Quarterly Report

Houston's 5 most influential sports figures for the first quarter of 2019

Kelvin Sampson. Jackson Gatlin/SportsMap

Houston has no shortage of big-name superstars and top flight coaches. The Astros alone could make up a top five list. As the first quarter of 2019 winds down, here is who has had the biggest impact so far this season.

No. 5: Deshaun Watson

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The Texans disappointed in their playoff game with the Colts, but Watson did lead them to 11 wins, played a full season and should improve. He will likely get knocked off the list once the Astros are playing again, but for now, here he is.

No. 4: Alex Bregman

No, he hasn't played meaningful minute in 2019. But his new contract puts him in the elite level of Houston athletes. He is now the second highest paid Astro behind Jose Altuve, and tied for the second highest ever. It is a six-year, $100 million extension and keeps him an Astro until he turns 30. Leave it to Bregman to crash the off-season party.

No. 3 Tilman Fertitta

Fertitta CenterTilman Fertitta made the Fertitta Center a reality. Houston Cougars Men's Hoops Facebook

Fertitta is not just the Rockets owner, he is on the board at UH and and helped oversee a resurrection of men's hoops thanks to the opening of the Fertitta Center. Now if he can just get a hockey team...

No. 2 Kelvin Sampson

Kelvin Sampson has the Cougars rolling. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Kelvin Sampson's Cougars won the AAC regular season title, went 31-3 and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. No matter what happens, it has been an amazing season for the Cougars.

No. 1 James Harden

James Harden

James Harden.

A year after winning the MVP, Harden has picked up where he left off. He had an amazing scoring streak and helped carry the team through some midseason struggles. In short, he is still the man until someone knocks him off the perch.

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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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