H-Town Sports

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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Quick Question

What exactly did the Titans do this season to "give Vince Young a chance to succeed?" I've heard plenty about the Texans' failure to put the tools around David Carr necessary for him to be successful. What tools did Vince get? Ben Troupe? Travis Henry? A lockdown defense? I don't think so. Andre Johnson is a definite #1 WR, right? Domanick Davis was a 1,000 rusher, right? I realize that the line had definite holes and Corey Bradford stinks, but the pantry was not complete empty, was it?

Maybe it's not a fair question. If not, let me know. I'm just not totally convinced that such an injustice was done to DC. Not many first-round QBs are handed the keys to a gassed up Ferrari their first few seasons in the league, basd on the fact that they're being drafted by a team with a bad record the season before. Sure the team had a lot of holes, but my feeling is that a lot of QBs would have fared much better than Carr did under the same set of circumstances.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

So David Carr DIDN'T Have a Good Game on Sunday?

The increasingly readable Jerome Solomon made some great points about the city's much maligned quarterback in his latest blog post. Namely, that everyone trumpeting Carr's performance on Sunday as "flawless" should take a deep breath and watch the game a little closer:

"I watched the Houston-Indianapolis game with an NFL defensive back, and he pointed out several interesting things about Carr's play. Carr checked off his first option perhaps three times in the game. When his first option was covered, he threw the ball away (assuming all of his wildly wayward throws were intentional). Now that could be coaching or game plan or fear ... or all of the above could be one in the same."

Five years into his career, I have to admit that I'm a wee bit concerned that the Texans' starting QB is still apparently incapable of going through his progressions. Memo to Bob McNair: Please take this into account when you're wrestling with D.C.'s future in a few days. And by "wrestling with D.C.'s future," I mean "buying him a bus ticket back to Bakersfield."

Game-Winning Field Goals Get You Noticed

Funny how that works. Kris Brown has been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Oh, and some dude who used to play QB for the state's flagship university was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. I'm just glad that the Texans are set at QB, or else I'd be...what's that? We're NOT set at QB? Crap.

One Less Option To Take Over the Texans QB Job

Looks like Tampa Bay has eliminated one contender from the pool of free agent candidates that could replace David Carr at QB next season by re-signing Texas Ex Chris Simms. I'm not saying he would have been the best choice, but the Bucs have made Simms' fit with Kubes moot with this move.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hell Freezes Over: Texans 27, Colts 24

Even two days after the fact, I still can't believe it. After losing nine (9!) straight (a/k/a every game) to the Indianapolis Colts over the last five (5!) years, your Houston Texans cast off the yoke of their horseshoed oppressors with a rousing last-second victory over Peyton Manning & Co. on Christmas Eve. And you know what? The Texans deserved to win. They were the better team. I almost blacked out from typing that last sentence, but it's the truth. Sure...if the Texans and Colts played 100 times, the Colts would probably win about 98 of them. Yet on one December afternoon, the Texans pulled off the second biggest win in franchise history against a vastly superior team. For a franchise with far, far, FAR more crushing and ugly defeats than victories, this was huge. I'm not ready to anoint it as The Game That Turned Around the Franchise; there's still a good chance the hometown team spits the bit against the Browns on Sunday, a la the final game of what was a promising 2004 campaign. Regardless, it's the first glimmer of substantive improvement we've seen in a good long while, and it's cause for celebration around these parts. Without further ado, a brief holiday recap:

1. RON. FREAKING. DAYNE. 32 carries. 153 yards. 2 TD. The dude was unstoppable. I know that many pundits will attempt to minimize the effort by citing Indy's season-long inability to stop the run, but give the guy his due. Dayne was a machine. I can't believe I'm saying this, but he has to be your starting RB come training camp? Right? Right?

a. Does Dayne's emergence, coupled with Lundy's flashes of promise, mean that the Texans would pass on Adrian Peterson in the draft? It's probably irrelevant, as Peterson should be gone by the time the Texans pick, but it's an awfully interesting question.

b. Scott's text message to me during the game: "More Chris Taylor, please." Very limited touches for the undrafted rookie, but he looked like a dual threat running and catching the ball. Enough to get me to say that Reggie Bush is a poor man's Chris Taylor, anyway.

c. Yes, Battle Screwdriver Day returned to Reliant on Sunday.

2. David Carr has taken a whole lot of heat in every corner of this city for the past several weeks (if not the past two seasons), and it's been mostly deserved. Again, however, give the guy his due. He played a tremendous, mistake-free game. I think it's too little, too late for D.C. in Houston, but his performance on Sunday will surely get coaches and offensive coordinators around the league salivating at his potential once again.

a. I'm going to be awfully pissed if Sunday's game trumps everything else that he's done this season and results in a new vote of confidence from Bob McNair. There's no doubt that Carr is a helluva human being, but one game does not a career make.

3. Andre Johnson quietly passed the 100 catch mark on Sunday. That's just ridiculous. At least he didn't get the Pro Bowl shaft like a certain Texans linebacker that wears No. 59.

4. Hello, Eric Moulds? Are you there? Hello?

5. Really liked what I saw from Kevin Walter (2 catches, 21 yards) on Sunday. He was signed to be the No. 3 WR, but the guy goes weeks at a time without a pass thrown to him, much less an actual catch. You have to think that's more a reflection of the offensive philosophy (a/k/a Kubiak's lack of trust in Carr's decision-making and subsequent shift to a run-heavy gameplan), yet I wonder why he's not a bigger part of the gameplan every week.

6. I'll say it: Thanks for the nightmares, errrrrrrrrr, memories, Jameel Cook. Vonta Leach did more in one start on Sunday than you've done all season. His ability to hold onto the football did not go unnoticed by this observer.

7. Unbelievable game by the offensive line. The run blocking could not have been any better, and Carr usually had plenty of time to throw. Given the ridiculous spate of injuries they've suffered this year, I think this is a testament to Mike Sherman, who should become the offensive coordinator now that Troy Calhoun is taking the Air Force job.

a. Nice to see you, Steve McKinney. What a game!

8. Mario Williams is the greatest defensive end since Reggie White. There, I said it. Sure, maybe I'm overreacting to the HUGE fumble he forced off Dominic Rhodes that was recovered by Anthony Weaver. Sure, maybe I'm more than a little pumped that he displayed his usual freakish athleticism on one foot while disrupting the line of scrimmage. Sure, maybe I'm grasping at straws after VY led another comeback win for the Oilers. But I don't think so.

a. From Peter King's MMQB:

"I think the Texans made the drafting of Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans look very, very good Sunday. Both were vital in the win over the Colts. 'I don't care how people judge me,' Williams said afterward. "I know I'm a part of building something good for this franchise.' He showed it Sunday."

9. Speaking of DeMeco, he only had eight (8) tackles on Sunday. Guess that Pro Bowl snub was deserved after all (choking on own rage)...

10. The secondary, particularly Dunta Robinson, handled what is quite possibly the best receiving corps in the NFL reasonably well. Sure, they got burned by Marvin Harrison, but they kept Reggie Wayne entirely in check. When some dude named Bryan Fletcher is the second leading receiver for Indy with two catches for 29 yards, you've done your job.

11. Kris Brown is Santa Claus.

a. Game-winning 48 yarder with three seconds left? That's no chip shot. That's clutch, baby.

12. Congratulations to Gary Kubiak and his staff. Great gameplan, great strategy, unbelievable win. The City of Houston thanks you for doing what Dom Capers could never dream of doing...beating the Colts.

13. 6-10 after Sunday's season finale against the Browns, thus TRIPLING last season's victory total? You'd better believe it!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nick Anderson Takes on David Carr


It’s just possible that when your local newspaper creates an electronic cartoon mocking your inability to avoid a pass rush or complete a pass that it is pretty likely that the local fans have turned on you and your days as a Houston Texan are numbered. Was it so long ago when he was drafted and Houston fans were excited about the promise of a bright future that David Carr would usher in?

I have to confess I was shocked to see some of the comments posted alongside this cartoon especially this one taking Carr hatred to a geopolitical level:

“If you ask me Carr is about as good at being a quarterback as Bush is at being a president. Carr's career and Bush's presidency are mirrors of each other....filled with mistakes, excuses, denial and both clearly incompetent. The U.S. had the chance to vote Bush out and the Texans could have drafted VY...but no.

The world would have been much better off without Bush and the Texans without Carr. Hey, maybe they are the same incapable person.”

