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There are moments in which most people will never forget where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. I was waking up from a nap in my man cave because my watch and phone started buzzing. There are times in which you wish things weren't real. This was definitely one of them. My good friend ET texted me and our other good friend Chris on our group message. I saw their names and thought it was about his newborn. When I opened my phone, my heart dropped. I immediately searched for a credible news source to report this was a hoax. Alas, it was real. Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash.
The Immediate Pain
The first thing I did was pray for his wife Vanessa and their three daughters. I got a text asking me to write something for the website on Kobe's death from Fred and jumped on it. While finding the words to write, I saw that his daughter Gianna and seven others were on the helicopter as well. I literally broke into tears. Gianna was 13 years old. My daughter is the same age. We also have a tight bond over common interests, mainly food/cooking and sports. I couldn't imagine the pain those families were going through. Then I thought about it. I've been here before when my little brother was murdered and my younger cousin died in a motorcycle accident. All that pain of suddenly losing someone so integral to the fabric of your life. I broke down again.
Trying To Understand
After I posted the article, I noticed my kids had found out. They were sad. They weren't distraught, but I could tell it dampered their spirits. We were all trying to understand how? Why? Was this even real? It was very real, and it hurt. I kept looking at my daughter thinking what if? What if that was her and I when we were on the road to go to WrestleMania? What if that was us driving to the store? What if we suddenly passed away in a tragic accident doing something we loved so much? I had to stop. So I started vacuuming the house and cooking. I was going to drive myself crazy.
Reality Sinks In
The Grammy's were on, so was WWE's Royal Rumble. My daughter loves awards shows and pro wrestling. We often will watch both when a pay per view is on at the same time. My two tv setup in my man cave is as much for my ADD as it is for bonding with my kids and not losing sight of any games that may be on. Sitting with her as she talks about the outfits and performances of the Grammy's, as well as the matches at the Rumble was humbling. I thought about Kobe trying to comfort his daughter in those final moments. I also thought about his three daughters and his wife who'll never have the moments I was having. The fact that my son would ask his sister who's performing and who's winning the matches knowing Gianna would never have those moments with her sisters hurt. Knowing those other families would never spend another lazy Sunday after noon with their loved one hurt more.
Coming To Grips
I think the pain everyone is experiencing comes from the kind of person Kobe had become. We saw him as a brash phenom that grew into an NBA superstar who fell from grace but managed to repair his image and retire a beloved hero. There were generations of fans who were deeply hurt by his passing. My mom called to see what I was thinking. She told my my grandfather was in disbelief. My kids were doing okay, but were clearly hurt. My cousin Eric couldn't concentrate while he was at work. My sister in law Taylor was shaken up. My good friend Dedrick was as shocked and shaken up as I was. I'm talking about people aged from their 80's to their teens were all hurt on some level. It was like we lost a family member because we got to know so much about Kobebeing that he came along in the age of the internet and grew to stardom at the advent of social media.
We all process gthings differently. I tend to deal with grief in my own way. This time was different. I needed to write this to get some things out and help myself and others process things. It still hurts. I fight back tears looking at the tributes, videos, pics, and memorials. Whiel Kobe and Gianna were public figures, let's not forget the others who lost their lives. There are multiple families grieving over this tragedy. I hurt for them too because I know what it's like to wake up one day and know that loved one was suddenly taken away never to come back. It's been over 20 years for me and I still can't sleep. Still have bouts of simply not feeling up to putting in any effort towards anything productive. Still fight random fits of anger and anti-social feelings. What keeps me going? Knowing they would want us to keep living. Kobe would always talk about the effort it took to succeed. I think he'd want us to kick each day's ass. My little brother Chris and my younger cousin Vincent were both taken from us way too soon. They both lived life to the fullest everyday. I'm sure they'd agree with Kobe's thought process of doing whatever it takes to make your dreams come true and live life. Give your loved ones their flowers while you can because you may not get that opportunity again. Rest in peace Kobe. Tell Chris and Vincent I love them.
