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#pounditThursday, May 13, 2021

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Report: Astros complained to MLB about fan behavior

MLB fans waited more than a year to verbally abuse the Houston Astros over their cheating scandal, and some of that pent-up energy was released when the 2017 World Series champions faced the New York Yankees this week. Though, apparently at least some fans in the Bronx were unexpectedly censored.

David Taub, a Yankees fan who attended one of the games against the Astros this week, told Sports Illustrated that he showed up to Yankee Stadium in an “Oscar the Grouch” costume. That, of course, was a reference to the Astros banging on a trash can as part of their elaborate sign-stealing scheme. Taub said he was stopped by security when entering the ballpark and informed that he had to ditch the costume.

According to SI, Taub said a security guard told him “our policy changed” and that the Astros had complained to MLB about the behavior of fans in other cities. Taub said he was told MLB asked the Yankees to be a little more strict on fans during the series.

NJ Advance Media’s Brendan Kuty said he was told by a source that the Yankees were not contacted by the Astros before or during their series against them with any complaints regarding fan behavior. Officials from the Astros and MLB commissioner’s office also said they were unaware of any such complaints.

The Astros beat the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS en route to winning a title. It was later discovered that they employed an elaborate sign-stealing scheme during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. There were also suspicions that Houston cheated in 2019 when they again beat New York in the ALCS.

Plenty of Yankees fans still managed to find ways to let the Astros hear it, which you can see here. Still, if the Astros did complain rather than just taking their lumps, that will just give fans another reason to ride them even harder.

The Houston Astros are confirmed cheaters and deserve an asterisk. Send that message by wearing our Houston Asterisks T-shirt! You can buy it here:

Video: Gleyber Torres scores on embarrassing Astros blunder

Gleyber Torres accomplished something on Thursday that we probably will not see again this MLB season, and it was made possible by some inexcusable laziness from the Houston Astros.

With the New York Yankees trailing 5-3 in the bottom of eighth inning, Torres managed to score all the way from first on an infield single. The Astros had the shift on against Aaron Hicks, who stung a ground ball up the middle. Carlos Correa did a nice job of knocking the ball down, but no one was covering third base.

Torres recognized that third base was uncovered and kept running. He then quickly noticed that no one had covered home plate, either. He came all the way around to score, as you can see below:

Not only was that a horrendous defensive lapse from the Astros, but it came late in a game in which they were leading by two runs. In a series where they were already ruthlessly mocked by those in attendance, the Astros definitely didn’t need to give Yankees fans more ammunition.

Ex-teammate explains why Aaron Rodgers-Packers situation is ‘fixable’

Aaron Rodgers

The situation between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers does not appear to have improved at all in the past week, but one of the quarterback’s former teammates believes it can eventually be resolved.

James Jones, who was teammates with Rodgers in Green Bay from 2007-2013 and again in 2015, said on Thursday that he views the relationship between Rodgers and the Packers as “fixable.” The NFL Network analyst said he speaks with Rodgers frequently, so his opinion is an informed one.

“I speak with Aaron all the time. It has nothing to do with getting the GM fired. It has nothing to do with a new contract and getting money … I think it’s fixable,” Jones said, via Zach Kruse of Packers wire.

A report this week claimed Rodgers will not return to the Packers as long as Brian Gutekunst is the general manager. Jones doesn’t think that is true. Jones also isn’t buying any talk that Rodgers wants more money or a new contract.

So what’s the problem? Rodgers lost trust in management when they did not consult him before trading up to draft quarterback Jordan Love last year. Jones said at the time that he was confident the Rodgers-Love dynamic would work, but the decision clearly bothered Rodgers.

Ex-Packers linebacker AJ Hawk, who is also still friends with Rodgers, seemed less confident that Rodgers will return to Green Bay.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle to figure out the rift. It may take some time,” Hawk told NFL Network, per Kruse. “I don’t know if it’s something they can salvage, but I’m very hopeful they can.”

At this point, there is little consensus among former Packers players about how the Rodgers situation will turn out. Brett Favre also shared his thoughts on the drama this week. You can read them here.

Report: Cavs coaches were ‘ordered’ to praise Collin Sexton when he was a rookie

Collin Sexton

Collin Sexton was the most important piece the Cleveland Cavaliers received in their trade three years ago that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. The point guard struggled a bit in his rookie season, but the Cavs did something that seems unheard of to assure his confidence was not shaken.

The Cavs acquired the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft as part of the Irving deal, and they used it on Collin Sexton. According to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, Cleveland executives were so determined for Sexton to become the face of the franchise that they ordered coaches to not be too hard on him.

When Sexton struggled at times during the 2018-19 season, Lloyd says Cavaliers coaches were “ordered to continue playing him no matter what.” The team’s support staff was also told to “continually praise” Sexton. Lloyd also notes that the Cavs put serious effort into getting Sexton onto the NBA All-Rookie teams and into the Rising Stars games.

