BOLD MOVE

Subverting expectations may have been the Texans master plan all along

Are the Texans capable of orchestrating this? Composite image by Jack Brame.

BetMGM has released its odds for the Super Bowl. Not Sunday's ultimate quarterback clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. BetMGM already is taking action on the 2022 Super Bowl. The Chiefs currently are the favorite at +600, followed by the Packers (+900), Ravens (+1200), Bills (+1200) and Buccaneers (+1200). All this will change when the quarterback trade carousel stops, though. For example, last year the Buccaneers were listed at 60-1 before Tom Brady signed with the team. Immediately the Bucs jumped to 16-1.

The Jets currently are +8000 to win the Super Bowl in 2022. That price will skyrocket like GameStop stock if the Jets acquire Deshaun Watson in a trade. Meanwhile our lovable Houston Easterbys are a lowly +8000 long, long, longshot. Trading Watson will only make the Texans a stupider bet. Save your money.

Don't you get the feeling that Cal McNair orchestrated this whole Texans mess – refusing to fire Jack Easterby the cherry on top - to force Watson into demanding a trade? He probably hoped that would make Watson out to be the villain. Sure, McNair may realize Watson's greatness … he just doesn't like the guy. Or someone in the organization doesn't like the guy.

Last men standing for Rockets

If the Rockets are listening to trade offers for P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, as reported by ESPN, that would leave only sixth man Eric Gordon and seldom-used Ben McLemore as survivors from last year's roster. Not one starter was here in 2020. And don't be surprised if Gordon is being shopped around. The only other basketball team to suffer this much turnover in one season was Mayberry Elementary School's Sixth Grade All-Stars.

The Rockets are 7-3 since shipping James Harden out, and they're back in the playoff picture. So trade away, general manager Rafael Stone.

Count me out

I love bagels. I love ice cream. But I think I'm going to hate Jeni's newest ice cream flavor: "Everything Bagel." It's "the perfect balance of sweet, salty and umani." I don't know what unami is. The upscale ice cream is packed with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onions and garlic. It sounds hideous. Note to Jeni's: I love pizza, too. Please don't get any ideas.

You, again?

Red Sox MVP Dustin Pedroia announced that he's retiring. I thought he retired five years ago.

Star power dwindling

Last week, the Athletic ran a story with the headline: "If Deshaun Watson requests a trade, Texans should make him wait."

In journalism, this is called a "standing head," meaning it runs so often that editors have it ready at a moment's notice. As in "If Harden requests a trade," and "if Watt requests a trade" and "if Westbrook requests a trade," and "if Watson, Watt, Harden, Springer, and Fuller leave, who's the biggest star left in Houston?"

What's your fantasy?

With Curt Schilling sabotaging his chances for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and it's looking more and more unlikely that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez will make it to Cooperstown, let's ponder an ultimate fantasy World Series:

Hall of Famers vs. The Mean Machine of reprobates banned from the Hall or stand little chance of being inducted because of steroid use, suspected steroid use or other off-field shenanigans.

It's not a mismatch. For the right price at the sports book, I might take the bad guys. I've got the home run champ, the all-time hit king and perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time. This is like a basketball Hall of Fame without Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Bird and Magic.

Here's my lineup of banned or tainted baseball players.

First base: Rafael Palmeiro: 3,020 hits, 569 home runs.

Second base: Pete Rose: all-time record 4,256 hits, most games played, most at bats, most lots of things, mostly bad.

Shortstop: Omar Vizquel - 11 Gold Gloves.

Third base: Alex Rodriguez - 548 home runs, 3 times MVP, engaged to J-Lo.

Right field: Shoeless Joe Jackson - lifetime .356 hitter.

Center field: Barry Bonds - all-time home run champ with 762 round trippers, 7 MVP awards, big head (Hey, I mean he's egotistical).

Left field: Manny Ramirez - 548 home runs, .312 lifetime batting average, World Series MVP.

Catcher: Benito Santiago - 5 time All-Star, 3 time Gold Glove, Rookie of the Year, 4 time Silver Slugger Award.

Pitcher: Roger Clemens - all-time record 7 Cy Young Awards.

Righty designated hitter: Sammy Sosa - 609 home runs.

Lefty designated hitter: David Ortiz - 541 home runs, .286 lifetime batting average, SI Sportsman of the Year.

The NFL Hall of Fame has banned no players because good citizenship is not a criterion for induction. There is no NBA Hall of Fame, it's called the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, encompassing the NBA, international leagues, WNBA, college and amateur ball and driveway pickup games. No player has been banned from induction.

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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