If a couple of beautiful sunny days and the fact that spring training opens next week wasn’t enough to boost the mood of Astros fans, knowing Jose Altuve is locked up for the next six seasons certainly did the trick. For these cash flush times in Major League Baseball the five year 125 million dollar extension is very reasonable money even though it covers Altuve’s age 35 through age 39 seasons (season age is defined by how old a player is July 1, roughly the midpoint of the season). Of course 25 million dollars per season carries risk but with what other player would you more or as willingly take that risk? And Altuve is taking a pay cut from the 30.2 mil per season of his last extension. It’s a win-win deal. Altuve gets longer term security with the only franchise for which he wants to play, the Astros secure the services for the remaining great years of the most iconic player in franchise history.
Altuve’s ability will inevitably decline over the extension. By all metrics his defense has already fallen off notably over the last two years. But barring a surprisingly precipitous drop off of Altuve’s signature skill, his hitting should age fairly well. Provided the Astros are still a contending team when Altuve is 37, 38, 39 years old, he likely will not be a guy you want at second base every day. Designated hitter playing time should come increasingly into play. Yordan Alvarez is under contact through 2028 so he and Altuve figure to split DH duties for a couple of years. Side note: odds are it takes another year beyond the extension for Altuve to get to 3000 hits.
For those who understandably wonder about committing all that money over what will become “over the hill” years, some comparisons…
The Phillies will be paying Trea Turner over 27 million dollars per season for his ages 35 through 39 seasons, then 27 million more when he’s 40. The Padres will be paying Xander Bogarts about 25.4 million per year for his ages 35 through 40 seasons. Turner and Bogaerts are excellent players but if we take out the short 2020 COVID season, Turner’s best season doesn’t rank in Altuve’s top three, Bogaerts's best maybe tops Altuve’s third best. Mike Trout is the greatest player to enter the big leagues in the past 20 years (possibly closer to 40-since Barry Bonds) but he has played in less than half the games for the Angels over the last three seasons. The Angels are on the hook for Trout at over 37 mil per season for seven more years, taking him to 39 years old. The Yankees will be paying Aaron Judge 40 mil per season through his age 39 season. Altuve at 25 mil per? Not a steal, but relative to the marketplace, a very favorable deal for the Astros.
Now what going forward?
You know free agent-to-be Alex Bregman doesn’t begrudge a dime of what Altuve is getting, but he is well aware of every dime. If not, he can just ask Scott Boras, the agent he shares with Altuve. Bregman is a very good player but hasn’t been great since 2019. While a staple of this amazing era in Astros history, Bregman is not Altuve-level. Bregman turns 30 two days after Opening Day. Would he take the same five years, 125 million that Altuve just did? Would the Astros be willing to go there? Barring a massive leap this year from Zach Dezenzo, the Astros have no meaningful third baseman prospect to take over third base in 2025.
And whither Kyle Tucker, who turned just 27 years old three weeks ago. Tucker can’t hit the open market until after the 2025 season. Wins Above Replacement isn’t a perfect metric but it’s pretty good. Tucker is coming off his third straight WAR season of better than 5.0. That’s one more than Bregman has in his career (Altuve has five). A seven-year extension on top of the 12 million Tucker will make in 2024 would take Tucker through age 34. That is not at all unreasonable. I don’t know if Tucker would take an additional 170 million over seven years, taking the total to 182 over eight. I do know that would be a fair and generous offer the Astros should be willing to make.
All these figures remind of the fabulous discount the Astros are getting on Yordan Alvarez. The Astros structured the extension Alvarez signed to pay him loosely based on salary arbitration level numbers before bumping him up for when he’d have hit free agency. Tucker will make more than Alvarez this season, 12 million to roughly 10.8. Next year Alvarez makes about 15.8. Tucker likely tops that. Alvarez jumps to approximately 26.8 million per season in 2026, 2027, and 2028.
In an either/or scenario, if you could keep Yordan for those three years at about 80.5 million but lose Tucker, or give that money to Tucker and lose Yordan, which way do you go?