A QUIET PLACE

Here’s why no news is NOT good news for Watson, Texans

Here’s why no news is NOT good news for Watson, Texans
It's a nightmare and every option is awful. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The first big screen movie to feature this classic trope of Hollywood dialogue was Lucky Texan in 1934, starring John Wayne and Gabby Hayes. Many more have followed, including big box office films like Shrek, Airplane!, TheBig Chill and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

"It's quiet … a little too quiet."

That's when the monster makes its first appearance, the hero is attacked or something unexpected, usually bad, happens. Hide your eyes, squeamish fans.

That's the current situation with Deshaun Watson, his 22 accusing massage therapists, NFL commissioner's office, Houston Police Department and the Houston Texans 2021 football season. Not a peep from anybody.

Will the 25-year-old, supremely gifted quarterback accused of sexual misconduct and assault, play for the Texans, a different team, be placed on the commissioner's exempt list, face league suspension and/or a criminal charge by the Houston Police Department? If everybody listens real closely, you can almost hear the soundtrack from Jaws.

It's quiet all right, no dueling press conferences by publicity-absorbed attorneys Tony Buzbee and Rusty Harden, no additional accounts of X-rated sexual misbehavior from cross-country masseuses, no comment from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or Houston Police.

Yeah, a little too quiet. NFL training camps are around the corner. With the wheels of justice grinding extra slowly and both sides swearing they're hunkered down, there doesn't appear to be a legal conclusion to Watson's mess in sight.

If he shows up at Texans' camp and sticks on the roster, he will be paid his $10 million salary for 2021. It will be a pyrrhic victory for Watson, who clearly wants no part of the Texans. And the team, despite management's b.s., wants no part of Watson. Awkward indeed.

If he's placed on the NFL commissioner's exempt list, he won't be allowed to play, but he'll be paid his full salary. Paid leave may be a golden ticket to most people, not for a 25-year-old quarterback who just one year ago was the darling of Houston.

If he's suspended by the NFL, he won't be allowed to play and he won't be paid for however many games he's suspended. Lawyers aren't scheduled to depose Watson in the civil cases until after the 2022 Super Bowl. So the legal system won't do the NFL's dirty work.

If he avoids the commissioner's exempt list and is traded, he will play and be paid. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Eagles are Watson's most likely trade destination. Denver also appears in the mix. Enjoy the overtime work, publicity departments. If the Eagles do maneuver a trade for Watson, "Jalen Hurts" will be a complete English sentence.

If he is charged criminally by the Houston Police Department, then all bets are off. His football option may be limited to playing for the Mean Machine vs. the prison guards.

It's a nightmare and every option is awful. If the Texans find a trade partner, Houston is over a barrel and probably won't get fair value. If Watson reaches a settlement with the 22 accusing masseuses (a wise move) and HPD finds no reason to arrest him, Watson's reputation and asking price as an endorser are damaged - 22 is a big point spread to overcome.

Meanwhile the Texans are held hostage by a situation where its star quarterback is accused of serious sexual misconduct, they have a new coach and general manager, plus the owner is a doofus and his weirdo puppeteer are so disliked by fans that the team faces unsold season tickets for the first time in franchise history.

The Texans will head to camp with a veteran journeyman and third-round rookie at quarterback, an army of free agents, no J.J. Watt or DeAndre Hopkins, and most likely no Deshaun Watson.

If you want to hear quiet, too quiet, wait for the sounds of silence at NRG Stadium if the Texans get off to a bad start this season.

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It's not time to panic, yet. Composite Getty Image.

This is not a column for fanboys or sugarcoating. To this point in the season the Astros stink like rotten eggs. They stink like Angel Hernandez’s umpiring. They stink like Bill O'Brien's general manager skills. The Astros are a bad team right now. That’s notably different from being a bad team. Their 4-10 record is well-earned and it is definitely possible that the Astros’ run of high quality and annual playoff appearances crashes and burns this season. But it’s laughable to declare so after just 14 games of the 162 scheduled have been played.

