Enter the 2021 Houston Astros to save the day. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.
Some senses are easily triggered. Sound and smell can cause us to do and feel some strange things. I often wonder what sounds and/or smells trigger different types of emotions in people. The sense of touch also plays a part in this. When you hear a particular sound, smell a certain smell, you often feel something as well. When those sounds and smells join together in harmony with that sense of touch, it can be exhilarating!
I've often read and heard about the sights and sounds of Spring Training. The smell of freshly cut grass. The sound of the first crack of the bat or ball hitting a mitt. The sight of the sun peeking in over the fences and kissing the field at dawn as the sprinkler systems have just finished watering the fields in Florida and Arizona. Ahhhh...bliss!
I was driving around at work and heard that the Astros had their first Spring Training game the other day. It caught me off guard because I wasn't ready. I was so used to hearing about all the drama with Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Then the Rockets got in on the party with all of their shenanigans. As much of a gut punch as this city has taken (sports and otherwise), it sure could use an escape. Enter the 2021 Houston Astros to save the day.
While this team may not be considered as strong a contender as they were in the past few years, they still have a shot at contending. The AL West is not a murder's row division, so it can be had. The Angels are still throwing money at their problems hoping it works. The Rangers are terrible and shouldn't be feared at all. The Mariners don't present a challenge either. The A's may be able to push the 'Stros, but aren't as talented and should be put down.
Pitching will be a bit of an issue, so will a few spots in the lineup, but this team still has enough talent to get the job done. Will they have to change their style up a bit? Yes. Will things look different without George Springer at leadoff and Justin Verlander as the ace? Of course. But there are some young pitchers and position players who'll have to step up. There's also the fact that Jose Altuve will bounce-back from a bad season because he's in a better place now. Carlos Correa stepped up as a leader last season and expressed his will to be an Astro long-term. Yordan Alvarez is back and apparently healthy. Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and Jose Urquidy could take a step forward. Lance McCullers Jr. is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Zack Greinke is a veteran who knows how to pitch. And what if Forrest Whitley can actually contribute something meaningful?
I know there's a lot of maybes and what ifs involved, but there are enough constants on this roster to make up for the lack of sure things. If those constants hit their averages or above, and the maybe/what ifs fill some of their potential, I can see another ALCS appearance and maybe more. When I look at the rest of the American League, the only team that I think will be a force for sure is the Yankees. Any other team doesn't scare me as much if at all. The National League has a few teams that present more of a challenge. All that being said, I'm so glad the Astros are here to save us from the foolishness the Rockets and Texans are putting out there.
In the post-Super Bowl analysis, one key observation was … if you want success in today’s NFL, before anything else, you need a great coach and a great quarterback.
Like the Kansas City Chiefs duo of coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“As long as those two are together, the Chiefs will be serious contenders for the Super Bowl.”
If Houston Texans fans weren’t already champing at the bit for the 2024 season to start, this should put them over the moon.
Great coach? Check! Rookie coach DeMeco Ryans brought respectability back to a doddering franchise with a wave of his hand. He took a team that had won 11 games over the past three seasons – combined – and pushed the Texans to a 10-7 regular season record, an AFC South title and a home playoff victory. No wonder he tied Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski for NFL Coach of the Year only to lose the crown based on one measly first-place vote edge to Stefanski. Texans fans were livid. Where’s the My Pillow guy when you need him?
Great quarterback? Check! Rookie C.J. Stroud set the NFL on fire last season, throwing 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions. His accuracy and touch had NFL experts scratching their heads – has there ever been a rookie quarterback to match Stroud’s talent?
Let’s say it’s true, the key to success is having a great coach and great quarterback. The Texans would be a safe investment for the future.
Right now, the NFL is all about the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Andy Reid is 65 and quarterback Mahomes is 28. They ain’t going anywhere for the next few seasons.
But not far behind in the coach-quarterback theorem are the Texans. DeMeco Ryans is 39 years old. C.J. Stroud is 22.
If you had to rate coach-quarterback combos, who are you taking for the next 10 years? Give me Ryans and Stroud. The Texans future is bright and young. You can’t even say, just wait for them to develop. The Texans are already there. Just wait till next season.
Back on Earth: I’m not comparing Stroud and Mahomes as players. Mahomes is the best, most talented quarterback I’ve ever seen. But it’s fair to compare their statistics from 2023 – and looking at raw numbers, Stroud stands toe-to-toe with Mahomes and had a better year in certain columns, like touchdowns vs. interceptions. Mahomes threw 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season.
Of course statistics are funny numbers. After the Chiefs victory over the 49ers, the networks were comparing Mahomes’ Super Bowl performances against the all-time greats.
It’s a fruitless challenge – comparing Mahomes to, say Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw is not oranges to oranges. The game has changed drastically since Bradshaw was throwing ropes to superstar receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, both of whom are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bradshaw went 4-0 in Super Bowls. His stats must be elite, right? Not exactly. For his career, which included an MVP season and multiple Pro Bowl selections, Bradshaw completed a paltry 51.9 percent of his passes, a stat that would put him well at the bottom of the barrel in today’s NFL. Even more surprising, he threw 212 touchdowns and 210 interceptions – a ratio that would bench a modern quarterback.
The great Joe Namath? He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, too. Broadway Joe barely completed half of his passes, a career mark of 50.1 percent. He threw 173 touchdowns and a staggering 220 interceptions. Both numbers would have today’s fans screaming to put in the backup quarterback.
Like Jets fans hooted their quarterback Zach Wilson this year? Wilson was dead last, the lowest-rated quarterback in the entire NFL this season. Here’s how horrible Wilson was – he completed 60.1 percent of his passes in 2023, a significant improvement over Hall of Famers Bradshaw and Namath.