HOUSTON CAN'T AFFORD TO LET COLE WALK, ESPECIALLY TO THEIR COMPETITION

You have to keep the Cole Train in Union Station

Composite photo by Brandon Strange


After another dominating playoff performance Tuesday in the Bronx against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS it became even more imperative that the Astros do whatever it takes to re-sign him in the off-season. May 22nd was the last time he lost a game, including the playoffs and over that time he is 18-0 in 24 starts with a 1.66 ERA. The last time he lost a game Russell Westbrook was in OKC and Yordan Alvarez was in AAA. The world is finding out what we already knew, he has been the most dominant pitcher in the game for the last four and a half months and the front runner for his first Cy Young Award, along with teammate Justin Verlander. Could you imagine him doing anything like that in a Yankees uniform next season? Would it break your heart to see him in Dodger Blue and putting up similar numbers in the near future? If he signed with the Angels would it crush your soul, knowing not only that he wouldn't be on your team but he would be on a competing team in your division? Well if all of that is too much for your heart and soul to bear, then get out your good luck charm, send positive thoughts to whatever god you pray to and hope that Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow see what the world is seeing and realize the only place for this "Cole 45" to hang his hat in H-town.

Cole is entering the prime of his career and since he came to Houston he has gotten better, his velocity faster, breaking pitches sharper and strikeout rate higher, while his ERA has been lower. Cole is a student of the game that loves analytics and can't get enough data and information as he uses every tidbit and morsel to his advantage every time he toes the rubber. That's another reason the Astros are a match made in heaven for him. Houston does the numbers game and the implementation of any technology out there that can give the club and specifically a pitcher, an advantage. They are widely considered the best organization out there when it comes to advanced scouting and number crunching. Luhnow is a borderline baseball genius that has seen the game evolve and grow and knows how to stay ahead of the curve by embracing every piece of video, staying on top of every digital advancement and never shying away from any innovation that may be the next big thing. He has put the Astros on a very high level when people discuss the best organizations in the game and good clubs don't let great players walk out the door.

Astros Justin Verlander Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Justin Verlander is 36 and is a future Hall of Famer that has two years left on his contract extension that guarantees he will be in a Houston uniform for the heart of the franchise's biggest window in team history to consistently compete for championships. He brought the city its first World Series title by choosing them after they let it be known he was at the top of their trade wishlist in 2017. He is due to make over 30 million dollars a year for the next two seasons and deserves every penny. When that deal is done, there is no doubt the team needs to make their best efforts to re-sign him, but not at that price tag. As he enters the "back 9" of his legendary career, winning has a value too and veterans want to win before they give in to father time and walk away. Obviously, he didn't show any signs of slowing down this season, but if he knows when he steps back a little that he is giving the keys to Cole and the team knows it too, maybe they can talk now about the contract then and saving some money later so they can pay Gerrit now?

Astros Collin McHugh, Jeff Luhnow, Josh James Composite photo by Jack Brame

I know the Astros aren't made of money and for every guy they have signed or would love to sign, there are going to be casualties that fall by the wayside due to the budget and salary cap. For every Bregman in the fold, there's a Springer or Correa with a deal coming due in the not so distant future. With that said, bringing back Cole is not as hard as it seems. If you can find a trade partner for Josh Reddick and his $13 million dollar contract you have a base. Passing on Colin McHugh and Joe Smith would save you almost $14 million more. Wade Miley most likely will not return do there's another $4.5 million off the books. That puts you at a little over $32 million which should put you in the discussion for Cole to consider a return. If you need to sweeten the pot a little more you could consider letting Hector Rondon and his $4.5 million a year depart and that should be enough to get it done. You can always start there and add more later when Verlander's deal is up. The losses are completely outweighed by the greatness you would retain. Kyle Tucker replaces Reddick, Josh James is your new Rondon, Lance McCullers is supposed to be healthy in 2020 so that makes McHugh and Miley expendable. It really seems doable.

If you are still looking for more cash and more flexibility would you consider moving Zach Greinke and his $34.5 million dollars a year deal that has two years left on it? Even though Houston is only on the hook for $49 million of the $69 million remaining, if you can recoup a few top prospects to replenish your farm system after you gave up four highly-rated players to get him, I'm doing the deal. If trading Greinke means signing Cole and giving you more cash to try and keep Springer or Correa, I'm doing the deal and never looking back. Starting pitchers have great value in this league so teams will want Grienke and that would allow you to keep one of the best young starters in the game who is six years younger, throws harder and lasts longer than Greinke can at this stage in his career. He was worth the risk when the team traded for him but may have more value going forward if you can find him a new team. Are you guys with me? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Go Astros!

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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