Monday Superlatives
October 19, 2020

It's a shame the Astros won't win the World Series

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Sean M. Haffey

The disclaimer: The Astros are loathsome cheaters who deserve a lifetime ban from the sport of baseball.

The take: It's too bad they didn't win the World Series to completely humiliate Rob Manfred and shine a spotlight on his cowardice.

We don't need to rehash what happened with the Astros—their entire organization participated in blatant cheating for years, won a World Series because of it, and almost one another. When it came time to mete out punishment, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred couldn't even find the backbone to send them all to Siberia. Instead, it was a monetary fine (boo-hoo), a couple lost draft picks (again, boo-hoo), and a one-year ban for two executives. The players who all went along with it? They got nothing. The organization itself? Nothing. They were immediately eligible for the 2020 playoffs.

Which, of course, they made. Once my team lost (the Yankees, shut up), and the Astros kept advancing, I only wanted one outcome: An Astros World Series. Only this could finish the obvious lesson of the year before, which is that if you're big enough as an entity, there's no such thing as real justice. And if that's the case, why not make the whole thing as ridiculous as possible? Why not take Manfred's weakness, and the outrage of the whole situation, and just dial it up to 11? If baseball's just going to be a giant morass of immorality and hypocrisy, let's piss everyone off to the greatest extent imaginable! BRING ON THE HELLSCAPE!

It almost happened too, and in hilarious fashion. The Astros fought back from a 0-3 deficit against the Rays, and a Game 7 win would have had the added benefit of releasing the Yankees from "only team to ever blow a 3-0 lead" status. Alas, it was not to be. Now we've got Rays—Dodgers, nobody outside of Los Angeles cares (yes, I include the entire population of Tampa in this), and Manfred skates. Too bad. Go Astros.

The "This Is As Close as Soccer Gets to a Buzzer Beater" Goal of the Week: West Ham

Trailing 3-2 at Tottenham with just seconds left in the four minutes of added time in the second half, watch what West Ham's Manuel Lanzini pulled off on Sunday:

A win would have pushed Tottenham into a tie for second place in a year when Liverpool just lost its star defender, Virgil Van Dijk, to an ACL tear. Instead, it's a draw at home in the most heartbreaking way imaginable. To make matters worse, Tottenham led 3-0 in the 82nd minute, and no, you're not reading that incorrectly.

Side note: Doing a quasi-buzzer beater in soccer should be called "pulling a Lanzini," since Lanzini is a very good name and deserves commemoration beyond this one spectacular goal. I want to be saying "Lanzini" all the time.

The Awe-Inducing Physical Paradox of the Week: Derrick Henry, Titans

How is someone this truck-like also be this fast?

Also, this is a week old, but I never want to stop watching it:

I know they say running backs are disposable in the NFL today, but I think Derrick Henry will play until he's roughly 55.

The Glum Chums and Sad Lads of the Week: Liverpool FC

I tried to become a Liverpool supporter last year, and it went...okay. But I've dropped off big-time this year, and now I'm kinda glad. Saturday was one of the worst days in recent memory, starting in the first half when Virgil Van Dijk, big no. 4, the world's best defender, tore his ACL and will miss at least the rest of this season. then, in the waning moments of their rivalry match against Everton, leading 2-1, this happened:

Liverpool are now second in the Premier League, but it's a tenuous second with Van Dijk gone, and after their strange, interrupted title run of 2019-20, it's looking like this might be a wasted year.

Dashed Dream of the Week: UNC as "Good Football Team"

Once in a great while, a team like UNC or Duke or Kansas or Kentucky or Indiana will appear, very briefly, to have a good football team. It's a rare phenomenon for these basketball powerhouses, and it always seems slightly suspicious...a fear which is usually confirmed immediately upon meeting an actual good team. This happened to Duke in 2013, when somehow my alma mater reached the ACC championship game against Jameis Winston's Florida State team. I actually attended the game in Charlotte, and on one of the first plays, Duke ran a trick play that sprung a wide receiver down the sideline, and that wide receiver promptly dropped the ball. Final score? FSU 45, Duke 7.

This year, UNC is ranked no. 5. I don't pretend to know how or why this happened, except that they landed Mack Brown as a coach and he's got a trick or two in the bag still. Unfortunately, this week they met Florida State—a crap team, but a team with recent memories of being very good—and this kind of thing happened:

UNC actually made a run in the second half and had a chance to win the game on the final drive, but a 4-and-out ended that hope, and brought the cold dose of reality that always seems to splash over the heads of upjumped basketball schools.

The Billy Beane Goodbye of the Week: Daryl Morey

The man who attempted to transform NBA basketball, Daryl Morey, has stepped down as the Rockets GM after failing to reach the finals, and it might also have something to do with his infamous China tweet. He went out praising James Harden, which is very classy, and like Billy Beane, he's another example of somebody who transformed a franchise and turned them into perennial contenders, and also another example of why statistics alone—without good luck at the right times, and without the right kind of superstar—aren't enough by themselves to win championships. Still, he succeeded in changing the game, and Houston owes him a lot.