BUSINESS IS GOOD

With Dusty Baker's Astros return looking imminent, this should be his first order of business

Chas McCormick won over a lot of fans this postseason. Composite image by Jack Brame.

I’m not one to tell someone how to do their job. It’s not my nature …

But this should be Dusty Baker’s first order of business on the first day of Astros spring training next year: players will be fined if they slide head-first into any base, regardless if they’re wearing an Arby’s oven mitt or not.

Sliding head-first is too risky and just not worth it. X-rays confirmed that Alex Bregman broke a finger trying to stretch a single into a double in the eighth inning of Game 6. The Astros were leading 4-1 at the time and Academy already was breaking out World Series T-shirts for sale. If there had been a Game 7, the Astros would have been without their slugging cleanup hitter. And it’s not like Baker had hot-hitting reinforcements on the bench.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, there is zero speed advantage in sliding head-first into a base. Sixty players, ranging from Little League to college, participated in the study. Each player ran six times from first to second base, sliding head-first three times and feet-first three times. Their times were identical. The only difference: sliding head-first runs a risk of injuries to hands, heads, arms and spines.

This one’s easy, just don’t do it. Feet-first from now on. Got it, Alex?

Level Up

I heard a sports talk station discussing … which Astro gained the most personally from the World Series victory? We heard Dusty Baker, we heard Jeremy Pena, we heard Yordan Alvarez. Plus Framber Valdez and Jose Altuve. All good choices.

My vote: Chas McCormick. Whatever happens with the rest of his baseball career, he’ll have a steady income for life signing photos of his Game 5-saving (possibly World Series-saving) catch at sports autograph shows.

Astros championship parade

Like the Blob from black-and-white monster movies, crowd estimates of the Astros victory parade kept growing Monday from one million to 1.2 million, ending at two million fans. Ever see an aerial photo of the crowd at Woodstock? It’s massive, with fans packing a wide-open farm in upstate New York as far as the eye can see.

For there to be 2 million Astros fans at the parade, think five(!) Woodstocks, all on one street, just the sidewalk, in downtown Houston. But since I’m an Astros fan, so OK, 2 million.

Mattress Mack stacking cash

Let’s crunch the numbers on Mattress Mack’s record-breaking payout on his Astros bet. He wagered $10 million and earned a $75 million payout. At the same time, he offered customers their money back if they bought a mattress worth $3,000 or more and the Astros won the Series. Remember, when Mack first announced the promotion, it was twice your money back if the Astros won.

Get out your calculator. Mack won $75 million (really $65 million – the $75 million included his initial investment). Do not confuse payout with profit. Now subtract the refunds and cost of buying mattresses from suppliers. We don’t know how many customers got twice their money back, how many got just their money back. We don’t know how much Mack pays for a mattress that he sells for $3,000. And don’t forget that the taxman was keeping a close eye on Mack’s wagers. Uncle Sam typically takes 24 percent of major gambling winnings.

Plus it’s impossible to figure the value of all the publicity and goodwill Mack gained from his wager, sales promotion and potty-mouthed tirade in Philadelphia after Game 3.

How much of Mack’s winnings ultimately ended up in his pocket? During one interview, Mack revealed that he was writing 7,000 refund checks. With all that input, let’s put Mack’s bottom-line haul, after-taxes, after-refunds, post-stress when the Phillies went up 2-1, at … $25 million. Margin of error of my estimate: plus or minus 100 percent.

Looking ahead

Who will be the first Astro to win the Triple Crown? If Aaron Judge signs with a National League team, Yordan Alvarez will have a shot with defensive shifts outlawed and second basemen forced to stay in the infield next year. How many times did we watch Alvarez “ground out” to right field this year? Many of those outs will be hits next year. And Yordan still batted .305.

Has it ever happened that a team is silently hoping that its Cy Young Award winner signs with another team? That’s the ridiculous amount of pitching the Astros have, and most of it is relatively young, inexpensive labor.

And has this ever happened before? On the day a team won the World Series, the two other major sports teams in their city were sitting firmly and alone in last place. The Rockets were 1-9, the only one-win team in the NBA. They won their second game two nights later. The Texans were 1-6-1, now the only one-win team in the NFL.

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