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Why the team just experienced its darkest day in history

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The Houston Astros have just experienced their darkest day in franchise history after MLB doled out their punishment. Why is this the case? Let’s examine.

Today is without a doubt the darkest day in Houston Astros franchise history. Not only did Major League baseball hand down the penalties from the sign-stealing scandal, but the Houston Astros dropped the proverbial hammer by terminating the architect of the Houston Astros, GM Jeff Luhnow, and manager AJ Hinch.

Originally, the suspensions of GM Luhnow and manager Hinch were going to be for 2020 and the Houston Astros were to lose draft picks and owe a $5 million fine according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan in a tweet:

However, during a press conference this afternoon after the MLB released their sanctions, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane made the decision to terminate both Luhnow and Hinch via Mark Feinsand of MLB.com:

“There are two very important points I want to make today: I have higher standards for the city and the franchise, and I am going above and beyond MLB’s penalty,” Crane said, “Today, I have made the decision to dismiss AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow. We need to move forward with a clean slate, and the Astros will become a stronger organization because of this today.”

When asked about why he decided to fire Hinch and Luhnow, Crane said that “neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it.”

When I first heard the news about the suspensions and fine, a friend of mine texted me jokingly said that he was pretty close in his prediction of the outcome of the investigation, a loss of some draft picks, maybe a fine and of course some suspensions.

As I sat and watched the press conference with Crane, my mouth literally dropped when I heard that he fired Hinch and Luhnow. The architect of “Astroball” and one of the best managers in team history were gone, effectively ending the greatest era in Astros history from a front office/managerial standpoint.

When the accusations first came out via The Athletic, I didn’t want to believe my beloved

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Houston Astros would cheat to win because that wasn’t the Houston Astros culture that I knew and loved. They were all about doing things the right way and being good people on and off the field. I also wanted for all the facts to come out before I made a judgment on the scandal.

To say I am disappointed is an understatement by the actions of Luhnow and Hinch. They knew fishy stuff was going on and did not stop it only because it helped them win. Our 2017 World Series title will forever be tainted by some because of the actions of these two men.

However, It’s not the manager or GM that plays, it’s the players that partake in action on the field and I will continue to support them as long as I live. Mr. Crane did what he had to do to protect the Houston Astros organization from further reputation damage.

Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle said it best in his piece released earlier when he said

“The Astros will be playing baseball again soon.  But it’s going to be a long time before the Astros look and feel like the team you fell in love with in 2015.”

Next: Assessing the Astros’ sign-stealing punishment

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Well said, Brian.  What do you think about the fallout from the sign-stealing scandal?  Feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Sofia Kenin Emerges as a Fierce Counterpuncher Against Coco Gauff

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Gauff is remarkable even if the perils are clear. She and her family have said that she intends to be the greatest, and that they do not want to limit her horizons or ability to dream big.

The keys will be to avoid getting ahead of themselves, to take delight in the process instead of fixating on distant goals and to keep drawing lines between family life and professional life even with Gauff’s father, Corey, as a coach.

It will not be easy, particularly as the money rolls in, but Gauff and her team appear to be off to a fine start, limiting her interviews and putting the accent on the positive.

“I’m definitely going to savor this and continue to kind of build and get better to work for moments like this, moments like that last match,” she said, referring to her upset of Osaka. “Even today, even though I lost, I still had a lot of fun.”

Gauff has played in three Grand Slam tournaments in singles, reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon, the third round of the United States Open and the fourth round in Melbourne.

She will be ranked just outside the Top 50 next week, but will be allowed to play only one more tour event before turning 16, on March 13. She said that would be at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. But she is also permitted to play Fed Cup, the women’s team event, and could be selected to play for the United States when it faces Latvia in a World Group qualifying match in Everett, Wash., near Seattle on Feb. 7 and 8.

Kenin would like to be part of that team as well, and said that making the Olympic team was high on her list of goals for 2020. She is fast approaching the Top 10, and if she can defeat Ons Jabeur, 25, a flashy and unseeded shotmaker from Tunisia, in the quarterfinals, she will become the second-ranked American, behind only Serena Williams.

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Pro Basketball and CBB Picks with Tony T and Joe Duffy 1-26-2020

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Guests and topics include: NBA and CBB with Tony T and Joe Duffy

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Kansas beats Tennessee in first game since brawl

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — The eyes of the college basketball world on Saturday were once again focused on Kansas.

On this afternoon, at least, the Jayhawks put their best — and biggest — foot forward.

KU overcame a shaky start and an even more perilous finish to earn a 74-68 home victory over Tennessee, securing a win in the nationally televised Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup. Udoka Azubuike, the Jayhawks’ lone frontcourt player in the tilt, was plagued by foul trouble but finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four blocked shots and a game-best plus-minus of plus-19 in just 27 minutes.

Azubuike notched two big-time blocks in the game’s final minute to help preserve what was then a five-point lead. Running back on offense after the second rejection, Azubuike delighted a rocking 300th straight sellout crowd at Allen Fieldhouse by delivering a finger wag gesture in the direction of the fans.

Later asked about the victory and specifically about the celebratory gesture, Azubuike offered a sheepish response.

“It was fun,” he said plainly. “It was fun.”

