THE PALLILOG

MLB owners and players still have one big obstacle to overcome

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I don't think the expression "it's darkest before the dawn" is true, but it better ring true for the negotiations between the owners and players if there is to be any 2020 Major League Baseball season. Both sides are easy to dump on as their talks have gone nowhere this week while the NBA, NHL, MLS, NWSL, EPL, and probably other sets of letters made meaningful progress toward resumption of play. It should be remembered that in stark contrast to the NFL, NBA, and NHL, MLB does not have a salary cap. That adds a crucial and difficult layer to negotiations those other leagues do not have.

Still, if the two sides can't work it out let them all burn in sports hell. The owners made a ridiculous proposal this week asking for absurd salary reductions. We all get that if hoping to win 20 million dollars in a lawsuit you probably sue for 40, but the owners' offer was garbage and designed at least in part to split the players' union. The players' expected counter proposal isn't much better. The owners contend that with no fans in the stands they will lose money every game that is played, so for the players to come back with let's play more games than the 82 the owners suggest and with zero further pay cuts for the players, come on!

There is more nuance to this than generally gets discussed on the radio, or for that matter than most want to hear. In the end, baseball fans don't want to hear about the labor negotiation pains. Show us the baby!

Astros legacy

Not to make an older generation of Astros fans feel old, but…Billy Doran Thursday became eligible to cash Social Security checks. 62 years old for Billy D. The Astros' second basemen heritage is excellent led by Craig BIggio, Jose Altuve, and Joe Morgan so Doran is only the fourth best 2B in franchise history. The Astros' shortstop heritage is shall we say, underwhelming, so if Doran had been a shortstop he'd be the greatest the Astros have had until Carlos Correa came along.

In September of 1982 Doran got the call up to the big leagues at 24 years old. He held down the 2B position until the Astros dealt him to his hometown Cincinnati Reds in late August 1990. In 17 games with the Reds Doran batted .373 with an OPS of a nifty 1.007. Alas, his back gave out. Doran needed surgery and hence didn't play at all in the postseason as the Reds went on to win the World Series.

Doran's 1990 season was excellent and a huge bounce back after he'd looked washed up the season before. Over the last three months of the 1989 season Doran hit .148 in July, .122 in August, and .167 in September. That's three months and more than 200 at bats batting .139. I don't remember the quote exactly but Doran said something along the lines of "I am so bad that guys in bad slumps don't call them slumps anymore they call them Bill Dorans." Self-deprecating humor can be a very positive thing.

Doran was a tough and steady player. Offensively, he was never special but was a very balanced switch-hitter. For his career Doran hit .267 right-handed and .265 left-handed with .373 slugging percentages from each side. Defensively, there are those who saw them all who would argue Doran is the best defensive second baseman the Astros have had. Biggio has four Gold Gloves that suggest otherwise (Altuve one), but hardware doesn't tell everything. Doran had no chance at Gold Gloves because his Astros' career ran concurrently with Ryne Sandberg winning the Gold Glove every season with the Cubs.

NFL rule proposal

The NFL passed on putting in a rule that would have given teams an option of instead of attempting an onside kick when trying for a late game comeback, playing one down as a fourth and 15 from their own 25 yard line. Struck me as gimmicky, but onside kick recovery percentage has dropped sharply since rules changes designed to make them safer. Trying it couldn't have gone any worse than the now-aborted one year rule allowing review of pass interference calls/non-calls.

So, do you reckon the cash available shifts the Texans from their arrogant and lame keep the NRG Stadium roof closed for all Texans games policy? If the Texans can sell 25 percent of their tickets if the roof is kept open vs. zero ticket sales if the roof is closed, gee, what do you think they do?

Buzzer Beaters:

1. How do you think supply vs. demand plays if the Texans are allowed roughly 18-thousand people at open-air home games? 2. No, Pete Rose does not make the cut… 3. Baseball's greatest switch-hitters: Bronze-Eddie Murray Silver-Chipper Jones Gold-Mickey Mantle

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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