Houston’s golden age of sports hits a speed bump

The last few years have seen about as strong a run of sports success as the City of Houston has ever seen from their three big sports teams simultaneously. This has been led by the Astros, but has included some notable showings by both the Rockets and the Texans. The question at this point is whether the pendulum is swinging the other way in the city.

The Astros since 2015 have had five winning seasons only derailed by the 2020 shortened season of 29-31. They have had three consecutive seasons of 100+ wins and three consecutive AL West titles. They have had five playoff runs that resulted in two World Series appearances and one championship. They made two other appearances in the ALCS falling just short of the WS and in the other playoff appearance came within a few outs of ousting the eventual World Champion Royals in 2015. A team that had only 3 playoff series wins in their history heading into 2015, have vanquished ten opponents in the playoffs since 2015.

In that same time period, the Rockets have been to the playoffs all six seasons and reached the Western Conference Finals twice in that time. They won their division 4 times and had 4 seasons of 50+ wins including a team record 65 wins in 2017-2018. In that time period, they won 7 playoff series and always seemed like a threat to make the NBA Finals.

The Texans while not quite as successful as the other two teams in town, had their best stretch of football in their history in the last few seasons. They had four winning seasons since 2015, won their division 4 times and made the playoffs 4 times. In their history, they had only been to the playoffs twice before this run. They had two playoff wins in these four appearances, matching the number of playoff wins in their previous history, but never got past the divisional round.

But in the last year, the fates of all three franchises have hit a speed bump that at times has seemed to be a wall in some cases. In a highly unusual coincidence, all three teams replaced their Head Coach/ Manager and GMs after seasons where all three teams respectively went to the playoffs. The Astros, of course, fired GM Jeff Luhonw and Manager A.J. Hinch on a black Monday last January for their part (or lack of overview) of the cheating scandal. GM and Head Coach and Czar Bill O’Brien made it into the 2020 season but was fired after an 0-4 start, coming on the heels of inexplicable trades and apparent loss of confidence of his top players like J.J. Watt. Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Head Coach Mike D’Antoni both kind of faded away – stepping down after being the latest in a long line of front office personnel, coaches and players to fail to win in conjunction with James Harden. That list includes Kevin McHale, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook among others.

So where do these teams lie today? The Texans are in the midst of a putrid season where they are wasting an excellent season from QB Deshaun Watson due to being surrounded by a bunch of crappy players and lack of draft choices based on O’Brien’s GM misdeeds. They are also looking for both a new head coach and GM, limping along with interim folks not doing well in holding down the fort. The Rockets have brought in a new Head Coach Stephen Silas and a new GM Rafael Stone. They have traded away their second-best player Russell Westbrook after his trade demand. Their best player, James Harden has also demanded a trade, but the team may not be too anxious if they can’t get the right deal and you rarely get the right deal when everyone knows the player is demanding it. The Rockets feel like they are that one trade away from a rebuild.

And the Astros?? Well, they brought in veteran Manager Dusty Baker and newbie GM James Click to lead the team. They were inundated with pitching injuries and losses that led them to an under .500 regular season. They somehow pulled things together and came within one win of an improbable World Series appearance after entering an expanded playoff field as the last seed. They are at a bit of a crossroads here. If their pitching youngsters continue to contribute as they did in 2020 and their offensive veterans return to what made them great before 2020, this team could bring back their golden age. If the pitching youngsters are found out and the offensive veterans continue to regress this could be a very long year.

An objective view of the situation is that the Astros, who were tripped up the worst by fate in 2020 are probably in the best position to lead the city and its sports teams back to another golden age. They have the most talent under control and have a good mix of youth available to them to become a sustainably great team.


