THE BIG DEAL

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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This is getting out of hand. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Allsport/Getty Images.

Dr. Rick warns his patients, young homeowners who are turning into their parents, you can expect to pay more for snacks and drinks at a movie theater. It's the same deal at a professional sports venue. Three years ago, I put a down payment on a cheeseburger at Toyota Center ... I still have three more payments to go before I get it.

But this is ridiculous. The PGA Championship, the lesser (least) of golf's majors, is charging $18 for a beer, a 25-ounce Michelob Ultra, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. It's $19 for a Stella Artois. You can buy a six-pack for less at the supermarket. Aren't there laws against price gouging, like during a hurricane? Isn't Tulsa where the Golden Hurricanes play? Get FEMA in here. Did tournament directors get together and ponder, how can we piss off our fans? Sure, it's Tulsa and there's not much else to do, but that's no excuse.

Charging $18 for a beer makes the concession stands at Minute Maid Park look like a Sunday morning farmer's market. A 25-ounce domestic beer during an Astros game is $13.49. A 25-ounce premium beer is $14.45. Yeah, that's high for a beer, but at Minute Maid Park there are lots of hands in the till. Aramark wants to make a profit, the taxman has big mitts, and the Astros want their cut, too. Look, you want to sign Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez to an extension or not? Then drink up and don't complain. Some quiet grumbling and head-shaking is permitted, however.

You know the PGA Championship is charging too much for a beer when even the rich pampered players take notice. "18 (!!!!!) for a beer ... uhhh what," former PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas tweeted. "Good thing I don't drink a lot."

Like he will be in line for a beer at a public concession booth, anyway.

Of course there will be fans sneaking in beer in baggies strapped to their ankles, like stuffing your pockets with store-bought Snickers before going to the movies. It doesn't have to be this way. The Masters, the most prestigious golf event, charges only $5 for both domestic and imported beer. I know it's a gimmick, part of The Masters mystique along with pimento sandwiches for $1.50, but still it's a welcome gesture. You never lose when you treat the public fairly. When Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank insisted that food vendors charge the same inside the stadium as they do at their regular restaurants. Same thing when Denver International Airport opened, fast food restaurants couldn't jack up their prices to their captive customers. Here? There needs to be a loan window outside the Cinnabon booth at Bush-Intercontinental.

Except for the Masters in Augusta, golf's majors aren't tied to a city. A major comes to a city maybe every few years or in most cases never. There's no need to ride into a city like the James Gang, rob the local bank, and high tail it out of town. Golf should be the last professional sport to stick it to fans. While the game has made strides to open its arms to lower-income youths, golf remains an elitist, extremely expensive sport for regular folk. Equipment is expensive, private courses are exclusive and country clubs are exclusionary. Public courses are less expensive but still expensive and crowded. Plus there's never been a professional sport more dangerously dominated by one person than golf. I can imagine network executives on their knees praying that Tiger Woods makes the cut and plays on weekends. Otherwise, TV ratings go straight into the toilet, you know, like whatever team Mattress Mack is betting on. (I joke because I love, and frankly a little scared.)

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