Does No Progress in CSN Houston Mediation Effort Really Mean No Progress?

The hard part of mediation is getting to yes.
The Houston Astros, Houston Rockets and Comcast gathered before federal district court judge Lynn Hughes on Friday. This wasn't a hearing, and no judicial orders were handed down. It was, instead, the third mediation session for the parties within the past several weeks. The dispute under mediation is the CSN Houston bankruptcy, but as has been the case since October of 2012 when the network went on the air, nothing was settled.

I handled lots of mediations back in my litigation days. I was a big fan of mediation days. They were days of easy billable hours that the client wouldn't dispute. The lunch was free, and there were usually free muffins and donuts for breakfast with all of the free drinks one could desire. For me, this was back in the days before BlackBerrys and iPhones, so a day at mediation was a day away from emails and constant disruptions from partners. It was bliss.

The one issue with those mediation days was the whole mediation thing. Mediation works great in concept. It brings the parties together with a chance to air their side, give their position, with no consequences. The plaintiff gives its desired settlement. The defendant gives its position. The mediator puts the parties in different offices, then shuttles back and forth, trying to get the two sides to meet somewhere in the middle.

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Applying the Three True Outcomes to the CSN Houston Fiasco

Photo by Groovehouse
With no CSN deal yet, this is the only way some people can see an Astros game.
The Houston Astros are in week two of the regular season. The Houston Rockets regular season is quickly coming to an end. This makes for two years that the Rockets games have not been available for most Houston viewers, and it's the start of the second year that Astros games mostly haven't been available. And neither the Astros nor Rockets are receiving their media rights fees because CSN Houston is bankrupt.

The parties gathered for mediation with Judge Lynn Hughes two weeks ago. They had further mediation discussions this past Monday, and there is a scheduling order requesting the parties return to the judge's chambers for mediation on Friday morning. The parties aren't talking, so who knows what's going on in these discussions, though the fact that mediation talks continue should give some cause for optimism.

Read more: CSN Houston, Bankruptcy and Why the Rockets Aren't Just Innocent Victims

This whole fiasco has been hashed and rehashed time and time again since the involuntary bankruptcy filing, and before that, since the time the network went on air. But let's take a look at this in a new way, applying the baseball thinking known as the three true outcomes of strikeout, walk, and home run.

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Start Your Day Off Right With This Story From Vin Scully About a Crack Pipe

Photo by Craig Y. Fujii
Crack pipe chatter, like only Vince can.
For all the talk about the games lasting too long or the sport moving too slowly, baseball is still a key part of the American sports tapestry, and when it's at its best, chances are it's being narrated by Vin Scully.

Scully is in his 65th season as the voice of the Dodgers, and his distinct dulcet tones are easily recognizable to any baseball fan, Dodgers or otherwise. In fact, Scully is so good at what he does that he could describe almost anything and it would be auditory gold.

Horse manure, mold spores, naked mole rats, whatever. Scully could enthrall you with tales of anything.

On Tuesday night, it was crack pipes.

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Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt Retirement Ceremony at Minute Maid Park

photos by Marco Torres

It was more than just a game. At least that was the message emblazoned across the jumbotron at Minute Maid Park Saturday night as the Houston Astros hosted Albert Pujols and the rest of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was a game where two of the most beloved and successful baseball players this city has ever cheered for signed a one-day contract in order to retire as Houston Astros.

Lance Berkman is a slugger who attended and played at Rice University before joining the Astros. A loveable, Babe-Ruthian figure, lovingly nick-named "The Big Puma" and even "Fat Elvis", he was all smiles as he took the field in front of nearly 30,000 fans in the stands. The ace fast-baller Roy "The Wizard" Oswalt from Mississippi followed, sporting that serious grin that kept hitters shaking in their cleats for so many years.

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Rice Baseball Trends Down, But UH Flies High

Categories: Baseball, Sports

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UH on the come up.
Sunday morning starts with a chill. The air's heavy with fog and mist. There's not much of a crowd at Reckling Park, but none of this is stopping the Rice Owls and East Carolina Pirates from playing baseball. The Owls are up 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning when the skies open, stopping play for just over an hour.

By the end of the day, the Owls have lost 2-1, dropping its sixth game out of the last nine to go 22-12 for the season. The country's 12th ranked team is in a slump, not hitting, not executing defensively. The team's beset by injuries, losing shortstop Leon Byrd to an ankle injury last week against Texas, and losing starter Zech Lemond to an as-of-yet unspecified injury on Friday night.