I have to say that I feel sorry for David Carr. He has talent. He seems like a good guy. He treats his family and the City of Houston well (outside of Sundays). He has taken beating after beating and not bad-mouthed the organization or his teammates. Of course football is not about nice guys and family men, it’s about results. Right or wrong…supported with sufficient personnel or not…Carr is the QB and responsibility falls on his shoulders.
Time for a fresh start…and new cartoons…

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Also on the News at 6:00 - The Sun is Hot

The Baseball Prospectus today ranks NL starting pitchers in terms of the "luck" from which they benefited in 2006. Not so surprisingly, the Astros were represented on this list by Wandy Rodriguez, who ranked 24th. BP defines "Luck" for starting pitchers by comparing the number of extra wins and short losses that pitchers earn to his expected record. According to BP, Wandy's pitching was equivalent to a pitcher with a 7-10 record, though he actually recorded a 9-10 record on the season.

Also in the "Sky is Blue" category is the fact that Roger Clemens ranked as the unluckiest Astros SP in 2006. BP's theory is that Clemens "should" have been about 10-3, considerably better than his actual 7-6 mark. One other note - the unluckiest pitcher in the NL? New Astro Jason Jennings, who BP slotted as worthy of a 15-10 record, much more respectable than the 9-13 hand that he drew.

Enough of This Season...Where Will the Texans Draft?

You know you're a Texans fan when you're analyzing draft position when the majority of teams are fighting for playoff spots. So while everyone else is worrying about division titles and wild card berths, H-Town Sports will take a look at how the other half lives. Actually, the dregs of the NFL this season are comprised of seven (7) teams. Here they are, along with their current record and remaining opponents:

1. Detroit (2-12): CHI, @DAL
2. Oakland (2-12): KC, @NYJ
3. Tampa Bay (3-11): @CLE, SEA
4. Arizona (4-10): @SF, @SD
5. Cleveland (4-10): TB, @HOU
6. Houston (4-10): IND, CLE
7. Washington (5-9): @STL, NYG

And here's my prediction on their final records:

Detroit (2-14)
Oakland (2-14)
Tampa Bay (3-13)
Arizona (4-12)
Cleveland (5-11)
Houston (5-11)
Washington (5-11)

Aside from my admittedly absurd selection of the Texans to defeat the Browns in the season finale, I don't think there's a whole lot of room for debate, given the remaining opponents for each team. Regardless, the Texans should be picking somewhere between fourth and sixth overall come April 28, 2007. And yes, I have already marked my calendar. It's my Super Bowl.

{NOTE--Thanks to reader Bouj, who opined as follows:

"FYI the draft tiebreaker is strength-of-schedule, not head-to-head (so no one can throw games). Under your scenario, the Texans and Cleveland would be close for #6/7 and WAS picks #5, but the edge probably goes to Cleveland because the Texans plays in a strong division. So Houston probably picks 7th unless something weird happens. Incidentally, the Cardinals have a weak SOS. Remember, being bad with a weak SOS gives you a better spot in the draft."

I stand corrected. We can't even lose right.}

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

City of Houston - Happy Holidays From a Dallas Fan

I feel your pain, City of Houston. The Houston Texans have struggled this year. Vince Young is playing football for the former Houston Oilers. The Astros off-season moves have made you wonder whether the franchise is secretly run by the Chicago Cubs front office. Trust me...I care about you.

The Holiday Season should be a time of happiness and family where cookies are laid out for Santa Claus, gifts exchanged, and trees glow brightly with all manners of trinkets and lights. For this reason, though I am a Dallas Cowboys fan, I, in the spirit of this Holiday Season, offer to you a few gifts that Houston should recognize and treasure. Consider this a small gesture of goodwill from Dallas Cowboys fans all around the world. In no particular order:

(1) DeMeco Ryans – It cannot be argued that Mr. Ryans was among the greatest steals of this past draft. It is not enough to simply observe that with 135 tackles on the season, Mr. Ryans is currently ranked second among NFL defenders for total tackles and that he is clear favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors. He is, even to an admittedly biased Dallas Cowboys fan, a fantastic talent that should be a Pro Bowl selection this year. The City of Houston should be thankful that the gods of the NFL draft took pity on your hapless program and gave you a man-child that should be the heart and soul of the Houston Texans defense for years to come.

I can only whimsically wonder how the City of Houston would have responded if a certain No. 10 had been drafted with the first pick. Imagine, purely as a hypothetical exercise, a Texans offense led by Vince Young, who would have weapons like Johnson and Moulds at his disposal. It sure would have been swell to have had both the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of Year award winners out of the past draft class as well as a much anticipated playoff spot. Oh well. At least you had Ryans – and he has 136 tackles – wait, he only has 135 - I’m sorry I gave him credit for one extra tackle – I think it must have been the one in overtime he missed as a certain Superman raced 39-yards to glory.

(2) The Concept of the First Down – I am not a particularly well-traveled individual, but I dare say that communities celebrate different things. In some cities, the citizens have a Founder’s Day or a Multi-Culturalism Day. In other cities, sports fans have victory parades honoring the Super Bowl Champions, World Series Champions, or NBA Champions. Of course, the number of championship that are available in a given year is a finite and relatively small number. So, in the case of NFL cities, some less fortunate communities still find a cause for happiness in the touchdown. Pyrotechnics and gaudy electronic graphics salute the team for capping a fine drive. Players will do their dance, Ocho-Cinco style, and coaches will pump their fists into the air knowing that their offense has physically manhandled or skillfully outmaneuvered the opposing defense. Ladies and gentleman, the touchdown is for all intents and purposes an illustration of America’s greatness. God Bless America!

Then, there is the City of Houston, where touchdowns are so scarce that when they occur the casual observer will scoff and treat the event with skepticism like a scientist examining the footprints of the Yeti or a grainy photo of Bigfoot. No, the touchdown might as well be as common an occurrence as Haley’s Comet for the Houston Texans and their fans.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thus I introduce you to the concept of the first down. Yes, the successful movement of a ball ten yards from the original line of scrimmage. Or better yet, by virtue of a penalty. Sure, it doesn’t put points on the board and it won’t make ESPN highlight reels, but beggars can’t be choosers. This Holiday Season, I for one will be thankful that some thoughtful rule-maker in NFL years past crafted up the idea of the first down and gave the City of Houston something to celebrate, if somewhat sparingly, on Sundays. That’s another Houuuuuuston Texxxxaaaaannnnsss...First Doooowwwwnnnn!!!!

(3) Drew Bledsoe – I know you are wondering why I would include Drew Bledsoe among the City of Houston’s gifts this holiday season. It’s simple. Drew Bledsoe is only the reason that certain Houston Texans fans are still alive today. I have a friend, who for the purposes of anonymity I shall refer to as Tim, who was more than a bit distraught with the 34-6 outcome of a certain game on October 15, 2006. I dare say he is a good friend despite his allegiances and as such, I would certainly miss his company should he meet an untimely end. Now, Tim has suggested that at times this year he has come frighteningly close to standing in a full bathtub and dropping a toaster in the water to end the misery that has been the 2006-2007 Houston Texans season. While greatly amused by this mental image, I would never want this to occur, and I am sure that the great City of Houston would not want to lose one of its finest in a fit of Phillip Buchanon inspired depression.

Thus, the City of Houston and I should appreciate the gift that was Drew Bledsoe, because I can only assume that if Tony Romo had been the starting quarterback that fine October day two months ago that the score could have been even more one-sided, and this blog would be almost exclusively the pulpit for Scott and his world views.

Houston, have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season! I hope you all spend a lot of time with your families, because you have no excuse not to. It’s not like you have to travel for a playoff game.

Bittersweet Pro Bowl Announcement for Texans

Andre Johnson was deservedly named to his second Pro Bowl team today. Despite being handicapped in performance by being paired with a heartless, yet smiling, Nancy of a quarterback on his regular season team, Andre will join Marvin Harrison, Chad Johnson and Reggie Wayne in the AFC's receiving corps.

In a very disappointing turn of events, Texans' rooke sensation DeMeco Ryans will (for now) not participate in the 2007 Pro Bowl, as he was not selected by his peers. The "for now" is included because, inevitably, a handful of invitees will either become injured, intoxicated, indicted, incarcerated or deceased by the time February '07 rolls around. Certainly it's in DeMeco's favor that the Texans are in the same conference as the Bengals, whose representatives are a sure shot to miss the festivities in Maui due to legal obligations. It's quite probable that even though Reggie McNeal wasn't invited, he'll be sure to show up with about 30 seconds left in the game with a laced cigarette and a Glock, ready to get his schwerve on. FYI - Zach Thomas and Al Wilson were the inside linebackers selected to the AFC squad, both of whom are certainly deserving candidates. As best as I can tell, Chicago Bear KR Devin Hester was the only rookie named to a Pro Bowl squad.

Our calls to the National Association of Professional Punters have yet to be returned. We are expecting their office to release a statement shortly concerning the Chad Stanley situation. Despite embarrassing his team the entire season by kicking the ball as if it was a cinder block and his foot was made of wet newspaper, Stanley was somehow still included on the Pro Bowl ballot for punters. That's an injustice of egregious magnitude which surely offended truly professional punters across the world.

