Kaz’s Korner

Joe Kazmar – ForThe Record

The merry month of May has sloshed into Southeast Texas and Southwestern Louisiana with hopes that things will get better for our Houston Astros, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys and Kentucky Derby fans wanting another Triple Crown winner.

As far as the Astros are concerned, their month of April went almost exactly opposite as it did last year, with Houston finishing the month with a mere seven wins and a whopping 17 losses. The Astros were 15-7 at this time last season.

What ails the team so far this year is very correctable—being more selective at the plate when there are runners in scoring position. The Astros were miserable at driving in runs which partially led to their April woes. Another problem was the starting pitchers gave up too many first-inning runs.

Sunday the ‘Stroes salvaged the final game of their series at Oakland winning 2-1 on Jose Altuve’s lead-off homer and a sacrifice fly by Colby Rasmus. But they only got TWO HITS!!! Teams aren’t going to win many games with just two hits. Maybe they need to fire their hitting coach to stir things up a little.

The 8-17 Astros came home Sunday night and began a 10-game home stand Monday. They are playing three games against the Minnesota Twins, four against Seattle and three against the Cleveland Indians.

Perhaps playing 10 games at home will get them moving in the right direction.

It appears the Houston Texans fulfilled their objective in the draft by upgrading their team speed immensely and grabbing a slew of skill position players. They picked up free agents quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller before the draft. 

Their first-rounder is wide receiver Will Fuller of Notre Dame who has world class speed (4.32) along with fourth-round running back Tyler Ervin (4.41). Another speedy pick was Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller (4.41) in the third round who also played quarterback in college.

But getting these new players is like a foreign country getting a dozen of the most modern jet fighter planes and not having any pilots who know how to fly them.

Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien and general manager Rick Smith are ecstatic about the players they drafted, but the hard job comes between May and September when these new players must learn Houston’s offense and defense and their personal assignments on each play.

Rookie camp begins this week and the OTAs start later this month.

The Dallas Cowboys also went after skill personnel, taking Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, the fourth overall pick in the first round—the highest spot for a running back in the 26 years that Jerry Jones has been the team’s owner and general manager. 

The Cowboys also drafted quarterback Dak Prescott from Mississippi State with the 135th pick in the fourth round. It marked the first time the Pokes drafted a quarterback since 2009 (Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee).

The Cowboys have had problems rushing the passer and hope that by drafting Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins in the third round and Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper in the fourth round might somewhat address that situation.

Although Dallas has finished in the bottom third of the NFL in sacks,  team owner Jerry Jones said the team has ruled out bringing back troubled defensive end Greg Hardy.

And the first Saturday in May is always reserved for the Kentucky Derby as 20 three-year-old horses compete in the annual Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

Getting most of the early attention is Nyquist, an undefeated California-based horse that has won seven straight races and is a heavy favorite Saturday. His owner Paul Reddam named the horse after Gustav Nyquist, a Swedish hockey player who plays for the Detroit Red Wings, according to Sunday’s edition of the Albany Times Union.

Nyquist, the richest horse in the Derby field, will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, who has not yet had to ask the colt for everything he has. He has earned $3.2 million and was purchased for $400,000.

The next richest horse in the event is Gun Runner, the Derby leader with 151 points earned in prep races. He has four wins in five starts and was earned $1.6 million. He scored victories in the Louisiana Derby and Risen Star this winter for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Another horse to watch is Exaggerator, son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who is trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame jockey who is Keith’s younger brother. Exaggerator has three wins worth $1 million, but has lost to Nyquist three times.

KWICKIES…The Lamar Lady Cardinals softball team will end the regular season this week with three Southland Conference games against Nicholls State.  The Lady Cards (17-7 SLC, 31-18 overall) lost two-of three last weekend to the league-leading Cowgirls from McNeese State (20-4 SLC, 35-12 overall) and are three games behind with three to play.

With or without Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors seem to be the team to beat in the NBA playoffs. However, the San Antonio Spurs could throw a monkey wrench into the Warriors’ plans in the near future. It may even get interesting!!

Blackie Sherrod, whose sports columns were revered by most in the business, died last week at his Dallas home. He was 96 and was named Sports Writer of the Year a record 16 times. He took his popular column to the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald in 1958 and was hired away by the Dallas Times Herald in 1985 and continued his column until retiring in 2003.

The University of Idaho will drop to the Football Championship Subdivision beginning in 2018 and intends to join the Big Sky Conference. The Vandals will remain at the Football Bowl Subdivision level the next two seasons as part of the transition to the lower division. Idaho has gone 71-162 in its 20 seasons playing at the FBS level and has only reached a bowl game twice.

The San Diego Chargers drafted Wisconsin fullback/tight end Derek Watt in the sixth round. He is the younger brother of Houston Texans’ defensive star J.J. Watt. “I think my brother is a very good football player,” J.J. Watt said prior to last week’s NFL draft.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Lamar Cardinals’ baseball team barely missed a sweep over Incarnate Word last weekend in Southland Conference action, losing Sunday 3-2 after crushing UIW 20-6 Friday and winning 3-1 on Saturday. The Cards (16-5 SLC and 31-11 overall) play at Rice today at 6:30 p.m. before taking on Southeastern Louisiana, the SLC leader, this weekend at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont.