H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Monday, November 27, 2006

Worst Game of the Season

Every time I think the Texans have reached their nadir, they surprise and horrify me anew. Yesterday's abomination at the Meadowlands was quite simply the worst game I have seen the Texans play all season, and it might have been the worst game they've ever played. Although words can't describe the depth of their putrid performance, I'll give it a try:

1. The Texans accumulated a whopping 25 yards rushing. On 14 carries. Over the course of sixty minutes. At a rate of 1.8 yards per carry. Enough said.

a. Well, not quite enough said. How do you go from 188 yards one week to 25 yards the next? Can anyone tell me? What the hell happened?

2. David Carr's line=39-54, 321 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. I feel confident saying that anyone who watched the game would agree with me that it was least impressive 300+ yard performance ever seen. The vast majority of those stats (including the TD pass) were posted when the game was well out of reach. Stats are stats, but these are really misleading.

a. The interception was terrible. Just a horrible decision, and a nauseating throw. What's worse, it occurred when the Texans really needed a big play to stay in the game.

b. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I found myself nodding when reading Scott's dissection of Carr this morning. It physically pained me to type that last line.

c. Carr dumps off to his safety options way too quickly and way too frequently. I know that he's been shellacked over the course of his career, but man...give the WRs time to get open.

d. I'm not jumping off D. Carr's bandwagon just yet, but I have to admit that his inability to make a big play when he has All-Pro caliber WRs is troubling me.

3. Andre Johnson (10 catches for 98 yards and a TD) and Eric Moulds (10 catches for 79 yards) had solid days, but neither had a game-changing play. For the life of me, however, I don't understand why the Texans don't take more shots down the field with those two guys. The vast majority of their catches came on short routes and quick slants.

a. Andre dropped one pass that actually made me gag on my beer and shake my fist at God.

4. DeMeco Ryans had another 14 tackles. He'd better get some Pro Bowl consideration.

5. Morlon Greenwood had another nice game with 9 tackles. He hasn't been able to string strong games together with any consistency, but he occasionally justifies the contract Casserly gave him.

6. The secondary's play defies description, so I might have to make words up to summarize their play. Craptastic? Patheterrible?

a. Petey Faggins was awful yesterday, and the Jets picked on him like they watched tape of his tussle with Lee Evans from the week before.

b. Dunta Robinson has gone from stalwart to liability. There, I said it. I hate myself for writing that.

c. Glenn Earl and C.C. Brown HAVE to be the two worst starting safeties in the NFL. There isn't anyone who's even close to as bad as they are.

d. I don't envision a scenario where the Texans don't take the best DB on the board come April. On a team with many weaknesses, the secondary is easily the most glaring.

7. Chad Stanley continues to make me question his inclusion on the Texans roster. His fumble yesterday made me reach for the Drano to chug.

8. As many who read this space know, I'm often criticized for being too optimistic about the Texans. I always manage to find some good in each game. Well, yesterday's game finally did it. I am officially distraught for the first time all season. Even last year's 2-14 debacle didn't beat me down like the last two weeks have. Combined with the Horns losing to That Team That Has Lassie As A Mascot on Friday, this was the worst football weekend of my life. I am a broken man.

9. I really hope Kubiak keeps the Texans within ten points of Oakland on Sunday.

No More QB Controversy This Season

Because Sage Rosenfels (and Mike Flanagan) are out for the season after yesterday's game:


Has any other team lost three starters on the offensive line for the season? Or is it just one more case of the Almighty laughing at Texans fans? This is freaking ridiculous.

Recommended Reading from HTS

Do yourself a favor and don't wait for Michael Lewis' new book The Blind Side to come out on paperback. I read it in a matter of hours over the holiday weekend, and it is well worth the early purchase. This book discusses the evolution of the left-tackle position on the offensive line, into which is woven the amazing tale of Michael Oher, who went from homeless to a HS All-American and the #1 offensive line recruit in the nation in 2005 in a matter of weeks. Both the football content and the narrative surrounding Oher's incredible ride are tremendously enjoyable to read, though I will say that I'm still a bit confused as to how a homeless kid can somehow weigh 325 pounds at age sixteen. That's a lot of soup kitchens, isn't it?

Lewis is also the author of Moneyball, another must-read from a couple years back that takes a fascinating look at Billy Beane's approach to building a baseball team in Oakland.

[ESPN] Chizik to Ames

Horn fans hope that Gene takes the entire secondary with him, right? Or would they rather him take Frank Okam and rest of the Disappearing D-Line? Or Scott Derry? The possibilities seem endless.. Nonetheless, seems like a great hire for Iowa State. Color me a bit surprised that Chizik jumped at this particular opening. Maybe he realizes that the shine of last year's title is already fading, and he'd better get while the gettin's good?

A Cornucopia of Sports

- For five years now, David Carr has not been permitted by his truckload of offensive coaches (with the exception of six quarters of football in 2005) to call his own plays on offense at the line of scrimmage. Carr is apparently given a run/pass option from the sideline and is allowed to check from pass to run or run to pass, but he has generally not been authorized by any of the various coaching staffs to check to an entirely different play based on the defensive alignment that he reads pre-snap. To me, this is probably the most glaring example of why the Texans offense is permanently stalled. This is a major handicap that winning NFL teams (and even college teams) would never tolerate, and the root cause of this problem (Carr's football IQ) is also allowing the Cover-2 defense to throttle the Texans' offense on a weekly basis.

Opposing defenses consistently play a Cover-2 zone defense against the Texans, rolling a safety over to double-team the Texans' receivers if they choose to run a route penetrating more than about seven yards downfield. This is not some uniquely designed scheme specifically created to attack the Texans; it is a common, conservative defensive strategy that was made popular by Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay and has subsequently spread throughout the NFL. The Cover-2 allows opposing teams to complete passes of five yards or less and relies on its defensive secondary and linebackers to prevent yards after catch, and at the same time, tries to limit the offense's ability to make plays downfield by rolling the safeties over to double-team downfield receivers.

In order to beat the Cover-2, the QB must occasionally be able to pick out a favorable situation downfield and put the ball in a spot where his WR can catch it BEFORE the safety rolling over to that WR's side can create the double-team. The defensive philosophy is that an offense that dumps the ball off to a receiver 90% of the time is not going to produce enough yardage to score points at a winning level, and forcing the ball into double-teams is obviously a risky proposition that will likely lead to a significant number of turnovers, two qualities that have sadly become the identity of the Texans' offense. Therefore, winning teams must (and routinely do) thwart the Cover-2 by having their QBs make throws downfield before the double-team materializes. The Texans, however, have NEVER made these plays, dating back to the franchise's inception.