The Houston Texans Are The Worst (Expansion) Team of All Time

John Lopez's column this morning contained this interesting, yet morbidly depressing, statistic:

"The three biggest joke expansion teams in the history of the NFL have been the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Texans.

And of those three, the numbers say the Texans are bringing up the rear in futility, having won just 27.5 percent of their games in their first five years of existence, compared to 28.5 by the Saints over the same span and 28.9 by the Bucs."

Egad. Didn't the Buccaneers once go an entire season without winning a game? And we're worse than them? If I wasn't so hopped up on David Carr's holiday cheer right now, I'd be irate. Not only are the Texans one of the perennial laughingstocks of the NFL, they're the premier laughingstock in NFL history. We're Number One! We're Number One!

David Carr Is Still Smilin'

It's nice to see that the embattled Texans QB has some semblance of perspective about the true spirit of the holiday season. Carr's right. There are more important things in life than football. Sometimes I forget that. Actually, I seem to forget it every Sunday from September to early January at approximately noon CST. As such, I appreciate ol' D.C. yanking me back into reality.

At the same time, it's fairly infuriating that your franchise QB answers questions about his abysmal play with gems like this:

"Don't let what the Texans are doing, what I'm doing, ruin your Christmas. That's the message I want to send out." [Editor's Note: Well said, Dave. I'll make sure not to drop that toaster in my bathtub on Christmas Eve after the Colts put 50 on the scoreboard, and I am left to wonder how I can be so galactically stupid as to keep renewing my season tickets when the team has made virtually no progress in five years. Yeah, that definitely won't ruin my Christmas. Tra-la-la.]

"That's one of the reasons I do have a smile on my face." [Editor's Note: Newsflash, dude. You're 4-10. You're about to be 4-11. Try to contain your joy.]

"Show up for the Indy game — boo, cheer, whatever you want to do. But at the end of the game, hopefully, we'll put a smile on your face because we're going to play some aggressive football. We're going to play loose, with a smile on our face." [Editor's Note: Whole lot of smiling for someone who's 4-10 this season and hasn't ever won more than seven games in his five years here. And since when did dumping off to the running back on all twelve (12) passing plays become "aggressive football?" Sorry--I'm losing perspective again.]

"I'll have the best holiday ever because I have so many things to be thankful for. We've had a rough stretch these five years. This season hasn't gone the way we wanted it to. But I still have my family, my friends, my boys, my wife. And nothing can take that away, so I'm going to smile." [Editor's Note: Yeah, these last five years (a/k/a the entire life of the franchise) sure have been rough. But I appreciate your perspective about the family. I'll remember that when I'm writing another check in a few months for the privilege of watching you prance around Reliant next year. Sweet Jebus...my eyes are bleeding.]

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a smooth forty point loss on Sunday!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Texans-Colts 12/24/2006 - A Review of the Game

Thanks to the redundant, miserable monotony that is being a Texans fan, we here at H-Town Sports are happy to be the first media outlet to provide an in-depth review of the Christmas Eve tilt between the Texans and Colts, which the Colts won in a rout. Here's a quick overview:

1. [Choose from: embarrassing, humiliating, uninspired, gutless] performance by the Texans, which has become routine at this point in Year Five.
2. [Choose from: Ron Dayne, Wali Lundy, Chris Taylor, Samkon Gado] looked pretty decent at RB – maybe not a franchise back, but decent production for a [choose from: waiver pickup, 6th round draft pick, undrafted free agent]. If he could do this on a weekly basis, maybe the Texans could address other needs in the 2007 Draft.
3. Morlon Greenwood is better than last year. Maybe he isn’t a disaster after all.
4. DeMeco Ryans [choose from: is a Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer, may be direct descendant of Christ, makes me forget Dick Butkus, is the new face of the franchise] If he does not win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, there should be riots in the streets.
5. Mario Williams shows considerable promise. He's not Reggie White yet, and his numbers don’t necessarily reflect it, but he sure [choose from: penetrated the line of scrimmage, took on double teams, forced the run game to the opposite side of the field] consistently on Sunday.
6. Chad Stanley clearly has compromising pictures of Joe Marciano and kicks like a handicapped Rockette.
7. Has the shine been tarnished off of any star moreso than Dunta Robinson? He’s regressed significantly this season.
8. Owen Daniels seems to have promise at TE. It’d be nice to see him become more involved in the offense. Of course, it'd be nice if any offensive player became more involved in the offense at this point.
9. News Flash: David Carr [choose from: exhibits no on-field leadership, cannot feel pressure in the pocket, makes terrible decisions, sure took a wallop to the midsection, cannot read defenses, is hated by his coach, cannot possibly be the starting QB next season].
10. Gary Kubiak is still the man, despite all of this mess. He’s going to get this thing turned around and win a lot of games in Houston. Count on it. Oh, and start soon please.
11. I expect Reliant Stadium to be at about 40% capacity this week. I’m going to have to drink heavily to endure this week’s game with [insert opponent here].

Don't You Love Smartass Sportswriters Attempting to Enforce Double Standards?

Richard Justice had this prose in his column regarding yesterday's execution at Gillette Field:

Afterward, Gary Kubiak said he was the man to blame. No kidding. Don't you love it when the person in charge acts like he's playing the role of martyr by accepting the responsibility for things going south?
What do you think Dick would have said had Kubiak not verbally shouldered the blame for Sunday's debacle? What a snide piece of crap Justice is. The team plays like crap, especially the quarterback, and the coach admits it and takes the blame for it, and Richie takes a cheap at the coach for honesty and candor. Unfortunately, this, of course, is not surprising anymore. Justice is lucky that Kubiak is a classy guy whose focus is on building a winning franchise in Houston; I'd have enjoyed the YouTube footage of Kubes smashing today's sports page across Justice's delicate knuckles in such a fashion that today's crappy column would be Justice's last without the aid of a dictaphone.

The Texans Are Excruciatingly Horrible

I'm getting a bit sick of beginning every Texans post with something to the effect of "Words cannot describe how pathetic..." But the hometown team hasn't given me much of a reason to deviate from that practice, and yesterday's 40-7 abomination was definitely not the exception to the rule. In fact, after careful consideration, I'm of the opinion that yesterday may well have been the worst game in franchise history. And that's saying a lot for a team that has a lifetime record of 22-56. Despite above-average play from a defense that constantly took the field already in its own territory, the Texans never put forth the slightest bit of evidence that they could compete with the Patriots. Not that anyone thought they'd pull out a win, but the Texans offense didn't even show up. If I wasn't already dead inside from last week's loss to VY & Co., I would be apoplectic. Instead, I'm simply resigned to my fate. Given the team's performance over the last several weeks, I'd be absolutely shocked if Reliant Stadium is at 40% capacity for the remaining games against the Colts (on Christmas Eve) and the Browns (on New Year's Eve). I think the loss to Buffalo on 11/19/06 was the beginning of the end of this season; the Texans haven't put together anything resembling a quality game since then. As a result, the games every Sunday are the equivalent of water torture. A few more thoughts:

1. David Carr threw four (4!) picks and fumbled once. Though the fumble was recovered, I don't think it's possible for Carr to have played any worse. Even if he had run backward out of the Texans' end zone after every snap, shrieking the entire time, before finally falling down into a fetal position and sobbing on the sideline.

a. I'll bet Carr still doesn't see Tedy Bruschi dropping into coverage when he watches the film.

b. The offensive line has played poorly the last few weeks, but Carr's performance is not on them. Bakersfield's Finest is simply beyond done as a Texan.

c. There's no way another team will offer anything, including a complimentary punch to Charley Casserly's face, for Carr this off-season. Assuming another team is even interested, why give up anything when everyone KNOWS the Texans are going to be forced to cut him? Why willingly inherit Carr's contract? The Lions got a freaking sixth round pick for Joey Harrington. The Texans aren't even going to get that for a guy with five (5!) years experience as a starting QB.

d. Memo to Bob McNair: If you have any respect for David Carr at all, don't let the offense get introduced before the last two games of the season. But if you have any love for the fans that are still shelling out hard-earned money for a completely unwatchable product, give the fans a chance to exact a pound of proverbial flesh by booing their "franchise QB" before he leaves town for greener pastures.

2. Every week, it becomes clearer and clearer that Gary Kubiak hates David Carr. Between the ridiculously scaled back playbook and the look of complete rage after every turnover, Kubes may actually want Carr gone even more than the rapidly shrinking fan base.

a. Speaking of Kubes, I still love the guy. Despite everyone laying an egg almost every week, Kubes always willingly takes 100% of the blame to deflect it off the team and coaches. The guy is going to get it done in Houston. Count on it.

3. I guess Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds have entered the witness protection program. Those guys were ghosts yesterday.

