THE BEST AND THE WORST

Ken Hoffman bets on the Astros and crushes the worst show on TV

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Why is everybody so concerned about the Astros finishing with the best record in baseball and getting home field advantage throughout the playoffs? The goal is to win the World Series, right?

So, maybe the Astros would be better off finishing behind the Yankees in the American League, and behind the Dodgers if it comes down to a Houston-Los Angeles World Series.

First (actually second) things first, a League Championship Series against the Yankees: If the Astros finish behind the Yankees, the first two games will be played in The Bronx. We throw Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole at the Yanks. Good luck with that, New York. I'd take Verlander and Cole if the Astros were playing the 1927 Yankees. Nobody can match that 1-2 punch, don't care if it's on the road, at home, or on Mars.

The Astros are going to play at least two games on the road in the LCS and World Series. Their chances of winning on the road are better with Verlander and Cole.

Then it's back to Houston with a 2-0 lead. I like Zack Greinke and Wade Miley at home in Minute Maid Park. Repeat against the Dodgers. Schedule the parade.

The Wolf of Team Israel

Last week I wrote about Jeremy Wolf, the slugging outfielder from Trinity University's 2016 national D3 baseball champions, who's now playing for Israel's national team in Olympic qualifying tournaments. It's an improbable team for sure. When you think of sports in Israel, baseball isn't on top of the list. In fact, it's not on the list. There is only baseball diamond in the whole country, the team doesn't play regularly and rarely even practices together.

Last week, the team headed to Italy for the Europe/Africa final Olympic qualifier. They were a longshot against powerhouse, well financed teams from The Netherlands and Spain. Both countries have professional baseball leagues and the government pays their players. The Netherlands won the European title last year.

Of course, Israel won the whole thing, beating Spain and The Netherlands on back-to-back days, then topping Italy and South Africa. Now they'll be one of only six countries going for the gold medal in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. It's the first time Israel has qualified for an Olympic team event since 1976.

Continue on CultureMap to learn about the worst show on TV ever and the MS 150.

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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.

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