Every-Thing Sports

What to look forward to in 2020

What a year in sports! We had all sorts of cool things happen this year. Astros made it to another World Series. Texans won the AFC South again., The Rockets made the playoffs led by James Harden averaging 36 points a game. UH football got a new (old) head coach, while the basketball program came within two wins of a Final Four appearance. This time of the year, there's always a ton of year end, or in this year's case, decade end lists and articles. I do love a good list because it gives us something to debate over.

Fred Faour gave us his 2019 year in review of Houston's top five athletes a couple weeks ago. While I mostly agree with his list, I'm not going to bore anyone with a breakdown of what I agree or disagree with. Instead, I'm here to look forward. So here are a few predications I have for the upcoming year in Houston sports (presented in no particaular:

UH men's basketball makes the Elite 8...or more

Coach Kelvin Sampson has this program rolling. Led by Kansas transfer, and Woodlands native, Quentin Grimes, the Coogs are poised to improve upon their Sweet Sixteen appearance last season. Defense is always going to be a calling card of any Sampson coached team. One of the main reasons I believe in this team's ability to go further than they did last year is their length. Only three guys on the roster are 6'3 or under. Long arms make it easier to get in passing lanes. They also make rebounding a bit easier. Grimes was a McDonald's All-American and former top 10 recruit in his class. Having elite level talent like that has to make things easier for Sampson. It could also help with recruiting.

The Astros will barely make the playoffs

With the cheating scandal still looming large, there's a ton of uncertainty surrounding the defending American League champs. No one really knows for sure the result of MLB's investigation or what penalties will be enforced. That being said, there are questions heading into next season regarding the roster. Gerritt Cole got $324 million dollars to shave and get a haircut to be a Yankee, so good luck replacing the Cy Young runner up. Not to mention there are three question amrks in the rotation, bullpen still needs to be solidfied, and this team could be counting on everyday players that have largely been question marks (looking at you Kyle Tucker). I think they'll win the AL West because it's not a very good division, but don't expect another run in the playoffs.

Bill O'Brien's seat will get hot

The Texans went 11-5 last year and won the division. They went 10-6 this year and won it again. The difference is that this year's team was more poised to do bigger things than last year's team. O'Brien has seized power on Kirby and is currently in a position where he can almost do whatever he sees fit as far as personnel decisions are concerned. Given his authority over the roster and winning back to back division titles, expectations should grow. When you constantly make a mess and spend more time cleaning it up the way O'Brien has, you have to continue to win and win at a high level. If the Texans show any regression next season, I expect his seat to warm up. I'm not suggesting they'll miss the playoffs. But another dismal performance in the playoffs this year after what happened last year and whatever they do the following year isn't a good look. It'll further the narrative the O'Brien isn't the right coach for this team and a change should come.

Simone Biles will further cement her legacy

If you don't think Simone Biles is one of the greatest athletes of our time, you're a dumbass. Any time they name moves after you because no one else has attempted or pulled them off, it means something. Any time you win as much and at as high a level on a consistent basis the way she has in a subjective sport despite judges sometimes grading you on a curve because your moves have a degree of difficulty others can't match, you're a badass. I expeect her to win at least another five or more gold medals in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and garner more attention as one of the greatest athletes of our time.

The Rockets will remain in purgatory

James Harden and Russell Westbrook are dynamic talents. As former MVPs, these guys can still play at a very high level. However, I don't see them challenging for a spot in the NBA Finals this season, or maybe any time in the near future. While the Western Conference is more wide open, they aren't consistent enough to make me believe in them. The Lakers and Clippers have gotten much better. The Nuggets and Mavs are both younger and very talented. The Jazz are another good young team and the Warriors will be back next season armed with a lottery-level talent due to their current record. How the Rockets overcome all this and their own issues is beyind me. They'll make the playoffs and probably win their first round series. They could even find themselves in the Western Conference Finals again. But I highly doubt they go any further.

UH football will get back to their winning ways

Dana Holgorsen is a smart man. There's a reason he always has a job and is always in demand. While his controversial decision to redshirt D'Eriq King and others was met with backlash, I happen to think it was genius. If you're not looking at the rules for loopholes on how to beat the system, you're doing it wrong. Holgorsen will get this team back on track whether King comes back or not. I doubt King leaves, but Clayton Tune showed enough to prove himself worthy. Couple the return of King with a recruiting/transfer class and Holgorsen will have more guys he wants to run his system the way he wants it run. This includes guys that were already here learning his system even better. Expect the Coogs to make a run at 10-win season and King to get some Heisman hype.

