Falcon Points

Texans keep trying to erase mistakes, but at what cost?

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Texans released cornerback Aaron Colvin on Tuesday, a night after his embarrassing performance against the Saints. Colvin signed as a free agent last season and proved to be a disaster. He was given $18 million at signing, of which the Texans will still have to eat 7.5 million this year.

Signing Colvin did not work out. At least the Texans ejected, and signed free agent Phillip Gaines, who might be an upgrade. Then again, anything would be an upgrade.

Bill O'Brien the GM continues to try to erase mistakes at high costs. And probably making more along the way.

Had to be done

Colvin was clearly a mess, and cutting him probably was a must. It was once again admitting a big mistake. In the last month, they have cut running back D'Onta Foreman, a third round mistake. They traded Martinas Rankin, a third round mistake. They IR'd tight end Kahale Warring, who looks like...you guessed it, a third-round mistake. All they got in return was veteran RB Carlos Hyde, who at least looked good against the Saints. But the assets they have punted on are adding up.

Where it all started

It all began in 2017 when the Texans traded tackle Duane Brown to Seattle for next to nothing. They have been trying to fix left tackle ever since. That led to paying a premium for Laremy Tunsil. When Foreman was cut, they had to pay a premium for Duke Johnson. While those moves might not be bad in the long run, they sacrificed draft picks to try to correct mistakes.

More problems

They likely find themselves having made more recent miscues that will have to be corrected. The Colvin signing cost them money and a possibly the game against the Saints. But that was an easy erasure. The problem was not addressing the corner position effectively in free agency and the draft. They used a high pick on corner Lonnie Johnson, who only played special teams Monday night. While he might eventually work out, the fact that they thought Colvin was a better option...

And they have now invested five premium picks - three firsts and two seconds - on the offensive line. Only Tunsil started Monday night.

Fresh mistakes

They traded Jadeveon Clowney for nothing, weakening their defense, when they could have kept him another year. That is a mistake they will have to clean up next. Then on Tuesday they paid Nick Martin - a below average center - like a Pro Bowler. Don't be surprised if they Colvin that one in a year or two. They could have easily used the Martin money on Clowney. Instead they double down on less than ediocrity.

What does it all mean?

Deshaun Watson covers a lot of mistakes. But at some point, the Texans have to stop making them, and start making good calls. Maybe Bradley Roby works out. Maybe Johnson improves and is a factor by season's end. Maybe Titus Howard and Max Sharping become quality OL starters before the year is out. Those are realistic possibilities.

But what if they are mistakes, too? Watson can only carry them so far. As Bill O'Brien has become the be all, end all, he has erased past errors. Most of them are his own. So can his current moves be trusted?

I have mentioned this before, but this is very much like Chip Kelly's tenure in Philadelphia, when he took over personnel and made one misstep after another. At least when he was fired, they got a real GM and head coach and won a Super Bowl.

Watson should carry them to a winning season and a possible playoff berth, but if not, the mistakes will only be more glaring. And if O'Brien keeps making them? More of Watson's prime will be wasted.

O'Brien keeps making moves and trying to eliminate his missteps. And owner Cal McNair is giving him free reign. But are they making even more mistakes in the process?

We will find out soon enough.

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Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

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