CHARLIE PALLILO

Texans' next few opponents provide opportunity; Bregman on a tear for Astros

J.J. Watt made an impact in his return. Jadeveon Clowney did not. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Texans-Titans game in Nashville Sunday is basically a pick ‘em. The Titans are off making the playoffs but no one thinks they have a special squad, especially if Marcus Mariota remains a mediocrity of a quarterback. The Texans have no shot at making the playoffs if Deshaun Watson is a mediocrity of a quarterback, which is what he was at the Patriots. He is not consistently accurate as a thrower and is prone to some dubious choices. The need is Watson doing enough spectacular things to carry more days than not. But that offensive line he’s behind, yuck. Four new starters represent an upgrade over last year’s talent cesspool but by NFL standards it remains a weak unit, especially at tackle. Julie’n Davenport looked in over his head against Deacon Jones. Wait. I mean against Trey Flowers. Martinas Rankin isn’t developed yet, but will have to OJT it with Seantrel Henderson lost to a broken ankle. At least that’s not like trying to replace a Jonathan Ogden or Anthony Munoz.

After generally being a non-entity in the first half at New England J.J. Watt showed flashes in the second, but no one should be holding his or her breath on a return to superhero level dominance. If Watt doesn’t sack Mariota, Tuesday will mark the two year anniversary of his last sack.

At least Watt flashed something. Jadaveon Clowney was close to a zero, clearly not up to off speed coming of knee surgery. For a guy dreaming of a contract extension in the league of what fellow 2014 draft class defenders Khalil Mack (90 million dollars guaranteed) and Aaron Donald got (87 mil guaranteed) Clowney better ramp it up substantially.

A 1-1 split of season opening road games at 2017 playoff teams and the Texans are fine. Should the Texans lose and Jacksonville beats New England in Florida Sunday, the Texans will already be in trouble re: chasing an AFC South title.

Each of the Texans’ next five opponents also lost their season openers: Titans, Giants, Colts, Cowboys, Bills.

Best record doesn't always matter

The Red Sox have clearly been the best team in baseball this year. That’s over the run of the 162 game regular season. Boston will have homefield advantage for all playoff series it plays. But with 3 rounds of playoffs to survive in order to win the World Series, the best team of the season usually doesn’t win the Series.  Since the Wild Card was introduced in 1995, only five times in 23 years has the team with the best regular season record in the majors gone on to win the World Series.

The Astros were phenomenal last season, but the Indians (102) and Dodgers (104) won more regular season games than did the Astros (101). The Astros are cruising toward clinching their playoff spot, though the A’s deserve truckloads of credit for keeping a little suspense in the American League West race. But most of the sand has slipped through the hour hour glass. Up four in the loss column going into the weekend the Astros would have to falter to wind up in the Wild Card game.

Bregman stock is booming

Alex Bregman is brash and borderline cocky, yet somehow remains grounded at the same time. It’s a helluva package because Bregman is entitled to thinking every waking moment right now: “I AM AWESOME!”

With 16 games to spare Bregman made reality the statistical combo platter I suggested a few weeks ago as within reach for him. 50 doubles, 30 homers, 100 runs batted in, and 100 runs scored. He’s the first third baseman ever to hit the 50 double 30 homer daily double.

It’s a bit early to load up on Alex Bregman Hall of Fame stock. This could turn out to be the best season he ever has. But Bregman’s season is about as awesome as the campaign Chipper Jones put up in 1999 as the Atlanta Braves third baseman. Chipper was a stud and then some, his unbelievable second half in ‘99 distanced him from Jeff Bagwell to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award. Chipper Jones went into the Hall this summer.

Bregman’s season would fit very well on a Hall of Fame resume. Not as great as, say, Mike Schmidt or George Brett’s best. But it’s so good, that at 24 years old, Bregman is now a plausible blip on the Hall radar. Fewer third basemen have been elected to the Hall than players of any other position. Several who are in never had a season as tremendous as Alex Bregman’s 2018.

Buzzer Beaters

1. In the last 18 games that count Bill O’Brien is 4-14. One win for every year of his contract extension.  2. Texas! USC! Meh. TCU-Ohio St. is much bigger and more interesting, though not predicted to be as close. 3. Best NFL helmets: Bronze-Raiders  Silver-Rams Gold-Bengals

 

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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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