Little Guys Rule by Bob Ryan

Generally it’s the “Big” guys who take charge…ya know…big money, big influence, big brothers, etc ….well… this week let’s look at the Little guys….

….sooooo to start with….all of us little guys have a challenge, we aren’t on the golf tour…but….Jay Randolph JR threw out the question to all of us, “What Walk Up Song would YOU like as you approached each tee?” I’d love to hear back from as many of you as possible…even if you DON’T GOLF …. let me know through an email or a post on FB Mine’s on the bottom….

…now onto the NCAA tournament…in the 1st and 2nd weekend, the NCAA officials luv it when some lowly seeded team (little guy) upsets a “big boy”..#12 Murray State toppled #5 Marquette 83-64, #12 Liberty upended #5 Mississippi St 80-76, #13 UC Irvine handled #4 Kansas St and the third #12 seed, Oregon smothered Wisconsin 72-54..That means that the #12 will face the #13 in the Sweet 16.. sooo……three #12’s upset #5….somehow, some way….it often works that way for upsets in the 1st round (#12 over #5). In the 2nd round, #9 Auburn beat #4 Kansas  89-75. But…by the elite eight, the NCAA want’s highly recognizable basketball names….fans identify with those familiar “name” teams…you know them….Duke, Kentucky, N.Carolina, etc.

Some other little NCAA thoughts….

Eliminate those four “play in” games….64 teams is enough. All of those “play in” winners lost in the real  1st round. Did it add excitement? Good games? Really good players? No, No and NO.

….Kentucky has a very soft path to the elite eight…1st round..Abilene Christian, 2nd rnd-Woolford…not Walmart…but Woolford, in Sweet 16 round…Kentucky gets Houston/Ohio St winner. Maybe they feel sorry for John Caliperi who’s only won ONE NCAA championship….back in 2012. That ONE & DONE policy brings him many great players….but..apparently… not championship teams.

…Shouldn’t the conference winner…not the conference tournament winner…get the automatic bid?  Why play hard for 2 months, 16-20 conference games?  Soooo…the team that gets “hot”…or stays healthy.. for a week gets the auto-bid…seems backwards to me. The committee could still invite those tournament winners….oh wait….the little guys reading the TV rankings and selling advertising…they like it this way……OH….what was I thinking?

…As I’m writing this around 6:30 Sunday night…not all games are completed…or even started in some cases….none the less, the strength of the SEC, ACC, and Big 10 is apparent. Those conferences were/are clearly the strongest conferences in NCAA M-Basketball this year.

…btw…I enjoy Charles Barkley as a commentator during the NCAA marathon….his comments… while not spoken elegantly…seem to be “right on”….the little man…Kenny Smith has a richer vocabulary and states salient points also. They are a good pair…different perspectives…. but generally, good observations about personnel, coaches and teams. Best of all to me….is that Charles can laugh at himself …while sitting on the panel and through many different commercials.

…the little man sitting in the back room in front of the computer, drawing up the MLB schedule has a challenging task…some teams don’t want to play day games, some don’t many home games in late-August, some don’t want Saturday afternoon games in Sept (vs NCAA football), some don’t want to be at home during the Masters weekend, some don’t want to be home on the 1st or 15th (their paydays J), some want their West coast trips to be during the hot months, some want a day off after the west coast trip so that a Vegas visit may take place on the way home ..yada-yada-yada.. looking at the Cards 2019 schedule the little men have compiled some strange things..

…the Cards play one of their toughest divisional foes…Milwaukee…TEN times through Apr 24. Meanwhile, the Cubbies tangle with the D-Backs, Marlins & Rangers.

…the easiest competitive months for the Cards is June & July… our Cards should rake hay during that time…the Cards have hapless Miami 7x in June, the downtrodden Pirates 6x in July (that’s 25% of the 52 June/July games)

…the Cards have only EIGHT home games between July 18 and August 18..that’s a Looonnnggg time. the All-Star break is NOT during that time frame…but 4 ½ weeks of games?

…judging from all the early commercials…it seems like the Cards will have “give-aways” 81X

The cloud on the MLB horizon is…. money…gee, imagine that! The “little guy” MLB teams  are tanking….why? The metrics have changed for MLB teams to turn a profit….relying on fans to walk through the turnstile, concessions & merchandise sales are no longer the primary monetary revenue. Instead, the revenue sharing & the leagues lucrative broadcasting deals with multiple parties (which are not split with the players) provide millions of dollars for ALL the teams. Maintain a low salary scale and an MLB team elevates its profit..e.g. Tampa Bay, Oakland, Florida..why worry about winning when you can cash a huge check for management on a regular basis?

Some the “little guys” of the MLB free agent market…. Who signed in the off-season…

…NYY signed Adam Ottovino (brought up by Cards) after a sour 2017, Ottovino used state of the art technology to modify his release point & approach…result in in 2018..2.43 ERA and one of MLB’s best strikeout rates. He doesn’t have to be the closer but he’s a good to very-good veteran to have in the pen. Cost $27mil for 3 years.

…on the other side of New York, the Mets signed a “little guy” in Justin Wilson. This experienced southpaw had a quiet but strong year last year. He could become a LHP specialist. He struck out 149 batters in 112+ innings last year. He should fit in nicely with the Mets who don’t expect him to be the #1 in the pen(Edwin Diaz)…or even the #2 (Jeurys Familia). In 2019 MLB bullpens, depth is key.

….Who are some of the very best “small guys” in MLB players in history?….my criteria is players under 5-10…Pete Rose 5-9,Roy Campanella 5-8, Phil Rizzuto 5-6, Ivan Rodriguez 5-9,  Mel Ott 5-9, Yogi Berra 5-7…Yogi really surprised me!

……Falling back to the “little guy” status is really a devastating thing for a BIG-TIME college football program.  It’s happened….and TWICE for the LA fans…USC and UCLA …long considered two the elite football programs in the country…have fallen back…way back…. into the “little guy”status. Under 1st year coach Chip Kelly, UCLA went 3-9 in 2018. A former Pro coach, Kelly was known to be almost ambivalent about recruiting during his highly successful days @ Oregon U. This years’s 2019 class was ranked #53 by ESPN, 34 spots lower than his 2018 class. Kelly remains optimistic with the attitude and enthusiasm of his squad in spring-practice.  Across town @ USC, that’s not the same feeling. There is a sense of unease & uncertainty after finishing 5-7 in 2018. It was USC first losing season since the year 2000 and it lost to UCLA for the first time since 2014. The O-Coordinator (Kliff Kingsbury) and highly touted Frosh (Bru McCoy) both “hit the brick’s” for a brighter future elsewhere. Head Coach Clay Helton replaced most of his coaching staff @ USC. But, USC’s 19th ranked recruiting class is the LOWEST in modern recruiting history. My…my….I guess even the college football giants can become “little guys” at some point.

….Some NFL stars who were shorter in stature (not really “little guys”) in recent vintage. I’m sure that we could go back 50+ years and find many other “little guys” But in the modern era, how about..Barry Sanders at 5-8, Emmitt Smith came in at 5-9, Darrell Green 5-8 played 20 seasons in NFL as a D-back (84-03)..(I figured that you all knew Barry Sanders & Emmitt Smith), Wes Welker 5-8, at 5-7 Maurice Jones-Drew—currently on Jacksonville Jags, Steve Smith 5-9-WR (I think that he just retired), Darren Sproles comes in at 5-6. You sure better be able to run if you have this type of height!!

….Who are some of these teams that have been “little guys” who have made it BIG in NCAA completion?  That doesn’t necessarily mean that others have been pushed out…rather these names have become accepted as “big guys”. In NCAA football, where it is extremely difficult to accomplish—for 1 reason, Good programs generally avoid programs that are really improving..but not yet there…how about a top 3 of: UCF, Boise State, Appalachian State(just about there).

In NCAA Basketball, we’ve seen Gonzaga become a national power, Xavier is accepted a “player” these days, coming on strong of late is the St. Mary’s Gaels of California. Wichita State has been “good” for a couple years…let’s see if they can stay there with their future recruiting classes.

….on the HS level, there are some “little guys” that are really having a “turn-around” season. Last year the Gibault Hawks ..from Waterloo, Ill….went 12-23. In the first few weeks of 2019, the Hawks are 6-0 to open the season. Gibault is currently averaging 10 runs per game.  Four regular starters are holding a .500+ batting mark through these first 6 games. Jr Cole Buckner holds a .563 mark, Soph Tate Schilling is at .538, while Seniors Mark Branz and Ian Metcalf are both right at .500. The pitching staff has held their opponents to 4 runs or less in 5 of the 6 games. While holding teams down offensively, Head Coach Andy Skaer has spread the work on the mound around, twelve different players have pitched 2+ innings in these first six games! Sr. Cameron Kincheloe leads the staff with 8 innings of work. He’s 2-0 with an ERA of 1.75. Keep your eye on them as the 2019 season continues!

…don’t forget to send me via email/FB with your “walk up” music to the golf tee….I think that mine would be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”…I don’t want a fast paced song to juice my drive outta control. I have such a big drive off the tee ya know!! 

Ruffled Feathers by Bob Ryan

In all parts of life complaining is a daily occurrence. In most cases, it’s a trivial matter…except at that moment for that person….so life goes on. However, at the next level of complaining…some people react or they clearly make their feelings known to MANY other folks…that … also…is the situation in the sports world..many really have their “feathers ruffled”…and it starts right here in the Lou..

…Phenom Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty had a very impressive rookie season but his feathers are ruffled. He posted a 3.34 ERA with 182 strikeouts and 59 walks across 151 innings, while showing only an 8-9 record for the season. Keep in mind, wins & losses are often a reflection of the bullpen. The current model is for starters to only go 5 or 6 innings these days. Then they turn it over to the bullpen to hold their lead… with the Cards bullpen last year….we know how that worked out.  Back to Flaherty, he is listed as the #2 starter of the rotation for 2019. He REALLY has shown that he is a top flight performer, …not just hype—like we often hear…in the MLB….so after this wonderful rookie season, he expected a raise above the minimum offerings for 2nd year player. The Cards offered him $ 572,100…while that’s big money in the rest of the world…its only $17,100 (just a tad above 3%) above the league required minimum for a 2nd year player…any player….no matter what their performance was in 2018. He refused to sign the contract so the Cardinals…within their rights… unilaterally renewed his contract for $562,100 following a club policy of fining any player with less than 3 years service time $10,000 for not signing the contract. They did the identical thing to Jordan Hicks….the next home-grown closer…this year also.  Now Flaherty said all the right things afterwards,“It’s nothing on the Cardinals. They play within what the system is,” Flaherty said. “Their process is great and it makes sense, but in the grand scheme of things the system itself that everybody plays under just isn’t — it’s not a great system… for everybody.” The Cardinals had never experienced this situation until Tommy Pham refused to sign the contract last spring….and was fined. Pham was always described by the press as “playing with a chip”…I guess so!  Clearly Flaherty has felt the underside of the Cardinals moneybag. While being touted across Florida and Arizona by many sports writers as the next real “star” starting pitcher in the NL….he gets nickeled-dimed by the Cards. Now…I don’t know what he was asking in his request….but lets be honest ….for a player who’s already contributed.. and who is penciled in as a #2 starter for THIS season…paying him inappropriately when you have $8m guys on the bench seems foolish to me….and ….I think… also to Flaherty….who will remember this tactic down the road…like Pham did.

 ….more and more young, star players are exposing the MLB system of extending their “6 years of service” prior to free agency.  A full year is one that a player must play on or before April 16 to have it considered a full year. Hence, if you are called up on April 17, it’s not considered a full year. That’s exactly what happened to Kris Bryant. Who still….and rightfully so…has his feathers ruffled over the situation. Back in 2015, Cubs 3B Mike Olt injured his thumb on April 14th. The Cubs delayed calling up Bryant to replace him until ….yep…you guessed it..April 17. Arismendy Alcantara played 3B, a position he never played regularly in the minors, for those 2 days for the Cubbies. Sooo….Bryant’s service time of a full year was missed by 1 day in 2015…..it still goes on all over the MLB. Toronto has 3 highly touted “prospects”…which means maybe 1 of them will become a star if Toronto gets lucky…anyway…Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Fernando Tatis, Jr., and Eloy Jiménez are three of baseball’s elite prospects. They are, by all accounts, ready for the majors, but they are expected to begin the year in the minors until their teams officially gain that extra year of control over them, delaying their foray into free agency by one year. The reason given by Toronto…to work on their fielding J  At least one of them will be a DH anyway!! This will be a thorny issue in the next MLB-Labor negotiations.

Outside of MLB…there are still many areas/teams/fans who have their feathers ruffled. In the Lou we moan about our Blues failing to hoist the Stanley Cup just once in 50 years.  But….often they’ve been in the playoffs and on some occasions …gone deep….other fans who have their feathers ruffled…

….in Toronto, the Maple Leafs, one of the original NHL teams in 1927-28 and coached by Conn Smythe at that time, have many fans with ruffled feathers. The last time that this historic franchise has won the Stanley Cup was in 1966-67…that was their 11th Stanley cup. George “Punch’ Imlach was in the 8th year of his 10 year tenure and it was his 4 Cup Title during his time as Coach. I’m not writing a book…so I can’t explain all the articles about Imlach’s mean…almost cruel …treatment of his players. The Leafs have missed TEN of the last 13 playoff seasons. Obviously…in Canada where hockey IS the premier sport, the fans are almost beyond being ruffled…they’re really down on the Leafs. In April, 2014, Brendan Shanahan, a former Blue, with some impressive playing credentials was brought in to “turn around” the Toronto fortunes. His playing credentials startled me…I remember him as being good…but not this good..

