Every-Thing Sports

A realistic exit for Bill O'Brien

Texans Bill O'Brien, Deshaun Watson, Cal McNair
Composite photo by Brandon Strange

We're living in a crazy time. COVID-19 has shaken the world to its core. Jobs are on the line as the economy continues to suffer. So last week, I made my appeal to replace Bill O'Brien. I haven't been contacted as of this writing, so I'll assume they're not ready for me...yet. I won't give up hope at the moment, and neither should Texans fans.

With all of the shenanigans this guy has pulled off and the power he has amassed, there's still reason for hope. As bleak as things may seem now, I do see a series of events that can lead to O'Brien's exit. This is a case of things getting worse in order for them to get better. Just as a we're going through hard times right now, things will get better. Sometimes you have to take a few steps backwards in order to move forwards. Here's how I see it going:

Another early playoff exit

With a seventh team eligible to make the playoffs this year, it's likely the Texans will make the new expanded field. Nothing will change as they will be out in the first round and in typical embarrassing passion. The fans will see this coming all season and voice their displeasure at the turnstiles and merch sales. The McNairs will feel this displeasure monetarily and will start to get squeamish.

Contract extension troubles

We've already heard Laremy Tunsil turn down a reported $18.5 million dollar per year average deal in hopes of landing something in the $20 million dollar range. Deshaun Watson will look to set the new bar at quarterback which will exceed $35-40 million dollars a year. You know those memes that say start one, bench one cut one? Who do they franchise if neither takes the extensions offered? Do you give in to Tunsil's demands because of the price you paid? You have to at this point. Do you do the same with Watson? You'd be stupid not to. Trading them would be disastrous as we've seen how O'Brien does in that department. His seat is considerably hotter.

A 2021 flameout 

Following a second offseason without a first round pick and cap space tied up in guys he failed to sign to extensions in a reasonable amount of time, O'Brien starts the 2021 season 3-7. Fan atendance is at an all-time low. Most season ticket holders are selling their tickets to opposing team fans. Home games look more and more like road games every week. Heading into the bye week, The McNairs pull the trigger midseason and relieve him of all his duties in an attempt to get ahead of the hiring curve. This now gives them a chance to hit reset button, but with major pieces in place.

Who steers the ship now?

With Watson still under contract, a first round pick for the first time in two years, and a fresh start on the football side of the organization, who gets to steer the ship? Hopefully, the rest of the football world continues to sleep on Eric Bienemy and he can be the Yoda to Watson's Luke. If not, I think there are several other candidates out there who'd sell their mother for a chance to work with Watson. The general manager hire would be easy as well considering he'd have a high enough first round pick and some talent already in place. The cap space will be messed up because of what they're paying Watson and Tunsil, but I'm sure one of these bright minds could find a way to figure something out. Things are looking up now.

Like I stated previously, sometimes you hvae to go through hard times in order to get to the bright side. We see this with the quarantine and/or stay in place orders. We have to suffer some setbacks to make major comebacks. I see nothing different about the Texans organization. This too shall pass. Bill O'Brien isn't long for Houston. The only way he survives is if he does the impossible and manages to win a Super Bowl or finds his way into winning and winning big over the next few years with the rag tag roster he's out together. I'd rather have someone cough on me right now than to stay in place for the next three months. I'd rather suffer through a couple bad seasons than see him win here. Yes. I said it.

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Jose Abreu looks lost at the plate. Composite Getty Image.

It’s a long baseball season, sure the Astros have started 4-8, and there are plenty of fingers to point around. But there’s no need to push the panic button.

Not yet.

Last year, the Astros didn’t start much better – they were 5-7 after a dozen games. It just seemed different, though. Nobody was wringing hands over the slow start. After all, the Astros were the defending World Series champions, coming off a 106-win season and figured to make mincemeat of the American League West again. Business as usual.

This year is different. The Astros are losing games in very un-Astros-like fashion. While the starting pitching has been surprisingly fine, at least the starters healthy enough to take the field, the bullpen has been a mess. The back end relievers, supposedly the strongest in all of baseball, have been disappointing. Bryan Abreu’s earned run average is 5.79. Ryan Pressly’s ERA is a sky-high 11.57 and closer Josh Hader, the best shutdown in the bigs, is at 6.00. The Astros are losing games late.

The Astros starting rotation is comprised mostly of seat-fillers. The Astros are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room for Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers to be declared fit for battle. McCullers’ contribution to the team in recent years has primarily been confined to H-E-B commercials.

Impatient fans and copy-hungry media need a target to blame for the Astros’ slow start and they’ve zero’d in on first baseman Jose Abreu.

For good reason. Abreu, 37, a former American League MVP, is being paid 19.5 million this year and next. He is having a miserable time at the plate. Originally slated for No. 5 in the batting order, now dropped to No. 7 and sinking in the west, Abreu is hitting a paltry .088. But that number actually is deceptively positive. He has three hits (all singles) in 34 at bats, with 12 strikeouts, no home runs and no RBI. Frankly one of Abreu's singles was a pity hit from a friendly scorekeeper who could have given Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. an error on Abreu’s weak grounder Tuesday night.

We can go all-analytics and brain-busting stats to explain Abreu’s troubles at the plate. But let’s use simple baseball language: Abreu is horrible. He’s done. Maybe it’s time for the Astros to cut bait. He is untradeable.

Abreu had a disastrous 2023 season, batting .237, the lowest average of his 11-year career. But after 12 games last year, he was hitting .271, not bad at all. Or as Larry David would say, pret-tay, pret-tay, pre-tay good.

This year he’s fallen off the end of the Earth. Fans groan as he swings meekly at breaking balls outside the zone. Or he fails to catch up to 95 mph-plus. Or he can’t connect on low inside pitches. Look, when you’re batting .088, it’s all bad.

Last year, the Astros actually had two, as Little Leaguers put it, automatic outs in the lineup. Abreu hit .237 and catcher Martin Maldonado blasted .191.

This year, it’s a tight battle between who’s the worst of the worst. Maldy is hitting .091 with two hits in 22 at bats and no RBI for Abreu’s old team, the Chicago White Sox. Abreu is hitting .088 for Maldonado’s old team, the Astros. This could go down to the last week of the season.

If Abreu is still with the Astros at season’s end. The Astros are no longer the high exalted dominant force in the American League West. They can’t afford an .088 hitter in the lineup. They can’t play eight against nine.

It didn’t help when manager Joe Espada recently said, “I got a ton of confidence in Abreu. I'm not going to talk about strategy. José Abreu has been a really good hitter for a very long time, and I have 100 percent confidence in José that, at some point, he's going to start hitting.”

How long is at some point? Didn’t Astros fans go through this last year with manager Dusty Baker refusing to sit Maldonado despite Maldy killing rallies in a tight pennant race?

The Astros don’t have a strong support system, especially backing Abreu at first base. But there are options. Mauricio Dubon is a jack of all trades. He could play first. Despite the funny line in Moneyball, first base statistically is the easiest position to play in baseball. Backup catcher Victor Caratini can fill the gap until the Astros sign a free agent first baseman.

Or the Astros could do something that would light a fire under fans: call up rookie Joey Loperfido, who’s belted five homers and driven in 13 RBI in 10 games for the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.

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