The Chicago White Sox are at least superior to the Houston Astros in one aspect of the game: their troll game.
Tuesday saw the two AL teams face off against each other in a doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field. During the second leg of it, the White Sox flashed a funny message on their scoreboard about how this was technically the first doubleheader between the two teams since they swept the Astros in the 2005 World Series. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart shared an image of the troll job.
Sox trolling pic.twitter.com/9tPiU0CV0l
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) August 14, 2019
Though they did fall short in 2005, the Astros are now one of the best teams in baseball (currently a full 24 games better than the White Sox in the standings) and won a World Series of their own in 2017.
Still, 2005 obviously brings back some great memories for the White Sox, and it’s not their first time trolling Houston about that year’s World Series title.
The Baltimore Orioles’ win over the Houston Astros Sunday was certainly unexpected, but the scale of the surprise only becomes apparent when you look at the odds.
According to ESPN, some sportsbooks listed Baltimore as high as +420 underdogs before Sunday’s game, with the runaway Astros putting Justin Verlander on the mound against the hapless Orioles. That would be the largest upset dating back to 2005, according to archived odds from BetLabSports.com.
The Astros, meanwhile, became only the second favorite of -400 or greater to lose in Major League Baseball over the same span. The Minnesota Twins lost to the Washington Nationals in 2007 in a game in which the Nationals were +390 underdogs.
No matter how you look at it, the odds indicate this was one of the biggest upsets in baseball in the last decade and a half. It required a walkoff home run in a three-run bottom of the ninth to happen, and that came after a massive blunder that justified Baltimore’s underdog status.
John Smoltz offered the ultimate praise for the Houston Astros’ loaded rotation.
During the ’90s, Smoltz teamed with the likes of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to form the core of one of the best rotations in recent MLB history. Steve Avery, and later Denny Neagle and Kevin Millwood, helped round out their truly stellar rotation. The Braves did not miss the playoffs from 1991-2005 and won one World Series. Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine all became Hall of Famers.
And guess what? Smoltz thinks the Astros’ rotation is “way better” than theirs was.
Astros owner Jim Crane said John Smoltz called him today to gush about his rotation: "Smoltz said 'Man, you really did a great job of putting that together.' I said, 'Yeah, it looks like Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux.' He said, 'No, no, you guys are way better than we ever were.'"
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) August 2, 2019
Smoltz was probably exaggerating in his comments to Astros owner Jim Crane, but that gives you an idea of how people around baseball are viewing Houston’s pitching.
Justin Verlander is 14-4 with a 2.73 ERA and has undergone a revival since joining the Astros. Gerrit Cole is 13-5 with a 2.87 ERA and 216 strikeouts in 150.2 innings. Wade Miley is 9-4 with a 3.06 ERA. And now they add Zack Greinke on top of that. The 35-year-old is 10-4 with a 2.90 ERA and 135 strikeouts this season.
As daunting of a rotation as that appears, we’ll only start taking Smoltz’s praise seriously once Verlander, Cole and Greinke all make the Hall of Fame.
Just months after he left the Astros to sign elsewhere in free agency, catcher Martin Maldonado is returning to Houston.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros have acquired Maldonado in a trade with the Chicago Cubs.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2019
ESPN’s Jeff Passan added that utility man Tony Kemp is the player headed to Chicago.
Utilityman Tony Kemp is headed to the Chicago Cubs from Houston in exchange for Martín Maldonado, a source tells ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2019
Maldonado signed with the Kansas City Royals in free agency over the winter and then was traded to the Cubs earlier this month. He is batting just .217 this season, but he’s a former Gold Glove Award winner. The Astros’ current catcher duo of Robinson Chirinos and Max Stassi is not great defensively, so Houston should get an upgrade there.
The Houston Astros are looking to add a starting pitcher at the trade deadline and are looking at Trevor Bauer, according to a few reports.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported on Tuesday that the Astros and Cleveland Indians have been in trade talks about Bauer.
Sources: #Indians, #Astros have had recent communication about possible Trevor Bauer trade. The extent of progress in talks is unclear. Houston is pursuing multiple starting pitchers, with hopes of landing one. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 30, 2019
The Astros have also explored a Madison Bumgarner trade and reportedly have talked with the New York Mets about Zach Wheeler.
The New York Post’s Joel Sherman says the Astros’ target list includes those three pitchers.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 30, 2019
Bauer, 28, got lit up by the Kansas City Royals in his latest start and had a mini-meltdown when pulled from the game. He has a 3.79 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 156.2 innings this season. He would give a pretty terrific Astros rotation that already includes Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole a nice boost, although things could be uncomfortable at first.
The big issue here is that the playoff-contending Indians may not want to trade Bauer despite exploring talks.
Indians are increasingly unlikely to trade Trevor Bauer. Word is, ownership is reluctant to part with a big star with team in position to make playoffs and possibly even win division again.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 30, 2019
The San Francisco Giants entered Tuesday just 2.5 games back in the NL wild card hunt following their surge in the month of July, but they are still entertaining the idea of trading away their best pitcher.
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports that the Giants are discussing a potential Madison Bumgarner trade with the Houston Astros.
Source says Giants and Astros "engaged" on Bumgarner. Amount of traction unclear.
— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) July 30, 2019
The Astros already have one of the best rotations in baseball, and adding Bumgarner would position them incredibly well to make a World Series run. The left-hander has a no-trade clause in his contract that includes the Astros, so he would have to approve a deal if the two teams agreed to one.
Bumgarner has made it clear he does not want to be traded, so his no-trade list could actually complicate things if the Giants decide to move him. It would also be a tough sell for the fans with the team still in the playoff hunt, but Bumgarner is scheduled to become a free agent after the season. If the Giants don’t think they have enough to win a title this year, this may be their best chance to get maximum value in return for the former World Series MVP.
It is a seller’s market in Major League Baseball this July. The bulk of MLB teams can at least claim to be in contention, sitting within five games of either the division or a wild card spot, and that means a lot of teams are going to be competing for limited resources ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
Sure, most contenders would probably like to upgrade. But which ones really need to most of all? Here are ten teams that most need to make a move with the deadline looming.
10. Houston Astros
On the surface, the Astros would seem to have everything, sitting comfortably in first place in the AL West. However, they could use another starter behind the devastating 1-2 punch of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. It won’t be the end of the world if the Astros opt to stand pat, but in a loaded American League, their best shot at matching up with the Yankees may be to load up on pitching and put their aces up against their playoff rivals. Plus, some of their players are eager for reinforcements.