STATE OF THINGS

Texans win means Houston pro sports dominance in Texas

The Rockets have dominated the Spurs an Mavs. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Sunday was a great win for the Houston Texans and an even sweeter victory for Houston sports fans. That win gives this city bragging rights in almost every major sport. The Rockets finished the season 7-1 against the other Texas teams; the Spurs and Mavericks. The Astros walked out of 2018 with a 12-7 record against the Texas Rangers and now the Texans won their game against the Cowboys. That’s a winning record for this city in three of the big four sports, and when Houston gets an NHL franchise they will dominate the Dallas Stars as well.

But it’s not just that these teams won, it’s how they won. In the Rockets’ three wins against the Spurs they averaged a 14-point margin of victory. James Harden averaged 27 points a game while Chris Paul averaged 19. Against Dallas, they won all four games, averaging a 13-point margin of victory. Harden again averaged 27 points and Paul 20. Their only blemish on the season was a 17-point loss to the Spurs on April 1 in a game where Chris Paul did not dress.

This had to feel pretty good for basketball fans because it seems like every year we hear about how good the Spurs are. We listen to them drone on about all the championships they have won under Greg Popovich, and how good they are even when their regular season record doesn’t reflect it. No one likes the Mavericks because Mark Cuban still owns the team and can’t shut up about it. Owning the best record in the state is an easy way to quiet all that noise.

The Astros weren’t quite as dominant, winning only 12 of 19 games against the much-despised Texas Rangers, but winning the season series two years in a row is sweeter all the same. They even won eight straight against Texas during the heart of the season. They hit 27 home runs, outscored their opponent 85-69, and won by an average of 3 runs a game.

This is the second consecutive season the Astros finished with a 12-7 record against the Rangers and their second consecutive season winning more than 100 games. Maybe beating up on the team from North Texas is a boost in the right direction. The Rangers are a mess right now, so this will probably be a trend for several more years. But as long as we remember that they wouldn’t swap home games during hurricane Harvey last season we want them beaten as often as possible. It wasn’t a perfect record, but that is an extremely difficult feat over 19 games. We are just happy to take home the Silver Boot Trophy again.

And as Houston is celebrating another Astros postseason run, the Texans got to face their in-state rival Dallas Cowboys. Heading into the weekend Dallas led the all-time series 3-1; Houston having only won their first meeting in 2002 to start the franchise. The game would finish in overtime, Texans victorious, 19-16. As ugly as the game was, the team’s stars came out to play. DeAndre Hopkins had 151 yards receiving, Deshaun Watson had 375 passing. The defense held Dallas to 292 yards of total offense, pulling in two interceptions and sacking Dak Prescott twice. The victory would secure Houston’s dominance in the three major sports for 2018.

This is a once every four-year thing. That’s how often the Cowboys and Texans play each other. The Rockets and Astros play their in-state rivals every year and every year the results can change. I don’t see it changing much in the next few years because both of those teams are built for sustained success while their opponents are trending downward. The Texans have a lot of talent and maybe in four more years when they face the Cowboys again they will win by an even greater margin. For now, enjoy it Houston; your teams dominated the state of Texas.

 

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The clock is ticking. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If he is indeed to become an ex-Astro George Springer can officially sign with his new team starting at four PM Houston time this Sunday. Michael Brantley the same. All free agents can sign contracts starting Sunday afternoon. If the die isn't cast that Springer is leaving, it certainly feels like his renewing vows with the Astros would be an upset.

The Astros will make Springer a 18.9 million dollar qualifying offer for 2021. He will of course reject that because contract offers of at least five years and over 100 million dollars likely await. Should Springer move on the Astros would then get a compensatory draft pick. Brantley won't get anything in close range of Springer's haul-to-be but still should at least get multiyear offers. The Astros should make the qualifying offer to Brantley (if they don't they forfeit any compensation for his departure). If they don't out of fear that he'd accept the one-year deal, the Astros would look lame. I don't think it comes to that. Losing Springer would be a huge blow on multiple levels, but if somehow they were to keep Brantley while getting back Yordan Alvarez at even 80 percent of his rookie performance level the Astros' lineup would look to be in decent shape.

With MLB's economic outlook shaky for 2021, it's unreasonable to say Jim Crane and his partners should give Springer whatever he wants. A six or seven year megadollar contract for a 31-year-old player with some durability questions on his resume is an iffy proposition. At the same time, the Astros have been quite profitable in recent years (before 2020), and Crane said over the summer the Astros were positioned to be "aggressive, whatever the market looks like." 13 million Josh Reddick dollars are off the books for 2021, 10 mil of Roberto Osuna is gone. After next year more than 57 mil of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke clear.

MLB's postseason awards will be doled out over the next couple weeks but for the first time in years the Astros don't have a credible candidate for any of the big ones (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year). The Astros do have three American League Gold Glove finalists. I think Carlos Correa wins the shortstop honor. Correa had a weak regular season at the plate but his defense was stellar, plus the two guys who divvied up the last four AL SS Gold Gloves (Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons) had down seasons and aren't finalists. Quick: name the teams of fellow finalists J.P. Crawford and Niko Goodrum. Hard to see either winning over Correa. Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker were also named top three at their positions. For the first time the finalist selections were driven entirely by stats and analytics.

Big week for the Rockets

With the Rockets settling on Stephen Silas as their new Head Coach, that hire coupled with the in house promotion of Rafael Stone to General Manager makes it appear as though owner Tilman Fertitta is doing more things on the cheap. The NBA economic environment is challenging and huge portions of the rest of Fertitta's portfolio are submerged in a COVID-driven bloodbath. Silas has paid his dues for a good while and most recently worked under the outstanding Rick Carlisle in Dallas. He has earned a lead chair opportunity. But with no prior head coaching experience and no bidding war for his services, Silas signs on at a much lower rate than, say, Jeff Van Gundy would have commanded. Former head coaches (and former Rockets' player rivals of the 90s) Jeff Hornacek and Nate McMillan would make for two strong Silas assistants. From their playing days if you combined Hornacek's offense and McMillan's defense into one player you'd have one of the top 20 or so greatest guards in NBA history.

Silas and Stone take the reins at a challenging time for the Rockets with their messy salary cap sheet, reduced draft capital, and one of the oldest core player groups in the league. Polite public statements aside, it's part of why Daryl Morey left. Maybe Mike D'Antoni too though that seemed more about feeling disrespected by the lack of a contract extension before this past season. D'Antoni may have overplayed his hand since he did not get fill any of the coaching vacancies elsewhere in the NBA. Only Oklahoma City remains open, and D'Antoni has gotten no run there.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It seems sadly appropriate that the first meaningful positive in the Texans' 2020 season came in form of a COVID test result.

2. If we all commit to getting through it together, I think we can get by without a Texans' game this weekend. Remember, it's their open week, not a bye!

3. One hit wonder goodbye songs: Bronze-Terry Jacks "Seasons in the Sun" Silver-Norman Greenbaum "Spirit In The Sky" Gold-Steam "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

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