As of this writing (Monday night around 8:30pm CST), the Rockets are in fifth place in the Western Conference. They're one and a half games behind the Utah Jazz for fourth place. The same Jazz team that beat them in Houston on a last second Hail Mary three pointer as time expired. They're also four games behind both the Nuggets and the Clippers, as well as seven games behind the Lakers. Needless to say, they're climbing up a hill lined with Vaseline.
This team is not where anyone thought they would be at this point in the season. 53 games into the season with 29 left to play and the Rockets have little time to make any waves. The playoffs are approaching, but this team looks more like a pretender than a true contender. Owner Tilman Fertitta, general manager Daryl Morey, and head coach Mike D'Antoni are looking more like the Three Stooges instead of three of the leading individuals in their respective fields. So what exactly are the Rockets?
The small ball lineup, the analytics, threes over twos...all of this is cool when it works. When you trade away you center and decide to run a lineup out there in which the tallest player is 6'7, there's sometimes in which things will work, and there are times in which it goes down like the Hindenberg. Things have been a flaming disaster more than it's been a striking success. The small ball has been more hit than miss lately., but there's been more stumbles than stand ups lately, leaving me to think this team is a fraud.
Despite the obvious hang-ups, they will make the playoffs. However, don't be surprised if they make an early exit. Living by the three means you'll die by it too. Whenever they aren't making their threes, they struggle big time. In a seven game series, their style may not hold up against tough competition. But what if the Rockets make the necessary adjustments? If they do, they'll make themselves the most annoying team to face in the playoffs and perhaps the toughest out.
All or nothing
Their playing style leads you to believe they could win it all, or lose in the first round. Either they'll win or lose by 20. Either they'll spend money and pay the luxury tax, or they'll make questionable moves to get under it. They remind me of the old school slugger in MLB named Dave Kingman. Kingman hit 442 homers in his career, but had a .236 batting average. He's the best example of what the Rockets represent.
This team is an enigma wrapped in a paradox that's been sucked into a black hole. Their best qualities are only shown when the perfect conditions present themselves. The difference between them being considered geniuses and idiots is a fine line called winning. When they win, they look smart. When they lose, they look like dumbasses. Morey and D'Antoni have laid all their eggs in the small ball basket. They're attempting to play with a lineup the league hasn't seen in over 50 years. They'd better be careful because Fertitta doesn't take too kindly to losing. We're talking about a guy who's won at just about everything he's done in life. This team is on a collective hot seat. I give them this season and maybe one more before Fertitta blows it up and starts over. Maybe his ego won't allow him to tank and/or blow it up like the previous owner did. If they don't show a significant enough improvement, D'Antoni is gone after this season and Morey may not be here too much longer. Until then, let's get our popcorn and enjoy the show. It'll be a beauty or a beautiful disaster either way.
While most of the Astros roster is returning for the 2024 season, there are still some areas of uncertainty for the club. Astros manager Joe Espada will have some tough decisions to make in his first season managing the team.
The Astros infield is set, so we know who will be playing on a nightly basis, assuming health. The outfield is where things get tricky. Espada told the Houston Chronicle last week that he hopes to play Alvarez more in left field this season, which would open up the DH spot for Chas McCormick and players he would like to rest while keeping their bat in the lineup (Yainer Diaz, Jose Altuve, etc).
Astros GM Dana Brown would like to see if Jake Meyers can hit well enough to play regularly in center field. This is a team that stresses defense, which Meyers provides. But if defense is the top priority, wouldn't that mean Chas McCormick should play left field with Yordan Alvarez hitting in the DH spot?
Certainly, there will be nights when that's the case. The reality of the situation is all these guys are going to play, but how much and where is yet to be seen.
Houston plays 20 games in 21 days to start the season, so it's not going to take long to see if Meyers is providing enough offense to play regularly. If we get into the month of May and Meyers is an offensive liability in the lineup, we won't be surprised if his playing time starts to decrease. But by how much?
Don't miss the video as we examine how Joe Espada will deploy his outfielders and get the most out of the DH this season!
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