4. I still don't think Ron Dayne is an every-down back, but wow. He has carried the offense the last few weeks. Regardless of how the Domanick Davis/Wali Lundy/Chris Taylor thing plays out, I hope Dayne is on the roster next year as a change of pace RB.

5. DeMeco Ryans--another ten (10) tackles. Every Sunday, I can't shake the feeling that we'll be bragging about having watched him play twenty years from now.

6. I'm officially a fan of Morlon Greenwood. And I'm also a confirmed idiot for questioning whether he could be a consistent force. The dude is stringing together nine (9) tackle performances like it's child's play.

7. I get more and more worried about Dunta Robinson's regression every week. He is literally a shell of what he was as a rookie. Was Aaron Glenn really that much of a positive influence on him? Dunta hasn't been the same since the Texans waived Glenn last year.

8. A few guys the Texans passed on in 2005 so they could select Travis Johnson with the 16th pick in the first round: Derrick Johnson (went 15th, but remember that the Texans traded back with the Saints; he was available when they originally picked), Lofa Tatupu (second round pick), Frank Gore (third round pick). I know he's been on injured reserve for a few weeks now, but I sure am glad that Casserly saw something in "The Next Deacon Jones!"

a. Every time I think of DJ, Tatupu, or Gore in a Texans uniform, I die a little inside. And it happens every Sunday, regardless of whether Tr. Johnson actually suits up.

9. Chad Stanley must have compromising photographs of Joe Marciano's family. There's no other explanation for his continued employment with the Houston Texans.

10. I think Peyton Manning could beat the Texans with residents from a local retirement home lining up at WR on Sunday. It's going to be the equivalent of getting dog poop in our collective Christmas stocking. Happy Holidays, H-Town!

Don't Count on ESPN Telling You This...

...but Reggie Bush had a grand total of 33 "all-purpose yards" against the Redskins yesterday: seven carries for 14 yards, five catches for 19 yards and zero return yards.

Bush's best game on the ground was in Week One against Cleveland (67 yards), and the #2 overall pick has had exactly three games on the season with more than 50 yards rushing (average 30 yards per game). Five of his six TDs (83%) and 256 of his 706 yards receiving (36%) came in his two outstanding performances against San Francisco and Dallas in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively. Take out those two games, and Bush has averaged 2.97 yards per carry, 28.75 yards rushing per game, 5.75 catches for 37.5 yards per game and 0.083 TDs per game. Don't forget that this has been with Joe Horn and Marques Colston at receiver, Deuce McAllister in the backfield and Drew Brees behind center. Are you sure that Bush's impact on the Texans' offense would have been all that noticeable?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wow - Now Who Saw THAT Coming?

If nothing changes, and I mean immediately, then Texans' fans should boycott the game Sunday against Indy. Five times this season, the Texans have not even resembled a competitive team, the latest being today. The team as a whole showed fight and desire, looking determined to bounce back from last week's devastating loss to the Vinces. The whole team, that is, except for the most important player on the team - the starting QB, who looked scared, defeated, inept and emotionless.

The defense played pretty well, considering the Patriots' field position all day long. Chad Stanley should get be cut immediately. He's been terrible not just for a few games, but for months. It makes no sense whatsoever that he is still on the roster. Hold open tryouts. Hell, hold open tryouts for season ticket holders. Toro could lineup to kick and experience similar results.

As much as I like Kubes, he deserves some blame as well, and not just for betraying the 52 non-starting QBs on his gameday roster by refusing to bench Carr for his incomprehensibly bad performance. The Texans continue to be whistled for penalties that cause announcers around the league to reach cluelessly for their rule books. Junior high co-ed teams do not make these plays - lining up wrong, too many players on the field, etc.

Finally, there's David Carr. There's nothing to say. His protection was bad at points, something that all NFL QBs expereience at different points throughout their games, but Carr's turnovers were flat out inexcusable and had absoutely nothing to do with bad pass protection. Rich Gannon, for the second time this season, did a masterful job of describing what Carr was not doing - not leading his receivers, not anticipating receivers breaking open, not stepping up into the pocket, not sniffing out the rush or failing to get a pass clear of the defensive line. You name it, Carr didn't do it. Why was Carr not benched? The only rational excuse that I can come up with is that Kubes was attempting to send Bob McNair a message. No matter how nice, now matter how "tough", Carr must go. Bradlee Van Pelt could have been signed during the second quarter and bet his signing bonus on the Pats; he could not possibly have been worse than Carr. With a merely average NFL QB today, the Texans would have been in this game thanks to Ron Dayne and the Texans' defense. With Carr at the helm, they were murdered for sixty consecutive minutes.

What about next week against Indy? To me, the only legitimate option is to essentially open the QB job up for one week of practice. Four days of practice - the best QB in practice this week plays on Sunday. Odds are that the stands will be about 40% full, at best, but to send Carr back on on Christmas Eve as if nothing has changed would be an insult to the paying customer. Come out Monday morning and tell the community that you are giving them a reason to show up. Tell your defense that you are respecting their effort by playing the best QB on the roster, regardless of seniority or contract status, because you want their outstanding efforts to be rewarded with a chance to actually be in a football game. There is no other option.

- Yao Ming is the most dominant player in the NBA right now. Kobe is the most electric, LeBron the most talented, but no player in the NBA is having an impact on every game in which he plays like The Great Wall. In the best of scenarios, T-Mac's back flare-up has allowed Bonzi a chance to get into JVG's good graces and into the normal rotation, which will certainly benefit the Rockets through the remainder of the season.

- QB for next season? How about Jeff Garcia? He'll be a free agent, and I'd hand him a two-year contract and the starting QB job in a heartbeat.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thanks, Baggy

In a move that has been expected for months, Jeff Bagwell finally announced his retirement today. Career stats?

.297 BA
449 HR
1,529 RBI

Them's Cooperstown numbers, but perhaps Baggy's greatest influence has been on the Astros organization itself. Along with Craig Biggio, he established what is widely considered to be the most professional clubhouse in all of baseball. The example he set for countless young Astros of playing hard and keeping your mouth closed cannot be overstated, and it's no coincidence that Drayton McLane called him the heartbeat of the franchise. Bottom line is that Bagwell's play, class, and character made a whole generation of people fans of the Houston Astros. There aren't many players in any sport that you can say that about. We were exceedingly lucky to have watched the man ply his trade for fifteen years, and it'll be a crime if #5 isn't retired at Minute Maid on Opening Day. Thanks for the memories, Bags.

Finally, God Tosses Astros Fans A Bone!

It's been a rough week here in Astros country. A deal for Jon Garland falls through. Andy Pettitte takes his act back from whence he came. The 'Stros acquire Jason Jennings, who doesn't have a contract past this season, for their starting centerfielder and two of the best young arms in their organization. But just when things looked the darkest, a beam of sunlight bursts through.

That's right, H-Town! The Rooster signed with the Rockies! Oh, happy day! Christmas came early for every Astros fan today. And what does Colorado's director of player development think about his newest acquisition?

"He was in the World Series not long ago, but did not have a very good year last year," Gustafson said.

Uh, Marc? Normally, I might comment on how you maybe should have looked at a bit more tape, but I won't. I'm just so damn happy that you took Gas Can off T-Poo's hands. I mean, you have to think that this was part of the Jennings deal, right? As in, "No Hirsh unless you agree to sign Gallo too." Brilliant. T-Poo has taken some heat for his bold moves this off-season, but I happen to think the Rockies may have just rendered his reign a success, no matter how the 'Stros do next year.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Purpura Refuses to Cease Attempting to Destroy Astros

We will surely go into greater detail tomorrow, but Tim Purpura proved today that he's nothing if not persistent. Refusing to be stopped from adding an expensive, mediocre arm to the Astros' rotation, Purpura consummated a deal with the Rockies sending Jason Hirsh, Taylor Buchholz and Willy Taveras to Denver in exchange for Jason Jennings and Miguel Ascencio.

My quick impression? Jennings must have seen the news that Gil Meche, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and Vicente Padilla are all breaking the bank this offseason, and as a result, I would not expect him to do the Astros any favors when negotiations commence for a contract extension beyond this season (Jennings is a free agent at the end of this coming season). If Jennings does in fact choose to stay in Houston long-term and pitches well, this deal could be just fine for Houston. However, if he commands $12M+ for a long-term deal or if he leaves town come the end of the year, the odds of this deal working out well for the Astros are abysmal. More tomorrow...off to Toyota Center. The way this week's going, Tim may be right...I expect to see Yao in handcuffs in the parking lot pre-game.

MLB Non-Tender Deadline is Here

Today is the deadline by which MLB teams must decide whether or not to offer a contract for 2007 to arbitration-eligible players. Baseball Prospectus mastermind Joe Sheehan highlights the Astros' situation in particular in his column today, which as always, I highly recommend.