It is apparent from reading the reports, listening to the coaches and watching the games that David Carr cannot read NFL defenses successfully enough to make play-calling decisions at the line of scrimmage or to execute successful passing plays downfield against the Cover-2. Carr is not able to anticipate where the defense and his receivers are going to go, so that he can put a ball to a spot to meet the open receiver, but instead he only can react to the play as it develops, which is an approach that would not permit any QB to produce winning plays downfield. The Cover-2 works against the Texans because Carr cannot mentally make the right decisions downfield in a quick enough fashion to make the throws necessary to force the defense out of the Cover-2. Therefore, the results are consistently three-fold: (1) Carr holds the ball too long, waiting for the WR that he has isolated as his chosen target to beat the double team that has been caused by the safety that has rolled over, such that either the pocket collapses or Carr's bad footwork is exposed; (2) Carr forces a ball into the double-team at the wrong moment, leading to an incompletion or a possible interception; or (3) Carr dumps the ball off short. Carr may be tough enough to take a hit or talented enough to fire a ball into traffic, but it is quite evident that he is not mentally equipped to lead an NFL offense.

Watch the QBs on winning teams and the plays that those QBs make downfield. Rarely is it as simple as a Lee Evans v. Petey Faggins situation, where the receiver simply breaks free behind the entire defense. More often than not, these type of plays are made when the QB makes a quick read and threads a ball to his WR in that instant when the WR has shaken the cornerback and just before the safety has locked down the double-team. Against a Cover-2 zone, the downfield passing game requires precise, instant reads as much as it demands pass protection and a strong throwing arm. Even when the pocket holds, the Texans have never been able to beat the Cover-2 zone, and until they figure out how to do so, they will never be able to move the ball quickly enough downfield to score a winning number of points on a regular basis.

- Congratulations to the Astros for adding Carlos Lee and Woody Williams. It is certainly nice to see ownership rewarding their loyal fan base by spending some of those surplus revenues on talented players. Personally, I think both contracts are considerably excessive, especially Carlos Lee's, as I have commented on this blog before.

Woody Williams, famed ex-Cougar, is coming home, but certainly not for a discounted price. Paying $6.5 million per season for two years to a guy who is turning 40 next season and who was far from dominant outside of the spacious confines of Petco Park (1.45 road WHIP in 2006, 1.64 road WHIP in 2005) is not a slam-dunk winning decision, but clearly the Astros need some help at the back-end of their rotation. For $13 million, is Williams going to be that much better than Jason Hirsh, Taylor Buchholz, Fernando Nieve or Troy Patton could be, given their chances? I don't think so, but signing Williams' contract is certainly defensible and could prove to be a bargain if he provides 200+ productive innings each of the next two seasons.

Carlos Lee is a nice player, but he is not an elite player, and paying Lee an average of $17M per season through the age of 36 demands that he be more than just a nice player. If Lee hits 40 HR and drives in 130 and the Astros score 5+ runs per game for most of the span of his contract, then the signing will likely be considered a success in hindsight. If Drayton expands his payroll to $115M+, such that Pettitte and Clemens can be re-signed and guys like Lidge, Wheeler and Ensberg can be kept on the roster, then the move is even more defensible. More likely, Lee's signing will result in the departure of several players due for pay raises (like Taveras, Ensberg, Huff, Wheeler and Lidge), which may or may not result in a better team on the field. The early hands have been dealt, but whether or not the Astros' offseason is a successful one is yet to be determined. There are still a lot of moves on the table, and Purpura and his staff have a lot of decisions to make. Don't start saving up for playoff tickets just yet.

- Quietly, the Rockets have won another three games in a row and sit one game behind San Antonio in the Midwest. Tracy McGrady's game is progressing beautifully from a scoring machine to an all-around All-Star, and I believe that this transformation is going to benefit the Rockets' tremendously in the playoffs. Rafer Alston's inconsistency both with the shot and off the dribble demand that the Rockets have a second playmaker on the perimeter, and T-Mac is fitting that role perfectly. Plus, McGrady's jumper is still off the mark (42% on jump shots, which make up 82% of his shots), so a diversified offense that involves more of Tracy-creating and less of Tracy-shooting is proving to be a successful strategy.

The Rockets' defense continues to be its calling card, leading the league in points allowed, third in the league in opposing FG%, fourth in the league in TO differential and fifth in the league in rebounding margin. These are all very important categories that collectively represent a broad range of the game, and the Rockets are faring well above average in all of them. That bodes quite well for the rest of the season, as long as the core players can remain healthy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Is Carlos Lee Worth $100,000,000.00?

No. No, he's not. But it's looking like there' s an excellent chance he's going to get it. In the wake of the Cubs breaking their piggy bank with Alfonso Soriano (8 years, $136,000,000.00--are you freaking kidding me?), the buy-in for an impact free agent bat has spiraled out of control. The 'Stros allegedly have an offer of at least five years for $60,000,000.00 on the table to Lee, but word is that another team has offered five years for $70,000,000.00 and a third has offered a six year deal:


I'm going to get on record now about this. The Astros should NOT go any higher than five years and $75,000,000.00 for Carlos Lee. Frankly, even that hefty price tag terrifies me. If I was Uncle Drayton, I'd probably walk away from the bidding right now. Although you'll rarely hear me say that I agree with the Chronicle's John Lopez, I think he's right on the money with his column today:


While we may be dreaming that Vernon Wells or Carl Crawford are legitimate possibilities to be plying their trade at Minute Maid in April, I'd much rather have either of them than Carlos Lee, and I'd rather pay either of them bigger dollars than Carlos Lee. Neither will come cheap, but if the Jays or Rays are willing to take a package of Burke, Everett, Ensberg, and Hirsh, T-Poo has to make that deal in a second. If they want Patton instead of Hirsh, I'd have to think long and hard about it, but I still think I'd pull the trigger. Wells or Crawford for $15,000,000.00 per year sounds a whole lot better than Carlos Lee for that kind of money.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Soul-Crushing Defeat

I'm still not really ready to talk about yesterday's loss to the Bills, but I feel like I have an obligation to the Texans fanbase to post my thoughts, even if doing so will require frequent breaks to refrain from punching out my laptop screen and/or to wipe the tears of disgust off my keyboard. I wouldn't call yesterday's debacle the most painful loss I've ever witnessed; after all, I did attend The University of Texas from 1997-2001. But it's definitely top five for me, and that' s really saying something for someone who fervently backs a franchise that's lost games at an alarming clip over the past five years. Without further ado:

1. I hate you, J.P. Losman. More than that, I hate the Texans secondary giving up 340 passing yards and 3 TDs to a quarterback who's lucky to post those stats over the course of three games. God, I think I just threw up in my mouth.

2. I hate you too, Lee Evans. 11 catches for 265 yards? With two touchdown catches of 83 yards apiece? On the exact same play? When did this become Madden '93, and when did Lee Freaking Evans become Jerry Rice?

3. I don't hate you, Petey Faggins. But I seriously thought about running down to the field to reprimand you after Evans' second arson at Reliant. And by "reprimand you" I mean "beat you about the head and shoulders until the security guards on the field went Fred Weary on my arse."

a. Getting burned twice by Lee Evans on the same play is inexcusable, but how about the complete lack of safety help? Unless you consider the safety letting Evans get behind him "help." Oh, this bile does not taste good at all.

b. Although the screw-ups cost the Texans 14 points, nice job of adjusting by Richard Smith in making sure that no one got behind the secondary again. You know, until...

4. Congratulations to Peerless Price, who decided to come back to life just in time to stab me in the heart. What a catch.

a. Nice coverage, defense.

5. Kudos to Dunta Robinson on his INT for a TD in the third quarter. Said kudos, however, are tempered by the fact that he got burned on a few big plays. Not Petey Faggins burned, but beat.

6. Mario Williams is still a force to be reckoned with. No sacks, but he was disruptive and frequently commanded double teams. His progress has been one of the real joys of this season.

a. Obligatory "I have a man crush on DeMeco Ryans" mention. Thanks for your patience.

7. Two close losses, two HUGE fumbles by Jameel Cook. His turnover at the seven yard line right before halftime almost moved me to tears. And I'm not talking about happy, "Rudy" type tears. I'm thinking more "Old Yeller" style. I'm officially concerned about Cook.

8. Memo to Chester Pitts: Please don't hold. Especially not when your team can put the game away. Sweet Mariah.

9. Eric Moulds had a nice game with five catches for 68 yards, and it was obvious that Carr was trying to get him involved against his old squad. It'd be nice if he was featured like that against teams from cities that don't end in "-uffalo."

10. Andre--another six catches for 76 yards. Just punch his ticket to Honolulu already.

11. David Carr had a record-tying 22 straight completions (take that, Mark Brunell!) and finished 25-30 for 223 yards but no TD passes and 1 INT. A steady but unspectacular day for him. Thankfully, we should be spared "Carr is the reason we lost" rants for a week.

12. Don't look now, but the Texans' offensive line is legit. Look at the number of sacks given up the last few weeks. The improvement is noticeable, despite a crippling spate of injuries up and down the line. I think we have Mike Sherman to thank for the vastly improved play.

a. GREAT debut by Eric Winston. You hate to lose Zach Wiegert, but the silver lining is that Winston will get to show that he is one-fifth of the offensive line for years to come.

13. In large part because of Point 12, the Texans had another successful day running the ball with 188 yards on 27 carries (7.0 yards a carry). Wow.

a. Samkon Gado--10 carries for 69 yards, including a pretty 34 yard run and a TD.

b. Wali Lundy--8 carries for 61 yards and a TD. Reggie who?

c. I feel really good about the running game with those two guys.

d. There's no way Domanick Davis is a Texan next year, right? You have to figure he'll be cut if they can't trade him.

14. In light of the success the Texans had running the ball, Kubiak's decision to throw on 3rd and 2 with less than two minutes is admittedly puzzling. Conventional logic says you pound the ball and make Buffalo burn their last timeout. I look at it this way: I applauded Kubes for being unconventional last week against the Jags, so I'm not going to attack him for calling the risky play this week. It didn't pay off this time, but I'd rather have a coach with cojones than a Dom Capers clone. Don't forget that Kubiak is still finding his way as a head coach; Mike Shanahan made those tough calls in Denver. I still love the guy, and I don't love many people after yesterday.

15. Swirling winds in the Meadowlands against the Jets? No problem. Watch for the Texans to continue to defy fans and Vegas alike with a win on the road. Believe it!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Some Tips for T-Poo

Soriano, Lee, Schmidt and Zito. While certainly a quartet of talented players, none of these will wear an Astros jersey in 2007, and that's not all bad. While any of these four would certainly prove a boon to the Astros' on-field success, all four will sign with a team for a excessive amount of money, and in a year or two, whichever team signs each of these year may well find itself desparately trying to shed salaries to absorb the blow. A budget-conscious franchise like the Astros simply is not going to win a bidding war for one of the big name free agents this offseason, but there are alternatives, and here are a few that are not only practical, I believe that they would prove more beneficial than signing one of these four to a monstrous deal.

1. Upgrade the bullpen depth via free agency. This is one area where there is significant value available. Bring in JC Romero or Alan Embree as lefty specialists. Look at David Aardsma, Danys Baez, Justin Speier and Chad Bradford as additional bullpen depth behind Qualls and Wheeler. Qualls and Wheeler...am I forgetting someone? Nope...

2. Trade Brad Lidge. I still believe that Lidge will prove valuable again, but I just think it won't be in Houston. I love Lidge's toughness, his stuff and his personality, but he's going to be attractive to one of the multiple teams in baseball who need a shutdown closer, and he's obviously accumulated a fair amount of baggage here in Houston. He's too good (potentially) and too expensive to keep for the 7th inning, and you have a couple of reliable guys in Qualls and Wheeler at the back of the pen. There are plenty of holes on this team, and you've got to part with something of value to obtain a valuable return. Lidge is a guy who it makes sense to trade. Ideally, T-Poo can spot a team who has an excess of young positional talent available with whom a match can be found (Tampa Bay, Arizona and Atlanta spring to mind).

3. Bring in some bench guys who can actually hit. Mike Piazza, Todd Greene and Gregg Zaun are available at the catcher spot. For the record, if I was truly in charge, I'd already have bone in a direction other than Ausmus at starting catcher, but I'm dealing with the cards that have been dealt already, so let's have one of these three guys on the bench as an offensive threat. Also, please...no more Palmeiro or Bruntlett. There are some guys available like Frank Cattalanotto, Tony Graffanino, Jay Payton and Todd Walker who I'd like to see on the Astros' bench ahead of those two, and it shouldn't cost too much to make these moves.

4. One of the punchless trio of Ausmus, Everett or Taveras cannot start everyday. Having four spots in the lineup (including the pitcher) with < .600 OPS cannot continue any longer. To me, Taveras is the guy that goes, as he is the youngest and most exciting of the three and thus will generate the most interest on the trade market. Naturally, trading a young, exciting player is risky, but I am willing to take that risk. All the speed in the world is not too dangerous with .320 OBP. But who's going to play CF now with Taveras gone?

5. Trade for Vernon Wells.
He's only 27, plays an above-average CF and has put up very good numbers for several years, albeit in the AL. This is a guy who is worth $85-$100 million, I think, and he'd fit perfectly in Houston's lineup. Dangle Pence, Hirsh and Taveras at the Blue Jays and see if they'll bite. Mix and match some young pitchers (or even possibly Chris Burke) and see what you can work out. I think that there's enough on both sides of this equation to suggest that a deal could be worked out. Wells is a free agent at the end of '07, so acquiring him obviously hinges on getting him to sign a long-term deal in Houston, but let's assume that 5 years, $85-95 million or so would get it done. If it does, this is a move that makes a whole lot of sense.

If the above all worked out, then I think you could quite easily convince Andy and Roger that another shot is worth their effort. Sign Andy for a two-year deal worth about $22M, and do another 1/2 year special with Roger.

Burke - LF
Lamb/Ensberg - 3B
Berkman - 1B
Wells - CF
Scott/Lane - RF
Biggio - 2B
Everett - SS
Ausmus - C

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How I Spent my Off Day...by Fred Weary

Taking a page from ex-teammate Steve Foley, Texans RG Fred Weary was detained by the Houston Police Department today, but not until police decided that it was necessary to use a FREAKING TASER! Weary was reportedly pulled over at 610 and Westpark at about 1:00 today.

