Falcon Points

It's time to retire the *-asterisk talk in sports

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Sports talk, Twitter and TV are loaded with lazy cliches.

The Mt. Rushmore of...

It is what it is.

The greatest of all time is...

Houston, you have a problem...

Let's add a new one to the list.

"Does it deserve an asterisk?"

This lame, lazy take is particularly chafing to the Houston sports fan. Michael Jordan wasn't there. Those two titles deserve an asterisk. (Actually, he was there for the second. The Bulls weren't good enough). The Astros cheated. The title deserves an asterisk. Yes, they did. Get over it. Many teams won titles by cheating. Let's put an asterisk over the entire steroid era.

Expect a lot of that talk over the coming months, because as sports leagues return, this will not be business as usual. Some MLB team will win a World Series after an 82-game schedule. Asterisk! Some NBA and NHL team will hoist trophies after an abbreviated playoff. Asterisks! The big talk lately is in horse racing, where the Triple Crown has been modified due to the Rona.

Usually, the Triple Crown consists of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, followed by the Preakness two weeks later and the Belmont, run at a mile and a half, three weeks after that. Sir Barton was the first to win all three in 1919. In the century since, only 12 others have accomplished the feat, ranging from the brilliant Secretariat, Seattle Slew and American Pharoah to the decidedly average Justify, who simply outlasted an awful group. But it has been one of the toughest feats in all of sports.

Now, due to changes in the schedule due to an unprecedented pandemic, the Triple Crown will look a lot different. The Belmont has been shortened to 1 1/8 miles and will be run on June 20, the first of the three races. The Derby will be run in September, and the Preakness in October. Fans immediately went to the "any horse that wins the Triple Crown deserves an asterisk" argument.

The same will be made for the major sports. But consider this, in unprecedented times, would these accomplishments be even more impressive? Winning a Triple Crown in such a spaced out schedule with other, late-blooming horses getting better and better would be unprecedented. In this format, it is nearly impossible. So what if they don't run three races in five weeks and have to go a mile and a half? Horses are fragile creatures. Keeping them in top form for this long is almost impossible. The winner will have to likely run at least one race between the Belmont and Derby, maybe two.

NBA and NHL players will have to get back in game shape, re-learn their teammates, and figure out how to play at a high level on short notice, all while being limited due to virus restrictions. Would that be more impressive than a full season or less?

The vote here is more.

For baseball, regular season games will actually mean something. A bad losing streak could eliminate a serious contender. Teams will have to be at their best for the entire season. All that while on lockdown. Again, more impressive.

The asterisk came into being when Roger Maris broke the legendary Babe Ruth's home run record. Baseball added the shameful mark because he played more games. It was a desperate, pathetic attempt to preserve Ruth's legacy. It should have never been there.

Nor should the talk of asterisks for any sports accomplishment in a year unlike any we have ever seen and hopefully will never see again.

Let's all do the right thing and retire the *-asterisk.

*-Exception: Using it as a footnote to a story. Let's get it the hell out of sports.


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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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