Sheehan suggests that Mike Lamb, Morgan Ensberg and Brad Lidge present interesting dilemmas for the Astros at this deadline because they have performed well in the past but are coming off of disappointing seasons (especially Ensberg and Lidge). As Sheehan writes about Lidge:

To get an idea of the thought process, consider what would happen if the Astros were to non-tender Lidge. His arbitration salary will likely be between $5 million and $8 million. (The broad range is one reason teams non-tender players; they don’t like the uncertainty.) If Lidge were to go on the market, though, he'd be in line for a multi-year deal, most likely at $7 million or more. Danys Baez isn’t nearly as good as Lidge is, and he got three years, $19 million from the Orioles. That's the absolute floor for Lidge.

As Sheehan points out in his piece, the skyrocketing free agent market makes it nearly impossible for a team to let a player of any consequential value walk at today's deadline. Sheehan compares Lidge to Danys Baez, who signed a three year, $19M contract with the Orioles this offseason, and rightly suggests that Lidge would attract offers much, much greater than Baez's deal if he hit the open market. Sheehan also writes that in years past, the Astros could have chosen to keep either Ensberg or Lamb, but not both. This year, thanks to the inflated salaries and the Astros' abysmal offense, the Astros will likely cling on to every bat within their grasp, meaning that it would be quite surprising for Ensberg or Lamb to be non-tendered at today's deadline. The consequence would be that the Astros would have to out-bid other teams for another hitter's services, a feat that already resulted in one of the most outrageous free agent deals in the history of baseball, Carlos Lee's new deal with Houston.

Tomorrow's Lead: HBU Economics Professor Teaches Van Gundy the Pick and Roll

Neat idea by David Barron in the lead story on the front page of today's Chronicle - writing about the incredibly somber mood of the City after Sunday's Vince-trosity at Reliant Stadium. I know that I was among many Texans fans who were dragging a bit yesterday morning, and as Barron noted, sports talk radio hit even newer lows in terms of fan morale. But for some real, in-depth football analysis, Barron provided this gem of an outtake:

"Young was terrible. He should have had at least two or three more passes intercepted. And on the touchdown run, he wasn't touched by a single defender. It was a total defensive breakdown," said University of Houston sociology professor Russell Curtis."


I'm admittedly not much of a sociologist, but my thesis is that VY may in fact deserve a bit of the credit for making it to the end zone untouched, Russell. I wonder how Russell would categorize David Carr's performance on Sunday, given that DC did complete an impressive 73.9% of his pass attempts compared to Young's 65.5%. According to his website, Russell has done some study in the areas of substance abuse and concentration issues. In that light, I'd like to respectfully suggest that Russell put down the crack pipe and re-watch that football with a more attentive mind. He may be surprised at the resulting enlightenment.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Latest Kick to the Collective Groin of H-Town

Did anyone who ever watched Vince Young play at Madison or Texas have ANY doubt that he was going to win yesterday's game against the Texans? No way. It was a done deal the minute he stepped onto the turf at Reliant. The guy just wins. And if there was a more fitting way to rip the heart out of his hometown than by scrambling nearly forty yards for the game-winning touchdown in overtime, I don't know what it is.

As Scott so eloquently posted below, this was a terrible weekend to be a fan of Houston sports. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been Yao or Berkman getting arrested. I'm not sure I would have gotten out of bed today if not for the Horns upsetting LSU at the Toyota Center last night. That's really the only thing that kept me from dropping a radio in the bathtub.

I just feel defeated. Spent. Crushed. I really need to take up a hobby, because the Texans are taking years off my life. Nevertheless, a brief review of the latest loss that made me question the existence of a kind and merciful God:

1. David Carr didn't lose the game. That's because Kubiak won't give him the opportunity to do so. I do not see any way that D.C. is a Texan next year. It's patently clear that Kubes doesn't trust him, and it looks like the two of them are just playing out the string until they can make a clean break in the off-season. It's like a bad marriage.

a. The line of scrimmage is back there, Dave. Please don't throw/shovel/pitch/drop the football after you cross it.

2. Another nice game for Ron Dayne. That's two in a row. Most franchises wouldn't celebrate consecutive solid outings from their running back, but that's stop-the-presses type stuff here. And people wonder why I'm so bitter.

3. Yet another great effort from Morlon Greenwood (10 tackles and a forced fumble). He has transformed from contractual albatross to solid starter.

4. DeMeco Ryans had another 14 tackles. I wish he played QB.

5. Super Mario didn't fill up the stat line, but it's fun to watch offenses run away from his side. The guy is a monster.

a. It's not Mario's fault that he's not Vince. I wish people would stop holding that against him.

6. Petey Faggins was dynamite, coming up big with a forced fumble and VY's only pick of the day. I'm still not sold on him as a starting corner though.

7. Nice game from Kris Brown.

8. Another bad game by Chad Stanley. How has he gotten so much worse since last year?

9. Vince Young rules.

10. New England is going to destroy the Texans on Sunday. I just hope no one gets hurt.

The Weekend from Hell

Andy Pettitte bails for the Evil Empire, apparently because the Astros were comfortable enough with the state of their current starting rotation that they felt that an additional $2M and a player option for 2007 was too hefty of a price to pay to retain a solid #2 starting pitcher (in addition to, more than likely, the pitcher who had the best ERA in MLB each of the past two season). Saturday night in DC, Tracy McGrady landed funny while defending a three-pointer and had to be taken straight to the locker room with back spasms. And then there's yesterday's event at Reliant Stadium, which I was forutnate enough to attend in person.

Theories abound as to why David Carr's option was picked up in early 2006, rendering the glorious thought of VY donning the Battle Red and Deep Steel Blue nothing more than a pipe dream. My personal belief, for what it is worth, is that Bob McNair told his football people that he did not want to start all over again at QB four years into the franchise's existence and that he believed in the first and only face of the franchise, David Carr. McNair first asked Dan Reeves and then (and most importantly) Gary Kubiak to confirm for him that David Carr was salvageable, and as we hear and read daily, there were plenty of reasonable excuses that could be made for David's lack of production during his first four years. Kubes, eager to please his boss and show his Midas touch with quarterbacks, agreed that there was enough to work with to keep Carr around, such that the #1 overall pick could be used to fill another of the Texans' gaping holes. Thus, VY was never an option for the Texans. That's how I think the story unfolded. But really, who cares at this point.

Then came Sunday, the 10th (ouch) of December, 2006. VY showed yesterday that miracles can apparently happen. A single player, without the benefit of any All-Pro caliber complementary players on his side of the ball, can make plays (in his rookie season, no less) that change the entire attitude of the franchise and win football games for an otherwise mediocre football team. The argument by Carr apologists for keeping Carr around as starting QB has generally been that he has not had a chance to succeed because the parts around him have not been properly put into place. That argument is inherently flawed, and VY's performance yesterday is Exhibit A. Quarterbacks that win championships in the NFL carry their teams on their backs. They do not come with a caveat that above-average talent will be required at every other offensive position in order for them to be successful. Instead, real NFL QBs raise the level of their teammates' play on their own. They do not require coddling, special circumstances or extra coaching. They simply have an innate ability to rise to the occasion, to put points on the board when their team need them most, and that's precisely what VY did at Madison High School, at the University of Texas and now for the Tennessee Titans. On several plays yesterday, when VY's receivers were covered, he released the ball on a downfield pass ahead of the receiver making a cut, allowing the team to move the ball downfield a considerable distance. Carr has NEVER done that on a consistent basis. Instead, Carr's only viable options in the passing game are guys who are wide-open in space, and since the Texans do not have five Jonathan Ogdens on their O-line, they cannot provide Carr with the ten seconds necessary for a Texans' WR to get five yards of space at least fifteen yards downfield.

It was clear to all of us who had the joy of watching VY play in college that he was a special player, but the Texans chose to go a different direction in the draft. Clearly, that was a mistake. All is not lost, as Mario shows signs of promise and the rest of the draft class has performed quite admirably upon being thrust into the lineup during their rookie seasons. The biggest problem now is two-fold, however: (a) Carr has not progressed, such that the starting QB slot will remain an issue heading into Season (FREAKING) Six; and (b) this year's draft and free agent class is not exactly brimming with strong candidates to replace him. Over the next few months, we will surely analyze each potential candidate to replace DC and argue which direction is best for the franchise, but none of them will provide the production, the buzz and the wins that VY is sure to bring to the city of Nashville for years to come.

