Every-Thing Sports

The Astros are a lovable dynasty

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Dynasty. It's a word that gets thrown around in the sports lexicon too loosely these days. According to Merriam-Webster, a sports dynasty is defined as "a prolonged run of successful seasons." After enduring several 90 and 100-plus loss seasons, the Astros stuck with "The Process" and made the playoffs starting in the 2015 season. Although they missed the playoffs in the 2016 season, they finished with a 84-78 record and five games out of the wildcard spot in the American League. History was made in 2017 as they fulfilled Sports Illustrated's Ben Reiter's 2014 prophecy of winning the World Series. They lost the ALCS to eventual champs the Boston Red Sox in 2018 and are on the verge of winning another title this year.

Most dynasties are despised, hated even. The Warriors of the NBA and the Patriots of the NFL are the ones that come to mind when thinking of sports dynasties of recent memory. Both teams have a history of prolonged success in their respective sports. Both are also pretty much universally disliked for one reason or another. This Astros team (outside of the Roberto Osuna signing and Brandon Taubman controversies) have been pretty well-liked. Here's why I think they've been a likable dynasty:

Club Astros

A few years ago, "Club Astros" was born. It was a simple, yet fun and effective thing that helped appeal to the masses. After a win, a player would be the clubhouse DJ and play music. There would be special lighting to go along with the music. In 2015, when they started winning, Club Astros was discovered by the media. Fans got wind of this and immediately took to it. Social media played a large part of this. George Springer was/is usually the DJ.

Underdogs

In 2014 when Ben Reiter picked them to win the 2017 World Series, everyone thought he was nuts. The team had lost 92 game sthat season and their best player that season and the few previously was a 5'6 2nd baseman that was a slappy hitter. No one thought this team would do anything significant. However, they'd go on to bigger and better things. Jose Altuve and George Springer are the two holdovers from the previous regime that were building blocks for the title contender that they are now. Altuve was AL MVP in 2017 and Springer was World Series MVP in 2017. Who would've thought that was possible back then?

Humble...and cocky

While guys like Altuve and Springer have proven to be very humble in interviews, others (like Alex Bregman) have proven opposite. Bregman has been the red-ass that this team needed. The exception is that he can back it up. He's been one of the guys that can be arrogant, but will ball out. While I'm all for the the nice guy act, every team needs a dose of asshole. Bregman is the perfect dose.

Analytics approach

Analytics have been used in baseball more effectively and for a longer period of time than any other sport. The Astros have taken analytics to a different level. From shifts on defense, to spin rates when pitching, and the way they approach at bats while hitting, this team has truly taken a liking to and usage of analytics. How much you ask? So much so that they've been accused of cheating. Opposing teams/players have accused them of underhanded tactics because they've hand the upper hand when pitching, playing defense, and while hitting. They've simply used statistical analysis to their advantage better than most other teams.

Us vs all yall mentality

When Bregman saw a pitcher tipping his pitches and shared it with his fellow Astros, they were accused of cheating. When pitching coach Brent Strom transformed some unknown/forgotten about/or non-factor pitchers into killers, they were again accused of cheating. This team looks for different ways to gain an advantage over their opponents. If (when) they find something, they share it with one another. In the past, some pitchers and/or hitters would hold things to themselves. This team makes it a point to share the wealth of knowledge.Pitchers and hitters alike also crittique one another for added eyes on any potential advantages. For example: if Bregman sees Gerrit Cole tipping his pitches, he lets him know. Or, If Justin Verlander notices Yordan Alvarez is taking a bad approach at the plate, he helps correct it. They're the epitome of "us vs yall" in every sense of the phrase because everything is a collective effort.

This may seem like a homer type of article, but I've actually talked to other fans of other teams and they truly like and/or appreciate the Astros. Another common theme amongst other fans when it comes to the Astros is respect. Outside of the obnoxious Yankees fans that treated Astros fans like crap, other fans have thought of the Astros as a solid group of folks simply trying to enjoy rooting for their team. Other recent dynasties (the NFL's Patriots and NBA's Warriors come to mind) have been universally despised. The Astros have their missteps (the Osuna signing and Taubman debacle), but they've also found themselves getting out of fire of those situations relatively unscathed. Hopefully by the time most of you read this, the Astros are on their way to a second World Series title in three years. They're set up to compete for more over the course of the next few years. Here's to them staying a likable bunch of guys that can keep on winning titles while bringing pride and joy to Astro fans everywhere.

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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

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