Here's an exciting look back at 2022 from a Houston sports perspective

Here's an exciting look back at 2022 from a Houston sports perspective
More hardware for Jeremy Peña. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
The sole survivor: Jeremy Peña home run lifts Astros to 6th straight ALCS

Every November/December, we see retrospective pieces. Sports are no different. In fact, sports may have some of the best and worst. This year, I'm throwing my version of a year in review or year-end awards. I'll do some formulaic stuff, but as always, I'll put my spin on things. Let's get started:

Eff'd Around And Found Out Award:Yankees and Phillies fans

These two groups are perhaps the worst in all of sports. They're obnoxious beyond belief, entitled, and carry themselves as if they're God's gifts to sports. So, when they called out the Astros and proceeded to get chopped down, I rejoiced over a cup of their collective tears. “WE WANT HOUSTON!” Well, you got it! Hope you liked it!

Coach of the Year:Kelvin Sampson, UH Men's Basketball

Coach Sampson has turned this program around and returned it to prominence. They went 32-6 last season, losing in the Elite 8. This season, they're 12-1, ranked third in the nation after losing their number one ranking. The future is bright because recruiting is going very well, and the transfer portal has been kind. Honorable mention to Dusty Baker.

Breakout Athlete of the Year:Jeremy Peña, Astros

When they lost Carlos Correa, people thought Peña would never be able to fill those shoes. Correa was one of the leaders in the clubhouse and was a superstar. He'd been through the wars and defended the team fiercely after the sign stealing scandal. All Peña did was win a Gold Glove, ALCS MVP, and World Series MVP…AS A ROOKIE!!! This kid established himself as a star year one on a World Series winner. Hard to top this, but he's on the right path.

Shooting Star:Dameon Pierce, Texans

A shooting star is different from a breakout star. Peña established himself as a major player on a winner. Pierce is a shooting star because he's the bright spot on a team that has potential. The Texans aren't winners now but are poised to be AFC South contenders with some key pieces in place. Pierce is one piece they already have in place. He's a tough runner who reminds me of the old school running backs that played every down and carried the load. Once they cut him loose more in the pass game, look out!

Face Turn of the Year:Cal McNair, Texans

When the story about Cal playing video games in an office with no furniture came out, it added to the “Tommy Boy” persona some had of him. As things got worse with the franchise, he was the face of the fall (outside a few key others). Grilling for fans at training camp went a long way. More importantly, fans are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They know there's a rebuild going on and are accepting, as long as there's progress being made. What that progress looks like differs from fan to fan. For now, Cal is safe. He's gone from bumbling idiot to goofy uncle with the cool 80s 'stache.

Cosmetology/Barber School Scholarship of the Year:Roof Crew at NRG

To open or to close? That is the question. The roofs at NRG and Minute Maid are always a source of contention. Fans want them opened for the full effect of a game, weather-permitting of course. I guess the old 50-80 rule is no longer in use. Minute Maid does a good job of opening their roof when it's appropriate. NRG is horrible at it. In fact, they were supposed to have it opened against the Chiefs, but they couldn't get it to open! How in the blue hell do you have a retractable roof that you use a handful of times, and it malfunctions?!? Whoever is in charge of this needs to report to cosmetology/barber school immediately! Your new career awaits!

Venue of the Year:Cobos Que

I had a friend come in town with family. His dad and uncle wanted some good Texas BBQ. Took them here, and they loved it. This was Astros party central for the World Series run. In a little over a year, it's become a Houston staple. Not only are the food and drinks top notch, but the location and atmosphere are amazing! Pre- and post-game must for any Astros, Rockets, and Dynamo games since all three teams play within blocks.

MVP of the Year:The Fans

No matter how good things got, how bad they got, or whatever else went down, the fans have showed their passion. From openly booing the Texans for being bad, to undying Astros loyalty, to still showing the baby Rockets love, and all the ranges of emotions. The fans have truly spoken. They've made watching and covering sports enjoyable. Don't believe me? Hop on a Twitter Spaces or jump in a sports group page on Facebook. Fans care and they're letting it be known. The Texans noticed the drop in sales and attendance. The Rockets have too. The Astros know they have to keep the momentum going. The Dynamo are trying to get it figured out. Fans are speaking with more than their voices. Now, their voices are louder than ever!

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Welcome back, Justin! Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will make his season debut Friday night at the Washington Nationals.

Houston manager Joe Espada made the announcement Wednesday.

“Getting him back is huge because it brings a level of confidence to our team, a boost of confidence that we’re going to get someone who’s been an MVP, a Cy Young (winner) on the mound,” Espada said. “It's (good) for the morale and to get stuff started and moving in the right direction.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner opened the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder. He made two rehabilitation starts, the first for Triple-A Sugar Land on April 7 before Saturday’s start for Double-A Corpus Christi.

Espada wouldn't say how many pitches the 41-year-old would be limited to but said they'll keep an eye on his workload.

“We've got to be careful how hard we push him early,” Espada said. “I know he’s going to want to go and stay out there and give us an opportunity to win, but we've got to be cautious of how hard we push him early in the season.”

Verlander wasn’t thrilled with the results in his rehabilitation starts, but he said Monday that those games were valuable in getting him prepared to come off the IL.

He allowed seven hits and six runs — five earned — in four innings against Frisco on Saturday. He struck out three, walked one and threw 51 of 77 pitches for strikes.

Verlander allowed six earned runs and struck out six while pitching into the fourth inning for Sugar Land on April 7.

The Astros have gotten off to a tough start with Verlander and fellow starters Framber Valdez and José Urquidy on the injured list. They enter Wednesday's games last in the AL West with a 6-13 record.

Espada hopes Verlander can be the boost the team needs to get on track.

“It’s good to get him back in the rotation,” Espada said. “With what he means to this club just to get him back on track, getting some innings from him (to) build our rotation with the pieces that we need to move forward is exciting.”

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