..Shanahan’s Stats…at least some of them…Only player with over 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes; Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame;Second-most goals by a left winger – 656; Second-most consecutive 20 goal seasons – 19;Three-time Stanley Cup champion – 1997, 1998, 2002; Led NHL in short-handed goals in 1994;  Led NHL in powerplay goals in 1997;Played in the NHL All-Star Game – 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007 (captain);Named to the NHL First All-Star Team in 1994 and 2000; Named to the NHL 2nd All-Star Team in 2002;Awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2003; Second-most goals by a left winger – 656;2nd-most consecutive 20 goal seasons – 19;Is 2nd in the unofficial record for most Gordie Howe hat tricks by a player during the regular season (17).

….A Gordie Howe “hat trick” is a goal, assist and a fight.  Interestingly enough, Gordie Howe himself only had TWO Gordie Howe “hat tricks”!! So keep your eye on the Leafs..currently there are in 3rd place in Eastern Conference as Shanahan has “reworked” roster, coaching staff, scouts, etc.

…also with ruffled feathers…albeit a bit warmer ruffled feathers….are the Phoenix Sun fans. The Suns have not tasted NBA Playoff waters since 2009-10. Further, the Suns have not won more than 25 games in any of the past four seasons. Sure, Phoenix has some good players (Devin Booker, 14th in NBA scoring @ 24.5ppg and DeAndre Ayton) but Owner Robert Sarver’s “hands on” approach seems to be deadly to the franchise.

….Some fans have their feathers ruffled over the Cardinals absence of signing a star player to a huge contract. To this point, the Cards largest contract ever signed was by Matt Holliday – 7 years, $120MM.  Signed Jan 7, 2010. You make the call….on the accusation of Cardinal frugality.

….sooo when the Cardinals fans seem ruffled over their  middle-infielders of Wong—DeJong…they don’t hit enough, strike out too much, yada-yada-yada…..sometimes, it’s helpful to look at other teams…e.g. the desperate NYM fans situation…the Mets just signed 35 year old(in April) Jed Lowry -2 years/$20m. He’s coming off of his best year since 2013 this year… hit .267, 23 HR (career high), 99 rbi (career high). The Metropolitan fans ARE still jumping for joy over this seasoned vet who’s cashing in on the best year of his career because he’s replacing the conglomerate assembly of these infamous infielders from last year on the NYM roster. The 2018 Mets gave 582 plate appearances to infielders José Reyes, Adrián González, Luis Guillorme, Phillip Evans, Ty Kelly and Jack Reinheimer. This “sensational six” collectively hit  .202 avg/.274 -OBP/.306-OPS…..sooo even an over the hill guy looks good..really good J

…my feathers were a bit ruffled when I heard a radio/TV guy …who’s primarily a hockey guy….make a statement something to the effect….OK…I didn’t write it down at the time, I was driving…..that SLU had to do a better job of putting a good product on the court …like Mizzou is doing. To me….that means….hire a better coach. He’ll recruit better, coach better in off -season, coach better “in-game”, etc. Now if “Joe Hockey” had compared them to Duke, Gonzaga (similar small Catholic school), Kansas…. he would have been on solid ground.  Looking back a the recent hires of Mizzou and SLU….I think that they are very similar over the last 20 years..

 Mizzou–Quin Snyder (Big 12) (1999–2006)-made it to NCAA 2nd round twice, NCAA 4x but many…if not most Mizzou fans, would agree that the Mighty Quinn hurt the program with the rumors of his personal life habits and disdain for Mizzou fans..and caused many of us to question the sacred “Duke Way”

From 2006-2011, Mike Anderson..NCAA 3x, 1st round, 2nd round, Elite 8 (in his 3rd of 5 years)..Anderson seemed to be a good, solid head coach but apparently his heart was elsewhere (back to Arkansas)

Frank Haith handled head coaching duties 2011-2014…NCAA 2x—we all recall Frank marching to his departure plane..  while ignoring reporters…. with NCAA recruiting rumors flying over his head

2014-17 was Kim Anderson…while I really admired the guy and his resume of winning a D-2 championship @ Cen Mo …nothing….I mean nothing EVER clicked for him @ Mizzou.

Cuonzo Martin (SEC) (2017–present)…prior to this hire, in my blog, I wrote that while I admire him for being a hard working, “good” man who develops players into men….his conference record always seems to be mediocre (at best). However, he has taken 3 teams to NCAA 1st round games.

Starting at the same spot, 1999 SLU hired Lorenzo Romar  1999-2002 ncaa 1x. Romar  brought an NBA pedigree and had the reputation of being an excellent recruiter. He jolted..and stunned… SLU when he accepted a job at his alma mater-Washington (where he stayed until 2017)…btw….he hired Michael Porter Sr and had the commitments for both Porter players….until he was fired.

From 2002-07, the Bills had Brad Soderberg as head coach. While seemingly a very hard worker, a “good” guy, he didn’t really appear to have the proper training to assume a Head Coach D-1 position at that point of his career.

Rich Majerus was the head Coach of the Bills from 2007-12…he was a master Coach. I would say of all the coaches at both these schools during the last 20 years, he was the best.  He guided the Billikens to NCAA 3rd round in his final year.

Assistant Jim Crews assumed the duties after Majerus. He also was a wonderful basketball skills coach. He took his first two teams to the 3rd round of the NCAA (so the Billikens went the 3rd round 3 straight NCAA years). Crews abhorred recruiting. Sooo….when the Majerus’ players departed so did the success.

In 2016 Travis Ford was hired. Ford was/is a recruiter. Often new coaches possess the skills that the former Coach lacked.  Ford had worked his way up the coaching chain…Campbellsville-3 years, Eastern Kentucky-5 years, U Mass-3 years, then moved to Oklahoma State for 8 years…prior to accepting the SLU job (now 3 years).  His Dad held one of the first nation wide summer camps so… recruiting was in his blood (unlike Crews). His conference records are very similar to Cuonzo Martins.

All in all….SLU has NOT been overshadowed by Mizzou in basketball for the last 20 years. Heck…I root for both of them….during the last 20 years, each school had some strong coaches, some mediocre ones and each had a bust or 2.  Soooo.. don’t tell me that …SLU must “step up” like Mizzou Mr. Hockey Guy.

…speaking of hockey, some of our loyal Blues fans seem ruffled about the recent slide…come on!…the Blues ran off a very, very long winning streak….you HAD to know that the “law of averages” would catch up to them…I do wonder about the acquisition of Michael Del Zotto on Feb 25. “We were hoping to add a depth defenseman, more based on (Carl) Gunnarsson’s injury,” Armstrong told stlouisblues.com after the deadline. “We wanted to have depth as we enter the stretch run… and this just gives us an added layer.” If he’s so valuable, why has he only played 3 games since he was acquired (Mar 6, 14th, 16th )?

…more hockey thoughts after watching the strong win over Pittsburgh last night….

….I wish Robert Thomas was moved to a center iceman…he controls the puck so well, passes so well…. why put him close to the walls and limit his room…give him space. Put him on a good line!

….As much as I’ve like Jayden Schwartz….something’s off….I love good passers…but darn…ya gotta shoot when you’re in front of the net…10 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet out….SHOOT! He seems to be playing like a 3rd liner…I can’t tell for sure…but he seems to have lost that explosive skating speed…now he’s just “another guy”who has 1 goal and 1 assist since February 23rd. I’m writing this on the holiday (March 17)

…I have noticed that the Blues are much improved on using their sticks  to deflect passes, accept passes and aggravate opponents since the arrival of Berube… and not as many “showy” body checks

…btw… I do like that the referees aren’t stopping action because pucks are up against the boards… oops…can’t change these habits…up against the walls…keep letting  the players play it out. Faceoffs are boring to me…they are like a jump balls in basketball…way back in the day…after every basket, there was a jump ball.

I don’t want to ruffle any more of YOUR feathers…thx for making it down to the jump ball section J

Blow UP Spring Training by Bob Ryan

Spring Training…the rite of starting a new year….well..not exactly…it’s starting the PRACTICE for the new year. While results may be kept some place…probably only by agents and MLB management….everyone knows that this is “practice”.  The players are elevating their skills, stamina, practice time while decreasing on their weight, public appearances and amount of leisure time.   And…..it’s been this way for a long, long time….say 100 years! BLOW IT UP!

I think that it’s far too long…originally, major league baseball players were paid slightly above the “average Joe”…take a look …looking way back….then to recent days..

…..in the 1920’s, the AL team salaries looked like this on opening day 2019

Boston Red Sox, $93,475; New York Yankees, $91,330; Chicago White Sox, $88,461

Detroit Tigers, $81,433;Cleveland Indians, $78,913; St. Louis Browns, $63,000

Washington Senators, $63,000;Philadelphia A’s, $42,000  (25 players per team)..btw..Connie Mack..oft revered now as a baseball pioneer…was the owner of the Phil A’s and was known for is low budget(he was the owner AND the manager)….I’m trying to be nice here. Check out his 1920 pay scale…ugh

Average for the AL per player in 1920–$ 3323  the average working salary  in 1920 was $1236. I have to assume that the NL was comparable to the AL in salaries in 1920.

….at 1950, Joe Average’s median income was around $3000, MLB players were about $12,300

Soooo……a Major league Player to that point was 3x or 4x the working guy.  He felt compelled to work in the off season.  Many sold cars, insurance, owned restaurants, etc. The players stayed busy “making a buck” because …while their pay was excellent for the time….they realized that their careers would end in the early part of their life and that this money was not enough to sustain them for the remainders of their life.

….once Marvin Miller opened the flood gates to enormous salaries in 1975, the income discrepancy had a dramatic difference between MLB players & the working guy.

During the 1980, the avg income in MLB was $143,000. 1980 avg for working guy $17,757

It keeps jump exponentially for MLB players….by 1990 it was $597,000, in 2000 it was $1,895 000 and so on & and so on…two things here…the average is elevated substantially by the highest paid players receiving  multi-hundred million dollar contracts so the average is skewed somewhat. I was unable to find the median income (the middle point income) for the MLB. Btw…the current minimum is over $ 555,000

….so what’s the point with all these pay numbers….MLB players DON’T need to work in the off season in jobs away from baseball any longer. Their FULL time..FULL year….job is baseball.

…With that supposition, baseball players should take a short time off after the season. Then, beginning preparing for the individual skills required for the next season with a trainer, batting instructor, nutritionist, fitness guru, whatever it takes to begin playingat full speed  when spring training opens up. Let the team batting coach watch your swings on-line…. or, your pitching delivery on-line…or fly out to work out in front of him.

Spring training should be 4 weeks….TOTAL…1 week practice, each day it’d be 9-12, 1-5 to review the team skills  (relays, bunt situations, cutoffs, run downs, etc) for a good part of the day.  Some part of the day (maybe afternoons) focus on the individual skills. 3 weeks of games with additional practice in the mornings.  Play tons of B games for the young players, maybe even DH for them. Don’t pretend that most of these 20, 21 year old guys are actually candidates to make the team…cut us a break…who are you kidding?

…when a player reports, he should be given a physical exam and an exam of his bat speed, running ability, throwing ability, eye test (great batters have tremendous eyesight) and pitching test. If he fails the physical part of the exam …not rehabbing injuries…his contract becomes null & void …like the NFL. Common sense does still prevail….if a player had an extensive surgery….that the team knew about & sanctioned….it would be reasonable to expect some of those type players to be incapacitated….e.g. alex Reyes. Not like Ozuna & Martinez coming to camp without their arms being “ready”. If it wasn’t ready…their contract could be voided by the team.

….Further, I believe a totally different approach is demanded of pitchers. Currently, pitchers come to camp, throw 30-40 pitches in the 1st week. I would expect pitchers to ARRIVE at camp being able to throw 100 pitches.  From that point on…build them up to 140 or even 150 pitches.  NO……I don’t expect them to pitch 150 pitches a game…but…if you ALWAYS stop at 100 pitches….guess what….your arm will begin to always get tired and weaker at 100 pitches. I was never a professional player….but even at high school level….an athlete OVER prepared for their sport …swung a bat more, shot more baskets, ran around the track more, etc. So.. this isn’t rocket science.

…in the exhibition season (3 weeks)….play the top 30-35 players only…they should play games 5x a week…this isn’t a vacation as it once was….I’m aware of a former Cardinal player whose children attended schools in StL….he’d pull them out for a couple weeks of spring training because “they could spend time together in the afternoons”…..spring training should be a player fighting for a spot..either on the team or in a starting position.

Thus far, it may seem as if I’m laying it all on the players….the managers/coaches would also have full 8 hour days. Spring training should be more like a “boot” camp than a trip to the lake J

As usual, money plays a part in spring training.  MLB teams …at least some of them….are drawing decent sized crowds to their games. Apparently, Boston sold out all of their home games in Florida (it’s a replica of Fenway). The league draws over 4 million fans to exhibition games every year since 2015. Other teams drawing well are the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers…..gee…seems like the rich get richer, heh?

Blowing up an arm….you’ll recall my warnings about Brandon Morrow’s work load in the 2017 post season for the Dodgers.  He pitched in 14 post season games for Lain 2017….last year, after the Cubs signed him to a “nice” contract, his arm went dead after 35 games.  It’s still not doing well this spring. Morrow will be 35 years old in July….an veteran who went to the pen after being a starter while compiling 334 appearances and almost 900 MLB innings can’t be abused in that way and not expect some repercussions.

Blowing up the pay-scale….In an effort to prevent the “big” teams from dominating the free agent market, the MLB instituted the luxury tax.  The luxury tax threshold this year is $206m. If eclipsed by a team for 3 straight years (like the Dodgers did in recent years) the team is required to pay a 50% tax on every dollar they spend over the limit. The Dodgers experienced this “tax” recently and then pulled back from over-the-top free agency…at least temporarily….now the Nationals are facing the same dilemma as they consider adding Craig Kimbrel and/or Dallas Keuchel.

Early Cardinal reactions to spring training….

….Ozuna & Martinez arm problems are disconcerting. Neither seemed to do much to get the arm issue resolved in the off –season. I think Ozuna has already “checked out” of  the Lou and is drooling as he waits to become a free agent at the end of 2019….I guess he doesn’t understand that teams will elevate or …lower….their offers depending upon his production.

…Keeping in mind the Ozuna “issue”, Jose Martinez is getting more positive ink than Bryce Harper in the Post.  Every 2nd or 3rd day, he gets a feature. It seems to me that the Cards… oops Post-Dispatch…..want the fans to be ready to accept Martinez as an every-day type guy.

….Haven’t heard much about Paul DeJong and Kolton Wong. To me…it’d be good for the team if each of them played 140+ games….no one plays 150+ any more, do they?…if they play that often…a) they are healthy   b) they are performing

…Harrison Bader continues to struggle hitting the slider in Florida. Throw him sliders in half of his batting practice pitches. His defense is terrific, we need just “some” hitting.

….Starting rotation still seems thin to me…btw…free agent starters are cheaper now than in June or July..

Basketball hysteria!!!

It’s a great time of year for College and High School basketball….you’ve all been following your favorite teams or your favorite underdogs… some thoughts…

….on the women’s side of basketball…..Mizzou’s Lady Tigers (23-11)should get a post-season bid after finishing 5th in the SEC regular season schedule. Losing in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament to #1 seed, Mississippi State 71-59 should not hurt their chances. I was fortunate to see Sophie Cunningham play as an underclassman @ Rock Bridge HS (in Columbia). She was the star of her talented team then. She just became the all-time leading scorer in Mizzou Women Basketball. Currently Cunningham has scored 2157 points. She broke the record established way back in 1985. That is surprising because in 1985 ,Women’s basketball wasn’t played at the level that it is now.

.….maybe it’s my imagination…or just me….but since the phony class scandal @ N.Carolina and the shoe scandal @ Duke…I’m not as interested in either program as I once was.

….I’ll miss Barry Hinson who resigned as SIU-C’s coach after their last loss. He reminded me of Charlie Spoonhower….often saw the funny side of things, won basketball games, kept it simple for the players.

…on the Missouri High School side of things…the Yankees of Girls Basketball, Incarnate Word Academy will snatch their next State Trophy next weekend. It doesn’t seem to matter who the opposition is for the Red Knights. Coach Dan Rolfes works very hard, drives his staff and works his players for constant improvement and onto excellence,  expectations are set high and met. This year’s team is 28-2. Last weekend they avenged an earlier loss to Parkway North in the STATE Quarterfinal 60-52.  Marissa Warren, is 1 of 4 Knights scoring in double figures, and is leading the team at a 14.2 clip. Warren also leads the team in assists and steals and is 3rd in rebounding. Other players scoring over 10ppg are Kiki Britzmann, Kate Rolfes, and Rickie Woltmann.  Woltmann tops the team in rebounds also while Rolfes’ 3 point baskets are the most on the roster. Incredibly, this will be the 10th straight year in the Final Four for Coach Rolfes. IWA took home the top prize in 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010….their records go far beyond that point…but you get the idea!

….on the other side of the coin, making their 1st trip EVER to the Final Four – under Head Coach Bryan Turner on the boys side are the St. Mary’s Dragons. SM had appeared in only two STATE Quarterfinal games (last year and 1967)prior to Saturday’s game. The Dragons were under the radar all year. Sure… everyone had heard about this guard, named Yuri Collins, going to St Louis U next year but Collins had shoulder surgery that postponed his arrival on the court this year. The Dragons, without Collins, started slowly. They were 3-5 on Dec 15 after losing to conference foe, Tolton Catholic (Columbia, MO). Btw…Tolten has some more Porters coming along for Mizzou. Anyway…SM’s conference is largely overlooked by most observers. Probably,  because of its design and size. These are mid-sized High schools. The AAA conference large division is a regional conference. It has SM (South City), Borgia (Washington, MO), St Dominic (O’Fallon, MO), Cardinal Ritter (North City) and Tolten Catholic (Columbia, MO).  It is a talented basketball conference. SM is going to STATE. Borgia won district and Ritter & Tolten dropped their district championship games. Ritter went toe-toe with Vashon in the title game. Needless to say, SM was a huge underdog against Hillsboro (23-4) in the Sectional. The Dragons speed was far too much for the Hawks as SM won 95-46. In the STATE Quarterfinal, Cape Central 26-3 had lost their 3 games by a grand total of 10 points…they were good, very good. SM fell behind 13-2 but used some pressure defense and Yuri to come back. In the 2nd half, it was all Yuri as he scored 31 for the game  with 10 assists and really “ran the show” as Dragons won 68-62. Donovan Parker had an amazing 9 blocks in the game.  Noah Hamilton snatched 5 steals and knocked down 4 consecutive FT late in the game. One never knows about the Final Four but for the Dragons .. they’ve already  broken the barrier to the Final Four.

….well…..thanks for making it to the bottom and not “blowing up” my blog J

Sunny not Snow by Bob Ryan

Despite looking out the window and seeing snowflakes coming down, sunny days are not far away…take a look…

I enjoyed a wonderful evening this week as I attended the Blues-Nashville game… it was terrific…plenty of energy on the ice and in the stands. I do think that hockey..maybe more than any other sport….is MUCH, MUCH better in person than on the tube. You can really appreciate the speed and skill of these talented skaters.  Seeing the entire play develop on the ice really adds to the game. However, I don’t buy into all of that hockey lingo “character”, “perseverance”, “dig deep”, yada-yada-yada alone wins games.. SKILL and athleticism wins games….in any sport….I would EXPECT maximum effort of professionals in EVERY game…on a lower lever..the line changes are hardly ever talked about by our local announcers. I wish that they would give us the line matchups when possible…. LGB! Meanwhile, It was a “sunny”, happy experience for us @ the Enterprise Center.

…the Harper/Machado saga has finally ended…I was weary of reading about the two  of them being unhappy about their “paltry” offers…they were only being offered a couple hundred million…come on fellows…enjoy life….now you’ll make enough money to take care of your family, grandchildren’s families etc. It had to be a sunny day for you and your family…and for me (I don’t have to read about it anymore)…btw, I was interested in Harper’s choice of numbers @ Philly. He had taken #34 @ Washington because 3+4 = 7 ..Mickey Mantle’s #.  34 was worn in Philly by Roy Halladay…Harper felt that Halladay should be the last player to wear that number…so he took #3.

…the Cards quiet sunny side has to do with the moves that were made in the winter to their 40 man roster. Adding RHP fireballing Ryan Helsley, LHP Genesis Cabrera (obtained  for Tommy Pham), Lane Thomas.. who’s already getting a long look due to his defensive skills and his ability to pop the long ball(seems like that’s a necessity in the Cards eyes these days) and Ramon Urias. Urias won’t be up early…or maybe even at all….but he’s an infielder without an established position yet who really hit “big time” until last year.  Keep your bright, sunny eyes on these 4 names for the Cards…maybe this year….but probably next.

….while the Billikens aren’t a national power…the Bills outlook in the A-10 tournament could be sunny. Let’s hope that the Bills have some “sunny” days from the perimeter offensively in that conference tourney.

….I read that Travis Ford & Cuonzo Martin have a good, sunny relationship….and that maybe it’ll lead to a SLU-Mizzou basketball game in the near future. It could be lots of fun to watch our local favorites.. like kids playing our best friends…battle each other. That would be terrific.

…great news from the MLS..there is talk now by Commissioner Don Garber of expanding beyond the 28 team quota that will be filled in the upcoming months. In 2019, Cincinnati enters MLS, its Nashville & Miami in 2020 and Austin no later than 2021.

…..Right now, the MLS league, stadium name & capacity looks like this:

Western Conference

Team Stadium Capacity

Colorado Rapids Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 18,061

FC Dallas Toyota Stadium 20,500

Houston Dynamo BBVA Compass Stadium 22,039

LA Galaxy Dignity Health Sports Park 27,000

Los Angeles FC Banc of California Stadium 22,000

Minnesota United FC Allianz Field 19,400

Portland Timbers Providence Park 25,000

Real Salt Lake Rio Tinto Stadium 20,213

San Jose Earthquakes Avaya Stadium 18,000

Seattle Sounders FC CenturyLink Field] 39,419

Sporting Kansas City Children’s Mercy Park 18,467

Vancouver Whitecaps FC BC Place] 22,120

Eastern Conference

Team Stadium Capacity

Atlanta United FC Mercedes-Benz Stadium[A] 42,500

Chicago Fire SeatGeek Stadium 20,000

FC Cincinnati Nippert Stadium[A] 33,800  1st year team

Columbus Crew SC Mapfre Stadium 19,968

D.C. United Audi Field 20,000

Montreal Impact Saputo Stadium 20,801

New England Revolution  Gillette Stadium[A] 20,000

New York City FC Yankee Stadium[A] 30,321

New York Red Bulls Red Bull Arena 25,000

Orlando City SC Orlando City Stadium 25,500

Philadelphia Union Talen Energy Stadium 18,500

Toronto FC BMO Field 30,000

***wouldn’t this be nice to see……….

St Louis Enterprise Stadium 20,000ish

….I think the schedule of each team is an interesting, fair one….you play each of your division teams twice a season and each team from the other division just 1 time. Sooo…you’d have a home game with each conference team each year and a home game with each team from the other conference once every 2 years. It would be a sunny day when/if StL is granted a franchise.

…new Cardinal batting coach Jeff Albert is getting rave reviews …especially from one of the Cardinal leaders…Matt Carpenter….who says Albert is one of the best hitting coaches he’s had and one of the best he thinks there is in the game. Wouldn’t that be great not seeing so many strikeouts each game….plus….it’d make the game move faster by putting it in play. It’s also “sunny” when the players have confidence in their coaches.

…I like the sunny idea of Columbus’ Head Coach Tortorella….he wants every OT game in the NHL to keep playing 3 on 3 hockey (no shootouts) until someone scores. Recently he said,” Get rid of the shootout (and) just play the three-on-three until a team dies”. To me…the NHL using the shootout would be like the MLB deciding an extra inning game stops after 12, 13, ..whatever number of innings… and then have a HR derby.

…..a very sunny event occurred  as one of our own “locals” who’s been on the National Scene as a middle-distance runner just won her 1st National Title in the 2019 USATF Indoor Championships. Colleen Quigley, graduate of Nerinx Hall and daughter of long time XC and track Coach, Gaylerd Quigley, upset the reigning title holder & 8x champion, in the 1500m race. Quigley ran a 60.09 (sec)final 400 meters to beat the favorite Shelby Houlihan. Congratulations to Colleen and her family for this tremendous achievement.  Colleen was a participant in the last Olympic for the USA. I ran track & cross country in High School. I can’t imagine all the hours, days, years, pain (you can’t be that good and not have real pain) that Colleen has spent to reach this tremendous pinnacle. I recall when I was young, StL hosted a summer track meet for the best runners in the USA. There was always lots of excitement for 2 races….the 100m dash and the mile (now the 1500m). Congrats again to the Quigleys!

…congrats to the UMSL Men’s basketball team for a SUNNY season. Head Coach Bob Sunvold’s team reached the 20 win plateau win a win over Maryville. The Tritons are 20-8 as they begin the GLVC Conference Tournament. It was only the 4th time that  UMSL has won 20 games or more. The last time was back in 1990-91 (22-6) season under Coach Rick Meckfessel. The other years were in 1987-88, 22-9 also under Coach Meckfessel. The 1st time that UMSL reached the 20 win plateau was back in 1971-72 under Coach Chuck Smith. Smith was the first Head basketball coach @ UMSL. The inaugural mens basketball season was in 1966-67.

…Well…while its SUNNY in the sports world…it’s time for me to shovel snow

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Sign Him Now! by Bob Ryan

…….He’s a “Winner”, he’s already demonstrated his skills, he’s experienced with several years of play behind him,  has plenty of talent, adjusts to the situation, knows his way around the league, has proven that he’s worth the contract, the fans love him, players respect him…..is this Bryce Harper?…..not a chance…it’s Craig Berube.  Berube took over a Blues team that was in shambles in November. In those days, the playoffs seemed like a dream …to be experienced some year down the road. When Berube took over the reins of the St. Louis Blues, they had just been shutout by the last-place Los Angeles Kings at home….ugh! It was already mid-Nov  and in the first 19 games, the team was 7-9-3. They sat 14th in the Western Conference and were 30th out of 31 NHL teams. Apparently, Mike Yeo had lost the locker room….to me …that means that they players had lost confidence in his leadership and weren’t responding to him or his ideas any longer. This is the WORST thing that can happen to any coach. In this situation, the players do their “own” thing….which they think is better than the Coach’s ideas. I recall watching a Blues game sometime in November…I wasn’t watching many during those days…it was boring….dump & chase, it didn’t seem like we had control of the puck much, Tarasenko wasn’t getting shots, Boumester-Pietrangelo looked like they belonged in a Senior league, Patrick Maroon appeared to be a home-town bust  and Yeo was actually yelling at the players on the ice…I’d never seen a hockey coach yell AT not TO his players. In comes Berube, a 17 year veteran of NHL competition, so he’d seen/played for many different coaches. Soo… he was able to take a little from each of them. He was a “tough guy”….he was the guy throwing down the gloves and tangling with you. ….personal note…I like those feisty guys…not thugs who can’t play or skate. He already had some NHL coaching experience with the Flyers 2013-15During that time he went 75-58-28. Then he coached the AHL’s (minor league)Chicago Wolves in 16-17 before joining Blues in 2017 as a coach. Since Berube has become the Blues Head Coach, the 12 game winning streak… really unbelievable!!… overall record 26-14-2. At this moment, Sunday afternoon, the Blues hold the 5th highest level of points in the entire NHL!!  It seems as if he’s holding ALL players…young, old, rookies, veterans, aged veterans responsible for their play. GOOD!   He’s direct, honest, able to evaluate using his experience as a player & coach. He’s held some veteran Blues players off of shifts after they perform in a sub-standard way on the previous shift. Sure…with time it’ll probably change….but in the professional sports arena, you’d better win NOW or you won’t have to worry about “down the road”….SIGN BERUBE…..LGB!!…btw…maybe you saw it also, the Blues viewing # on NBCSN recently was the highest EVER on that channel for a hockey match.

….a DEEP LOOK @ CARDS in February

While the winter play on the ice has us all looking at hockey, the Cards have opened spring training. It’s SO much different than years ago…..decades ago MLB players worked winter jobs to “get by” for their families. Now, players work out for several weeks prior to reporting to Florida for training.  Most “regulars” don’t even play games in the 1st week of spring training.  I think that they could cut spring training time down …way down…report  March 1…that would give you a month to hone, sharpen the skills that the players have been developing on their own during the off season and  finalize roster formation…on the 1st day of camp, the MLB teams already know 23 of the 25 spots anyway.

MINOR LEAGUE Yo-Yo SYSTEM..

It’s a new era in MLB….starters are expected to complete 5 innings…6 is a bonus, 7 or 8 is unbelievable and 9 innings is a HOF candidate  I assume that the Cards will be using the Memphis overnight express to wing up starters for a day and then immediately wing them back to the poverty league…oops the Minor leagues. Couple points here…

….the minor league salary is pitiful.  

Level                                       1st Year 2ndYear 3rd Year

Rookie                                  $1150/mo $1200/mo $1250/mo

Short Season A                   $1150/mo $1200/mo        $1250/mo

Low A                                   $1300/mo $1350/mo $1400/mo

High A                                  $1500/mo $1550/mo $1600/mo

Double A                             $1700/mo $1800/mo    $1900/mo

Triple A                                $2150/mo $2400/mo $2700/mo

Standard incentives include:

$500 bonus after 60 days in Double A time. $1000 bonus after 60 days Triple A time.

$5000 bonus after 60 days Big League time.

All minor league players receive $20 meal money per day ($140 a week)

Split salary means that a player receives MLB salary for at least part of the minor league time.

The MLB minimum for 2019 is $555,000. The MLB season is considered to by 172 days long. Hence one day in MLB is valued @ $3226 per day!! So if a player like Kyler Murray has a choice between NFL football and MLB baseball….it’s really a no-brainer.

CHANGE ROSTER FORMATION …as I’ve done previously, I propose the hockey format for MLB. Have a 27 man roster but dress only 25 players per game. You’d be adding 2 more roster spots for each team (probably all pitchers) so the Players Union would no doubt like that aspect. If you DO bring up a player for any reason, he must remain on the MLB roster for 3 days before being sent back to the bush leagues.  This 1 day up and back is really unfair to the players on that yo-yo.

Looking deeper at the work of the past, the health of the present, what might be in the future may raise an eyebrow or 2 for the loyal…sometimes almost blindly loyal.. fans .

STARTING ROTATION..

using baseball reference as the source….one finds some rather stunning stats for our starters in 2018…..

……the pitcher with the most starts…1 & 2 are easy…Mikolas & Flaherty…#3 John Gant!

…..Mikolas finished with 200 innings…right on the nose…I think that Shildt knew that so he made sure that Mick hit his bonus…at any rate..2nd most innings on the staff was  Flaherty all the way down at 151 innings.

LOOKING AHEAD…..

….if a starter averages 5 innings in a 32 start year….that’s 160 innings per starter and 800 innings expected from the starting rotation….now many of our starters started & relieved so it’s difficult to determine the length of each start….but one can say that only one averaged 6 innings per start — Mikolas (6.25)…..ergo……the bullpen has 4 innings for work just about every night. We’ll hone in on the pen another time but…for today…it’s a deep look at the rotation.

Baseball Reference also provides….from their perspective…a 2019 projection. No ONE knows for sure the future but these are professional baseball people, the Cards starting rotation…as of the beginning of camp…. The 2019 projection numbers that looked like this…

Adam Wainwright, 37 years old, w-L–6-5, era-4.70,  92 inn, 98 hits, 11 BB, 79 K’s, 399 batters

Miles Mikolas, 30 years old, w-L– 13-5,2 sv, era-3.26, 160 IP, 149 hits, 657 BF (batters faced)

Jack Flaherty, 23 years old, w-L–7-8, 2 sv, era–3.68, 137 IP, 108 hits 569—BF

Michael Wacha, 27 years old, w-L 8-5, 1 sv, era-3.97, 118 IP, 112 hits, 502 BF

Carlos Martinez, 27 years old, w-L-8-7, 3 sv, era-3.48, 132 IP, 114 hits, 560 BF

Now…already….Martinez….in the 1st week….has arm issues…maybe that’s why Baseball Reference only had him for 132 innings for 2019. Even MO made one of his subtle…yet stinging…statements about…” working in the off season with your arm”.

…A FACT…with the starting rotation listed above…the projection is for just 639 innings. Sooooo…. who’s up next… John Gant…largely ignored as a “regular” starter…had these projections for 2019

John Gant, 26 years old, w-L 6-6, 1 sv, era-3.86 105 IP, 91 hits, 450 BF-only 52 less than Wacha

Or …if we keep going down the list—

Austin Gomber, 25 years old, w-L 5-3, 1 sv, era-4.14, 76 IP, 74 hit, 329 BF

Mike Mayers, 27 years old, w-L 3-2, 1 sv, era 4.67, 51 IP, 53 Hits, 224 BF

Dakota Hudson, 24 years old, w-L 3-2, 1 sv, era 3.69, 39 IP, 30 hits, 165 BF

Alex Reyes, 24 years old, w-L 3-2, 1 sv, era 3.52, 46 IP, 40 hits, 193 BF

Using this mix of starters piles up another 206 inn…would that all be as starters or bullpen guys?

Personally, Wainwright & Wacha EACH have recent  histories of arm problems that severely limit their work load.  We’re NOT going to push Reyes who seems to be teetering on the brink of “if I miss another year…I’m done” cliff. Hudson was bullpen guy last year.  I realize that MO’s tendency is to take care of his pitching concerns with home-grown guys. It’s cheaper…. much cheaper….that way. However, the 3 years abstinence of post-season ball does NOT permit the Cards to waffle around long AND still expect to keep the loyal fans walking through the turnstiles. Don’t be surprised if the Cards elevate from their farm someone with “a great arm” and “great stuff” who we’ve never seen… or heard of… previously. We’ve been down that road many times in the past 5 years. Since Wacha (who had 1 really good year) & we’ll give Martinez credit for 2 good years (14-7, 16-9)… who’s been an outstanding starting pitcher from our farm system?  Lots of hype.. so-so production. Ironically….the guys who don’t have the power arms (Mikolas & Lance Lynn) won many games for the Cardinals than most of these so-called “power arms”. Mikolas’ variety of breaking balls…can’t call them curve balls any longer …. may…. may… become a model for other pitchers to emulate.

…OFF THE MOUND….to the OUTFIELD

I haven’t even discussed the corner OF problems…it’s stronger than issues to me!!  First glance @ Ozuna , he again appears to be a sore-armed OF … this being his free agent year… he may be positioning himself for a DH role in the AL. Bernie Miklasz inferred in a recent show that he wasn’t sure that Ozuna actually wanted to be here in the Lou!!  My take on Fowler is that he’ll start strong….then …sometime in June/July he’ll begin to really struggle at the plate. At that point, the Cards will have to look in the mirror and admit….it isn’t going to work out. I’m looking for Tyler O’Neill to have a break out year…hopefully this new batting approach will assist him in making contact….he’s so darn strong that ANY contact should lead to higher average and still have plenty of power.  Adolis Garcia may be in the mix in the OF by mid-summer…just hope that he doesn’t round 3B at full speed too often….ooohhh….that was low.

…NOW…brief INFIELD “take”

Infield bench concerns….where does Gyorko fit in?  Carpenter & Goldschmidt play almost every day…hopefully, we won’t try him in platoon @ 2B again.  We need Wong’s defense…it he hits .250 that should be enough with the bats around him. Gyorko @ SS….only if DeJong falls flat on his face (hopefully, he doesn’t)…..I have a lot of “hopefully” statements floating around here

Around Baseball…

….Aledmys Diaz….cast off by the Cards..has landed a spot on the Houston Astros roster as a utility player. He replaces free Agent Marwin Gonzalez who became a free agent. The multi-positional Gonzalez entered the free agent market looking for a 4 year deal close to $40m. He signed this weekend with Minnesota for 2 years @ $21m. The MLB free agents are decrying the drop in pay in the last 2 off-seasons.  Let’s be honest….it’s hard for all of us who actually worked for a living… w/o being an entertainer (baseball player)… to have pity on a player receiving $21m. The other side of the coin…the owners are reaping in larger incomes than ever before in baseball history. As long as the golden goose (TV) keeps cranking out the mega-bucks, MLB owners will be wheelbarrowing their money to the bank.

…I’m tired of the Bryce Harper rumors initiated & perpetuated by Scott Boras. Harper isn’t Babe Ruth …or even Barry Bonds…I realize Harper is only 26 but 10 years is a LOOONNNGGGG time. Speaking of Long….thanks for running through hockey & baseball today….Have a Great Week!

Oasis in Sports Desert by Bob Ryan

There is an oasis….in fact several of them as it seems like we’re driving through the desert  land of sports….hockey is still a long way from the playoffs; NCAA basketball hasn’t even begun talking about conference tournaments …much less the really big Dance; NFL goes in hibernation until the draft; MLB …the players are “loosening up”…not even the exhibition games start for couple weeks…but there STILL is sports taking place…on an oasis, so to speak…although we feel like we’re on a camel bouncing our way to no-where desert land….

….is it just a Cardinal thing….or is it done all across the MLB…former MLB players returning to their former team to assist/tutor/motivate the current players?  Or…Is this a PR move as the  Cards are selling us the “tradition” of the team concept….or… is it real teaching, motivating suggesting, etc that actually improves the players? The game has changed in so many ways – launch angle, one handed OF catches, shifts with infielders in the OF, the abolition of bunting, etc….since many of these players wore a uniform. Further, I don’t believe there are any HOF’ers there…who would seem to carry more weight in their suggestions than just “another guy” who wore the Bird on the Bat uniforms.  Is this just a promotional oasis for us fans while the players work with their real coaches to get through the desert doldrums of spring training.

….Mizzou football is working to get into the NCAA football oasis again in 2019. The schedule for the Tigers should make the ride through the desert of the season much easier. The national pre-season rank of each team is behind the name of the team…here’ the 19 schedule: home games—-Wyoming (92); West Virginia (38); SEMO (N/A—WHY are we playing these guys? Show some confidence…we’re good enough to win games without these type of cupcakes; South Carolina (18); Troy (69); Ole Miss (39); Vanderbilt (53); Kentucky (37); Georgia (2); Florida (6); Tennessee (21); Arkansas (48). Getting Ole Miss for Alabama is a good trade on the schedule. Five home games in a row after the opening cupcake….looks like a 6-0 mark for Mizzou on Oct 1!! Kelly Bryant… new transfer QB from Clemson…is a totally different type of QB. He will be able to run much more than Drew Lock. But….will he lead them to victories?  It’ll be fun to see how the OC utilizes his skills.

