"Who's got it better than us?!" is a famous battle cry of University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh, the catchphrase serving as a reminder to his football team that they got it pretty good. Now, whether that's true for Harbaugh's program this season, on the heels of a thrashing at the hands of the University of Wisconsin on Saturday, is debatable, but it's inarguable that the phrase is quite applicable to the life of a Houston sports fan in 2019.
Right now, we have a World Series favorite in MLB, one of the short list of title contenders in the NBA, and an NFL that is, at the very least, intriguing after a win over the Chargers and with Deshaun Watson under center. Who's got it better than us? I doubt any other city, really. Los Angeles, maybe? That's about it. (And they have to pay 13 percent state income tax and ungodly cost of living to root for their teams, so screw them!)
However, we cannot ignore amidst victory what we would tend to in defeat, so in that spirit, here are the eight biggest concerns for a largely concern-free sports city:
8. ROCKETS: Mike D'Antoni's future
For a topic that was very polarizing and heated after the season ended, the topic of D'Antoni's contractual status after this coming season, the final year of his current deal, has simmered to a slow boil, at best. Still, if the Harden and Westbrook marriage works out for the Rockets, Tilman Fertitta and Daryl Morey will likely want some continuity in the head coach's seat, which will give D'Antoni some leverage, if they don't agree to a deal before the start of the 2019-2020 season.
7. University of Houston: Slow start, floating off the grid
This probably isn't as broad a concern across the city, as the Cougar fan base is much smaller than the three big pro teams. However, within that specific fan base, I'm guessing the state of the football program is at about DEFCON 2 right now, especially considering that Fertitta is essentially the owner of the UH athletic department, too. With a 1-3 start and star QB D'Eriq King announcing he will be redshirting this season, the 2019 season is about to slide off the rails, and with it slide any hopes of national relevance.
6. ASTROS: Carlos Correa's long term health
It was nice to see Correa hit a couple bombs last Friday, and he appeared to be swinging the bat much better than when he returned from injury in the second half of last season, when he was barely hitting at a power level of a National League pitcher. Then, it was announced he would miss Tuesday night's game with back pain, and here we are back at square one. The concern is just as much long-term as it is 2019. The Astros have plenty of guys who can hit. But does the team make a commitment to Correa when he's been damaged goods for the last two seasons? A definite worry for December, or calendar year 2020, in addition to rearing its ugly head again in 2019.
5. ASTROS: Re-signing Gerrit Cole
This one is not a big worry for the next few weeks, as the focus will be on riding the arms of Cole and Justin Verlander to a second World Series title. However, after the postseason ends, teams like the Angels (and others) are going to come after Cole with ferocity and financial artillery against which the Astros may just have to wave the white flag. If Cole does depart, the pressure shifts to the returning Lance McCullers and to GM Jeff Luhnow to find a reasonable poor man's Cole facsimile.
4. ROCKETS: James and Russ sharing of the basketball
The Rockets' roster experiment of joining two if the highest usage players in league history is going to be fascinating. A lot of the same things are being said, from both supporters and skeptics, as were being said before the Harden/CP3 Era. The difference, we're told now, is that Harden and Westbrook go way back to their youth days in Los Angeles, and the respect level between the two will smooth over any glitches in their learning how to share with each other. We shall see.
3. TEXANS: The Flat Organizational Structure
Truth be told, from purely a current-moment, roster upgrade standpoint, the five-headed Texans' general manager (whose O'Brien head is the biggest of the five heads) has done a decent job of filling holes on the roster, especially offensively, where Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Carlos Hyde, and Duke Johnson were all added well into training camp. However, the bill for all of that, particularly Tunsil, will come due on contract extensions and a dearth of draft picks in 2020 and 2021.
2. ASTROS: The bullpen
If the Astros don't win the World Series, it won't be because of starting pitching or the everyday lineup. They have three true aces at the top of their rotation and a lineup where, if you're not carrying an OPS of .900 or better, you're in the very small minority. The bullpen is the concern, with injuries knocking out Aaron Sanchez and Collin McHugh, and hindering Brad Peacock and Ryan Pressly in the second half of the season. Add in closer Roberto Osuna's inconsistency, and close games in October are going to be a roller coaster ride, as they were in 2017. I guess that ended OK, but Charlie Morton's not walking through that door!
1. TEXANS: Deshaun Watson's anatomy
The most important athlete in town, the one whose team fortunes are most tied to his availability, is Deshaun Watson, and while the offensive line has gotten progressively better with each game this season, the fact of the matter is that there will be a lump in our throats with every Deshaun Watson drop back until the Texans go to a Super Bowl (which could be a while).
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