Remember the classic Ronald Reagan advertising campaign in 1984: It’s morning again in America! Regardless what you think about Republicans and what you may have thought about his agenda, Reagan’s theme struck a chord with a country sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Well, borrowing from the theme, It’s April again in Houston! The team that stormed through the majors in the first two months of the 2017 season is back!
Only a month ago, the Astros were a mess. Injuries, slumps, questions about the lineup and even A.J. Hinch‘s ability to manage down the stretch were all being questioned in some corners.
- Would Hinch step up to the plate, gain control of the clubhouse and make a difference down the stretch?
- Would that potentially star-studded rotation be able to put it all together?
- Who would be in the playoff rotation? Heck, for that matter, who would be healthy enough to start a game in the playoffs?
- Could the injured Astros recover to the form that made them the best team in the majors in April and May?
- Should Tyler Clippard, Michael Feliz, Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, Tony Sipp, Lance McCullers Jr. and Francisco Liriano make the playoff roster?
Here are a few answers as the -lore begins to build.
On A.J. Hinch.
The Astros’ field general may have already managed his way into Houston’s manager-lore. With some gutsy moves in the first series, Hinch has begun to prove he belongs with the Dierkers and the Virdons. He’s had three winning seasons in Houston and already is seventh on the all-time managerial list. You gotta love the all-in Verlander-in-relief move and the Carlos Beltran pinch hit late in Monday’s game.
The Verlander Effect.
Verlander has already pitched himself into Houston memories. He’s already surpassed Randy Johnson‘s Astros’ iconian tenure, and he’s moving close to the 2005 Roger Clemens tales (remember the 15th inning relief appearance) and closing in on other remarkable Astros’ pitchers like Mike Scott and Roy Oswalt. Now, what do you think about Dallas Keuchel complaining about not getting an ace back in July? And perhaps the best news about Verlander is that he’ll be around Houston for a couple more years!
The parallel 2005 Universe.
Can you compare Verlander’s relief appearance to Clemens’ relief in the 2005 ALDS? How ’bout Alex Bregman‘s home run to Lance Berkman/Brad Ausmus‘ home runs? This team has Super Everyday Sub Marwin Gonzalez. The 2005 team had Eric Bruntlett and Jose Vizcaino. And the “lore” continues…
Okay, here are some questions to get you started to the ALCS.
- Hinch left off McHugh and a few others. What roster changes do you make going into a potential seven-game series?
- Yankees or Indians?
- What’s the biggest question facing Hinch heading into the ALCS? Rotation? Roster? Something else?
- Who starts games 3 and 4 on the mound?
- This team has a little more to prove, but where does it line up with the ’80, ’86, ’98 and ’04/’05 Houston teams?
- Verlander, Jose Altuve, Bregman and others have already begun to set the bar for the post-season-lore. Which players either already deserve to be or will be compared with the best-ever off-season memories once the season is complete?
- And, looking way ahead: Who will be the best bargain in 2018? Gonzalez at $5 million or Altuve at $6 million. The answer is pretty obvious, but what bargains! What are the odds that either option will not be picked up?