THE PALLILOG

R.I.P. to the Toy Cannon, an underrated Astro

Getty Images

Caveat ahead of the rest of this column: So much is trivial relative to the life and death and other critical Covid-19 pandemic issues. But sports matter as passions of so many, as multi-billion dollar industries with impact on many other businesses, and beyond. All things in context.

This should have been a fantastic sports weekend around here. The Astros should have opened their season Thursday night at Minute Maid Park against the Angels. Might George Springer have belted an Opening Day homer for the fourth year in a row? Meanwhile at Toyota Center, Friday night should have brought play in the NCAA Tournament with a South Regional Sweet 16 doubleheader. It stood a pretty good chance that Baylor would would have one of the four teams playing. Friday's two winners would have played Sunday for a spot in the Final Four next weekend.

Two more entries on a seemingly infinite list of reasons to say bleep you coronavirus.

Respect upon the​ loss of Jimmy Wynn

Sad news with the passing Thursday of former Houston Colt 45 and Astro Jimmy Wynn at 78 years old. "The Toy Cannon" listed at five foot 10 inches, 160 pounds. He was not 5'10". Jose Altuve lists at 165 pounds. Wynn is a highly underappreciated player in baseball history. He had tremendous power, and would have much larger stats and be held in much higher regard playing in this era. Wynn certainly didn't amass no-doubter Hall of Fame numbers, but it's ridiculous that he got zero votes in his one and only year on the ballot (Class of 1983). Five players on the ballot that year with fewer career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ultimately would make the Hall of Fame. Wynn got zero votes and hence never again appeared on the ballot.

Wynn's career batting average was .250. That's obviously not remotely impressive, but Wynn was a walk drawing machine with six seasons racking up more than 100 walks topped by a whopping 148 in 1969. So his career on base percentage was .366. Altuve's is .364. Keep in mind that Wynn played his first several big league seasons in the 1960s, the worst decade ever for offense in Major League Baseball. Starting in 1965 he played his home games in the new power-sapping Astrodome. While players shouldn't get credit for what they did not produce, it's worth noting that Wynn basically lost a year of his prime when his wife at the time stabbed him in the gut with a steak knife on their anniversary in December of 1970. An argument got way out of hand, Wynn grabbed an unloaded shotgun, and his wife came at him. In '71 Wynn was obviously affected physically and mentally, batting .203 with just seven homers. In '72 he was back to being tremendous.

One simple stat used to rate how good guys are in the batter's box is OPS+. That's on base percentage plus slugging percentage, adjusted for the ballparks in which guys played. 100 is average. Jimmy Wynn had six seasons in which his OPS was over 140. For context, Jeff Bagwell had eight seasons over 140, Lance Berkman six. The also-underappreciated Jose Cruz topped 140 three times. Altuve has done it twice, as has Alex Bregman the last two years.

Childhood memory time. Wynn was 35 when he joined the Yankees for the 1977 season. He turned out to be washed up. But Opening Day in his first at bat Wynn launched an absolute mortar shot of a home run to center/left-center field at Yankee Stadium. The deepest left-center wall in those days measured 430 feet from home plate. It was the last of Wynn's 291 big league homers.

In the limited number of post-career conversations I had with him Jimmy Wynn was always a delightful guy. Rest in peace "Toy Cannon."

Making due. Somewhat.

As we trudge on in our largely sports-less society of the time being, well, the NFL Draft is now less than a month away! We could almost happily overkill the run up to that, with breathless anticipation of which hole the Texans will fill with their first round pick. But, as you know the Texans don't have a first round pick. Come June in their drafts (as presently scheduled anyway) neither do the Astros or Rockets. Crummy year for Houston draft parties, even if gatherings were allowed.

Most of the heaviest lifting of NFL free agency is already done, though Jadeveon Clowney hasn't found a lavish home yet. Clowney is really good, but not a consistent hell raising superstar worth the 20 plus million per year he's seeking, especially with durability questions about him. The Texans certainly could use him...ha!

Buzzer Beaters

1. Only Opening Day no-hitter pitched in MLB history? Bob Feller in 1940. 2. The Astros' Ken Forsch threw one the second day of the 1979 season. 3. In game show Match Game style: Open ______. Bronze-Gym Silver-For Business Gold-Sesame

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

4th and a mile with Paul Muth

The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome