Still Rewarded without Playing by Bob Ryan

In the “real” world, if a worker decides to quit, leave, exit, not return…whatever lingo that you want to use….you stop getting paid…period…no salary, no benefits, no anything. It makes perfect sense. However, in the collegiate world….somewhat real……college football players are playing both sides of the coin…..
…When a high school player signs a scholarship contract, the school agrees to provide that player with all that is needed to succeed …in football and throughout his days at the school…..the athlete agrees to follow all the rules of that university and to give his “all”
….when a player determines that they are going to “sit out” a bowl game…or any game for that matter….immediately, that player should be removed from the squad, from the dorm, not permitted to use any of these luxurious benefits. He has QUIT…plan and simple….his choice….sooo…..send him on his way….instantly and permanently and drop all of his huge benefits
…those benefits are really something….after some research, analysts who dig deeper than most into the “real” cost of a football scholarship…i.e. not just the tuition, room & board, food all year long of the highest quality, but academic tutors available at all times, medical attention all year long upon request at ANY TIME…not just when sick or injured….but aches, pains, pulls, stretches of any kind; dietary “counselors” continually checking to ensure that the athlete is ingesting the proper type/amount of food; weight room consultants, free tickets to all games…including bowl games…..maybe I’m missing some areas….but each and every facet of the football player’s life is softened due to their football skills (which are high)…and are developed by coaching staffs of 10-15 highly paid coaches(isn’t that total cost divided by the number of participants)….the cost for all these benefits comes close to $100,000-$125,00 per player….soooo…..the expectation is that the player, will in turn, play to the best of their ability for all the scheduled games and if a .500+ team, the bowl games.
…Now I realize that the schools would NEVER have the willingness or fortitude to implement such a policy…it would have to be enforced by the NCAA so ALL schools would follow this simple idea…..if you quit (refuse to play in any game/practice)…you go. If you’re afraid of being injured and ruining your “certain” pro career…that’s your judgment…you’ve quit….every choice we make in life has consequences…good & bad….so leave immediately and start paying the bills yourself while living someplace else, eating someplace else, not having tutors, advisors, coaches hovering over you like bees over honey constantly….and to be honest….I don’t think that the NCAA would do it either…they’re making too much money with the current system….why rock the money boat? Isn’t college intended to prepare the students for REAL life…the next 40+ years of their life? Try that at your job….I’m NOT going to do this or that because…name any reason….see what happens to you.
…btw…the next time players start clamoring to be paid…..I would remind them that all these services have a cost attached to them…if the individual player WAS paid , he/she would then be responsible for paying for all services listed above with his/her own money… so unless the students were paid $100,000+….they’d be borrowing money…OR….not using all those services. They better be careful what they are asking for from the schools….that getting paid directly MAY actually cost them…
….another point….schools are cheating many of these athletes in the classroom—some students come into the colleges/universities ill-prepared for the academic rigors….they are only there to play football…..soooo…schools have some of these students take the lowest classes in one department one year, then the following year..he takes the lowest classes in another dept, repeated in the 3rd & over and over again in the 4 or 5 year academic career. How valuable is that degree… other than making him eligible for 5 years of football? If a football player doesn’t earn a “real” degree not one of “general studies”, the football team should have 1 less scholarship for the following 4 years for each of these type of non-degrees. I know I’m a huge sports fan….but the primary purpose of colleges is to prepare the students to be productive citizens in society after college. How many college football players will really have a career in pro football? If they don’t make it in the pros…..what then…will they be productive members of society?
….while I’m on a college football kick…..the newly instituted 4 game tryout exemption for red-shirt players is absolutely ridiculous…either you ARE sitting out for a year and not playing OR you are playing…you don’t’ get 4 games of “freebies” as they use currently. This rule fosters players “jumping” schools after they show- case 4 game performance. Whatever happened to the idea that college was a 4 year process…not 5, 6 or more years with multiple stops along the way.
Now…..to college football on the field…out of the upteen bowls (41 now…I think)….the two that have mattered the most were the semifinals…
….Clemson just had too much speed in the key offensive positions of running back & wide receiver. Notre Dame just couldn’t match up with the Tigers and fell 30-3. After witnessing the extreme difference in speed, one MUST hand it to you Coach Brian Kelly (ND)….he directed that slower team …with a tough schedule ….to a 12-0 mark prior to the Clemson game.
….As everyone expected, Oklahoma needed to score about 50 points with the Crimson Tide committing several turnovers for OU to beat Alabama. OU’s defense was seldom “tight” though most of 2018…..they just outscored people. Alabama jumped on the OU defense immediately and coasted to the 45-34 win. The game really wasn’t that close….Bama surged to a 28-0 lead and then seemed to lose their intensity…naturally. It actually was rather humorous seeing Nick Saban throw a temper tantrum with his club far out front late in the 1st half. It’s fine to demand discipline at all time but that holds true for the coach himself also.
…..reactions to some of the other mini-bowls…
…..sure Michigan got crunched…4 of their best players “sat out” to protect themselves for the draft…Florida from what we saw..Florida would no doubt still have beaten them (speed factor again) but…take away Florida’s best 4 layers and it would have been a different looking team.
….what a horrible mismatch…Army with 10 wins…and a very narrow loss to Oklahoma dominated Houston 70-14. Army was playing their reserves throughout most of the 2nd half. It looked like Houston had NEVER practiced against the Army run-style offense. Army should have been invited to a much more distinguished bowl.
….the Cheeze-It bowl….Wow….it was cheesy…in my opinion, neither of these teams were “bowl” teams. Cal was 4-5 in conference play and TCU held a 6-6 mark entering this game. TCU 10 California 7 in OT…this was a “battle” between two very average teams. TCU who had the chance to win it in regulation…replaced their regular place kicker for the possible winning FG attempt…it was missed. In the OT, the regular place kicker Jonathan Song, got the opportunity and kicked a winning 27-yard field goal. There were 6 interceptions in the 1st half alone, a sideline interference called on the SID, a game that appeared to be more like a Frosh HS football game than 2 bowl teams competing on a high level.
,,,,its strange…. the press keeps promoting the proliferation of more and more bowls…yet…when these weaker bowls are filled with average teams…and the games truly reflect the skill level of the two average teams—more miscues, average speed of players, more turnovers, yada-yada-yada…..the same press ridicules them for their play…they got what they paid for in my book.
Moving to winter sports…
….Chaminade may have another one! After David Lee’s solid 12 year career in the NBA(you can’t last 12 years without being good), Bradley Beal already in his 7th year @ Washington, and Jason Tatum still growing in his 2nd year in the NBA, Chaminade currently has another “hot shot” come along. Luke Kasubke, 6-6 Jr, is carrying a 22.6 average. According to StLToday, he’s shooting 34 of 41 from beyond the arc…that’s tough to believe—83%. Sometimes those HS stats are off a bit…especially on missed shots…BUT not off …is the fact that he scored 50 points against Parkway North on Dec 27, dropped in 31 the next night. He competes in the MCC so he’s facing quality teams each conference game. I have a particular interest in Kasubke…..I coached his Mom (Michelle Hennon Kasubke) @Rosary High. She was the best girls player that I ever coached @ Rosary. When she graduated, she held all the scoring Records there. Keep your eye on him!
….somethings different in Lebanon, Ill…for the first time in 53 years, there is a new Men’s Basketball coach @ McKendree University. Harry Statham was removed of his duties after 52 years and 1152 wins at the end of last season. Chris Foster, former coach @ Truman State, was named to take over the men’s team. As the league jumps into its heavy conference schedule, the Bearcats are 1-1 in conference and 5-6 overall.
….NCAA basketball rankings begin to mean something after New Year’s day….some new teams sit in that Top-10+2 at this point….@#5 Nevada (11-1)…I don’t anticipate this team hanging in that Top 10 long; @ #10 Va Tech (11-1); #11 Texas Tech (11-1); @#12 Auburn (11-2)….try keeping an eye on these newcomers….
Happy New Year to ALL! …thoughts from you bowl games, college players “sitting out” for fear of injury in bowl games…..or anything else…. Wishing you a great 2019!