47 comments on “Houston’s golden age of sports hits a speed bump

  1. The Texans are a disaster. It started when owner Bob got sick and it has been an avalanche of stupid ever since.
    The demise of the Rockets came with the sale of the franchise to Ferrtita. The Rockets aren’t food. That is all I’m gonna say.
    After what Hinch and his hinchmen did to the Astros franchise and Luhnow and his Taubmen did to the franchise, how is it they are still even in the playoff talk. It’s because we, Chipalattians, are willing this franchise to glory. And you wonder why we are always so tired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your “hinchmen” …..
      The Rockets hitched their wagon to Harden in 2013 if I remember right and Ferrtita has been in charge since the end of 2017 and frankly they have been about the same the whole time – searching around aimlessly for someone who matches up well with Harden, who is a tremendous talent, but who is probably not the best rock upon to build your team. I think the demise was when they tied their fortunes to Harden.
      And yes we do all the heavy lifting here….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the Astros have a better chance to remain relevant because Crane understands the game better than most owners. We’ll never know to what degree he was aware of the cheating fiasco. Of course the commissioner works for the owners. But I think he’ll provide the resources needed and I think our new GM was a good choice.

    The Texans will remain a dysfunctional operation at least until the McNair family decides it’s time to get out of the football business. Cal is clueless.

    The NBA has been taken over by the players. There are four or five teams a year with a reasonable chance to win a championship. These days the high priced players can pretty much determine who they are going to play for and with. That gives the other 25 or so teams no real chance once through the first or second round of the playoffs.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You not only expressed what I think, you managed to do it in very few sentences.
    I remember when O’brien came in as coach, if you criticized him you were sent to the slaughterhouse. Sort of the same thing that happened if you criticized Luhnow while the team was the laughingstock of baseball.
    Isn’t it weird how both O’brien and Luhnow left each team in a fog of devastation. The Astros in the middle of a huge scandal and the Texans in a situation where everything in the organization is in a shambles. And I mean everything!
    The Rockets. I can’t stand the NBA, but I still follow the Rockets because 1994 and 1995 were so special. Not only were they Champions, but they were Rudy and Hakeem’s team and that meant so much to me. I admire Harden’s talent and the fact that he is the best one on one player I have ever seen. But he just doesn’t get the job done when it matters most.


  4. I quit watching the NBA back when the bottom of their shorts were way above the knee. Stopped the NFL except for the Super Bowl about 4 years ago. All that being I don’t care what happens and doubt anything could make me start watching again. But never say never.

    The Astros are due for a downturn. Mid pack in the West. They were not a .500 club last shortened regular season. Now if Click puts together a team that is contending each year, I will stay interested unless “politics” shows its ugly head again. Just remember the Yankees continue to be one of the highest paid teams and have not won a World Series since my granddaughter was in the 2nd grade and she is now in college. So money and luck need to shine on the same team at the same time. With that being said, an idiot with money to spend is still an idiot. (And of course, one can be like me. An idiot with no money.)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Come to think of it, maybe my cynical nature dates all the way to Bud Adams and our Oilers. The entire city was all in with that club. The Oilers were unapologetically loved. We skipped school and work for our Oilers. Excused absences! We winked at the indiscretions of our hero’s. We were nutcases. And then Bud squeezed the city and us, for a big Dome rehab. But that was not enough. He ultimately wanted that big new shiny stadium and was willing to leave the 4th biggest city in the country, along with fans as loyal as anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah the whole Oiler fiasco was a tough one to take daveb. The city was bonkers over that team. Some folks point to how the attendance fell in their last season here – yes, it did – after they announced they were leaving. This worked out perfectly for Drayton, who was able to leverage the Oilers leaving into the county helping to support the building of Enron.
    Should someone have stepped in and done something to keep the Oilers here? I think if Bud had not gotten them to spend so much on the refurbishment of the dome, he might have gotten a new stadium instead. Better to ask for $$ once than twice, because it made it look like we wasted the refurb money (which in the long run we have).
    I like the Texans but have never looooooved them like I did the Oilers. That move left a hole in my heart and deprived me of what, 5 or 6 seasons of football enjoyment. About the only time I cheered in those empty seasons is when I cheered against the Titans in the Super Bowl.


  7. While we are mixing up different sports on this post. My dislike for the NFL boils down to being bored. The national anthem crap did not help. But maybe because of my youth several decades ago, I thought the NFL was so innovative. They did not play the college game, nor high school. Maybe it was because those games were more ground intensive than the NFL back in the day. But over time, I became more interested in a good college or even high school game than any NFL game. (Same with basketball) Remember Sam Huff changing the defensive game, or Bill Walsh the offensive game, or the Flex defense. To me, there was nothing new for years, so I quit watching.

    And that is so strange because I don’t want MLB to change any rules. Especially on shifts or a relief pitcher has to retire ??? batters unless the Manager calls “King’s X” three times.


  8. Some Astros notes:
    * I know he was drafted as an infielder, wants to try to stay at SS, and is listed as an infielder on the GCL Astros roster, but at 6’3″ and 200 lbs and the bat he has shown, Shay Whitcombe is a guy I could see being moved to the outfield, where there is room for him in this organization.
    * If Carlos Correa gets injured and Bregman moves to SS, what is the Astros plan to get the infield back into a playoff situation? I mean, how is Freudis Nova going to be the backup? Pena is way ahead of him, but Nova is on the 40-man and Pena isn’t because Nova ran out of minor league time.
    * I know there was hype by the Astros, but how good did Zach Daniels really look at the Alternative Site in the fall.
    * Talk about weird, new draftee Alex Santos II is on the same Astros GCL roster as Jayson Schroeder, who was drafted in June, 2018.
    * If Ryan Pressly meets his 60-game appearance plateau to get his option renewed for 2022, that will mean he is pitching very well for the Astros in 2021. If he doesn’t reach that number of appearances and his contract doesn’t renew, I think the Astros let him walk.


    • Not to be negative about your post, Dan. Don’t care at all for Texans and Rockets. Oilers under Bum, and Rockets with twin towers and Rudy T was another story for me.

      Op, Whitcomb is intriguing, and from what I recall on draft day, moving him is possible. He looks much more like an infielder though with a side arm angle, played 2B primarily in HS. He profiles as a solid leadoff hitter, maybe 2024.

      [A few guys from that draft are really turning heads too, though; P Endersby, Sprinkle and Peck to begin in AA. If true, Wow! My buddy is very high on versatile, Cody Orr.]

      Many are suggesting on twitter we move Pena to OF, which is absurd. They are assuming Correa will extend and I don’t see that happening in the least. I feel really strongly that if LMJ and Correa don’t speak up to extend, we should as Cole in ’19 Spring, move on! Trying to fit square peg into a round hole, holding out hope with no indication otherwise — I only want players who are totally committed.

      Mere speculation but still.. here’s the other vital point on Correa.

      If he is injured by year’s end, or doesn’t play up to QO speed, we cannot offer or get ANYthing for him! By my calculations, he has $25-35 million of trade value. Figured this way 1 WAR = (in depressed market $7-10m). If we arb him at 10m, and he puts up 5 WAR in 2021. That is WAY too much value to pass on, especially with the season still in question.

      With the masseuse debacle (JL: “I’ll let Carlos answer that.”), and other things, I don’t trust him. He will follow Beltran no 2 ways about it, and if he feigns injury, he’d save that team from losing the comp pick. Trade him now (a persistent perennial rumor) for a bevy of talent that re-opens window for Alvarez Tucker and Whitley.

      The Rays show you how it’s done! The Cubs show you how to hang a bunch of nooses around neck–only Baez with positive trade value–and not one prospect to speak of (Hoerner Marquez?), somehow ranked 5 spots ahead of HOU is a joke.

      Re: Nova, I think it’s possible he fills into his body and finds his power in 2021, enough to get him eventually to AAA. Keeping him on 40-man for one year wouldn’t be so bad. But 2 yrs w/o debut, no way! In my mind, he’s a candidate to move to 3B with a rocket arm, but we’d have to decide on Toro by then too. The other candidate at 3B/OF is Jones. All those have to prove they can hit MLB’s though.

      I believe the hype on Daniels after talking to Tn coaches (not the university) when drafted. He credited two coaches there for helping him turn corner, and started to show “freakish” ability thereafter. Callis has Brewer ahead of Barber and Daniels. I disagree, but they may all be vying for innings by 2023.

      That says it all on Schroeder, but I’m going to be positive since Putila is.

      With #14 MLB power rating, Pressly was not only a coup of a trade, but a real bargain. I suppose by end of 2022 we will know if the potential Closers have o’ertaken him; Paredes, Javier or the many others on the way, like Torres — Hansen, Ty Brown and Conine who were former stoppers. Lots can happen by then. Many think Ryan is best at SetUp, so we’ll see if Astros revert. If we were to target a Liam Hendriks that would be an indication they agree. But with depth we have at pitching, I’m not in favor of a big $ reliever. Rather put that in a Can’t Miss Starter, since we’re likely to lose Greinke and McCullers.


  9. That was a long post, sorry guys.

    One thing I noticed the Astros sure have pulled on many occasion, and wondering if they do the same with Leon/Colas? We took 2 million away from Cionel over arm issues (he still signed over Orioles’ higher offer), took money from Nova over steroids, and took 2 million from Anibal Sierra over vision issues. Will be interesting to see what we do with $5.3m in this market.

    We all assumed since Crane got 4 top picks taken from Amateur Draft that he’d load up on Int’l. I’m looking back though and wondering where all that money has gone over the years? We’re basically still waiting on Solis, Perez, Abreu (’13) and the list going back to Ovando, Mier and so on. The best of the lot was a fellow named Jose Luis-Henandez taken in 2015 for 100K.


    • I’m confused with your point in the last paragraph GoStros – didn’t the international money go to bringing in Framber and Javier and Urquidy and Paredes, etc.? Maybe I am missing what you meant.


      • Very true on those, Point? I often have no point, you got me.

        I suppose I was thinking more pre-2017 when Urquidy was “Hernandez” ha! gotcha! And yes forgot Framber. But if you look at that 2015-2018 class, we spent a lot of wasted money there. $15m on 2016-2017 class. I consider Javier and Paredes development wins, and those are the ones who’ve stolen the show. Just take a look at some of these names and numbers though..

        I have made the point too that we parlayed and won big with A Abreu Guzman for McCann, Celestino, F Perez, for Pressly/JV

        Yoanys Quiala for $794,000 gone
        Alejandro Garcia for $750,000 never happen’d
        shortstop Yeuris Ramirez got $500,000 No sir
        Enmanuel Valdez who I still like better than Santana at 2B $450K mayyybe
        Cesar Cortez for $100,000 see ya

        All they had for Paredes was $10,000! #WINNER
        20K for Garcia, Rivera

        See, I say that in one breath, but I still really like Macuare $695K, and Nerio Rodriguez $450K. Just look at all the other overpays.


        Angel Ortega 180K he gone
        Jose Alvarez for $195,000 a nobody
        Yorbin Cueta $1M too much for nuthin’
        Sierra $1.5m not happening

        When Click came in they asked him about drafts and he said ‘we have to be airtight’, meaning [now] can’t miss on this precious little allotted.


      • Yeah I forgot Urquidy had the name change….
        I guess in my mind, if you can look at an international class and somebody makes it through, it does not matter that you spent money on ones that didn’t make it. It is a bit of a crap shoot and if you have one or two from a class that make it all the way through that is a success.


    • All those misses might be the reason why they go after guys who have been successful in the Cuban National League which has been a pretty good league in the past.
      I have been trying for weeks to figure out how they could get both Leon and Colas from their limited international fund. I believe they could do it if they don’t sign anyone else. I believe they both slot into the Astros outfield with Tucker. And that might be how they convince Colas to go with the Astros, the fact that he has a good chance to win a major league job in ST.


    • I know that the moment Springer signs with another team we would start hearing about how he WAS a cheater “but he does seem to be a very nice guy and a clubhouse leader”. It has already started and every New Yorker will find a way to separate him from those other cheaters.


      • That’s the truth. Interesting that someone was talking about his declining defensive skills. Inevitable but has not happened yet. He’s better than most guys out there in center. You know, 150 in NY or Toronto is less in his pocket than 125 would be in Houston, Texas.

        Liked by 1 person

    • That’s right, I forgot. Boy are White Sox loaded with young talent!

      Here’s a question for the Correa passionate.

      Let’s say Carlos plays great this year, and we are pleased and we want to pay him what makes him happy. How do we come up with that number?

