THE PALLILOG

It's not just the Rockets with something at stake this weekend

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Quite a week as it pertains to sports. The Milwaukee Bucks opting to not play their scheduled playoff game Wednesday created an unprecedented domino effect of others choosing to do the same across multiple sports. The hope is that the one game pause will be means to a long game end of fixing some of America's ills such as police brutality against black people. Those who don't see nobility in the objective are largely beyond hope. The players pulling the plug on the season would have been foolhardy and financially catastrophic for them. Hence, plug unpulled. Principles should always matter. Principal usually does.

It is an American disgrace that so many on each side of the political aisle so often adhere to a "we're 100 percent right and they're 100 percent wrong" attitude. The casualization of lying is its own epidemic.

Rockets relaunch

And now back to the games. The additional time off between games four and five of their first round playoff series certainly isn't a bad thing for the Rockets. Despite Russell Westbrook's absence they seemed in control with a two games to none lead over Oklahoma City. That edge disappeared as the Rockets squandered leads in games three and four. Westbrook had been upgraded to questionable for game five had it been played Wednesday. An extra 48 hours or more of rehab time for Westbrook's injured quad could well make the difference on the will he or won't he play front, and if he will then his of level of explosiveness should benefit. The Rockets could get through this series without Westbrook. Against the Lakers they'd have little chance without him. That is unless LeBron James or Anthony Davis went down injured.

If two weeks ago I told you that Westbrook won't have played through four games of the series and that James Harden thus far would be maybe the fourth best guard in the Western Conference this postseason, you'd probably think the Rockets were in dire straits. It's not as if Harden is having a bad series. Utah's Donovan Mitchell and Denver's Jamal Murray have been spectacular and then some. Dallas's Luke Doncic may have produced the single best all-around game anyone will put up in the bubble.

Astros get another shot at the A's

The Astros and A's open a three game series Friday night at Minute Maid Park that is both huge and of little significance, and that is within a purely baseball context. If the Astros hope to win the American League West for a fourth year in a row, it's just about a must that they take at least two out of three this weekend. The A's lead is four and a half game with only a month to play. If they increase that lead here, it's close to curtains for the Astros AL West hopes. That's the huge part of the series. The insignificance comes in that the Astros are probably better than 95 percent to make the expanded playoff field by finishing at least second in their division. The Rangers, Angels, and Mariners are all terrible. It's extremely unlikely the Astros drop below any of them in the standings. About the only way it could happen is if the Rangers whip up on the Astros over the 10 head-to-head matchups they have in September.

The A's have been a lot better than the Astros in this short season to date, most notably sweeping them out of Oakland a couple of weeks ago. The Rockies swept three from Arizona this week to creep a game over .500. That means the Astros in their 31 games to date have four wins over teams presently with a winning record, their four over the Rockies last week. The only good teams the Astros have faced are the A's, Dodgers, and Padres. Against those three teams the Astros are 0-8. But none of that matters when the playoffs start.

With the Astros' schedule disrupted by the Hurricane Laura scare and the A's skipping their scheduled finale in Arlington as part of the social injustice protest, the pitching matchups for Astros-A's get tweaked. Chris Bassitt isn't Jacob DeGrom or Gerrit Cole but he has been the A's best starter so far. Bassitt was to have pitched against the Rangers Thursday. Instead he'll open vs. the Astros and Lance McCullers. Mike Fiers will not pitch in the series for the A's.

Out of tune

Anyone else wonder how much Elton John freaked out (not in a happy way) at Ivanka Trump using "I'm Still Standing" as her intro music before speaking Thursday night?

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Inside two weeks now to the Texans at Chiefs regular season opener. The Chiefs are favored by 10. Taking the points. Lukewarmly.

2. MLB's seven inning doubleheaders are silly.

3. Reginald Dwight's best songs: Bronze-Saturday Night's Alright Silver-Bennie and the Jets Gold-Someone Saved My Life Tonight

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Life after Correa may not be the worst thing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Carlos Correa is having a damn good year. The Astros shortstop is hitting .285 with 24 homers, 87 RBI, 72 walks, .862 OPS, a 7.2 WAR, and a .981 fielding percentage. In any other year, those would be numbers worthy of being in the mix for AL MVP (if it weren't for that dastardly Shohei Otani). Correa is also in a contract year. He and the Astros were far enough apart that the season started and he's held true to not wanting to negotiate midseason.

The offers of six years for $120 million and five years for $125 million were both rejected by he and his camp. They're seeking something much longer and for more money on the annual average. With the team unwilling to meet those demands, it seems as if the team and the player are headed for a split.

Lots of Astros fans are not happy with the prospect of Correa leaving via free agency. Some think the team isn't doing enough and should pony up to bring him back. Some feel Correa should take what they're offering because it's a fair deal that'll allow the team to sign other players. Then, there's that small band of us that are totally okay with him leaving.

One of the main reasons I'm okay with him leaving is the players the team still has under control that are potential replacements. Aledmys Diaz and Pedro Leon are the first two guys that come to mind. Diaz is a 31-year-old vet who's stepped up when he's called upon. He can slide over to third and allow Alex Bregman to play shortstop. Leon is the team's 23-year-old hot prospect who signed as an outfielder that the team has been trying to turn into a shortstop. If Correa were to leave, he could instantly plug the hole Carlos would leave behind. Either of those options lead to my next point of being okay with Correa leaving which is to...

...allocate that money elsewhere. Whether it's signing a replacement (at short or third), or boosting the pitching staff, I'll be fine as long as it's money well spent. Signing a shortstop or third baseman would determine where Bregman would be playing. If said player takes significantly less than Correa and fills 70-80% of his offensive shoes, it'll be worth it. Others will have to step it up. If they find a deal on a top of the rotation starting pitcher, that would be ideal as well. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, this team has employed a six-man rotation, but doesn't have a true ace. Spending anywhere from $20-30 million a year on a top-notch pitcher to add to the staff would bolster this staff in more ways than one. It'll finally give them the ace they lack, plus it'll bump all the young talent (still under team control) down a peg creating depth and perhaps even creating bullpen depth.

The only way any of this works is if Correa isn't back. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander's money comes off the books also. Freeing up that much payroll and not re-appropriating those resources to ensure this team stays in contention would be a first degree felony in sports court. I don't think Jim Crane wants that for this team. I for sure don't think James Click wants that as his legacy. Let's sit back and watch how the organization maneuvers this offseason and pray they get it right.


Editor's note: If you want to read the other side of the argument, check out Ken Hoffman's piece from Tuesday.

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