Fresh Sports Gifts for Local Stars by Bob Ryan

It’s that wonderful time of the year….Christmas time…..sure enough, we found many…some unusual… Gifts under the 2018 St Louis Sports Tree…

…..for Mike Shildt… new Card hat that actually fits him…so that we can see his face while he wears it

…. for Marcell Ozuna….a long red or white sleeved shirt for under his Cardinal uniform(not yellow)

….for the Taylor Family ….a Crown ….as the new King of  Sports  Families in the Lou

.…for Miles Mikolas…the Dobbs Award for his pitching in, up, down & out pitching style

….for John Mozeliak…the disappearance of his book on Casey Stengal’s   “Talking Clearly”

….for Bill Snyder…an award given annually in his name  to the Coach who has revives a collegiate football program…some background…prior to Snyder arriving @ K-State in 1990..the Wildcats had won 4 games in 5 years and only 4 winning seasons in 44 years..after going 17-16 in his first 3 years in Manhattan, KS…Snyder finished with a record @ K-State of 215-117-1, 19 Bowl seasons and 2 Big 12 Championships…maybe there won’t be a winner every year of this award

…for Barry Odum…. A longer fishing pole for his recruiting…he’s shown that he can “reel em in”

…for the Blues….the Lazarus Award…I thought they were dead…

…for Andrew Miller….the ghost of Christmas Future is more like the Ghost of Christmas Past than like the Ghost of Christmas Present

…for Alex Pietranglo…..Fountain of Youth…. to turn back the clock a few years

…for the Alabama football fans… Kleenex … after all their weeping about “their guy” not winning the Heisman…heck, I think that almost ANY QB could lead the Crimson Tide to wins

…for Jack Flaherty…the White Castle Award …so his ‘slider” stays good

…for Mike Yeo…the YMCA Swimming Award….only guy to keep his head above water in the playoffs.. he is  the ONLY Blues coach EVER to hold a winning playoff record in Blues history

…for Adolis Garcia….the Don Denkinger Award….for the bad play that could define his career

…for St Louis College of Pharmacy….the Elvis Presley Award for Persistence… as they snapped 106 or 108 game losing streak(it was so long NO ONE actually knew for sure how many games they lostJ) …. background—Presley was fired after his 1st performance in 1954 and told “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

…for Bill DeWitt…a new nickname (compliments Tom Murray)…Bill DeWallet

…for Mizzou football program….ONE set of black & gold uniforms….all other sets given away

…for Mizzou football….a big win in Liberty Bowl Game that should catapult them into the Top 20 at the end of the 2018 season and the  Top 20 at the start the 2019 season

…another for Mizzou program…..the UP, UP & Away Award after the recent signings & transfers  

…for Manny Machado’s non-signing…. “actions speak louder than words” about his play in playoffs 

…for Dexter Fowler… a graceful exit from St Louis…probably with millions of $$$ due him

…for Travis Ford… the JOB Award…..for patience for a team on the upswing who will “grow” as the schedule unfolds

…for Pat Maroon…a turnaround in the 2nd half to help him enjoy his “coming home” story

…for the Porter brothers of Mizzou….the DGB (Dorial Green-Beckham) Award…the award for unfulfilled sports potential

…for Jose Martinez…..the Six Flags Award….for having fun at the Park every day

…for Mike Girsch…the Frank Nitty Award…for always being the man “behind the scenes”

…for Stan Kronke…again winning for the umpteenth time…”Most Hated Man in St Louis” Award

…for Yadi Molina…a new cell phone for  the next time that he “camps out” in the pen so that he can actually communicate with the Manager

…for the NCAA Football Guru’s…some consistency….we can’t expand the Final Four to 8 teams but we can still sit through 40 different bowl games of which 20 bowls have teams we could care less about

….for Harrison Bader….a contract with some toothpaste company for his wide smile

….for Vince DeGreef, John Diffley & Kerry Rockwell….gold star award ….for their officiating in a Friday night game (that I announced)…and for the combined 100+ years of refereeing at a high level