No comment from Steve McKinney yet on the possibility that he may now regain ownership of the starting RG position. Personally, as long as no one was hurt and no illicit substances are found in Weary's blood or console, I think that Weary should be signed to a contract extension and promised part ownership in the team. It's nice to finally see a Texans player show some passion, even if it is on a Tuesday lunch hour...during a traffic stop.

Finally...it's Hoops Season!

There's a very good reason to stay up late tonight, basketball fans. At 11:00 p.m. on ESPN2 in a first round Preseason NIT matchup, All-American candidate and Preseason C-USA Player of the Year Morris Almond takes the Rice Owls traveling hoops show out west to Spokane to take on the always ferocious Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The Zags are minus Player of the Year Adam Morrison and stud post player J.P. Batista, but they are returning a very talented lineup with a couple of stellar new pieces as well. Sophomore C Josh Heytvelt missed much of last season due to injury and will try and replace Batista as the Zags interior post threat. He will instantly be a more athletic, though less polished, threat on both ends of the floor than Batista was, and true freshman Matt Bouldin was perfect from the field in the Zags' season opening win over Eastern Washington. This year's Zags team will have less name recognition but may be a better threat to go deep in the tournament thanks to better teamwork and more depth.

Rice pasted the always dangerous Paul Quinn Tigers of NAIA fame in its season-opener, with the aforementioned Almond chipping in 24 points in 21 minutes of action. PG Lorenzo Williams had 11 points and 7 assists in only 16 minutes, and he will to deal with the pesky Derek Raivio tonight for the Zags. Tonight's winner will take on the winner of Colorado State-Baylor tomorrow night, also in Spokane.

The other team in town, Tom Penders' Coogs, nipped Lamar Odom, Cuttino Mobley and the rest of the Rhode Island Rams on Monday night 102-99 in OT, and in typical Penders fashion, the action was fast and furious. The Coogs escaped thanks to a last-second regulation tip-in by Robert Lee that tied the game at 90 and won on a three-pointer by Oliver Lafayette at the OT buzzer. The Coogs shot an impressive 18-38 from beyond the arc but were outrebounded 53-37. Next up for the Coogs is a home date with Monmouth.

Roy O. Got Hosed!

The NL Cy Young was awarded to Arizona's Brandon Webb this afternoon. Now, I don't have a problem with Webb getting the nod. He had a helluva year, and he's a deserving winner. But Oswalt finishing fourth in the voting? With only three (3) first-place votes? Are you freaking kidding me? The best ERA in the National League is good for fourth place? Two spots behind a reliever? Can I ever stop typing angry rhetorical questions?

This is an outrage.

Astros Hire Pitching Coach

Seems that T-Poo finally got around to replacing Jim Hickey. While I wonder why Wallace's contract wasn't renewed with the Red Sox, it's nice to add another coach with championship experience to the staff. And make no mistake: If the Katy Rocket and Pettitte don't return, Wallace is going to have to work his butt off to get results out of everyone on the 'Stros staff not named Roy Oswalt.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Four in a Row for the Rockets

Don't look now, but the Rockets are already showing signs of being a dominant force in the Western Conference, winning their fourth straight last night, 94-72 in Miami. The Rockets trailed by three at the break, but outscored the Heat 55-30 in the second half to convert a nailbiter into a laugher. Offensively, Yao imposed his will on the Heat from areas inside and outside the lane and Luther Head made a trio of clutch three-pointers in the fourth quarter. The win was somewhat dampened by an ugly injury to Chuck Hayes' left knee, which was hyperextended in a collision with Shaq. Losing Hayes for a significant period of time would be a considerable setback for the Rockets, as Hayes' defense, rebounding and unselfish play has proven a perfect fit early in the season at the starting four position.

As impressive as the Rockets have been, the same cannot be said for the Heat, who look old and inflexible aside, of course, from D-Wade. Antoine Walker and James Posey are streaky three-point shooters, and last night they were ice cold, combining to go make just two of ten tries from behind the arc. This allowed the Rockets to slough off of those perimeter guys to help on Shaq and D-Wade.

A few other assorted notes from the game:

- T-Mac's shot is still way off, and the reasons are easily detectable when watching his shot in slow motion (thanks to DVR). He is squaring up neither his shoulders nor his feet to the target, and he is releasing the ball after he reaches the peak of his jump, which is hindering the arc that he puts on his shot. The good news is that these problems should be rather easily correctable and that Yao's dominance underneath is enough to carry the team while T-Mac works things out. Further good news is that Tracy played a beautiful floor game last night, distributing a game-high eight assists and making only two turnovers.

- Rafer Alston is still not my favorite point guard, but last night he made a couple of three-pointers and played hard-nosed defense on the endlessly annoying Gary Payton. One confrontation in front of the Heat bench resulted in a ridiculous double-techinical call and a finger-pointing/trash talking session by the even-more-annoying Pat Riley (my least favorite Kentucky Wildcat of all time), a confrontation in which all that Rafer did was play physical defense up until the whistle was blown, which apparently is something that neither PG nor Riley appreciated very much. It was quite evident that these two teams do not share a mutual love for each other, which made the game quite entertaining and the win all the sweeter.

- Some interesting notes from my favorite site: 82games.com:
- While Yao is on the floor, the Rockets are averaging a +14 point differential per 48 minutes.
- Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes, each of whom is becoming legendary for his efficient play on both sides of the floor, are each undefeated this season through seven games in terms of plus/minus per game. In other words, in each game so far this season that each of Battier and Hayes have played, the Rockets outscored their opponents while each of Battier and Hayes was in the game. Hayes leads the team with a +17.8 per game point differential. Steve Novak, who has seen relatively limited time thus far, is at -23.9.
- The Rockets' best quintent in terms of win% is their recent starting (and finishing) five: Alston, McGrady, Battier, Hayes and Yao. That fivesome has outscored its opponents in five of the six games they have participated in together and has outscored their opponents by 45 points.
- T-Mac's struggles from the perimeter have been highlighted by the fact that 83% of his shots have been from the perimeter and 69% of his shots have come in the first 15 seconds of the shot clock, which implies to yours truly that he is taking a lot of long shots early in the shot clock, so that not only are they not going in the basket, but they are not necessarily resulting from the flow of the half-court offense.

Dynamo Win MLS Cup; H-Town Sports Takes Notice

I don't follow soccer, but I hear that the local futbolers won a championship yesterday. Your detailed celebratory post will be penned by notorious soccer superfan Scott. Check back shortly.

Gary Kubiak For Coach of the Year!

