Your Offseason Roadmap

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Here at CTB we’re going to hit you with news, rumors and commentary all offseason, so if you want, you can simply lock the page in, hit “refresh” over and over again between now and April and never miss a thing.

But if you’re one of those types that just has to see what’s ahead, here’s a handy dandy schedule, courtesy of MLB.com, with which to structure the baseball-consuming portion of your winter:

Yesterday-November 19th:  Free agency filing period. Be sure to click over on the 20th to see which agents lost the paperwork and get sued for malpractice!

November 9th-11th: General Managers meetings in Chicago.  Not quite the bacchanalia as the owners meetings later in the month, but higher rent than the free-for-all Winter Meetings in December. I think they’re holding it in Chicago this year because Jim Hendry is worried if he leaves town someone will change the locks on his office. He’s right to worry.

November 11th-24th: Awards season.  Watch as the players and managers award Gold Gloves to all the wrong people!  Watch as writers try to make an argument that Ryan Howard deserved the award more than Pujols because of all of his RBIs! Behold someone complain about a 16-win pitcher taking the Cy Young Award while conveniently forgetting that his teammates couldn’t crack most Legion teams!

November 18th and 19th: Owners Meetings. Billionaires come together to figure out how to portray their mere millionaire employees as the greedy ones. Panda steaks will be consumed, cigars will be lit by flaming bearer bonds. Jamie McCourt will be barred by security.

November 30th: Executive Board of the Players’ Union meets.  It’ll be kinda like John L. Lewis addressing the coal miners, except with fewer references to silicosis and a better brand of beer filling the keg in the corner of the union hall.

December 1st: Deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration. This is the day we see if the Mets are all-in on Jeff Francoeur.  As a Braves fan, this will be like my Christmas. No matter what happens, the result will be hilarious.

December 7th-10th: The Winter Meetings. Usually these take place in warm and fun locations. A couple of years ago they were in Newport Beach or someplace like that. Next year: Disney World. This time around? Indianapolis. Of course, it stands to reason that I get to go this time.  But it won’t all be cold and dreary: I plan to stalk FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, and given how hard he works at these things, if I can keep up I’m going to get more fit on this trip than I would on a spa vacation.

Early December: Hall of Fame balloting.  New on the ballot: Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez. I’m fans of all four of them, and any of them will be better selections than Jim Rice was last year. But in all honesty, I only think three of these guys should make the Hall. Feel free to guess who I think is unworthy in the comments.  Results will be announced January 6th. Complaining about the results will last until inductions happen in July.

Mid-January: More owners meetings.  Don’t these people have more important things to do with their time than to travel to posh resorts and talk about how rich they are?  Wait, of course they don’t. I forgot who I was talking about.

February 1st-21st: Salary arbitration hearings. As a lawyer, I take special interest in these. I mean, there’s enough baloney thrown around in courtrooms every day, but to see a player’s lawyer argue that Kevin Gregg is as valuable as a young Mariano Rivera, and to see an team’s lawyer argue that Nick Markakis is only worth the league minimum is to see lawyering at its highest level.

Mid-February: Pitchers and catchers report; next round of names leaks from the 2003 steroid list.

Ahhh, the rites of Spring!

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).