THE COUCH SLOUCH

Calling a foul on the grammar police, replay apologists

Calling a foul on the grammar police, replay apologists
Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Note to readers: I had not planned to pen a second consecutive column on officiating, but a couple of readers got me really riled up.

So one reader emailed that I "misused" the term "slippery slope" and another told me I had "misappropriated" the term last week when I wrote that replay as an officiating tool is a slippery slope.

Balderdash.

Incidentally, whether I use or misuse, appropriate or misappropriate any term is up to me. It's my column, my time, my two cents' worth – well, at least until we ban the penny. So bug off and go read The New Yorker if you crave more precise and correct use of the language.

And, what, now we're going to have replay challenges on my column? No, no, no, no, no. I write it, you read it, and we move on. I'm not going to sit here beholden to every Tom, Dick and Harriet googling my every proclamation and preposition.

I stand by my work, week in and week out. Like Andy Reid just said, "Not all of Mozart's paintings were perfect."

But I digress.

For those of you who found my "slippery slope syndrome" explanation wanting, let me then switch replay gears and present my "small barking dog syndrome."

Sometimes there is a small, barking dog at your ankles that keeps nipping at your pants cuff. It's irritating, yet not enough to do more than shake your leg occasionally to free yourself of the dog's grip. But then you look down several minutes later and notice that this small barking yapping irritating creature has ripped your pants leg completely wide open.

And, there, my friends, you have the basic problem of replay as an officiating tool.

So I again plead to Sports Nation – let's return to kinder, simpler pre-replay days.

(People often fault me for "living in the past." Uh, I can't live in the future, can I? I am the product of two centuries; both have their merits and their flaws. Alas, replay as an officiating tool was mindlessly birthed in the 20th century and is reaching its devastating potential in the 21st century. Then again, since I have serious doubts if there will be a 22nd century, this problem might solve itself.)

Many people think officiating, particularly in the NFL and the NBA, is worse than ever; it's not. The officials are just scrutinized more than ever.

Do you think there was replay review when the games used to be only on radio?

Are games harder to officiate now because athletes are bigger, stronger and faster? Maybe. But it's definitely harder to officiate when millions are officiating alongside you. There are even websites, like footballzebras.com, that assess and review officials' calls 24-7.

Trust me, it would not be half as fun being an actuary if every line of your work were under replay review.

And when's the last time you saw, say, a ballet or an opera stopped because of a replay challenge? Man, those would be momentum killers – for instance, La Boheme would lose all of its steam if, just before Mimi's climactic coughing fit, Schaunard questions the receipt on the pink bonnet that Rodolpho has bought for her and throws the challenge flag.

The fact of the matter is, there are fouls and penalties committed on virtually every possession in basketball, football and life.

If you whistled every foul in the NBA by the book, every player would foul out.

If you called every holding by an offensive lineman or every pass interference, NFL games would take five hours.

If you held a U.S. president accountable for every high crime and misdemeanor committed while in the Oval Office, we wouldn't have a president.

Sometimes – particularly on the field of play – you just have to let stuff go.

(Best I can tell, the major professional sport least affected at this point by replay is hockey. So, maybe, just maybe – I know I'm going to regret this – NHL, here I come! When does the regular season start?)

Ask The Slouch

Q. When the Chicago Bears announced Mitch Trubisky injured his "non-throwing shoulder," did your finely honed journalism instincts lead you to ask if the team could be more specific? (Jeremy Sandler; Toronto)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Even the slightest improvement in equipment can give an athlete a competitive advantage. Shouldn't some company start making underwear for left-handed men? (Jack Leininger; Spokane, Wash.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q.Do you have any insight as to whether NBA referee Scott Foster is the "whistleblower" that President Trump is looking for? (Elliott Jaffa; Arlington, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q.Do you miss when the Washington R*dsk*ns used to win the offseason? I mean, it was a win. (Mike Garland; Washington, D.C.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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Have the Astros turned a corner? Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

After finishing up with the Guardians the Astros have a rather important series for early May with the Seattle Mariners heading to town for the weekend. While it’s still too early to be an absolute must-win series for the Astros, losing the series to drop seven or eight games off the division lead would make successfully defending their American League West title that much more unlikely.