Yesterday the Texans surpassed last season's win total with a stirring 13-10 victory over the hated Jaguars of Jacksonville. More importantly, Houston won a road game for the first time since 2004. This also evened their divisional record to 2-2, with both divisional victories coming over Jack Del Rio's bunch of trash-talking hooligans. Most importantly, Gary Kubiak made the kind of call with the game on the line that the previous regime never would have made. He made the kind of gutsy call that wins football games and shows your team you believe in them. It wasn't a pretty game, but it certainly showed the vast improvement the team has made since Sheriff Kubiak rode into town. Without further ado:

1. I'm running out of words to describe DeMeco Ryans. I'm beginning to legitimately wonder if he can walk on water. That pop on Garrard, which led to Morlon Greenwood's interception, should be on a poster.

2. Jason Babin had two (2) sacks. In other news, down is up and left is now right. Playing with Mario Williams just might be rubbing off on him.

3. Speaking of Super Mario, he's apparently battling a hellacious case of plantar fascitis. You wouldn't have known it from watching him play yesterday. Once again, he was a force throughout the afternoon. Jacksonville's offensive line was doing everything but coming after him with a chainsaw; he was held all day, but still managed to get in Garrard's grill a time or nine. The game stats don't show it, but he is a difference-maker on defense.

4. How about Big Anthony Weaver grabbing a pick and rumbling 21 yards after the catch? If he keeps that up, I might start a movement to get him shifted to the secondary.

5. I have devoted considerable space to ripping the secondary, but it's been a completely different unit since Petey Faggins returned. Faggins sure had some big plays in coverage yesterday.

6. Nice to see you again, Dunta Robinson. We missed you.

a. Quote of the day came from Dunta after the game; when asked about the drive-and-momentum-crushing offensive pass interference penalty he drew from Reggie Williams, Dunta remarked:

"I'm not saying it wasn't pass interference, but I do think I should be nominated for an Oscar."

7. Four picks for the Texans yesterday. They had two in the eight games prior.

8. Special teams--ugh. Kris Brown is quickly becoming the new Phillip Buchanon.

9. Owen Daniels had better watch out. He might just cause me to start a "Daniels for Pro Bowl" thread.

a. The Texans were unabashedly hosed by the zebras on that fourth-quarter catch by Daniels. Incomplete pass my arse.

10. Andre Johnson finished with a relatively quiet three receptions for 56 yards, but anyone who watched the game knows how big 41 of those yards were. His catch on the first drive of the game took the air right out of that stadium.

11. David Carr was knocked out of the game with a bruised throwing shoulder, but he was shown throwing on the sidelines; I'm hoping he'll play against Buffalo on Sunday. Until he was injured, Carr was having a solid (if unspectacular) game; he was 16-32 for 167 yards, O TD, and O INT. That line, however, doesn't tell the whole story. Carr had some absolutely HUGE runs for first downs; the line shows 48 yards on 5 carries. This is another area in which he's significantly improved--knowing when to pull the ball down and take off. In past years, he had a tendency to take off too soon. He seems much more patient now.

a. I LOVED the QB draw call by Kubiak/Calhoun for Carr. It caught Jacksonville completely by surprise.

b. Sage Rosenfels was positively unspectacular in relief of Carr, but he didn't make any mistakes and got the win. That's good enough for me.

12. Zach Wiegert is lost for the season with a torn ACL. That's a substantial loss; Wiegert's improved play was a big reason for the Texans' improvment on the line this season. On the bright side, Eric Winston will get some valuable experience and the opportunity to show he should start next year.

13. Samkon Gado--67 yards on 17 carries, and one of those yards was particularly big...

14. Leading by three points. 4th and 1 with 1:40 left on the Texans' 41. The textbook call would be to punt, pin the opposition deep, and make them drive down the field to tie or beat you. So what does Kubes do? He goes for it. I cannot tell you how much I support that call. And I cannot do justice describing it, so I'll just post some illustrative quotes:

Fred Weary: "As an offensive lineman, you want the game on your shoulders in a situation like that. It hasn't been that way for the offensive line for the past four years, so we're starting to get a little walk about us. When it comes down to a situation like that, if we go out and make the play, it makes it easier to make the play call next time."

Dunta Robinson: "I love coach Kubiak. It takes a coach with guts to make a call like that. What did we have to lose? We're 2-6. (Jacksonville) is a team that's in the playoff race. Let's go all out. Let's not settle. Let's not give them the ball back."

Andre Johnson: "It was a gutsy call because of where we were on the field. We all wanted him to go for it. If we hadn't made it, they could have kicked the field goal, but if you can't get six inches, something's wrong. I wasn't surprised, because he's a real aggressive coach."

And the Man of Steel himself, Gary Kubiak: "Hell, let's go for it."

Damn right, Kubes. And may 12 Jab live forever in Texans lore.

15. Let's try this again...the Texans will net their first winning streak of the season with a win at home over Buffalo on Sunday. Believe it!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Scott Loses. Houston Wins.

Despite Scott's repeated entreaties to the contrary, the Houston Astros signed local icon Craig Biggio to a one year, $5 million deal:


Well done, Uncle Drayton. Bidge should never don the uniform of any other team, and this deal virtually guarantees that he won't. Here's to Bidge getting that three thousandth hit in front of a capacity crowd at Minute Maid.

Finally, the Clouds Begin to Part

H-Town Sports can't expect to be reap the respect it deserves without joining in on the fun known as Bowl Projections, and last night's loss by Louisville left me with such a warm feeling inside that I am motivated to predict the remainder of the college football season and bowl schedule. I see the season playing out with 71 bowl-eligible teams. So, buckle up, boys and girls, and get out your pencils and paper...here's how it's going to play out:

Final Regular Season HTS Rankings
1. Ohio State 12-0
2. Florida 12-1
3. Michigan 11-1
4. Texas 12-1
5. Cal 11-1
6. Auburn 11-1
7. LSU 10-2
8. Louisville 11-1
9. USC 10-2
10. Wisconsin 11-1

Bowl Projections:
BCS Championship Game: Ohio State v. Florida
Sugar Bowl: LSU v. Louisville
Orange: Georgia Tech v. Auburn
Fiesta: Texas v. Boise State
Rose: Michigan v. Cal
GMAC: East Carolina v. Western Michigan
International: Cincinnati v. Ohio
Capital One: Wisconsin v. Arkansas
Gator: Virginia Tech v. West Virginia
Outback: Purdue v. Tennessee
Cotton: Oklahoma v. Auburn
MPC Computers: Miami (FL) v. Nevada
Chick-fil-A: Boston College v. South Carolina
Alamo: Iowa v. Nebraska
Meineke: Wake Forest v. Rutgers
Champs: Maryland v. Notre Dame
Insight: Penn State v. Missouri
Liberty: Houston v. Kentucky
Sun: Kansas v. Oregon
Music City: Clemson v. Alabama
Texas: Pittsburgh v. Oklahoma State
Holiday: Texas A&M v. USC
Independence: Texas Tech v. Georgia
Emerald: Florida State v. Oregon State
Motor City: Central Michigan v. Air Force
Hawaii: Hawaii v. Arizona State
Armed Forces: SMU v. TCU
New Mexico: New Mexico v. San Jose State
Birmingham: South Florida v. Southern Miss
New Orleans: Tulsa v. Middle Tennessee
Las Vegas: BYU v. Washington State
Poinsettia: Utah v. Navy

