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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Stories by Grey Papke:

Astros player unimpressed by latest explanation of fan interference call

Mookie Betts fan interference

The Houston Astros were knocked out of the ALCS in five games by the Boston Red Sox, but it’s fair to say a lot of players on the losing team feel that things could have and should have been a lot closer.

The most controversial play of the series came in the first inning of Game 4, when a potential game-tying Jose Altuve home run was ruled an out by umpire Joe West, citing fan interference. The call was upheld on replay review due to a lack of evidence to overturn.

That call was still a focus on Friday, a day after the Astros were eliminated, with West further defending his call on the field.

That explanation still didn’t sit well with Astros reliever Lance McCullers, who responded to that tweet with a bit of ironic, bitter laughter.

The point of contention here is whether Betts’s glove was over the fence and in the crowd when trying to catch the ball. If it wasn’t, as West clearly believes, the right call was made on the field. If it was, as the Astros would contend, fan interference doesn’t apply and it should have been ruled a home run. Ultimately, there was no clear camera angle to settle things one way or the other. Had West called it a home run on the field, video replay likely would have upheld that decision too.

Did the Astros lose the series solely because of that call? Absolutely not. A major factor was their bullpen’s inability to keep it close and stop the Red Sox from putting up more add-on runs. That said, it was such a huge moment in the series that this, coupled with some other close calls that went against Houston, will leave the Astros and their fans thinking things could have been very different had they gotten a few breaks.

Report: Joe Girardi withdraws from consideration for Reds job

Joe Girardi

Joe Girardi reportedly will not be the next manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Girardi was the Reds’ top choice, but has withdrawn himself from consideration for the job.

The Reds’ desire to hire Girardi cannot be seen as a surprise in light of reporting on the type of manager the team is seeking to hire. It’s unclear why Girardi would back out, but it may be that he’s simply looking for a more competitive situation than Cincinnati can offer, as they look to be in the midst of a full rebuild.

Leonard Fournette still expected to return for Week 10?

Leonard Fournette

It sounds like the Jacksonville Jaguars’ running back situation is on its way to growing more crowded.

The thinking remains, at least from 1010 AM’s Jaguars reporter Hays Carlyon, that running back Leonard Fournette will be back after the team’s Week 9 bye, setting up an issue in the backfield.

The Jaguars clearly have concerns about Fournette’s durability, as evidenced by the trade they made Friday. Even if they’re planning to welcome him back within the month, there is quite clearly a fear that another injury issue may hit him sooner rather than later.

Chris Sale set to start World Series opener

Chris Sale

Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale will be good to go for Game 1 of the World Series, according to manager Alex Cora.

Cora said Friday that Sale would start Game 1, with David Price likely on track for Game 2.

Sale hasn’t pitched since the ALCS opener on Oct. 13. He was hit by a rather severe stomach illness and was still too weak to start Game 5, being pushed back to Game 6 instead. The Red Sox were able to close out the series without even needing him, a testament to their depth, and with the World Series not set to start until Oct. 23, he’ll have ample time to rest up and regain his strength before making that start against his yet-to-be-determined NL foe.

Report: Marshawn Lynch to miss a month with groin injury

Marshawn Lynch

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is reportedly out up to a month with a groin injury, and possibly even longer than that.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, an MRI turned up a fairly significant injury, and Lynch is unlikely to return before November at the earliest, with injured reserve being a possibility.

This is essentially confirmation of what the Raiders feared. Lynch hasn’t been terribly effective — he only has one game this season where he’s eclipsed 100 rushing yards — but it still leaves a significant hole in their backfield that may not be filled this season.

Maybe this injury will lead Jon Gruden to reconsider his usage of his players, considering earlier this month he said he was not concerned about overworking Lynch.

Myles Garrett criticizes recent officiating mistakes against Browns

Myles Garrett

Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett is fed up with some of the recent officiating decisions his team has fallen victim to.

Garrett risked a fine by publicly criticizing referees on Friday, particularly over a play where the Los Angeles Chargers committed a missed false start on a 29-yard touchdown in Sunday’s defeat.

“It was so obvious,” Garrett said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “To my mind, he’s moved, nobody else has moved and the ball hasn’t moved, so it’s kinda textbook. The flag should be up. So I moved forward because he moved, it’s like I’m on a string. If the ball beats him, we’re going with the ball. If he moves before the ball, I’m going with him.”

Garrett knew he was risking a fine by speaking up, but didn’t particularly care.

“If I get fined, so be it,” Garrett said. “Something needs to be said. If it keeps on going this way, this route, where it seems like we keep on getting the short stick.”

The error in the Chargers game certainly wasn’t the first time Cleveland has fallen victim to an iffy call that had a huge impact on the outcome of a game. Clearly, the Browns have about had it.

Giants coach responds to Odell Beckham’s bizarre take on water

There are certain instances where one can just tell that first-year New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur is forced to deal with something that he never, ever expected to deal with, and he had one of those moments on Friday.

It started when Odell Beckham Jr. offered up a simple response to his frequent cramping: the guy just isn’t a big fan of water.

Over to you, Coach Shurmur, where he actually had to address the “water controversy” on Friday, and did so in fitting fashion.

In the grand scheme of Odell Beckham things, this doesn’t even really register as a controversy, but it comes on the heels of his owner essentially telling him to cool it with the weird public remarks. You can tell Shurmur would really rather be talking about anything else.

Report: Manny Machado controversies unlikely to impact free agency

Manny Machado

It hasn’t been the best week for Manny Machado PR-wise, but don’t count on it costing him too much money once he fits free agency.

According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, few in the game think that his actions in the past week, including his comments about a lack of hustle, will do much to hurt Machado’s value. One executive described the impact as “minimal,” while another used the word “marginal.”

Part of the reason for this is these revelations will come as little surprise to anyone in the game, especially the hustle comments. One scout noted that “that’s been Manny since Day 1.”

In fact, Machado’s dirty play may be a bigger deal, but even then, teams seem fairly unconcerned. Ultimately, Machado is one of the top two prized free agents set to hit the market, and is only 26 years old. Teams will forgive a lot when that caliber of talent becomes available at that age.