DEEP RUN FOR COOGS?

Here's why Houston sports fans should savor Cougars' journey in NCAA Tournament

Go Coogs! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

There's a memorable scene in the movie Casino in which Robert De Niro's character, Sam Rothstein, is walking through the Tangiers Casino. In those opening moments his narrative highlights how he's now being admired & respected, the days of having a seedy reputation have "washed away" and he now has a fresh outlook and perspective. The same can be true next week as the University of Houston begins their journey, navigating the tournament field in Indianapolis. Imagine if over the next 2 1/2 weeks the city of Houston can wash away it's regrettable sports sins. A run to the Final Four would do just that.

The sin of allowing J.J. Watt to land in Arizona of all places. For the record, the Cardinals haven't actually won a playoff game in 5 years, and have only two playoff wins since January 2009. How about the sin of watching a watered down version of a previous championship caliber club in the Houston Astros? Astros fans, get ready for the growing pains of replacing Springer at the top of the lineup with Myles Straw whose on base percentage is going to be nothing short of dreadful. Speaking of dreadful, well, there's the Houston Rockets. Aside from a potential fire sale at the upcoming NBA trade deadline, they aren't relevant in the association any longer.

The best thing going right now in the city (as we attempt to drown out the Deshaun Soap Opera), are Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars. The administration knows exactly what it has, which is refreshing, recently rewarding Sampson with a contract extension that will keep him here through the 2026-27 season. For Sampson it's his 6th consecutive 20 plus win campaign, and throughout the state of Texas, the Cougars under his watch have won more games than any other D1 program, including Baylor who's been solid of late.

Assuming Sampson and his staff can keep his team under wraps in Indy, avoiding all the Steak and Shake handcrafted burgers and fries, (I personally like a side of the Chili Mac Supreme) they should advance with ease during the opening rounds. In recent days you've heard terms floating around campus such as "poised for a deep run." U of H is going to the Final Four, and during the magical ride the next few weeks, be sure to savor it, because for our city, this is the best it's going to get for a very, very long time.

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Jeremy Pena could have some big shoes to fill. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images.

MLB and the MLBPA are embroiled in yet another labor dispute. The owners and players have both dug in their heels and refuse to budge. No end is in site for the lockout as Spring Training is drawing more and more near each passing day. So what does that mean for our 2022 Astros' season?

One sigh of relief came when Justin Verlander signed his new deal. Two years for $50 million dollars isn't bad at all. Factor in he's closer to my age than my son (coming off Tommy John surgery), and some may worry. Not me. He's the closest thing to Tom Brady MLB has seen since Nolan Ryan. Jim Crane and James Click did a great job bringing him back. His spot as the ace with the rest of the staff they have should help shore up the bullpen if one or two starters can make that transition. I know I said I didn't want him back a few months ago, but time has passed, and wounds have been healed.

When it comes to Carlos Correa, I'm growing more and more comfortable with the thought that he may not be back. I talked about his potential replacement months ago. Maybe the reason being is that the club loves Jeremy Peña at that same position, and Pedro Leon could also factor in. Plus, Peña is tearing the cover off the ball in the winter leagues.

At 24 years old, turning 25 in September, he'll be under team control for the foreseeable future. That truly depends on the new labor agreement. So does Correa's new contract. His contract will be largely based on the parameters set in the new labor agreement, since he didn't sign before the lockout took place. And now we know that contact will be negotiated by Correa's new agent, Scott Boras.

I'm all for the doom and gloom when it comes to an MLB labor issue because they've historically screwed over fans. The most notable and egregious was the '94 World Series being canceled. However, there's way too much money at stake right now. More money than ever to be exact. That said, it's precisely why there's a dispute. That, and the fact that the owners have always gotten over on fans and players, and the players are poised to get their just due.

When the season starts, the Astros should be contenders yet again. Don't look for them to come out the gate firing on all cylinders as this team may look a bit different. Guys may not be fully ready after a lockout and there will be some roster turnover. The bulk of the core will be here, ready, and healthy. Whether Correa is a part of that group remains to be seen. Am I concerned? Hell no! This team has enough to fill that void at least partially and will have either guy under team control for a while. Think about this upcoming season as the time you fixed up your older car. New tires, headlights restored, rims polished, inside made over, and a fresh coat of paint after the transmission rebuild. It still has over 150,000 miles on it, but you wouldn't trade it in for anything because it still runs well and has sentimental value. You know one day it'll give out and need to be put out to pasture, but you're holding on and riding until the wheels fall off. Enjoy Astro fans, because the ride will be over one day. Hopefully much later than sooner.

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