Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: Remember the Tombstone?

Jermaine Every: Remember the Tombstone?
It's too early for the tombstone. Courtesy photo

Sports give us a rollercoaster ride of emotions. The ups and downs can often times be enough to cause us actual physical pain, or euphoric amounts of dopamine to block out life’s ills. There are some sports moments we simply won’t forget. Your team’s first title win. The time you last saw your favorite player play. Where you were when some of these things happened.

On the flip side, there are also moments of regret. For example: when you burned the jersey of a player that left your team, when you said you’d never watch another game of (insert team or sport name here), perhaps you’ve been guilty of rooting against your team for whatever reason, or maybe you’ve prematurely predicted your team’s demise. That was the case for the Houston Astros back in 2005.

On Wednesday June 1, 2005, the Houston Chronicle published one of its most infamous Sports section covers when it depicted the Astros season on a tombstone. The Astros were 15-30 at the time and were seemingly dead in the water. They were like the fish in the bowl you’re ready to flush because it appears to be floating lifelessly, but suddenly it comes to life and swims like it never has before. That team went on to make the World Series by riding the wave of a great pitching staff. Although they got swept by the Chicago White Sox, they were able to make it that far after being counted out.

I bring that up because the 2018 Astros are being written off as if they are falling short of the expectations after winning a World Series last year. Fans are hitting the panic button so hard and so frequently that it may be broken already after only ten percent of the season has been played! Through sixteen games, the 2017 Astros were 11-5, scored 67 runs, and allowed 55 runs. Meanwhile, the 2018 Astros are 10-6, have scored 67 runs and have given up 49 runs props to @itsdtrain on Twitter for the reminder).

Houston sports fans are notorious for hitting the panic button, and doing so much too soon. Some Astros’ fans are already in full-blown panic mode. They are now 10-7 after last night’s 2-1 loss, which means they’re about ten percent into this season. Does anyone rush to judgment after the first game if the Houston Texans lose? What if the Houston Rockets are 5-3 after their first eight games? Does their fan base lose their minds and freak out thinking the season is lost?

Sure, the starting pitching isn’t where fans would like it to be (particularly Dallas Keuchel, which is why I think they should move him at the trade deadline this year). Of course the bullpen (mainly the “closer” Ken Giles) could be better, but there’s time left to figure that out. The bats are seemingly asleep, however, they have 145 games left to wake up and mash like they did in previous seasons. Yes, the Los Angeles Angels are in first place and seem to have bounced back, but how long can they enjoy this much success and maintain first place in the division?

It’s too early to punt on the Astros this season. Blame the dreaded World Series hangover if it makes you feel better, but this team is different. They have a great blend of vets who have been through the wars, and young guys who don’t know any better. I firmly believe they’ll right the ship soon and get back to their winning ways. The starting pitching staff has a chance to be one of the best in baseball. The lineup can easily correct itself and become more feared. The only position that seems as if it may be shaky all season is the bullpen. But with a few tweaks and changes, it too can become a stronghold for this team. I’m not ready to hit the panic button on the Astros, and neither should you.

Catch more of my opinions on Twitter, on The Sideline podcast with Craig Koshkin, or right here on SportsMap.



Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome