The Pallilog

Now that he is officially hired, how will Dusty Baker work out for the Astros?

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Jim Crane going with Dusty Baker as the Astros' manager for 2020 drew out many Dusty Dissers. If you are one of them I'll call you Francis. As in Sergeant Hulka in Stripes: "Lighten up Francis."

Dusty Baker is a solid hire. Or, given his legal name is Johnny B. Baker, a good hire. Yes he's 70 years old. But Dusty won't be trying to score from second base on singles, or last six innings as a starting pitcher. He last managed in 2017. He's been out two seasons. Two. Not 12. The Astros become Baker's fifth different franchise to manage. He took the prior four to the postseason a total of nine times over 22 seasons, including the Giants to the 2002 World Series.

He's never been a master strategist. That's not critical (though can matter more in the postseason). Baker's handling of pitchers has fairly been called into question. Well, that is mitigated with Brent Strom remaining on staff as the pitching coach.

Where Baker has always impressed is as a leader of men. As I put it last week, I've always thought Dusty's teams took on his personality of upbeat and intense. The Astros have great talent. They're going to have to deal with season long fallout and derision from the cheating scandal. Baker has the temperament to helm the ship through some stormy seas. When with the Giants he dealt with Barry Bonds. When with the Cubs he dealt with Sammy Sosa and the aftermath of "the Bartman game."

Baker only gets a one season guarantee, with the Astros holding an option for 2021. I wonder how interesting A.J. Hinch finds that. The 2020 vision is clear: if the Astros don't have a highly successful 2020, Dusty Baker is a one and done manager. Borrowing from Bill Parcells, Baker isn't buying green bananas. His hire is a short play. If hugely successful and hence a longer play, win-win.

Texans disconnected

I think we all get why so many people are upset, or furious, or laughing, at Cal McNair cementing Bill O'Brien's power as Texans' Head Coach and General Manager. Over O'Brien's six seasons the other three AFC South teams have reached the AFC Championship Game. The Texans, not close. With the exception of Bill Belichick (and maybe Andy Reid and Jon Gruden) O'Brien is now the most powerful Head Coach in the NFL.

In McNair's press release statement celebrating the formalization of O'Brien's enhanced job title he claimed the 2019 Texans had "many thrilling victories at home." That's as ridiculous as the power Emperor O has amassed, and frankly feeds right into the belief of many that the franchise's quality standards fall lamely short. The playoff rally against the Bills and finally beating the Patriots again qualify as thrilling. The Texans other "thrilling home victories" came over the Falcons (finished 7-9), Jaguars (6-10), Raiders (7-9) and Colts (7-9). Cal omitted an adjective characterizing the home losses to the Panthers (5-11) and Broncos (7-9). And one for the third humiliating postseason loss of the O'Brien era.

At least one of the existing 32 franchises (almost certainly several of them) will not next win a Super Bowl until SB LXXXV at the very earliest. What percentage chance do you give Houston of snapping its 0 for all-time status with regard to reaching The Big Game?

Oh yes, the Super Bowl

Until kickoff Sunday the Chiefs last played in a Super Bowl 50 seasons ago (their lone SB win). The 49ers last reached it with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. Seems like 20 years ago. It was seven years ago. A win gives the Niners a sixth Lombardi Trophy and ties them with the Patriots and Steelers for most ever. The Chiefs favored by a point or point and a half makes this just the fourth Super Bowl with a point spread lower than two. I lean Niners. They have the pass rush to disrupt Patrick Mahomes much more so than the feeble Texans' rush and the Titans' mediocre rush. For the Niners' sake they better disrupt. No secondary has enough good cover people to handle the Chiefs' weaponry.

Are the Rockets still here?


The general lack of interest in the Rockets is alarming, though not as much so as James Harden's shooting coma over his last 10 games. The Rockets' season to date certainly isn't bad at 29-18, but they just aren't that good this season. They enter the weekend tied for the 11th best record in the NBA. Meh. Tied with the Mavericks, against whom the Rockets catch a huge break Friday night with the absence of 20 year old superstar Luka Doncic thanks to a sprained ankle.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. More potent 1-2 punch: Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce during the Super Bowl, or Jennifer Lopez and Shakira during halftime of the Super Bowl? 2.Most important things in life, as reminded by Kobe Bryant's tragic death coupled with the loss of eight other lives: the people in your life, and health. 3. Best Baker songs: Bronze-Michelle Pfeiffer "Makin' Whoopee" in The Fabulous Baker Boys Silver-Gerry Rafferty "Baker Street" Gold-Anita Baker "Sweet Love"


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Grant Enfinger joins Trey Campbell. Photo via: Wiki Commons

I was lucky enough to sit down and talk to one of the Premier NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series drivers, Grant Enfinger. We talked about Friday's race at Martinsville and what some of the keys are to survive this tough track. We also talked about his week at Texas and what position that puts him in going forward into the rest of the season. Grant has been one of my favorites to watch ever since I have watched him in the old ARCA Series so it was good to talk to him on the phone.

SportsMap: I am joined here today by one of the premier NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Drivers Mr. Grant Enfinger. Thank you so much for joining me.

Grant Enfinger: Yeah! Thanks for having me.

SM: So can you talk a little bit about your race at Texas and what happened with your truck? I understand you had some engine issues? What exactly went wrong there?

GE: Yeah It was definitely an unfortunate event there. When we unloaded the truck we weren't where we needed to be. But my crew-chief Jeff Hensley and the guys worked hard to get this #98 Champion Power Tools Ford F-150 where it needed to be, and we were battling for seventh and eight and the engine started missing for about a half a lap and it just blew up all of [a] sudden. It was just unfortunate that it had to happen in a critical race and it kind of put our backs behind the walls for Martinsville. But we got a good group of guys and I think we will have a good shot at it.

SM: So you mentioned you guys are going to Martinsville this week where we see a lot of beating and banging and you'll be contending against your teammates Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton for the final spot in the championship. Will you be racing those guys any different knowing how much is on the line?

GE: Well for us, it's a little bit different you know. Me and Ben are in a position that we have to win so us at ThorSport have quite our work cut out for us each weekend. We aren't all in the spot we want to be in. It would be much better if we all had a points cushion going into this but none of us have that. So obliviously we don't want to put our teammates in a bad spot but when it comes down to it at Martinsville on that last restart, anything goes. So hopefully we have a Champion Fire Equipment Ford F-150 that is good enough to stay up front and not have to worry too much about it.

SM: So with this year being as strange as it is, NASCAR has had to make a lot of changes from the Choose Rule to there being no practice and qualifying. Which rule change has been the most difficult to adjust to?

GE: There have definitely been a lot of changes for this year especially there being no fans or limited amounts of fans and that's really going to have a big effect on our sport. Plus, the sponsors can't come down into the garage area and be around the team so it's been different. But I think the biggest change performance wise has been losing practice and qualifying. I don't feel like it effects the cup guys too much or the top dozen in the Xfinity Series cause of the cup technology. But for us, we are still racing and there is a lot of old school type of guesses. We don't have it down to an exact science and my crew chief Jeff Hensely kind of has to go with his gut on some of the setups, but I feel like we have done okay for the most part.

SM: So looking forward to 2021, what are some of the plans for the Truck Series next season? Will we be seeing anything new with the truck rules package or with the schedule?

GE: I think for the most part our rules package will pretty much stay the same. Of course, NASCAR is never scared to change anything last minute but that seems to be the direction we are going. As far as the schedule, I know that we are going to some new tracks next year. Our schedule hasn't been confirmed, but from what I'm hearing, we will be going to some new places so it should be an interesting season next year.

You can hear the interview in its entirety below.

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