Examining two critical factors that impacted Carlos Correa's Astros departure

Astros Carlos Correa
Correa is heading to the Twins. Composite image by Jack Brame.
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We’ve got to stop falling in love with professional athletes. They’ll break our hearts almost every time.

Over the weekend I took a glance at Astros fans reacting on Twitter to the news that, after a last-minute swirl of optimism that Carlos Correa would stay in Houston, the coveted free agent shortstop had signed with the Minnesota Twins.

“I am dead inside.”

“I’m just gonna go cry now.”

“I’m need more wine. A lot more wine.”

Ease up, Astros fans. You’re taking Correa leaving worse than Kanye West is dealing with his divorce from Kim Kardashian. Sure, Houston fans loved Correa. He was a homegrown Astro. He was Houston’s first overall pick in the 2012 draft. Made his big league debut in 2015 and helped the team establish a still-going tradition of winning that included a World Series title and two more appearances.

Pro Athletes are bad breaker-uppers. Unrequited love is tough. It hurts. It’s like the movie, He’s Just Not That Into You.

Carlos Correa left the Astros and Houston the moment he could get out of here. And for what and where?

The what is easy. Money. He turned down the Astros last and best offer of $160 million over five years. He took the Minnesota deal of $105.3 million over three years with a player opt-out seemingly every 15 minutes. Most baseball insiders think Correa is banking on having a big year in 2022, saying bye-bye Twins, and getting the 10-year, $300 million contract he originally wanted this year. He’s not buying, he’ll be renting.

The where is surprising. Correa is going from the first-place American League West team to the last-place American League Central team. He is forfeiting the respect gained by playing an entire, illustrious career with one team, like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell did. Like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Joe DiMaggio, Mariano Rivera, and Mickey Mantle. Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, Larry Fitzgerald, Chipper Jones, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.

Instead of being a hometown warrior, Correa is now a ringer, have gun with travel, a mercenary soldier.

Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodger icon, quit baseball rather than accept a trade to the hated crosstown rival New York Giants. They don’t make ‘em like Jackie Robinson anymore.

We’ve got to stop believing, “Players want to come play for Houston teams because there’s no state income tax in Texas.” OK, start naming big time free agents in their prime who’ve signed with the Astros and stayed. I’ll help you out: none.

Yeah, we know that Houston is an amazing city, supposedly the most diverse city in America (I don’t believe that, but let’s continue), we have hundreds of year-round golf courses, a terrific ballpark, incredible cuisine and a wonderful climate devoid of winter freezes, well, most years.

Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, a couple of Houston guys, both escaped the New York Yankees and signed to play with their homeboy Astros in 2004. They already had brilliant, excellent careers. I happen to think that Rocket is the greatest pitcher in baseball history. Both played three years in Houston. Both left Houston and returned to New York, Clemens to finish his career, Pettitte for six more seasons.

Carlos Javier Correa Oppenheimer was born and raised in Puerto Rico, which has a “Tropical Marine” climate. It’s always summertime and the livin’s easy. He played and lived in Houston, which has a “Humid Subtropical” climate and an indoor baseball stadium.

The scientific name for Minnesota’s climate is “Colder than a Penguin’s Pecker.” The Twins play in an outdoor stadium. Have fun gunning the ball to first with frostbitten crinkly fingers.

And get ready to write a nice fat check to the state of Minnesota. High-earning workers, even temps like Correa, pay nearly a 10-percent state income tax. That’s a lot of percent. Only four states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Oregon) have a higher state income tax.

The Twins landed Correa not because of the team’s prospects of winning, or warm climate or anything else. The Twins were willing to pay him $35 million a year on a short-term deal with early player opt-outs. Correa left the Astros and the fans that love him for an outrageously one-sided (favoring Correa) contract. He just wasn’t that into us.

Where does this leave the Astros? With the best talent in the American League, still the betting favorite to win the American League West and battle for the World Series. In recent years, the Astros lost All-Stars George Springer, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and more. Their departures were so devastating that the Astros were American League champs last year.

Sure it will be weird and a little hurtful to see Correa in a Twins uniform when Minnesota visits Minute Maid Park in late August. Just like it was practically a crime to see Hakeem Olajuwon in a Toronto Raptors jersey his final season.

Correa is gone. It was real. But life and winning will go on for the Astros and their fans

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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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