Is all lost? Certainly not. However, the Texans cannot afford to miss another slam-dunk the next time it presents itself, and for the sake of its loyal fan base, I certainly hope that opportunity is soon because with each passing day, the dreams of "what might have been" hurt worse and worse. Remember, this time last year, the Texans were without Mike Flanagan, Mario Williams, Owen Daniels, Eric Moulds, DeMeco Ryans, Sage Rosenfels and Anthony Weaver, to name a few. The ball is in Rick Smith's court; the Texans need another 2006-type offseason in 2007. If Smith and his team can add another six starters this offseason, especially in the secondary, in the offensive backfield and on the defensive line, the team will continue to grow, and success will come sooner rather than later. VY would certainly have been nice, but he's not coming anytime soon, and beating him twice a year will now have to become our saving grace. I'm personally excited to see how this new regime handles itself during the offseason, and if they continue the trend of last season's draft and free agent period, beating VY could come sooner than the rest of the nation would have you think.

Seems like a nice time for...

...this May 1, 2006 post to be unburied:

An Open Letter to Vince Young.

Dearest Vincent-

By now, you are likely taking a few days of well-deserved rest after the insanity of the NFL Draft. At the outset of this missive, allow us to congratulate you. Your accomplishments on the collegiate level have led to you being the third player taken overall in the entire draft. Kudos to you. You deserve it. You brought great joy to us throughout your time at Madison High School and the University of Texas, and we look forward to watching you on the next level.

Of course, we're not very excited about your new employer. As you know, your boss left us (and that includes you, fellow Houstonian) high and dry some nine years ago. We're fairly certain Bud Adams is the spawn of Lucifer and selected you purely to spite an entire city. Indeed, one can almost imagine him cackling maniacally, turning toward Reliant Stadium, and extending two middle fingers skyward before telling his minions to take "that Vance Youngblood feller." If you wanted to push him down a flight of stairs at the Oilers' training facility in Nashville, that'd be fine by us. Hell, it'd just add to your legend. We're pretty sure it would result in you getting the Bagwell and Biggio treatment outside Reliant Stadium, thus breaking their record of "fastest time to be immortalized in bronze during an active career."

Although we must now be on opposite sides in the AFC South, please rest assured that we will be rooting for your success fifty out of every fifty-two weeks of the year. And if you don't mind, take a knee a couple of times a game if you see Mario Williams in your vicinity. Dude's gonna need to pad those sack statistics to keep us from calling him Mike Mamula II.

Very Truly Yours,
The City of Houston

P.S. Feel free to sign a short contract with the Oilers. We're probably going to be looking for a QB in a couple of years.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Hits Just Keep On Comin' from T-Poo

I'm still in a state of shock over Pettitte's departure. How McLane failed to see the impact that this would have on his team is beyond my comprehension. The rotation now consists of Roy Oswalt, ________, __________, Woody Williams, and _________. Given Lefty's return to the Bronx, you have to think that one of those blanks won't be filled with "Roger Clemens." This was just a terrible, terrible move on every level.

And to add insult to injury, it appears the sage of the 'Stros bullpen, Russ Springer, has agreed to terms with St. Louis. I've never been enamored with Springer's stuff, but he was pretty solid in middle relief and always took the ball. And I love the guy for throwing at Bonds last season. Most importantly, the younger guys in the pen looked up to him for guidance, and all of them raved about Springer's professionalism. How McLane and T-Poo would let this guy walk for $1.75 million is merely the latest disgrace. They're making it awfully hard to be an Astros fan right now.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Unbelievable--Pettitte Signs With Yanks!

Sweet Jebus:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sportsd/4389076.html

If what Hendricks says is true, this is one of the worst decisions in the history of the Houston Astros organization. I just...I can't believe this. You're really going to let Andy Freaking Pettitte (and Roger Clemens, by the way) walk over $2 mil? Are you kidding me?

What a fine way to go into the weekend. First this, then Vince comes back to kick the Texans in the teeth. Why have you forsaken me, Lord?

Jesus In Cleats Returns: Pre-Game Thoughts

The moment I've been dreading for almost eight (8) months is finally upon us. Native hero Vincent Paul Young, Jr. returns to his hometown to compete against the hometown team that shunned him after he won a national championship at the state's flagship university. Oh, and he's leading the team that left Houston for Nashville to boot. In a season that has been short on big games and national stories concerning the Texans, this is the exception to the rule.

The Chronicle has hosted quite a debate, more or less led by the great John McClain, about how fans should treat Vince's return. McClain has written extensively on this subject; I'm not going to link to all of the stories he's penned, but rest assured they are easily found or linked to at his blog on the Chronicle website (http://blogs.chron.com/nfl/). McClain thinks that anyone who roots or cheers for VY isn't a true Texans fan. While I appreciate his stance, I don't agree with it. Vince brought the State of Texas its first college football national championship in thirty-five (35) years. He became the face of a national program, a city, and a state. He gave me the most joyous sports-related moment of my young life in Pasadena, California on January 4, 2006. His postgame dance during the trophy presentation is one that every Texas fan should attempt to recreate at some time in his life. So I'll be damned if I'm not going to cheer for him. That doesn't make me any less of a Texans fan. But does that mean I'm cheering for Bud Adams or the Oilers? Hell no it doesn't.

I will stand, clap, and yell for VY in pre-game introductions. I owe him that.

I will sit silently when/if Carr is introduced. Not because I'm not a Texans fan, but because he has given me nothing to cheer about for several weeks. As much as I might want to, I won't boo him.

Will I cheer for every Vince run, pass, or TD? No, I will not. I will merely sit in my seat, crestfallen, as I dream of what could have been had Houston drafted him.

For that matter, will I cheer for any Titans play? Absolutely not. They are owned and operated by Bud Adams, this city's version of Art Modell. You know, if we were Cleveland. Which we might as well be, what with the horrible football team and all.

Will I continue to cheer for every Texans play? Without a doubt. As much as I'd like say I can sit ambivalently and protest the direction of the franchise with my silence, it's just not in me. I'll be as ridiculously excited as I always am after a DeMeco hit, a Mario sack, or an Andre catch. I can't help that. It's in my soul. And thanking Vince for all that he's done for my fanaticism with some cheering before the game does not change that devotion one iota.

Plus, I honestly do believe the Texans are on the right track. McNair & Co. might have screwed up by passing on Vince, but Mario Williams is a helluva consolation price if they did. Additionally, the 2006 Draft gave us DeMeco Ryans, Eric Winston, Charles Spencer, and Owen Daniels. That's five (5) likely starters pulled from one draft. As much as I'd like to see Vince Young wearing a Texans uniform while making the opposition miss for the next ten years, I will state that I'm happy with the direction of the team.

That said, we're going to lose. It'll probably be close, but I fully expect VY to account for a minimum of 300 yards of total offense in leading the Oilers to victory. The Titans are essentially playing a home game on the road by virtue of their QB; the cheers for him will actually provide the visiting team with an edge. You don't see that every day, and I think Houston's favorite son will reward that lovefest with a win. I hope I'm wrong.

This is the Kind of Column that Bad Columnists Write

Renowned baseball writer D. Justice had this analysis of the rumored trade proposal between the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros, which according to Justice consisted of Wily Taveras, Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz going to the Sox in exchange for Jon Garland:

"[The proposed trade] was a huge, smart one. [Purpura] was going to get White Sox righthander Jon Garland for Willy Taveras, Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh. That's the kind of deal good general managers make. It's one that makes sense but also has risks.

Purpura could look bad if Hirsh becomes a star, if Taveras continues to get better and if someone in the White Sox organization can get Buchholz straightened out.

On the other hand, he'd be getting Garland, a 27-year-old pitcher who has averaged 216 innings the last three seasons and gone 36-17 the last two. He also has a reasonable contract — $22 million the next two seasons."

Let's take a look for ourselves, and if you don't mind, I'm going to go just a tad bit more in-depth than ol' Dicky decided to go in his feature column today.

Jon Garland: One thing he does is eat innings - an average of 33 starts and 206 innings pitched over each of the past five seasons. A couple of things are constant: he gives up hits (10.52/9 IP last season, 9.31 for his career) and baserunners (1.38 career WHIP, 3.07 BB/9 IP) and he does not miss many bats (4.89 K/9 IP for his career). Those are not numbers indicative of a solid #2 or #3 starting pitcher. But like Wandy, he wins games, right? Give me a break, Justice. Garland's a below-average #3 and a decent #4 for a good team. Comparables from Baseball Reference include Paul Byrd, Cory Lidle and El Duque. That's not very elite company. Garland is due to make $10M in 2007 and $12M in 2008.

Jason Hirsh: Last year's PCL Pitcher of the Year and 2005's Texas League Pitcher of the Year, credentials are certainly not lacking for Mr. Hirsh. During 2005 and 2006 between stints at AA and AAA, Hirsh allowed about 6.6H/9IP, struck out about 8 per 9 IP and walked 2.5 per 9 IP, with a 26-10 record and an ERA in the mid-2.00's. He was inconsistent last season for the big league club, but he did put together a nice stretch of four consecutive starts between August 27 and September 16, going at least six innings and allowing two runs or less each time out. Obviously, Hirsh is a much cheaper option than Garland with a very impressive minor-league pedigree, though his makeup has been questioned at times by Astros' management.

