For those up in arms over Texans' headset gate, consider this

Texans Lovie Smith, David Culley, Tim Kelly
Culley's comments made national news. Composite image by Jack Brame

The Texans managed to lose even when they won. Not only did they beat the Jags 30-16, but they also lost out on the driver's seat for the number one overall pick (thanks to the Lions upsetting the Cardinals), but they also created a bit of a stir with coach David Culley's comments after the game.

In his postgame presser, Culley made mention of general manager Nick Caserio being on the headset during the game and giving his input on things. People all over lost their minds and acted as if this was some grand violation of the integrity of the game of football. Well, maybe not that extreme, but you get my point. There was a ton of overreaction. I've seen or heard things running the gamut, from some equating this to Caserio bringing the New England culture of cheating down south, to others acting as if nothing is wrong.

Any time there is something going on that seems like it's underhanded or shady, people will react extreme these days. A lot of the reactions I saw online were fairly meh, but a decent enough number felt like this was a bad look. Not only from Culley spewing too much inside info, but the fact that Caserio was on the headset helping him coach basically. "BIG DEAL!" (In my best Gilbert voice.)

When will we (not only as sports fans, but also as a society) get over the fact that some things can push the envelope or blur the lines of right and wrong, yet still be okay? We're always so wrapped up in a perception of something we think is wrong, that we often fail to look at the circumstances. For example: it's okay for Caserio to be on the headset. This isn't the Ray Farmer/Hue Jackson text message-gate from a few years ago. One is a league-approved form of gameday communication, the other is a clear violation of league rules. Caserio was also noted to have been on headsets during his time in New England. While he didn't have input, Bill Belichick found him important to their operation enough to have him listening in on things.

We can obviously see this isn't giving them an unfair advantage. At 3-11, the Texans need all the help they can possibly muster up. Remember, Culley has never been a head coach. He's never even been a coordinator. Caserio probably wants to have as much input as possible to help Culley through all the decisions on gameday. Sure, there are former coordinators and head coaches on staff. But when you want to establish a certain culture and control over a rebuilding franchise, you tighten the strings and tend to hold things more closely to the vest. After all, Culley isn't the long-term answer at head coach, so, why so serious?

I'm sure there are other instances of team employees crossing boundaries and blurring lines elsewhere. Think about your own jobs. Do you or any of your coworkers ever do other people's jobs, or at least help out other departments with their tasks? Does anyone say you're cheating, and that type of stuff can't be tolerated and should be punished? Since when did this become so taboo? Would we penalize a team if the defensive coordinator noticed the opposing defense do something and told the offensive coordinator to run a certain play?

Bottom line: I see people making mountains out of mole hills here. Does it seem fishy? Yes. Is it illegal? No. Should this be the norm? That depends on the organizational structure. Would this have been a bigger story if this took place in New England a few years ago? You're damn right it would! The Texans' record, as well as the fact that this is allowed, makes this a non-issue that people want to make an issue. It's similar to other non-issues people choose to make big issues out of these days. The sooner we stop doing that foolishness, the better off we'll all be.

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Will the Astros ever give Joey Loperfido a chance to fix the black hole at first base? Composite Getty Image.

So how long do you suppose the Astros will cling to the ludicrous notion that Jose Abreu will return to being a sustainably decent hitter (much less a good hitter)? The All-Star break? The trade deadline July 30? The day the Astros are eliminated from the playoff race? End of the season? End of his contract at the end of next season? Maybe they sign him to a two-year extension?

Since rejoining the team Abreu has played in 13 games, starting 12 of them. He has seven hits in 42 at bats for a .167 batting average. That’s only not horrible in comparison to the sub-pathetic .099 mark Abreu had when hiatus time arrived. Since returning, Abreu has walked once. If you remember or are familiar with Susan Powter you know what comes next. STOP THE INSANITY!

Kyle Tucker’s absence obviously punches a big hole in the Astros’ lineup. Still, that regularly running out Jeremy Pena in the cleanup or fifth spot in the lineup doesn’t seem completely ridiculous, is ridiculous! Pena has been abysmal for the last month. May 11 he put up his fourth consecutive multi-hit game. In 29 games since, Pena has added one more homer with an anemic on-base percentage of .238. Not batting average, OBP. Yuck. All teams solicit All-Star votes for non-worthy guys. Pena plays in the same league as Gunnar Henderson, Bobby Witt Jr., Corey Seager, and Anthony Volpe. Hyping Pena for the All-Star game is plain ol’ silly.

Jon Singleton ever slotting in the lineup fourth or fifth, sigh. He of one homer and 28 strikeouts in his last 79 at bats. It’s just a sad state of affairs that no one below Pena or Singleton in the lineup should obviously be higher in the lineup. Mauricio Dubon, Victor Caratini, Trey Cabbage are all bottom third of the lineup if in the lineup type guys. Chas McCormick seemingly losing almost all of his hitting ability has hurt. Yainer Diaz stinking for much more of the season to date than he’s been good has hurt.

The refusal to try Joey Loperfido at first base is somewhere from perplexing to stupid. Look, Loperfido is not an elite prospect. His poor contact skills may doom him from becoming a quality regular. But find out! He struck out a bunch in his first taste but also hit .333. The low upside of the Abreu-Singleton combo is obvious. Evidently to just about all but Astros’ decision makers. Going with Trey Cabbage over Loperfido in the outfield also underwhelms.

Chasing down the Mariners?

It could all still turn for the better, but the Astros are at increasing risk of fading to oblivion behind Seattle in the American League West race. They deserve to be 31-38. They have a losing record at home, they have a losing record on the road. They have a losing record in day games, they have a losing record in night games. They are 7-14 in games against left-handed starting pitchers, they are 24-24 (hey, .500, yippee!) vs. right-handed starters. It would take a serious collapse to fall entirely out of the Wild Card race before the trade deadline, but the Astros are flirting with danger there too. They have to leapfrog several teams to get to the third Wild Card position, currently held by the Minnesota Twins. This doesn’t seem to be a good weekend to gain ground on them. Not that A.J. Hinch’s Detroit Tigers visiting Minute Maid Park this weekend are anything special, though in Friday night’s series opener the Astros face the arguably best starting pitcher in the big leagues this season (Tarik Skubal). But the Twins have four games at home against the lowly Oakland A’s.

If Minnesota is not to overtake Kansas City and Cleveland to win the AL Central, you know Carlos Correa would love to make the playoffs at his ex-team’s expense. Wednesday Correa banged out the first five-hit game of his career. It’s pretty amazing that Jose Altuve has never had a five-hit game given how great a hitter he’s been and the relatively few walks he’s drawn. Sunday in Anaheim, Altuve racked up his 39th four-hit game. Remember, last September, Altuve hit five home runs over seven innings that overlapped two games against the Texas Rangers.

George Springer is the lone Astro ever to rack up six hits in a game, doing so at Oakland in 2018. So far this month, Springer is six for 40. Springer has two seasons left after this one on the six-year 150 million dollar contract he signed with Toronto. At 34 years old he is playing as if washed up. 2023 was the worst season of Springer’s career and he has fallen off a cliff from there thus far in 2024. Springer is batting .198 with his OPS at a sickly .582.

There is only one player in the modern era (1900 forward) of Major League Baseball to amass seven hits in a nine-inning game. In 1975 Rennie Stennett went seven for seven at Wrigley Field in a Pittsburgh Pirates 22-0 obliteration of the Chicago Cubs. The “Bleacher Bums” must have had fun that day.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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