Charlie Pallilo: It's All-Star time and some thoughts on the Hall of Fame

Chris Paul is having a big year for the Rockets. Houston Rockets/Facebook

It just won’t be as interesting watching the Pro Bowl Sunday with the Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney both missing the game because of injuries. Hahahahahahaha! I made a funny! As if watching the Pro Bowl could be interesting under any circumstances. I know a few million watch, but other than serious degenerate gamblers, why?

The last couple of years the NBA All-Star game has approached Pro Bowl levels of unwatchability. Last year’s 192-182 defensive masterpiece moved the NBA to try something different. The idea is fun, having leading vote-getters LeBron James and Stephen Curry choose up sides as if on the playground. However, it was lame of the NBA and players to not agree to televise the picks, concerned that delicate egos would crumble if players were selected lower than they believed they should go. As if any of this will get guys to play defense during an exhibition.

While the Rockets keep rolling through this season, it’s still silly homerism to argue that Chris Paul got shafted out of an All-Star spot. Paul has been stellar but he has missed more than 35 percent of the season to date. Attendance is part of the grade. Given good health the rest of the way and the Rockets making a run at the first 60 win season in franchise history, Paul would be a strong candidate for third or maybe even second team All-NBA.

Hall thoughts

Chipper Jones was the top name on the marquis this week heralding the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Jones is arguably the third greatest third baseman of all time. Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews rate ahead of him though Chipper scored more runs and drove in more runs than both of them. George Brett was awesome, but Jones beats him on multiple criteria (and not on some others). Brooks Robinson and Wade Boggs definitely were not as good as Jones. Among switch-hitters in baseball history only Mickey Mantle was a better player. I imagine Pete Rose would explode over that assertion, but Chipper had the same career batting average as The Hit King (.303) while Jones had a 26 point edge in on-base percentage and an overwhelming advantage in power.

Among those going on the ballot for the first time for the Class of 2019: Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and Andy Pettitte. I don’t think of any of them as Hall of Famers, but all had fantastic careers. Berkman is a top 10 switch-hitter ever, but it’s fair to wonder whether his career would have been better had he tried batting lefty full-time. Maybe southpaw curveballs and sliders would have wiped him out, but maybe not. Lance swinging right-handed was just another guy: a .260 hitter with a mediocre .417 slugging percentage. Lefty-swinging Lance was a better hitter than Jeff Bagwell with a .304 batting average, .420 on-base percentage, and monster .575 slugging percentage. That’s a .995 OPS.  Bagwell’s career OPS was .948.

Oswalt merely had the best Astros’ pitching career in franchise history but 163 career wins for a starting pitcher just doesn’t cut it for the Hall unless your last name is Koufax. Oswalt was fantastic to watch. He was a rapid worker with a speedy delivery, explosive fastball, drop-dead curveball, and nasty demeanor. Oswalt finished top five in National League Cy Young Award voting five of his first six seasons in the Majors. If not traded while the Astros were in their descent down the baseball toilet Roy-O would be the winningest pitcher in Astros’ history. Instead, his 143 victories sit one behind the late Joe Niekro.

While 219 of Pettitte’s 256 wins came as a Yankee, his single greatest season was in 2005 as an Astro. That year the Oswalt, Pettitte, Roger Clemens trio was beyond tremendous, and carried an Astros’ team that didn’t even have a league average offense into the franchise’s first World Series. Pettitte posted 17 straight winning seasons before settling for 11-11 in his final season. He was really good and certainly did his part for the Yankees’ four World Series winners in five years from 1996-2000, but Pettitte was never one of the best couple of pitchers in his league, and just didn’t have the greatness that should be associated with Hall of Famers--like his closer for the bulk of his career, the awesome Mariano Rivera. He’s the lead pipe cinch for election in the Class of ’19.

Clemens and Barry Bonds each gained votes this year but not enough for either to total 60% thumbs-up. It takes 75% for election. Misters B12 and Flaxseed Oil have four years of eligibility remaining on the main ballot.

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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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