      So, let’s start with 30 million for 4 yrs/$120m. Do you think that’s a fair price and that would get it done? One thing to keep in mind is we have paid him $15m and he’s given us 26.3 WAR, which is to say about 24 more WAR that we’ve paid for.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have not followed the NBA or NFL very much for awhile. The college versions of those sports are more interesting to me.

    I love MLB and the Astros because it is more team oriented. Just look at last season with all of the players we had injured and still got to one game from the WS.

    Yes, the Astros might be trending downward and might have another losing season. Or, they could also have veterans rebound and more young talent step up and win it all in 2021! A lot can happen between now and the trade deadline like it did in 2017.


  11. To answer GoStros1, if Correa has a great year 4 yrs/$120m won’t get it done. Other teams would be willing to pay for more years and more $$.


    • I’d be willing to bet that the team has already approached CC about an extension just like Altuve and Bregman were. Considering that nothing has happened as yet I think he’s looking for the big bucks elsewhere. If that’s the case then we should definitely look at maximizing his trade value but then again, I could be wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t want to be a yogi or whatever saying “Be Here Now.” However, that is how we need to approach each Astros year. These players, after arb years, are rentals. They own themselves. So we should cheer for them to do well and know that eventually, some team will probably pay more than we think they are worth. Otherwise we have to cheer they perform terribly each year so they stay cheap – and we can resign them.


    • On the other hand, if we continue to draft, sign and develop our own players we don’t have to continue to overpay older ones or buy other team’s stars at huge prices. To the Astros credit, they have developed stars, extended the ones who would extend, and did not trade the others, but kept them until they had no choice but to let them walk. The Astros extended, Altuve, Bregman, Verlander, Pressly and Gurriel, all in the last few years. I think that is a good track record of keeping players, even if the Verlander extension was a disaster.


    • Have seen several articles that Springer is looking for $150MM for 5years. The Mets and Blue Jays are reported to be the only serious suitors for him. I’m not sure that he’s worth that much but I’m sure that if he told our ownership he wanted that amount I’m sure they said, “Good Luck”.


  13. To Gostros question on Correa, let’s first talk about Altuve and Bregman. There’s a major difference between the two. Altuve was underpaid when compared to his production for his first eight seasons in Houston. His ninth season, at age 30, he became overpaid and will continue to do so making $29M per year for the next four. Bregman was underpaid for his first four seasons. In his fifth, he was set to earn $13M at age 26 before the pandemic. Looking at the next few, he is slated to earn another $13M and then two years at $30.5M each putting him into free agency at age 31. Correa, because of injuries, has been fairly inconsistent, but he is also only 25! Clearly he will want a Manny Machado/Bryce Harper contract, but in this economic climate and based on the injury history I can’t see any team going into the stratosphere for him unless he puts up a 2021 for the ages.

    Let’s take a look at some comparisons. That 2012 draft class was pretty loaded. Ignoring the other positions, we also saw Addison Russell and Corey Seager picked in the first round. 2011 saw Fransisco Lindor and Javier Baez picked in the first round. Through his age 25 season, Lindor was paid similarly to Correa but put up better numbers in a large part due to staying on the field. His age 26 season, 2020, saw him set to earn $17.5M but in a shortened season the performance did not match what Cleveland expected. He will also enter free agency following 2021…so there is a good chance he gets traded. Seager is also set to be a free agent following 2021. He lost one year to injury, but otherwise has stayed on the field. His numbers are solid, but I think most people would agree that both Correa and Lindor have more upside still.

    So the question of whether 4 years and $120M would be enough to get Correa is far more reasonable here on Dec 31st than I would have expected. Because he is going to be competing with those other two for free agent dollars it might be a good decision to take the large offer that puts him into FA again before his 30th season rather than risk the open market. If I were to hazard a guess, however, I would say that Correa has extreme confidence in himself and fully expects to be the top free agent next winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The Astros future does not rest on the avenues that Springer or Correa take.
    It rests on the arms of:
    Valdez, Urquidy, Javier, Whitley, Abreu, Brown, Brown, Solis, Ivey, Torres Garcia, Conine, Solomon, Bielak, Paredes and Dubin. The Astro need to hit on a number of those guys so that they have to funds to fill in their lineup when they need to.


