I remember when I was a kid, probably nine or ten years old at the time, and I first learned what it felt like to have your favorite player leave your favorite team. The team was the Boston Red Sox, and the player was future Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk. "Pudge," as he was called, was my guy for my first few formative years as a baseball fan. When he left for the Chicago White Sox in free agency in the early '80s, I was devastated.
I soon came to realize, after several more traumatic departures from my favorite teams, that this was just part of being a fan, the sports world's version of the Forrest Gump life theory "death is just a part of life." Eventually, you get somewhat calloused to player turnover, but it still hits you in the gut to some degree when a beloved figure departs (or is asked to depart, in come cases).
I can only imagine what the last two years have been like for today's version of a ten-year-old Sean Pendergast. I can't remember a time in this city, or ANY city for that matter, where this many prominent sports figures have been traded, released, fired, and left in free agency. I miss nearly all of them, some more than others.
Hey, I got an idea! Let's go through the exercise of rating, on a scale of 1 to 10, just how much we miss all of these departed Houston sports figures, shall we? Let's go...
JEFF LUHNOW, Astros GM
A.J. HINCH, Astros Manager
I am grouping these two together, because they were both fired on the same day, for the same reason — they failed to curtail the Astros' sign stealing in 2017, and were summarily dismissed in January 2020. We would probably be missing both more if the Astros weren't having such a successful year. Both were very good at their jobs, but I give Luhnow a slightly higher "Missing You" grade, because there IS a trade deadline coming up, and that's when he did his best work.
LUHNOW "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 4.4
HINCH "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 3.2
D'Antoni felt like a dead man walking for the last two seasons he was here, so we were kind of prepared for he and the Rockets to part ways. Also, while D'Antoni was very likable, it's not as though they won a title with him, unlike Hinch with the Astros.
D'ANTONI "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 2.1
Morey had a decade and a half run as general manager of the Rockets, and over that time, the team was one of the most successful regular season teams in the NBA. The Rockets never won a title with Morey running the personnel side, and now they're undergoing a massive rebuild, something they also never did with Morey running things. For now, I think people are cautiously optimistic about Rafael Stone as Rockets GM.
MOREY "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 4.5
For a few seasons there, O'Brien was a sometimes fun, sometimes crusty, blue collar head coach. Nothing special, but not a total dud either. Then he got the GM power, and it was a dumpster fire. He traded DeAndre Hopkins, gutted drafts, overspent on marginal players, and left the franchise in a barely recognizable state. He might be the LEAST missed sports figure in Houston sports history.
O'BRIEN "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: -4.2
O'Brien's decisions led to the downfall of the Texans, while the decisions INVOLVING Westbrook did the same to the Rockets. The Rockets traded Chris Paul AND first round picks to Oklahoma City for Westbrook, and Paul turned out to be the better player. The Rockets then dismantled their team to go with a "small ball" approach to accentuate Westbrook's VERY specific and narrow strengths as a player. Then, when Westbrook wanted out after one season, they traded him to Washington for John Wall's awful contract. Good riddance, Russ.
WESTBROOK "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 0.3
Harden was one of the more polarizing players during his time in Houston, even within the Houston fan base. The good? Multiple seasons of MVP level play. The bad? Noteworthy playoff flameouts in elimination games. The ugly? The way he forced his way out of town, showing up fat for the season and trashing teammates. Oddly, Rocket fans forgave Harden quickly and many were rooting for him and the Brooklyn Nets by the time the playoffs rolled around.
HARDEN "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 4.7
It's hard to blame the Astros for not paying the 31-year-old Springer the six-year, $150 million deal that he got from Toronto. If it matters to anybody, Springer has been injured for most of the year with the Blue Jays. Perhaps Springer will be more missed once the playoffs roll around, but for now, the Astros are doing just fine.
SPRINGER "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 5.4
I'll group these two together, because they're now teammates in Arizona, and both are now gone as a result of O'Brien's incompetence — Hopkins directly by being traded by O'Brien for a horrific package of a second round pick and RB David Johnson, and Watt a little less directly, as the deterioration of the team largely fueled by O'Brien's foolishness led to his requesting a release from the team.
HOPKINS "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 8.7
WATT "MISSING YOU" FACTOR: 9.8