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Here's why trusting Nick Caserio to push the right buttons for Texans is complicated

We're going to learn a lot about Caserio in the coming weeks. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Many times when a franchise is in serious flux, it's because of a few reasons: an all-time great has retired leaving the team looking for that person's replacement, one or several key players have suffered serious/career-threatening injuries, or said player is getting ready to retire. Rarely is it the case the Texans are dealing with in which a player like Deshaun Watson (their 25-year-old franchise quarterback) is allegedly demanding to be traded.

Nick Caserio undoubtedly took the Texans general manager job thinking he had a franchise quarterback in the fold and re-signed to an extension. However, he quickly found out that wasn't the case. As the Watson drama continues to drag out, Caserio is also faced with the difficulty of reshaping a roster with salary cap issues that's more mangled than a hand caught in a garbage disposal.

Every day, we're watching the headlines waiting for the next shoe to drop. Will Fuller wasn't franchise tagged, so he'll be a free agent. Nick Martin was released, along with a few others. The house cleaning needs to continue. When David Johnson was brought back into the fold, I was a bit shocked. His deal will pay him anywhere from $4.25-6 million, but that money could've been better spent somewhere else. Which begs the question: can we trust Caserio to push all the right buttons to bring this franchise back to being a playoff contender?

The Easterby factor

Some will say they don't trust him to do what's right because he's a first time general manager who's in the back pocket of Jack Easterby. Caserio spent two decades in New England learning what to do, and not do, from Bill Belichick. Easterby plucked him from that situation because he knew Caserio would owe him if he got the job. Given that Easterby did so and apparently has ambitions to run a football team, one would think Caserio would be totally beholden to Easterby's desires and let him make decisions. Looking back at the moves Bill O'Brien made with Easterby in his ear, we see this isn't the most wise thing to do.

On the flip side, I think Caserio will do well. Despite the Watson drama, I expect him to come out smelling like roses. He's already taken the "we're not trading the player" approach. All the leaks about Watson's demands appear to be coming from his camp and not off Kirby. Taking this approach will not only create mystery, but it'll also drive up the price. I love how he's getting rid of the dead weight as well. Being in cap hell isn't easy, but I think he's doing the best he can given the situation. As I mentioned previously, he spent 20 or so years in New England learning under Belichick. That type of experience is unmatched. Some will say he didn't make any major decisions there. I'd counter that by saying he absorbed enough knowledge to know what he'd do differently if given the chance.

Ultimately, I think Caserio will right this ship. I also think he'll get a great haul for Watson if he trades him. He hasn't done anything too terrible yet to say he's worse than any previous regime, although re-signing Johnson was quite puzzling. Trading Watson and what he makes of those draft picks will define his legacy here. I think he will do okay. Will he hit homers on every pick? No, no one ever does. But will he make the right moves and put this team back together and into playoff contention? I believe so, and it'll happen within the next two years. Mark my words.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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