TEXANS CHANGE AT GM

John Granato: Rick Smith's personal life aside, we all still have a job to do

GM Rick Smith struggled at his job before his wife became ill. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Rick Smith’s revelation that his wife is battling breast cancer brought a wave of emotion and reaction Sunday evening. Everyone is rooting for her. Here’s to Tiffany Smith and her fight against that insidious disease.

Everyone was not as kind to Rick. One media member accused him of using his wife’s illness as a shield for being demoted and found that to be “gross,” “disgusting” and “abhorrent.” “The guy was getting demoted anyhow. The Texans and Rick are using his wife as a prop.”

This media member has also had a season-long feud with the Texans organization over having had his credential pulled. His feelings about Rick may not be tied to that fact but it’s certainly useful information.

The fact that Tiffany Smith has breast cancer is not new news. I and other media members have known about this for months. The family did not want it to be public knowledge so we kept it under wraps to honor their wishes. That was their prerogative. We, I am proud to say, acquiesced. I am not sure that would have been the case in other media markets. If it’s news you run with it in other places. The wishes of those who have been affected be damned.

After having tweeted that I and other media members  knew for a while about Tiffany’s illness, I was asked

“John, seriously, if everyone knew this behind the scenes and still added the stress of him and OB fighting... isn’t that kinda SHI__Y?”

“I would kick someone’s ass for that if I was Rick.”

First, I don’t know how many media members knew about Tiffany’s illness. Could be just a few. Could be more.

Second, I knew but I was still critical of Rick as a general manager. The two can be mutually exclusive. Rick Smith wasn’t bad at his job BECAUSE his wife was sick. Rick Smith was bad at his job AND his wife was sick. But it’s not like Rick has been working under these conditions for years.

It’s my understanding that Tiffany was diagnosed this year. His reign as GM dates back to 2006 and they’ve been a mediocre franchise over his tenure. The winning percentage bears that out. They’ve been a playoff team but they’ve also been one of the worst teams in the league a few times and a middling franchise most of all. His middle to late round picks have been putrid at times and even his famous first round picks have been less than stellar lately. His infamous tiff with O’Brien didn’t begin months ago. It’s been an ongoing topic on Kirby for some time.

Is all of this criticism harsh so soon after the revelation his wife is sick? I don’t think so.

You’ve seen Bob McNair. He’s been battling cancer for years now. Has anyone eased up on him? The onslaught after his “inmates running the prison” statement was nothing short of brutal.

O’Brien’s son turned 15 this summer. He’s battling a neurological disorder called lissencephally. Only those of you with a special needs child can understand what the O’Briens have to do day in and day out to make life as normal as possible. Have the media and fans relented because he’s got tough personal issues? No and we shouldn’t. He’s had to answer questions about his job almost daily for weeks now.

If you have personal issues at home your boss still expects you to perform. If you’re an insurance salesman and can’t sell insurance because your wife is sick, your boss will eventually find someone who can and it’ll probably be sooner rather than later.

If you can’t fix cars because you have a special needs child and it’s become a great distraction in your life, your boss will find someone who can fix cars.

My mom died of cancer last summer. I was back and forth to Chicago numerous times. I still had my show to do and commercials to sell (yep, commercials are part of the job). I got through it and I hope it wasn’t too intrusive for the listener. I’m hoping you didn’t even notice the difference.

That’s life and this is the life for Rick and Tiffany Smith now. The fact that the organization is calling it a “leave of absence” instead of his release is their business. If that’s the way the McNairs want to handle it, then so be it. They are, by all accounts, very close and fond of Rick and his family. If they want to keep paying him then they should. It’s their money. They can do what they want with it.

As for them using her illness as a “prop” I don’t believe that for one second. The media has been ripping Rick for months. He could have used the “cancer” card at any time. In fact I think it was admirable that he waited until the season was over. This team did not need more bad news. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a team with more injuries and off-field disaster and distractions than this Texans team. Rick kept it to himself for all this time but it wasn’t going to be a secret for long. If I knew about it a while ago someone was going to report it soon enough. He was able to reveal it how he wanted to and that’s a good thing.

