Hi. Welcome to my weekly ravings, rantings, rankings, and anything else that comes with my modest SportsMap.com contribution. What a great time to start!
Astros vs. Yankees for the American League pennant. The Yankees with 27 World Series championships to their name, the Astros with zero World Series wins to theirs. But as in the fine print at the bottom of all those brokerage ads: past performance is no guarantee of future results. It’s basically a coin flip of a matchup. Going into the series it feels like it’s the Astros’ time. But those rooting for the Yankees very reasonably feel the same way about their chances. The Astros clearly have the better top-to-bottom batting order, and outscored the Bronx Bombers by 38 runs this season. On the other hand, Yankee pitching gave up 40 fewer runs. The Astros are rightful slight favorites. They have the homefield advantage, and of more significance, Yankee-dominator Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander rested in full to pitch the first two games. The Yankees have the better bullpen.
The Most Valuable Player Award is 100% based upon the regular season so what Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge do over the course of the ALCS does not provide any “I told you so” material for an argument for either. But…against the Red Sox Altuve batted .533 including his epic three homer game one. Against the Indians Judge went 1-for-20 with a whopping 16 strikeouts.
Major League Baseball can’t call it the Final Four (the non-profit institution that is all about the student-athletes prohibits it) but I can. Playoff baseball results are almost random, so we can’t say having gotten to the League Championship Series means the Astros have started a multi-year residency as one of the final four teams alive chasing World Series rings, but as a franchise they sure are set up that way. The Astros wrecked interest in baseball here for a while with a half decade of largely deliberate ineptitude, but man has Jeff Luhnow’s master rebuild plan worked. Alas, the healing with the fan base is not complete. The current ballclub deserves better than a 15th (out of 30) place finish in MLB attendance and 17th in local TV ratings. Making the World Series would help significantly. Winning the World Series…
Texans-Browns Sunday doesn’t exactly induce goosebumps. The Browns (rhymes with Clowns) have lost 23 of their last 24 regular season games. Being so relentlessly awful in the NFL is almost impressive. On the Texans’ side at least DeShaun Watson now makes them a worthwhile watch game in game out. I still can’t get over how after an entire offseason and preseason of evaluation, Head Coach Bill O’Brien drew a definitive conclusion that Tom Savage was the guy to open the season as the starting QB. It only took O’Brien one pathetically humiliating half against Jacksonville to smarten up, but still. Watson is the yin to the sucky yang of J.J. Watt being done, likely for good as an NFL superduperstar.
Oh by the way, the Rockets start their season Tuesday night at Golden State. The Rockets are not in the Warriors’ class, which gives them something in common with the other 28 NBA teams who don’t call Oakland home. The Rockets being in the building opening night as the champions unfurl their banner and get their rings will drive home that point. But there is no team other than Golden State that starts this season with a team clearly better than Mike D’Antoni’s squad. The addition of Chris Paul alongside James Harden gives the Rockets as talented a backcourt as there has been in the history of the league. Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe, Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, Michael Jordan and Anybody, Paul and Harden as talents can run with anybody historically. But there are levels within greatness, and the Paul/Harden duo has work to do. It’s a team game but that Chris Paul has yet to play in a Conference Final game is a serious stain on his resume. Harden has had colossal meltdowns in Rockets’ season ending losses two of the last three postseasons. Greatness usually figures it out. If Paul and Harden will be a truly great backcourt they will over time strike a balance between their ball-dominant ways. It probably won’t make them good enough to get past Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but seven-plus months of highly entertaining and very successful basketball should be a ton of hoop fun.
1. Having his 6 game suspension reinstated serves the immature to socially deviant Ezekiel Elliott right.
2. If Tilman Fertitta gets Houston an NHL team I will eat in one of his restaurants weekly for a year
3. Best pie brand non-specific: Gold-coconut custard, Silver-key lime, Bronze-shoofly.