Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: On the Texans, Astros, Rockets, NFL playoffs and protests

Jermaine Every: On the Texans, Astros, Rockets, NFL playoffs and protests
Bob McNair re-affirmed his marriage to Bill O'Brien. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Here’s my initial weekly contribution to SportsMap. Those of you that are fortunate enough to follow me on Twitter or Instagram, or fortunate enough to be a friend of mine on Facebook, know how random I can be. This is my outlet for sports takes and the like. You’re going to get a gumbo of stuff from me some weeks, and some weeks I’ll stick to my favorite sandwich. This week, gumbo it is:

Bill O’Brien extension

The Houston Texans decided to not only hire a general manager head coach Bill O’Brien likes in former Buffalo Bills V.P. of player personnel Brian Gaine, but also make sure his contract matched that of Gaine’s in length to ensure the two are tied together. Gaine was also Director of Player Personnel in his tenure with the Texans 2014-16. Team owner Bob McNair is the guy who gets married weeks after meeting that 6 he met at the club that one night when he was wearing whiskey goggles. I’m not saying O’Brien didn’t deserve some insurance, but adding four more years to the year he had left just because you gave Gaine a five year deal wasn’t smart. To say this has nothing to do with Rick Smith’s untimely leave of absence would be speculative, but this whole situation smells like a Lifetime movie.

Astros acquire Gerrit Cole

The Houston Astros acquired the services of Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates for thirty-two pounds of brisket, seventy-five sausage links, thirteen pounds of chicken fajitas and a five gallon bucket of queso (Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran and Jason Martin). Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow is heads and shoulders the best executive amongst all the major pro sports teams in the city. Not only has he won a World Series through analytics and tanking, but he’s keeping this team in title contention by not mortgaging the future. Between this deal and the one for Justin Verlander, he’s pushed his value to the franchise beyond description. Astros fans had their panties in a bunch and wedgie thinking top prospects would be sacrificed for short term rentals. Fear not Astros fans, for Luhnow is what Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey wishes he could be!

The Rockets are faltering, but fear not

The Houston Rockets have gone from leading the Western Conference to second place and four games behind their Biff Tannen, the Golden State Warriors. Despite their fall from grace, the Rockets are still three games ahead of the third place upstart Minnesota Timberwolves. G.M. Daryl Morey has done a good job by keeping the team in contention and rebuilding on the fly under the Les Alexander era. Under new owner Tilman Fertita, I expect the reigns to tighten as far as expectations are concerned, but very loose in terms of spending and doing what it takes to build a winner. I truly feel this team has what it takes to topple the Warriors and/or San Antonio Spurs if Morey can be their Doc to the team’s Marty McFly.

NFL playoffs

Great googly moogly those were some exciting games! Of course I’m clearly speaking to Sunday’s games, as Saturday’s games were sort of ho hum. The Falcons failed to do what most of us thought they should, which was kill off a snake with its fangs missing in an Eagles team sans starting quarterback Carson Wentz. The Patriots did the Titans like every older sibling has done to their younger sibling since the beginning of time. Meanwhile, on Sunday, The Jags and Steelers decided to reenact the shootout scene from the end of Scarface. But the Every-Thing Award this week goes to the dramatic ending to the Vikings/Saints game where a simple tackle would’ve advanced the Saints to the NFC Title game…but the missed tackle led to a Vikings touchdown and trip to Philly instead. I could barely finish writing the recap after watching the end of that game.

MLK Holiday

Yesterday, the country observed a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lots of people (myself excluded, by that’s another conversation) took it as another government/school/bank holiday or even more simply put “an extra day off.” Many of those who enjoyed that day off were some of the same ones who loathed NFL players for National Anthem protests, which happen to be a portion of the things Dr. King and many others have fought to protect. Protests aren’t meant to be comfortable or fit into neat little boxes. They’re meant to call attention to issues those protesting feel strongly about. Sure the pro athletes that have protested have angered and upset many, but they have the right to do so. Some may/may not like or support/not support the protests, but that’s every person’s personal choice. We’ve been fortunate enough to live in a country where we have the freedom to express ourselves without fear of persecution or retaliation due to our views. Perhaps we should spend these holidays seeing and learning about the opposite side of our views in order to better understand one another instead of enjoying “just another day off.” Then, and only then, will we ever learn to cohabitate more harmoniously.

Now look. I’m going to tell you guys like I tell my family: just because I can cook it, doesn’t mean you can request me to do so all the time. I may feel like crawfish étouffée with crab meat, or a classic shrimp poboy, or some beef stew with potatoes. The meal depends on y mood and what the store has on sale. But I can guarantee that when you sit down to eat, you’ll leave the table fat and full!

