Charlie Pallilo: Astros should have lofty goals for 2018 season

Can the Astros host another parade? Other big goals remain as well. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Here’s to baseball season. Especially when we have a team this good to watch for the next six-plus months. Monday night should be glorious as the Astros wave their World Series Champions flag before the home opener.

One down, 107 to go. My lofty goal for the 2018 Astros is 108 wins. That would mean winning two out of every three for the season. That is a rare stamp of greatness in Major League Baseball. Since the regular season schedule expanded to 162 games in 1961 only seven teams have won 108. Of course winning the World Series again is the ultimate objective, but in the Wild Card era a merely pretty good team can win the World Series. No pretty good team can win 108 games. The Astros start this season with a better roster than they had last year when they torched MLB enroute to a 42-16 start and 101 wins overall. It’s been 17 years since a team won 108. The Seattle Mariners won 116 in 2001, then didn’t reach the World Series. The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since.

One down, 24 to go. Here’s another extremely lofty (but not insanely so) bar for this season: Justin Verlander, 25 game winner. No pitcher has won 25 games in a season since Bob Welch won 27 for Oakland in 1990 (nevertheless Roger Clemens got shafted out of the AL Cy Young Award that year). Verlander is 35 years old, but he’s tremendous, tremendously durable (200+ innings pitched 11 of the last 12 seasons), and has a tremendous offense supporting him. The last pitcher to win 24 in a season: Justin Verlander when he won both AL Cy Young and MVP honors in 2011. Verlander is 11 wins shy of 200 for his career. He should cruise through that plateau. Add a second Cy Young Award (he’s also finished second twice and third once) and Verlander about cements a future plaque for himself in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And if all that’s not enough, I hear his wife is reasonably attractive.

In 2011 the Rangers came as close to winning a World Series as a team can come without actually winning it. In the 9th and 10th innings of game 6 they were one strike away against the Cardinals. Twice the Cardinals rallied, winning that game and then game 7 leaving the Rangers excruciatingly short of becoming the first Texas team to win it all. The Astros will forever hold that distinction over them. The Rangers had a fine run making the playoffs five out of seven seasons from 2010-2016. But that run is done. They weren’t good last year, and unless they are a huge surprise they won’t be good this year. The Rangers do not field a single player you’d take over his Astro counterpart for this season. After ace Cole Hamels the Rangers’ starting pitching rotation is a borderline laughingstock. The Astros have seven different starters who would rank at least second best if moved north.

Rockets are so good it’s boring

The Rockets are boring right now. Boringly brilliant. They win virtually every game they play, typically they win easily, and now don’t play a game with any meaning until the playoffs start in two weeks. Their latest double digit winning streak gives them three of them on the season. That obviously guarantees nothing in the postseason, in fact only two of the five previous teams to win 10+ in a row three times within a season went on to win the NBA Championship that same season.

Final Four, Texas style

San Antonio might not play host to many playoff games this spring, but has the Final Four this weekend. The delightful Loyola of Chicago story gets at least one more chapter as the Ramblers play Michigan before Villanova meets Kansas Saturday night. The NBA Bulls and NHL Blackhawks both stink like rotten eggs this season, so the Ramblers are the toast of the Second City right now. A school that doesn’t even have its games on the radio.

Hall pass

The Final Four is the annual site for the announcement of the year’s Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class. For another year, Rudy Tomjanovich doesn’t make the cut. It’s an ongoing bad joke that he can be considered as a player (not-worthy) OR as a coach (worthy), but not for the totality of his basketball career (obviously worthy). It’s especially idiotic given there is a “contributor” category “for significant contributions to the game of basketball.” Dick Vitale is in the Hall. Former Comets coach Van Chancellor is in the Hall. John Calipari is in the Hall. Rudy T., nope.

Buzzer Beaters

1. It may be true that literally nobody with a working brain thinks the Astros won’t win the AL West   2. If healthy all season Giancarlo Stanton could make a run at 70 homers 3. Best berry competition: Bronze-black  Silver-blue Gold-Halle

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Here's what Davante Adams' big day against the Texans really proved

Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Seven weeks into the season, Bradley Roby has been the sole bright spot playing for a secondary that has been subpar at best. He entered Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers trailing only Eric Murray for the most tackles as a defensive back, while owning the Houston Texans' only interception of the season.

During his media availability on Thursday, Roby spoke about having the Texans' confidence to trust him as the primary defender shadowing the opposing team's best receiver.

And with Davante Adams coming to NRG Stadium with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Roby had an opportunity to illustrate why Houston's coaching staff have so much faith in him.

Three plays into the game, Roby sustained a knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the afternoon. In his absence, the Texans felt his importance competing with a depleted secondary.

Adams would go on to have a career day against the Texans. He recorded a career-best 196 receiving yards on 13-of-18 targets and two touchdowns — as the Packers handed the Texans a 35-20 loss on Sunday.

Had the Fort Worth native avoided the injury, would it have resulted in a victory for the Texans? Perhaps not. It is always hard for a team to come away victorious after going scoreless during the first half, but Roby would have limited the destruction caused by Adams. Rogers completed four deep passes where he recorded 28 or more yards, with Adams being the recipient of three.

Not only did Houston have to deal with the effects of not having their best corner shadow one of the league's premier receivers, but the team was not prepared to battle without Roby, according to Michael Thomas following the loss.

"When you lose your starting corner like that, it's going to affect [the team]," Thomas said. "Anytime you have to make adjustments. If you're not prepared, and you don't have the right mindset, then you're probably not going to get the right results you want. Maybe we could have done it a little sooner, but you definitely miss a guy like Roby. You plan on having your number one guy go against their number one guy all the time."

Roby's premature exit left the Texans with a gaping void to slowdown Rodgers and the Packers without two of their projected starting corners. Gareon Conley — who revived his career during the second half of last season — has yet to play a single snap for Houston in 2020 as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery.

Their lackluster performance on Sunday showcased the lack of depth and talent the Texans have in the secondary. And with the trade deadline a week away, it may be in the Texans' best interest to invest in a young defensive back they can build around in the future — especially considering the timetable on Conley's return remains unknown.

Interim head coach Romeo Crennel said on Monday that the team is hoping Roby's injury is short-term and hopes to have their top corner make his return following the bye.

At 1-6 on the year, all the Texans have left to play for is pride as they close out the remaining nine games of the season, and the best way is to prevent another receiver from recording nearly 200 yards in a single game.

For this vulnerable secondary, it is a feat easier said than done. And with the talents of Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton, and A.J. Brown remaining on the schedule, it is only best for Roby to make his return to the field sooner rather than later.

"I take pride in it. It's an opportunity that not a lot of guys get throughout the league, and I'm thankful for that. Just to be able to go against the best and try my best for the team and see how I match up. I'm very thankful for that." — Roby.

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