WEDDING TRUMPS BASEBALL

Verlander skips Astros World Series victory parade for wedding with Kate, but that's okay with teammates

On Friday night, Kate Upton posted this photo on Instagram and congratulated the Astros. Instagram/@KateUpton

At the giant Astros World Series victory parade, Justin Verlander was gone but not forgotten.

The Astros pitcher, who was acquired from the Detroit Tigers just seconds before the trading deadline in late August and was instrumental in Houston's march through the payoffs, was the only team member not at the parade through downtown Houston and rally at Houston City Hall afterwards. He was apparently on his way to Italy to marry his fiancé, model Kate Upton.

But at the rally, his fellow Astros pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, thought up a wedding gift to send to the couple.

"There's one member of our team not with us today; he hasn't really done much," Keuchel said jokingly. "I want to give a little shout-out and let you guys know what Justin Verlander means to this team."

Keuchel then filmed the massive crowd as they cheered long and loudly.

Some Astros fans called Verlander out on Twitter for being a no-show, but the prevailing sentiment is that wedding plans were made long before he joined the Astros. The couple announced their engagement at the Met Gala last year, where she flashed a $1 million engagement ring, and numerous reports have hinted at wedding in Italy this weekend.

Upton and Verlander have been secretive about details, but the bride is expected to wear two Valentino gowns. "She wants to feel like a princess and the wedding will be very glamorous," an insider told E! News.

In May, Upton told Entertainment Tonight that her sisters will be co-maids of honor, there will be lots of tequila, she may wear more than one gown, and whatever she wears will have a "little flair of sexuality."

"I like it all, so maybe (I'll have) multiple dresses," she said. "Maybe a nice long sleeve, and then also the big tulle one."

"(We're) planning towards a destination wedding," she continued. "We don't really get the opportunity to go on a lot of vacations together because of how long baseball season is, and how busy we both are, so I think that what we want for our wedding (is to) have all of our closest friends and families go on an extended vacation together."

And, she added, about her future husband, "I hope he cries during the wedding day. I think it's going to come."

Late last month, Upton posted a photo from New York on Instagram with four female friends, hinting that it was a bachelorette party.

On Friday night, Upton posted a photo on Instagram praising the Astros for winning the World Series. But she didn't say where she was.

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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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