    • Yes, sir
      But wait! There’s more: Alex Santos, Austin Hansen, Jairo Lopez, Tyler Brown, Manny Ramirez, Valente Bellozo, Blair Henley

      Blake Taylor, Andre Scrubb, Cionel Perez, Ryan Gusto, Julio Robaina

      Angel Macaure ranks#12 internally is loud and clear they’ve been hiding him a bit. I have no idea how he slipped through R5?

      Talk about BigTime fastballs?
      Diosmerky Tavares 70 grade (every farm needs a few)

      Two kids get zero pub I like because they’re winners & overachievers; Brett Daniels and Felipe Tejada. Look for them to rise up from out of nowhere.

      Two lefties to watch for; JP Lopez and Jon Bermudez.
      On that same Corpus team in 2019, Colin McKee 53 IP was 2nd to Javier in H/9 at 3.88. Add Willie Collado herky jerky sidearm Luis Tiant impression. Track these 4 by end of year, as they must take a firm step forward to “make it.”

      Reiterate I’ve only seen video but to get these for 20K undrafted yet they are starting already in Ashville or CC; Peck Sprinkle Endersby and hometown Cy Ranch/HBU Kyle Gruller. They would instantly jump over guys who’ve been promising in the system for 2+ years. Some of these could be turned like Peyton Battenfield for Auston Pruitt in theory.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I was waiting for you to hop on board.
        Now, I did name two Browns!
        Truth is that the guys I named are mostly top Astros pitching prospects in the MLB Top 30 and the guy you listed are farther on down the line, except Taylor.
        By the way, you forgot to mention Ernesto Jaquez. Got you again!


      • Op, Ernesto everytime. He’s always like Sneed for me, somehow forgettable.

        A comment on those further down the top 30, yes. Lopez and Henley have really made moves on the board & haven’t even spent time with Strommie yet. One with explosive velocity and Henley has some of the best spin rates in our system. What dreams may come with those tools yet untapped!

        Some guys will plateau, and some like Click said recently of Peter Solomon’s easy 94, “has an extra gear.” Sometimes like sitting on an oil well, best to leave it in the ground til the price is right, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Methinks Castro is asking for more money than the Astros are paying Maldonado. I think the Astros would match Machete’s salary, but not top it.
        The Cubs don’t have that restraint, because if they sign Castro for quite a bit less money than Contreras, the Cubs would have accomplished what they want, because then they get to trade Contreras and save their precious money, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Shake my head moments to read Cubs fans talk about how they’re gonna spend that Darvish savings right up, too. And how soft can you get to do business with your former team right out of the gate with Hoyer, lying about how it wasn’t a financial move. Nobody believes that. These teams are run by bafoons in it for themselves, run right into the ground. Theo Epstein was supposed to have been a genius, left Cubs in a lurch — $300m budgets, could’ve saved a few acorns on the farm at least.

        On that we must credit Luhnow Crane and Strom for building something sustainable through hard times! Extend STROM!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve wondered about Julia, who was sitting in earshot?! ha!

      Which means she would have told the guys off air possibly, so what about Kalas and Blummer? I consider them all Yes-Men anyway, and too, it’s not really their place to stop it.

      What I find MOST curious was when first asked, Crane said I knew about the memo and told Jeff to “knock it off.” then, after a considerable time he was asked again, and he changed his tune that he didn’t know about it, or he would have done something. Funny, how the league has to get their story straight on this, especially in light of the [Yankees] redacted [letter] redacted which would cause [“considerable damage to the organization”] redacted.


      • Maybe he did tell Jeff to knock it off if there was anything going on and thought Jeff had taken care of it. That would be the exact point Crane could honestly say he knew nothing about it what went on after he thought his order had handled it.


  15. There was an old song “What a difference a day makes.” I suggest we insert “year” and review previous years for the Astros and dates FA were signed,
    Maldonado – 12/23, Chirinos – 12/6, Brantley – 12/19, Reddick – 11/23, Harris 11/3, Smith – 12/16, Morton – 11/16. And Miley was the outlier – 2/1. (I am sure there are others) But Click is somewhere between “Overly Cautious” and “Sitting on It.” With so many unknowns, I see nothing wrong with his current strategy.


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