The Pallilog

Yes, Astros fans, there is still a chance in this World Series

Justin Verlander pitches Game 1. Bob Levey/Getty Images

I'm saying there's a chance!

For all my character flaws, being a water-carrying silly homer shill is not among them.

I'm saying there's a chance. For the Astros. In this World Series.

A great chance? No. But slim beats the heck out of none. The way the Nationals beat the heck out of the Astros in game two.

The Astros getting swept or losing in five is more likely than them beating Washington four times in five games. Still, the Astros pulling it off isn't some million-to-one shot. What odds would you have given against the Nationals beating Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander at Minute Maid Park on consecutive nights? Sports happen. Overwhelming momentum, positive or negative, exists. Until it doesn't. A game three win puts them right back in it. A game three loss…

Three times in the World Series the home team lost the first two games then rallied to win the Series. Last to do it, the 1996 Yankees, who dropped two in the Bronx to the defending champion Atlanta Braves then swept the next four. The other teams to go from 0-2 down at home to ultimate glory are the '86 Mets and the '85 Royals.

The Nationals are outstanding. From late May until now, five months, their record is better than the Astros' record. The Nats essentially wipe out the massive starting pitching advantage the Astros held over basically everybody else. The Astros' offense, overhyped by more than a few as one of the greatest of all time, has largely failed this postseason. Yes the hitters face better pitching in the playoffs than they do over the full regular season. Same is true for the Nationals. The Astro offense has been too often too impotent. Jose Altuve is the only guy up from his regular season production rate. The other six offensive mainstays (Springer, Bregman, Brantley, Alvarez, Gurriel, Correa) are all waaaaay down. Time is running out to turn that around.

Faint silver lining of the moment: if the Astros are to win this World Series they'll do so at home.

Where does he rank?

After Altuve's thrilling pennant winning home run vs. the Yankees, I wondered via Tweet whether Altuve now ranks number two in the Houston sports legend pantheon. Talking about greatness, ensuring status in the city forever. Is Altuve now ahead of Earl Campbell? There is no definitive right answer. Your response may be influenced by your age and/or by which sport you prefer. Recency bias can influence. Hakeem Olajuwon remains the very clear number one. No disrespect to individual sport athletes, but they're not relevant to this discussion. Apologies to Simone Biles and Carl Lewis, but cities don't swoon over and revere individual sport athletes.

Ugly situation

Infinitely less fun questions that came out of the AL winning celebration: How big of a jerk is now former Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman? Or was it just one egregiously vile but not truly character defining moment? Sometimes one strike and you're out. Taubman's behavior was abhorrent and obviously fireable. How despicable was the Astros' handling of the situation? Very.

The Astros win a lot of games. President of Baseball Operations Jeff Luhnow has built a phenomenal baseball organization. It doesn't mean their poop doesn't stink. An amazing level of arrogance had Astros' upper management think theirs doesn't. Taubman was part of Luhnow's inner circle. That Luhnow didn't say anything until Wednesday was weak. His press conference content Thursday was in parts apologetic, embarrassing, and contemptible.

The Astros' first statement, their smear the messenger piece of garbage, was a disgrace. Taubman's apology line "if anyone was offended" was a disgrace. Many wrongs can be righted at least in part. The Astros righted theirs in part with their subsequent "real" investigation (with MLB leaning hard) and apology to Sports Illustrated, SI writer Stephanie Apstein, and others involved. Taubman will have to seek his redemption elsewhere.

When asked about the situation Tuesday before game one, Manager A.J. Hinch spoke briefly with the decency and dignity that escaped several others in the organization.

Slow start

What should be a compelling Rockets' season got underway with a thud Thursday night, a 16 point second half lead blown in a Toyota Center loss to Milwaukee. For the second straight offseason the Rockets did nickel-dimey stuff in filling out their roster, but it's a strong club that given generally good health from the mainstays should win a bunch (50+) of games. That is unlikely to culminate in an NBA Championship since the defense is unlikely to be elite and they'll mix in enough brick-laden three point shooting games to come up short.

Russell Westbrook is one of the worst three-point shooters in NBA history. Inside three weeks of turning 31 years old he's not going to suddenly become a good three-point shooter, but Westbrook is a one man fast break like the Rockets have never had, and the relentless passion and intensity with which he plays are compelling. That Harden fella should amass some pretty stout numbers again.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. I'm not into karma, but if the Astros lose the Series, man are a whole bunch of people going to be thinking just desserts. 2. Justin Verlander being the only pitcher with an 0-5 World Series record doesn't seem fair. Who says sports are fair? 3. Toughest to name state capitals: Bronze-Kentucky's Silver-Missouri's Gold-Maine's

Getty Images

So the Houston Astros, using cameras and video monitors and a labyrinthine baseball-bat-and-trash-can notification system, were stealing signs from opposing teams. From all indications, this is cheating and this is not kosher.

