THE PALLILOG

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

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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Yuli Gurriel had a monster night at the plate Friday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Although they lost the series 2-1, the Astros ended their road trip with a nice win over the Yankees to head home on a positive note. On Friday, they welcomed in the Toronto Blue Jays and former teammate George Springer, currently on the IL, to start a three-game series and long homestand. They had an excellent night at the plate, along with a strong start from Jose Urquidy, cruising past the Blue Jays to take the opener.

Final Score: Astros 10, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 17-15, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (3-2)

Losing Pitcher: Ross Stripling (0-2)

Jays strike first, then Houston responds and never looks back

It first appeared that Urquidy may be in for a long night, giving up two solo home runs early in Friday's game, one to Bo Bichette in the top of the first with one out to put Toronto up 1-0, then another to Danny Jansen in the top of the third. However, Urquidy would lock-in, and his offense would back him up strongly.

Houston ended up sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, getting two runs on a homer by Carlos Correa, then later loading the bases to set up an RBI walk by Alex Bregman. In the bottom of the fifth, with a one-run lead at 3-2, Yuli Gurriel expanded the lead to three runs on a two-run shot.

Gurriel went on to have a fantastic night, going 4-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBI. His third of those came in the bottom of the seventh, extending the lead again with an RBI single to make it 6-2. Kyle Tucker made it a five-run game that same inning with an RBI double, then more insurance came in the bottom of the eighth. They reached double-digits that inning, with Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel, his fourth of the night, all getting an RBI to make it 10-2.

Urquidy finishes seven, then Emanuel finishes it off

Those gave Urquidy plenty of support, though he would bounce back after the two early homers and have a nice night on the mound. He allowed just two other hits, working around both, en route to a seven-inning two-run performance to earn him the win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 84 P.

He likely could have gone longer, but Dusty Baker turned the ball over to Kent Emanuel to wrap things up with the significant lead. He did so, despite allowing a two-run home run to former-Astro Teoscor Hernandez in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-4. The win kept the Astros above .500 and two games back of the A's, who sit atop the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be a 6:10 PM start Saturday night. The pitching matchup will be Steven Matz (4-2, 4.78 ERA) for Toronto and the electric Cristian Javier (3-0, 1.75 ERA) for Houston.

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