Every-Thing Sports

Why (and how) the Astros and Gerrit Cole should stay together

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Gerrit Cole is in the midst of Cy Young run this year. Cole, who turned 29 on Sunday, is 16-5 this year with a 2.73 ERA and has 281 strikeouts. He would be the going away choice for the award if it weren't for teammate Justin Verlander who's18-5 with a 2.52 ERA and has 264 strikeouts. Cole is set to test free agency this offseason for the first time in his career. I don't fault him for wanting to explore his options. How often do you get to be at the peak of your profession, able to pick who and where you work while simultaneously commanding one of the best salaries in your field? Anyone of us would be chomping at the bit to do so. I believe there's a way for the Astros and Cole to stay together and here's how/why:

Winning

The Astros are set up to win and compete for World Series titles over the next few years. Verlander is signed for another two years, so is recently acquired Zack Greinke (15-5, 2.99 ERA, 167 strikeouts). This starting rotation is scary. Most great teams have had two high end starters. The 1990s Braves at one point had four. This could be the closest thing we've seen since those Braves teams. Did I mention the lineup they have? Guys like Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve are locked up for several more seasons as well. Other teams may be able to offer winning as a carrot to dangle, but can they offer it long term?

Money

Here's where the rubber meets the road with most contract negotiations. Most guys are looking tot cash in and get paid. Top of the line pitchers command anywhere from $25-35 million a year on contracts these days. With the way Cole has pitched (and his age), he's looking at a monster deal in terms of annual average value and length. The Astros can compete by structuring his deal with a lower salary the first two years and jacking it up starting in year three. This will offset the two years in which they're paying Verlander and Greinke, as well as others on the team who have big deals.

Location

Cole and his wife are both Southern California natives. The Dodgers, Angels and Padres are all in SoCal. All three teams can afford to back up a Brinks truck in order to pay him and could use a pitcher of his caliber. However, California also has some of the most outrageous taxes in this country, whereas Texas has no state income tax. Factor in the cost of living difference, and he could make more money by choosing to stay with the Astros even if they pay him less annually. Besides, I'll take hurricanes over earthquakes every time in the natural disaster debate.

Brent Strom

Strom is the Astros pitching coach. He's also apparently a pitcher whisperer. Strom has been able to get the most out of guys regardless of their natural talent. He's made guys like Charlie Morton and Wade Miley seem like those Picaso paintings people buy dirt cheap and later realize what they truly have. Strom is the reason Cole has pitched the way he has the last couple years. Who's to say he's going to continue pitching this way without Strom's tutelage?

If the Astros win another World Series and Cole left for the biggest offer he could get, I wouldn't blame him. Still wouldn't blame him if he took such an offer if they don't win it all because it's ultimately his decision. Fans have to realize they'd all do the same thing if the shoe were on the othwer foot. However, if he factors in the reasons I've listed here, someone should cue the Al Green and we should all get ready for a few more years of title runs.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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