OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HED

Barry Warner: On the Rockets postseason failures, Jackie Robinson, Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Football to Canada and more

James Harden was awesome in Game 1, but past postseason failures will haunt him until they win it all. Kevin C. Cox

Playoffs are when legacies are made, not the regular season. James Harden may be the MVP and scoring leader, but his playoffs have been thought of as dismal. Three years ago, again in the final game at Golden State, he had 13 turnovers. No one will ever forget Game 6 here against the Spurs last year when he looked and played like he was from outer space.

CP3 has been a perennial All-Defense first teamer, has one of the best mid-range jumpers and will break your ankles dribbling. His rap? He never won with the talented Clippers, a team that choked after being up 3-1 few seasons ago.  Great player but no ring.

Coach Mike D’Antoni, with the Phoenix Suns, with back to back MVP Steve Nash, Amare Stoudmire and Shawn Marion, got beat in back-to-back years by a pair of Texas teams. The Spurs won in 2005, the following year the Suns lost to Dallas.

Another Rocket season with no bling? Anything other than a Western Conference Final is a bad year, regardless of how management wants to spin it.

We have already seen mediocre Texans teams fly a banner because they were a regular season champ.

Around the diamond

Astros: Just because the Stros lost back-to-back nationally televised extra innings games to the Rangers, do not panic.  Too many men left on base, plus paltry batting averages will change.

A-Rod reinvents himself: For both networks, A-Rod the fraud was in the booth -- the same ex-Yankee who sued everyone except the groundskeeper over his steroid use. He was banned one year for his lying.  Now he is treated like a conquering hero. It’s either the greatest comeback story in the court of public opinion, or a huge con by his PR firm.

Ohtani watch: Shohei Ohtani did not pitch Sunday, as weather in Kansas City postponed the game.  There is a chance he might start next Monday night when the Angels come here.

Jackie Robinson: April 15, 1947 was the 71st anniversary of the day when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier at Ebbetts Field

Not only did it change baseball forever, and make it better forever, but made America better. Long before Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Dodger became a Civil Rights leader in America. Jackie Robinson became that kind of leader first, followed by fans integrating the stands

It also opened the door for the Latin players.  The sad part is so many of today’s generation of millionaire players don’t know of this great man.

I had the good fortune to twice have dinner with Jackie and his wife Rachael.  Those moments are forever treasured.

Around the NFL

Poor decisions: Now let me get this straight, Texans’ management gave Derek Newton a two-year contract extension after his serious knee injuries.  He showed his gratitude by filing a grievance for $ 500,000. But he is not as dumb as former teammate and bust Xavier Su’a filo. This genius turned down a $5-million-dollar deal at mid-season, preferring to test the market.  He signed with the Titans for the league vet minimum.

Guess he forgot to take any business courses at UCLA.

Draft dodging: If their lips are moving then they are lying.  That is the term used by coaches, GM’s and scouts regarding the draft.  With less than two weeks before the draft, there are so many rumors floating, trying to confuse other franchises, that its absurd.

If I were Cleveland, Sam Darnold from USC would solve the quarterback problem.  That would leave the Giants on the clock. It won’t be a shock for them to take Penn State’s superb running back Saquon Barkley.

Time to move on: Now that Colin Kaepernick made his stand, many feel it’s time to move on.  There are rules in every job, unless you work for yourself. After the controversial ex-Forty Niner refused to say he would not stand for the anthem, Seattle chose to sign another backup.

But there is yet another way to approach this hot topic about players rights that will not go away. Forget about the kneeling. Once again this is more about owners discriminating against players, refusing to consider them for a roster spot.

By the way, this is the same league that took millions from the Pentagon for the made-for-video-boards and television displays of patriotism.

Once again hypocrisy rears its head. Remember this is not about politics or dissent, which is part of this great nation.  It’s about money and fear. Then, again, the NFL has let druggies and many who have been mug shots return to play.

Adios, Dez: No surprise when Jerry Jones cut Dez Bryant. The controversial owner has waived Tony Romo (after he retired), Emmitt Smith and DeMarcus Ware, three franchise players.

The emotional receiver told his teammates “I will see you twice a year.”  Sorry Dez, but no team in the division has cap space, nor wants a receiver who has slowed down.

Johnny football fail: With the two-game spring league over, former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, has a month to report to the CFL where he must play two years before trying to get an NFL gig. He will be coached by well-respected June Jones

Another former Heisman winner, RG3, is now a Raven. Out of the NFL last season, he appears to be somewhat changed, no longer referring to himself in the third person.

Spare me, then show it on the field.

 Ex-con gives back:  Last Friday, my godson Damon West spoke to the UH football team about his seven years in prison. The son of retired Port Arthur News columnist Bob West has spoken to programs like Alabama, Clemson, Michigan State just to name a few.

It is a chilling, gripping story of survival in the joint against the gangs, rediscovering the Bible, and becoming a jailhouse lawyer.  His website is www.damonwest.org. I sat between a pair of assistant coaches who were taking detailed notes of his chilling road to recovery.

I saw a much different side of Cougar head coach Major Applewhite.  He is a terrible interview, soft spoken and repeating all the clichés heard over the years.  But at the end of West’s motivational talk, the former Longhorn talked with no script. He implored his team to listen, take in the knowledge like a game plan.  This time, not on a field, but as a gateway to each players’ future.

It was damn hard following Tom Herman, but what I saw really gives the team a shot at several winning seasons.

Chirp!

 

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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