The Pallilog

No, Cooks is no Hopkins, but on its own, Texans make a decent trade

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Caveat ahead of the rest of this column: So much is trivial relative to the life and death and other critical Covid-19 pandemic issues, but sports matter as passions of so many, as multi-billion dollar businesses with impact on many other businesses, and beyond. All things in context.

The Texans acquisition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams doesn't undo the dim-bulbness of the DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals deal, but Bill O'Brien made a reasonable though hardly risk-free deal in getting Cooks. It nets out that basically Emperor O dealt Hopkins for Cooks, running back David Johnson, and a 17 slot move up in the 2nd round. That's not a good exchange for the Texans, but not as bad as the Hopkins trade by itself.

It is amusing that Cooks is in the middle of a five year 81 million dollar contract, the exact length and dollar figures of the Hopkins contract O'Brien chose to unload. Cooks makes eight million in 2020, then has zero remaining guaranteed dollars left over the remaining three seasons of his contract. If kept on with that deal Cooks would average 13 mil per season covering 2021 through 2023. Hopkins averages about 13.3 mil over the three remaining seasons on his deal.

The Texans give up the lower of their two second round picks for Cooks, so they still have the 40th overall selection in the draft two weeks from now. With Cooks, Randall Cobb, Will Fuller, and Kenny Stills the Texans have their primary wide receiving corps settled, so their top draft pick can now be earmarked toward a pass rusher, a guard, or the always popular "best player available."

What does it say more about a player who is traded three times in just over three years: bad that teams feel like they're better off moving the guy, or good that there's been consistent interest in acquiring his services? Cooks was a Saints first round pick in 2014. After the 2016 season they dealt him to the Patriots, after just one season in New England Cooks was dealt to the Rams, and now the Rams deal him here. Cooks comes to the Texans off of his lowest reception total season and lowest touchdown catch season of his career. Oh, he's had at least five concussions during his six seasons in the NFL. However, before missing two games last season to a concussion Cooks played all 16 regular season games four consecutive seasons. In the last three of those he topped 1000 yards in receptions and averaged at least 15 yards per catch.


Had a little fun with this on the radio show Thursday: uniform number 34 for Houston is the overwhelming iconic pro sports number (Hakeem Olajuwon, Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan). What's the second greatest number in Houston sports annals? What cities can even remotely rival Houston 34 with numbers of their own? Three athletes, three different sports. Thoughts below in Buzzer Beaters.

Forbes magazine this week released its annual valuation estimates for the 30 Major League Baseball franchises. It ranks the Astros 11th at 1.85 billion dollars. That's right about triple what Jim Crane and his partners paid for it less than nine years ago. The Yankees top the list as always, at five billion. Four other teams are worth more than a billion more than the Astros: Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, and Giants. Forbes's call on the most profitable franchise for 2019? The Astros, at 99 million. Crane was denied in his prior effort to buy the Texas Rangers. Before Covid-19 this was to have been an Astros at Rangers weekend, the Astros' first visit to the Rangers' new retractable roof ballpark.

So, ESPN is televising a two hour Horse competition among four NBA players, two former NBA players, and two WNBA players. Sunday's quarterfinals will be a two hour broadcast. Two hours for four games of Horse? Four games of Hippopotamus shouldn't take two hours! Four games of Parastratiosphecomvia stratiophecomyioides? Maybe. That's the longest named animal species. A type of fly. I can't see Horse holding my attention much longer (which is not long at all) than the NBA 2K video tournament ESPN is showing. Tough being the Worldwide Leader In Sports without any real sports.

Buzzer Beaters: 1. Modern Family had its series finale this week. Top 10 sitcom of all-time. Maybe top 5. 2. Number 2 Houston uniform number is number 1. Warren Moon, Tracy McGrady, Carlos Correa 3. Best other city sports numbers: Bronze-Atlanta 21 (Warren Spahn, Dominique Wilkins, Deion Sanders) Silver- Chicago 23 (Michael Jordan, Ryne Sandberg, Devin Hester) Gold-Los Angeles 32 (Magic Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Marcus Allen)

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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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