The Pallilog

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

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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These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

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