How Texans' latest roster moves could come with a silver lining

Nick Caserio has no problem moving on from players like Whitney Mercilus. Composite image by Jack Brame.

You ever have a scent of something new and fresh that may seem weird to others? I've heard people say they like the smell of freshly cut grass, gasoline, burnt wood, sawdust, and even the heat from computers & their monitors. Weird? Maybe. Depends on who you ask. Everyone has their preferences. One thing we can all agree on is whenever there is a stench of something putrid enough to cause instant nausea upon the mere thought of that scent, much less actually smelling it, you'd do almost anything to get rid of it.

For a couple of years, that putrid stench off Kirby was Bill O'Brien and his lasting effect on the Texans organization. He came, he saw, he ruined everything in his path. O'Brien left behind such a strong odor, it's going to take a monumental effort to clean it up. Fortunately, it appears as if the Texans have hired the right man for the job in general manager Nick Caserio.

Caserio has no issue with cutting his loses

Caserio has presided over things on the football side since his hire. While he hasn't made anything stink as bad as the DeAndre Hopkins trade, Laremy Tunsil trade, or any of the ridiculous contracts O'Brien handed out, Caserio has had his fair share of screw-ups. For example, he went into the draft with eight picks, but only drafted five players due to trading up. He also gave Whitney Mercilus a restructured deal, only to cut him several months later in the middle of the season. He may have wet the bed a few times, but he hasn't been afraid to clean himself up and start over.

I like the fact that he's found ways to clean up his mistakes. He sent Benardrick McKinney to the Dolphins for Shaq Lawson. When Lawson wanted out, he shipped him off to the Jets for a late round draft pick. I don't like the fact that he's losing on some of these deals, but I admire the fact that he's able to clean them up without much damage done. I mean, it's not like he gave a backup quarterback $37 million guaranteed, then traded him and a second round draft pick to get rid of him. Caserio has proven that he's not afraid of getting out of a bad situation if it doesn't benefit the team in the long or short term.

He has a way of playing chess and checkers at the same time. Drafting Davis Mills and Nico Collins: chess moves. Bringing in free agents like Mark Ingram and Christian Kirksey: checkers moves. One set of moves speaks to the future of the franchise by drafting two low risk/high reward rookies. The other speaks to developing a new culture immediately by bringing in two solid vets on each side of the ball that can help younger guys. While some may agree or disagree with what's being done, the thing I like the most is Caserio's ability to make moves he feels are necessary, despite what others may think.

If he can manage to turn the team's biggest asset into some formidable pieces/assets to aid in the rebuilding of this team, all his transgressions will be forgiven. All he has to do is turn a $3 billion dollar pile of dung into a winning organization. Nothing too complicated, right? He signed a six-year deal and is only one year into it. Let's see what Big Nicky can do over the next few years before we anoint him as the savior of this franchise. So far, he's done an admirable job, but I'm looking for more and better. In my book, he's on the clock.

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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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