The Owls being in free-fall is strange. It was just several weeks ago the team had won 12 of 13 games and were soaring up the national ranks. But it was at that time the Owls lost 6-2 to the Houston Cougars that things started to fall apart for Rice. The Cougars meanwhile have continued to climb, winning games left and right, passing Rice in the rankings (UH is now ranked 10th), shaking off the better part of a decade where that team could do little right.

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Astros and Yankees Opening Day (Photos)

photos by Marco Torres

Yesterday was the beginning of another baseball season. For lovers of the game, there are two words that jumpstart the heart and clean the slate for another long, hopefully successful year:

Opening Day.


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Yankees Fans in Houston for Opening Day (Photos)

Categories: Baseball, Sports

Photo by Marco Torres
Yesterday was Opening Day, and Minute Maid Park seemed like it was filled with a 50-50 split of Yankees fans and Astros fans. And with this opener being Derek Jeter's goodbye kiss to baseball, some fans came from as far as New York, according to reports.

Our photographer Marco Torres was there to capture all the angles of Opening Day, and captured the Yankee faithful in Houston as they watched their team lose to the Astros.

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Welcome to the New Normal: Where Houston Sports Fans Can't Actually See Teams Play

Categories: Baseball, Sports

Photo by Ed Schipul
This is what an Astros game looks like when it's packed.
The Houston Astros host the New York Yankees tomorrow night. It's Opening Day, the team's second as a member of the American League. The game will be aired on CSN Houston for anybody unwilling to pay the exorbitant prices brought on by the Astros' dynamic pricing model. That means that most of the Houston area will be unable to see the game as the Astros start season number two with CSN Houston available only on Comcast and some minor cable systems.

This is the new normal for Astros fans, and fans of the Rockets and Dynamo, a new normal marked by the inability to view the games on television. The network's in bankruptcy, Jim Crane has sued Drayton McLane and Comcast for fraud over the value of the network. The Astros and Rockets have taken the lead in attempts to get carriage deals for the network, and they've failed.

The CSN Houston parties met in the chambers of Judge Lynn Hughes on Friday. While there they signed an order that allowed the judge to mediate the case. He gave it a shot. That mediation appears to have failed. (A note for those who read the Houston Chronicle story on this matter: there is no language in this signed order that opens up the possibility of more mediation. The order was drafted to specifically allow for a mediation last Friday, and last Friday only).

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For Sanity's Sake, Just Say No to the Astros

Categories: Baseball, Sports

The logo looks nice, but the Astros really have nothing else to offer
The 2014 Houston Astros open up the regular season next week, and I don't give a damn. Seriously, that's a hard admission to make because I love baseball. But I can't even begin to muster any enthusiasm for the band of rejects (mostly) that will trot out onto the Minute Maid Park grass next week and get their asses handed to them by the New York Yankees.

Intellectually I get what the Astros are doing. Burn it all down and start from scratch. But after three years of 100-plus losses, I'm tired of the intellectual arguments -- arguments I've made myself for many, many years. Because if you're going to charge major league prices, then there should be some effort to field a major league roster.

Once again the Astros payroll is the lowest in the majors.That's not too big a deal because whenever all of the great kids in the minor league system are finally deemed ready to graduate to the majors they'll be paid comparatively little money. The big deal is that, for the most part, I'd far prefer to pay major league prices to watch the minor league teams play than I would to watch this collection of stiffs wearing the Astros uniform.

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The CSN Houston Bankruptcy Clown Show Just Keeps Clowning Away

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Welome to the Clown Show.
Jim Crane, Les Alexander and Robert Pick have been "invited to attend to informally discuss a resolution" to the CSN Houston bankruptcy matter on Friday, March 28. The invitation has been extended by Federal District Court Judge Lynn Hughes, the man overseeing the Astros' appeal of CSN Houston's involuntary bankruptcy.

The wording is polite, and an unsuspecting party might believe that attendance is not mandatory. It's an invitation, after all. But the proper interpretation is that this is a command, and one doesn't ignore the commands of a federal judge, especially one as mercurial as Lynn Hughes.

And there's one further thing: The gentlemen are not allowed to bring the attorneys handling the court work. Judge Hughes has ordered them to appear without outside counsel. Each may bring along an aide to the meeting, but that aide cannot be outside counsel, and if one of them cannot attend, then he may "send a delegate who is not outside counsel in their stead -- only if the delegate has meaningful authority."

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