Sunday was a red-letter day as the regular-season of major league baseball concluded its 162-game run while the National Football League finished its fourth week, which means the season is 25 per cent completed.

The 2009 baseball season was much more enjoyable for the Lone Star State’s baseball fans who support the Texas Rangers than us poor followers of the Houston Astros. 

But this Korner believes the opposite is true when evaluating the two Texas franchises in the NFL—the Dallas Cowboys seem to be playing worse as the season progresses, while the Houston Texans show signs of improving from their early mistakes.

The Astros played .500 ball for a short period of time during the summer, but injuries and contagious slumps to key hitters prevented the team from getting any valid winning streaks going.

We always faulted former manager Cecil Cooper for jerking out his starting pitchers at the first sign of trouble after the fifth inning,

which we’ve always thought was not the right move to make unless the pitcher showed signs of weariness. 

However, today’s game is more focused on the number of pitches thrown rather the manner in which they are being thrown.

But when the season appeared to be going south because the run-production dwindled and the starting pitching was faltering, a scapegoat had to be found and General Manager Ed Wade couldn’t fire himself, so Cooper was the handiest person on whom to pin the blame for the lousy season.

By the time September rolled around, the five-man pitching staff consisted of Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Moehler and three hurlers from the minor leagues. The same was true with the bull pen.

Injured ace Roy Oswalt finished 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA which is the lowest victory total and highest ERA of his career. The Astros lost 16 of the final 20 games this season.

Left fielder Carlos Lee and shortstop Miguel Tejada were the only franchise players to have decent seasons. Lee led the Astros in home runs and RBIs while Tejada collected 199 hits this season, second only in franchise history to the 210 Craig Biggio hit in 1998. Tejada finished the season and his Houston contract with a 21-game hitting streak. Where he plays next season remains a mystery.

First baseman Lance Berkman had a very sub-par season and pretty much summed up the overall picture when he said, “This has definitely been one of the most disappointing seasons that I can remember having here. It’s one of the few times where we’ve come into the last weekend of the season with no chance of making the post-season. It’s foreign territory for this organization.”

Cooper could only make up a daily lineup from the 25 players Wade had placed on the active major league roster. If anybody needs to get blamed for the 74-88 record this season, this Korner believes Wade should be the man. Owner Drayton McLane, Jr. should have given Wade the heave-ho instead of letting Cooper be the fall guy.

Both the Houston Texans and our Dallas Cowboys have found unique ways to lose football games. Last week the Texans outplayed Jacksonville the entire football game, but when it came down to crunch time, the referee denied Houston the tying touchdown by claiming a receiver running his pass pattern into the end zone set a pick and the touchdown was called back.

A couple of plays later the Houston halfback dove into the end zone and fumbled the football. After 15 minutes of replays it was determined the ball crossed the goal line but his elbow hit the ground short of the line and it was called a touchback instead of a touchdown and the Texans ended up losing 31-24.

However, Sunday the Texans out-played the Oakland Raiders and put enough points on the board so that no single missed call by the officiating crew could deny them the 29-6 victory that tied their record for the first four games at 2-2.

The Cowboys also came out of the first four games with a 2-2 record, but Sunday’s game showed how inept quarterback Tony Romo really is as he failed to protect an early 10-0 lead by doing nothing on the field to increase that lead and while on the sidelines just sat there with his cap on backwards and a goofy grin on his face.

Romo personally gave the Denver Broncos an easy touchdown when he fumbled deep in the Cowboys’ own territory. He squelched another Dallas drive by throwing an interception in the Red Zone and continuously trying to throw at Denver’s All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey with no success.

Dallas built up an early lead by running the football to set up the passes. But before halftime, the running game was non-existent and the Denver pass rushers were all over Romo.

It looks to this Korner as if Idiot Owner Jerry Jones passes out his millions of dollars to try and buy another world championship, builds a billion dollar stadium and still can’t even buy a team good enough to win a lousy playoff game.

Jones sets up a mediocre quarterback like Romo with a superstar’s salary, pays an offensive coordinator more money than most NFL head coaches make, releases the only bona fide playmaker the team has had in the past decade and wonders why the team struggles to have a .500 season.

There are several NFL franchises in much worse shape than our Cowboys. As one announcer put it– the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs make Missouri the “Show Me Nothing State” as far as the NFL is concerned. Both teams are 0-4 with the Rams scoring only 24 points. 

Tampa Bay and Cleveland both got new coaches with a “better idea” that has produced 0-4 records so far this season. But the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers are winless and they both have good coaches and good personnel.

And the Manning Brothers continue to quarterback their respective undefeated 4-0 teams with Peyton throwing four touchdown passes in Indianapolis’ 34-17 thrashing of hapless Seattle and Eli heaving  three TDs before leaving the 27-16 victory over Kansas City with a bruised right heel.

KWICKIES…It looks as though the recent marriage between former tennis champion Chris Evert and golfing great Greg Norman was short-lived as the two reportedly have separated recently. This Korner never thought golf and tennis were very compatible sports anyhow.

For the first time since 1951 the Cincinnati Bearcats are ranked higher than state rival Ohio State in the AP Top 25 College Football Poll. Cincinnati (5-0) is ranked No. 8 this week while the mighty Buckeyes (4-1) are No. 9. But in this week’s USA Today Poll Ohio State is No. 8 and Cincinnati is No. 10 while the Harris Poll has Ohio State No. 8 and Cincinnati No. 9.

Arizona Diamondbacks’ slugger Mark Reynolds became the first player in major league history to strike out more than 200 times in two seasons. But he still has a long way to go to challenge Reggie Jackson’s career strikeout mark of 2,597. On the other side of the coin “Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio never struck out more than 39 times in any season and seven times in his 13 seasons he had fewer strikeouts than home runs. Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams averaged 37.3 strikeouts in his 19 major league seasons. Among the members of the 500-home-run club, Williams has the fewest career strikeouts with 709.

JUST BETWEEN US…Major league baseball’s division series are set in the National League with Central Division champion St. Louis traveling to meet West Division kingpin Los Angeles while East Division champ Philadelphia hosts wild card Colorado, both on Wednesday. The Central Division of the American League has a one-game playoff Tuesday between Detroit and Minnesota with the winner playing at the East Division champion New York Yankees Wednesday or Thursday while West Division winner Los Angeles entertains wild card Boston Wednesday.