THE PALLILOG

Let's discuss one definite win from the James Harden trade

Let's discuss one definite win from the James Harden trade
Report: Rockets finalizing deal with new head coach

So…any sports fodder around here this week?

Andre Johnson Twitteviscerates Cal McNair, Jack Easterby, and the Texans' organization.

Deshaun Watson is fed up with said organization.

James Harden's dismissal of the Rockets as not good enough and unfixable forces them to fast-forward to the endgame and trade him.

The above kind of pushes the Astros signing relief pitcher Pedro Baez down the pecking order.

Johnson unloading was especially "Wow!" inducing given his mostly reserved nature. Not to mention (silly expression right? Anytime someone says "not to mention" they then mention!) he is a "Texans Ambassador" and the only player thus far in the Texans' Ring of Honor.

No one likes being told what to do. Billionaires definitely don't. Who knows whether Cal McNair is seething, embarrassed, or other in response to Johnson's dropped bomb that indirectly called Jack Easterby a cancer in the organization, and Cal pathetic. Whatever Easterby has manipulated, fallen into, or earned, Svengali Jack is a mere few grains of sand on the beach compared to Deshaun Watson in organizational importance. So if Cal can stomach what will appear as bowing to the wishes of Johnson, Watson, and many others, Easterby should be on borrowed time. Frankly, Watson should have had nothing to do with the GM search, but if otherwise was pledged to him we can't find a big enough red nose to put on the face of the Texans' current clown show.

Fences can be mended with Watson, he's not going to retire. The head coach search finish line Nick Caserio gets to will be veerrrrry interesting.

A new era of Rockets basketball

Under the circumstances rookie Rockets' General Manager Rafael Stone did a fine job in netting the draft pick return he did from Brooklyn. However, the Rockets upside from the deal is all speculative and multiple years down the line. In the near term the Rockets are likely relegated to NBA non-factor status. Not what Steven Silas was hoping for when he took the Rockets' head coaching position. No pity party necessary though. It's one of just 30 jobs of its kind and even though hired on the relative cheap Silas is being paid much better than at any of the assistant coach posts he held over the last 20 years.

An under-the-radar win for Houston

The only definite Rocket win in this is Tilman Fertitta again has the payroll below the NBA luxury tax threshold. Not a coincidence. Before the trade the Rockets were a few million dollars into tax territory which would have cost roughly a dollar for each dollar above $132,627,000 (numbers will be adjusted for the NBA's plunging revenue). As a non-taxpayer the Rockets save the tax dollars, the cash saved not going to salaries, aaaaaand, Fertitta will get a check for a share of the money paid into the tax pool, a check that will be for several million dollars. The last two seasons the Rockets hurt their contender chances by going cheap on their bench to avoid the tax. This season they weren't a contender with Harden and certainly won't be without him, so avoiding the tax is sensible business.

As for Harden, we'll see how his ego and ball dominant desires mesh with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets certainly now have the far and away gifted offensive threesome in the league. If Kyrie deigns to rejoin the squad anyway.

Harden may have no idea who Machiavelli was, but he grades an A for his Machiavelli-ness. Harden's means to the end he sought included unprofessionalism, irresponsibility, and childishness. Bludgeoning him for HOW he got what he wanted is legit. Bludgeoning him for WHAT he wanted is at least in part sanctimonious. It's easy to get up in arms and call the guy a bailing out bum when it's you he's leaving. The Rockets got Tracy McGrady after he demanded a trade from Orlando, Charles Barkley after he demanded a trade from Phoenix, and Clyde Drexler after he demanded a trade from Portland.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Baez is a solid addition to the Astro bullpen. But note his career ERA at Dodger Stadium is 1.80. Everywhere else: 4.45.

2. As big a circus as the Texans are at the moment, they have never been a perennial or even several year joke of a franchise. Their last back-to-back losing seasons? 2005 and 2006. Of course 2021 may force an update.

3. James Harden's most epic elimination game playoff flops:

Bronze-2015 Western Conference Finals Game 5 at Golden State: 14 points on 2-13 FG, 0-3 on 3s, with NBA playoff record tying 12 turnovers. Fact: Harden was actually originally credited with a record breaking 13 turnovers. One was not really his turnover. I alerted the league, and it was changed. I'm such a homer!

Silver-2018 Western Conference Finals Game 7 vs. Warriors: Scored 32 points, but collapsed with whole team in second half, finished 2-13 on 3s (0 for last 11).

Gold-2017 Western Conference Semifinal Game 6 vs. Spurs: 10 points. 2-11 FG, 2-9 from 3. Rockets lose at home by 39. Thirty freaking nine! To a Spurs team minus an injured Kawhi Leonard.

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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