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All the reasons Houston's next Jack Easterby could be working for Rockets

All the reasons Houston's next Jack Easterby could be working for Rockets
This doesn't look good. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston pro sports teams used to have a trio of some of the best and brightest front office minds in the three major pro sports. Darryl Morey of the Rockets, Jeff Luhnow of the Astros, and...well, two out of three ain't so bad. I mean, Rick Smith of the Texans was competent. He did some good things. Brian Gaine followed him, but he barely got the chance to do anything. Morey and Luhnow built contenders, with Luhnow bringing home a title in 2017.

The walls came crashing down on all three franchises. The Astros, Rockets, and Texans had to hit the reset button to a certain extent. The Astros hired a promising young general manager in James Click who had a history of doing good work with the Rays who were built through the draft. The Texans and Rockets however, hired guys who don't really have experience. The Texans didn't technically put Jack Easterby in charge of football operations, but he's been the assumed puppet master behind their moves. He's been an operations intern, character coach, chaplain, executive vice president of team development before being named executive vice president of football operations.

Rafael Stone has seemingly had the same ascent up the ladder that Easterby has. Stone has a political science and history degree, then got a law degree. He worked in the Rockets' legal department before being named general manager. If you listen to ESPN Houston's The Press Box, you'll know exactly how Joel Blank feels about Stone. As someone who worked in the Rockets' organization for over 20 years, Joel knows the inner workings. When someone like him feels some type of way about Stone, I tend to believe him. Besides, would you promote a lawyer to be the general manager without any background in basketball operations outside of sitting in on some meetings?

The difference between the two is that Easterby was smart enough to hire Nick Caserio to be the Texans' general manager to be in control of the roster moves and contracts. Stone is in charge of that for the Rockets himself. He was even arrogant enough to say he'd "for sure, 100 percent, do that deal again" when referring to the James Harden trade. He also said that we should wait until 2030 to judge the trade. One guy hasn't been heard from in Easterby, while the other is gloating. Both have taken unconventional paths to run their organizations. Both have been seen as at least part of the reason/problem why their franchises are in rebuild mode as of now.

One guy is smart enough to cover and insulate himself, but the other feels very cavalier about his position. They're both in top spots and shouldn't be there. They both have seemingly used backdoor tactics to attain those tops spots. I believe Easterby has staying power because of his character coach/chaplain background. Stone will most likely end up a casualty of war when the team is ready to compete again. Either that, or he'll be fired before he screws anything up too badly. These two guys have a lot in common. Unfortunately for Houston sports fans, they look like they'll be here for a while now.

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These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

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