By NEAL FARMER
The Astros season started off with a home run by George Springer in the first at-bat of the year. Houston continues on a magical run, as the squad won 101 regular-season games and hosts the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs on Thursday.
But even if Springer’s leadoff dinger was a sign of things to come, no one person has been the backbone of the season.
*Jose Altuve has American League MVP numbers, but a case could be made that Marwin Gonzalez is the team’s MVP due to his hitting prowess and his ability to play multiple positions.
*Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers were All-Stars, but the team relied on Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton when Keuchel and McCullers were injured.
*Justin Verlander decided literally at the last minute to be traded to Houston from Detroit on Aug. 31, and he is 5-0 as an Astro pitcher.
*Fiers pitched so well that he helped keep Houston’s lead in the AL West from not dipping below 11 games when Carlos Correa and George Springer were hurt after the All-Star Break and the offense stumbled. Then Fiers lost his mojo and won’t be on the post-season roster.
*Many questioned why Houston traded for Cameron Maybin when they already had a star-studded outfield, then Josh Reddick and Jake Marisnick were injured.
*Catchers Brian McCann and Evan Gattis were out with injures, and Juan Centeno and Max Stassi step in behind the plate with solid outings.
*The team leader in RBIs is Gonzalez, who has 90. But for most of the season, he did not have enough at-bats to qualify as a league-leader.
*Houston played better on the road than at home.
However, to the winner goes the spoils, and it looks a lot like Altuve will beat out the Yankees’ Aaron Judge as MVP (except for the New York precincts). Altuve has his third batting title in four years, and led the AL in hits for four years in a row. He hit .346, had a .410 on-base percentage, a .547 slugging percentage, 24 HRs, 39 doubles, 81 RBIs and 32 stolen bases.
But Houston is used to disappointment, as the Rockets James Harden lost last year’s NBA MVP to Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. (At least Altuve is not campaigning for it, like Harden did).
Look for a lot of people – many of whom do not follow baseball daily – to jump on the Houston bandwagon. And why not? This is an exciting team. But the season will not remembered for 101 wins. It will be remembered by John. Q. Public for how far the Astros go in the playoffs. And that’s a shame, because as long as Altuve, Correa, Springer and Gonzalez are covering the middle, and the pitching staff continues what it has done, this is a team built for the long run. Now the Astros just need the baseball gods to jump on the bandwagon.
TEXANS POP OLD OILERS – OK, raise your hands if you are one of those who think that the Houston Texans should pop the Tennessee Titans each time they play because the Titans ran out of Houston when they were the Oilers.
That wouldn’t be right, right? A team should be judged on its own players. Just like after the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis, right? Right?
All right. There could be some lingering bad feelings because of the Old Oilers/New Titans relocation decision. And that is probably why I enjoyed Sunday’s game a little more than usual.
Houston set a franchise record for points scored in a 57-14 victory. The Texans have beaten the Titans for six years in a row in Houston. Houston did to the Titans what Jacksonville did to Houston to start the season. But it looks like the Texans are going in the right direction.
A reason to be satisfied is that the quarterback situation looks to be fixed. Tennessee was bad, but QB Deshaun Watson was, in brief, great. All of those snippy statements about coach Bill O’Brien being the quarterback whisperer at all his stops except Houston could be rendered moot. Maybe it previously was just the wrong QB.
Tennessee was the trendy selection to win the AFC South this year. They are still in the race with the Texans because it is so early in the year. But the slam-bam-juke-you-man touchdowns the quarterback accounted for will give the Titans reason to worry when they host Houston later this year on Dec. 3. They’ll have to forget how the played against Houston on Sunday, but they also will have to remember parts of it. Like when Watson threw for 283 yards and four TDs and rushed for another TD. He tied the NFL record for a rookie by accounting for five TDs.
It looks like Watson is going to be a star, and just needed some playing time to polish his skill set as a pro. His play gave the Texans confidence to where all three phases of the team outplayed Tennessee’s entire team.
One of the few bad plays of the day for Houston? Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a PAT after a touchdown. I think we should take away a vowel from his last name.
HEAVENS TO MEGA-TROY – The electricity went out at home Saturday night for a lengthy period of time, just after Troy intercepted an LSU pass on the next-to-last play of the game to preserve an unlikely win over the Tigers.
Sitting in the dark, I thought that maybe an LSU fan was in charge of electricity in my area. Or a squirrel bit the big one by biting an electrical wire behind my home. Or an LSU fan at the electricity office bit the big one because the Tigers lost to Troy.
I guess we now know how Baylor felt when they lost to Liberty – Give me Liberty or give me death.
20 MOVIE FLOPS THAT BECAME CULT CLASSICS – Let’s do the Time Warp again.
TOP 10 TRICK PLAYS – If trickeration in football is for you, then here are 10 plays full of tom-trickery.
THE NFL’S TOP QUARTERBACK-WIDE RECEIVER DUOS – Tom Brady made it twice, but there is no one from Houston. Perhaps Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins could break into the list, but it will take years to get there.
CLASSICAL NOTES: We’re moving into the hard stuff, again — Richard Wagner: The Flying Dutchman. The music of Wagner is very emotional, and very long. He likes to pen pieces that last longer than most other musicians. So enjoy Wagner, when you have time.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Go deep-throat a cactus. – Houston Astros fans to Dallas Rangers of Arlington brass. The reason has been well-documented.
HOTTIE OF THE DAY: