Northern Exposure

Oh yeah, the Astros made a trade with the Blue Jays, too

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So July 31, 2019 will be going down as one of the most exciting dates in Astros History. This day will be enough to shut up the haters because #TakeItBack is becoming more possible by the minute. Unless you lived under an I45 bridge, you knew today was the MLB trade deadline. The Astros had been fairly quiet, and fans were growing impatient; to the point that when Marcus Stroman was traded to the Mets, they were trying to justify trading for Trevor Bauer. While they managed to nail down yet another ace to bolster their pitching rotation in Zack Greinke, the Astros trade that really got my attention was the one between the Astros and Blue Jays.

I have been a Blue Jays fan since I was a child growing up in the yellow prairies of Alberta. Yes, I do own a Joey Bats jersey. The start of the millennium marked my move to the great state of Texas, and I have been following the Astros since my move (Big Puma, anyone?). How could I not when the Juice Box is literally 25 minutes away? So, today took an interesting turn when the Blue Jays traded Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini to the Astros for nothing but Derek Fisher. I painfully reminisced over Sanchez's starts (or lack thereof) the past few seasons. He has only pitched in 51 games since the 2017 season. Finger injuries have plagued him; from a finger caught in a falling suitcase in 2017 to being pulled out of a game for a broken finger nail this season. Hand injuries are Sanchez's kryptonite so it was hard to wrap my mind around where he would help improve a pitching rotation that had just added Zack Greinke. Sanchez's last couple of starts have been a bit reminiscent of his 2016 season. His July 28th game against the Tampa Bay Rays had his most exciting start where he allowed no runs to be scored until the 5th inning and had 10 strike outs. Sanchez should not pitch for more than 4 or 5 innings because the exhaustion can clearly be seen in his demeanor on the mound. Maybe it is time for Sanchez to take on a relief role on a team that has the almighty wizard that is Brent Strom.

Joe Biagini, is admittedly, a player I have been indifferent to. He has a 3-1 record but struggled in his outing against the Royals. Looking at his stats for his short 4-year career, this is his second-best season. Stepping back and taking a look at this trade, it is hard to see how the Astros got away with only sending Derek Fisher for Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini. I have heard various comments on Derek Fisher but per Ross Atkins, he is confident in his level of play and expected to provide depth, however Fisher is a left fielder and currently that position is being dominated by Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

All I can say to Ross Atkins is, bless your heart.

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The Astros had a bad 4-6 road trip and looked forward to getting home to Minute Maid Park where they have been dominant this season. The pitiful Detroit Tigers arrived in Houston with a record since the All Star Break of nine wins and 27 losses. They literally do not have one non-pitcher who would make a healthy Astros' roster. That includes the way over the hill sure fire Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Splitting four games at home with the Tigers would have been a fail. The Astros did not fail, though "only" taking three out of four seems a little disappointing. The S.S. Astros Good Ship Lollipop has sprung a couple of leaks. Neither that can't be plugged with good health, but the Astros have two notable health issues.

Carlos Correa's next endorsement deal should be for peanut brittle, emphasis not on the peanut. Some guys just have a propensity toward getting injured. Unfortunately the Correa resume grows that he is one of those guys. That back problems have resurfaced is troubling, to no one more so than Correa himself. It's clear the guy loves the game and is spectacularly talented, but durability is one component of greatness and to this point Correa simply has not demonstrated durability. If he can't produce a fully healthy bigtime season or two in the next year or two, any visions of a Manny Machado-like 10 year 300 million dollar contract will be up in smoke. Still, Correa turns only 25 years old next month so there's time to prove sturdiness, but more sand has seeped through the hourglass. For the 2019 Astros the dropdown is huge from Correa at shortstop to either Miles Straw or Aledmys Diaz being in the lineup. As for 2020, please tell anyone saying the Astros should trade Correa to be quiet.

The loss of Ryan Pressly for most if not all of the rest of the regular season is a big blow to the bullpen. Of even bigger concern is whether he can get back and get sharp to start the postseason.

This doesn't mean the ship is sinking. The Astros enter the weekend just one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League, and the Astros own the tiebreaker (having won the season series 4-3). They are three back of the Dodgers for best in MLB, the Astros have a three game lead in the tiebreaker with LA (intradivision record). The Yankees play at the Dodgers this weekend so if you're a glass half full person: a Dodger or Yankee loss is guaranteed three days in a row! If you're glass half empty: a Dodger or Yankee win is guaranteed three days in a row!

NFL on the horizon

A little over 2 weeks until the Texans begin their 18th season of play in the National Football League. We've all heard the saying, the 18th time is the charm. So is this the season the Texans are finally a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Probably not. The Texans do not look like a notably improved football team. On paper their schedule is clearly more difficult than last season's. Within the AFC the Chiefs clearly have more overall talent and are better coached. The Patriots still exist. One of these years Tom Brady really will slip. Maybe at age 42 this is the season.

If Jadeveon Clowney opts to sit out, or is traded, anyone thinking he won't be missed, is wrong. Clowney is not a superstar but he's really good. The Texans will be easier to run on without him. And while not an elite pass rusher, Clowney has to be accounted for. Anyone thinking, ah, he's hurt all the time anyway…wrong again. Clowney missed one game last season, and the season before that he played in every game.

If you want a couple of reasons for plausible optimism, here you go. Coming off of last season Deshaun Watson does not rate as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. He could well vault into that echelon this season. The Texans' offensive line remains something between a question mark and a glaring weakness, but really, can it be worse than it was the last couple of seasons? DeAndre Hopkins is about as good as it gets today at wide receiver, the same for J.J. Watt at defensive end though the clock is ticking down on his prime.

The Texans probably begin their season by losing at New Orleans. On the other hand the Buccaneers started their 5-11 2018 season by beating the 13-3 to be Saints in New Orleans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Connor McGregor pitches some "number 12" brand of whisky. As a human being he seems much more a piece of number two. 2. Two peas in a pitching pod: Justin Verlander 15-5, 2.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts. Gerrit Cole 15-5, 2.75 ERA, 238 strikeouts. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans


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