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It's go time! Composite Getty Image.

96 games down, 66 games to go as the Astros tackle a fairly significant series in Seattle to open up the figurative second half of the season Friday night. It’s actually just over 40 percent of the schedule remaining. With the Astros having closed within one game of the Mariners in the American League West it’s the biggest series possible for them as the season resumes. But it’s not remotely make or break. Measuring by run differential the Astros should already be out front. They have outscored their opponents by 49 runs while Seattle is just plus-19. The actual standings can be explained in no small part by this comparison: in one-run games the Astros are a pitiful 7-17 while the Mariners are 19-14.

The spectrum of outcomes this weekend ranges from the Astros sweeping and leaving the Emerald City two games on top, to getting swept and heading down the coast to Oakland four games behind. Of note, the Mariners beat the Astros in five of the seven meetings to date this season. So if Seattle wins this series it clinches the season series and playoff tiebreaker should a spot come down to it. The Astros and Mariners have another series to come after this one, three games in Houston the final week of the regular season.

Trade deadline looming

What may be even more important than this weekend’s games is who gets what done between now and the July 30 trade deadline. With Justin Verlander clearly not close to returning, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss both performance question marks, and both Ronel Blanco and Hunter Brown being asked to handle unprecedented workloads for them, the Astros’ rotation needs obvious fortification. The Mariners’ rotation is second to none in the American League and their bullpen is good. Seattle’s lineup is atrocious. The Chicago White Sox are on pace to be one of the worst teams of all-time. The ChiSox’ offense is a joke with a team batting average of .220. The Mariners’ team average is .219. Only the White Sox and pathetic Marlins are scoring fewer runs per game than the M’s.

The Mariners have 11 players with at least 100 at bats this season. Eight of them have an OPS of .690 or lower. Cal Raleigh has the highest at .734. The Astros have 12 guys with at least 100 at bats including Jose Abreu. Abreu, Chas McCormick, and Mauricio Dubon are the only .690 or worse OPS guys. Kyle Tucker is the Astros’ OPS leader by a significant margin, .979 to Yordan Alvarez’s .912. What’s that you ask? Who is this Kyle Tucker? 35 missed games and counting for “Tuck” with his leg bone bruise, with return not imminent. T-Mobile Park is a notably better pitchers’ park than is Minute Maid Park, but not enough to shrug off the Mariners’ offensive ineptitude. The Mariners team payroll is more than 100 million dollars below the Astros’ payroll. The Mariners have the clearly better farm system from which to deal. If Seattle doesn’t add offense, its ownership and front office will deserve a continued fade in the second half, on top of the Mariners’ 8-15 gimp into the All-Star break.

Don't forget about the Rangers

With the Astros and Mariners going at it this weekend with the division lead in the balance, a reminder that this is not a two-team race. The Texas Rangers rallying to take the final two games at Minute Maid Park last weekend sent up a flare that the reigning World Series Champions are definitely still in the picture. The Rangers sit four games behind the Astros, five back of the Mariners. If the Rangers manage to win their series in Arlington with the Orioles this weekend, they are guaranteed to gain ground on at least one team ahead of them. The Astros-Rangers season series sits tied at five wins apiece with three games left, it will be decided in Arlington the first week of August. The Rangers and Mariners play seven more times.

In broader view, as measured by opponents’ records, the Astros have the toughest remaining schedule among the three. Among the 30 big league clubs the Rangers have the fourth easiest slate left, the Mariners have the fifth easiest, the Astros have the 15th easiest. If the Astros ultimately are not to win the West, there is the Wild Card race to keep in mind. The Astros are seven games behind the Yankees, four behind the Twins, and three and a half back of the Red Sox. Those three currently hold the Wild Card spots. The Astros are also a game and a half behind the Royals. The Astros have already lost the season series and tiebreakers to the Yankees, Twins, and Royals. The Astros and Red Sox have all six of their meetings yet to come.

Remembering Ken Hoffman

This is my first column since the passing last Sunday of my friend and eventual colleague Ken Hoffman. I originally learned of Ken’s quirkiness and wit through his columns at the Houston Post. He was a big sports fan. Our friendship was driven in part by our shared passion for tennis. We played probably more than a thousand times over nearly 20 years. Tennis and baseball were Ken’s two favorite sports. His two favorite athletes were Roger Federer and Jose Altuve. Well, after he and his wife Erin’s son Andrew, who was a pitcher on Trinity University’s 2016 NCAA Division Three national championship-winning team.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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