….Kyler Murray…as we thought….decided to enter the NFL draft. This means that he’ll return the money already paid to him by the A’s.  Staying with the MLB, Murray could have been wandering around in the desert of the minor leagues for 2-3 years while riding endless bus drives  and be totally off of the baseball landscape while  making money at  sub-minimum pay level. Instead, he’ll be drafted in the 1st round….make millions of guaranteed money BEFORE playing a down in the NFL. He’ll more than likely be the “face” of the franchise …which opens up even more streams of revenue through commercials, appearances, etc. Can’t really blame him for getting out of the desert and into the oasis.

….in order for ANY D-1 basketball team to have a “good” season and be in their oasis…they must win many of  the close game (5 or less points) that they play or  they’ll end up wandering around in the desert of non-NCAA post season bball. Currently the 16-9  St. Louis Billikens have a 5-6 record in these close games. Wipe out the 5 or 6 cupcake games…..and bingo….you’re a .500 team …just like you’re close games indicate. On one hand…the shrived up roster sometimes makes it tough for coach Ford to get the matchups that he wants…or.. on the other hand…..the shortened roster provides much more playing time for the players…. hence, probably more confidence and not looking over their shoulder for a sub on every whistle.

…the Blues are REALLY in an extended stay on the oasis!  Their demolition of the NJ Devils was the most one-sided victory that I’ve seen the Blues execute in many, many seasons.  Beating Arizona in their next road game was tougher….didn’t seem like that they had the “jump”…but they did win it 4-0. Robert Thomas’ speed and playmaking skills are forcing the consideration of him being moved off the 4th line.  Although….as Jackie Gleason would say, “How Sweet it Is” to have real offensive production from ALL 4 lines.

….some….maybe many…Card fans are still feeling like they’re in the desert with the formation of the 2019 roster…both corner OF have question marks …for injury and production .. big question marks….then what is Jeff Gyorko’s role?  With Carp @ 3B and talk of Wong getting extended time @ 2B…where does Gyorko fit into the scheme of things? And…will the Cards finally eat the contracts of the non-performing pitchers?… the RP trio of Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson, Dominic Leone have presented plenty of anxiety and the questions in the 2017,1018 years . The starting pitchers tandem of short outings,—Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha seems just to “go along” as if they were both still in their prime….and…is this actually the YEAR of Alex Reyes appearances in the starting rotation?

….which local HS basketball player is really in the sports oasis?  How about EJ Liddell…he’s the highest rated SR in StL area by college basketball outlets. He’s listed @ #45 on the list of top recruits and signed with Ohio State in November.

….leaving the deep desert land of pro football, the Lou will have a pro football team…an XFL team. Already….on the financial side of things, the XFL has reached an agreement with StL Convention & Visitors commission. The XFL will pay $100,000 rent per game. In addition, StL will receive all the concession cash. This is a FAR cry from the holdup that the Rams did to St Louis.  The Rams paid $25,000/game and also reaped the lions share of the concession AND advertising dollars after the City had a bill for $300m to build the Dome. They got away with that robbery without even wearing masks! Let’s hope that this XFL league isn’t too gimmicky, too many different rules….let’s hope that it’ll provide a venue for football fans to enjoy the game.

….talking about the XFL football team brings to mind some of the other professional sports teams of the Lou that have come to the oasis but now float around in the desert….from 1963-67 was the St Louis Braves hockey team (minor league team of Blackhawks); St Louis Stars (pro soccer team)…this team had many college stars to draw from SLU in 1968…which at that time of NCAA College Soccer was like the Alabama of College Football today. Highlight—in 1977, drew 32000+ fans  in a game v Pele playing for NY cosmos)..moved when the team could not get a suitable lease for 1978; Spirits of St Louis – a Pro Basketball team(1974-76)..this team had plenty of talent—Guards Ron Boone & Freddie Lewis were outstanding in the ABA; Moses Malone, Maurice Lucas  ML Carr all excelled in the NBA.. but this team also had trouble-some players who often monopolized the headlines—Marvin “Bad News” Barnes..aka Missin Marvin!… Fly Williams, Gus Gerard & Harry Rogers. It’s most remembered by most fans in the Lou however for bringing us Bob Costas. Costas began his career as the Spirits announcer while working for KMOX. 1977-79 saw the St Louis Hummers reach the World Series in Professional women’s fast pitch softball. From 1979-1988 we had the St Louis Steamers. An indoor soccer team that was loaded with StL players (Daryl Doran, Don Ebert and many others that maybe you recall). GK Slobo was a key leader and his name alone was highly recognizable. The next indoor soccer team, the St Louis Ambush went from 1992-2000. A pro roller hockey team, St Louis Vipers existed 1993-97 and again in 1999. The Arena Football team, the St Louis Stampede, was launched by Jim Otis in 1995 and shut down in 96. Several other Arena football teams popped up & disappeared in the next several years. The Pro Tennis Team, St Louis Aces, had a long 18 year run…1994-2011. Another pro basketball team, the St Louis Swarm actually had success on the court in the existence 1999-2001 but couldn’t get enough fans thru the turnstiles in the Family Arena. The Family arena also hosted a minor league hockey team—MO River Otters. The Otters were directed by Coach Mark Reeds during the long run between 1990-2006. The final StL team of this sort was the St Louis Athletica. It was a Women’s Professional Soccer team that played in the 2009 season. Let’s see what develops with the St Louis XFL team.

Two HS teams that you may have missed while in the oasis of sports….

…on the local side, in Girls Basketball…. A team that has flown under the radar but has very quietly worked its way up to the 7th spot the latest Large School ratings is the Ladue Rams. The Rams were thought to be a “year away” with only 2 seniors on the squad. Ladue is 15-6 for the season but their 6 losses have been to: #1 ranked large school-Edwardsville, #2-Kirkwood, #4 Pk North, #6 Pk Central and 2 losses to IWA…who always seem to be “above all the rest”. Jr Jordan Peete is the top scorer with 15.7ppg. Not far behind is Jr Mia Collins holding a 15.1 mark and Collins leads the team in rebounding. Jr Kate Minkler brings the outside threat –she’s  dropped in 73 3-balls this season. Minkler is 2nd in the StL area with her 3.32 mark for average 3’s/game.  Sr Kourtney Hay leads the team in assists and steals. Hay is 14th in the area averaging 4.48 ast/gm. Ladue will be hosting their Class 4 district.

….on the Boys side…..squeezing into the Top 20 Small Schools at the #19 spot, while riding a 5 game winning streak, are the Hancock Tigers (16-5). The Tigers are in 1st place of the South Central AA conference holding a 9-1 league mark. Sam Richardson leads the way! He is holding a season double-double—tops the team in scoring 22.4ppg(#9 in the StL area) He also carries a 10.1 reb/game average! Richardson is shooting an incredible 60.8% from the floor. Further, Richardson leads the team in steals and assists! The rebounding leader is Siah Moultrie wit 11.6 reb/gm.  Adrian Evans is tied with Richardson for the team lead in 3’s with 30. Hancock will be competing in a very tough Class 3 district hosted by Whitfield.

…always a refreshing  oasis from the PC talk of NCAA Football Coaches, Mike Gundy of Ok State made his feelings known about the ease of football players transferring. It was a snowy day in Oklahoma when Gundy made his feeling known but he wasn’t referring to the snow when he used his “snowflakes” comments. He was upset with the ease and acceptance of players transferring a day after soph Thabo Mwaniki announced his decision to do so.  Gundy “went off” on the concept! With his key  buzzwords of “snowflakes,” “liberalism,” “entitlement,” “millennial” and “Generation Z”….you had to know where he was going when he continued,“I think we live in a world where people are non-committal,” Gundy said. “We allow liberalism to say, ‘Hey, I can just do what I want and I don’t have to really be tough and fight through it.’ You see that with young people because it’s an option they’re given. We weren’t given that option when we were growing up. We were told what to do, we did it the right way, or you go figure it out on your own.

..Thanks for making it to the oasis  at the end of the line and through the desert of sports!

You probably haven’t heard by Bob Ryan

There’s constant talk going on around MLB, NHL, college FB, etc…..let’s take a peek at some of those topics….

…have you heard…..apparently the MLB has on its planning table – scheduling games in London (ala…NFL). The MLB is seeking a real rivalry that would …hopefully…show some emotion.  Soooo…who comes to mind immediately….yep…Cub v Cards. I can’t see either of these franchises surrendering an entire series….. although I’m sure that the MLB will dump tons of $$$ into their coffers to paddle across the ocean. To me…that means that each team would each give up a home game….or….even worse…2 home games…  to provide a 2 or 4 games series across the pond. I suppose that there is more money in London then in the Latin American countries that really LOVE baseball and would pack any stadium to see MLB ball. But…due to the big $$$, instead we  have some games that will be played in London..

….you’ve probably heard that Tommy Pham won his arbitration case for $4.1m. Pham, who’s now 30, was pushed out of the Lou by the younger…and clearly cheaper…OF—Bader & O’Neill.  Pham’s outspoken, chip on his should attitude, didn’t seem to fly well with MO & the boys. I found it rather refreshing that a sub “call out” starters who weren’t hustling. He hasn’t changed in Tampa. He was quoted as saying, ““It sucks going from playing in front of a great fan base to a team with really no fan base at all!” Interestingly, instead of attempting to build up the fan base, Tampa will shrink the size of the stadium. The hope is to provide a more intimate, closer relationship with the players.  I hope that both of those Rays fans feel better now that they can actually yell at one of the no-name playersJ    Back to the Cards…  No one seems to look @ LF where Marcell Ozuna was awarded the position with a sore arm, poor spring and lots of hype. Ozuna was handed the LF position from day 1 last year. He’ll be earning $12.5m in 2019… a tad more than Tommy’s $4.1m. The year prior to arriving to the Lou, Ozuna had a career year in 2017. He had career best numbers in just about EVER hitting category of his life. But comparing the two for last season, it’s not what you’d …or at least me….would expect. I do realize that Ozuna was “hurt” but being durable IS an asset also.   Remember…the Cards inferred that Pham’s history of injuries was a factor in… trading…let’s be honest…dumping him to the Sibera of the NL.

These stats are from 2018:          

Ozuna– war -2.9  avg-.280 HR-23 runs-69   OBP-.325   SLUG-.433  OPS-.758

Pham–  war -3.4  avg-.275 HR-21 runs-102 OBP-.367   SLUG-.464  OPS-.830

Further, Ozuna will be a free agent after 2019. One would think that he’d be working hard as possible on his preparation for 2019—the year prior to his free agency. From the radio reports I hear on Bernie’s show, the Cardinals don’t even know his condition.  Maybe, he’ll be good as gold…. maybe…not so much..we’ll see.

….the most recent being heard on the Manny & Bryce show is that there are 2 factors…1st of all teams are NOT coming across with the HUGE megabucks expected. The Chicago White Sox …according to sources(isn’t  that what they always call rumors?)…offered Machado $175/m for 7 years.  It’s a paltry $25m/year for 7 years.  Poor guy…his feeling were offended by the offer. Then 2nd   consideration…..we’ve read that other sources tell us that neither of these 2 players want to sign 1st because then the 2nd player will have the advantage of dealing with all of the other teams solo and have the 1st signing as a base. So now it’s become a game of chicken on the highway of signing! I hate to tell them….the games will begin on opening day…with OR without you!

….have you heard that Lance Berkman is upset over the HOF voting. While Edgar Martinez was voted into the Baseball HOF, Berkman was dropped from the list for not enough votes. Compare their numbers…..it is hard to understand the wide gulf between “getting in” and “being dropped” when the numbers are relatively close.

Martinez   gm-2055  hit-2247   HR-309    RBI-1261  avg-.312  OBP-.418 SLUG-.515  OPS-.933 

Berkmann gm-1879 hit 1905   HR-366    RBI-1234   avg-.293  OPB-.406 SLUG-.537  OPS-.943

Was it because the HOF wanted a DH? Soooo…does that mean that a guy that  DH’s for much of his career and doesn’t contribute defensively is rewarded OVER a guy that does play defense and plays it well?

….you didn’t have to hear it….just watch the Blues….6 straight wins…including 3 wins over Nashville & Tampa Bay(2 of the league’s best) . It’d be comparable to 12 straight wins  in the MLB where their season is twice as long….the Blues are playing tighter D, challenging each puck handler (hence forcing turnovers), Bennington has become the latest Blues GK phenom, there seems to be more movement by the forwards….interchanging positions. Hockey is a game that you gotta win those 1 goal games to be a contender. Just wiggle into the playoffs…then start the season all over again!

…..maybe you haven’t heard this…I’ve been under the impression that the Blues were drawing well……well…..the Blues are 22nd in the league attendance…after 52 games….there’s only 31 teams in the NHL, our average of 17.015 (88.9% of the building) puts us in the 22nd spot of the NHL. The Enterprise Building has definitely been upgraded…probably the prices also…but the Lou has to draw better.

