THE PALLILOG

MLB's draft punishment could be a blessing in disguise for Astros

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

For all my character flaws, naivete is not among them. Unless I'm too naive to know otherwise. I think the baseball owners and players reach an agreement on a season longer than the insulting 48 games Commissioner Rob Manfred could cram down the players' throats. Could be mere wishful thinking.

The Major League Baseball Draft is consequential but pales in interest and significance relative to the NFL Draft and NBA Draft. The lower interest is explained simply in that college baseball is much less popular than its football and basketball brethren. The significance is less because of the importance of international signings (i.e. Dominican Republic) in Major League Baseball of players not eligible for the draft. Still, the draft matters.

The Astros' cheating program cost them their first and second round draft picks both this year and next. That's additionally problematic because new General Manager James Click inherited an Astros' farm system that now ranks in the bottom quarter among the 30 organizations. A possible silver lining of sorts to being out their top two picks two years running, the Astros save millions of dollars in signing bonuses they could choose to pour into, say, the Keep George Springer Fund.

The Astros' first selection was the 72nd overall choice, high school pitcher Alex Santos from the Bronx who grew up less than two miles from Yankee Stadium. Yes, a diehard Yankees fan. He'll adapt. Over the last 10 drafts, not one player taken 72nd has become a decent big leaguer. The Astros nailed a number 72 in 1989, selecting Shane Reynolds out of the University of Texas. Reynolds's 103 wins rank eighth on the Astros' career win list. How many of the seven ahead of him can you name? Answer below.

Turn back the clock

Kudos to AT&T Sportsnet for getting ahold of the original telecasts of the epic 1980 National League Championship Series between the Astros and Phillies. The ABC broadcast team of Keith Jackson, Don Drysdale, and Howard Cosell called a best-of-five series that went the distance, with games two, three, four, and five all going extra innings. Games three, four, and five air Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights respectively. At the Astrodome the Astros blew eighth inning leads in games four and five. In the decisive fifth game the Phils rallied from down 5-2 in the eighth against Nolan Ryan, wound up winning 8-7 in 10, and then went on to beat the Royals in the World Series. Almost 40 years later no spoiler alert was warranted!

Sunday night ESPN debuts the documentary "Long Gone Summer." That's the story of the 1998 Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run derby. After lying for years McGwire in 2010 finally fessed up to steroid use. 10 years later, Sosa has never admitted use. You don't suppose…?

NBA

As the NBA prepares for a resumption of play at the end of next month the Rockets are considered a second tier title contender. The first tier consists of the Bucks, Lakers, and Clippers. Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the Rockets' last NBA Finals game, and the winning of their second championship as they polished off a four game sweep of the Orlando Magic. There have been only three Finals sweeps since: Lakers over the Nets in 2002, Spurs over the Cavaliers in 2007, and Warriors over the Cavs in 2018. In the quarter century since the Rockets last reached the title round, more than half the league's franchises (15 of 29) have played for the O'Brien Trophy.

The route to the 2020 title will be the most unique in league history. An ESPN report Thursday said as many as 50 players are iffy about the prospect of entering the Disney World "bubble" to play. Players will have the right to opt out, but they would be opting out of getting paid. How many ultimately will choose to stay away?

Fore!

The PGA returned to play Thursday in Fort Worth with the first round of what for years and years was known as the Colonial Invitational. The field is loaded (albeit without Tiger Woods) and expanded. Tom Lehman won the Colonial in 1995, so he was invited to play as a former champion. Lehman came credibly close to shooting his age in round one. Lehman is 61. He shot 65! It's a par 70 course as opposed to the more typical par 72, but that's phenomenal.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Joe Niekro 144, Roy Oswalt 143, Larry Dierker 137, Mike Scott 110, J.R. Richard 107, Nolan Ryan 106, Don Wilson 104

2. Of course NASCAR should have done away with Confederate flags at its races. A long time ago.

3. Best golf movies: Bronze-anything but Caddyshack II Silver-Tin Cup Gold-Caddyshack

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We need to mask up. Image via: SEC Network/Screenshot

Texas A&M is taking this coronavirus crisis very seriously.

How seriously? The school recently announced the following changes:

  • Attendance at football games will be held to 25 percent of Kyle Field's 102,733 capacity.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be located throughout the stadium.
  • Drinking fountains will be turned off.
  • Concession stands will only provide "grab-and-go" items and have plexiglass barriers between customers and workers.
  • Customers will have to pay with credit cards (no cash transactions).
  • Social distancing will be enforced everywhere (including restrooms).
  • Elevators will have reduced capacity.
  • Fans in suites must stay in those suites (no suite-hopping).
  • Yell leaders must keep off the field.
  • The famed Parsons Mounted Calvary cannon won't be fired after A&M scores (they taped the cannon's sound earlier and will play that).
The college hired extra security personnel to enforce these safety rules. Security would have the authority to eject protocol violators from the stadium.

A&M isn't missing a trick, good for them. It's critically important to enact these extraordinary rules, especially with coronavirus cases rising lately in Texas and 20 other states, according to Johns Hopkins University. Young adults are driving the increase in cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Texas A&M recently reported about a 10-percent positivity rate.

I know that wearing a face mask can be unpleasant and I'm like you, I keep forgetting to bring a mask as I approach a store and have to shame walk back to my car to retrieve one. I haven't been to an athletic event, but I'm certain that sitting for several hours wearing a mask can't be fun. But if we're ever going to kick coronavirus and return to the "old normal," we need to mask up.

Saturday night I watched the A&M vs. Vanderbilt game on TV. Every time the camera panned students in the stands … no social distancing and few masks. I don't know how other Southeastern Conference teams are enforcing coronavirus safety protocols. A&M was the only game I watched Saturday. From what I saw on TV, there was little enforcement.
You know, enacting a rule is one thing …

What would Ken do?

Last week, I had one of those "What Would You Do?" moments. I was in a supermarket, and a guy passed me with his mask down around his neck, like the Lone Ranger's kerchief, not over his mouth and nose.

Don't know about you, but this infuriates me. I don't care about your reason – "It's not a law! I think masks don't work! I am not a sheep! I don't like breathing my own carbon dioxide! I heard a doctor say it's unhealthy! – just wear the damn mask. Or shop online. Or send a friend to do your shopping.

Now I had two options during my supermarket visit: ignore him or confront him. I chose option three, I squealed on him to a supermarket employee. I come from a long line of cowards. The employee did tell the man to either pull up his mask or leave. The man didn't put up an argument and pulled up his mask. I'm thinking I may be related to the guy.

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