THE COUCH SLOUCH

Let's be honest: The only fair punishment for the Astros is taking away their title

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Simply put – and I realize I am last in on this, but I only write once a week and I also sleep in weekday mornings, mainly to avoid bad news – Major League Baseball should vacate the Houston Astros' 2017 World Series title.

I understand there is some Astros fatigue right now, but this sign-stealing saga has generated more reader mail than any issue in recent memory. In fact, if I paid out $1.25 to every Astros-related Ask The Slouch submission, I'd be writing this column at a loss.

Plus every time another layer is pulled off this Astros scandal, something tells me we will find something else sordid. Eventually, we'll discover the Astros also had a hand in the Great Chicago Fire, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and the Watergate cover-up.

So, how far have we fallen as a once reasonably-minded group of revolutionaries pulling away from British oppression?


1. The Astros – following the lead from Wall Street to the White House – not only decided to flimflam repeatedly, but once caught, took a "get over it" stance.

2. Many Astros opponents, unhappy with Commissioner Rob Manfred's let's-just-move-on jurisprudence, have spoken of taking justice into their own hands – by throwing at Astros batters; of course, this follows the old Latin "an eye for an eye and a 90 mph fastball at your head for a tooth" credo.

3. Naturally, we can gamble on how many times Astros betters are hit by a pitch. At William Hill sports book, the latest over-under season total is 81.5; there's something very American about the ability to wager on players getting assaulted by beanballs.

Meanwhile, we heard last week, pitifully so, from Astros owner Jim Crane and Astros players, all of whom stepped to the plate and said nothing – apparently they cannot speak unless they know what pitch is coming.

(We did not hear from defrocked general manager Jeff Luhnow or defrocked manager A.J. Hinch, both currently relocated in MLB's new witless protection program.)

Harry S. Truman famously had a sign on his desk that said, "The buck stops here." Crane's version of that is, "The buck stops down the hall and to the right, in an office adjacent to the men's restroom."

Crane contended that the electronically-aided sign stealing "didn't impact the game." In his defense, I'll say this: If I played on the Astros, I probably would hit .000. And if I knew what pitch was coming every time, I'd still probably hit .000.

The Astros' spring training apology tour can be summed up in a dozen words:

"We're sorry, but we're not THAT sorry – we are still the champions."

Manfred acknowledged he could've stripped the Astros of their title, but he said, "There are a lot of things that happened in the history of the game that arguably could be corrected, and I just think it's an impossible task for an institution to undertake."

No, it's not an impossible task.

You know what's an impossible task?

-- Making a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon without a single grape.

-- Leaving Tallahassee, Fla., Monday in a hot air balloon and landing on Mars by Friday.

-- Convincing Skip Bayless he is wrong about anything.

This was a simple task: The World Series champions had gamed the game for the entirety of their title season. They broke MLB rules in wide-scale fashion, again and again – it's called CHEATING. If a high school kid scores 95 on a biology test and it's discovered he had the answers beforehand, do you still give him an 'A' on the exam?

You vacate the Astros' championship. Case closed.

Like Baretta used to say, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."

Manfred said even putting an asterisk on the Astros' title doesn't make "that much difference."

Let's test that.

Example A: The Houston Astros are 2017 World Series champions.

Example B: The Houston As*tros are 2017 World Series champions.*

* Actually, they're not – they CHEATED.

I've got to say, short of taking the Astros' title away, Example B looks a whole lot better to me than Example A.

Ask the slouch

Q. You recently wrote, "March showers bring April flowers." Did you get permission from the EPA to update the original expression, "April showers bring May flowers"? (Dudley Chase; St. Inigoes, Md.)

A. Listen, pal, I have been ahead of the climate-change curve since getting drenched in a Las Vegas rainstorm on St. Patrick's Day 1999.

Q. I just read your book, "Hold On, Honey, I'll Take You to the Hospital at Halftime." Please tell me you wouldn't really wait until halftime. (Ray Hauley; Valatie, N.Y.)

A. I did. And my first ex-wife did not wait until game's end to leave me.

Q. You wrote that you hate the XFL, yet you pick XFL games on YouTube. Are you a hypocrite? (Jason Karlin; Chicago)

A. The Greek actor Hypokritḗs was a hypocrite; I'm just trying to make a living in an ever-changing media universe.

Q. What is Michael Strahan doing these days now that he is no longer playing football? It's like he dropped off the face of the earth. (Steve Owings; Spokane, Wash.)

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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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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