….while I’m in a hockey mode…you probably haven’t  heard which NHL team has  the most points in the entire league?…and…for the 2nd straight year?  It’s Tampa Bay!  The Lightning’s best player barely puts a blimp on the national sports news… Nikita Kucherov (just 25 years old)has 22 goals, 59 assists. Maybe it’s due to playing hockey in Florida …which would be like playing baseball in Alaska….it just doesn’t seem natural J

…have you heard about Houston U basketball….remember the Bills dropped a 68-64 game to them in mid-Dec….they seemed good…but not super….now….Houston is ranked #7 with a 22-1 record! Meanwhile, our Bills have gone 7-5 since that game.

….you’ve probably heard this same ol’ same ol’….Alabama is awarded the #1 spot in the signing of the top prospects. It’s the 9th time in the last 10 years that Bama has won this “unofficial” award. FYI….LSU was #2, Ohio St (w/o Urban Meyer)#3, @ #4-Miami; Clemson@ #5, Florida is #6, #7 belongs to Texas A&M under Jimbo Fischer; holding #8 spot is OU. Guess we should look back in 4 or 5 years and see how it pans out. But….looking back at the signing day of 2015…4 years ago….Bama was #1, USC #2, Florida State #3…stop right there…where was USC & Florida State this year?  USC and Florida State were each 5-7 in 2018!  Leaving early for the NFL, lack of development, coaching changes that have coaches reevaluating the type of talent that they want to use, injuries, departures….ya  just never know what’s down the  NCAA road despite these lofty ratings on signing days.

…have you probably havent’ heard that Jayson Tatum is being  mentioned in some ”trade rumors”. The St Louisan has pushed his average up to 16.3ppg in his 2nd year.

….you probably haven’t heard about the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils just obtained Catcher J.T. Realmuto from Miami. It’s the same chorus line for the Marlins….if you’re close to free agency…we’re trading you. For the Phillies though….it gives their team the solidarity that you require behind home plate and strengthen their batting order with a middle of the lineup bat. So what does the Philly starting lineup/rotation look like now?

C – Realmuto  1b- Rhys Hoskins   2b-Cesar Hernandez   SS-Juan Segura  3B—Maikel Franco

LF-Andrew McCutcheon    CF—Odubel Herrara   RF—Nick Williams

Starting rotation—Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta,  Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Vince Valesquz –Nola, Pivetta are 1-2 with Arrieta an old but still reliable 5 innings #3 starter . If Eflin and/or Valesquez improve …this could be a strong rotation that carries the game to the 6TH+ inning.

Bullpen: David Robertson, Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio, Tommy Hunter, Hector Neres, Jose Alvarez,  Seranhtony Dominguez, —acquired some vets to supplement young,  live arms

Batting—  lots of .250ish hitters who hit HR—Herrara .255, 22 HR; Hernandez .253,15HR; McCutcheon .255, 20 HR; Williams .256, 17 HR

Middle of lineup hitters: Realmuto .277, 21 HR with  Franco .270, 22HR

Best Hitter: Hoskins 34 HR, .246     newly acquired–Speed Man: Segura .304, 20 SB, 10 HR 

Btw…if the Phillie players just match last year numbers….unlikely…..nothing stays the same…..it’d be 161 HR, that’s just about 1 HR per game. There is more hope now since the acquisition of seasoned vets with much experience should  help these budding players  become consistent MLB players.

….you probably haven’t heard about this St Louis high school boys basketball team. The Ft Zumwalt South Bulldogs under Coach Bill Friedel have quietly packed together a tremendous 19-2 record and a have commanding 3 game lead in the Gateway Central Conference with an unblemished 7-0 mark.  EJ Bellinger is the team leader in scoring as he’s pouring in 25.9 ppg.  JJ Schwepker tops the team with 58 3-balls. The two of them are tied for the team lead in rebounding!! Jake Patton has dished out a team high 65 assists. The team owns impressive wins over Kirkwood in the Union tournament Championship game and 2 wins over Liberty of Wentzville.

….well…..you’ve probably guessed that we’ve reached the end….until next week….

Mizzou vs NCAA by Bob Ryan

It’s no surprise….everyone nods their heads “yes” or readily agrees…when the discussion of cheating in recruiting, in academics, in illegal payments  for the star… maybe even the majority…of NCAA players comes up in discussions.  This idea of cheating … especially for the 2 largest revenue sports, football & men’s basketball, seems to be commonly accepted. After short discussions on this topic, you’ll hear soon, “they all do it”..maybe differing degrees…but they all do it.

Clearly, the theoretical idea that sports in colleges were needed for school spirit, athletic opportunities for players, learning to deal with competition, fun, etc has long ago faded away. Now…..for the power 5 conferences…it’s about one thing….money.  Bring in the Big Bucks! Do it by…expanding schedules, pay coaches excessive salaries (often far more than the president of the school or governor of the state), while  the “official” practice time has its limits—optional practices occur almost every day(the only real option is –do you want to start or even stay on the team?, year round weight room obligations,  cater to television demands for starting times, limiting the big paying bowl games to only their conferences, for many athletes- classes are shoved far in the background often with little regard towards attaining a real degree. You must have “x” number of hours each semester but those hours don’t have to be towards a “real” degree…but simply classes of any kind. Get those 15..12..10 hours…whatever it is… to make yourself eligible.

It’s starting to become “out in the open” more often…..

….. The shoe scandals at several major, big-time basketball programs brought down Rick Pitino but he ISN’T the only culprit. When one does some reading on this topic, it appears that ALL of the big-time coaches….even the ones that we revere….know of the shoe company payments to families, players, etc…even before the student enters college. Of course, it isn’t going to stop in college. It’s literally, the best team that money can buy on the court.

….the N.Carolina class charade…where students did little more than sign their name for attendance and received school credit for a course…. I guess you could have called it signature course.   The NCAA could NOT rule on that situation because this “course” was open to all students @ N.Carolina…not just the athletes. The NCAA’s reign is only over college athletes,not the entire school. In theory, athletes may not be receiving special favors, $$$, trips, course grades, etc. Who would send a “normal” kid to N. Carolina now for a degree?

Now the story brings us to Mizzou……

…. Most people that I talk with about the subject ,are strongly in Mizzou’s corner….everyone does it, it’s not a big deal, just let them go, it’s the way it is…yada-yada-yada. But few, if any, have any idea of really what happened…they know it was something with classes.

….It all started with Yolanda Kumar. She began in 2014 tutoring student-athletes. It was HER comments that triggered an NCAA investigation..not Mizzou’s.  To hear Mizzou claim that they’ve cooperated…big deal….it was the revelation of this lone tutor that broke open this case. Mizzou reacted to her statements….they did not reveal anything until Ms. Kumar broke open the case. To now claim that they’ve “fully cooperated” with the NCAA seems lame to me. It’s like a kid being caught with his hand in the cookie jar…..sure, they cooperated when they’d been caught! I suppose…. that’s better than denying it or fighting it.

…From the KC Star….Kumar worked as a tutor for Mizzou’s Total Person Program off and on during the last six years. She said she was “groomed” to help keep athletes academically eligible, particularly football and men’s basketball players, and completed their classes, took tests and answered assessment questions. She said she participated in at least a dozen serious cases of academic fraud involving both men’s and women’s athletes during a 16-month period. “I think about what I’ve done and I cry, not because I’m sad or I’m weak,” Kumar said, “but because I’m so angry that I didn’t use my voice to say no.”  Kumar went into great detail with the KC Star about this “grooming” of her. Let me pick part of their interview with her,

What happened? …..Kumar said she reported her “academic dishonesty” during an 18-minute phone call Nov. 2, 2016  with Mary Ann Austin, Mizzou’s executive associate athletic director for compliance.  “I was at my wit’s end,” Kumar said. “I had pretty much had enough, and I felt good that I had told her. Then, I realized I had opened all the evil and now the evil was out of the box and you can’t put it back in.”

…. Kumar said her “first inkling” that she was doing more than tutoring came when she had a student who stopped going to a math class. “I taught him the entire course, because he missed it,” she said. “He wasn’t a low-functioning student; he was a high-functioning student, but he just wasn’t motivated to sit through that lecture”

Kumar said she was asked to monitor some ALEKS assessment tests, which determine a student’s math aptitude and impact course placement.  “I shouldn’t even be in the room for that,” Kumar said.  But athletes soon started showing up for the sole purpose of taking the ALEKS assessment in her presence, she said.  Kumar points to another case in 2015, when she was called to a special meeting to discuss how to help a football player stay on track with summer courses while he was ill with the mumps.  “He needed to pass a finance class to be eligible, so I helped him,” she said. “He wrote down his username and password. His coordinator knew about it, saying,” help him with whatever.”

Roughly a month later, with that athlete playing football again, Kumar received a call from the basketball academic coordinator to help what she called “two high-profile athletes” with an online class. “Next thing you know, I have passwords to these two students’ accounts and I’m helping them,” she said. “I took their first test, because it was non-proctored.”  In another case, Kumar said, an athlete’s coordinator told him to work with Kumar on a class he previously failed and stressed to her that all his exams were online. “I don’t know how it got so bad, but most of my students were coming from those two people in the revenue-generating sports,” she said. “Then, there’s someone telling you, ‘He needs this class to pass. Do you understand? He has to have this class to pass, Yolanda.’” At some point, Kumar said she completed an online course for two basketball players, taking the tests online and doing the written work in the class’ online discussion boards.  “It was something where the coordinator said he has to pass this class — ‘If he doesn’t pass, he can’t play. Yolanda, he needs to do this,’” Kumar said. “And I’m thinking, ‘OK, but he can’t (pass),’ only to hear, ‘Yolanda, we need to do whatever it takes.’ I took that definitely to mean that you need to finish this for him, because he has work that is due.”

…. A men’s athlete had been placed with Kumar last summer for help in a core class that she was told he needed to graduate.  “I did everything I could and he passed,” she said, “but he really was struggling with very basic things that my eighth-grader could do.” When the athlete needed additional help to stay eligible this fall, he was again placed with Kumar for help with an online statistics class. “It’s taken almost four weeks for him to even understand it. … I looked at him,” Kumar said as she burst into tears, “and he was so depressed that he couldn’t do it.”  Her voice now cracking, she repeated, “He couldn’t do it.  “No matter how many times I told him, how many examples I gave him, he couldn’t do it. It was just (expletive) adding. That was all he had to do was (expletive) add it up, and he couldn’t do it. It was me. I was looking at what I had done, because I helped this. I didn’t start it with him. I wasn’t the person who pushed him through high school. I didn’t get him this far in college, but I did this. I helped with this. This kid was going to fail and it was my fault, too.” 

Kumar said the athlete was despondent because he couldn’t keep up with his coursework. She brought it up with his academic coordinator, who said he was advised to meet with a school psychologist, but nobody could force him to go. “He’s so lost, and I helped. I helped ruin him,” Kumar said. “I probably can’t take it all, because it’s not all me. It’s not all me at all, but he was the one who forced me. That was enough. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

….“In resigning, there’s nothing, there’s no gain there for me …,” Kumar said. “I’m completely ruined. My name is out there forever.”  She later continued, “I had friends check up on me and say, ‘They’re going to throw you under the bus.’ I said, ‘I’m already under the bus. I feel like I have the wheel on my esophagus. I can’t even breathe.’ There was only one way up from here for me. I got it out, and no matter what happens,  it’s done. It’s no longer my burden to carry.”

Was Kumar wrong….sure she was. Was Mizzou aware of what was going on with her…and probably other tutors like her….SURE they were. Mizzou & Kumar BOTH knew what was going on…does anyone think that if she hadn’t gone public, that we’d know about this situation now? Or anytime?

Soooo…..now with the penalties..the NCAA apparently …just now…realizing that this type of thing has spiraled out of control….hit Mizzou hard in the pocket book. That’s the only place that seems to “hurt” these institutions. It’s my thought that the NCAA unloaded on Mizzou (a seldom seen contender on the national stage) , since they couldn’t pull the trigger on the really big boys (Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Kansas, etc). This may have been the warning shot to these types of schools.

…..the penalties……The N.C.A.A. acknowledged the proactive steps that Missouri had taken in investigating the academic fraud, but the penalties handed down to the football, baseball and softball programs were severe. (point being: you cooperated after being disclosed publicly but YOU were responsible as an institution for the violations) Along with three years of probation and the postseason bans, the programs also must vacate any records from when the 12 athletes involved in the misconduct participated; the amounts of scholarship money available for those programs will be reduced by 5 percent for the coming academic year; and they will be subject to recruiting restrictions that include a seven-week ban on unofficial visits, off-campus contacts and any communications with prospects, and 12.5 percent reductions in the numbers of official visits and in-person evaluations. The N.C.A.A. also fined the university $5,000 plus 1 percent of each program’s budget…

The response from those schools…..let’s leave the NCAA.

