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

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 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.



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96 games down, 66 games to go as the Astros tackle a fairly significant series in Seattle to open up the figurative second half of the season Friday night. It’s actually just over 40 percent of the schedule remaining. With the Astros having closed within one game of the Mariners in the American League West it’s the biggest series possible for them as the season resumes. But it’s not remotely make or break. Measuring by run differential the Astros should already be out front. They have outscored their opponents by 49 runs while Seattle is just plus-19. The actual standings can be explained in no small part by this comparison: in one-run games the Astros are a pitiful 7-17 while the Mariners are 19-14.

The spectrum of outcomes this weekend ranges from the Astros sweeping and leaving the Emerald City two games on top, to getting swept and heading down the coast to Oakland four games behind. Of note, the Mariners beat the Astros in five of the seven meetings to date this season. So if Seattle wins this series it clinches the season series and playoff tiebreaker should a spot come down to it. The Astros and Mariners have another series to come after this one, three games in Houston the final week of the regular season.

Trade deadline looming

What may be even more important than this weekend’s games is who gets what done between now and the July 30 trade deadline. With Justin Verlander clearly not close to returning, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss both performance question marks, and both Ronel Blanco and Hunter Brown being asked to handle unprecedented workloads for them, the Astros’ rotation needs obvious fortification. The Mariners’ rotation is second to none in the American League and their bullpen is good. Seattle’s lineup is atrocious. The Chicago White Sox are on pace to be one of the worst teams of all-time. The ChiSox’ offense is a joke with a team batting average of .220. The Mariners’ team average is .219. Only the White Sox and pathetic Marlins are scoring fewer runs per game than the M’s.

The Mariners have 11 players with at least 100 at bats this season. Eight of them have an OPS of .690 or lower. Cal Raleigh has the highest at .734. The Astros have 12 guys with at least 100 at bats including Jose Abreu. Abreu, Chas McCormick, and Mauricio Dubon are the only .690 or worse OPS guys. Kyle Tucker is the Astros’ OPS leader by a significant margin, .979 to Yordan Alvarez’s .912. What’s that you ask? Who is this Kyle Tucker? 35 missed games and counting for “Tuck” with his leg bone bruise, with return not imminent. T-Mobile Park is a notably better pitchers’ park than is Minute Maid Park, but not enough to shrug off the Mariners’ offensive ineptitude. The Mariners team payroll is more than 100 million dollars below the Astros’ payroll. The Mariners have the clearly better farm system from which to deal. If Seattle doesn’t add offense, its ownership and front office will deserve a continued fade in the second half, on top of the Mariners’ 8-15 gimp into the All-Star break.

Don't forget about the Rangers

With the Astros and Mariners going at it this weekend with the division lead in the balance, a reminder that this is not a two-team race. The Texas Rangers rallying to take the final two games at Minute Maid Park last weekend sent up a flare that the reigning World Series Champions are definitely still in the picture. The Rangers sit four games behind the Astros, five back of the Mariners. If the Rangers manage to win their series in Arlington with the Orioles this weekend, they are guaranteed to gain ground on at least one team ahead of them. The Astros-Rangers season series sits tied at five wins apiece with three games left, it will be decided in Arlington the first week of August. The Rangers and Mariners play seven more times.

In broader view, as measured by opponents’ records, the Astros have the toughest remaining schedule among the three. Among the 30 big league clubs the Rangers have the fourth easiest slate left, the Mariners have the fifth easiest, the Astros have the 15th easiest. If the Astros ultimately are not to win the West, there is the Wild Card race to keep in mind. The Astros are seven games behind the Yankees, four behind the Twins, and three and a half back of the Red Sox. Those three currently hold the Wild Card spots. The Astros are also a game and a half behind the Royals. The Astros have already lost the season series and tiebreakers to the Yankees, Twins, and Royals. The Astros and Red Sox have all six of their meetings yet to come.

Remembering Ken Hoffman

This is my first column since the passing last Sunday of my friend and eventual colleague Ken Hoffman. I originally learned of Ken’s quirkiness and wit through his columns at the Houston Post. He was a big sports fan. Our friendship was driven in part by our shared passion for tennis. We played probably more than a thousand times over nearly 20 years. Tennis and baseball were Ken’s two favorite sports. His two favorite athletes were Roger Federer and Jose Altuve. Well, after he and his wife Erin’s son Andrew, who was a pitcher on Trinity University’s 2016 NCAA Division Three national championship-winning team.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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