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 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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