THE BIG DEAL

Arrival of Verlander, Upton gave Astros star power and a World Series title

Arrival of Verlander, Upton gave Astros star power and a World Series title
The arrival of Justin Verlander (and Kate Upton) put the Astros over the top. Roland Martinez/Getty Images

The Astros won the World Series by two seconds.

That was how much time was left when they completed the deal to land Justin Verlander on Aug. 31. And make no mistake, without Verlander, the Astros don’t even make -- much less win -- the World Series.

Verlander was near perfect as an Astro. He did not win a game in the Series, but his presence was huge.

He brought a Hall of Fame resume. He brought star power. And he brought Kate Upton.

When it mattered most, he helped bring Houston a championship.

It almost did not happen. The deal went down to the wire because Verlander was not sure he wanted to come to Houston. In reality, he wanted to go to LA, where he has a home. But the Dodgers did not want to take on his contract, and instead opted for Yu Darvish.

And Houston will be forever grateful.

The city was reeling from Hurricane Harvey. The Astros were faltering, losing the best record in the AL to the Indians. Players grumbled about the team not making any moves at the first trade deadline. A promising season was falling apart.

Then came Aug. 31. The Astros worked out a deal, but had to wait for Verlander to approve it. Phone calls were made back and forth. Verlander and Upton debated, then decided. The paperwork went in two seconds before the deadline. Verlander’s arrival energized the city. The team. He was instantly embraced by both, and immediately made himself at home. By the end of the season, it felt like he had been here forever.

And the rest is history.

Astros history, as in the first World Series win in the franchise’s long, somewhat checkered past.

And make no mistake, it does not happen without the Verlander trade.  

The end result was a moment that was over 50 years in the making.

And it all came down to two seconds.

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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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