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Texans better check their arrogance: They don't own this town

Texans better check their arrogance: They don't own this town
Think J.J. Watt was dejected on Sunday? How about the fans? Bob Levey/Getty Images

After another sad performance in the books for our Houston Texans. Yeah, I said it. OUR Houston Texans. You don’t get to just walk away from this mess. It doesn’t work like that. Oh, you may have turned the game off on Sunday to pay attention to the Astros or and you may head out for an incredible BBQ experience at Southern Smoke because you know that it will absolutely kill the crap out of watching what the Texans are selling these days.

But you must always remember that “Houston is a football town.” Do you know how I know? Somebody on Twitter told me. Well that’s only partially true. The idea of Houston as a football town has been the prevailing notion for quite some time, but is it accurate?

Shut up about their “sell outs”.

When you ask people why they believe this is such a football town they will tell you to look at the “attendance” and the “sellouts.” Yes, let’s take both:
 

  1. The Texans have to sell out a grand total of eight games per year. Big deal. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country with a football sprawl that heads well beyond the Houston area to the North, West, and East. These “sellouts” are tickets sold and not actual people at the game.

  2. The Texans are insulated against mass amounts of people dropping their season tickets because of the initial PSL charges they imposed on many of the season ticket holders. My foul-mouthed radio partner, John Granato, is one of those people who can’t walk away for that very reason. He’s stuck.

  3. If you fancy yourself a football town, then wouldn’t it make sense to actually attend the home opener? This was the home-opener and the stadium was filled with blue and much of it was “deep steel blue” or whatever corny, outdated branding the Texans use to describe their team colors. NRG was loaded with Giants fans….who bought their tickets from Texans fans….who didn’t want to go.

Football Town or Baseball City?

Personally, I think the phrase “Houston is a football town” is nothing more than a phrase people toss around. Or better yet… it might be a football town, but it doesn’t feel like a Texans town right now. This town is definitely an Astros town. To the victor goes the spoils.

I had a very interesting interaction with a member of the Texans back in 2011 that seemed and seems representative of the arrogance that has permeated certain factions of that organization.

When the Texans are winning….and I mean really winning and not that middling, 9-7 crap where they get punished early in the playoffs, this town will be on fire for them. That happened in 2011 and 2012 and that is it. I’m not saying fans haven’t been excited about the Texans over the years, but that has faded and faded badly.

The Rockets are consistently competitive and were likely a hamstring injury to Chris Paul away from winning a title last season. The Astros knocked “World Series” off their bucket list last year and are primed for another big run in the postseason after putting up another ho-hum, 100-win season full of clutch play. The Texans? Same old Texans.

This is an Astros city right now. People are buzzing about them again all around the city in anticipation of what is to come. The Texans have almost no buzz right now. Things change. When I ask my kids their favorite Rockets or Astros memories, they can rip off a checklist of plays or games. When I asked them the same question about the Texans, they had nothing. Maybe the Texans will get it on track against the Colts, but most of Houston may be too busy getting ready for a championship team to notice.

 

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It's not time to panic, yet. Composite Getty Image.

This is not a column for fanboys or sugarcoating. To this point in the season the Astros stink like rotten eggs. They stink like Angel Hernandez’s umpiring. They stink like Bill O'Brien's general manager skills. The Astros are a bad team right now. That’s notably different from being a bad team. Their 4-10 record is well-earned and it is definitely possible that the Astros’ run of high quality and annual playoff appearances crashes and burns this season. But it’s laughable to declare so after just 14 games of the 162 scheduled have been played.

Last June the Astros had a lousy window in which they went 3-10. In August they had a 4-8 funk. In September it was a 3-9 stretch of collapse. The 2022 World Series Champions had a 3-8 hiccup in April, and a 2-6 blotch overlapping July and August that included getting swept in a three-game series by the then and now awful Oakland A’s.

Now the Astros are back home (Oh No!) for six games, three vs. the Rangers then three with the Braves. The Rangers lead the American League West but are just 7-6, so despite their cellar-dwelling status, the Astros are just three and a half games out of first. A winning homestand is obviously the goal. No, really. 3-3 would be ok, even though that would just about clinch a losing record heading into May.

Mandatory aside: spectacular weather is the Friday night forecast. Stop being stubborn and lame, Astros. Open the roof! I don’t mean just for the postgame fireworks.

On the mend?

The Astros’ track record of downplaying pitching injuries that turned out to be major certainly causes angst as we await Framber Valdez’s return from a sore elbow. If Valdez ultimately winds up out for months, the Astros’ starting rotation is in deep trouble. Even more so if upon the approaching delayed start to his season, 41-year-old Justin Verlander pitches to his age in terms of results and/or durability. However, if Valdez is ok within a month and JV is solid, those two, and Cristian Javier can stabilize the rotation quite nicely.

The Astros started three guys in the last four games who belong in the minor leagues. It was a sad sign of the times that the Astros were reduced to calling up Blair Henley to make the start Monday in Arlington. Except for Rangers fans and Astros haters, it grew uncomfortable watching Henley give up four hits, walk three, record just one out, and wind up charged with seven earned runs. But it’s not Henley’s fault that he was thrust into a role for which he was utterly unqualified.

Last season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Henley’s earned run average was 5.06. Because of the crummy state of the Astros’ farm system, Henley failed up to Triple-A Sugar Land to start this season. After one not good start for the Space Cowboys, “Hey, go get out big leaguers Blair!” Henley turns 27 next month, he is not a prospect of any note. If he never again pitches in the majors Henley forever carries a 135.00 ERA.

But you know what? It was still a great day for the guy. Even if undeserved, Henley made “The Show.” For one day on the Astros’ 26-man roster, Henley made over four thousand dollars. To make him eligible for call up, the Astros first had to put Henley on their 40-man roster and sign him to a split contract. That means that until/unless the Astros release him, Henley’s AAA salary jumps from approximately $36,000 for the season to over 60K.

Lastly, while Henley’s ERA could remain 135.00 in perpetuity, at least he’s no Fred Bruckbauer. In 1961 Bruckbauer made his big league debut and bade his big league farewell in the same game. He faced four batters, giving up three earned runs on three hits and one walk. Career ERA: Infinity! Bruckbauer is the most recent of the more than a dozen pitchers to retire with the infinity ERA.

Spencer Arrighetti’s debut start went much better. For two innings, before it unraveled in a seven run Royals third. Arrighetti has good stuff, but not great stuff. Control has been an issue for him in the minor leagues. Without better command Arrighetti cannot be a plus starter in the majors.

Then there’s Hunter Brown. We could go decades without seeing another pitcher give up nine runs and 11 hits in two-thirds of an inning as Brown did Thursday. It had never happened in MLB history! To this point, Brown is an overhyped hope. ERA last July: 5.92, August: 6.23, September 1 on: 8.74. Three starts into 2024: 16.43.

Jose Abreu watch

It's still early enough in the season that even just a couple of big games can markedly improve a stat line but Jose Abreu continues to look washed up at the plate. Three hits in 37 at bats (.081 batting average), with the most recent hit a questionable official scoring decision. Manager Joe Espada has already dropped Abreu from fifth in the lineup to sixth, then seventh, then eighth. Two more slots down to go, Joe! Continuing to act like Jon Singleton could be a competent bat in the lineup is just silly though.

Catch the weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week now generally goes up after Sunday’s game (second part released Tuesday, sometimes a third part Wednesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTubewith the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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