…for Paul Goldschmidt…the Coca-Cola Award for “sharing a special moment” (his signing) with us

…for Carlos Martinez…the Rodney Dangerfield Award….his lifetime ERA 3.37, 54-38 record and batting mark of .241 against him would seem to merit him more “luv” from the fans…

…for Carlos Martinez…Cpl Klinger Award (MASH) for his eccentric mannerisms –driving him from fans

…for the Cardinal bullpen…the new mantra of In-Game Battle….fight each skirmish during the game with your best…let the final battle of the 9th inning be just ‘another skirmish”

…for Incarnate Word Acad….reservations in Columbia, MO for STATE final 4…the Red Knights have been there 9 straight years with 7 STATE championships during that time

…for Tyler O’Neill….the Charles Atlas Award for the MLB….strongest man in the league

…for Tyler O’Neill…the Ironing Board Award….depicting his flexibility

…for the Laporta Family….the Rusty Wallace Award ….for most successful participatory sports “family” Award in St. Louis area…From Highland…Olivia (Sr Volleyball Player @ Fordham), Alex (Soph Basketball player UMSL-leading rebounder), Sam(Sr in Highland HS—just signed with Iowa Football), Bella (Soph-#2  scorer on Highland HS basketball & #2 attacker on Highland ‘s 33-3  Volleyball team)

…for Drew Lock….a ring of safety in the bowl game to protect/enhance his draft status

…for Jose Oquendo…the “Time has passed me by” award…once Shildt was chosen as manager

…for viewers of the Texas Bowl (two 6-6 teams)…..a remote control ….to change the channel

…for all of you…A Thank You Award …..for taking the time each week to read my “stuff” on a regular basis

….all of YOU are invited to post your own special gift or to react to any of these gifts—do it right on the Prepcasts site….you may do more than one…if you can’t get it posted…send to me….I’ll forward it to have it posted……..Merry Christmas To All!

Drowning in the Atlantic by Bob Ryan

The Billikens have been swimming in the Atlantic….the Atlantic-10….since 2005. From my view, this conference is not a good match for the Bills. They’ve been drowning in the long trips, small arenas, lack of real “rivals”,  lack of emotional games,  lack of national prominence. Now…I do realize that immediately some will say…”they can’t change leagues”…..well…..a short glance at the history of SLU shows that the Bills have changed conferences….and done it often….they’ve been in 6 different conferences since 1937….here’s the history….

1937-38 through 1973-74 Missouri Valley Conference

1975-76 through 1981-82 Metro Conference

1982-83 through 1990-91 Midwestern City Conference (changed name to Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1985-86)

1991-92 through 1994-95 Great Midwest Conference

1995-96 through 2004-05 Conference USA

2005-06 through present Atlantic 10

Please note….the longest affiliation was with the Missouri Valley Conference! …..so change is COMMON and frequent for SLU. I’m proposing an application back to the Missouri Valley Conference for SLU.  Why?

….Cost…doesn’tthat always come first!!  I don’t have to discuss at length the difference in cost in traveling to 4 schools in Virginia+ Wash DC, 2 in New York,  3 in Pennsylvania, 1 in Rhode Island, 1 in Massachusetts, 1 in N.Carolina, 1 in Ohio vs traveling to schools in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.    Please consider not just the cost of the basketball program but also….baseball, softball, w-m soccer teams, and ALL the other sports. Is that extra cost of extensive traveling measure up to a real difference in opponents & interest? Hardly…With opponents a fraction a distance of the way closer…I would anticipate teams from adjacent states will travel for “big games” and stir up some emotion at the games …that’s the excitement of collegiate sports. Don’t tell that cost ISN’T a factor in major college sports.

…Quality ….looking at the level of play of the conferences…as of Dec 14, 2018..last week….the MO Valley was listed as the 10th best Men’s basketball conference…..A-10 was found in the 12th position…. sooo…the MVC is listed as a better conference now…and over the past few years….has consistently been higher than the A-10.

….Facililties…..looking at the facilities of these conference games, the MVC has a better, larger set of arenas…in the A-10, The Chavitz Arena (10,000+) is 2nd largest in the conference. There are 7 arenas in the A-10 with less than 6,000 capacity…is this the type of “place” that big-time schools play? By contrast, In the MVC, there are just 2 arenas that hold less than 6,000 and there are 5 that hold 10000+ now. Sooo… give that check mark to MVC

….National Recognition….Who’s been on the national stage most recently or at all?  Clearly the MVC is better recognized than the A-10.  Just last year, Loyola-Chicago made it to the Final Four….the Sr Jean story, “teamwork” did wonders for the MVC in national recognition.  The MVC has 4 teams that have won NCAA  basketball championships to their credit…. A10—zero.

…Familiarity….who’s in the MVC now….MO State, SIU-Carbondale, Bradley (Peoria, Ill), Loyola-Chicago, Illinois State (Normal Ill), Drake (Des Moines), Univ of N. Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa), Indiana St (Terra Haute, Ind)., U of Evansville and Valparaiso University. All these schools are probably easily identified by Billiken fans.

 …Strength of League..SLU was picked #1 in the pre-season for the A-10….would that be true in MVC?

…Reasoning for entering A-10 was egregious….in 2005, SLU administration gave this explanation for the move to the A-10  “Saint Louis University, its alumni and fans are extremely enthusiastic regarding the Billikens’ inaugural year in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” said Cheryl L. Levick, director of athletics at Saint Louis. “The profile of the A-10 membership is the best fit that Saint Louis University has enjoyed in the history of Billiken athletics. Plus, the A-10 provides new major market media exposure for our program and also opens the East Coast for under graduate student recruitment for the institution. We look forward to a long, exciting and successful tenure in the A-10.”….does anyone think that the major coverage of A-10 athletics in New York, Virginia, etc “ gets any where close to page 1, 2 or 3 in those local newspapers? Market exposure” for the Bills  in the East Coast, I believe is veryminimal…at best. Just think of all the professional teams that this small conference is battling for space in the local sports pages. I realize that SLU was talking more about the “general” students than just athletes.  However, I don’t see how competing in games that few people of the population of the East Coast even KNOW are taking place will help a university grow.….it’s time to stop drowning…..get  back on solid ground….the valley….the Missouri Valley!

