The Couch Slouch

Hey Mike Gundy: You're a man. You can find something else to do

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Nobody wants a pandemic, certainly not one that kills hundreds of thousands and delays the college football season.

That was certainly the mindset last week of Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who indicated that May 1 would be a good time to get back to football and who wants his players on campus even if it's deserted because "continuing the economy in this state" requires his team playing games.

"We've got to have a plan," Gundy said, "…so let's just stay on schedule."

Uh, let's update the scoreboard here:

Covid-19, OSU 0.

Go Cowboys!!!

Coach, I understand that we must get back to the business of living. But – follow me on this – we can't do that if we are all dead. So we must stay at home – pause life to preserve life – until the experts say otherwise in regard to this once-in-a-century sacrifice that we hopefully will never see the likes of again.

It stinks this way, it sure does.

Suddenly, we know why our dogs want to take so many walks.

So, yes, we need sports again. But we also need almost every other taken-for-granted detail of our routine, from schools to restaurants to shopping to libraries to concerts to Costco grand openings.

And, frankly, we need back things that have been missing most or all of our lives: compassion, decency, humanity, sense of community.

But we can start by accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative at home. We can start by appreciating what's around us and by revisiting the simple delights that surround us.

Play Rack-O with your kids.

Watch any season of "The Larry Sanders Show" on HBO on Demand.

Talk to long-distance friends. In the old days, these were known as "phone calls."

Send your aunt or uncle a long note. In the old days, this was known as "writing a letter."

Make your own pizza, and when that fails, order one for delivery.

Dig out your old baseball card box, and if you can't find a Nolan Ryan rookie card, give all of them to the 10-year-old next door.

Tell your spouse, "We've got to talk," to let 'em know what it feels like to be on the other end of that baby.

Sing the theme song from "Gilligan's Island" three times nightly.

Board-game doubleheader: Monopoly and Candy Land!

Try to write the Great American Novel, or, at a minimum, at least a limerick.

"Casablanca" and "The Princess Bride," back-to-back, to experience full black-and-white and Technicolor joy.

"His Girl Friday" and "Broadcast News," back-to-back, in black-and-white and Technicolor, to experience full print and electronic joy.

S'mores!

Re-enact scenes from the Old Testament; I adore Leviticus Chapter 19, Verse 33.

A foosball table ($104.99-ish) or air hockey (also $104.99-ish) is the best quarantined C-note investment in the land.

Good betting game: Sit on your front porch with a family member and wager on which direction – left or right – 10 people will walk by your house first.*

(* If you don't have a front porch, just look out the damn window.)

Remind your teenagers about safe sex, in case they ever have sex.

When's the last time you played Charades?

For 16 and under: Hit your brother for no reason. When he hits you back, roll onto the living-room carpet in full brawling mode.

For 75 and over: Hit your brother for no reason. If he falls to the ground in agony, call 911.

Wii bowling!!!

Tell everybody in your home how much you love 'em, twice. Do it now.

Ask The Slouch

Q. I assume you have the entire "Dogs Playing Poker" collection of paintings. And aren't dogs the best? (Eddie Vidmar; Cleveland)

A. Yes, I have the entire collection and, yes, dogs are the best. We just lost our beloved poker-playing pit mix: R.I.P. Daisy.

Q. Is it true that the first recorded reference of the six feet "social distancing" term was in a NCAA basketball referees manual on what constituted a foul when a Duke player drives to the basket? (Stewart Verdery; Washington, D.C.)

A. Boy, I miss rooting against Duke.

Q. Distraught over the pandemic, IOC and NCAA officials walk into a bar and order a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet 1992. How much should the athletes tip the server? (Bobby Weaver; Smyrna, Ga.)

A. You have an uncanny grasp of global sporting economics.

Q.Since you have been "working" from home for years, does it bother you that your employer deemed you non-essential well before the coronavirus showed up? (Dan Cantwell; Albany, N.Y.)

A. Listen, pal, my family also has deemed me non-essential and questions why I even need to be home.

Q.Since the NFL draft will not have a live audience, should a booing track be added every time Roger Goodell steps up to the microphone? (Arthur Polton; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

To enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway, just email asktheslouch@aol.com. The Couch Slouch podcast is available on your favorite podcasting app.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

Can't get enough Astros coverage?

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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