Bijani: Houston has lost some great ones. Which hurt more?


(SportsRadio 610) - The city of Houston and Astros fans everywhere have to say goodbye to Justin Verlander. He’ll be calling New York City home for at least the next two seasons.

Yes, New York City.

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You don’t think he’s going to actually live in Queens or Flushing-Meadows do you?

Anyway, Verlander and the New York Mets agreed to a two-year $86.7 million deal that includes a $35 million vesting option for the 2025 season.

The two-time World Series champion had a helluva ride in Houston.

The 17-year veteran and future Hall of Famer won two of his three Cy Young Awards in the city, notched his 3,000th career strikeout as an Astro and earned his first winning decision in a World Series game in route to the Astros second championship in six seasons.

While most fans and media alike would’ve typically had a conniption fit over losing an ace, particularly after winning another title, this doesn't have that feeling.

At all.

However, over the years the city has lost some terrific athletes. Some were fan favorites, others were stars who were in search of something that they didn’t feel like the city or their respective organization could offer, whether that be money or opportunity.

In no particular order of pain felt, below is MY list of departing Houston athletes over the years that hurt the most.

Who are some players that left you hurting after moving on from the city?

Nolan Ryan
Moses Malone
Warren Moon
Hakeem Olajuwon
Carlos Beltran
Lance Berkman
Hunter Pence
Andre Johnson
Dallas Keuchel
James Harden
George Springer
DeAndre Hopkins
JJ Watt
Justin Verlander

Nolan Ryan - I was too young to recall the Astros version, but after spending nine seasons in Houston, becoming the first million dollar player, winning 100+ ballgames, falling short of two World Series, getting his 3,000th strikeout and fifth no-hitter here - that had to hurt, especially losing him to the Rangers right?

Moses Malone - Needless to say, I was too young for this one too, but it had to hurt when he left. Especially leaving for the 76ers to play with Dr. J after winning two MVPs in Houston. Then to win a third with Philadelphia and the title very next year!

Warren Moon - No question Moon was a terrific player, particularly in Houston. Hall of Famer. But, full disclosure he didn’t even make my list initially. He was 37 and entering his age-38 year when he left after the 1993 season and to be honest, while I was only 10-11 years old at the time, I just remember being more angry about blowing a 35-3 lead to the Bills in 1992, then losing to Joe Montana and the Chiefs in ‘93, not Moon leaving for the Vikings.

Hakeem Olajuwon - I remember being heartbroken about losing him to the Raptors. It felt wrong then and still does now that he didn’t finish a HOF career as a member of the Rockets.

Carlos Beltran - He felt like the missing piece to what could’ve been a helluva run after that playoff run he had here as a rental in ‘04. Could the Astros have won the World Series with him in ‘05? What could they have done beyond that? How would signing him long term have changed trajectory of the organization?

Lance Berkman - Another guy Houston lost that just never felt right. He made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen atop Tal’s Hill. He was one of the best switch hitters ever, won a World Series with an old NL Central rival, the hated Cardinals. I miss that Twinkie eating SOB!

Hunter Pence - Another late add to my list. He was around for just four seasons, but another guy they drafted and developed, burst onto the scene and became a fan favorite along with Michael Bourn. Trading those guys signaled the start of a long road ahead. I miss Pence, especially. Incredibly talented, well-rounded ballplayer and awkward guy with the mannerisms of someone from the 1920s.

Andre Johnson - Best offensive player in franchise history. Quiet assassin. Highly respected, just not enough by his own organs. It did freaking hurt to watch him in not one, but two different AFC South jerseys (Colts, Jags) before he retired. F’n Bill O’Brien. The writing should’ve been on the wall then, but I guess we were all blinded by DeAndre Hopkins and such. Ugh.

Dallas Keuchel - This one hurt me. He was one of the few guys that made it through those 100+ loss teams during the rebuild that won the World Series in ‘17. Gold glover, Cy Young winner, wish he could’ve hung around. Who knows, with Brent Strom around maybe he doesn’t fall off like he did.

James Harden - Probably the first super star athlete in my time that was reduced to, ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids’ levels in the playoffs. Man! What could’ve been, though, if Chris Paul’s hammy didn’t explode in the ‘18 Western Conference Finals. He became a turd and wanted out. Peace!

George Springer - Astros couldn’t afford him, value didn’t make sense for what the Astros had in mind. It’s worked out, wouldn’t you say? But, it hurt for a bit. Developed in the system, incredible ballplayer, club Astros! Tip of the cap to him.

DeAndre Hopkins - There's so much here to unpack. We just had the fog lifted from this blunder with Jack Easterby recently getting axed. Or did we? You know the deal, he was a special player. What could’ve been. Sigh.

J.J. Watt - One of the most beloved players in Houston sports history, apologized to Deshaun Watson for wasting one of his years. Can someone apologize to this man for bungling the majority of his 10 years in Houston? Three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Humanitarian. Legend.

Justin Verlander - The Astros are so damn good, this one doesn’t hurt. At all. Not even a little. But, what a ride it was. Some of the greatest grit, heart, devotion to pitching and team we’ve ever seen. Period. THANKS JV!

Shaun Bijani has spent the last 16 years covering the Houston sports scene for SportsRadio 610. Follow him on Twitter @ShaunBijani.

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