How Correa dilemma feels like Houston sports history repeating itself

Pay this man! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Back in September of the 2009 NFL season, Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson was angling for a new contract. The team frachise tagged him instead of negotiating a long-term deal when they couldn't come to terms. Robinson held out all of training camp amid the dispute. Rick Smith, the then general manager, was called to task with Robinson's infamous "PAY ME RICK" stitched on the back of his cleats before the opening game against the Jets. They went on to lose that game 24-7, went 8-8 that season, and Robinson signed with the Falcons in that offseason.

Fast forward 12 years, and the Astros' Carlos Correa is in the same position, as is Astros general manager James Click. After turning down a reported six year/$120 million dollar deal, Correa also turned down a five year/$125 million dollar deal as well. He's supposedly seeking a big dollar, long-term deal such as the ones fellow shortstops Fernando Tatis Jr. (14 year/$340 million dollars) and Francisco Lindor (10 years/$341 million dollars) received recently. Like most athletes in a contract year, Correa is performing at a high level. He's hitting .296 with 14 homers, 40 RBI, and 51 runs scored. Along with his impressive batting stats, he's sporting a .984 fielding percentage and has been healthy all season.

Correa will be 27 in September. Signing him to a 10-year deal wouldn't be as bad as one would think. However, it makes better business sense to sign him to a shorter term deal considering his injury history. Correa and his team are looking for security and money. Anything eight years or more worth upwards of $25-30 million dollars a year would be ideal for them in my opinion. Click hasn't been a general manager for very long and is facing a tough decision. Owner Jim Crane may be looking at his payroll and decide against offering Correa the kind of deal he's looking for, especially when one thinks of the money he's paying Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve. On the flip side, Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander are most likely both coming off the books after this season. If neither, or only one is brought back, that could open a salary spot for Correa.

The true tell will be what he's offered on the open market. Teams like the Yankees, who have a need at shortstop, will always be in position to outbid the Astros. There will be a couple other shortstops hitting the market as well who are just as good as Correa. So far, Correa has bet on himself. If you ask me, he's winning. If he keeps this up, he'll definitely get paid this offseason. Whether it's the Astros or another team is still in question.

Personally speaking, they should pay him. He's been the face of the team following the cheating scandal. His performance in the playoffs last season was remarkable. He's staying healthy, so far, and is performing at an All-Star level. Not often do you get a guy at his age, playing this good, at a key position. If you bring back Verlander at a cheaper salary, let Greinke walk, and offer Correa a competitive deal, the window could stay open a bit longer than most expect. At the rate he's going, Correa may be pricing himself out of Houston. If he stays healthy and keeps performing, Correa's own words will come back to haunt the Astros for not paying him: "What are they gonna say now?"

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The Astros play Game 1 of the ALDS Tuesday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With a nod to Charles Dickens, October is the best of times (Astros) and the worst of times (Texans and Rockets) for Houston sports fans. At least this October.

October is the one month when all three of Houston’s major sports teams are guaranteed to be in full swing at the same time. It’s possible, if the Astros make the World Series that November will have all three teams in action, too. But let’s not jinx things.

The Astros start their playoff run Tuesday on TBS. Since the Yankees also play that day, also on TBS, we can assume the Astros will get the daytime slot, the Yankees in prime time. Now before Astros fans start screaming east coast bias, it really only applies to TV. Fun fact: no New York Met has ever won an MVP Award, and only one Yankee has won it in the past 37 years – Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007. How’d that work out for him? Most important, a New York team has won the World Series only once in the past two decades – the Yankees in 2009.

The Astros could play as many as 15 more games in October, five in the Division Series, seven in the League Championship Series and three in the World Series before the calendar flips to November.

Meanwhile, the Texans plod on with three more games in October, and the Rockets have 11.

The winless Texans are at home against the Titans at NRG Stadium, on the road against the Jaguars and Raiders.

The Rockets, coming off the worst record in the NBA last season, have three games at home at Toyota Center and eight on the road.

This presents a problem of abundance, an embarrassment of riches, for Houston sports junkies. Who are you going to watch on TV? Which team will you pay to watch in person? Who are you rooting for the most? Whose jersey will you buy?

David Puddy is right, you “gotta support the team,” but who will own Houston this month?

What to do? If it’s true that nothing succeeds like success, and everybody loves a winner – it’s an obvious choice.

The Astros.

The Astros just completed their regular season with 106 wins, second most in franchise history, another American League West title, the best record in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Even though fans had high hopes for the Astros entering 2022, the team smashed everybody’s expectations. Vegas put the Astros over/under wins at 92 games. The Astros seemingly flew by that number during spring training.

They are the first team in American League history to win 100 games in four of their last five full seasons. Not even Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s did that. This core of Astros has won five of the last six American League West titles. They’ve played in three of the last five World Series. This is a dynasty right before our eyes. We’re witness to greatness. How ‘bout them Astros?

What a season it was. Who could have figured that 39-year-old Justin Verlander, out of action for two seasons after Tommy John surgery, would have a career year, a ridiculously skinny earned run average and the overwhelming pick for the Cy Young Award? Jose Altuve would return to a .300 batting average, Cristian Javier would lead the team in strikeouts, Yordan Alvarez would finish No. 2 between Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in OPS, and rookie Jeremy Pena would slug 22 home runs, the same number as Carlos Correa? Remember last offseason and cries of “pay the man!” Some of a team’s best deals are the ones they don’t make.

Strap yourself in for an October to remember. The storylines are endless. There’s bad blood between the Astros and the Yankees, between the Astros and Dodgers, between the Astros and boo birds in every stadium not named Minute Maid Park.

It’s going to be fun.

As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson returns to action Nov. 4 against the Texans here at NRG Stadium. And we’ll catch up with the Rockets when the NBA season starts for real on Christmas Day. But until then … play ball!

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