THE PALLILOG

Here's why Astros have a different role in mind for one of their best players

Carlos Correa could be the leadoff man. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Inside three weeks to Major League Baseball opening its regular season. Yay! The Astros will do so in Oakland against the team that ended the Astros' three year grip on the American League West title, though the Astros then dispatched the A's in an American League Division Series. Both teams are of lesser quality than they were starting last season, giving some hope perhaps to the Angels. Still, the Astros and A's are the top two picks.

General Manager James Click wasn't particularly believable in saying it was purely coincidence that the Astros made a deal with free agent pitcher Jake Odorizzi shortly after Framber Valdez suffered his season jeopardizing broken finger, but it's an excellent signing on the risk/reward scale. Odorizzi turns 31 in a couple of weeks. He had his career season in 2019 with the Twins making the AL All-Star team and finishing 15-7 with a 3.51 earned run average. 2020 was a fail with only four starts, and two injuries. Neither injury was to his pitching arm. For six consecutive seasons (2014-2019) Odorizzi made at least 28 starts. He can be a valuable innings eater, and signing him for two seasons plus a cheap player option for 2023 assures the 2022 Astros of having at least one starting pitcher with at least one good full major season on his resume. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are free agents-to be. Valdez, Lance McCullers, and Jose Urquidy have a combined zero good full big league seasons.

Speaking of good full MLB seasons, Carlos Correa has exactly one on his resume. Only in 2016 did Correa stay healthy and excel. If he and the Astros don't agree on a contract extension before Opening Day, Correa has gobs of money riding on his health and performance this year. Interesting of Manager Dusty Baker to say that he's thinking of Correa as his leadoff man alternative to Myles Straw starting the post-George Springer era. Straw is the fastest Astro and it's not close. But it's baseball not a track meet. If Straw can slap out enough hits (he should be practicing bunting every darn day) and draw a decent number of walks he can be fine as a leadoff man. He was routinely overmatched and atrocious at the plate over 82 at bats in 2020, but fared a bit better over 108 at bats in 2019. Straw was a .300 hitter in the minors, as a total Punch and Judy hitter. He totaled four home runs in more than 1800 minor league at bats.

Correa represents quite the contrast. Average speed, but some tremendous power though he has yet to hit 25 homers in a season. That's not just about the injury history. In the short 2020 Correa mustered all of five homers in 58 games played before going off in the postseason.

Straw should bat 9th out of the gate. If he proves up to it, moving to the top of the order certainly becomes an option. Over the course of a full season the leadoff spot in a batting order comes up well over 100 times more than the nine hole. Going with (until/unless proven otherwise) one of your worst offensive players in the leadoff spot is simply not smart.

Another loss for the Rockets

This rotting corpse of a Rockets' season resumed Thursday night with a loss at Sacramento. The Kings are lousy as always, heading for their 15th consecutive non-playoff finish. The Rockets are worse, now 11-24 for the season. Their losing streak is 14. A Houston Rockets franchise record-tying 15th is a near certainty with them playing at Utah Friday night. The Jazz is 27-9. Presuming the highly likely outcome comes to pass, the Rockets "go" for history Sunday at home vs. the Celtics. The corpse is not being revived. General Manager Rafael Stone has until the March 25 trade deadline to get what he can for Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker, and maybe drug a colleague into taking Eric Gordon.

March Madness

More fans would prefer it the other way around, but Texas is a vastly better college basketball state than college football state these days. Baylor is a favorite to reach the Final Four. It's no pipe dream for Houston, Texas, or Texas Tech. The Bears, Cougars and Red Raiders all stunk on the gridiron in 2020, the Longhorns were their typically disappointing selves. Texas A&M is the notable exception with Jimbo Fisher having Aggie football in a way better spot than Buzz Williams has the hoop team.

Prairie View and Texas Southern could play Saturday for the SWAC Championship and automatic NCAA Tournament bid, though in the semifinals TSU has to upset Jackson State which like PV went unbeaten in conference play.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. 2021-24, who QBs more wins: Dak Prescott or Deshaun Watson?

2. David Johnson last offseason, Mark Ingram this. What RB do the Texans add next offseason, Marshall Faulk?

3. Daylight Saving Time kicks in late tomorrow night, yes! Best "Time" songs: Bronze-Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes "The Time Of My Life" Silver-Jim Croce "Time In A Bottle" Gold-SOS Band "Take Your Time"

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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