Sexton has turned into one of the best scoring guards in the NBA. He is averaging 24.3 points per game this season, but Lloyd believes the franchise is playing a dangerous game. Cavs ownership wants Sexton to be a superstar and the face of their franchise, likely to prove they won the Irving trade. Sexton is a talented player, but very few people believe the 22-year-old will ever be Irving.

The Cavs are 21-45 and once again eliminated from postseason contention. They’ve been a disaster since LeBron James left a second time. There have been reports that Sexton’s teammates are unhappy with his style of play, which could be a product of the way the team treated him like royalty from the jump.

Albert Pujols released by Angels in final year of contract

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols is in the final year of a massive 10-year contract he signed with the Los Angeles Angels back in 2012, but the slugger will not be playing out the entirety of the deal.

The Angels informed Pujols on Thursday that they are releasing him, according to multiple reports.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale notes that Pujols wanted to be released if his playing time was going to be significantly cut back, and the Angels are granting his wish.

Pujols is hitting just .198 this season after seeing his production fall off a cliff in recent years. The 41-year-old has five home runs in 24 games this year, but he has hit .245 or worse in every season but one since 2015. He’s averaging career lows across the board in 2021, which is not surprising to those who have watched him the past several years.

Prior to the season, Pujols’ wife appeared to break the news that her husband would be retiring at the end of the year. Pujols downplayed the Instagram post and said he had not made up his mind about playing beyond 2021.

Assuming he does not sign with another team, Pujols will finish his career with 667 home runs and 2,112 career RBI. The RBI rank third all time and the home runs place him fifth. Pujols should be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Adam Schefter makes surprising admission about bombshell Aaron Rodgers story

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke arguably the biggest NFL story of the year last week when he reported that Aaron Rodgers no longer wants to play for the Green Bay Packers. There has since been speculation that Rodgers’ camp intentionally leaked the information right before the start of the NFL Draft in an attempt to force a trade, but apparently that was not the case.

During an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show” Thursday, Schefter revealed that he simply chose to drop the bombshell story hours before the start of the draft. He said no one came to him that day with anything new about the Rodgers situation. Rather, the story stemmed from an “accumulation of information” that he decided to release then.

So why draft day? Not long before Schefter broke his story, there was a report that the San Francisco 49ers made a massive trade offer to the Packers for Rodgers. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network followed that by confirming that the Niners reached out to Green Bay, though he said no formal offer was made.

Once those reports surfaced, Schefter felt it was only a matter of time before word got out that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. That’s why he decided to break the story. You can hear more of his explanation below:

Some fans are angry over Schefter’s admission, as they believe it was inappropriate for him to steal the spotlight just hours before the draft. Schefter also contradicted himself a bit. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, Schefter’s initial tweet and ensuing ESPN story about Rodgers specifically said “league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.” That doesn’t mesh with what Schefter told Patrick.

If Schefter knew definitively weeks ago that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, it would be awfully risky for him to sit on such a huge story. Perhaps the truth about why he dropped the news the day of the draft lies somewhere in the middle.

Rangers fined $250K for criticizing NHL over Tom Wilson punishment

Tom Wilson Pavel Buchnevich

The New York Rangers issued a statement on Tuesday bashing the NHL for not disciplining Washington Capitols enforcer Tom Wilson more harshly, and that decision has cost the organization a huge sum of money.

On Thursday, the NHL announced that the Rangers have been fined $250,000. Commissioner Gary Bettman said he does not expect teams to always agree with decisions from the Department of Player Safety but called it “unacceptable” that the Rangers issued a statement calling for head of player safety George Parros to lose his job.

Here is the full statement from the league:

The Rangers were furious after Wilson, a notoriously dirty player, smashed Pavel Buchnevich in the head after the whistle blew during their game against Washington on Monday. Wilson then slammed Artemi Panarin to the ground during the ensuing scrum. You can see the video here.

New York announced that Panarin will miss the final three games of the season due to a lower body injury he suffered during the melee. Despite that and the fact that Wilson has been suspended by the NHL on five different occasions, Wilson only received a $5,000 fine and no suspension for the incident.

The Rangers were so angry with the league that they issued a public statement, which is unheard of for teams in those situations. Obviously, the league wanted to show that won’t be tolerated.

Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky getting closer to a wedding date

Dustin Johnson Paulina Gretzky

Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky have been engaged for more than seven years, but they have still not announced any official plans for a wedding. While no date has been set, it sounds like the couple is getting closer to tying the knot.

Adam Schupak of Golf Digest asked Johnson this week if he and Paulina have set a date to be married. The PGA star said “we do not have one yet,” but he said the decision is getting closer.

Gretzky recently shared some photos of herself dress shopping on social media, so wedding bells could be chiming in the near future.

Gretzky, the daughter of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky spoke about her longtime engagement to Johnson in a podcast appearance earlier this year. She said she and Johnson are “so in love” and explained why they have not gotten around to their wedding just yet.

Paulina was by Johnson’s side when he won the Masters last year. She even wore her own green jacket, which led to this great tweet going viral. Gretzky and Johnson share two sons together, who are 5 and 3. It would not be a surprise if the two are married at some point this year.