My proposal:

As the Power 5 conferences begin chanting about pulling away from the NCAA due to its “limitations”, let’s consider a totally new approach.  Everyone seems ready to agree that the current procedures aren’t working as they were designed. Throw out athletic scholarships. Consider the athletes of football & basketball as entertainers. Just as the school would hire a band to entertain the students on a Saturday night, let the school hire these players as entertainers. Pay them a flat sum of $$ but no benefits. They’d be like contracted employees. They wouldn’t have to be students of the school (but they could be). They could play 4 years past their HS graduation. Free Medical care would be provided. Contracts with these entertainers could be 1-2-3-4 years long. Now as contracted employees, these athletes would be responsible for their own food, nutrition, housing, transportation, etc. IF….if…they choose to become a college student, they’d still get paid and the school could offer them an additional scholarship but NO special perks. They’d be like every other student…on their own…to find housing, food, their classes, transportation. All those housing, food, nutritionists, daily transportation, academic assistance along with all the other services provided currently to students . These highly talented players, who for the most part often seem to ignore school anyway, would be on their own as adults.  I actually think that it’d be less expensive.  Schools would be given an overall budget for these 2 sports. Say that there are 100 players (total) in the football, basketball programs, provide $7,000,000 for the overall personnel payment annually. That’d average out to $70,000/student but each player would have his own contract. We all know that some players would get more, some less in a given year. Recently I wrote an article on the scholarship topic. Doing my research on that topic, I learned that athletic scholarships in football/basketball cost the school  around $120,000 per student when one considers all of the “side” benefits that these players receive…or could receive.  Your thoughts.  The system is broke now…..how would you fix it? 

Btw….the power 5 conferences have already effectively isolated the schools in the non-Power 5 from the big-money days. Only Power 5 schools end up in the major bowls, only Power 5 schools (for the most part) ending up in the Sweet 16 of basketball…sure there’s the Loyola’s of the world about once a decade. One only finds Power 5 schools in the championships of baseball, soccer, softball and most other sports. Only the Power 5 schools have their own television networks. In a sense, they’ve already separated themselves from the non-power 5 schools. Now to some real sports talk…..

…some “good news” coming about Albert Pujols.

Albert Pujols and his wife, Deidre, (generally vilified in the Lou) began a campaign against human trafficking 2 years ago. The couple paid for the cost of 2 concerts at Angel Stadium and a 3rd concert  at Nationals Park in Washington. The goal of each concert was to develop awareness about what is often called modern-day slavery. Major League Baseball and its players’ association joined the fight recently. MLB and the MLBPA announced a $500,000 donation to charities focused on combating human trafficking.  The organization, Strike Out Slavery, founded by the Pujols family fights human trafficking, including forced labor and sex trafficking. That organization works with local and national governments to rescue victims and punish abusers under law. Strike Out Slavery is now in its third year, the number of ballpark concerts will grow to four this season (Angel Stadium, Nationals Park, Citi Field in New York and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City).  In recognition of their work, Albert and Deidre Pujols are set to be honored by the United Nations Women for Peace Assn. March 1 in New York. Wouldn’t it be great to have St Louis added to that list of concerts AND have Albert welcomed back home to the Lou?  Many fans still seem to hold a grudge…hey, how many of you wouldn’t have done the same thing as Albert? How many of us leave 1 job for another due to more $$.The Lou & Albert need to make peace…maybe this is the way to do it.

….latest proposals being kicked around by MLB…they must have the same defensive coaches as the Cards—that was low….sorry!…..minimum of 3 batters for each pitcher (proposed in this column last year) and a mandatory DH. Apparently, with the evolution of the DH going from a costly veteran hitter as it was initially to a versatile, inexpensive player as many do in the AL….this idea is NOW gaining momentum (once again….it’s the money talking)

….btw….the current 1B listed on the NY Yankees depth chart….Luke Voit. There’s no telling.. with the patience of the NY fans and management….that Voit will be there for the entire season….or even the all-star break….but KUDO’s to him for starting the season there.

I’ve gone on too long….hope that the Mizzou part informed you….it sure did for me. Thanks for making all the way down to this level!  Your thoughts are welcome (as always)

Collusion or Common Sense by Bob Ryan

We’ve been hearing about it since the end of the World Series….the “hot shot” free agents..namely Bryce Harper and Manny Machado…who’d be on the market and commanding hundreds of millions of dollars in a multi-year bonanza. We were told it was about their age, their performance levels, their potential, their drawing power—ergo, how they could bring in additional fans and sales. But….why do these two players believe that they will be paid $250-$300m contracts? Maybe…because both were stars in huge east coast cities …in fact, just an hour apart…all the press that they’ve received since their arrival has made them THINK that they are really something special….or maybe, they thought it is their charisma….maybe…because both of these players were 1st round draft choices and have been treated differently in their development….maybe they think that their offensive production alone merits such an enormous contract. Well….let’s look at the last part of that statement…listed below, without their names, are 6 players. Following is their rank out of all the MLB in the given category and then the actual numbers that they posted last year beneath it.  The only item missing is their name! You decide which ones are Harper & Machado. The list is formed by the RUNS CREATED category…best to worst. I’ll move on while you decide who “owns” those numbers….btw….Michael Trout & Christian Yelich are NOT part of this list….I didn’t want it to appear that I was setting the standard too high and ambush Harper/Machado’s numbers. Who do you think is Harper?  Machado? Is it apparent that they are SO MUCH better than…at least…6 of their peers?  You already know where I’m coming down…it’s common sense to not pay them hundreds of millions of dollars in a multi-year contract.

Click here for the chart …

Avg        HR          OPS        WAR      Runs      RBI         hr/ab

                                                                                    Created

Pppp—26 years old         #1           #21         #2           #2           #1           #49         #16

                                                .346        32           1.078     8.7          156         80          16.25

Xxxx-26  years old            #56         T#4         #5           #4           #4           #10         #7 

                                           .276        39           .939        7.4          132         105        14.8

Cccc-25 years old              #18         #9           #11         T#25      #11         #8           #21

                                                .297        37           .905        4.6          117.7     107         17.1

Yyyy—26 years old          #97         T#16      #16         #32         #13         #15         #15

                                                .249        34        .889        4.2          115.8     100         16.2

Vvvv—25 years old          #29         T#16      #19         #11         #20         #3           #25        

                                                .290        34           .881        5.3          105.4     111         17.8

Qqqq—27 years old        #40         T#25      #13         T#32      #31         #11         T#8

                                                .283        34          .892        4.2          99           104         15.5

Zzzz—25 years old           #45         T#49      #23         #14         #38         T#84      #12

                                                .278        24           .864        5.0          96.2        68           15.7

I’m really thinking that each baseball club REALLY, REALLY promotes their #1 draft choices …when they succeed…which actually isn’t very often! In part, to promote their scouting department and the team. Let’s take a closer look at that success league wide…. I’m assuming that players drafted in 2016, 2017, 2018 haven’t had enough time to develop yet….but think about that…. in football & basketball, the drafted players IMMEDIATELY step right into starting lineups. In fact, many become the face of the team from DAY 1. Back to baseball, in 2015, there were 6(six) players from the 1st round who have “made it” to the Big Time…Alex Bergman, Andrew Benintendi,  Carson Fullmer, Ian Happ, Walker Buehler, Dansby Swanson.  Bergman & Benintendi have shown signs of being star MLB’ers….jury’s out on the other 3 players.  The other 35 drafted in the 1st round…nada, nothing, don’t show up anyplace on MLB rosters. The Cardinals drafted Nic Plummer (pick # 23), Jake Woodford (pk #39) who was 3-8 @ Springfield last year. From the players drafted in 2014, I would assume that with 4 years of minor league training, that many would be in the MLB by now…well, the #1 overall pick by Cleveland was Brady Aiken…he toiled last year @ Lake County Class A and was 5-13..ugh….only a 1st round pick would be around long enough in Class A to get that many starts (losses). Carlos Rodon, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola, Kyle Freeland, Michael Comforto, Trea Turner, Sean Newcomb, Bradley Zimmer, Brandon Finnegan, Matt Chapman, Luke Weaver, Michael Kopech, Jack Flaherty…13 have reached the MLB plateau, 27 1st rounders have not yet reached the MLB….sooo…to this point.. 1 of 3 players chosen in the 2014 1st round have climbed the hill to the MLB. A couple look like they are…or will be… stars in the MLB. More of the same occurs for 2013 draft and all the other years prior to that time. “Hitting” big on a 1st rounder is a HUGE success for the MLB teams…so when it happens…they want to really play it up. Is it collusion or common sense that these two players are still seeking a sucker… ooops a team…. to sign them to a mega-million dollar contract using that hype as the springboard?

Here’s the actual players on the list above:

Pppp is Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox

Xxxx is Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians

Cccc  is Manny Machado—Free agent

Yyyy is Bryce Harper—free agent

Vvvv is Javier Baez Chicago Cubs

Qqqq is Eugenio Suarez Cincinnati Reds

Zzzz is Matt Chapman—Oakland A’s

Not included on the list were Christian Yelich & Michael Trout

Which numbers did you think were Harpers? Machado? I would add that I believe Machado severely damaged his value with his post-season antics. If a team valued a player representing them properly on the field, he really threw himself under the bus ….with his showboating, dirty, lackadaisical play.

Last weekend…in a moment of boredom…and a lack of commons sense….I put on….probably for the 1st time in the last several decades, the NFL Pro Bowl game. It was a complete joke…but it wasn’t funny. It was raining hard for much of the game, so it was slippery and difficult to change directions quickly. Hence, the players seemed to be “taking it easy & slow” to attempt any change of direction while running. But the SAD PART was  that used “touch football” rules. When a runner was approached by a defender… arriving a step away with his arms out as if to tackle him, the officials blew the whistle… before the contact. I don’t’ think that ANY players actually hit the ground in the entire game from being tackled… maybe a couple did as they slipped the wet turf. We saw No blitzing the QB, vanilla pass coverages, smiles, pat on the backs to the opposition, putting d-backs into the game as receivers than he caught a TD pass because he was completely unguarded by the defender….heck, my Frosh football team schemes of years ago would have looked complex compared to this rudimentary style of playing.  I’ve seen more intensity in a backyard, family game of touch football.. much more intensity J It was a real embarrassment for the league. It will be the LAST time that I EVER watch this type of touch football.

Clearly there is  no common sense in the musical chairs of college/pro football coaching spots. A coach gets fired… apparently for inept performance…but within days he’s signed to coach again at another place. Many times, it’s even coaching different positional players…or even different levels (college v pro). Why would you hire a guy so quickly who’s just been fired for being inadequate? And…it happens over and over again for many of these nomad coaches. I know the ol’ boy network flourishes but…isn’t it more important to win as a Head Coach then to provide the umpteenth job for Joe Mediocre? Maybe the Peter Principle comes into effect here? It certainly does when advancing to the Head Coach position. Wouldn’t you..as a GM…. want to try some new, fresh ideas? E.g. Rams getting a young HC.

There was certainly no collusion last year when the Cards signed Greg Holland to a $14m contract. They…seemingly…rushed him back too soon and he was awful…I mean really awful. So…far out of character, the Cards ate the contract.  Holland resigned a few weeks later with Washington Nats. A complete turn-around took place. In his 25 innings in St. Louis, Holland surrendered 34 hits, 28 runs, 22 walks, 0 saves and just 22 strikeouts. Upon arriving in D.C., Holland contributed 21 1/3 innings over which he allowed 9 hits, 2 runs, 10 walks and 25 strikeouts, 3 saves. Now Arizona has signed him for a modest…in this era…$3.5m contract. Shame on the Cards for rushing him back too quickly

Ss one looks at Mozeliak’s free agent signings over the years….he’s had some HR’s and some real swing & Misses. At the bottom was the one-year, $7.5 million signing of Brad Penny..it was really bad! The rest of the bottom five… according to Rick Hummel… is filled out with backup infielders and catchers –$5.25 Mark Ellis, Ty Wiggington, Bryan Pena and Ruben Tejada. I’d add to the “worst” list—Greg Holland, Dexter Fowler ($31m in 2 years while hitting .230), Brett Cecil-horrible 4 year contract for $31m…who EVER, EVER signs ANY reliever for 4 years? Matt Belisle was signed in 2015…and to use an expression of 1 of my in-laws …he’s “just another guy”. (TU Nick!),,who was moved on quickly.  MO also traded for Justin Masterson in 2014. He carried along a hefty $9.7m contract. The return on our money? 3-3, 7.04 ERA, whip 1.565….ugh! That’s even worse than the CD rates these days J On the better side of the signings, one would have to give praise to MO for the Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Kyle Lohse signings. Beltran was a 2 year Cardinal @ $13m in 2012-13. During that time he hit .282, 56 HR, 181 RBI. He helped the Cards reach the playoffs in both those years. Lance Berkman was also a 2 year Cardinal. He was there 2011-12. During that time he hit .295, 33 HR,101 rbi’s. He received votes in the MVP voting in 2011..finishing #7. He missed much of 2012 due to injury. Loshe was a 55-35 hurler in the Lou , 3.90 ERA during his 5 years  (2008-12)with the Cards. Not a star but he did win 55 games for us. Common sense tells that the development of players through the farm system has been a better avenue for the Cards than signing free agents…but fans pressure the team to show their sincerity to improve the club by signing FA…please note…these successful signings have all been gone for 5 years now!

Speaking of free agent movements this off-season….no collusion, or common sense…only stats J

Highest WAR listed for a signed FA ,3.5,  is listed for starting pitcher Patrick Corbin (signed by Nats away from AZ)..he’s predicted to have a 2019 that looks like this:  13-9, 31 starts, 182 inn, 168 hits, ERA 3.43, whip 1.21, predicted to average slightly more than 1 k/inn.

#2 on the WAR list at 3.3 is Dallas Keuchel (unsigned currently). Fan graphs thinks his 2019 will look like this—13-10, 3.69era, 32 starts, 198 inning, whip 1.32

Fangraphs projections for 2019 for  Cardinals & former Cardinals pitchers … look like this…

Other predictions:           WAR      record   era         starts     app        inn          saves     holds     whip

Lance Lynn (TX)                 1.6          8-9          4.46        24           24           138         0              0              1.43

Adam Wainwright(StL)   1.3          8-7          4.20        18           38           123         0              2              1.35

Andrew Miller   (StL)       1.3          3-2          2.95          0           60             60         16           13          1.13

Trevor Rosenthal Wash  1.2          4-3          3.11          0           65             65           6           18          1.21

Joe Kelly (LA Dod)            1.0          4-3          3.21          0           65             65           5           16         1.22

My common sense tells me that you’ve had enough!  Thx for making it to the end…YOUR thoughts are ALWAYS invited…put them directly on the Prepcasts site….disagree, agree, add more info..use your initials to sign if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Fans Demand Change! by Bob Ryan

The championship games of the NFL really sparked strong responses from the fans. Those responses WILL provoke rule changes. Let’s take one at a time…

….the 1st game, the NFC championship witnessed an unbelievable “No Call” on …what seems to us in slow motion…as an obvious pass Interference. Had the flag been thrown, the New Orleans Saints could have ran time down and kicked a chip shot FG to win the game. It wasn’t!  Fans have screamed, cursed, probably threw things about the “no call”. It’s commonly agreed at this point that there actually was a penalty but no flag.  At this moment, the NFL hasn’t allowed “replay officials” to throw their own flags from the booth. For one….I wouldn’t be anxious for that….I mean…there’s holding on lineman and/or  d-backs almost every play in the NFL. We’d be opening a Pandora’s box…will the booth officials determine Motion penalties?  Holding penalties…ugh? Lining up inches offsides? Where will it stop?  If the booth DOES start calling penalties that had been overlooked….would the game take 5 hours?… instead of the almost 4 hours now? Btw…if you haven’t noticed…on many plays the play clock has reached zero….and the ball is snapped just slightly after it has stopped moving and the play goes on. Do we want a booth official….wiping out all these plays…adding 5 yards to the needed 1st down and slowing the progress of the game & offense? YOUR thoughts…how would you change these no calls?  All suggestions are appreciated and will be published with your initials. I really feel badly for New Orleans but…..bad calls ARE a part of the game…I’m willing to accept that…some fans are not. I will say my 15+ years of umpiring may have skewed my thoughts. Many fans who have never officiated, probably don’t understand the “instant” decision that must be made by the official and that some fans expect you to be right 100% of the time…usually the ones who haven’t ever officiated.

….the AFC championship game brought up a different issue…..the overtime procedure. The NFL often has very close games. In fact, we had 6 ties in regulation in the first 6 weeks THIS year….soooo….these tight, closely played games really are very common in the NFL. Currently the NFL has the coin toss, if the receiving team (team who won the coin toss) scores a TD…game is over. If it’s a FG, punt, or turnover… the losing team of the coin toss…now has a chance to win. We all know what happened, New England won the coin toss, marched right down the Field….put Tom Brady on their shoulders, had Bill Belichick give his customary 30 second “we’re happy to win” speech, then strut off the field holding the Rozelle Trophy (scary….I remember seeing Pete Rozell LIVE…I guess he just died yesterday). There have been numerous suggestions (11 in one article) to improve this type of OT….this wasn’t the 1st time that OT has ended in the playoffs on the 1st possession…as recently as 2016, in the divisional playoffs, the Arizona Cardinals, won toss…scored TD in 3 plays and the game was over… Green Bay’s offense never saw the field…in fact barely had time to blink as the Cards raced down the field. Although unpopular, there is evidence that this OT method is working…. in 25 of the 45 NFL seasons since OT was introduced… there were NO ties as the final score  for the entire season! If that’s what you want…no ties.

Let’s go back to the beginning….. I do believe the NFL responds to the fans ideas, feelings & emotions much quicker than any of the other major sports… Now they clearly see the unhappiness of the fans with the OT. However, keep in mind that the NFL owners have expressed the feeling that the players have “given their all” in the first 60 minutes…the owners must think that an extended OT will jeopardize the health and careers of their players. It’s a valid point…don’t know if I agree…but its valid. Sooo….let’s throw out playing playing OT in regular season, let those ties stand…it was a tie game period. I actually think that those tie games add more intrigue to the standings.  For post season…let’s make it simple… let’s go back to real, normal football…. but discard these ridiculous rules—each team must get the ball once, you win with a TD but not a FG, yada-yada-yada.  My premise is that the OT should be like a real football game. I would like to see a 5th quarter of 7:30 (1/2 as long as a normal quarter) length. Then it’d still be REAL football. Surely, each team will get the ball at least once…who can hold the ball for 7:30? For post season games, if still tied after 5 quarters, a 6th quarter of 6:00 minutes would be implemented…etc, etc…  7th quarter of 5 minutes, etc. Maybe even discard the coin toss to start this extra quarter. Possibly the team with the most offensive yards gets the ball. Or, maybe the team that came from behind to tie the game must kickoff . Or….some other, easily determined factor that actually ties in the play of the first 4 quarters into the OT…rather than a coin toss. Also…these OT stats would NOT count for individual or team offensive or defensive stats for the game or season. What are your ideas for OT? I know that there are many of you with great ideas….please share.

…Blues fans are deeply disappointed as “break” time in the NHL begins. What is YOUR suggestion for the Blues?  Glancing through the +/- stats is rather alarming. Several key players have poor marks. For example, Tarasenko is a -11 for the season; Brayden Schenn is at -10; Pat Maroon is -10 for the season; Ivan Barbashev holds a -9 mark; Jay Bouwmeester is -8. The ONLY double digit PLUS player is O’Reilley at +14. Recently, I saw a highlight of Tarasenko’s 1st game as a Blue…he was flying down the ice as he scored a goal. I’ve heard innuendo’s by commentators, especially in the off season,  about his “body conditioning”….ol’ South side interpretation—he doesn’t stay in shape year round! He does look slower to me…he doesn’t seem to have that extra zip on this shot or his step. I know everyone is hyped up about Bennington…yes…he has been solid (favorite word of most sports fans and announcers these days) but GK wasn’t the real problem in my mind…we’re 3-8 in regulation 1 goal games; 2-4 in OT and 0-1 in shootouts. If we were just .500 in those 1 goal games, we’d be in the post season hunt. We don’t score enough goals and most of our players don’t even LOOK like goal scorers. I’d like to see more skating in front of the net….not just 3-5ft outside the GK box…but  slashing across the middle to accept a pass for 10-25 feet away from the net, then shoot…you can shoot right, left, up, down…you aren’t limited as we are now with all these shots from steep angles along the boards…ooopps…they call it the “wall” now. I do think that the Blues, will have a difficult time unloading some of these heavy contracts of…seemingly… mediocre NHL players.

..while I’m thinking of hockey…why don’t the Blues have their top hockey minor league team right here in St. Louis? You’d increase the usage of the Enterprise Center. Charge minimal prices to get the youngsters into the arena to watch a game….to me….hockey in person is far superior in person to watching it on TV.  It’d be more use for the Center…..use only the “close” seats so you can REALLY see what’s happening on the ice. You could have special prices for kids…get them in the habit of watching hockey LIVE. I recall the ol’ days when SLU had hockey…it was great to go and watch the Bills under Bill Selmon. I’m guessing that the Soloman’s may have been behind the money ball on that one for SLU. Maybe…..it’d probably be a big loser financially…. so maybe it isn’t possible…but I’ll keep dreaming.

…..Cards fans are still a bit uneasy….yes, Goldschmidt is a good player but several questions continue to haunt many fans?  Will Ozuna be ready on time or will he have that rag arm again? From afar it doesn’t sound like Ozuna cares too much and may be anxious to leave StL as a free agent next year. I don’t think that the Cards expect to resign him. Some players really don’t like being under the microscope constantly…as they are in the Lou…they’d rather march to their own beat. I think that Ozuna may not even make it to the end of the year…he could be shipped out as a short term bat to a contender in August.  It depends upon the progress of the young Cardinals Outfielders in early 2019(especially O’Neill). Will Reyes EVER really live up to his hype? Some pitchers come all the way back from these extended arm issues…some never come back to their full “hype”.  Is Wong REALLY really the “man” for 2b?  Last year Wong’s 84.4 mph average exit velocity  from the plate was not only the lowest of his career but also ranked him a dismal 213th among the 227 MLB hitters with at least 250 plate appearances in 2018. This isn’t new for Wong… he’s actually been on steady decline in exit velocity for each of the past 4 seasons. It was 87 mph in 2015; dropped to 86 mph in ’16 and then to 85.1 mph in ’17. Is Wong’s outstanding defense strong enough with a…seemingly…potent offense? Some would say that you don’t need 8 “strong” hitters….but you DO need very strong up-the-middle defense. Wong has demonstrated some great range @ 2B. Or…will the Cards gently shove out Wong for Munoz at the starting 2B slot…and let him stay there? Or…with all the young SS in the Card system, will one of them become a 2B? I believe that this IS the make/break year for Wong and the direction that the Cards management decide to go with 2B…must it be a strong hitter or is a outstanding defensive 2b enough?

…SLU basketball fans may be starting to wonder…for 3 years now, Coach Ford’s roster has always shrunk to 10 or less available players as we approach the heart of the schedule. For example, in Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to Davidson, 4 players logged 36+ minutes each. That’s too much. By now…in his 3rd year…these are all HIS players. Does he drive them too hard physically and/or mentally and the players “break down”? Does he recruit too many athletes with background issues? Are the players equipped for the academic challenges? Is it just coincidence? Is it that the hours required in practice, watching films, weight room, meetings, etc is too strenuous? Is the expectation bar set too high collectively and individually? Is it just bad luck each year? I don’t know… but..I do know that a roster of 10 strong players seems essential as the teams wind their way through the key games of Jan-Feb-March.

…both baseball and football fans are anxious to see which way Kyler Murray will take his professional career. He’s already signed a $4.66m contract with the Oakland A’s after being drafted last year. Now…after his spectacular year as QB @ Oklahoma, he may be drafted in the 1st round of the NFL draft. We all know what 1st round QB are paid….rumors are he’s leaning to football. If he DOES go the football route, he’ll have to return that baseball bonus money. As a ol’ guy, I’d recommend to my son to stay in baseball….longer career, less chance of injury, more money in long run. On the other side, right now in the USA, football is king…don’t know if it’ll be that way much longer….but right now… the buzz is all about NFL & college football with special emphasis on quarterbacks. Already, some football pundits already have him pegged Murray as a middle 1st rounder despite his non-drop back style of throwing. Apparently, he’s similar to Lamar Jackson (Balt) who had good success this year. But…Murray throws the ball significantly better than Jackson and played a much higher level of opponents than Jackson did in college…it’s the brand new  style of QB entering the NFL. Btw….Drew Lock…who is much more the traditional style QB… also pops up in the 1st round of the in the forecasted draft that I was using. Looks like my forecast on him was off on his draft selection.

….StL fans are in disbelief that Andy Reid hired Steve Spagnuolo as his d-coordinator. Spags had a miserable run as the Rams Head Coach (11-41)….sooo….people around town aren’t jumping on his bad wagon. Last year he was the Defensive Coordinator for the Giants. The most important category for a DC (outside of winning games) is how many points did you allow and can you stop your opponents in the last 2 minutes of the game. His team looked like this….they were 16th (of 32) in points allowed–23.1ppg, the Chiefs were dead last in the NFL allowing 35.3ppg. If KC only gave up 23ppg, they’d be in the super bowl!! Although, a great deal of that has to do with the personnel…not just schemes…. so keep your eyes on the Chiefs in the upcoming draft and in the signing of free agents to improve their D.

….Vianney HS fans are in celebrating. Their Varsity Baseball Head Coach, Scott Brown, was named as the National HS Baseball Coach of the Year for 2018. The Golden Griffins baseball team won state this year but that really wasn’t a NEW thing for Coach Brown. In his 26 seasons has HC, he’s complied a 503-260 record (280-198@CBC; 223-62@Vianney). His clubs have won 18 district titles, been in 8 Elite Eight STATE finishes, 6 Final Fours, and has won the Metro Catholic Conference 8 times. Coach Brown now owns the most baseball wins at both CBC and Vianney! I had the unique distinction of being Scott’s 1st assistant on his 1st Varsity team @ CBC. Congratulations to him for his very successful achievement.

Scott Brown is a Member of the MO Baseball Coaches Association Hall-of-Fame & St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame. Scott played at HS baseball @ Vianney under Head Coach Jerry Boeckmann then 2 seasons at Mizzou and 2 seasons at Illinois St. Univ. He played parts of 2 seasons in the Pirates organization (with the Bradenton Pirates our pitching coach was Bruce Kison and hitting coach was Hal McRae)

…Now I hope these blog fans made it to the bottom and some will respond to any part of these ideas. Send them to me…I’ll have them published with your initials…or any letters that you want me to use.