WOW - that was brutal. I got seasick at about the Independence Bowl. I'm sure I left a deserving team or four out of the mix and/or have some teams where they cannot possibly go, but it was quite a rush. Feel free to post your reaction to my insanity.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lopez's Fantasy Team - Great Stories, Horrendous Performance

John P. Lopez of the venerable Houston Chronicle pens the latest in a seemingly endless run of mind-numbing pieces about the Astros' ongoing negotiations with future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. To John, "3,000" should be the only number of concern for the Astros this offseason. I've got a number that I suggest is somewhat more important, at least from my standpoint: "1". That's the number of games that the once-woeful Cardinals finished ahead of the Astros in the NL Central Race, before catching fire and winning the World Series in five games over seemingly invincible Detroit. Remember that? Look, I have voiced my opinion about this matter in the past (here and here, among others) and will do my best to prevent redundancy here, but I don't think it's healthy for me to contain the frustration that I feel after reading such backwards analysis.

Lopez attempts to make the case that the Astros must do whatever it takes to sign Craig Biggio for 2007, not because it will make the Astros a better team but because it may help the Astros become the franchise with the most impressive revenue stream or the franchise with whom the most SportsCenter reporters travel. This is just the type of thinking in which Drayton McLane himself apparently engages on a regular basis, but I can promise you that it is not the type of thinking that Walt Jocketty or Dave Dombrowski will be doing this offseason. Winning franchises would not be worried about accomodating their bad players at unlimited prices; they would be looking to improve their team's on-field performance, to strengthen any weaknesses that last year's edition had (and we all know that the Astros had plenty).

I understand the fans' undying love for Biggio and appreciate his legendary effort, relentless dedication and admirable loyalty to the Astros franchise. But waaaayyy too much import is being placed on the 70-ish hits that Biggio is chasing. He is either a Hall of Famer already or he is not. Sure, it's a nice personal milestone, but it is not Pete Rose's record, and last I checked, individual accolades were supposed to come along innocently in the course of helping your team win, not in conflict with the team's best interests.

Also, I simply do not understand the blind faith that Lopez and his ilk have that allow them to so resolutely declare that "[Biggio] will make this a productive year", apparently because he is too proud to play badly. Of course Bidge does not intend to become a "sideshow act" or a "bumbling shell of what he once was" as Lopez suggests, but as harsh as it may sound, I believe those transformations have already begun to materialize. He is certainly not one of the better defensive second basemen in baseball anymore, and his offense has been in a rather precipitous tailspin for several seasons, a tailspin which is accelerating rather considerably with his increasing age. Handing a 41 year-old second baseman who is coming off back-to-back seasons of marked decline in performance (see the .306 OBP that JPL references in his article) six million dollars when you have an alternative who is younger, cheaper and quite simply a better player who is more than ready on the bench is asinine.

Of course it is a difficult situation for ownership from a public relations standpoint, as you do not want Bidge leaving town in a spat over money, when you, the franchise, are drowning in revenues. But do you really believe that a bad team with Bidge starting 75% of the games at second base and chasing 3,000 hits would be more popular in this town than a winning team with Bidge starting only two or three days a week?

T-Poo has made no bones about the fact that he intends to have Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus in the everyday lineup come 2007. That's bad enough on its face, but to include a .300 OBP, defensively-limited second baseman in the lineup with him, not to mention at a price that will take a not-so-insignificant bite out of the Astros' roster budget for 2007, is just dumb. Sportswriters may want Bidge around full-time in 2007 so that they can write another dozen easy "Bidge is King" columns next summer, but signing Bidge to such an outrageous deal and promising him a large role on next year's team sends a message to your fans and to all of baseball that you are more concerned with the material pursuits of a single player than you are about the success of your organization, and as a fan, that is the opposite path I want my team to take.

Texans Rookies Get Some National Pub

SI.com's Peter King has selected his All-Rookie Team at the halfway point of the season, and it's a strange treat to see three (3) Texans featured on an All-Anything Team. Specifically, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, and Owen Daniels all nabbed spots on King's rookie squad.

Houston fans know how solid these three guys have been, but they've been unheralded nationally, primarily because of the Texans' 2-6 record. Kudos to King for giving them their props. Based upon early returns, it's clear that the recent draft was far and away the best in franchise history. Is it coincidence that 2006 was the first draft that Casserly wasn't running the show? I think not.

So Apparently Local Sports Talk Radio COULD Get Worse...

David Barron reports in his blog that Ted DeLuca and John P. Lopez will replace Dan Patrick on 790 AM from 12-3 weekdays with a daily call-in show. I am not an avid sports talk radio guy, to be honest, but I do have an hour commute each way, so I hear bits and pieces as I drive. I listen to John and Lance in the mornings depending on what they are discussing, and I like Charlie Palillo in the afternoons on 790, if I am in the mood for sports talk on the drive home. 790 AM sure seems to be headed straight for the toilet, though. Their new morning show is absolutely insufferable, and I have heard these two mid-day guys as fill-ins before, and I cannot imagine they will stand up very well against Rome on 610 and Patrick on 97.5 FM (ESPN Radio's new home in Houston). The difficult part of listening to sports talk radio in Houston is that as bad as the hosts are, the callers are typically even worse, which is not really a recipe for entertaining radio.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

Thanks to Truehoop for this scoop on the details of election donations made by sports-affiliated names. Pretty interesting list.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Numbers of Interest

- Andre Johnson leads the NFL with 65 catches and 752 yards receiving. Unfortunately, he's more like a slot receiver/tight end threat than a true #1 WR threat - see the 11.6 yards per catch, which is nowhere near the top 50 in the NFL.

- The Texans' passing attack ranks 15th in the NFL with 204.8 yards per game and leads the league with a 70.7 completion percentage. Average yards per attempt is a respectable 16th at 6.80, but that's really a bit misleading. The Packers, who rank 27th in yards per attempt, are only about one-half yard per attempt behind the Texans.

- The Texans are 27th in the league in total rushing yards, 28th in rushing yards per game (87.3) and 26th in yards per carry (3.5). They are also tied for the league lead in fumbles (15) and tied for 27th in rushing TDs (3).

- The Texans are tied for next-to-last in the AFC in turnover margin (-9), not just because they are tied for third in fumbles lost (9) but mostly because they have caused only six turnovers on defense, worst in the AFC. Points of reference: Buffalo and Cleveland are just ahead of Houston (11 takeaways) and the Ravens have an astounding 25 on the season.

- The Texans are 30th in the NFL in yards per punt (41.4) and next to last in the NFL in punts downed inside the 20 yard line (7).

- Wali Lundy is averaging 4.2 yards per carry, despite Sunday's stubbed toe.

- Only Jeb Putzier is averaging more than 11.6 yards per catch (15 on a total of four catches). Jameel Cook, Wali Lundy, Ron Dayne and Samkon Gado have combined for 45 catches (25% of the Texans total receptions) for 248 yards (an average of 5.5 yards per catch).

