We’re living in kooky, wacky, insane times. Don’t believe me, just turn on the TV, check your favorite Internet site or stop by the water cooler at the office tomorrow. It’s crazy. Teams that are supposed to win are losing. Players that should be on the field are not. Expectations are topsy-turvy.
Yes, we live in kooky, wacky, insane times!
Besides that, there is Irma, Jose, Harvey, fires in the west, earthquakes to the south and more. Yes, it seems that the world is in stormy, turbulent upheaval.
But let’s stay focused here. The Astros are at the crossroads. Something has to give. Someone has to take charge. Now is the time. Indeed, Jeff Luhnow may have earned himself the Executive of the Year awards with piecing together a should-be winning roster. But to what end?
Frankly, a division title is little victory if the Astros aren’t playing in late October.
Now, the focus is clearly on the field. The pennant is in the hands of A.J. Hinch and the 25-30 players who will take the field over the next few weeks. This time next month, we’ll gather on these pages to lament what could have been or celebrate the next season of baseball.
The Astros, once at the head of the class of the American League, relinquished that seat weeks ago. You wanted a race? You got it! Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully. Stay tuned.
Injuries aside, here are a few things the Astros must do to regain their swagger.
- Play to win. Everyday. Every game. No more days off. No more complacency. No more “we’ve got time”. No more “there is tomorrow”. No, the time is now. The playoffs have begun.
- Someone must step up. Closed, players’ only meetings, sure. Extra batting practice, yep. Playing when you’re hurt, you bet. Who will it be? Who’s going to take charge? Who’s going to say “let’s do this!” Justin Verlander? Brian McCann? Dallas Keuchel? Or will one of the young guys like Jose Altuve, George Springer or Carlos Correa or even Alex Bregman stand up and say “Enough already!”
- Hinch must take control of the clubhouse. Yes, the game still needs to be fun. Yes, the stretch run doesn’t need to be a grind for these guys. But Hinch has to clearly communicate that the season is on the line and that he expects players to bring their game face every pitch, every inning, every game. Now more than at any point of the season, it is incumbent on Hinch to find the right combinations, make the tough decisions and consistently put the best team 0n the field. There’s a fine line he has to walk. Too much pressure, too big of a squeeze will take all the life out of the team. But too loose of boundaries brings no structure and scatters expectations.
- If he truly believes he’s hired the best guy for the job, Luhnow should be hands-off with Hinch. If he isn’t already, let the guy manage the game from the first pitch to the last out. Sure, check with him everyday to make suggestions or ensure he has all the tools he needs, but when the game starts, sit in your suite and enjoy the beverages and nachos!
To be sure, most of these players are in a pennant race for the first time. Many have taken on roles in recent weeks they have never had to take on before. And some are dealing with the adversity of slumps and/or injuries, at the wrong time of the pennant race.
And, yes, injuries have played a part. Some players probably missed time they didn’t have to because of the huge lead. Now, there is not that luxury. Hinch needs to find the players who can win now, not in October.
Make no mistake: If the Astros can’t put it together now, they won’t have a prayer in October. Yes, we live in kooky, wacky, insane times. But the playoffs are underway.
Luhnow is in line for his post-season award. Now, Hinch and a few players need to push their way back to the front of the line for theirs!
Questions for you:
- Who or what is responsible most for this late-season swoon?
- Which player(s) do you believe will step up in the stretch run?
- What one thing can Hinch do to keep the team between the lines?
- Your prediction: How does the season end for the Astros?