The Pallilog

Charlie Pallilo: Interesting week for Astros, on and off the field

Jeff Luhnow was in the spotlight this week. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Interesting week for the Astros on and off the field with the top headline grabber being General Manager Jeff Luhnow’s trade for relief pitcher Roberto Osuna. Luhnow has done masterful work in building the Astros to World Series Champion and continued elite status. His justification for the Osuna deal is not part of that masterful work. Some of Luhnow’s words were self-serving and of questionable merit. Now, I am not vehemently disgusted with the Astros acquiring Osuna. Once his MLB suspension for violating the collectively bargained domestic violence policy expires this weekend and any debt to society is paid, should Osuna not be allowed to pursue his livelihood?  But this remains an active criminal case. Luhnow functionally pronounced Osuna guilty in stating he believes Osuna is “remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior.”

Osuna ultimately may be found not guilty or have the charges dropped or plead out. The legal system is often about victory and tactics more so than absolute truth and justice. Osuna not contesting a 75 game suspension that cost him about two and a half million dollars in salary basically renders a belief in his innocence somewhere between naive and absurd.

Luhnow’s explanation of “zero tolerance” of domestic violence only applying from when a player joins the Astros’ organization? Come on. Wonder what Jeff’s position would be if say, his daughter had been the victim. It would have been more honorable of Luhnow to say “we have real concerns about our bullpen, we get a talented young guy in Osuna on the cheap, and we’ll deal with any fallout.”

By Luhnow’s rationalization, he should have already signed convicted child molester Luke Heimlich. Heimlich is the Oregon State All-America pitcher who pleaded guilty to actions committed when he was 15 years old.  Heimlich went undrafted in June, and remains unsigned. Hey, his transgressions occurred before Heimlich would be in the Astro organization.

Doesn’t it seem morally askew that a player can get a 75 game suspension for domestic violence and be eligible for the postseason, but a player who ingests the wrong supplement gets 80 games and a postseason ban? That’s how it is. Crimes against baseball are treated more harshly than a crime against humanity.


To the much lighter side, while anything can happen in a couple of baseball games, the Astros taking the last two games of their series in Seattle was a nice boost for them, and had to be a dispiriting blow to the Mariners. Monday night the Mariners shutout the Astros to close within three games of them in the American League West. With two more games left in the series, no Jose Altuve or Carlos Correa to face, then in the first inning Tuesday George Springer was lost for the rest of the series, the Mariners had to be thinking sweep this baby and get within one. Instead the Astros won the last two to re-boost their division lead to five games. The Astros’ starting pitching overall remains phenomenal. It is amazing that more than two-thirds of the way through the season they still have only used five different starting pitchers. Lance McCullers is just 24 years old but has not yet gone healthy start-to-finish through a big league season. Charlie Morton has spent time on the disabled list each of the past six years.

The Mariners meanwhile led the A’s by 11 games in mid-June. The last Mariner loss to the Astros coupled with Oakland winning for the 30th time in its last 40 games wiped out the last bit of that lead. The Mariners last made the playoffs in 2001. Their 16 year drought is the longest active in North American major league sports. The Astros could sag and see the division title slip away, but I strongly doubt that, so the more compelling AL West race is to see who plays the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. The Astros are on course for an AL Division Series with the Cleveland Indians.

Big move

I’m not wildly optimistic re: how well Carmelo Anthony will mesh his game with those of Chris Paul and James Harden, but it certainly will be interesting to see how it plays out.  Even if it doesn’t go great, it’s not as if he can shoot worse than the 0 for 12 Trevor Ariza did in game seven against the Warriors. Ariza was a solid pro but simply not good enough to be indispensable. Ditto Luc Mbah a Moute. At minimum the Rockets should be a top five NBA team again.

Buzzer Beaters

1. If Urban Meyer did what it is alleged he did, what a despicable power-sick man.  2. Smart move Texans GM Brian Gaine not giving Jadeveon Clowney a megamillions extension.  3. Best synonyms for steal: Bronze-pilfer Silver-purloin Gold-filch.


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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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