Let me just clarify that:

You are allowed to steal signs, you just can't do it electronically. In other words, it is really not wrong until you utilize the best means of technology.

Got it. I accept this, because, well, I don't feel like arguing this.

(I guess I'm glad the medical profession doesn't use this same standard. Uh, we could treat your headaches with Ibuprofen and heating pads, but let's stick with the ancient method of an elixir containing human blood and drilling a hole in the skull to relieve pressure.)

The Astros deserved MLB's punishment, but, as a student of history, Couch Slouch would like to point out that there have been multiple instances of similar swindling, defrauding, scamming, flimflamming, hoodwinking, fleecing, shafting, video-sign-stealing chicanery in modern and pre-modern times.

For your edification, here are some prominent examples:

Socrates and Plato: In an attempt to outsmart his perpetually smug teacher at the third annual Greek National Spelling Bee held at the Grand Hyatt Athens in 401 B.C., Plato sparked controversy by employing shadow puppets on the brightly lit north wall of the banquet hall to help him spell out different entries. The winning word: "aëricumbens."

Marie Antoinette: The somewhat unpopular queen of France hired a sketch artist to secretly document agitators cutting into bread lines. Once the drawings were discovered, along with a recording of her saying, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!" she was guillotined on Oct. 16, 1793 outside of a Le Pain Quotidien just before the lunch rush.

Burr-Hamilton duel: On the morning of July 11, 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton met at a dueling ground in Weehawken, N.J., near Bed Bath & Beyond. They agreed to stand back-to-back, then each would take 10 paces before firing. But Burr had one of his seconds hold a large vanity mirror in front of him, so he could see precisely where Hamilton was at the conclusion of the 10 steps. Burr then fired a fatal shot into Hamilton's lower abdomen.

Battle of the Little Bighorn: As George Armstrong Custer led U.S. troops toward Little Bighorn Valley on June 25, 1876, Lakota chief Crazy Horse utilized two sublime tactics to outmaneuver the lieutenant colonel: A primitive GPS device, tracking the government soldiers' movement via Pringles left on the incoming trail, combined with smoke signals sent back to the camp. This allowed Native American forces to ambush Custer and his infantry.

"Rear Window": In direct violation of HOA regulations, photographer J.J. "Jeff" Jefferies – confined to his condo because of a broken leg – routinely used binoculars to eavesdrop on his Greenwich Village neighbors in 1954. This led him to witnessing a marital spat, followed by his suspicions that the husband killed his wife and buried something incriminating in the garden. The neighbor was arrested but eventually acquitted of murder charges while Jefferies got convicted under the city's recently enacted peeping Tom laws.

Macy's vs. Gimbels: During the famed department-store rivalry in the 1960s and '70s, Gimbels – using a Polaroid camera with a telephoto lens – took snapshots of Macy's shoppers' credit cards as they paid at the register to steal customers. Did Gimbels tell Macy's? No. But Macy's found out through an anonymous whistleblower; Gimbels lost face and went out of business in 1986.

New York City garbage strike: Boy, the streets sure stank of garbage when the sanitation workers walked out in 1968. Teamsters leaders sped up talks the old-fashioned way – they woke up city negotiators each morning with one trash can thrown through a living room window, with two trash cans on off-days and three on weekends. When all else failed, they took a baseball bat to Mayor John Lindsay's office and asked him if he wanted to step outside.

New England Patriots: Uh, duh.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Agent Drew Rosenhaus terminated his relationship with Antonio Brown until the free-agent wide receiver seeks help. Exactly what type of help? (Ron Kirkpatrick; Chicago)

A. Frankly, I thought Brown might end his relationship with Rosenhaus until ITAL he END ITAL got help.

Q. Are the regular LSU boosters annoyed they were not invited to personally hand out cash to the players in the Superdome after the championship win? (Mike Soper; Washington, D.C.)

A. Nah, that was scheduled for the Red Lobster in Baton Rouge the following afternoon.

Q. Given their history, would it count toward diversity if the Cleveland Browns hired their first competent coach? (Rich Tucker; Falls Church, Va.)

A. We may never find out.

Q. Would MLB have considered managing the Mets punishment enough for Carlos Beltran's role in the Astros cheating scandal? (Stuart Gavurin; Vienna, Va.)

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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