What is a dad to do?

Responsibility of a Sports-Dad

We are living in uncertain times my friends. No, I'm not talking about Coronavirus – I'm talking about being a sports-dad during these trying times for Houston sports. With one young son and another soon to arrive, I am now faced with decisions on how to be a good steward of their sports fandom.

My son will turn two next month, and he already loves sports. Outside of Mama and Dadda his first word was "ball". He wants to play with his tee ball set all the time, and during the season he would sit and watch football (even the XFL) yelling "catch" and "tackle" at the TV. Even when playing with his cousins he yells tackle and then goes in for a full wrap-up and pull down tackle (very good form). What he hasn't figured out yet though is what being a fan means, but I know that is coming soon.

Over the past couple of months with the Astros cheating scandal I have at times wondered if it makes me a bad parent to encourage him to root for them. I have come the conclusion that it does not. By the time he is old enough to understand what happened the scandal will be many years in the past, and frankly the team composition will likely be very different. I would not want to miss out on opportunities to take him to games, or just sit on the couch on summer nights watching baseball because people got all bent out of shape about sign stealing. While I certainly won't tell him he has to be an Astros fan, I won't discourage it either. Speaking of discouraging things - this brings me to my main sports-dad area of concern.

What is a dad to do about the Texans? For a while I have thought about whether I encourage my son to be a Texans fan – I was on the fence about it until this week. Instead of having him grow up and letting his fandom fall where it may, I have now unequivocally have decided to actively discourage him from being a Texans fan. As his father I feel it is my duty while he is still young and malleable to steer him away from a path that will undoubtedly bring a lifetime of disappointment.

I myself have become much less invested in the team over the past couple of years despite still loving football. Texans games are no longer appointment viewing for me and their blunders have become comedic rather than painful (I couldn't help but laugh when they blew the 24 point lead to Kansas City). Despite those personal feelings, I always hoped my son would love watching football like I do, and figured he would probably root for the Texans if for no other reason than they were the local team. The actions of this week though have made it clear the organization does not deserve my son as a fan, and they sure as hell do not deserve my money as the parent of a fan. As a father I hope to spend many future Sundays watching football with both of my boys , and we will be doing so as fans of a team not named the Texans.


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All systems go for the Astros! Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

10 days ago I noted that the Astros had finished an amazingly lengthy schedule stretch that would have needed to harden up to become powderpuff soft.
I Tweeted this:

Well, seven wins against just two losses later, whip up is what they did. Sweeping four games from the Mets in which the Mets never led at any point? Not exactly payback for older Astros' fans who remember 1986, but sweet nevertheless. Taking three of five from the Yankees in all compelling games looked like a fabulous precursor to a highly possible third Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series matchup in six years.

Despite their present 48-27 mark the Astros are still seven games behind the Yankees and their crazy 56-21 ledger. The Yanks are absolutely catchable though. Not because the Astros are the flat out better team, nothing indicates that. It's the schedule. There are four losing teams behind the Astros in the AL West. Behind the Yankees in the AL East, three winning teams (Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays). Even the woebegone for years Orioles are much improved, with the best last place record in Major League Baseball (as a reference point, the Orioles' record is 10 games better than AL West laughingstock Oakland). Over the coming dog days of summer the Yanks have the substantially higher intradivisional hurdles. The plot reeeeally thickens if the Astros sweep the doubleheader with the Yankees at Minute Maid Park slotted July 21 right out of the All-Star break. That's it for regular season matchups between them.

The Astros enter the weekend exactly as far ahead (seven games) of the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins as they are behind the Yanks. That's a very strong position for the Astros to secure a bye past the best-of-three Wild Card Series. Remember, with the newly expanded postseason format byes go to the top two division winners in each league.

Now for the Astros it's back to a marshmallow opponents parade. They have 16 games remaining before the All-Star break, all vs. losers: six with the Angels, six with the A's, four with the Royals. Let's reasonably posit that the Astros successfully take out the trash more regularly than they did in the 34 game stretch. 12-4 is certainly plausible. That would get the Astros to 60 wins at the break with a record of 60-31, which would be on pace for a season total of 106.8 wins. Let's round up. 107 wins is the franchise record they set in 2019.

This team is outstanding, but still can use an offensive upgrade. The lineup just had its best month of the season but that didn't take a whole lot. Alex Bregman has finally perked up some. Yuli Gurriel, not so much. Martin Maldonado, pretty much unperkable. Heed this James Click: more potent lineups than the 2022 Astros came up short in the World Series in both 2019 and 2021.

Barring a huge second half of the season, Gurriel should not be in the Astros' 2023 plans. I'd say the same for Maldonado but he is on course to have a five million dollar option next year become guaranteed. He's played in 54 games this season, the option vests at 90. Ideally he's a backup. At the risk of some charging heresy, Maldonado's defensive imperativity (is that a word?) is overblown. Pitch-framing metrics do not rate him highly. He does not eliminate opposition running games. One, very few teams run much at all. Two, Maldonado has thrown out 26 percent of would be basestealers this season. Jason Castro has thrown out 25 percent. The big one last. With Maldonado behind the plate this season, Astros' pitchers' earned run average is 3.23. With Castro, 2.37. Would that hold up for Castro if he was the primary catcher? No chance. But sample size issues accepted, that Maldonado's defensive savant-ness renders his offensive ineptitude inconsequential? Nah. Certainly not in a lineup not up to recent past Astro teams.

Two weeks ago, this column covered Yordan Alvarez's chance at the greatest individual offensive month in Astros' history. Yordan's June ended with his scary collision with Jeremy Peña that knocked both out of Wednesday's matinée at the Mets and kept both out of Thursday's win over the Yankees. That was a harrowing smash as opposed to the delightful smashes that Alvarez busted out all over June. He finished batting .418 with an OPS of 1.346. Real and spectacular, but not quite ultimately as awesome as Jeff Bagwell's June or July 1994, or Richard Hidalgo's closing month of the 2000 season.

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