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1. So the Houston Astros lost again last night, 4-1 to the Chicago Cubs. Nothing new there. But that’s not why the Astros are back in the news. After this weekend’s appearance with the Sugar Land Skeeters in which Roger Clemens threw 4.2 scoreless innings, Astros owner Jim Crane says that Clemens is welcome to join the Astros this season, but doesn’t want him pitching against a contender.
Now, a lot of people might think that Crane is only looking out for Clemens’ best interest, not wanting the old man to come back and get battered around by a team that’s going to the playoffs… but that’s not the reason. Crane actually has his own interests in mind when making that caveat for Roger’s return.
Think about it, the Astros are the worst team in the league with the worst attendance. The only time that attendance increases in the slightest for any bad team is when a really good team comes to town. People are already paying to see them. So, as the owner, I’d want Clemens to pitch against a bad team to maximize ticket sales.
But here’s the thing. It’s unlikely that Clemens will sign and be ready to play by the end of the week. So really the Astros have just two home series left for Clemens to choose from: the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. Both are contenders. I mean, I don’t think anyone is predicting either of those teams to win or even get to the World Series. But they’re both in the wild card race, and the Cardinals won the World Series after sneaking into the playoffs last year.
So if Clemens is going to pitch for the Astros this year, it’s going to be against a contender. Jim Crane doesn’t have a choice.
Photo courtesy Bob Levey/Getty Images
2. “I’m disappointed in how we ran the ball… We didn’t run the ball very well.”
Those words didn’t come from an NFL coach that lost on Sunday. Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said that yesterday. And you can’t really blame him. Against an awful Miami Dolphins team, the Texans were tied 3-3 late in the first half, and throughout the game the most effective plays were passing, not running.
Of course, he’s got good reason to be upset. Arian Foster and Ben Tate finished with 85 yards rushing on 31 carries, a paltry 2.7 yards per carry. Houston was expecting dominance on every front and nothing else would be acceptable. They got it from their defense, special teams, and passing game. While Foster’s two touchdowns saved his fantasy value, the yardage was unacceptable. And Tate had it worse. The two should have combined for 200 yards or close and instead they didn’t even get to 100 between the two of them.
Watching the game, the offensive line didn’t look particularly weak and Foster looked like he was still working his way back from his injury, but it should have been enough. They’ll look to dominate the line once again this coming week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but if they don’t, they could be in serious trouble because the following week they’re headed to Denver to face Peyton Manning and a Broncos defense that looks really strong.
Photo by Javi Perez/Playmaker Magazine
3. Like we said, the one part of the game that was working was the passing game. Schaub must have been feeling good that day because he’d just signed a four-year extension worth nearly $25 million guaranteed, up to $62 million with incentives.
While it’s kind of surprising that Schaub got such a long extension with TJ Yates waiting there in the wings after playing relatively well last year, it makes a lot of sense. Without Arian Foster last year, Ben Tate played great. Without Andre Johnson, other guys stepped up, especially the tight ends. But the biggest glaring absence was Schaub in the division playoffs in Baltimore against the Ravens. The defense played great. Arian Foster became the first player to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens in the playoffs.
The difference in the game was the quarterback play. Yates threw three interceptions as the Texans lost by just seven points. Schaub, despite his injury troubles, is ultimately the presence and steady hand that could make Houston a Super Bowl team with this new contract.
4. Texas Longhorns kicker Justin Tucker made his rookie debut with the Baltimore Ravens and he was a big hit. He had some pressure too, not just because it was on Monday Night Football, but because the man he beat for that job, Billy Cundiff, made four field goals the day before for the Washington Redskins. Two of those were longer than 40 yards.
Luckily Tucker had a great game, kicking three field goals, two of which were longer than 40 yards. He didn’t have to make a clutch field goal, but we all know he’s good for it.
5. Texas Longhorns athletic director DeLoss Dodds talked to the Dallas Morning-News and noted that he doesn’t see the Big 12 expanding and doesn’t want a return of the championship game, especially with college football moving toward a four-team playoff. He also said that the Longhorn Network (now on AT&T U-verse) may get the rights to broadcast one more game this season.
The one game that would likely be put on the Longhorn Network would be the home game against Iowa State. Almost every other home game is against a ranked opponent. The only other home game against a non-ranked opponent is Baylor, but that game is likely too soon to get the rights for an October 20 game. Texas doesn’t play Iowa State until November 10.
As for the expansion and lack of a championship game, I miss it. While most every school worth bringing into the Big 12 is tied to another conference or in so weak a conference that they wouldn’t be a good fit for the Big 12, I’m going to miss that championship game. It was always fun and almost always interesting. Nearly half the time, the favorite was upset. Heck, Texas upset the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the very first Big 12 Championship Game.
But that upset team was sometimes on track for a shot at a national championship. Dodds and other Big 12 ADs and presidents are probably thinking to themselves, “Why would we want to make it harder for one of our teams to make it to a national championship game?”
To them, it’s likely more important to protect a great team rather than try to have the Big 12 Championship Game push a good team over the top into the national championship game with a win, which happened far less in the history of the championship game.
6. Did you know that Billy Gillispie is coaching at Texas Tech in Lubbock? A lot of people didn’t know that because the Red Raiders only won eight games last year and Gillispie had pretty much stopped making headlines for anything he was doing on or off the court. But Gillispie is back in the news because of revelations that Gillispie has been mistreating players, forcing them to practice more than NCAA rules would allow, scaring players by threatening to pull their scholarships, and not hiring coaches he had made promises to hire.
It’s been a media firestorm since Tech’s leading scorer Jordan Tolbert told ESPN.com that he would never play for Gillispie again. Now Gillispie is taking time off from Tech basketball on sick leave. No way he survives this. No way does Tech keep him around much longer, certainly not long enough to coach any game this season.
Not surprising considering how short his other coaching stints have lasted. Most surprising, though? He could end up in San Antonio with the Spurs.