Perhaps you’ve nailed this one, Sports Illustrated. On June 30, 2014, the venerable magazine featured the Astros’ then-rookie outfielder George Springer on their cover with the declarative headline: “Your 2017 World Series Champs.”
It was a fun way of explaining how the Astros, in the middle of a massive rebuilding process, was stocked with talented young players that could be blossoming by the time ’17 rolled around. It didn’t take a genius, by the way, to make that part of the prediction. Just based on high draft choices and the stellar prospects the Astros piled up while losing a 100 or more games each of the previous three seasons it appeared they were poised to get good in the near future. The future has arrived, it appears.
Now, let’s cut to May 2, 2017. Are the Astros invincible? Far from it. Their pitching staff still has issues, from the rotation to the bullpen. But, boy, that offense. And that defense. And they’re all so young, except for Carlos Beltran, who turns 62 this season (I think). They have an edge, too, that has been missing in the previous two seasons when the Rangers have manhandled them to the tune of 28-10. It’s early, to be certain. And losing the first two of 19 games doesn’t put the Rangers’ in an insurmountable hole. But the Astros don’t look like they’re scared anymore. They look like the new bully in town and they’ve bloodies the Rangers’ noses with a couple of stunning defeats. S.I. may have just been fooling around three years ago, but that headline is looking awfully prescient at the moment.
1. Hamels situation — The news that came moments before Tuesday’s first pitch that Cole Hamels was being scratched with tightness in his right oblique came out of left field, literally. [Boing!] That’s where Hamels was warming up during his pregame bullpen session when he felt a sharp pain in his right side. He felt it on his second pitch. “It’s something I’ve never experienced I think ever in my career,” Hamels said. “I was able to throw another pitch after that and it just didn’t feel right.”
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Hamels said he was concerned that when he got into the game and he was going at maximum effort that it could lead to a more serious injury.
“I think that’s what I’m trying to do, make sure we catch something before it happens,” he said. Hamels applauded emergency starter Alex Claudio who replaced Hamels and pitched four-plus innings, allowing three runs on four hits and leaving with a 5-3 lead. “He did a tremendous job with what he was able to do and how deep he was able to go in the ballgame,” said Hamels, who is headed back to Arlington Wednesday to be examined by club physician Dr. Keith Meister.
2. Dominoes falling — The domino effect the Hamels news has on the Rangers’ staff is striking. It forced the bullpen into added work on Tuesday, for one. Claudio won’t be available for a couple days and Keone Kela, who pitched an inning, including the last out of the seventh and the first two outs of the eighth, is unlikely to be available Wednesday, Jeff Banister said. Jose Leclerc, who pitched an inning Tuesday is probably going to be unavailable, as well, as the Rangers try to protect the rookie from too much wear and tear. That leaves Sam Dyson, Jeremy Jeffress, Dario Alvarez (all of whom pitched Tuesday), along with Tony Barnette and closer Matt Bush. If Wednesday’s starter Nick Martinez doesn’t go six or seven innings it could get interesting. Another word for interesting, in this case for the Rangers, is precarious.
3. Delino’s thoughts — Delino DeShields shared an incident from his rookie season in 2015 when he had security remove two “drunk guys” at Yankee Stadium who were hurling racist insults to him in left field. It was a topic of conversation in the Rangers’ clubhouse before Tuesday’s game in the wake of the Orioles’ Adam Jones publicly calling out some fans at Fenway Park who were using racist taunts. DeShields said he thinks the use of racist words in music has given some people the idea that they can use them in public, specifically to heckle professional athletes.
“[Music artists] throw around those words and guys outside our race say those words whether they’re just rapping a song and they feel like it’s okay and it becomes kind of normal,” he said. “That’s kind of where we’re living. It’s about knowing right from wrong and using it directed towards somebody. If it’s used to me in a negative way that’s when I have a problem with it.”
DeShields hopes that decent people who hear racially-charged taunts at a sporting even (or anywhere, for that matter) would stand up and ask security to remove them.
“As adults, we try to set the example for the younger generation,” he said. “To be saying that kind of stuff around 9 and 10 year old kids, they might think it’s okay.”
DeShields applauded Jones for drawing attention to the issue and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for taking a strong stand in support of Jones.
“We’re all a family at the end of the day, whether we like each other not,” DeShields said. “We’re a baseball family so we want to protect each other and that’s it. I think the commissioner did a good job of stepping in.”