….We’ve all been flooded….almost to the point of drowning…with all the hype, rumors, talk about the MLB Major League meetings in Las Vegas. Well….the talk exceeded the actual production.  The Flood of actual action barely filled Mandolin Bay. But let’s focus on the Card moves….

….Cards pedal  3B Patrick Wisdom to Texas for inf/of Drew Robinson….it seemed more like a Christmas gift to me….Wisdom (27 years old) had no spot on the club once Goldschmidt was acquired and Carp penciled in for 3B. So now Wisdom MAY get a chance to play. He had no spot left here. Cards obtained Robinson…who’s listed as Inf/OF…so he can play all over.. the only place he can’t play…it seems … is in the batters box….he carries a lifetime .204 average. Further, the Cards…like many other MLB teams…are striving for bench players who play multiple positions (like Gonzalez of Houston). Wisdom& Adams couldn’t do that…so each has “moved on”. Adams resigned with Washington over the weekend…he’ll be a backup 1B and PH for the Nats.

…Cards chose not to sign and passed on reliever Tyson Ross. This was a bit of a puzzler to me…Ross (31) was the type of bullpen man required these days….he went more than 1 inning. That’s become the norm these days…1 inning. For the Cards he was in 9 games, 26 inn, 20 hits, 15 K, era-2.73…better than most.  I wouldn’t think of him as the top of the line….actually closer to the bottom of the line … but he could save arms by going more than 1 inning. I realize that we have a gaggle of young, cheap relievers just itching to sneak into the bullpen. Who wants to be that “mop up” man role? …. That’s what Ross did last year…Surely, surely…it wasn’t because Ross signed for $1.75m contract instead of the minimum of $500,000+.

…..Yadi’ decision….he played in the World baseball matches immediately following the season…. On Thursday he underwent knee surgery. I assume that he feels that the knee will heal completely in 2 months…..I’m not so sure.

….drowning in Bowl games… 30 bowl games is TOO MANY…there aren’t 60 real good teams

Warm Up Bowls….ya know…we’re all familiar with ‘warm up” acts at concerts, performances, etc..well these bowls in early-mid December…they are the warm up acts….many of them hoping to become the “feature” attraction down the road….along those lines… I enjoyed Appalacian State’s play in the New Orleans Bowl. This team was a power force in FCS play—winning 3 straight championships.  Now in their 5th year in FBS….the Mountaineers have won 4 straight bowl games after rolling over Mid Tennessee State 45-13.  This team knocked off Michigan a few years ago….so other Power 5 teams want touch them….how sad. I wrote about Central Florida last week….this school/team is in exactly the same place….not a well know name yet too good for top teams to schedule…maybe we could have a “Step Up” bowl as one of these teams on the rise face a top contender (probably not the league champion) from a Power 5…

….well…I’ve deluged you with all kinds of “stuff”… so you’re probably drowning to keep your head above water….hang on…the end is only letters away.. bye 🙂

Christmas comes Early by Bob Ryan

For the Cardinals…and the Lou….Christmas came early this year. The tremendous acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona brightened up everything under the Cards Tree. Looking at it from many different angles..

…it’s a 1 year contract…an inexpensive one at that for player of Goldschmidt’s pedigree..$14.5m… that enables Goldschmidt and the Cards to see if this “fit” is good for them. Some may view him like other 1B like Orlando Cepada or Jack Clark…coming into StL to ignite the Cards championship fire as the final piece needed to go over the top. Initially…from my view… he really DOES fill several needs…a real “slugger” in the heart of the lineup, an acknowledged star, a slick fielding 1B, a player who plays every day..assuming that the Cards will do that….

….so why did the D-Backs peddle him for “prospects”?….apparently, they felt that in 1 year that Goldie was going to walk sooooo…..they wanted to get “something” for him. D-Backs appear to be on the downward spiral of “tanking” for a couple years …while making tons of $$$…prior to rebuilding (buzz word for letting the fans know that you’ll be losing this year but come and pay anyway to watch these young…and usually less talented players). They have been in the playoffs SIX times since 1999 so they do have some credibility in developing post-season teams.

….the “prospects” traded away by the Cards didn’t really seem to be in their future anyway…Luke Weaver was given an early starting role in 2018….initially, he was a” once through” the lineup type pitcher  then as the other teams saw tape on him…often he didn’t make it that far…his stats 7-11, 4.95 era, 150 hits in 136 inn and it was clear that the Cardinals were losing…or lost…faith in his future & development. Carson Kelly…had very limited AB…..sat on the bench far too much and too long IF you were really trying to develop him….he batted .114…his projection for next year by Baseball Reference is .222… further, I think that the Cards management had already moved on from him and now view Andrew Knizner as Yadi’s successor.. whenever that may be…2030 or so.

….some data on Goldschmidt…..again I am very excited that the Cards got him…but he isn’t  “perfect”…who is? I’m not throwing cold water on the move but…..everyone…every player … has good and bad….so let’s peek at some of the possible “downsides”….

….last year Goldie got off to a very slow start…on Apr 13, he was holding a .191 avg and a .404 slug mark; on May 26 it was still @ .201, OPS .700. In the month of May he hit .144 but in June it was .364 If the gets off to another slow start, will the fan base “turn on him” like they did Fowler?  Must he have immediate success to please our loyal….but sometimes…unrealistic fan base? While Goldie’s  batting numbers are impressive…the year of the most personal highs was 2013 when he was 25 years old..he’s 31 now.  Baseball reference has him projected for these numbers in 2019…. 26 HR, .281 avg,  OPS .884, 84 rbi’s…..are you happy with those numbers? And….his contract is for 1 year….I know that most of Cardinal nation think that THEY can “win him over” …and I do too…but ya never know.

…Arizona played him every day..and always have done so with him. He’s played in 155+ games each of the last 4 years.  He doesn’t seem to need that “day of rest” so often administered by Card Managers of recent vintage. Let’s hope that they pencil him in “every day”.