Taylor Buchholz: As I mentioned in a post yesterday, during his major-league debut season in 2006, Buchholz posted lower H/9 (8.52) and WHIP (1.25) than Garland and struck out batters at a higher rate (6.13/9 IP). He did have a proclivity for giving up the long ball, which crushed his ERA (5.89). Buchholz did just turn 25 years old in October, and he did not have such an inability to keep the ball in the park in the minor leagues. Comments have been made consistently by Astros' hitters about the nastiness of Buchholz's stuff, and such nastiness was exhibited on several occasions last season, including a pair of shutout stints against the Texas Rangers. He does have a history of injuries, but his peripheral numbers seem to indicate that he is quite capable of posting a 4.50 ERA or better given a chance to develop in the Astros' rotation.

I'm not going to break down Willy Taveras, mostly because I don't have a problem at all with giving up Taveras for the right package in return (which does NOT include packaging him with two solid young pitchers for an average #4 starter, by the way). Willy's OBP and plate discipline, to me, are simply not good enough to make his speed as dangerous as it could be. With Everett and Ausmus seemingly locked in for the duration and Biggio certainly sliding offensively, CF is a position that the Astros desperately need to upgrade (calling Vernon Wells), so I could not care less if Taveras is dealt. If dealing Taveras puts Chris Burke in the everyday lineup in 2007, then I am fine with it, though there will likely be a relatively considerable defensive dropoff.

Houston Astros' fans deserve a much more accurate and in-depth analysis of such a "huge" trade, as Justice calls it. The fact is that Garland stands to make about 2000% more money than Hirsh and Buchholz will combined over the next two seasons, and the chances are good that Buchholz and/or Hirsh could post similar, if not better numbers, if they are slotted in the rotation and developed properly by new pitching coach Dave Wallace. This is a terrible trade from the Astros' perspective, and the White Sox should be cursing their GM for not closing the deal on what would have been a heist for the Sox. As for Justice, sadly I am not surprised that he was unable to take an objective look at this trade, as he has shown for years now that emotional rants and baseless rhetoric are the only style of writing styles of which he is capable. He does not have the time or the attention span to engage in critical thinking, and that is a real loss for this teams' fans. Richie, this is not a deal that "good GMs make"; it's a deal that gets bad GMs fired.

Accountability Is Waaaaaaay Overrated at the Chronicle

After "breaking" yesterday's story that the 'Stros had called a press conference to announce the acquisition of Jon Garland, Jose de Jesus Ortiz has reneged in a big way:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/4387786.html

It bugs the hell out of me that the town's only major newspaper was reporting that the deal was done when it clearly wasn't. In fact, the talk now is that the deal may be dead entirely. In that vein, Richard Justice confirmed that the proposed trade was indeed Hirsh, Buchholz, and Taveras for Garland:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/justice/4387865.html

As I posted yesterday, that's a helluva lot to give up for Garland. If T-Poo doesn't believe that Hirsh or Buchholz will ever be more than a bottom-of-the-rotation arm, then make the deal. But we've been led to believe that Hirsh and/or Buchholz are the future studs of the big squad. And if the deal means that Andy Pettitte heads to New York, I'm fervently against it. I think Pettitte is better than Garland, and you'd better believe that any prayer of The Katy Rocket returning goes up in smoke if his buddy Lefty isn't at Union Station.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You Know You Want It

How about...a BEN ZOBRIST UPDATE!!!

Zobrist was third in the Arizona Fall League in batting average, hitting .366 in 27 games, with an OBP of .469 and a nice SLG of .515. According to Baseball America, he also was six players nominated for the 2006 Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, which is handed out to the AFL player who "best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership".

AFL players from the Astros:

Mark McLemore: 2-0, 4.76 ERA, 17 IP, 13 H, 8 BB, 16 K, 1.24 WHIP
Matt Albers: 0-1, 3.94 ERA, 16 IP, 14 H, 6 BB, 9 K, 1.25 WHIP
Troy Patton: 2-0, 4.80 ERA, 15 IP, 12 H, 8 BB, 17 K, 1.33 WHIP
Chad Reineke: 1-1, 6.39 ERA, 12.2 IP, 16 H, 6 BB, 15 K, 1.74 WHIP

UPDATE--No Garland After All?

SI.com's Jon Heyman reports that the proposed deal that would bring Jon Garland to Houston fell through after Taylor Buchholz failed his physical. The most interesting part of this story? Heyman reports that the Astros were going to give up Buchholz, Taveras, AND Hirsh for Garland. That's completely different from what Jose Ortiz was reporting. And it's an absolute ton to give up for a dude with a 4.51 ERA. This is making my head spin.

BREAKING NEWS--Astros to Acquire Garland?

Wow! Nothing's been announced yet, but this is freaking huge. I'm speechless. Garland would be a big-time acquisition, though one has to wonder if his 4.51 ERA will skyrocket at Minute Maid while simultaneously wondering if he'll benefit from getting to face NL line-ups that are devoid of DHs. Assuming what's being reported is accurate, you hate to give up Willy T., but I'm fine with sending Taylor Buchholz to Chicago. All things considered, I'd have to think this is a great deal for the Astros.

The biggest issue, of course, is whether this affects the 'Stros efforts to sign Andy Pettitte. As an Astros fan, you'd have to hope not. But Uncle Drayton might not be too geeked about committing to another $12,000,000.00 to $14,000,000.00 for Lefty. Interesting to see how this story develops...

Rule V Draft - Astros take Cubs Minor League Pitcher

Picking 17th in the major league edition of the Rule V Draft this morning, the Astros selected RHP Lincoln Holdzkom from the Chicago Cubs farm system. Jim Callis of Baseball America was among those broadcasting the Rule V Draft live from Orlando on XM Radio this morning, and he described Holdzkom as having a live arm with shaky control and as a guy who has a reasonable shot of sticking with the big-league club. Holdzkom moved from Rookie ball to High-A and up to Double-A last year in the Cubs organization, making 18 apperances at Double-A West Tennessee and posting a 1.95 ERA. In 206 minor-league innings, Holdzkom has a 2.62 ERA and 237 Ks opposed to 111 BB and only 6.24 H/9. The most amazing number? According to the Baseball Cube, Holdzkom has NEVER given up a home run in the minors. I'll try to get confirmation of that seemingly impossible number somewhere else. Smells a little bit like Chad Harville did a few years back, but hopefully for Astros' fans, Lincoln will prove a better fit. With Russ Spinger gone, there is certainly a hole in the pen for someone to fill.

The Rule V Draft allows teams to pay $50K to pluck a minor-leaguer from another team's roster who has not yet been added to that organization's 40-man roster. Determining when a player is eligible to be selected in the Rule V Draft if he has not yet been added to the 40-man roster depends on the player's age at the time that he originally signed his professional contract. The team that selects a player in the Rule V Draft must keep that player on its 25-man major league roster for the full length of the following season or else the team who lost him in the Draft has the right to buy him back for $25K. The Astros did not lose any players to other teams in this year's Draft.

Other notable selections include Joakim Soria, a Padres righty who was selected by Tampa Bay and then sold to Oakland. Soria is 22 years old and pitched in Low-A last season but has had a splendid winter in the Mexican League and Josh Hamilton, the former #1 overall pick by Tampa Bay who has been plagued with injury and drug abuse issues, who was selected by the Chicago Cubs. However, the guys at Baseball America point out that Hamilton will apparently be traded by the Cubs to the Cincinnati Reds. This seems like a very low risk move for the Reds with a potentially limitless positive payoff.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This Is a Bit Off-Putting...

Is this really what you want to hear from your franchise QB, presumably in response to a question about one of the worst performances in his career (in this case, the game at Nashville where he was yanked after fumbling twice and throwing a pick into quadruple coverage)?

"I remember that game vividly — every snap," Carr said. "I remember the way the grass tasted, the way it was in the stadium, everything. And I won't forget that. I'll be ready to go."

Yeah, we're definitely in good hands with ol' D.C. I don't know much, but I know Sunday will be another Battle Screwdriver Day. As a show of solidarity with my QB, I'm going to ask the good people at Reliant to sprinkle some grass clippings in my drinks.

DeMeco Gets His Props

Franchise stalwart DeMeco Ryans has been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl//4382284.html

Makes sense, considering the guy did everything but drive the team bus to the stadium. And this is even more impressive when you remember that Ryans is just a rookie. It's pretty easy to forget that when he's flying around the field making plays every week. How he lasted until the second round of the draft is one of the great mysteries of the universe.