Last June the Astros had a lousy window in which they went 3-10. In August they had a 4-8 funk. In September it was a 3-9 stretch of collapse. The 2022 World Series Champions had a 3-8 hiccup in April, and a 2-6 blotch overlapping July and August that included getting swept in a three-game series by the then and now awful Oakland A’s.

Now the Astros are back home (Oh No!) for six games, three vs. the Rangers then three with the Braves. The Rangers lead the American League West but are just 7-6, so despite their cellar-dwelling status, the Astros are just three and a half games out of first. A winning homestand is obviously the goal. No, really. 3-3 would be ok, even though that would just about clinch a losing record heading into May.

Mandatory aside: spectacular weather is the Friday night forecast. Stop being stubborn and lame, Astros. Open the roof! I don’t mean just for the postgame fireworks.

On the mend?

The Astros’ track record of downplaying pitching injuries that turned out to be major certainly causes angst as we await Framber Valdez’s return from a sore elbow. If Valdez ultimately winds up out for months, the Astros’ starting rotation is in deep trouble. Even more so if upon the approaching delayed start to his season, 41-year-old Justin Verlander pitches to his age in terms of results and/or durability. However, if Valdez is ok within a month and JV is solid, those two, and Cristian Javier can stabilize the rotation quite nicely.

The Astros started three guys in the last four games who belong in the minor leagues. It was a sad sign of the times that the Astros were reduced to calling up Blair Henley to make the start Monday in Arlington. Except for Rangers fans and Astros haters, it grew uncomfortable watching Henley give up four hits, walk three, record just one out, and wind up charged with seven earned runs. But it’s not Henley’s fault that he was thrust into a role for which he was utterly unqualified.

Last season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Henley’s earned run average was 5.06. Because of the crummy state of the Astros’ farm system, Henley failed up to Triple-A Sugar Land to start this season. After one not good start for the Space Cowboys, “Hey, go get out big leaguers Blair!” Henley turns 27 next month, he is not a prospect of any note. If he never again pitches in the majors Henley forever carries a 135.00 ERA.

But you know what? It was still a great day for the guy. Even if undeserved, Henley made “The Show.” For one day on the Astros’ 26-man roster, Henley made over four thousand dollars. To make him eligible for call up, the Astros first had to put Henley on their 40-man roster and sign him to a split contract. That means that until/unless the Astros release him, Henley’s AAA salary jumps from approximately $36,000 for the season to over 60K.

Lastly, while Henley’s ERA could remain 135.00 in perpetuity, at least he’s no Fred Bruckbauer. In 1961 Bruckbauer made his big league debut and bade his big league farewell in the same game. He faced four batters, giving up three earned runs on three hits and one walk. Career ERA: Infinity! Bruckbauer is the most recent of the more than a dozen pitchers to retire with the infinity ERA.

Spencer Arrighetti’s debut start went much better. For two innings, before it unraveled in a seven run Royals third. Arrighetti has good stuff, but not great stuff. Control has been an issue for him in the minor leagues. Without better command Arrighetti cannot be a plus starter in the majors.

Then there’s Hunter Brown. We could go decades without seeing another pitcher give up nine runs and 11 hits in two-thirds of an inning as Brown did Thursday. It had never happened in MLB history! To this point, Brown is an overhyped hope. ERA last July: 5.92, August: 6.23, September 1 on: 8.74. Three starts into 2024: 16.43.

Jose Abreu watch

It's still early enough in the season that even just a couple of big games can markedly improve a stat line but Jose Abreu continues to look washed up at the plate. Three hits in 37 at bats (.081 batting average), with the most recent hit a questionable official scoring decision. Manager Joe Espada has already dropped Abreu from fifth in the lineup to sixth, then seventh, then eighth. Two more slots down to go, Joe! Continuing to act like Jon Singleton could be a competent bat in the lineup is just silly though.

Catch the weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week now generally goes up after Sunday’s game (second part released Tuesday, sometimes a third part Wednesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTubewith the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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