Most of these things will end up coming true. Some I hope I'm wrong about. One thing I don't do is shy away from being wrong. Some people wait for you to be wrong so they can tell you how wrong you are, but will fail to acknowledge what you're right about. That's fine. I don't mind at all. I hope some of you will note this article and bring it back up next year some time so we can discuss the accuracy. Things like that create discussions and dialogue which I'm open to, as long as it's respectful. So, until then, Happy New Year!

Texas Div. I Football Rankings: Houston's up, down season continues

UH Dana Holgorsen UH Football/Facebook
Houston Texans Bill O'Brien Houston Texans/Facebook

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Cristian Javier has proven he's a quality starting pitcher. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2022 regular season is nearing its end and while for the Houston Astros the true test will begin in the postseason, now is a good time to look ahead at what the team’s starting rotation could look like in 2023.

The big question will be whether long-time ace Justin Verlander returns to the team. Heading into 2022, there was doubt whether he would even be with the Astros coming off Tommy John surgery. Verlander re-signed with Houston on a two-year deal with a player option for 2023.

His production in 2022 has been nothing short of sensational. Verlander has the most wins for the Astros with a week left in the season. He has a 1.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 5.2 wins above replacement. More importantly for both Verlander and the Astros, is that he has played in 26 games and counting this season.

Whether Verlander remains with the Astros will likely depend on whether Houston is willing to spend. It is highly likely Verlander opts out of his player option following the strong 2022 campaign he has put together and looks for a bigger payday. Houston has shown it is not afraid to let key players walk in the offseason, so let’s take a look at a potential rotation with and without Verlander.

If the 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, stays with the Astros, he will undoubtedly be either the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in the rotation along with Framber Valdez, who is right behind Verlander in wins this season at 16. If Verlander leaves, Valdez should be the new Astros ace at No. 1.

Behind those two should be pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who in seven games in 2022 has a 2.38 ERA and has cooled the concerns about his right flexor tendon strain being a long-term concern. He suffered the injury last postseason.

After those three, things begin to get interesting. Let’s say Houston opts to stay with a six-man rotation. The fourth starter could be Luis Garcia, who has a 3.90 ERA in 2022. The 25-year-old has shown he is more than a capable starter for the Astros.

The big question is if Hunter Brown can lock himself a spot in the rotation. Numbers wise, he makes a solid case to be more than Houston’s fifth starter as he has garnered 1.13 ERA through four appearances and two starts.

Brown’s starts have been against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, so there is a bit of a caveat there, but the upside undoubtedly should put him in the conversation for a starting role in 2023.

If Verlander leaves Houston, it should be more of a guarantee that a spot in the rotation as a starter for Brown is locked. Another factor in whether Brown is a starter could be if the Astros keep Dusty Baker as manager. Baker has shown at times he is willing to side with veterans over younger talent.

Other factors in Brown’s role will also be Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. Urquidy has a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, all of which have been starts. Javier has a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances, 24 of which have been starts.

Javier’s role for the Astros the last couple of years has involved starting and coming out of the bullpen, but this season he has shown that he is a capable starter. Based on this season’s play, Javier should have the edge for a starting spot, which leaves the question, what should the Astros do with Urquidy?

If Verlander walks, and Houston opts to keep a six-man rotation, then he just slides in and becomes starter No. 6. If Verlander stays, then is he willing to accept a role out of the bullpen, or do the Astros continue to use Brown out of the bullpen? Over the course of the season, both Brown and Urquidy will undoubtedly have chances to start throughout 2023.

Because of the long grind of an MLB schedule, the Astros should not trade whoever doesn’t get a starting role if Verlander stays, but how likely is it that it is even a problem for Houston? Regardless of who leaves or stays, the Astros should also continue with a six-man rotation because over the course of 162 games, it is what is best for your starters.

If the Astros bring back general manager James Click, based on how the Astros have seen players like George Springer and Carlos Correa walk in the past under his leadership, it is likely Verlander leaves Houston, but at the same time, many didn’t believe he was going to be back at all for 2022.

One thing is for sure, the Astros have a great problem to have. So many starting pitcher candidates, many of whom can be under team control for several years. So even if Verlander walks, an unforeseen injury happens, or a player ends up being disgruntled, Houston has more than enough flexibility to remain among the American Leagues’s best.

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