Roster Revision

Jermaine Every: Astros tide is turning...for the better

The Astros have a great shot to win it again this year because of their roster management. mlb.com/Astros

Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced that Justin Verlander, not Dallas Keuchel, will be the Opening Day starter. Keuchel had started the previous three Opening Days for the Astros, all three were wins. Keuchel debuted with the team in 2012 and has been around for the lowest lows and the highest high of winning the World Series last season. The fact that Hinch decided to go with Verlander instead of Keuchel is a sign of a turning tide for the Astros, and I don’t care about who’s feelings were hurt because of it.

Typically when a team wins a World Series, it’s done a couple of ways. One way is the New York Yankees model. This is when the team “buys” a trophy by spending obscene amounts of money on free agents to field the best team the owner’s checkbook will allow. Given the loose salary cap structure in MLB, teams can spend as much as they want with little to no penalty. Losing draft picks by signing high dollar free agents can decimate a team’s farm system, but who cares when you can write a check and replenish your talent?

The other way to build a winner is through homegrown talent. Drafting and developing your own talent, then bringing them up from the minors while they’re still young, cheap, and under team control is another method. The Kansas City Royals won in 2015 with this formula. Now that some of those guys are up for new deals, they aren’t able to resign them out of fear of a growing payroll the likes of which smaller market teams can’t handle.

The other method is a blend of the two previous methods mentioned. The Astros have effectively employed a combo of homegrown talent, and wise free agent buys in their recent success. Trading for Verlander and Gerrit Cole, signing Charlie Morton and Josh Reddick, as well as bringing up homegrown guys like Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer helped this team win a World Series last season.

General Manager Jeff Luhnow brings a whole new meaning to roster flexibility. He’s managed to make the right moves to build a contender, all the while ensuring that the team is set up to contend for a number of years to come. The Verlander and Cole deals didn’t empty the minor league system of top talent. The free agent signings haven’t taken away draft picks. The homegrown talent is coming up for new deals, but the years are staggered and the minor leagues are filled with replacements. Luhnow has maintained roster flexibility which has allowed the team to contend for years to come.

Perhaps this is the sign of a turning tide. Teams that “buy” a World Series end up further behind the curve because their stars age under fat contracts they can’t trade away. Other teams that build a contender from within usually can’t afford to keep them together and either trade away their stars or lose them without compensation. The Astros are in a unique position to keep the train rolling. The San Francisco Giants of the early 2010s were the last team to effectively employ this strategy when they won titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. They’ve since hit a rough patch, but no one can take away their three titles. The Yankees of the late 90s/early00s had a similar strategy until they turned to throwing money at their problems.

I truly hope this team can use good roster management to ride the wave of success for at least a few more years to come. This city got its first taste of a championship winner in over twenty years. After going through Harvey, it was a much-needed respite. I really don’t give a damn about how it’s done, who gets traded, who gets resigned, or who gets let go. Enjoying sustained success has a cost. I’d rather pay it than wallow in the purgatory of mediocrity.

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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