Every-Thing Sports

Who/What Does Bill O'Brien Remind Me Of?

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Back at the beginning of December, I wrote my column on Bill O'Brien. "Time for Bill O'Brien to bleep or get off the pot" was written after they beat the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. In the opening paragraph, I called him the Grand Poobah of all things Texans. After the "reassigning" of defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and firing of Senior Vice President of Football Administration Chris Olsen, O'Brien's power has gotten to a point in which it seems only a disaster of epic proportions could possibly remove him from power.

The Texans became the first team in NFL history to lose a playoff game by 20-plus after being ahead by 20-plus. Not even that abysmal failure was enough for the McNairs to relieve him of his duties. Him only having to answer to Cal McNair and Cal not saying anything about O'Brien's piss poor performance tells me just how powerful O'Brien is. He reminds me of several historical figures who amassed great power and/or wealth, despite being a bad person:

John Gotti

Getty Images

Dubbed the "Teflon Don" for any charges brought against him to stick, Gotti took over as the boss of the Gambino family, one of the top Italian mob families in the country. He did so by murdering his predecessor and his next in line effectively seizing power by eliminating those ahead of him in the chain of command. O'Brien has done the same thing by getting rid of any and everyone in his way. Gotti was eventually caught, convicted, and died of cancer in prison. I know Texans fans are hoping for a similar fate for O'Brien.

Frank Lucas

Public Domain

Frank Lucas came to mind when thinking of those who rose to power by nefarious means. He was a small time criminal until Bumpy Johnson took him under his wing. Known as the Godfather of Harlem, Johnson was plugged into the Italian mob and served as their Harlem representative for heroin sales and distribution. When Johnson died of a heart attack, Lucas took over. Eventually, Lucas found a way to cut the Italian mob out when he discovered a direct line to heroin from Asia. Lucas was eventually caught and convicted, then snitched on over 100 others. Bill Belichick was O'Brien's Johnson. However, he's yet to find his own path.

Al Capone

fbi.gov

Al "Scarface" Capone was the co-founder of the Chicago arm of the Italian mob. He was one of the first famous gangsters back in the 1920s and 1930s. He ordered the infamous "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" in which he ordered the murders of seven members of a rival gang on Chicago's Northside in an attempt to eliminate the competition. This earned him "Public Enemy #1" moniker in the newspapers. He was ultimately jailed on income evasion charges of all things. He died at age 48 from complications of syphilis. When one thinks of how much blood-letting O'Brien has done, one could only hope something small and simple brings him down as well. He's become "famous" for being a buffoon of a coach and de facto GM, yet having complete power and authority.

Omar from HBO's "The Wire"

HBO.com

Omar Little was a fictional character from a tv show that most regard as one of the best shows ever. He was the guy who robbed the drug dealers as well as extorted them. The fact that Omar was gay only played a part in his character's story when one of his lovers was brutally murdered to get back at him. When Omar hit the block, even the most hardcore gangsters ran. He ended up testifying against an enemy (snitched) and sent him to jail, but wasn't killed because of it. What actually killed him was a kid, Kenard, who shot him in the head at a corner store. Too bad the Chiefs loss or the Jadeveon Clowney debacle didn't "Kenard" O'Brien.

These men have ultimately met their demise one way or another. What's curious is how so often their ends are met by unseen means. None of them died in a drawn out gun battle and only Gotti died in prison. While Omar is fictional, his death at the hands of a child was not something anyone saw coming. Lucas was a snitch who lived long enough to see movies made about him and died at age 88. Capone was the peculiar one who died from an STD after being jailed for not paying taxes. Different endings for different men, but all of them were eventually taken out. O'Brien will be taken out as well. The question remains: what will take him out? Will it be him retiring and walking away similarly to Lucas, or will he be taken out by a Kenard (Ex: trading premium draft capital for Laremy Tunsil, but not resigning him)?

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Justin Verlander is breaking the bank. Composite image by Jack Brame.

If you’re real quiet you can almost hear the sighs of relief coming from Astros owner Jim Crane after hearing that Justin Verlander signed with the New York Mets on Monday.

Verlander has been a model citizen and at times an amazing pitcher for the Astros since being traded to Houston in 2017. He won two Cy Young Awards and was instrumental in the Astros two World Series titles.

But the simple fact is, the Astros don’t need him and certainly don’t need to pay a pitcher turning 40 years old $86 million over the next two seasons. Remember, he also spent almost all of 2020-21 on the injured list with Tommy John surgery.

That’s how loaded the Astros pitching staff is for 2023 and years after. They can say goodbye to the best pitcher in baseball and not sweat the future.

Sometimes a team’s best signings are the ones they don’t make. We don’t know what the Astros offered Verlander to stay but this sounds like a similar situation to last year when the Astros made a half-hearted effort to keep All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa eventually signed with the Minnesota Twins and the Astros reloaded with rookie Jeremy Pena. How’d that work out? The rookie was named MVP of the ALCS and the World Series and won the Gold Glove at short.

Here’s how the Astros starting pitching lines up for 2023: Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia – with Hunter Brown waiting in the wings. That should be more than enough and, all things considered, cheap.

Heck, they won 106 games last season, won the AL West by 16 games and roared through the postseason 11-2 including the World Series title. And they’ve already signed coveted free agent first baseman Jose Abreu.

While Verlander was simply outstanding during the regular season, the Astros are built for the World Series, where Verlander historically has been disappointing. He entered the 2022 Fall Classic with a 0-6 career mark.

He gave up five runs in five innings in the Astros’ Game 1 loss this year. Verlander got a no-decision. In Game 5 the Astros were wringing their hands hoping he’d go five innings. Verlander gave up one run over five and the Astros won, 3-2, with JV getting his first Series win.

If you were building a team from scratch for 2023, who’d you rather have – Justin Verlander or 29-year-old, quality start machine Framber Valdez?

Verlander, age 40, will make $43 million next year. Valdez, a decade younger, will make one-fourth that. Valdez won both of his World Series starts in 2022.

Pitchers typically don’t get better and healthier after the big 4-0. Not $86 million better.

Of course, this is the Age of Stupid Money, in baseball. Last year, the Mets signed Max Scherzer for $130 million over three seasons. Scherzer won 11 games for the Mets in 2022 and got pummeled, seven runs in 4.2 innings, in his one postseason start.

The Texas Rangers just signed the supposed “best pitcher in baseball,” Jacob deGrom for $185 million over five seasons. Let’s go to the videotape, deGrom has pitched nine full seasons in the big leagues. His record is 82-57. That averages out to 9-6 per injury-riddled season. He was 5-4 last season. In his last three seasons, he’s won 5, 7, and 4 games. That’s worth $185 million? What’s that they say about the best ability … availability?

I know, deGrom has had startling earned run numbers over his career, when he actually gets on the mound. Charlie Pallilo and I have had a long-running argument. He says a pitcher’s value is based on earned run average and other statistics that can melt your mind. I say there’s only one stat that counts – wins. Jacob deGrom is not the best pitcher in baseball. The best pitcher last season was Justin Verlander, right up to the end. And then he wasn’t.

With the Astros “saving” $86 million over the next two years, they can focus on filling needs in the outfield. It will be easier to find money to keep Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley. The Astros can plan ahead for Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman becoming free agents after the 2024 season, and Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez a year later. Those guys won’t come cheap.

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