THE PALLILOG

Yordan Alvarez impresses early, brutal ending for Warriors

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Image

All dynasties end. If the Golden State Warriors' dynasty is done, what a brutal ending. Kevin Durant's ruptured Achilles followed in the next game by a torn ACL for Klay Thompson? Stunning and sad. Even those bitterly envious of the Warriors' success the last five seasons should feel so. The Western Conference is now clearly ripe for the picking by the Rockets or someone other than Golden State next season.

Will Kawhi stay?

Full credit to the Toronto Raptors. A deep and versatile team (with exactly zero lottery picks on the roster) led by Kawhi Leonard earned the NBA title. Now, does Kahwi re-up in Canada or head home to California and sign with the Clippers?

Alvarez looks the part

If you're an Astros fan Yordan Alvarez's big league debut this week was exciting stuff. In his first game a missile launch of an opposite field homer then in his second a flick of the wrist homer to right on a pitch below the strike zone. Alvarez will have his struggles, but his raw power is awesome, his left-handed swing is easy looking, and he is not a swing at anything guy.

The Astros don't think Alvarez can play a competent first base, yet at least. It would be nice if he could because when the Astros are healthy, among the everyday players Yuli Gurriel has been the weakest lineup link this season. With first base not in the cards for him in 2019, Alvarez primarily slots at designated hitter with an occasional start in left.

One dreamy comparison for Alvarez is late Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. A six foot six inch left-handed monster who played left field early in his career before settling in as a first baseman. McCovey finished with 521 home runs en route to Cooperstown. McCovey wore number 44 his whole big league career. Interesting that the Astros gave Alvarez the number 44 jersey. As of now anyway that means no retirement of 44 for Roy Oswalt, who merely had the greatest Astro pitching career in franchise history.

Of the players prior to Alvarez who homered in their Astro debut game, only Ken Caminiti had what could be called a good career. In 2003 Dave Matranga homered in his first big league plate appearance. It was his only big league hit.

Hall of Fame DNA

Teoscar Hernandez was an Astro when he homered in his first MLB game in 2016. He's having a horrible season with the horrible Toronto Blue Jays who are in town for a three game series. Hernandez is not the player with a Houston connection of interest to many this weekend. That guy is Cavan Biggio, son of Craig. He's scuffled since getting the call up last month, batting only .185, but he hit two homers Thursday and has shown excellent plate discipline drawing 12 walks in just 57 plate appearances. Unlike his Hall of Fame father, Cavan bats left-handed.

The Jays' phenom prospect to watch is Vladimir Guerrero Junior. son of another Hall of Famer. Pretty much universally regarded as the best hitting prospect in the game coming into the season, the 20 year old Vlad Jr. has picked it up after his own slow start. Vlad Sr. looked chiseled out of granite. Vlad Jr...let's say he evidently likes to eat. A lot. He and the Jays should be worried about getting and keeping his body right.

Allegations against Texans

One of the worst allegations that can be made against an individual is being called racist. That is what fired Texans' security coordinator Jeff Pope has done in filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the Texans claiming that fired Texans' General Manager Brian Gaine systemically targeted African-American employees for termination.

This gets out just days after the Texans' fired Gaine. The Texans say they knew nothing about the allegation ahead of dumping Gaine less than a year and a half into his five year contract. Coincidences certainly happen.

At least one person is despicable here. It could be an embittered former employee with a fallacious claim. It could be Gaine. If it turns out there is fire behind the smoke and the Texans knew anything about this, and then Cal McNair in his statement announcing Gaine's dismissal called him "a man of high character," oh boy.

Meanwhile the Texans face tampering charges from the New England Patriots over the Texans' interest in hiring Nick Caserio away for the Pats to succeed Gaine.

All this stuff may just run its course and that's that. At the moment however the Texans have multiple looks of a sorry soap opera.

Buzzer Beaters: 

1. By 2021 the Astros could have three young left-handed hitting studs in their lineup: Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, and Seth Beer. Without any contract extensions Josh Reddick, Michael Brantley, and George Springer, all become free agents after next season. 2. I laugh when the world's best golfers whine about how tough the course layout is at the U.S. Open. 3. Best sports trophies: Bronze-Borg-Warner (Indy 500 winner) Silver-Heisman Gold-Stanley Cup

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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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