THE PALLILOG

Texans look to make a huge statement; Astros already doing so, but not in a good way

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There is not a lengthy list of quality alternatives, in fact there is not much of a list at all, but a Texans win at 7-2 Baltimore on Sunday would be the biggest road victory in franchise history. A win takes the Texans to 7-3 and secures the driver's seat in the race for the second AFC postseason bye. A loss means 6-4, and pretty much no shot at a bye. The quarterback matchup is spectacular. Ravens' second year sensation Lamar Jackson is probably running second in the NFL Most Valuable player race. Texans' third year blossomed star Deshaun Watson might be third (the Seahawks' Russel Wilson is on the lead).

His running is what has made Jackson a unique force this season. He's on pace to shatter Michael Vick's NFL record for quarterback rushing yards in a season by more than 200 yards. This game is one where the Texans figure to sorely miss J.J. Watt, and could really use Jadeveon Clowney. Oh well.

The Astros busy autumn, good and bad, continued this week. By unanimous vote Yordan Alvarez won the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Justin Verlander very deservedly won his second AL Cy Young Award, 17 votes to 13 over the equally (and maybe a wee bit more. Or less.) deserving Gerrit Cole. Alex Bregman settled for runner-up to third time winner Mike Trout in the AL Most Valuable Player Award balloting. Trout beat Bergman by the same 17-13 margin Verlander edged Cole. So by a two voter margin the Astros miss out on becoming the first MLB team ever to produce a Rookie of the Year, Cy Young winner, and MVP in the same year.

The General Managers meetings in Scottsdale Arizona this week produced next to nothing on the transaction front. The one something was something that if of a mind to spend the Astros should have been interested in pursuing, lefthanded reliever Will Smith to the Braves for three years $39 million dollars. The price of poker will be too high for the Astros on most guys this offseason. Next week there are owners meetings in Arlington, next month, the winter meetings in San Diego. By then major movement should have heated up on the free agent and trade fronts.

Fantasies can bring a little spice to life, but's let's put to sleep a couple of Astros related fantasies.

With Cole highly likely to become an ex-Astro, the need for a starting pitcher is glaring. Behind Verlander and Zack Greinke the Astros rotation is all question marks. Only a fool or the desperate would count on Lance McCullers for a healthy and very good season. Jose Urquidy is far from a given. Can't miss prospect Forrest Whitley? A huge question mark after two years filled with a PED suspension, injury issues, and plenty of lousy pitching. Whitley is still just 22 years old and could wind up fulfilling much of his potential. Banking on him would be dumb.

With all that said, forget any idea of a pursuit of Stephen Strasburg. The Astro World Series vanquisher won't get Cole money, but is likely to get 30 million per season for at least 4 years. There is no way that is in the Astros' budget. Mets free agent Zack Wheeler at 20 per? Doubtful.

Speaking of Astro World Series vanquishers, another fantasy is any notion of Lamar high school and Rice Owl-ex Anthony Rendon coming home via hometown discount. The Astros wouldn't be interested even with a discount. Rendon is joining the 30 mil per year club. So anyone thinking move on from brittle Carlos Correa, move Alex Bregman fulltime to short, plug in Rendon at third...that's really not fantasy, it's delusion. Correa is the Astros shortstop. Yes his track record of daintiness is troubling. His 2019 postseason overall was poor. But Correa remains relatively cheap, maybe eight or nine million next season. The Astros control him for two more seasons. Correa is still just 25, and really good. Cross your fingers about his health.


Then there was the latest Astros' ethical mess. Ex-Astro Mike Fiers has no motivation to concoct the story about the Astros' cheat of a sign-stealing system. The evidence has mounted that the Astros cheated. It's not as if the NCAA will vacate the 2017 World Series title, but in the aftermath of the Brandon Taubman fiasco it's another embarrassing black eye for the organization and another stain on this overall glorious era of Astros baseball. Does their moral compass truly grasp this? One particularly disappointing component would be if A.J. Hinch is confirmed as complicit with the scheme, especially after he was such a beacon of class during the Taubman mess. It's a humongous if. If yes, Hinch could also face a long suspension.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Machiavelli texted that the Astros have gone overboard. 2. Myles Garrett should have been arrested for his punk move Thursday at Mason Rudolph. 3. Greatest sports Rudolphs: Bronze-Kyle Silver-Tomjanovich Gold-Wilma


Friday the 13th. Triskaidekophobes' worst nightmare. It's silliness. Like believing in the Texans as Super Bowl contenders.