…he batted in the #2, #3, #4 slots for the D(done)-Backs…his best batting marks were in the #2 spot .349, OPS 1.104. He hit .298 with runners in scoring position throughout 2018. We can’t bat Carp & Goldie back-back, can we? Wouldn’t you put a hitter in the #2 spots who’d benefit from having a slugger like Goldschmidt hitting behind him in the order who doesn’t run much? Like DeJong? It’s Goldschmidt’s THREAT as well as his production that bolsters the lineup.

..Vs division teams….                     avg         OBP       SLUG     OPS

  Vs Cubs                                              .300        .440        .500        .940

  Vs Milwaukee                                .150        .292        .300        .592

  Vs Cincy                                             .409        .435        .955        1.389

  Vs Pittsburgh                                  .280        .419        .400        .819

….receiving an early Christmas gift was the Mizzou Tigers when QB Kelly Bryant agreed to play @ Mizzou next year….while I’m strongly opposed to these “graduates” competing (that’s another issue).. it is wonderful news for the Tigers. Bryant is a run/pass QB…not the cannon arm of Lock…but highly recruited and played for Clemson (can’t get much higher than that level). Also signing without the same fanfare but almost as important is WR Jonathan Nance (formerly of Arkansas). He  also played the transfer rule and will be coming to CoMO….last year the Tigers suffered when speedster Emmanual Hall missed a couple games due to injury…they needed his speed to hit the HR ball and stretch the defense.  Already with these signings and reportedly an easier schedule in 2019….Mizzou is being looked at as a 10 win team in 2019. Congrats to Coach Odum for winning the Bryant battle over many other schools…..sometimes the battles off the field are as important as the battles on the field.

….in another area, one team that is still waiting for their Christmas gift…early or late…is UCF…Central Florida Football.  This school is the ONLY school to have progressed through all the collegiate levels…they were DIII in 1988 when they opened, then DII, FCS and in 1996 moved to FBS status. They have leaped WAY beyond the norm to national status on the collegiate football level.  Clearly, the officials at this school are wondering what they must do……they’ve gone undefeated for 2 years including beating Auburn … of the sacred SEC ….in a bowl ….while changing coaches!!  They’ve captured the fans throughout Florida… their gear is outselling Florida & Fla State! Their conference is not one of the Power 5…hence looked down upon by voters so UCF is working hard trying to get top level teams to play them….the key word there is “trying”….thus far only Stanford in 2019 is willing to do so.   UCF would LOVE to play many other top level schools….but somehow…no other top 20 school can find room for them on their schedule…you know those power 5 non-conference schedules are so tough—filled with the likes of SEMO, Cen Arkansas, N.Mexico St, Kent State, etc…. so then …how do they get national recognition…they need to play/win games against power 5 teams…but none will schedule them!..these “big time” schools don’t want to take the chance that they might lose….UCF has  upgraded their facilities and are continuing to upgrade the level of their recruits. They’d like to join a power 5 conference…maybe one with only 10 teams (like the Big 10) or maybe the ACC  (S.Florida would come into the conference with them to balance the schedule);or into the  SEC as Vandy & Arkansas are pushed out for being non-competitive. (does anyone REALLY think that Vandy will ever be able to recruit the level of student/athletes  that they require to win big-time football ? or that Arkansas really fits into the SEC—they really belong in the Big 12 which would be a better fit for them…. When will UCF get their Christmas gift?  Well….here’s a real early Christmas gift idea….why doesn’t Mizzou schedule UCF on Sep 2, 2021 –drop or pay off SEMO(already scheduled on that date)… and then play a real D-1 team.  The Mizzou hierarchy has been moaning about modest attendance figures of late…. well….how about playing real team instead of a “practice” team who happens to wearing different names on the front of their jersey.  For many decades, Mizzou followed the Don Faurot belief that a team should compete against other strong teams IF they want to be considered strong themselves…no cupcakes. For example, look @ a typical Mizzou schedule..like  in 1965…they were in the Big 8– Okl St, Oklahoma, K-State, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa State. Their non-conference foes that year were Kentucky (6-4), UCLA(8-2-1-tied MU), Minnesota 5-4-1 then Beat Florida(with Stever Spurrier as the QB) in the Sugar Bowl. Final  Mizzou record: 8-2-1. Myself…I’d prefer to see the Tigers competing with teams like those mentioned above in non-conference games than piling up wins over vastly inferior teams.

….never quite receiving the Christmas gift of Recognition on the highest level is Drew Brees. Rarely do people mention him in discussions regarding the best QB in the NFL…usually it’s Brady and/or Aaron Rodgers…but Brees owns many more passing records than those 2 talented QB do COMBINED! Now he doesn’t do commercials like Rodgers or have Super Bowl rings for all his fingers  like Brady but…. but….he IS the top passer of all  time in passing yards—73,000+ currently; is 2nd All-time in TD passes; has led the league in passing 7 times; In 9 seasons , an NFL Quarterback has  passed for over 5,000 yards…Brees  has done it FIVE of those 9 times!  In other words, he has more 5,000 yard seasons by himself than all the other NFL QB in HISTORY combined! Still more…he has over 500 career TD passes…..yet he’s remembered only …seemingly…. for being 6 ft tall! Who cares? His impeccable accuracy, quick release, reading of defenses , durability and production should make him be viewed as the one of the best…if not the best…. QB of all-time….oh….then there’s that super bowl thing….well, He DID win a Super Bowl XLIV over Indianapolis 31-17 in Feb 2010. Btw…on the road to that NFL championship, New Orleans… led by Brees…. The Saints defeated 3 former Super Bowl QB…..and probably 3 HOF QB….they beat Kurt Warner (AZ) in NFC divisional playoffs, beat Brett Favre of Minnesota at the time in NFC title game(they won in OT) and then beat Payton Manning (Indy…basically playing a home game in super bowl). The great Ted Williams….often…if not usually…called the greatest hitter of all-time… was only in ONE World Series and his team DIDN’T win it. It was the 1946 Series won by the Cardinals when Enos Slaughter raced around the bases with the winning run for the Cards.  Who would have thought that for Williams and Stan Musial…competing against each other in that World Series as young players….that neither would ever play in another World Series again! Soooo…..why doesn’t Brees get his gift of recognition?

…receiving the Christmas gift of “growth” was St Louis U.  After beating a good, ranked Butler team, the Bills went on the road to SIU-Carbondale and lost 61-56. This is not to discredit SIU-C but from all reports the Bills just didn’t have the get-up-go attitude and the ability to score inside much or outside with regularity. Give credit to Coach Barry Hinson (he reminds me of Charlie Spoon)SIUC clogged up the inside forcing the Bills to take the 3-balls….shooting only 6 of 26 from beyond the arc won’t win many games . I suspect that the Bills will now see a plethora of teams utilizing the same strategy. The young Billikens will still stumble and fall on occasion as they work to climb the mountain of NCAA-B.

….receiving the gift of a look of indifference …was Urban Meyer.  Meyer just announced that he was leaving coaching when he resigned from Ohio State.  It should have stunned the sports world but…it was met with indifference. His  statement was the same statement that he used when he left Florida  just  2 years later he took his “dream” job @ Ohio ST.  It seems like he has very sensitive, thin skin…. he took a press beating this fall with the handling of his staff; Ohio State didn’t make the final 4; his “dream” job had become more of a nightmare—he was actually criticized in Columbus!!…..what’s next?  Barney  Fife carrying around a bullet in his gun in Mayberry? Look for Meyer  to resurface… in time… perhaps for 2020 or 2021…and maybe even in the NFL…but…for now…the luster has faded from Meyer…so who cares?

…receiving an early…a very early Christmas gift..and shocking most of the Lou HS basketball fans …are the Mehlville Panthers Boys Basketball team as they receive some HUGE recognition for turning around the progam.  Over the years, Mehlville has fielded state level football teams, very solid baseball teams and of late, good soccer teams but this year Mehlville Basketball is back on the map. Last year the Panthers went 14-11 for the season…their first .500+ season since the new millennium. This year Mehlville is holding a shining 7-1 record!  Coach Andy Guethle’s team took 2nd place in the Tournament of Champions (16 team tourney) in Washington Illinois to open up the season. The Following week the Panthers  took home the South Side Classic Championship Trophy. Earlier this week Parkway North fell to Mehlville to push the Panthers mark to 7-1. Jr Davion Bradford, 7’0” tall, carries a double-double as an average. He leads the club in scoring with an 18 ppg mark and rebounds 10.1/game. As you would expect he has 18 blocks to lead the club….but he’s not a 1 man show…Jr Dylan Branson 6-4 carries a 17.7 average while leading the team in assists with 18. Also scoring in double figures with a 13.7 mark is Lamontay Daughtery—another very tall player at 6-7! Congratulations to the Panthers for their tremendous beginning to the season!!

Well…..my “early” Christmas  gift was getting you to reach the end…thanks.

 

 

Big Game Hunting for the Cards by Bob Ryan

It’s hunting season now…maybe not in the outdoors but definitely in the MLB.  It’s a bit different type of “big game” hunting….it’s not huge wildlife….it’s bringing down the “big game” players in the MLB.  Obviously, they don’t shoot them down with guns or bow….they bring these “big game” guys down by shooting with guns that shoot them tons & tons of money. Even with these “big game” shots, some of the elite players still manage to escape to another day…and maybe….a different big game shooter. The two largest targets for these”Big game” shooting are Bryce Harper & Manny Machado. I feel like the Cards aren’t even going to take any shots @ Machado.With the money demanded to bring down these MLB stars…they can’t afford for the stars NOT to be stars with their fan base.  Machado’s attitude and style of play lets him run loose as far as the Cards are concerned. Harper’s demands may make him too elusive for out gungs to have the power to bring him down. Soooo…where does that take these “big game” hunters…..

…I suppose that these hunters begin stalking somewhat smaller “prizes”….that requires less $$$ to be bring down the target….Josh Donaldson ….is that type of star –one with question marks….he’s already been brought down by the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta….btw…has been out of the big game hunting expeditions for several years so bringing down Donaldson was stirring to the fan base.   Donaldson was a particularly attractive “catch” for the Braves. It’s a 1 year contract (he’s a free agent next year) for $23m sooo…Donaldson who has struggled with Injuries since 2017 must prove again that he’s worthy of the big bucks…Of course if the falters like in 2018, he’ll be sent packing. 2015 was really robust for Donaldson-it was he “caree” year.  As a member of the Blue Jays  he won the AL MVP as he pounded 41 HR, 122 RBI, .297 with an OPS .939 and played in 158 games. In 2016, he still played in 155 games with 37 round trippers, just 99 RBI’s, but his OPS moved upward to .953. In 2017 he dipped to 33 HR, hit .270 with 78 rbi’s.  last year…he split time between Toronto & Cleveland as his batting mark slipped to .246 and only played in 52 games. The Braves are hoping that the 33 year old will bounce back in a huge way as the regular 3B for a team that he rooted for as a youngster. The 1 year contract suits the Braves well as they have several young players who will be arriving at their “big money” time in a couple years.

….Sooo…how does this affect the Cards…who seemingly are still out buying their “big game” hunting gear …..with Donaldson off the table…the TWO big targets left are Bryce Harper & Manny Machado. you can “x” out Machado…his style of play & personality do not seem suited for the Cards fan base. Harper is about as young as any superstar could be to enter free agency at 26 years of age. Somehow, I just don’t think that the Cards will break their mold of loading up their MONEY GUN with millions & millions of bucks to bring down a super free agent. I’m already hearing, “we gave him a solid offer but just not enough” response from MO…who claims not to be the GM but really is the director of operations…who do hear representing the Cards on these free agent “hunts”….the GM or MO? Soooo Cards must take over their hunting gear and move to the trading waters.  Paul Goldschmidt seems ideally suited to wear a Redbird uny… go ahead part with 2, 3 or even 4 “prospects” and an everyday player to get him for 1 year. I’d even trade Carlos Martinez as part of the package to get Goldschmidt. Let the fans “bag Goldschmidt on the hunting grounds” with their appreciation and adulation for a super player. Take the chance that you can resign him after next year…. Without a major signing, I predict a drop in Card attendance next year.

