Every-Thing Sports

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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The 2022 regular season is nearing its end and while for the Houston Astros the true test will begin in the postseason, now is a good time to look ahead at what the team’s starting rotation could look like in 2023.

The big question will be whether long-time ace Justin Verlander returns to the team. Heading into 2022, there was doubt whether he would even be with the Astros coming off Tommy John surgery. Verlander re-signed with Houston on a two-year deal with a player option for 2023.

His production in 2022 has been nothing short of sensational. Verlander has the most wins for the Astros with a week left in the season. He has a 1.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 5.2 wins above replacement. More importantly for both Verlander and the Astros, is that he has played in 26 games and counting this season.

Whether Verlander remains with the Astros will likely depend on whether Houston is willing to spend. It is highly likely Verlander opts out of his player option following the strong 2022 campaign he has put together and looks for a bigger payday. Houston has shown it is not afraid to let key players walk in the offseason, so let’s take a look at a potential rotation with and without Verlander.

If the 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, stays with the Astros, he will undoubtedly be either the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in the rotation along with Framber Valdez, who is right behind Verlander in wins this season at 16. If Verlander leaves, Valdez should be the new Astros ace at No. 1.

Behind those two should be pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who in seven games in 2022 has a 2.38 ERA and has cooled the concerns about his right flexor tendon strain being a long-term concern. He suffered the injury last postseason.

After those three, things begin to get interesting. Let’s say Houston opts to stay with a six-man rotation. The fourth starter could be Luis Garcia, who has a 3.90 ERA in 2022. The 25-year-old has shown he is more than a capable starter for the Astros.

The big question is if Hunter Brown can lock himself a spot in the rotation. Numbers wise, he makes a solid case to be more than Houston’s fifth starter as he has garnered 1.13 ERA through four appearances and two starts.

Brown’s starts have been against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, so there is a bit of a caveat there, but the upside undoubtedly should put him in the conversation for a starting role in 2023.

If Verlander leaves Houston, it should be more of a guarantee that a spot in the rotation as a starter for Brown is locked. Another factor in whether Brown is a starter could be if the Astros keep Dusty Baker as manager. Baker has shown at times he is willing to side with veterans over younger talent.

Other factors in Brown’s role will also be Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. Urquidy has a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, all of which have been starts. Javier has a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances, 24 of which have been starts.

Javier’s role for the Astros the last couple of years has involved starting and coming out of the bullpen, but this season he has shown that he is a capable starter. Based on this season’s play, Javier should have the edge for a starting spot, which leaves the question, what should the Astros do with Urquidy?

If Verlander walks, and Houston opts to keep a six-man rotation, then he just slides in and becomes starter No. 6. If Verlander stays, then is he willing to accept a role out of the bullpen, or do the Astros continue to use Brown out of the bullpen? Over the course of the season, both Brown and Urquidy will undoubtedly have chances to start throughout 2023.

Because of the long grind of an MLB schedule, the Astros should not trade whoever doesn’t get a starting role if Verlander stays, but how likely is it that it is even a problem for Houston? Regardless of who leaves or stays, the Astros should also continue with a six-man rotation because over the course of 162 games, it is what is best for your starters.

If the Astros bring back general manager James Click, based on how the Astros have seen players like George Springer and Carlos Correa walk in the past under his leadership, it is likely Verlander leaves Houston, but at the same time, many didn’t believe he was going to be back at all for 2022.

One thing is for sure, the Astros have a great problem to have. So many starting pitcher candidates, many of whom can be under team control for several years. So even if Verlander walks, an unforeseen injury happens, or a player ends up being disgruntled, Houston has more than enough flexibility to remain among the American Leagues’s best.

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