The Pallilog

Yes, Astros fans, there is still a chance in this World Series

Justin Verlander pitches Game 1. Bob Levey/Getty Images

I'm saying there's a chance!

For all my character flaws, being a water-carrying silly homer shill is not among them.

I'm saying there's a chance. For the Astros. In this World Series.

A great chance? No. But slim beats the heck out of none. The way the Nationals beat the heck out of the Astros in game two.

The Astros getting swept or losing in five is more likely than them beating Washington four times in five games. Still, the Astros pulling it off isn't some million-to-one shot. What odds would you have given against the Nationals beating Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander at Minute Maid Park on consecutive nights? Sports happen. Overwhelming momentum, positive or negative, exists. Until it doesn't. A game three win puts them right back in it. A game three loss…

Three times in the World Series the home team lost the first two games then rallied to win the Series. Last to do it, the 1996 Yankees, who dropped two in the Bronx to the defending champion Atlanta Braves then swept the next four. The other teams to go from 0-2 down at home to ultimate glory are the '86 Mets and the '85 Royals.

The Nationals are outstanding. From late May until now, five months, their record is better than the Astros' record. The Nats essentially wipe out the massive starting pitching advantage the Astros held over basically everybody else. The Astros' offense, overhyped by more than a few as one of the greatest of all time, has largely failed this postseason. Yes the hitters face better pitching in the playoffs than they do over the full regular season. Same is true for the Nationals. The Astro offense has been too often too impotent. Jose Altuve is the only guy up from his regular season production rate. The other six offensive mainstays (Springer, Bregman, Brantley, Alvarez, Gurriel, Correa) are all waaaaay down. Time is running out to turn that around.

Faint silver lining of the moment: if the Astros are to win this World Series they'll do so at home.

Where does he rank?

After Altuve's thrilling pennant winning home run vs. the Yankees, I wondered via Tweet whether Altuve now ranks number two in the Houston sports legend pantheon. Talking about greatness, ensuring status in the city forever. Is Altuve now ahead of Earl Campbell? There is no definitive right answer. Your response may be influenced by your age and/or by which sport you prefer. Recency bias can influence. Hakeem Olajuwon remains the very clear number one. No disrespect to individual sport athletes, but they're not relevant to this discussion. Apologies to Simone Biles and Carl Lewis, but cities don't swoon over and revere individual sport athletes.

Ugly situation

Infinitely less fun questions that came out of the AL winning celebration: How big of a jerk is now former Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman? Or was it just one egregiously vile but not truly character defining moment? Sometimes one strike and you're out. Taubman's behavior was abhorrent and obviously fireable. How despicable was the Astros' handling of the situation? Very.

The Astros win a lot of games. President of Baseball Operations Jeff Luhnow has built a phenomenal baseball organization. It doesn't mean their poop doesn't stink. An amazing level of arrogance had Astros' upper management think theirs doesn't. Taubman was part of Luhnow's inner circle. That Luhnow didn't say anything until Wednesday was weak. His press conference content Thursday was in parts apologetic, embarrassing, and contemptible.

The Astros' first statement, their smear the messenger piece of garbage, was a disgrace. Taubman's apology line "if anyone was offended" was a disgrace. Many wrongs can be righted at least in part. The Astros righted theirs in part with their subsequent "real" investigation (with MLB leaning hard) and apology to Sports Illustrated, SI writer Stephanie Apstein, and others involved. Taubman will have to seek his redemption elsewhere.

When asked about the situation Tuesday before game one, Manager A.J. Hinch spoke briefly with the decency and dignity that escaped several others in the organization.

Slow start

What should be a compelling Rockets' season got underway with a thud Thursday night, a 16 point second half lead blown in a Toyota Center loss to Milwaukee. For the second straight offseason the Rockets did nickel-dimey stuff in filling out their roster, but it's a strong club that given generally good health from the mainstays should win a bunch (50+) of games. That is unlikely to culminate in an NBA Championship since the defense is unlikely to be elite and they'll mix in enough brick-laden three point shooting games to come up short.

Russell Westbrook is one of the worst three-point shooters in NBA history. Inside three weeks of turning 31 years old he's not going to suddenly become a good three-point shooter, but Westbrook is a one man fast break like the Rockets have never had, and the relentless passion and intensity with which he plays are compelling. That Harden fella should amass some pretty stout numbers again.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. I'm not into karma, but if the Astros lose the Series, man are a whole bunch of people going to be thinking just desserts. 2. Justin Verlander being the only pitcher with an 0-5 World Series record doesn't seem fair. Who says sports are fair? 3. Toughest to name state capitals: Bronze-Kentucky's Silver-Missouri's Gold-Maine's

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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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