THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: Plenty to see at the NBA Finals, what's next for the Rockets and Astros-Red Sox

What Lebron has done is incredible. Gregory Shamus

So, do you care about these NBA Finals? If not and you are a basketball fan you should, despite the major letdown of knowing it was sooooo close to being the Rockets against the Cavaliers. Alas, it’s the Cavs-Warriors quadrilogy. A lot of basketball fans probably have had enough of Cleveland-Golden State, but you know what? Meritocracy rules. They earned their way back, so deal with it. Or ignore it. It’s the first time ever in big league sports the same teams play for the championship four years in a row. Game 1 was a doozy. The almost incomparable LeBron with 51 points, but the Warriors got the victory aided by an all-time NBA moronic moment courtesy of the Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith.

Versus the Rockets Golden State was a 2-1 favorite. The Warriors were better than 7-1 favorites over the Cavs. The Warriors are bidding to strengthen their dynasty stature with a third title in four years. James is trying to add for a fourth title to his personal dynasty. That would still be two shy of Michael Jordan’s six ring haul, but James has led his team to nine NBA Finals, three more than did Michael. And Jordan never took a team with as weak a supporting cast to the Finals.

Before you say “the East stinks, LeBron has had it easy!” consider the following: What other player at his current playing level if swapped for James over the last eight seasons would be making an eighth straight Finals appearance?  Durant? Curry? Davis? Harden? Stop it already. The correct answer is there isn’t one. Jordan himself may well have done it. But it’s not as if MJ slayed all sharks while LeBron has beaten only guppies. Those Knicks teams Jordan battled in the 90s? One Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing. The Pacer teams? One Hall of Famer, Reggie Miller. And the Jordan Bulls never in the Finals faced a team with at least three (maybe four) future Hall of Famers like this Warriors team has, or an individual opponent as great as Tim Duncan.

If James pulls this off, as unlikely as it is, he will very arguably have had as great an NBA career as Jordan.

On the Rockets…

Phenomenal season, hugely disappointing ending with the unanswerable what if…Chris Paul’s hamstring didn’t give out? But be real, that the Rockets definitely would have won with a healthy Paul is silly. They may well have won. Just as if Golden State hadn’t lost Andre Iguodala, it’s plausible the Warriors would have wrapped the series in five.

Going forward, Paul is not worth a full maximum contract.  His skill level remains sensational. But 5 years about $205 million for a 33-year-old point guard with a history of breaking down physically? Not smart. Daryl Morey is smart. The most Paul could get from another team is four years a little over $150 mil. No way should the Rockets offer beyond that.

Clint Capela is not worth a max contract, but with his restricted free agent status the Rockets are at the mercy of any team crazy enough to offer him one (or close to one). Capela’s max would start at about $25 mil the first season. Still, the Rockets almost have to match whatever comes Capela’s way. At least he’s only 24 years old.

Battle with Boston

It would have been a lot of fun to have Rockets-Celtics games one and two going on here while the Astros and Red Sox were playing up the street. Still, Astros-Red Sox as a stand-alone HTown-Beantown battle is pretty good. The Sox rolled into Minute Maid Park as the best team in baseball. Mookie Betts is the only other player in the Majors on Mike Trout’s level this season, and Boston’s addition of former Astros’ prospect flop J.D. Martinez has been brilliant. Betts-Martinez is the best one-two punch in the bigs this year, and to this point there isn’t a close second.

The Astros gave up on Martinez in spring training 2014, and not unreasonably so. J.D. had stunk for two years, was 26 years old, and offered little value beyond whatever his hitting ability was. Since then, you don’t need a third hand to count players who’ve been better in the batter’s box. Context: this will be the fourth time in five years Martinez’s OPS is higher than Jose Altuve’s. We can’t reasonably presume that if given more time Martinez would have figured it out as an Astro.

Buzzer Beaters

1. June is busting out all over. Good chance Carlos Correa will too. Despite homering in the last game of May Correa’s batting average for the month was just .192.  2. The Capitals-Knights Stanley Cup Final thus far has been spectacular. Watch some! 3. Tastiest sugary cereals: Bronze-Frosted mini-wheats Silver-Lucky Charms Gold-Raisin Bran.

 

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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