  No matter their record or level of ineptitude they wore the crown because, well… this is Texas and they play football.  Maybe they didn’t fill the stadium every single week, especially in down years, but they were still the center of this city’s sports universe. So why am I speaking of them in the past tense?  The Astros, that’s why.

The Astros have shown us what a competent franchise looks like, finally bringing a major championship back to Houston for the first time in 22 years. Yes, they had some truly terrible seasons, but they had a plan throughout those rough times.  Now that the city knows what it’s like to have a winner the Texans’ seemingly unending leash has finally been yanked back.  What’s more is that the Astros are bursting with exciting, young, talented, and, most importantly, likable players.  I would argue the Texans have only two players that move the excitement needle, J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson, both of whom are lost for the year and it remains to be seen in what form they return. Without them it is abundantly clear that this Texans team is just like those 100 loss Astros teams – nameless, faceless, and talentless -  though with one key difference, unlike those Astros teams the Texans have no discernible plan.

 In years past I would block out time to watch the Texans almost every week, no matter how bad they were.  This year though I haven’t.  And no, it has nothing to do the off the field issues the NFL is dealing with.  I really couldn’t care less about the anthem or Kaepernick BS.  My interest in football itself isn’t the problem, I still watch other NFL games, I just haven’t watched much of the Texans.  I watched a few games with Deshaun Watson and found him to be genuinely exciting but since his injury the most I watched of this team is about five minutes on Monday night before I turned on the Xbox to play Madden (again this isn’t an issue with football).  The World Series has played a huge role in the waning of Texans interest, and I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way.  After a month of riding the emotional roller coaster that was the playoffs with a team that was genuinely likable I just don’t see the point in devoting time or interest to yet another crap Texans team that simply isn’t.  Additionally, it feels as though the Astros fully embraced their role in the city’s recovery from Harvey and, notwithstanding the fantastic things J.J. Watt has done as an individual, the Texans as an organization have just carried on with business as usual (including getting blown out at home by the Jaguars in what was supposed to be their “we got you Houston” game).

With their success and youth the Astros have begun to both cultivate their own generation of young fans and re-convert old ones all while the Texans continue to give theirs little reason to care.  If this really is just the beginning of Astros’ success, as many believe it to be, this orange-clad rebel band will soon snatch the Houston sports crown from NRG, and once again make Houston a baseball town as it was in the '90s and early 2000s.   For the sake of sports in this city I hope this is the case.  Bob McNair and the Texans need a kick in the ass, need to be knocked down a peg, and need to be shown that just because they play football they don’t get a pass when it comes to doing what’s necessary to win, or even just to be interesting.

(And I didn't even mentioned the Rockets).

 

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Who holds the power in Houston? Composite Getty Image.

It should come as no surprise that after a slow start to the season, fans and media are starting to voice concerns about the organization's leadership and direction. The latest evidence of this involved Astros adviser Reggie Jackson and the comments he made on Jon Heyman's podcast, The Show.

Jackson discussed the Astros reported interest in starting pitcher Blake Snell. He said that ultimately, Snell was looking for a deal the Astros weren't comfortable with in terms of money and structure of the contract.

Which is interesting considering the Astros were okay with paying 5-years, $95 million for closer Josh Hader, but not willing to pay Snell 2-years, $62 million. We believe the opt-outs in Snell's contract were a dealbreaker for Houston. And of course the money played a role.

However, the Astros passing on Snell is not the intriguing part of the story. It was Jackson talking about the club's power structure in the front office and how they go about making decisions.

“Being fiscally responsible is what kicked us out of the Snell deal… That's too much for him… Between the 4 or 5 people who make decisions with the Astros, we don't play that game,” said Jackson.

Based on Jackson's comments in the interview, the decision makers are Jim Crane, Dana Brown, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Reggie. But not necessarily in that order. He also mentioned that they had conversations with manager Joe Espada and his staff, plus some input from the analytics department.

These comments add to the concerns we've had about the front office since Crane moved on from GM James Click and operated without a general manager for several months. Which led to the disastrous signing of Jose Abreu and to a lesser extent Rafael Montero.

Which begs the question, are the Astros in a better spot now with their front office? Many blame Dana Brown for the state of the starting rotation. While there were some red flags this spring, anticipating injuries to Jose Urquidy, Justin Verlander, and Framber Valdez is asking a lot.

But only bringing in Hader to replace all the innings left behind by Hector Neris, Phil Maton, Kendall Graveman, and Ryne Stanek always felt risky.

Finally, what can the Astros due in the short-term to weather the storm while Framber and JV rehab from injury?

And is Hunter Brown the biggest liability in the rotation?

Be sure to watch the video above for the full in-depth discussion.

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