Since their own stumble out of the gate to a 6-10 record the Mariners have been racking up series wins, including one this week over the Atlanta Braves. The M’s offense is largely Mmm Mmm Bad, but their pitching is sensational. In 18 games after the 6-10 start, the Mariners gave up five runs in a game once. In the other 17 games they only gave up four runs once. Over the 18 games their starting pitchers gave up 18 earned runs total with a 1.44 earned run average. That’s absurd. Coming into the season Seattle’s starting rotation was clearly better on paper than those of the Astros and Texas Rangers, and it has crystal clearly played out as such into the second month of the schedule.

While it’s natural to focus on and fret over one’s own team's woes when they are plentiful as they have been for the Astros, a reminder that not all grass is greener elsewhere. Alex Bregman has been awful so far. So has young Mariners’ superstar Julio Rodriguez. A meager four extra base hits over his first 30 games were all Julio produced down at the ballyard. That the Mariners are well ahead of the Astros with J-Rod significantly underperforming is good news for Seattle.

Caratini comes through!

So it turns out the Astros are allowed to have a Puerto Rican-born catcher who can hit a little bit. Victor Caratini’s pedigree is not that of a quality offensive player, but he has swung the bat well thus far in his limited playing time and provided the most exciting moment of the Astros’ season with his two-out two-run 10th inning game winning home run Tuesday night. I grant that one could certainly say “Hey! Ronel Blanco finishing off his no-hitter has been the most exciting moment.” I opt for the suddenness of Caratini’s blow turning near defeat into instant victory for a team that has been lousy overall to this point. Frittering away a game the Astros had led 8-3 would have been another blow. Instead, to the Victor belong the spoils.

Pudge Rodriguez is the greatest native Puerto Rican catcher, but he was no longer a good hitter when with the Astros for the majority of the 2009 season. Then there’s Martin Maldonado.

Maldonado’s hitting stats with the Astros look Mike Piazza-ian compared to what Jose Abreu was doing this season. Finally, mercifully for all, Abreu is off the roster as he accepts a stint at rookie-level ball in Florida to see if he can perform baseball-CPR on his swing and career. Until or unless he proves otherwise, Abreu is washed up and at some point the Astros will have to accept it and swallow whatever is left on his contract that runs through next season. For now Abreu makes over $120,000 per game to not be on the roster. At his level of performance, that’s a better deal than paying him that money to be on the roster.

Abreu’s seven hits in 71 at bats for an .099 batting average with a .269 OPS is a humiliating stat line. In 2018 George Springer went to sleep the night of June 13 batting .293 after going hitless in his last four at bats in a 13-5 Astros’ win over Oakland. At the time no one could have ever envisioned that Springer had started a deep, deep funk which would have him endure a nightmarish six for 78 stretch at the plate (.077 batting average). Springer then hit .293 the rest of the season.

Abreu’s exile opened the door for Joey Loperfido to begin his Major League career. Very cool for Loperfido to smack a two-run single in his first game. He also struck out twice. Loperfido will amass whiffs by the bushel, he had 37 strikeouts in 101 at bats at AAA Sugar Land. Still, if he can hit .225 with some walks mixed in (he drew 16 with the Space Cowboys) and deliver some of his obvious power (13 homers in 25 games for the ex-Skeeters) that’s an upgrade over Abreu/Jon Singleton, as well as over Jake Meyers and the awful showing Chas McCormick has posted so far. Frankly, it seems unwise that the Astros only had Loperfido play seven games at first base in the minors this year. If McCormick doesn’t pick it up soon and with Meyers displaying limited offensive upside, the next guy worth a call-up is outfielder Pedro Leon. In January 2021 the Astros gave Leon four million dollars to sign out of Cuba and called him a “rapid mover to the Major Leagues.” Well…

Over his first three minor league seasons Leon flashed tools but definitely underwhelmed. He has been substantially better so far this year. He turns 26 May 28. Just maybe the Astros offense could be the cause of fewer Ls with Loperfido at first and Leon in center field.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTube with the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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