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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College football needs to call a timeout on the 2020 season.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are set to announce, maybe today, perhaps in a few weeks, whether they will play football this fall.

Already the Ivy League, Mountain West and Mid-American Conference have canceled their fall football season for health and safety reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Power 5 conferences – the Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference – should get onboard and put their football seasons on hold, too.

While some elected officials without medical degrees say that coronavirus amounts to little more than sniffles for young people, healthcare experts argue that college-age people, while they do recover quickly and may not exhibit symptoms, do contract and spread the virus.

There has been a 90 percent increase of young people testing positive for the virus in the past four weeks. More important, health experts say they can't measure the long-term effects of the virus, which may include brain damage, heart disease and reduced lung capacity.

There is a simple solution to play or not play college football this fall – postpone the season to next spring, when health experts will know more about the disease. There possibly could be a vaccine by then, which would allow fans back in stadiums.

Many high-profile college players and coaches weighed in on the debate Monday, almost unanimously saying that the 2020 football schedule should be played on schedule, starting in a few weeks.

Players, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, adopted the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. In a tweet, Lawrence said that players would be more at risk for coronavirus if the fall season doesn't move forward. "We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football."

Lawrence added that, if the football season is canceled or postponed, players "will be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely."

Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN, "Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home."

Two points: University presidents should listen to only one group of people – healthcare professionals – when they decide whether to cancel or postpone the fall football season. Yes, players want to play during this pandemic. But players also want to play when they are injured or their brain was just scrambled by a vicious tackle. We applaud athletes who play with a broken leg. We see players with concussions plead with their coaches to put them back in the game.

As for the argument that players are more likely to catch the virus if they're sent home – who's sending them home? These are student-athletes. Students. Most college campuses will be open with students attending classes this fall. Major college programs like Clemson have 85 full scholarships designated for football. Colleges won't take away players' scholarships if the football season is canceled. Clemson's campus will open Sept. 21 for in-person classes.

ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy also said the season should be played as scheduled: "If they're (players) OK, then I'm OK." Texas governor Greg Abbott chimed in on the players' side. He said, "It's their careers, it's their health."

What "careers" is he talking about? There are about 775 colleges that play football. Only 1.7 percent of all those players will play in the NFL or another professional league. On Sept. 3, Rice University will play Army. It is unlikely that any of those players will have a career in football. However, given the excellence of academics at those colleges, players will have career opportunities in something other than football. The average NFL career is 2-1/2 years. Rice and Army grads can top that.

The NBA is completing its season in a bubble in Orlando, with players confined to their hotels between games. Only 22 teams are in Orlando for the lockdown. The Rockets organization sent about 35 people, including coaches, players and essential personnel to Orlando.

Baseball is playing its season outside a bubble. So many players are testing positive for coronavirus that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last week threatened to end the season if teams don't do a better job of enforcing the league's health protocol. What's left is an unbalanced season. For example, the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners have played 18 games, while the St. Louis Cardinals have played only five games. The ironically first-place Miami Marlins, which had 18 players test positive, have played only 10 games.

College football can't be played in a bubble. There are too many teams, with some having more than 100 players and 20 coaches. And no sport thrives on fans' excitement and marching bands like college football. Several colleges, including the University of Texas and Texas A&M, have stadiums that hold more than 100,000 fans. Even if college football could be played in a bubble, it would require isolating players from August to January, when they're supposed to be in class. I know … supposed.

This one is easy. For the health and safety of players, play the fall 2020 season in spring 2021.

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