More: Kansas’ Silvio De Sousa apologizes for role in brawl with Kansas State: ‘I am truly embarrassed’

A few moments of scattered chuckles and awkward silence passed before sophomore Devon Dotson, who finished with team-highs of 22 points and seven assists, leaned in and played the role of postgame point guard.

“Keep going,” Dotson whispered, smiling. “Keep going!”

Azubuike obliged.

“I mean, it was a great game,” Azubuike continued. “Kind of the team, we needed a stop, so I was glad I got one, I was able to get that stop. I just kind of wanted to pump the team up and pump my teammates up.”

Azubuike did plenty of that Saturday for the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks (16-3), though not out of the gate.

KU’s lone big with forwards Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack suspended, Azubuike picked up his second foul and went to the KU bench with 10:39 left in the opening period. Forced to play a five-guard lineup, the Jayhawk defense unraveled — KU surrendered a 7-for-7 shooting stretch for the Volunteers (12-7), who rallied from a three-point deficit to take a 26-19 lead.

But Bill Self gambled, and it paid off.

Self reinserted Azubuike into the lineup with 5:48 left in the frame, and the 7-footer made an immediate impact, throwing down a dunk on his first possession back. That conversion kick-started a 12-0 run that saw the home squad take a 31-26 lead, with Azubuike notching seven points in that rally. Azubuike departed to a hearty ovation with 1:34 left before halftime, where KU held a 37-30 lead.

KU built a 13-point lead in the first six minutes of the second half, but it was Tennessee’s turn to rally. 

Rick Barnes’ crew cut its deficit to four on a Yves Pons dunk with 10:35 left, and the Volunteers appeared to be in fantastic shape when Azubuike picked up his fourth foul with 8:25 remaining. The careless reach-in infraction sent the sent the center to the bench with the Jayhawks up six, and three straight point-blank makes for the Volunteers made it a one-possession game, 66-63.

Azubuike re-entered after a KU timeout, and the move worked — though the same couldn’t be said of Barnes’ decision to deploy “Poke-a-Doke,” the strategy of intentionally fouling Azubuike to send the career 39.8% free-throw shooter to the stripe.

Azubuike went 2 for 2 to send the home crowd into a frenzy, then went 1 for 2 after what appeared to be an unintentional foul to deliver a 69-63 lead with 3:34 left.

“Very subtly, that may have been the biggest play of the game,” Self said of Azubuike’s first two makes, “because it gave him confidence after he made those two to go knock a couple more down.”

Azubuike finished 6 for 11 from the free-throw line, a clip Self said the team would’ve sold out for a month ago. Now? Self believes Azubuike has the potential to be a 60-to-70 percent shooter from the stripe for the rest of his final collegiate season.

“Like I told you, I’m not worried about my free throws. It’s all my routine. It’s just me going through my routine and making it,” Azubuike said. “There’s no pressure on me making free throws. I know it’s a big topic for y’all, the media and stuff, but it’s not really a big topic. It’s going out there and just doing my routine and just knocking it down.

“If it goes in it goes in. If not, it’s next play.”

Barnes, who said he “really respect(s)” Azubuike for the year-to-year improvement he’s seen from the center since last year’s clash between these teams, said he isn’t particularly fond of deploying the intentional foul strategy but added it’s something he’ll do when necessary.

“I don’t know if I’d call it Hack-a-Shaq. I’d call it playing the percentages, ’cause he’s not going to miss those (dunks),” Barnes said. “I mean, he’ll put you and the ball in the basket. …

“Those are big free throws, and you know what? Maybe we made him get better tonight.”

Again, though, Tennessee didn’t go away.

A free-throw make and a John Fulkerson jumper trimmed the deficit back to three with 2:04 left. But Azubuike again went 1 for 2 from the line, and with 1:20 left, he intercepted a pass into the paint to secure a much-needed steal. Dotson went 1 for 2 from the line on KU’s next possession to put KU back up five, 71-66, with 55 seconds left.

That’s when Azubuike channeled his inner Dikembe Mutombo. He blocked Fulkerson’s jumper with 44 seconds left, and after a Tennessee offensive rebound, Azubuike blocked Pons’ try in the paint.

“Overall, I mean, it’s very obvious we’re not the same team with him not in the game,” Self said of Azubuike. “We need him in the game.”

On his way back up the court, Azubuike delivered the finger wag gesture, turning up the volume on an already rocking atmosphere.

Dotson hit two free throws with 31 seconds left, and a Jordan Bowden layup accounted for Tennessee’s final points. KU gave the game its final score on a free throw from Ochai Agbaji, who was the Jayhawks’ other double-figure scorer (16 points).

“Having him in there when he gets the angle, I mean, it’s pretty much two points,” Agbaji said of Azubuike. “So when we look for that and he’s working down there and we find him, it’s always good.”

Pons finished with a game-high 24 points, while Bowden had 19, all in the second half. Fulkerson’s 15 rounded out the Volunteers’ double-figure scorers.

KU’s season continues with a Monday clash with Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., the final game of McCormack’s suspension. De Sousa isn’t eligible to return until the Jayhawks’ regular-season finale March 7 at Texas Tech.

“We did enough good things to win, but certainly it wasn’t the prettiest,” Self said of Saturday’s outcome. “I’m not leaving out of here elated in any other way other than we just won the game.”

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