THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: On the Texans, Altuve, the Hall of Fame and more

Jose Altuve picked up more hardware. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Mercifully, the Texans’ season finally ends Sunday. With DeAndre Hopkins sidelined by a calf injury is there any possible reason to subject oneself to watching the Texans at the Colts? 4-11 at 3-12, yippee!  After splitting up the last eight AFC South division titles four apiece, the Texans and Colts are now the division’s Dumb and Dumber. Both are banking on a healthy franchise quarterback as their salvation next season.  Both have oodles of free agent dollars to spend, the Colts have more. The Colts also have a top five draft pick in every round, while the Texans will twiddle their thumbs until round three.

One thing on the line Sunday, who gets to play the Cleveland Browns next year. If the Texans come through with a loss, they get the AFC South last place designation for scheduling by virtue of losing both games to the likewise 4-12 Colts. Sunday’s winner draws the Bengals next season. What drama!

The Texans were thoroughly humiliated Christmas Day. I don’t even mean the Steelers thrashing them 34-6, that was feeding the most feeble of flies right into a spider’s web.  I mean that If we accept the dubious position that the NRG Stadium roof closed makes for a louder building, were the Texans too obtuse to realize that keeping the roof closed Monday only enhanced the Steelers’ crowd noise advantage? So, the Texans have lost their last two games by final scores of 45-7 and 34-6. The winless Browns most lopsided loss this season is 35-10.

No small feat

The Associated Press this week named Jose Altuve its Male Athlete of the Year (swimmer Katie Ledecky took the female honor). If we accept as one definition of over the hill as being past one’s absolute peak of performance, there’s a good chance that at 27 years old Altuve is over the hill. I mean, how could his 2018 or any subsequent year equal his 2017? American League batting champion (for a 3rd time), American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, and World Series Champion. In Altuve’s case it’s not a hill anyway, it’s a mountain of accomplishments.

The AP started awarding Athlete of the Year in 1931. Lance Armstrong won four years in a row (2002-05) while cheating his way to Tour de France titles. Other winners include Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones. Juicers all.

Looking ahead

As this column posted, we were exactly three months from the Astros’ season opener against the Texas Rangers March 29th up in Arlington. If you are manager A.J. Hinch to whom are you handing the ball to pitch game one of 162? Dallas Keuchel has had the honor the last three openers and the Astros won all three, two of them in shutouts. Do you stick with Dallas or is Justin Verlander quite simply the ranking man on the staff and so he goes? Verlander started nine of the last 10 Detroit Tigers’ openers, only missing in 2015 when he began the season on the disabled list.  My guess is it’s Keuchel, in what may well be his last Opening Day in an Astros’ uniform.

Hall pass?

Speaking of Barry Bonds, he is again on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the Class of 2018. So is Roger Clemens. Each is in his sixth of 10 maximum years on the ballot. Last year each for the first time crossed the 50 percent threshold of thumbs up votes (75 percent is necessary for election). I would vote for both. To me infamy is a subset of fame, plus both Bonds and Clemens were made men Hall of Famers before their phases of PED use, real and/or alleged, kicked in. Also back on the ballot: Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Sheffield. All amassed Hall-worthy numbers. None has any chance of election.

Five other former Astros besides Clemens are among the total of 33 players on the ballot: Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge, Aubrey Huff, and Carlos Lee. Save the spit take on the last two! All players who play in 10 different Major League seasons go on the ballot five years after retirement. Those who don’t receive at least five percent of votes are dropped from the ballot the next year.

Those joining Modern Era committee electees Alan Trammell and Jack Morris in the Class of 2018 will be named on January 24th.  The no-brainer on the ballot for the first time is Chipper Jones. Jim Thome’s case is hard to deny. The near-missers from last year who should get the call in ’18 are Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Your choices for Astros’ 2018 MVP: Altuve, Carlos Correa, Other    2. I really hope Stephen Curry is healthy when the Warriors visit the Rockets Thursday    3.  Best non-Astros sporting events of 2017:  Bronze-Super Bowl LI, Patriots from down 28-3 to 34-28 OT win over Falcons   Silver-Clemson 35 Alabama 31 National Championship game   Gold-Federer/Nadal Australian Open Final   

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome