The Pallilog

Astros increase their wow factor by dealing for Greinke

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

Zack Greinke, Houston Astro. Zack Greinke, Houston Astro! Imagine that the Texans had a General Manager capable of Jeff Luhnow's work quality. Or, just imagine that the Texans had a General Manager.

A la the Justin Verlander acquisition two years ago, Luhnow again struck like a cobra just before the trade deadline, dealing for the Diamondbacks' ace to give the Astros a Verlander-Gerrit Cole-Greinke 1-2-3 starting pitching punch that is unmatched in the Major Leagues. Add in Wade Miley and it's the best 1-2-3-4 punch.

The rest of the American League postseason contenders aren't going to cancel the rest of their seasons. Any of them can beat the Astros in a three out of five or four out of seven playoff series. It's simply how baseball works. But man has those other contenders' task gotten tougher.

The 1971 Orioles had four 20 game winners. And lost the World Series. For years the Atlanta Braves had a future Hall of Fame starting pitching trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. They won one World Series, and over their last seven seasons together, reached only one other World Series, and got swept in it. The 2010 Phillies had Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, then traded for Roy Oswalt from the Astros. They lost the National League Championship Series. The next year they added another stud in Cliff Lee, won 102 games, and lost in the Division Series.

Postseason baseball results aren't random but chance plays a role and the truly better team doesn't always win a series. The better team within a series wins a series. The job of a General Manager is to plausibly build a team with the best chance of competing to win it all. Luhnow has done that. Again.

Greinke is signed for two more seasons. So is Verlander. What about free agents-to be Cole and Miley? I wouldn't fret about them until after the season. But know that keeping both would have the Astros 2020 payroll ballooning toward 250 million dollars. Incredible.

When Jim Crane and his partners bought the Astros and gutted the payroll to about 25 mil, Crane said when the time was right the Astros would carry a payroll somewhere from fifth to tenth among the 30 franchises. He couldn't have walked the walk any straighter in support of the talk he talked. The Astros were top 10 in payroll last year, are again this year, and next season could wind up with the biggest payroll in all of Major League Baseball. Incredible.

The Astros acquired Greinke for his pitching talent, but every little positive piece makes for a better puzzle. Greinke is a five time Gold Glove winner. He's an excellent hitting pitcher. Good enough that if the Astros indeed reach their second World Series in three years it will make sense to slot Greinke to start in the National League park. So if the Astros meet the Dodgers with L.A. having homefield advantage, Greinke should go in game two and then in a possible game six. If the Astros have homefield, Greinke should go in game three, which then means the start in a decisive game seven.

Texans should make moves

Of course the Texans should be inquiring about a trade for holdout Washington left tackle Trent Williams. Until proven otherwise the Texans' offensive line still stinks. It does not excite that first round draft pick Tytus Howard seems to be slotted at left guard. That means incumbent Julie'n Davenport (regularly overmatched last season) or Matt Kalil (played zero football last season) at left tackle. Williams has his own question marks (two substance abuse suspensions, six games missed to injury in 2017, three in 2018) but the 31 year old would be a serious talent upgrade. If Washington decides its Williams impasse is unsalvageable, the Texans should negotiate from an offer of a third round pick for him. The Texans have salary cap space galore to take on Williams's roughly 11 million dollar contract for 2019. Next year he's due 12.75 million. Williams wants a new contract with a lot more guaranteed money. The Texans shouldn't go there. Watch the Patriots trade for him.

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon has asked for a trade. He's evidently upset the Chargers have offered him only 10 million dollars per year. Gordon is two years younger and certainly better than Lamar Miller. Both are in the final years of contracts. If you'd be willing to lavish millions upon Gordon, and willing to deal Miller and a 2nd round pick for him the Chargers would have to at least listen.

I'm sure the Texans' GM is kicking the tires on this stuff. Well…

Buzzer Beaters

1. In Astros' history, at the time of the deal the Randy Johnson trade still had the biggest WOW! factor. 2. It's still quite a WOW! to drop the Rockets getting Russell Westbrook to number two on the July Houston sports WOW-O-METER. 3. Greatest players ever traded (greatness at time traded): Bronze-Alex Rodriguez Silver-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Gold-Wayne Gretzky

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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