Peter Gammons is leaving ESPN

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If the Yankees traded Derek Jeter to the Mets for two minor leaguers, about half of this media room would be running around like crazy.  About 15 minutes ago, the entire media room started running around like crazy.  Why? Because one of their own is getting dealt, and it’s a big big name:

Baseball Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons has decided to pursue
new endeavors and will no longer be a contributor to ESPN after this
week’s winter meetings.

Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production:

“As a print journalist moving to television, Peter was a pioneer who
became a Hall of Famer.  His contributions to ESPN will never be
forgotten.  We’re sad to see Peter go, but understand his desire for
new challenges and a less demanding schedule.”

The initial reaction among the media throng is shock.  He and other ESPN people were swarmed as soon as it started filtering through.  They are just as surprised as anyone. And confused: some have said that maybe he doesn’t want to be out chasing the story anymore, which hews to the corporate statement. Others, however, have said that he lives for this stuff and wouldn’t be leaving merely for a lifestyle change. Gammons hasn’t deviated much from his formal statement in hallway conversations, but it’s a pretty big hallway, so it’s not like he’s going to dish dirt out there to people he doesn’t know.

No one, however — including ESPN folks — would rule out the possibility that corporate politics is playing a part. Dealing with the ESPN suits in Bristol can be a headache. And perhaps money was an issue.  Gammons presumably makes a lot of money in a media world where ad revenue is shrinking.  No one seriously believes that ESPN would make Gammons leave if he didn’t want to, but many are prepared to accept the possibility that either (a) they asked him to take less money; or (b) he’s just had it with the World Wide Leader in Sports.

Not that those things are mutually-exclusive.

UPDATE: Gammons is headed to MLB Network, with an official announcement expected tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see if he also finds a new writing job, assuming the TV deal doesn’t include some MLB.com work as well.

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).