In other news, David Carr still makes me want to jump off a tall building. More on this later, but I have no doubt that Vince Young is going to make Sunday's game very, very ugly for the hometown team.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I've Finally Had It

December 3, 2006. That's the day I finally came to grips with David Carr's tenure as a Texan. That's the day I finally realized that the Texans won't win a Super Bowl with Carr at the helm. I have defended him throughout his entire career, but I'm done now. Fin. And why? Because it's clear to me now that Gary Kubiak is done with him. Kubes doesn't trust him any further than he can throw him. Witness the play-calling in the second half, immediately after Bakersfield's finest had fumbled the ball away twice on the two previous possessions. Kubes only had Carr throw three (3!) times in the entire second half. No one, and I mean no one, does that if he has even the slightest amount of faith in his QB. The run was working, sure, but even Ron Dayne's gutsy performance (more on that later) is no excuse to completely abandon the passing game. Not only does Kubes not trust Carr to win the game, he doesn't even trust him not to lose it. Hence getting the ball out of Carr's hands quickly on every snap. I've never seen anything like it, and it told me all I need to know about the Texans' QB situation. Carr will probably start the remainder of the season because of Rosenfels' injury, but I'd be shocked if he was the starting QB next September. If you couldn't tell, I've never been this depressed or forlorn after a win. But seeing years of faith dashed to bits can do that to you. Some other thoughts:

1. I am now convinced that DeMeco Ryans is the product of a modern-day Immaculate Conception. And I'm Catholic, for crying out loud.

a. 15 tackles.
b. 1 INT.
c. 1 sack.
d. 1 forced fumble.
e. 1 fumble recovery.
f. And dozens of Texans fans (I think we may be down to under 100 in number) who are thanking their lucky stars he's wearing the steel blue.

2. Speaking of linebackers, how about Morlon Greenwood? Another nine (9) tackles for him.

3. Anyone who thinks Mario Williams isn't impacting the game on every snap is out of his mind. The Raiders ran away from him on nearly every possession, and he again was in the backfield all day. I freaking love the guy.

4. The secondary is still heinous, but there were a few bright spots yesterday. Petey Faggins' fumble recovery for a TD was huge in terms of momentum and getting an early jump on the opposition. Dunta Robinson still seems to have regressed, but he played a reasonably solid second half. Glenn Earl had a big sack. But C.C. Brown's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was inexcusable. Despite the need at QB, I still am in favor of taking the best DB on the board come April.

5. Jason Babin is still a bust in my book, but he's becoming an increasingly less abhorrent bust. Still, you don't want your first round picks to be back-ups. Thanks again, Casserly.

6. How many people made the "Dayne must think it's 1999!" joke yesterday? I'd bet almost everyone that was watching. Nevertheless, the Texans don't win that game without his 18 carries and 95 yards. He literally carried the whole team for the vast majority of the second half and the entirety of the fourth quarter. Everyone knew he was getting the ball, and the Raiders still couldn't stop him. If not for DeMeco, he'd get my game ball.

a. Is anyone else a bit disturbed by the musical chairs approach at RB? It'd be a real treat if someone would consistently step up. I still think Wali Lundy can be that guy.

7. When only fourteen passes are attempted and the longest completion is for nine yards, there's not much to say about the WRs. So let's just take this opportunity to once again pimp Andre Johnson for the Pro Bowl. He'd better be in Hawaii, or Scott has threatened to abandon his daily reporting on the Astros' minor league affiliates for H-town Sports. That should buy him a vote, maybe two.

8. How Chad Stanley has not been cut is completely beyond my comprehension. He's just awful. The Texans would have been better served in asking Carr to heave it fifty yards to the Raiders secondary on fourth down. Well, he probably would have fumbled away the snaps, but you get my point.

9. Kris Brown certainly redeemed himself after missing that first field goal attempt. Dayne did the heavy lifting, but Brown had to make the clutch kicks to win that game. Kudos to him. He'd be special teamer of the week if not for...

10. Jerome Mathis. Wow. Nice to see him in action again. Sure, I briefly doubted his addition to the active roster when he opted to run that ball out of the end zone after fumbling, but an 87-yard return gets you a mulligan in my book.

11. Carr's final line: 7-14, 32 yards, 3 fumbles (2 lost). You'd get benched in Pop Warner for those numbers.

12. Many people have assumed that I'm going to make the VY comparison here and belabor the fact that he's now 5-4 as a starter, but I won't. Except to say that Vince Young wins football games and David Carr does not. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Will I sob anew on Sunday when Vince single-handedly destroys the hometown team? Yes. But do I regret the Texans taking Mario Williams with the first pick of the draft? No, I do not. Not anymore. Mario is the real deal, and I think Kubiak thought he had to take a chance on Carr. Has that chance worked out? Well, uhhhh, you see, it's only been, uhhh, four and a half seasons, and, uhhh...I need a drink.

Raiders Fumble Away Game, Secure #1 Overall Draft Pick

Hard to believe that the Fox/NFC game and CBS/AFC game being broadcast in Houston simultaneously involved members of the same league. I was ready for He Hate Me to come dashing out of the Oakland locker room at any moment. Unfortunately, I am running quite low on clever comments to describe the continuing embarrassment that is currently Houston Texans' football. Clearly, the offensive line and quarterback positions are still major problems for the hometown heroes.

- Observation #1: on multiple occasions in Sunday's game, David Carr had little time to throw because of Oakland's relentless pass rush. David Carr's reaction: dancing frantically around the pocket as if both his helmet and shoes were ablaze. This is precisely how QBs lose games (and how rookie Jay Cutler played in his first NFL start later that night - in a loss).

- Observation #2: on multiple occasions in Sunday's game, Tony Romo had little time to throw because of the Giants' relentless pass rush. Tony Romo's reaction: moving deftly in the pocket to a spot that bought him another half-second and trying to make a play downfield, even if the result was a NY helmet being implanted in his ribcage. This is precisely how NFL QBs win games for their team - by turning difficult situations into winning plays.

- I wanted to picket outside Reliant Stadium when I heard that Ron Dayne may be "getting some more touches" in Oakland. I would have rather seen Merciless himself, after Dayne's pathetic plodding in each of his previous chances to play. Kubes either hit the lottery or saw something substantial in practice, as Dayne ran like a Dayne circa 1996. Without his powerful ground attack, the Texans probably find a way to lose that game.

- DeMeco Ryans is not just the best defensive rookie in the NFL this year; he's a Pro Bowler, by any definition of the term. If he is not in Maui in late February, then there has been a tremendous injustice done.

- Nice to see you, Jerome Mathis. This guy is a weapon unlike any other kick return specialist I have ever seen. Even more amazing, of course, was the fact that ex-Coog Stanford Routt horsecollared JM from behind on his second half return. Edell Who?

- The decision by Kubes to not throw the ball in the second half was as brilliant as any in-game decision he has made so far in his tenure in Houston. As each play materialized, it became clearer and clearer just what was going to happen for the remainder of the game, and it was quite a joy to watch. Here's hoping for 75 carries for Gado/Dayne/Lundy this week against the Vinces.

- Notice any difference between Chad Stanley and Shane Lechler? CS - 40.4 yards per kick and zero inside the 20. SL - 56.8 yards per kick and zero inside the 20. On a team with a putrid offense, 15+ yards per punt becomes all the more important. Danny Sepulvada? Welcome to Houston. Never thought I'd be so happy to see you.

- Mario Williams was much, much better than his numbers indicated yesterday. I watch Mario on virtually every defensive snap, and he was consistently either in the backfield or double-teamed all day long (again). I am sick and tired of reading Sammy SeasonTicketHolder's critique of Mario's play. I'd like to hear whether or not Aaron Brooks felt Mario's presence yesterday.

- Prediction: Either Brad Lidge or Morgan Ensberg will not be an Astro come Opening Day 2007. My money's on Lights Out taking up residence elsewhere next season.

- Early lines I like: LSU -9 v. Notre Dame, Kentucky +10.5 v. Clemson, Tennessee -4.5 v. Penn State.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Astros Have No Room on 40-Man Roster for Young, Effective Pitching?

According to the email newsletter sent out periodically by the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Arizona Diamondbacks recently came to terms on a free-agent deal with ex-Hooks closer Jailen Peguero on a free-agent deal. Apparently, the Astros did not believe Peguero was worthy of a prestigious spot on the team's 40-man roster, but the Snakes did. I side with the Snakes, at least from the looks of the numbers.

Peguero, who is 25 years old, had a 2.94 ERA in Corpus in 2005 and split the 2006 season between Corpus and Round Rock (0.70 ERA in Corpus and 3.47 ERA in Round Rock). Peguero allowed only three HR in 75 innings in 2006, striking out 78 and walking 34. Instead of Peguero, the Astros opted to keep, among others, Eric Bruntlett, Brooks Conrad, Charlton Jimerson, Orlando Palmeiro and Mike Rodriguez. Never having seen Peguero pitch clearly puts us at a disadvantage, but his minor-league numbers are stellar, making the Astros failure to add him to their 40-man roster certainly seem on the surface like a questionable decision.