It’s time for some free baseball! This time, however, the celebration isn’t about only reaching the World Series. It’s about winning the biggest trophy on the biggest stage in major league baseball.
The Astros are playing in late October for only the second time in the organization’s history. Fox Sports showed a graphic of teams with the longest championship drought and showed the Astros with “56” next to their name.
But is it really a drought if you’ve never had the rain?
Here are a few questions as the week revs up for the biggest Series of the season…and the biggest Series this organization has ever played.
- Is the Sports Illustrated reputation on the line?
You have to admit, among all the naysayers, the negative Bettys, the Luhnow doubters of the past several years, Sports Illustrated was spot on. Was there some luck involved? Sure, but whether or not they bought into The Plan, they not only saw the possibilities, but they also recognized and understood the philosophy and blueprint.
And, they had Springer on the cover. No way they could have predicted a Verlander, but Altuve may have been more appropriate. Nonetheless, kudos for seeing what many — if not most — people did not and could not.
2. Should Luhnow dump Carlos Beltran from the roster?
Yeah, right. If you remove Beltran from the roster, there will be a backlash and rebellion in the clubhouse. Review the game video from the ALCS. Listen to some of the pundits about how much of a coach and clubhouse leader Beltran has become. Nope, whether he bats or not — and he will — Beltran has earned a place on the World Series roster. Maybe not necessarily by his exploits in 2017, but in the years prior because his experience, relationships, ability to break down film and teach bring as much to the table as his talent. And he is still capable of going on a tear, so don’t underestimate his potential contribution.
Moreover, Joey Cora is now headed to Boston to become manager as many speculated. Now, don’t be shocked if Beltran retires as a player and becomes the Astros’ bench coach in 2018. (Note: This was written Sunday morning before Cora was named manager.)
3. How do you get Evan Gattis into the game in Los Angeles?
Since the Astros won’t be able to use the designated hitter in LA, Gattis may be spending a little extra time on the bench this week. This is a no-brainer, but we want Brian McCann on that wall, I mean, behind that plate. We need him behind that plate. McCann is a better game-caller, he gives pitchers more confidence, and he proved he can come through with a big hit. Yes, Gattis, can hit the big dinger, but that may be the ace-in-the-hole that A.J. Hinch needs late in the game.
I’d rather have Gattis pinch-hitting than McCann. And I’d rather have McCann behind the plate with a bevy of curve balls on the agenda.
4. Who’s in the rotation?
It’s been just about 10 days since everyone was debating who should follow Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in the ALCS. Sorry Brad Peacock, forget the regular season. Forget the ALDS. You just got upstaged in the ALCS by two of the most impressive performances in Astros’ post-season-lore. Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. will get the ball in games 3 and 4, not necessarily in that order. Peacock and perhaps Collin McHugh will earn the tandem roles in those games.
5. Is analytics now the mainstream?
Apparently, the analytics department of the Astros has a direct phone line to the dugout. Brent Strom said that group of numbers nerds suggested the Astros throw more curve balls against the Yankees and they obliged (62 of 108 pitches were curve balls in game 7). With shifts already a huge part of the Astros’ games and likely batting orders to some degree as well as pitcher/hitter matchups, is there anything that statistics doesn’t/won’t cover? Is this the new normal? How long will it be before other teams raid the Astros’ analytics group?
Other things to consider…
- How the Astros handle the announcement of Cora-to-the-Red-Sox.
- Roster moves before game time (read: Jake Marisnick, Beltran, bullpen, Derek Fisher etc).
- If Marisnick is good enough to be in the lineup, does he supplant Marwin Gonzalez in left?
- We’re two weeks away from the beginning of a tough off-season for Houston. Who is traded? Who gets a long-term deal? Who is non-tendered?