THE PALLILOG

Dream vs. Duncan and baseball in the balance

Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Jack Brame.

We're into month number three of a mostly sports-less world. Breaking news: it's not fun.

To fill some space this week ESPN.com released its ranking of the 74 greatest players in NBA history. The currently suspended season is the NBA's 74th. Unless you simply don't like the NBA, it's a fun list to discuss and debate. The ground rules for such rankings are never clear. Whose career would you rather have had: A. 10 times first team All-NBA, eight times first team All-Defensive team, two MVP Awards, or B. Five times first team All-NBA, five times first team All-Defense, one MVP Award? Easy call right? Hence, it's a Houston homer-ism issue to rail at Tim Duncan coming in ahead of Hakeem Olajuwon. Duncan placed eighth, Olajuwon twelfth. At his best Dream was greater than Duncan at his best, but for accomplishment and the longer span of greatness Duncan is the ranking guy. At their best Halle Berry or Salma Hayek? You can't go wrong. Ditto Timmy and Dream. Shaquille O'Neal split the difference between them in landing at number 10.

Couple of other notes and thoughts on the ESPN rankings. James Harden was slotted at number 32, Russell Westbrook at 42, Tracy McGrady at 52, Clyde Drexler at 57. All four of those guys are/were greater than Allen Iverson who is too high at 29. Iverson was tough as nails, played with ferocity, and it is spectacularly impressive that at six feet 165 pounds he led the NBA in minutes played per game seven times. Iverson averaged more than 25 points per game for 10 consecutive seasons. By my tally only six other guys in NBA history have done that. Shaq also 10 seasons in a row. Jerry West, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant, and Michael Jordan did 11 (asterisk on MJ, one of his 11 was his comeback season in which he played only 17 games). Counting the currently suspended season LeBron James is at 16 (16!). Awesome company for AI, but he was also a low percentage shooting inveterate gunner who was sometimes referred to as "Me, Myself, and Iverson" with some justification.


MLB

As the only non-salary cap league of our major professional sports, Major League Baseball needs its owners and players to negotiate stickier financial terms if there is to be roughly a half regular season plus postseason. On the macro level shame on the billionaires and millionaires if they can't arrive at a compromise. On the micro level there are legitimate bones of contention, though the 36 million Americans who have lost jobs over the past two months (and plenty still with jobs) have zero sympathy for the owners or players. Early on in the shutdown, the players agreed to take 170 million dollars which was theirs to keep if no season wound up being played at all. Beyond that the players agreed to basically a pro rata season salary tied to what percentage of the season was played. The players' position is that's the deal. The owners now say, hey, that was before we knew no fans at games would be real, and as a result all ballpark game day revenue would be lost. The owners say park-related revenue accounts for about 40 percent of the overall take.

The players' union leadership says the owners' offer of a 50-50 revenue split for 2020 and 2020 only is still a non-starter. When owner profits are through the roof the players don't get additional cuts. So why should the players give back additional money in time of losses? Answer: because in a "bad deal" the players would still divide a couple of billion dollars (give or take). With no season the players get nothing beyond the 170 million already received.

GET A DAMN DEAL DONE!


Respect for former Astros

Sad news with the passing of Bob Watson at 74 years old. On the field he's perhaps the most underrated player in Astros' history. Off the field, a class act and the first black General Manager of a World Series Champion (1996 Yankees). As one frame of reference for the "Bull" as a player, he had a seven-year stretch with the Astros that was clearly better than Michael Brantley was last season. Brantley was outstanding last season. Watson's power numbers were dragged down by home games in the Astrodome.

Meanwhile, send good thoughts the way of former Astros' player and manager Art Howe. He's 73 years old and hospitalized fighting coronavirus. Howe was the first Astros' manager I covered way back when. What an absolute gentleman. His 23 game hitting streak in 1981 stood for 19 years as the Astros' franchise record. Three Astros since have topped 23. Name them? Answer below.


NASCAR is back

NASCAR returns this weekend. Outstanding for NASCAR fans, but the idea that we're all so starved for live competition that millions will suddenly become auto racing enthusiasts and hence NASCAR audiences will skyrocket? Come on. Similarly, the PGA returning next month is great for golf fans, but isn't going to create scads of new golf fans. The day-to-day heartbeat of sports is local teams that generate common passion and breadth of interest.


Buzzer Beaters: 1. Worst joke I heard this week (by far): what is Forrest Gump's login password? 1-Forrest-1. 2. My series catch up viewing this week has been HBO's Succession. Not family night viewing, but really good. 3. Astros' longest hitting streaks: Bronze-Tony Eusebio 24 Silver-Jeff Kent 25 Gold-Willy Taveras 30

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After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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