…in other “big game” player moves or possible moves around the MLB….

…Mets & Mariners started the ball rolling as they exchanged some “big game” players….if not presently.. surely from the recent past…the Mets obtained Robinson Cano and Cano’s huge salary commitment (due $120m over next 5 years) &  closer Edwin Diaz. Going to the Mariners are aging Jay Bruce, veteran mediocre relief hurler Anthony Swarzak and 3 prospects (2 of whom were #1 picks by NYM). Cano might be the best known of this group…but from my view, Edwin Diaz, just 24 was absolutely terrific last year. He had 57 saves in 61 appearances, 1.96 ERA, 0.79 whip, 124 strikeouts vs 17 walks in 73 1/3 innings. The Mets clearly “won” this big-game deal…Diaz ALONE is worth what Seattle received in return. Seattle does get salary relief as they push off Cano’s salary obligations. Meanwhile, NYM hopes that Cano will get a bit more recharged  in a familiar environment (he played for the Yanks for several years). Cano has also put his 80 game suspension of PED use behind him. NYM also received $20m to offset the huge Cano contract…heck, that’s almost worth the last of the 5 year commitment to him. I’ve stated very often my feeling about “prospects”….they’re like prospectors digging for gold…how often  did they actually fine gold?…..a steal by NYM.

….in the Cardinals recent history, signing the highest level “big game” Free agents has rarely been done…so with that in mind…and with the idea that MLB “big games” have now become bullpen games…2 attractive free agents to me that are former Cardinals – Joe Kelly & Adam Ottovino ..each would both benefit the bullpen and immediately provide experience and depth for the growing number of bullpen games in 2019 MLB action.

In some different types of “big game” action….Saturday was college football championship day…

….some may not have enjoyed the low scoring 10-3 victory by #10 Washington over #17 Utah in the Pac 12 Championship….many, many fans have come to expect the pin-ball type scores in the 50’s with offenses running past the defenses as if they were little brothers in a family “touch” game…. Washington  ran the ball and ran the ball ..often inside the tackles….and played tremendous defense—it was really “old school”….Washington played ball control….consistent run plays, several short passes to backs behind the LOS to eliminate sacks and pick up 3-5 yards per catch along with  a tremendous defense—especially the defensive secondary…in fact, it was the Huskie defense that scored the only TD of the game. In an interception as strange as the game…Byron Murphy (Wash U d-back) reacted to a pass to Utah WR Siaosi Mariner…the pass was low, Mariner got his hands on it…but it slipped through them…hit his upper leg as he was falling…bounded up a bit in the air, Murphy grabbed it outraced the pursuit for a 66 yard Pick. Washington has the ball for almost twice as long as Utah (38:32 minutes) and had drives of 6:40 and another over 10 minutes!!! (there’s only 15 min in a quarter!) Murphy had 3 picks for the day in a “big game” when defense ruled.

…Everyone’s eyes were on the Bama-Georgia game…the Bulldogs played a brilliant game but Alabama just had too much depth…especially at the crucial QB spot…. as Jalen Hurts enters the game after an injury to Tua Tagovailoa and rallies the Crimson Tide for the win and the #1 seed overall. Funny how things work….last year in the same game, Tua Tagovailoa had replaced Hurts to ignite Alabama to beat Georgia in a similar way….what goes around…comes around sometimes…but it won’t happen unless a coach can recruit superior players constantly over the years as Nick Saban has done.

….while we’re in the football “big game” section…I’m staying with my Final Four that I’ve had for a few weeks now, as I write this on Sunday morning…..1. Bama  2. Clemson  3. ND 4. OU. The NCAA show will be later  today.

…in the Nearly Forgotten League (NFL)….there aren’t any “big NFL games” in the Lou any more but..
with many of the usual frontrunners leading  their division…in the AFL its New England, Pittsburgh, KC and Houston….the NFL has Dallas, New Orleans and the Rams on top with things seeming  like the good ol’ days…the status quo…. but… lo and behold…the Chicago Bears are in 1st place by 1.5 games over Minnesota. Is Mike Ditka still playing? George Halas on the sidelines?  Dick Butkus & Gale Sayers as star players? Nope… Go ahead tell me any 3 players on the Bears.. I can’t.
  Where is Green Bay you say?  They’re behind the Lions in 3rd place..ouch!

…In the basketball world, it’s very unusual to have a “big game” prior to Christmas….or even prior to February…but St Louis U made a national footprint with their stunning, convincing win over Butler 64-52. Butler has been the model that the Billikens hope to emulate…..a small, private school that has become well-known and accepted as a national basketball power. It brings recognition, pride, donations and… students to the school. I didn’t see this game but heard Ramer & Earl (Bob Ramsey & Earl Austin) rooting them home on the radio….it was fun hearing each possession with such passion as the game winded down. Kudo’s to Head Coach Travis Ford who has recruited top level players and packed the Chavitz house and made a mark…for at least a day….on the national map…now….the climb to higher rankings continues  as more “W’s are required. I think the Bills will find many of the A-10 games a different caliber than these Butler type games.

….In HS basketball it’s too early in the season to have any real “big games” but Principia’s 5-11 Jordan Frederickson has definitely placed herself as  a “big game Player. At this point, she leads the area in girls scoring as we begin the 1st full week in December. Frederickson , a Junior, carries a 32.5 average through 4 games. She’s displayed outside shooting– 15 3-balls; free throw shooting %– 4th in the area as she shoot 91% (51 of 56 FT). Further, she’s also 3rd in the area in rebounds as she carries a 13.3 reb/gm mark. The Panthers (3-1) can afford to play Frederickson outside (1st of all because she can REALLY shoot) because they have additional height to play inside with Sophomores Makenna Kibbe is 6-0, at 5-11 is Aria McMullin and Sr Georgia Rather is 5-10 to supplement Frederickson.

