It's time we address the Rockets' million-dollar question

Is Stephen Silas a long-term option, or just keeping the seat warm? Composite image by Jack Brame.

I remember taking my kids to Astros games a couple of times when they were perennial losers. Parking was cheap. Tickets were given to us most times. Concessions weren't bad at all. When I was credentialed, media food was good and affordable as well. I remember being happy in 2012 when Bo Porter was hired as Astros manager because we share a barbershop. (Insert bald guys going to a barber jokes here.) Bo was essentially hired to bridge the gap. He went 110-190 in his two years as manager and was fired shortly before the 2014 season was over. He kept the seat warm for A.J. Hinch who was hired four weeks after Porter was fired. We all know what happened next.

Rudy Tomjanovich did both for the Rockets and won two titles, but eventually ended his tenure failing to make the playoffs in his last four seasons. Gary Kubiak helped put the Texans on the map with playoff appearances in back to back years, but was fired after a 2-11 start the following season. Bill O'Brien came in and made mediocrity acceptable...until it wasn't, then he too was also fired after a poor start to the season. So where does Stephen Silas fall on this list?

If one was to base their opinion off some of his former players, they'd say he should be here for the long term. Mavs superstar Luka Dončić is the latest and most notable former understudy of Silas that credits him with the growth in his game. Being a "player's coach" has its pros and cons. Currently, Silas is increasingly viewed as a key component as to why the Rockets are so bad and unbearable to watch.

The Rockets aren't just bad, they're a tough watch

When the team used their four first round draft picks on a group of raw 19-year-olds, one would've thought Silas would be given a couple of years to see what he could do with the new nucleus of the franchise. It's not the losing as much as it's the way the team looks doing so. If they were competitive and got out-talented most nights, fine. But this team is playing a historically awful brand of ball right now! At 1-13 now and 18-68 overall, it wouldn't surprise me if Silas was coaching his last days in Houston.

Honestly, I think they should give him time. He should have at least this season and next for he and his staff to show that the core talent has improved enough for them to keep their collective coaching gigs. If Silas is a young player whisperer, he won't have long to prove himself. If this team can't compete for more than a lottery pick by next season, meaning a bottom playoff spot, Silas and staff should be replaced. All that talk of letting him go now is premature. One of their future superstars, Jalen Green, is a rookie. The other two with star potential, Kevin Porter Jr and Christian Wood, could also be used as trade bait to put better talent around Green. Would it be great to see Silas work it out with the three of his young lions? Of course it would! Do we always get Hollywood endings in sports? Heck no! Here's to hoping this works out for the best and the fans are treated to a winner sooner rather than later.

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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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