WINNING COMES AT A PRICE

Here’s the one problem that is still stumping MLB’s most successful analytics guru

Sorry goes a long way. Composite image by Jack Brame.

You know Earth is about to spin off its axis when the sitting President of the United States is suing to have a free election overturned … and that's only the second most-stupifying court case on the docket.

Disgraced Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is suing the Astros for breach of contract and $22 million. Luhnow claims that Astros owner Jim Crane unjustly fired him as part of a shady deal with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that allowed the Astros to keep their 2017 World Series title.

The lawsuit is a 17-page document filed in Harris County District Court. Here's the Cliff's Notes version: Luhnow says he was an innocent scapegoat in a "negotiated settlement" between the Astros and Manfred. Luhnow claims that he had "no knowledge" and "played no part" in the Astros sign-stealing scheme during 2017 and 2018.

Luhnow wants the Astros to pay him the guaranteed $22 million in salary, performance bonuses, profits, interest and benefits he lost when Crane fired him (along with team manager A.J. Hinch) last January.

Luhnow claims that MLB's investigation into the scandal included interviews with 70 witnesses, and only one, a mid-level Astros executive, fingered Luhnow as the culprit. Luhnow says the Astros employee was told he could keep his job if he ratted out Luhnow.

In collateral damage, Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Boston manager Alex Cora also lost their jobs because of their involvement in the scandal. Cora was the Astros bench manager during 2017. After that season, Cora was hired to manage the Red Sox and guided them to the World Series title in 2018.

Hinch immediately apologized for not doing more to stop the Astros from illegally stealing signs. Cora eventually apologized, too. Luhnow never admitted any guilt and protested his innocence, from the start and more recently in an exclusive interview with Channel 2 sports reporter Vanessa Richardson. The day after Luhnow's interview ran on air, Manfred stood his ground, saying, "He (Luhnow) damaged the game and as a result he was disciplined."

Now that the dust has somewhat settled, Hinch is the new manager of the Detroit Tigers, and Cora is back as manager of the Red Sox.

And unapologetic Jeff Luhnow? Elton John was right, sorry really does seem to be the hardest word. Even if Luhnow is telling the truth and didn't know about the Astros' shenanigans, and it's possible he didn't, he was the boss and should suck it up and accept the consequences.

Hinch and Cora took their lumps and now they're back. Luhnow, by suing the Astros and attacking the commissioner, well, good luck finding another job in baseball.

Sorry goes a long way. Tiger Woods owned up to his "infidelities" and "affairs," and it looked like millions of cheering fans followed him up the 18th fairway of the 2019 Masters, all forgiven.

Alex Rodriguez admitted that he lied about taking steroids and cheating baseball, served his suspension, and offered a hand-written apology to fans. Today A-Rod is practically the face of baseball, working for both ESPN and Fox. He's a multi-gazillionaire on ABC's Shark Tank. Oh, and he's engaged to Jennifer Lopez.

Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault. He tearfully apologized to his wife in public, saying "I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted in myself, for making the mistake of adultery." For that, plus his tragic death, he's Saint Kobe.

Remember when Andy Pettitte nearly broke down in tears admitting that he took a performance enhancing substance (HGH)? He was welcomed back to baseball. The next time he took the mound, fans gave him a standing ovation.

Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds have never admitted knowingly taking steroids. Whether they did or not, despite their historic careers, it's unlikely they'll be voted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose lied so many times about betting on baseball that when he ultimately fessed up, he was a lost cause and he'll never see Cooperstown, either. Same with Lance Armstrong, too late to salvage his reputation and legacy.

I know that it would kill Luhnow to apologize for his role in the Astros scandal, especially if he deep down believes that he's innocent. Remember what the famous legal scholar George Costanza said, "It's not a lie if you believe it."

Innocent or guilty, Luhnow would have been better off, possibly running a big league baseball team today, if he had said "sorry." He may never recover professionally, at least not in MLB, from suing the Astros. Baseball owners stick together.

These days, if someone says to me, "Why did you …?," I immediately apologize. "You're right, I'm sorry. I'll never do it again. Now tell me what I did."

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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