Barry Warner: Baseball's back, and a look at the Rockets and NFL

Justin Verlander heads the best rotation in baseball. Elsa/Getty Images

Baseball is back

Excited today as Astros pitchers and catchers report. Justin Verlander spent the weekend at Pebble Beach, as the partner of Jim Crane. The righty heads the best rotation in the Majors.  This year’s Astro team is the favorite to once again go to the World Series.

What a far cry from the 100-plus loss teams of the past.

Agents like Steve Boras and AJ Hinch’s former college teammate, Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of powerful agency CAA's baseball group, are outraged at the lack of free agent movement.

The Players Association and MLB negotiated the latest Basic Agreement.  Like the NFLPA they were more concerned with the quality of life, like less two-a-days, less training camp in shoulder pads, than present days.

Yu Darvish got $126 million from Cubs in six-year deal. Chump change to previous of season contracts for top pitchers.

Want to look how dumb owners have been in the past? Check out former Yankee star Robinson Cano. Four years into his ten year and $240 million dollar deal he has yet to hit over .300.

All you need to know about the current impasse is Royals Eric Hosmer is looking for an 8 or 9-year deal.   And former Astro JD Martinez is acting like he is insulted by not getting five years, $125 million from the Red Sox as a DH.

On what planet, Mars, Venus or Uranus?

Owners and GM’s finally have awakened and come to their senses.  It’s not collusion, but rather good business in their industry.

Houston Sports Awards

Props to Patti Smith and the folks at the Houston Sports Authority for their first dinner honoring local stars. The star-studded event had the three-great number 34’s, Nolan Ryan, The Dream and Earl Campbell.

Rockets make shrewd moves

Clint Capella had career high 25 rebounds in the win over Denver.  Much of his success during the last two years goes to John Lucas.  The former No. 1 pick of the NBA draft is in charge of player development.

Dr. MIT, Rockets GM Daryl Morey, proved why he is among the shrewdest in all of pro sports.

For the first time in 11 years he sits out the trade deadline.  Then follows with the signing of vet Joe Johnson, 36, who is averaging 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He is a seven-time All-Star and has played 16 seasons in the NBA. The Rockets have been after him for years, but there was never enough cap space for Morey the Magician to make it happen.

He followed that by signing 30-year-old Brandon Wright after a buyout deal by the Grizzlies.  The Rockets will be in Minnesota going for their ninth win in a row against Jimmy Butler and the Wolves.

The NBA trading deadline was like a roller coaster.  The defacto GM of the Cavs, Le Bron James got several young guys to play with. Isiah Thomas, who never seemed to recover from hip surgery, is now a Laker.

Things got worse for the once proud Knicks, when they lost their star Kristaps Porzingis. The 7-3 star from Latvia has thrived as the team’s main man with the departure of Carmelo Anthony, averaging 22.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and a league-leading 2.4 blocks per game this season.

Some thoughts on the NFL

Which Texans would start for the Eagles?

The only offensive player would be De Andre Hopkins.

On defense, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Bernardrick McKinney and after next year linebacker Zach Cunningham will join that list.

Never met Jermaine Every, who writes an NFL column here.  But the top priority in a thin free agent market is the offensive line. Brian Gaine needs to trade up and get an experienced offensive tackle, then fill in the bottom rounds.  Andrew Norwell will be too expensive.  Do not be shocked if the Texans re-sign Xavier Su-a Filo.

Memo to Fred Faour: do NOT trade JD Clowney.  But package Will Fuller in a deal.

Bad move, Josh

Josh McDaniel’s classless pulling out of Colts gig hurt more than just his reputation.

I understand it was a family decision but last-minute decisions from man who has made so many rights calls for the Patriots... does that carry over to making the correct call for other families he had hired? Controversial Colts owner Jim Irsay agreed to pay three assistant coaches the Mc Daniels wanted, but never officially signed contracts.

Classy move.



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Another win for the Coogs! Photo by Getty Images.

The Cougars were supposed to play a game in Tampa against The University of South Florida on Jan. 14th, but this contest was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within the USF program. Houston was able to take advantage of the extra time off to rest their players and prepare for their next game against UCF.

Their previous game against the Knights in Orlando on December 26th was a close matchup which saw UCF and the Cougars tied at halftime. The second half was a back-and-fourth contest between the two teams, but Houston was able to come away with a nine point victory.

This game however was nowhere near as close and their previous meeting.

Houston immediately got off to a 12-0 start thanks to four straight 3-pointers from DeJon Jarreau (2x), Marcus Sasser & Quentin Grimes.

The Cougars continued to surge past the knights and at one point led 38-9 with 3:43 left to go in the contest.

Houston led 45-19 at halftime, their largest first half lead of the season.

The Cougars were able to maintain their commanding lead with both efficient scoring early on and elite level defense. Houston forced UCF to commit 20 turnovers that resulted in 22 points for the Cougars.

The Cougars won most of their games this season with commanding defense, dominating the boards and superior guard play. All three boxes were checked as Houston was able to secure a 75-58 victory.

UCF did outscore Houston in the second half 39-30, but the Cougars' lead proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to overcome for the Knights. Essentially, Houston was on cruse control the second half of the game and never saw their lead drop below double digits.

Grimes scored in double figures for his 11th straight game after opening the season with eight points against Lamar. Senior forward Justin Gorham scored a season high 15 points as well.

Houston has now won its fourth straight game since its loss to Tulsa and now remain in sole position of 1st place in the AAC.

The Cougars moved up from No.11 to the 8th ranked team in the country as multiple top-ranked teams suffered losses over the week.

Kelvin Sampson passed former Houston coach Tom Penders as he earned his 650th career win. This also moves him into sole possession of 41st place on the NCAA wins list. He is also the second winningest coach in Houston Cougars Men's Basketball history behind only the great Guy Lewis.

UP NEXT: Houston looks to exact revenge against the only team to defeat them this season as they host Tulsa at the Fertitta Center on Wednesday at 7pm.

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