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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5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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