CHARLIE PALLILO

On Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M and Alex Bregman's emergence

Alex Bregman has become a star in short order. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

NFL preseason games are done. Mercifully. If Deshaun Watson stays healthy and the Texans don’t win at least nine games, Bill O’Brien’s contract extension looks ridiculous.

The college football season is underway (yay!) with everyone chasing Alabama. It appears that again this year no Texas schools are top tier national factors, though TCU could change that if it beats Ohio State in a couple of weeks.

Major Applewhite begins his second as head coach at UH, after disappointing results in his first season on the job. Tom Herman begins his second season as head coach at UT, after disappointing results in his first season on the job.

So how will the results be scored for Jimbo Fisher’s first season on the job at Texas A&M? The Aggies paid through several noses to buy hope, in guaranteeing Jimbo a jumbo 75 million dollars over 10 years. Fisher had an outstanding run at Florida State including a national championship, but over the last three years Clemson’s program vaulted clearly past FSU’s. That Fisher inevitably restores the Ags to consistent national prominence? Nope. It’s like the Raiders paying absurd money to Jon Gruden. Maybe it works.

Nick Saban’s latest raise and extension at Alabama takes him through the 2025 season. That covers eight years of Fisher’s deal. LSU probably needs a better head coach than Ed Orgeron, but that’s an SEC West program with as many fundamentals going for it as A&M has.

It was a pressure-free debut for Fisher with a 59-7 glorified scrimmage win over Northwestern State. Next week it’s Clemson at Kyle Field, then two weeks later the Aggies are at Alabama. An Ag win in either of those and some may want to already order the Jimbo statue. It’s more likely that Fisher’s first Aggie squad produces the Kevin Sumlin special (five losses) than it flirts with a top 10 finish. 8-5, even 9-4 probably ends the Jimbo-Aggieland honeymoon. The marriage will last a while and should have ample “happily” if not “ever after.” It’s a crazy-high bar, but given the contract terms Fisher must take the Aggies to the playoff within his first five years or he won’t have been worth the money.

Bregman emerges

There is no question at this point that a season after Jose Altuve was the American League Most Valuable Player, Alex Bregman is the Most Valuable Astro of 2018.  A little over two years ago Alex Bregman began his major league career by going 0 for his first 17 at bats, and two for his first 38. Now, just those two years and change later Alex Bregman is an MVP candidate. Not a top tier candidate to win it, but a guy who should turn up on every American League ballot. The MVP ballot includes 10 spots. The only AL guys definitely better this season have been Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, and Jose Ramirez. Bregman is in the next group with Francisco Lindor, Matt Chapman, and J.D. Martinez. Bregman is younger than all those other guys.

Bregman is on pace to finish this season scoring more than 100 runs and driving in more than 100 runs. Only six different Astros have done 100/100.  Name them? Five of the six? Four? Answer below as Buzzer Beater number one. Bregman could parlay 50-plus doubles with 30 home runs. Lance Berkman is the only Astro to amass 50/30 in the same season.

Defensively, once settled in after committing too many early season errors, Bregman to the eye plays a Gold Glove level third base. The analytics suggest he has been average at best. That seems ridiculous. Maybe it isn’t, but maybe it’s proof that defensive analysis has come a long way but still has a way to go.

And the whole post-homer camera stare thing is tremendous.

Remember, the only reason the Astros have Bregman is because they clumsily failed to sign high school pitcher Brady Aiken after taking Aiken with the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. The Astros got spooked by the medical check, low balled Aiken with their offer, then just before the signing deadline jacked back up their offer to Aiken. He told the Astros to take a hike. Aiken turned down five million dollars. As compensation for not signing the first pick in the draft, the Astros were given the second pick in the 2015 draft. Hello Alex Bregman.

Aiken went 17th in 2015 to Cleveland, signing for just over two and a half mil. His minor league record is  7-18 with a 5.05 earned run average. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Aiken hasn’t pitched at all this year.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Wynn, Bagwell, Alou, Bell, Berkman, Hidalgo.  2. Man is Carlos Correa messed up at the plate right now.  3. Best college football head coaches in Texas: Bronze-Tom Herman  Silver-Jimbo Fisher Gold-Gary Patterson.

 

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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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