So how did the Texans go from toppling the 10-1 Patriots one Sunday, to having the 4-8 Broncos humiliate them the next? That is what mediocrity is all about, Houston Texans style. Imagine how ugly it would have gotten had the Broncos not had to deal with the intimidation factor of playing under a closed roof on a gorgeous autumn afternoon. There was a surprising number of no shows for an 8-4 home team off of two quality wins. Coincidence? Certainly not entirely. Ticket holders who opted to stay away joined essentially the entire team in no-showing.

With their record 8-5 the odds still favor the Texans making the playoffs. Winning two of the remaining three games does the job (and secures other one of those cute little AFC South Champion banners!). Of course, the odds favored the Texans not trailing 31-3 at home at halftime to a Broncos' team that hadn't scored more than 24 points in any game all season. Winning one to finish 9-7 could mean a Wild Card. Yippee!

They are only three point underdogs at Tennessee Sunday. If the Texans' feeble pass rush can't pick it up the Texans' D figures to be D-stroyed again. Ryan Tannehill's career revival with the Titans has been astounding. What reasonable person would have believed that entering this game Tannehill would be playing better quarterback than Deshaun Watson over the last month? Defending Derrick Henry's power running is a big problem, and that has made Tannehill devastating in the play action passing game. Good chance the Texans will need to score more than 28 points to win. They last did so eight games ago in their 31-24 victory at Kansas City. The Titans look like the better team right now, but week to week in the NFL who knows.

As I put it on the radio show earlier this week, in an either or scenario which would you prefer: the Texans do win their division, maybe win a wild card weekend home game, and if they do then take a shot at not getting crushed at Baltimore again. OR…the Texans lose twice to the Titans, lose in Tampa, tumbling from 8-4 to an 8-8 playoff miss and Cal McNair decides to fire Bill O'Brien?

Tough spell for Astros

Given that Oakland wasn't a possibility, Gerrit Cole picking the Yankees is the Astros' worst case scenario. If you're thinking nine years 324 million dollars is nuts, of course nine years is crazy long, but the Yankees are a money printing machine. Forbes magazine estimate for 2018 had the Yankees generating roughly 300 million dollars more in revenue than did the Astros.

Another bottom line: with Cole the Yankees are markedly better, without him the Astros are markedly worse.

The Astros are in a payroll bind, hence the trade Carlos Correa rumblings. In isolation, trading Correa would be dumb. Yes he has proven brittle. But Correa is also super-talented, 25 years old, and for two more years in Major League Baseball terms, dirt cheap. Trade Correa for what? A desperate play to escape the 13 million dollar anvil that is Josh Reddick's 2020 contract? Offered for nothing in return the Astros have no takers for Reddick. As a must take in a Correa deal, Reddick would drive down the return the Astros could get.

The Astros would be seeking a cheap, multi-years team-controlled stud young starting pitcher for Correa. They're not getting one for him. Guys like the Dodgers' Walker Buehler, the Cardinals' Jack Flaherty, the Braves Mike Siroka, the Indians Shane Bieber, those teams wouldn't swap their guy for Correa straight up. They'd laugh at an Astro offer of Correa and Reddick. Reds' starter Luis Castillo's name has been thrown against the wall. He's had one really good full big league season. At 27 years old, Castillo isn't eligible for arbitration until 2021. Why would the Reds trade him for Correa who can walk as a free agent after the 2021 season? Mets starter Noah Syndegaard? Probably not available, and he can become a free agent the same time as Correa.

It's always easy to burn someone else's money, but the Astros' best play is keeping Correa and swallowing the Reddick 13 mil if necessary, rather than taking 70 cents on the dollar back in a trade. Jim Crane and his partners can make back any loss in profit margin during this Astros' window of excellence by cutting costs when the next rebuilding time comes around and/or by selling the team down the line for several times the 610 million dollars they paid to buy it.

Buzzer Beaters

1. If you can get a ticket, UH-Oklahoma St. at Fertitta Center is the place to be Sunday afternoon. 2. The NBA has captivated very few around here so far this season, but the relentlessness of James Harden's scoring pace (37.6 points per game) is stupefying. 3. Absurd actual phobias: Bronze-Somniphobia, fear of sleep Silver-Cherophobia, fear of happiness Gold-Arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth


SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome