FIXING THE PROBLEMS

Lance Zierlein: Texans need a lot of work to repair the damage

Lance Zierlein: Texans need a lot of work to repair the damage
Bob McNair needs to take his car to the shop. Now. Bob Levey/Getty Images

For all of us who drive, one of the worst feeling in the world is when your car doesn’t start. Obviously it’s not a good thing because you can’t get to where you want to go, but the scariest part is not knowing how bad the issue is and how expensive the fix is going to be.

Some of the worst issues with the car can be taking place even while the car is able to run. It is slowly deteriorating and the price of repair is mounting with every few times you drive. That’s the silent killer. Sure, your car issues might be as simple as a replacing the battery, but it could be much worse and much more expensive. You don’t know until you get it into the shop.

Under Drayton McLane, the Astros were a solid vehicle that ran fairly well for years, but he stopped changing the oil, starting grinding the gears and didn’t bring the Astros in when he saw the check engine light. The result? He ruined the car. He ran it into the ground. The price of repair was so costly that it made more sense to get a new car which is what the Astros had to do with their 100-loss seasons and their early round draft picks. They have a new owner that is taking care of the car so far. All is well.

Bob McNair’s car

The Houston Texans aren’t broken, but they aren’t running well and they could do substantial damage if they don’t bring it in for repairs during free agency and the draft. Their air conditioning (secondary) used to work fine, but it’s getting old and running out of freon (talent) and needs to all new parts. The tires (offensive line) were low quality to begin with and now they are completely worn and provide no traction. Oh, and they need another tight end.

Free agency is a chance to make quick fixes to your issues as a team. Sometimes they can be long-term fixes like when Johnathan Joseph was signed in 2011. Some of the fixes are short-term like with Danieal Manning from 2011. And of course, some fixes simply don’t work at all like with Jeff Allen and Ahman Green. This year, the free agent market isn’t great and it’s looking more and more like the Texans opportunity to fix their problems may be nothing more than patchwork options until they can get new talent drafted over the next couple of seasons.

Free agent opportunities

The Texans must sign an offensive lineman and they must sign someone in the secondary. We all know they have overwhelming needs at guard, tackle, cornerback and safety. Signing a guard and/or tackle is a must. They don’t have a first or second round pick so the opportunity to get a good offensive tackle who is ready to play early on is slim. The Texans could choose to sign Nate Solder away from the Patriots, but keep in mind that he’s a band-aid option and an expensive one.

Adding a guard via free agency is a possibility, but with three picks in the third round (they will get a third third rounder with a compensatory pick for A.J. Bouye), the Texans should be able to find a capable guard who has a chance to step in and start right away. Now I’m not saying one tackle and one guard is all it takes. They need at least one tackle and one guard. They could sign Andrew Norvell or even Josh Sitton who was cut by the Bears and still draft a guard.

In the secondary, Johnathan Joseph is done, Kareem Jackson is on his last legs and may need to try a move to safety to extend his career, and Kevin Johnson was largely disappointing last season. The Texans must sign a free agent like Malcolm Butler to give their secondary a fighting chance in coverage. And while signing a cornerback should be mandatory, so should drafting one -- or two. Safety is a need, but if you do a good job of evaluating, making a splashy signing or draft pick isn’t necessary to find help.

The Astros and the Rockets seem to be running like brand new models. The Texans better get their repairs made quickly to keep up with the rest of the teams in the neighborhood.

 

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More changes are coming in MLB. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.

Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.

The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.

“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”

With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.

“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”

Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.

A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.

MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.

“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”

Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.

Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.

“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”

While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.

“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”

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