The Pallilog

Astros continue to dominate the Houston sports landscape with Bregman signing (plus some other stuff, including UH and the Rockets)

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Given their overall stature as organizations within their sports, it seems appropriate that the Astros' biggest contract news this week was striking a five year extension with Alex Bregman, while the Texans' biggest move was signing backup quarterback A.J. McCarron. Hey, McCarron is a notable upgrade over Brandon Weeden! Though if DeShaun Watson goes down with a major injury they are still Texans Toast.

The Astros get cost certainty, and a relative bargain if Bregman is to be one of the great stars of the game well into the next decade. If Bregman is indeed to be a long-term stud he'd have made more money going year to year over the next four seasons until free agency beckoned. Hedging his bet is without question a smart play when the hedge makes Bregman a centillionaire. Pre-Uncle Sam's cut anyway.

Bregman at six years $100 million seems downright cheap relative to Jose Altuve's five year 151.5 mil extension kicking in next season. Carlos Correa must have some interesting unspoken thoughts.

UH in the tourney

21 times in 34 years of the 64 team NCAA Tournament bracket a 14 seed has shocked a three seed in the first round. Hence, the Houston Cougars are not an automatic over Georgia State. In 2015 the Panthers (Ga. St.) were a 14 when they took down Baylor. This season's GSU squad ranks in the top 15 in the nation in three point shooting percentage. But their numbers were primarily accrued vs. Sun Belt Conference competition. The UH defense is strongest on the perimeter and should choke off Georgia State's strength. The Iowa State-Ohio State winner should be next on Sunday. The Cyclones would pose a serious challenge Sunday, with the Buckeyes no joke if good enough to take out ISU.

While at Oklahoma, Kelvin Sampson twice had fourth seeded Sooner teams seeded lose to 13 seeds. And took a two seeded team to the Final Four.

Loss hurts Rockets goals

Down to 10 regular season games left for the Rockets heading into their game with the Spurs Friday night. Coming back from 19 points down in the 4th quarter at Memphis only to lose in overtime was a waste of time, having Chris Paul play over 41 minutes was not good, and the L basically snuffed out the slim in the slim and none chance of catching Golden State for the top seed in the Western Conference. Denver is the probable number two seed, though the Nuggets have a much harder finishing schedule than do the Rockets. If the Nuggets go 6-6 to close, the Rockets have to go 9-1. Portland is tied with Houston in the loss column, has a favorable schedule, and owns the tiebreaker over the Rockets. Meaning: the Rockets dropping to fourth is a distinct possibility.

HOF next for Ichiro, but he is no Biggio

After playing in the Seattle Mariners' two regular season opening games in Tokyo, Ichiro Suzuki officially retired Thursday. He can safely start working on a Hall of Fame induction speech for 2025 in Cooperstown. A tremendous player who didn't come to North America until he was 27 years old, Ichiro racked up at least 206 hits in each of his first 10 Major League seasons and finished with 3089 good for 23rd all-time, until Albert Pujols passes him this season. He was a spectacular right fielder with a throwing arm that rates with the greatest the game has seen from Roberto Clemente on down the line.

On the radio show Thursday I addressed Ichiro as overrated by those who rate him one of the great offensive players ever. Context matters. I noted that Craig Biggio's peak offensive years were better than Ichiro's best. Boy did that draw some blowback in emails, tweets, and on-air from bi-weekly guest/CultureMap.com featured columnist/baseball dilettante Ken Hoffman.

Ichiro was a magnificent singles-slapping machine. In 2004 he racked up 262 hits to break a Major League record that had stood for more than 80 years. However, on-base percentage is a more valuable statistical measurement than batting average. In 2004 Ichiro hit .372, with an OBP of .414. In 1997 Biggio's OBP was .415 (while batting .309). Despite Ichiro having a career batting average edge of .311 to .281, Biggio's career on-base percentage of .363 tops Ichiro's .355.

Biggio also hit with notably more power. Ichiro one time reached 15 homers in a season. Biggio hit 20+ eight times, four of those when the Astrodome was his home ballpark. Ichiro topped 30 doubles twice with a season high of 34. Biggio topped 40 six times including two seasons over 50.

Over their best 10 year stretch, best five year stretch, or single best season, Craig Biggio was a greater offensive player than Ichiro. Not a better pure hitter, but a better offensive player.

Buzzer Beaters

1. As Charles Barkley's book was titled: "I May Be Wrong, but I Doubt It." 2. Murray State's Ja Morant is the most compelling college guard since Stephen Curry. 3. Best ever in-game dunkers: Bronze-Michael Jordan Silver-Dominique Wilkins Gold-Vince Carter

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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