HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: A big season for awards

Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt. Sports Illustrated

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Humbled & Honored.

Short and sweet. Simple and honest.

But, most of all, J.J. Watt’s opening line was straight from the heart.

So was the second.

Houston, this is for you and this is for the hundreds of thousands of people who donated from all over the world.

What followed on his Twitter feed Tuesday was an exclamation point to 2017 – a cover shot of the Texans defensive end and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve with their arms thrown around each other’s shoulders having a great time posing for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year issue.

If ever a year belonged to one city, this year was it.

An August to forget. A late October to remember. #HoustonStrong

And now an awards season like no other.

Everywhere you look, the city’s top athletes are taking center stage.

Watt raised the city on his shoulders after Hurricane Harvey and raised more than $37 million for relief effort before a freak knee injury ended his comeback season. Altuve, the Astros pint-sized American League batting champion, captured the hearts and imagination of the country as he led the Astros on an amazing run to their first World Series Championship.

SI honored the duo’s power which was unmatched in September when the city started to bounce back from Harvey, which devastated neighborhoods and caused close to $200 billion in damages.

The Astros, meanwhile, took down Major League baseball’s elite teams in the playoffs – Boston, the New York Yankees and LA Dodgers, in order – and simply dominated the MLB awards:

*Altuve won the American League MVP and shared best postseason player with teammate Justin Verlander.

* A.J. Hinch was named manager of the year and General Manager Jeff Luhnow took executive of the year honors.

* George Springer was the World Series MVP and Alex Bregman owned the moment of the year with his 10th inning walk-off single in Game 5’s 13-12 Astros win.

* Carlos Beltran won SI’s Hope Award for his hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

* The MLB even honored Houstonian Kirk Head with catch of the year when he took Yasiel Puig’s homerun ball from his sister-in –law Sarah and threw it back onto the field during Game 5 of the World Series.

* University of Houston sophomore Ed Oliver won the 2017 Outland Trophy Thursday night, was named 2017 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award.

* And, if he hadn’t torn his ACL in practice in early November, Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson would likely have been in the running, at the very least, for rookie of the year.

Now, as we prepare for 2018, there are still a few awards left to hand out.

All those national award winners above could also be among those taking bows at the inaugural Houston Sports Awards Feb. 8 at the Hilton-Americas Downtown. But, with 10 different awards, you’ll see many more outstanding Houston athletes walking the red carpet.

"The athlete and executive that may win the award may very likely win it in their league as well," Rockets president Tad Brown said when the Awards were announced in September. "That shows the quality of teams that we have here."

Brown was, to say the least, prescient.

From three different Athletes of the Year to Executive of the Year, Fan of the Year and Event of the Year, Houston Sports Awards ballots will be stacked with talent, heart and must-see moments.

You already know the event is honoring Houston’s famous No. 34s – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon – and we’ll add a few more names to the mix soon. Plus, we’ll be revealing the nominees for seven categories next week, so stay tuned.

For everything you need to know about Houston Sports Awards – everything from categories to how to purchase tickets -- go to www.houstonsportsawards.com

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Always wanted season tickets? Each time you purchase a 2018 Houston Sports Awards Golden Ticket Raffle, you buy a chance to win a pair of season tickets to all Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Dynamo, Rodeo Houston & Houston Open home games/events during the 2018-19 season. In addition, the winner of the drawing receives tickets for two Houston Texans home games, the 2018 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff and the 2018 Texas Bowl. Information is available at www.houstonsportsawards.com

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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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