Even though Justin Verlander is the ace pitcher of the Houston Astros and Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, they both have the same goal in their respective careers—play effectively until the age 45.

Brady is much closer to the goal at age 41 than Verlander, who turns 36 this week. Both players are still the mainstays of their respective teams and are physically and mentally capable of leading them to world championships.

Verlander would like to play 10 more seasons in the major leagues. Who he will play for is a mystery because the current seven-year, $180 million deal he signed with the Detroit Tigers in 2013 expires after this season.

The Tigers agreed to pay some of his remaining contract after he was traded to Houston in August 2017.  Verlander’s next contract after the 2019 season might keep him in Houston for the foreseeable future, if not for the remainder of his career. The Verlander deal helped the Astros win the World Series two years ago.

“Our payroll has been going up; it’s going to continue to go up,” Houston 

general manager Jeff Luhnow told USA Today Sports Weekly in this week’s issue. “There’s room in there to have several well-compensated players.”

Even if Houston is willing to open its checkbook to keep Verlander, he could wait and test the free-agent waters next off-season, the article pointed out.

“It’s a contract year?” Verlander joked. “I don’t think about it, man, I just go play the game. There’s enough pressure I put on myself. Contract year, non-contract year, doesn’t matter. I have other reasons to go out there and compete.

“Personally, I cannot think about anything in those terms. I’m definitely not scared of free agency, by any means,” Verlander told the Sports Weekly.

Luhnow said he wouldn’t be surprised if Verlander does pitch into his mid-40’s. “He’s not slowing down at all. I have no hesitation in thinking he’s going to be a dominant pitcher for many years to come.”

Similar to Brady, Verlander has enjoyed personal and team success throughout his career. The Astros, who lost to the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 American League Championship Series, are expected to contend for another World Series title this summer and fall, the article continued.

And if Verlander does pitch another 10 seasons, he should be a shoo-in to be the next 300-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1982 and Randy Johnson in 2009. 

           Verlander would have to match his average of 17 wins a season past 40 or average 15 wins per year even if he pitches until he is only 42.

He also is challenging the career strikeout list, having passed Bob Feller and Warren Spahn last year to reach 26th.

Only time will tell how much longer Verlander will play in the big leagues, but few in the Astros’ organization doubt his ability to reach his goal of 45, the article concluded.

“Nothing is going to surprised me,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s as prepared and energized as there is in the league. I don’t think age is a factor for certain players—and he’s certainly one of them.”

Perhaps three-time batting champion Jose Altuve summed it up best when he said, “He’s in great shape and is really smart and looks like he’s only 28. For me, he will be the key for us to win another championship.”

Winning championships is what New England’s ageless quarterback Tom Brady does best. And the Astros Justin Verlander is not far behind him

KWICKIES…The NFL scouting combine started yesterday and will run through March 5 at Indianapolis. The Houston Texans will be evaluating offensive tackles, looking for size and speed at cornerback, adding depth to the defensive line, scouting a fourth wide receiver and looking for a late-round running back.

Congrats to the Orangefield Bobcats for making the Class 3A regional quarterfinal round of the state basketball tournament. They met the Coldspring Trojans last night at Barbers Hill and will be depending on lanky Valentin Catt to lead the way once more. Catt slammed in 18 points, had 12 blocked shot and seven rebounds to lead the ‘Cats past Van Vleck 59-56 Friday night.

The Army baseball team only got in two of the four-game series scheduled last weekend against Longwood College in Farmville, Va. due to inclement weather. My grandson Logan Smith was due to pitch Game No. 4 Sunday, but instead worked one scoreless inning in Friday’s doubleheader that was swept by the Black Knights 12-2 and 10-3. They play a four-team round-robin tournament this weekend against St. Joseph’s, Farleigh-Dickinson and Tulane at Cary, N.C.

 Little Cypress-Mauriceville sophomore Jack Burke continues to blaze his way to individual medalist honors by firing a 70 last week in the West Brook Tournament played at Bayou Din. The Bears finished at 315, one-shot behind the winning Port Neches Groves team.

The Woodville and Hardin-Jefferson girls’ basketball teams are headed to the state tournament after copping their respective regional championship tournaments last week.

Dustin Johnson had little competition in last weekend’s PGA Tour Mexico Championship, winning by a whopping five-shot victory over Rory McIlroy. It was the 20th PGA Tour victory for Johnson.

Former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak has gotten the urge to coach in the NFL once again since his health has been restored. After spending the past two seasons as the senior personnel advisor to his friend and mentor John Elway, Kubiak joined the offensive coaching staff of the Minnesota Vikings 

JUST BETWEEN US…After being tired of sitting around the house waiting for the golf course to dry out, Craig Couvillion, Bob Hoepner and I ventured out on the wet Sunset Grove Country Club course Saturday morning. On the Par-4 Hole No. 2, I hit my second shot less than a foot from the hole and calmly made my first birdie of 2019. Not to be outdone, the 84-year-old Hoepner fired a hole-in-one on the Par 3 No. 3 hole. It was the third ace in his lifetime, but his first since 1980.