David Carr Answers the Bell

Yes, the Texans lost. But anyone who wasn't impressed with the performance yesterday of Houston's much-maligned QB is simply insane. Make no mistake--yesterday marked the ballsiest performance of David Carr's career. He knew he had to produce, and he did it. I didn't know if he had it in him, but his passion and efficiency yesterday answered my doubts. Now the challenge becomes two-fold: (1) Put forth that type of effort every week and (2) Bring home a freaking win before my head explodes. Other thoughts on the day after the sixth loss of the season:

1. Super! Mario! What a dynamite game from the rookie! Another sack highlighted his continuing and frightening growth, and he was in the Giants backfield all day. Speaking of the sack, Mario's mocking of Strahan's sack dance was simply elite. And his sarcastic comment after the game about not knowing the Giants had patented the move? Tremendous.

a. That roughing-the-passer penalty he incurred was a complete joke. God, I hate Eli Manning.

b. We're at the halfway point of the season, and all that Reggie Bush talk sure has quieted down, hasn't it?

2. DeMeco Ryans--another ten (10) tackles and a sack. If he's not your Defensive Rookie of the Year, I don't know who is (unless it's Super Mario) or what Ryans has to do to win it. The guy is a demon.

3. Scott mentioned it in his post below, but how about that Texans secondary lighting people up? They still couldn't consistenly cover a team of wheelchair-bound geriatrics, but Glenn Earl & Co. sure dished out some pain yesterday.

4. Another game, another nine (9) catches for Andre Johnson. It's gotten to the point that you just expect eight catches per game from the NFL's best wide receiver.

5. Owen Daniels quitely had another solid game. Jeb Putzier may be looking for work after this season.

6. I really wish the Texans utilized Eric Moulds more. He seems to disappear at times.

7. His statistics from yesterday don't necessarily support this assertion, but I am more convinced than ever that Wali Lundy can be the RB Kubiak's system requires. It seemed like he was on the verge of breaking a couple of decent runs, and he certainly runs with a quickness and decisiveness that Ron Dayne and Samkon Gado have not exhibited.

8. I don't hate you, Jameel Cook. But I may have cursed your name a time or nine yesterday. My bad.

9. For all of the talk about Carr having to bounce back, where's the heat on Joe Marciano? Special teams were an unmitigated disaster in Nashville, and things weren't much better against the Giants.

a. Remember when Chad Stanley boomed punts into the stratosphere? What happened to that guy? It's like every punt goes off his shin these days.

b. Anyone else have that same sense of dread when Kris Brown lines up for anything beyond the 15-yard line? It's like playing Russian Roulette, but with three bullets in the chamber.

10. The Texans will win their third game of the season and sweep the series with the Jags on Sunday. Believe it!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Thoughts from One that Got Away

It was a pleasure to watch the Texans participate in a real NFL football game. On the road, in a hostile environment against a championship-caliber football team, the Texans hit hard and played with confidence. One thing remained unchanged: costly mistakes still lose football games. Just ask Jameel Cook.

- The defense set the tone early and often, namely rookie sensations DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams. Glenn Earl's nuclear shot on Jeremy Shockey sent a message as well. Richard Smith deserves a lot of credit - his defense is playing great football right now. Eli Manning was dazed and confused all afternoon, and the dynamic duo of Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs was held in relative check. It didn't hurt that Plax Burress and the Giants starting right tackle were both out, but all in all, it was a near heroic performance. One shutdown corner, and the Texans' defense will be one of the best in the league.

- David Carr played well. He was by no means spectacular, otherwise the Texans would have scored more than 10 measly points against a banged-up Giants defense. Compared to last week, he was outstanding. He did a nice job of managing the offense, got rid of the ball quickly and made an absolutely studly TD run. He still had a couple of completely terrible plays (tripping and falling to giftwrap a key Giants' sack and drifting with happy feet out of the pocket and creating pressure on himself on a play in which the O-line had provided a picture-perfect pocket). If he played like this week-in and week-out, then he would be a serviceable starting QB. Trouble is, through 67 starts, he has not ever played consistently well. Today's game was an example of a game that an upper-echelon NFL QB takes over and wins it for his team. Carr has the tools and the scheme, but he is still not winning those games. Maybe if he gets another two or three years, he will, and I guess that's the hand we've been dealt as Texans' fans.

- Listening to Rich Gannon was very enjoyable, especially with regards to his analysis of quarterback play.

- The personal foul call on Mario Williams was a travesty. Whatever got into Mario today, be sure to get it into mass production for the next ten years (unless it's similar to what Shawn Merriman recommends). He was a force of nature today.

- The triumverate of C. C. Brown, Gus Scott and Glenn Earl may not be All-Pro caliber, but they sure can lay some wood. Part of Eli Manning's ineffectiveness, I believe, was thanks to the physical tone set by the back line of the Texans' defensive corps.

- MVP today was the coaching staff, minus Joe Marciano. I thought that the offensive playcalling was outstanding. Though the running game was only marginally effective in terms of yards per carry, Kubiak and Calhoun stuck with it, and it helped establish a physical tone to the game and keep the Giants' offense off the field. Richard Smith's defense played the best game that I've seen a Texans' defense play...ever. Chad Stanley had a crappy punt in a key field position situation, and Kris Brown missed a kick that should have been made. I know that kickers' (aside from Adam Vinatieri) are not perfect, but I sure would like the Texans to have a guy who is automatic from 45 yards and in.

- I am liking Gary Kubiak more and more each week. He looked a little overwhelmed early in the season, but he seemed to ooze confidence on the sidelines today. I really think that the aggressiveness that the Texans are playing with right now is an extension of their head coach, who is going to win a Super Bowl at some point.

Quick Hits on Texans v. Giants: Pre-game Edition

I don't usually post my pre-game thoughts on the Texans, preferring to wait until I have actual tape to break down/rant about. But my cousin, a diehard Giants fan, lodged a special request that I memorialize my thoughts and predictions regarding our two respective squads meeting in Jimmy Hoffa Stadium this afternoon. I'm nothing if not a people-pleaser, so without further ado:

1. Today's game is without a doubt the most important game of David Carr's career. If he does a reasonable impression of last week's abominable performance, his time as Houston's starting QB is over. If D.C. does a reasonable facsimile of his stellar performance against the Jags two weeks ago, he lives to fight another day and shuts up the critics for at least a week. My bet? Carr doesn't finish the game, and the Houston QB Controversy goes into overdrive beginning this afternoon. I really, REALLY hope I'm wrong.

2. Regardless of who's throwing the ball to him, Andre Johnson will have a huge game. The Giants are ailing on defense, especially at CB (Sam Madison, their best DB, is reportedly out for today's tilt); I expect Andre to eat them alive.

3. The latest reports indicate that Plaxico Burress won't be playing for the Giants today. While I'm none too pleased about that from a fantasy perspective, I couldn't be happier from a Texans fan perspective. He would have destroyed the Texans.

4. Tiki Barber will get his yards, but the Texans' run defense has improved in leaps and bounds the past few weeks. I don't think it'll be the gimme stat game that many are predicting for Michael Irvin's nemesis.

a. I hate Michael Irvin. Nice to see Tiki call him out for the joke he is.

5. Another big game from Owen Daniels? Yup. He should be the beneficiary of a significant amount of short passes today. That's a mixed blessing though; his receptions will likely be the result of a strong Giants pass rush.

6. Another big game from Wali Lundy? God, I hope so. The Texans will have to run the ball with a modicum of success to have any chance today. I don't see him finishing with another 100 yard effort, but man...I really hope I'm wrong.

7. Bold Prediction No. 1--the Texans will finish with more sacks than the Giants. I will be the first to admit this completely defies logic. It's just a gut feeling. And I see my boy Anthony Weaver having a particularly disruptive afternoon.

8. I abhor Eli Manning. Ever since he refused to go to San Diego in the draft, I've hated him. It's called a draft. By its very nature, the draftee doesn't get to choose where he wants to go. That's what free agency is for. That punk should have been thankful that he got drafted, worked hard, and put in his time. If he was dead set on fleeing San Diego (and why would anyone be? It's freaking paradise!), Peyton's brother should have signed a contract that gave him an early out. He did not have the right to hold an entire franchise hostage. I don't even care about the Chargers, but I have actively rooted against Manning the Younger ever since he became a Giant and squealed with glee every time Phillip Rivers outplays him.

a. Is Bold Prediction No. 1 influenced by my burning hatred of Eli Manning? Maybe. Possibly. Yes.

b. Nothing would make me happier than David Carr outplaying Peyton's brother this afternoon. Do I think it's going to happen? No. But, MAN...it'd be sweet.

9. We've come to the portion of the program where I predict the outcome of today's game. A third Texans win? My past ill-founded optimism aside, I just don't see it. NYG 24, HOU 14. I think I just threw up in my mouth typing that.

Friday, November 03, 2006

In Other News, Gary Busey Picked Up an Academy Award

According to the Chronicle, Brad Ausmus has been awarded his third Gold Glove for his defensive excellence behind home plate for the Astros in 2006. Congratulations from H-Town Sports, Brad. Apparently, "defensive excellence" for catchers can now be defined by throwing out exactly 17 of 77 (22%) of would-be basestealers in a season. [Note: stats from MLB.com, not the Chronicle, which listed Ausmus at 12 for 72 (17%)]. Ausmus threw out less baserunners than any regular NL catcher other than Mike Piazza and Damien Miller, despite catching 80+ more innings than any other NL catcher. Of course, defensive production is just gravy for the Astros when it comes to Ausmus, who posted a career-low .285 slugging percentage in 2006.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

T-Poo Locked Up Through 2008

Hear that? That's the sound of an entire city exhaling. The 'Stros announced that wunderkind GM Tim Purpura's contract has been extended through the 2008 season:


Good move, Mr. McLane. T-Poo's shrewd patience with the youth movement was a large part of the reason the hometown team reached the World Series in 2005. That same belief in the youth movement and subsequent refusal to add a bat at the trading deadline may have cost us a playoff berth this year, but I digress. Some critics will say that T-Poo hasn't done anything yet, that the club's success last year was wholly the result of Gerry Hunsicker. And that may be right. The bottom line is that T-Poo's street cred will be established this offseason. He can finally construct the team as he sees fit. Apparently, Uncle Drayton believes that T-Poo's vision is legit. We shall see.

There's Nowhere to Go but Up, Right?

Wow, what a stinker from the Rockets last night. My thoughts:

- Dikembe Mutombo appeared to be done as a player, even in a bit part. If you're 7' 2" and cannot dunk, it seems to follow that you should not be playing in the NBA. He is simply too slow and too unathletic at this point in his career to contribute on either end of the floor. Keep him on the roster as a 14th man, if you wish, but please do not plan on him playing ten minutes a night behind Yao. Luke Schenscher was a late cut in Chicago, or maybe try high-school flame out James Lang for a 10-day contract.

- Rafer Alston had a terrible game. I have envisioned him blossoming in his role as a pace-setting distributor of the ball, but somehow he ends up taking 13 shots (and missing eight). Defensively, to put it kindly, he was a sieve. Deron Williams and Derek Fisher abused Rafer to the combined tune of 31 points and 16 assists. Would Luther Head be a better option in the starting lineup? Defensively and from a shooting standpoint, the answer is clearly "yes".

- T-Mac seemed way off. I wish that JVG's offense had more of a triangle-based format, setting Yao up in the post with T-Mac slashing to the hoop. The pick-and-roll game is not Tracy's forte, in my opinion. I want to see more of Tracy in the paint and less of Tracy launching off-balance 20-foot jumpshots.

- I loved Ronnie Brewer before the draft, and he looked as good as expected last night. He does nothing exceptionally well, but he is simply a versatile, dynamic basketball player on both sides of the court. Jerry Sloan will make very good use of his multiple talents in Utah. The Jazz are a very interesting team. If Boozer stays healthy and CJ Miles holds his own at the two-spot (two sizable if's), they could be a very tough out in the postseason. Deron Williams is going to be a special player, without question.

- Heading into the Dallas game, the questions are many. Primarily, does Rafer have any prayer of slowing down Jason Terry, and if Carlos Boozer can go for 24/19, could Dirk go for 45/25? Fortunately, it is a long season, but the silver lining is that even after 42 minutes of miserable basketball on the road against a tough team, the Rockets had a chance to win late, drawing within five points.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thank You, Jeff Bagwell

In a move that surprised absolutely no one, the Houston Astros declined to pick up Jeff Bagwell's $17 million option for 2007 and bought out the remainder of his contract for $7 million yesterday, effectively ending his playing career with the only major league team he's ever known. As it should be, today's Chronicle is replete with stories (here, here, here and here) about Bagwell the player, Bagwell the man, and Bagwell's impact on the organization throughout his fifteen (15) seasons as an Astro.

At the risk of getting emotional, let me say that today is a sad day for all fans of the Houston Astros. Bagwell and Biggio have been the franchise for the better part of many of our lives, and it's not easy to see them ride off into the sunset. All of the talk we hear these days about how smoothly the Houston clubhouse operates is a direct result of their influence. There's little doubt that Bags left an indelible mark on the organization. That's fitting, too, from a guy who may go down as the best player to ever wear an Astros uniform.

Despite the messy way his tenure ended with the 'Stros, I am confident Uncle Drayton will do what it takes to make sure the hatchet gets buried. I hope that Jeff Bagwell's plaque in Cooperstown (.297 BA, 449 HR, 1,529 RBI with ROY and MVP awards--ridiculous), likely the first to ever feature a player in an Astros hat, leaves space for mention of what many pundits consider to be the worst trade in the history of baseball (traded from Boston for Larry Andersen in 1990). I know that I'll be stopping by to pay my respects.