LOOKING AHEAD

John Granato: 28 things I want to see this football season

John Granato: 28 things I want to see this football season
A healthy Deshaun Watson would be fun to see. Tim Warner/Getty Images

1. Deshaun Watson play all 16 regular season games and every postseason game

2. Four new teams in the college football playoff

3. Odell vs Kicking Net 2 - Revenge of the Net

4. The anthem controversy go away

5. Every Herm Edwards press conference

6. Someone on the Texans not named DeAndre has 60 catches

7. Nick Saban upset on the sideline (lock of the year)

8. Johnny Manziel win the Grey Cup (longshot of the year)

9. The NRG roof open one game (zero chance of happening)

10. Lamar Miller rush for 1,000 yards

11. UH in another New Year’s Day bowl game

12. Bill Belichick explain why he didn’t play Malcolm Butler in last year’s Super Bowl

13. Andre Hal say he’s beating cancer

14. The Big 12 finish in a 9-way tie for first and have no idea how to break it thus forcing them to pick up two more teams and actually have 12 because it’s stupid to have 10 and call yourself the Big 12 (note: I say 9-way tie because there’s no way I could put Kansas in first place and keep any credibility)

15. Bill O’Brien call a pass play that picks up a first down to ice a win

16. When Bill O’Brien calls three straight Lamar Miller off-tackle runs and the Texans have to punt with 1:30 to play and a 5 point lead, the Texans defense stops someone to win the game

17. Every Longhorn has clear urine

18. Aqib Talib and Michael Crabtree scrap on the first play of the first preseason game

19. Tyrann Mathieu win comeback player of the year

20. English subtitles for every Ed Orgeron press conference

21. Malcolm Butler pick off a Brady pass in the final seconds of their playoff game and race 99 yards for the winning score which puts the Titans in the AFC Championship game against the Texans who won earlier that day

22. Deshaun Watson break the Texans single season touchdown passes record of 29 by week 10

23. The Aggies and Longhorns meet in a big bowl game

24. Nick Martin finish the season on the field

25. Bill Belichick explain why he let Malcolm Butler walk in free agency

26. J.J. Watt lead the league in sacks

27. A college football RedZone channel

28. The Astros win the World Series again























 

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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