Will he be back as Texans GM someday? Hopefully Tiffany will beat this and we can argue that point then. Godspeed Tiffany.

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The clock is ticking. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If he is indeed to become an ex-Astro George Springer can officially sign with his new team starting at four PM Houston time this Sunday. Michael Brantley the same. All free agents can sign contracts starting Sunday afternoon. If the die isn't cast that Springer is leaving, it certainly feels like his renewing vows with the Astros would be an upset.

The Astros will make Springer a 18.9 million dollar qualifying offer for 2021. He will of course reject that because contract offers of at least five years and over 100 million dollars likely await. Should Springer move on the Astros would then get a compensatory draft pick. Brantley won't get anything in close range of Springer's haul-to-be but still should at least get multiyear offers. The Astros should make the qualifying offer to Brantley (if they don't they forfeit any compensation for his departure). If they don't out of fear that he'd accept the one-year deal, the Astros would look lame. I don't think it comes to that. Losing Springer would be a huge blow on multiple levels, but if somehow they were to keep Brantley while getting back Yordan Alvarez at even 80 percent of his rookie performance level the Astros' lineup would look to be in decent shape.

With MLB's economic outlook shaky for 2021, it's unreasonable to say Jim Crane and his partners should give Springer whatever he wants. A six or seven year megadollar contract for a 31-year-old player with some durability questions on his resume is an iffy proposition. At the same time, the Astros have been quite profitable in recent years (before 2020), and Crane said over the summer the Astros were positioned to be "aggressive, whatever the market looks like." 13 million Josh Reddick dollars are off the books for 2021, 10 mil of Roberto Osuna is gone. After next year more than 57 mil of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke clear.

MLB's postseason awards will be doled out over the next couple weeks but for the first time in years the Astros don't have a credible candidate for any of the big ones (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year). The Astros do have three American League Gold Glove finalists. I think Carlos Correa wins the shortstop honor. Correa had a weak regular season at the plate but his defense was stellar, plus the two guys who divvied up the last four AL SS Gold Gloves (Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons) had down seasons and aren't finalists. Quick: name the teams of fellow finalists J.P. Crawford and Niko Goodrum. Hard to see either winning over Correa. Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker were also named top three at their positions. For the first time the finalist selections were driven entirely by stats and analytics.

Big week for the Rockets

With the Rockets settling on Stephen Silas as their new Head Coach, that hire coupled with the in house promotion of Rafael Stone to General Manager makes it appear as though owner Tilman Fertitta is doing more things on the cheap. The NBA economic environment is challenging and huge portions of the rest of Fertitta's portfolio are submerged in a COVID-driven bloodbath. Silas has paid his dues for a good while and most recently worked under the outstanding Rick Carlisle in Dallas. He has earned a lead chair opportunity. But with no prior head coaching experience and no bidding war for his services, Silas signs on at a much lower rate than, say, Jeff Van Gundy would have commanded. Former head coaches (and former Rockets' player rivals of the 90s) Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan would make for two strong Silas assistants. From their playing days if you combined Hornacek's offense and McMillan's defense into one player you'd have one of the top 20 or so greatest guards in NBA history.

Silas and Stone take the reins at a challenging time for the Rockets with their messy salary cap sheet, reduced draft capital, and one of the oldest core player groups in the league. Polite public statements aside, it's part of why Daryl Morey left. Maybe Mike D'Antoni too though that seemed more about feeling disrespected by the lack of a contract extension before this past season. D'Antoni may have overplayed his hand since he did not get fill any of the coaching vacancies elsewhere in the NBA. Only Oklahoma City remains open, and D'Antoni has gotten no run there.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It seems sadly appropriate that the first meaningful positive in the Texans' 2020 season came in form of a COVID test result.

2. If we all commit to getting through it together, I think we can get by without a Texans' game this weekend. Remember, it's their open week, not a bye!

3. One hit wonder goodbye songs: Bronze-Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun" Silver-Norman Greenbaum "Spirit In The Sky" Gold-Steam "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

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