….to wrap up the ‘Big Games” week…congrats to CBC (now ranked #10 in national polls)in Class 6, Vianney  won Class 5, Ladue is Champ in Class 4, Trinity in Class 3 on winning Missouri State High School Football Championships over the past 2 weekends.

….now it’s time wrap up the “Big Game” week….

 

 

 

 

Sorting out the NCAA Rankings by Bob Ryan

The final weeks of NCAA football generally are very exciting because the “ratings” formed over the season get jumbled as the some of the higher ranked teams finally play quality teams..and then…some lose.   So….this week….I’m  going in detail about my NCAAF rankings …I only list 4 teams…why list 25…only 4 teams are going for the championship playoff. My top 3 teams remain unchanged: 1) Alabama  2) Clemson  3) Notre Dame…..but the Ohio State win over Michigan brings a wider scope of teams into consideration…. let’s take a longer look at each one…..considering records against top 25 teams; strength of non-conference opponents; the level of the teams that BEAT these top teams; overtime wins vs regulation wins

….Georgia….11-1..played 3 top 25 teams (as of last rankings) lost to  #7 LSU 36-16; beat #14 Kentucky 34-17; Beat #11 Florida 36-17….played an abysmal non-conference schedule-Austin Peay, Mid Tennessee, UMass and finally a power 5 team-Georgia Tech (7-5 who had “big’ wins over Alcorn State, Bowling Green, Louisville)….pardon the sarcasm.

….Ohio State….11-1..played just 2 top 25 teams; crushed #4 Michigan 62-39 and beat #12 Penn State 27-26. Their loss was a 49-20 blow out by Purdue (6-6—including a loss to E.Michigan!!) and then barely beat Maryland (5-7) in OT 52-51…I think of college OT wins in this way…you DO get some credit for the win but not the same amount of value as a win in regulation. Ohio State’s non-conference opponents- included two Power 5 opponents–Oregon St(2-10), & TCU(6-6), who were weak …very weak … teams. The 3rd non-conference team was Tulane (6-6) of Aamerican Athletic Conference

…Oklahoma…11-1…played 3 Top 25 opponents…beat #13 W.Viginia 59-56, only loss was to #14 Texas 48-45;beat #25 Iowa State 37-27. OU DID have to go OT to beat Army 28-21…so that win isn’t as clean…but…it was a nonconference opponent who does play a non-power 5 schedule  (for the most part) however the Black Knights are 9-2 for the season. The other non-conference opponent was a non-Power 5 team–Florida Atlantic(5-7).

Now two teams that present interesting dilemmas.

…UCF (Central Florida)…11-0—plays in the American Conference…has seemingly come out of nowhere in the last few years….the best win was over #24 Pitt 45-14. This club doesn’t have a chance at being in the top 4 rankings….and how will they do it?  The Highly ranked teams won’t play them now…schedules drawn up so far in advance….and won’t schedule them for the future because they still are viewed as “small school” going “big”. UCF has won 24 straight games but are seen ..just now..breaking into the bottom of the top 10. The injury to their starting QB on Saturday makes them even a bigger risk for a New Years Day Bowl committee.  I don’t pretend that they are a top 4 NCAA championship but I present their case as an example of how difficult it is for any team outside the SEC or Big 10 to gain national recognition despite going unbeaten for 2 straight years. I’d compare them to the Boise State rise a few years ago from the unknown to an accepted team equivalent to power 5 schools.

….Michigan (10-2)…was the only one of these teams to play a top 5 team in non-conference (Notre Dame)…which they lost by 1 TD…Wolverines beat #12 Penn State 42-7, #19 Northwestern by a score of 17-14…in their 4th game against a top 25 team (they are the ONLY team to play FOUR top 25 teams to this point)…they we shellacked by Ohio State 62-39. Sooo.. with two losses …each against top 10 teams…they are completely out of the running… and you WONDER why these elite teams schedule cupcakes instead of top level opponents. Shouldn’t the real strength of schedule work IN their favor …instead of against them?

….now with all that analysis and information…my top 4 teams …at least for this week are:

  • Alabama 2) Clemson   3) Notre Dame  4) Oklahoma

….falling even deeper in the NHL rankings….the Blues picture still seems muddled….hiring a coach with no NHL Head Coach experience, tons of NHL playing experience, a feisty fighting type player who will be much more direct and outspoken as..apparently… the PC treatment didn’t fare too well  for the laissez-faire Blues. I’m not a hockey expert but it’s clear that the Blues are giving up WAY too many goals  which probably means our defense isn’t good enough…is it their aggressiveness?  Losing a step skating wise? Communication? Checking?  Passing? All of these and more?   I can’t say …but I can say… that this team is in last place as December rolls around. The hopes were very high in the summer because of the acquisitions of O’Reilly (he’s been terrific), Maroon, and others.  But…this club just doesn’t seem to have enough skills to win several games….maybe even two games consecutively. I’ve heard it said that if Tarasenko doesn’t score BIG…the Blues aren’t going anyplace… thus far in 2018 …that statement is true.  The loyal Blues fans are booing on a regular basis now…attendance dipped to 16,100ish last night..Mr. Tom Stillman, who has invested the maximum permitted according to the NHL contract, must start to get some dividends on his huge investment. If we’ve changed two coaches in two years and our record has sunk to unacceptable levels, I’d start to wonder if the GM is pulling all the right strings for the personnel on the roster.

….MU Football probably should get ranked nationally in the top 25 as they notched their 8th win last Saturday as they manhandled an overmatched Arkansas team 38-0. MU has really been playing good football the last 3 weeks. Those 8 wins will probably put them in a bowl sometime between Christmas & New Years…the New Years Day bowls are the best (outside the playoffs) and the closer that one plays to New Years… generally, the better quality (and pay out) the Bowls. The Tigers mid-season malaise when they lost 2 games to Kentucky & S. Carolina really cost them a New Year’s Day outing.

…speaking of football…I rarely touch on the Nearly Forgotten League but…last Monday Nights 54-51 game between the Rams & the Chiefs game clearly gets a #1 ranking in entertainment.  The teams kept racing up and down the field as neither defense had any answers other than…”call for the KO return team”   The next generation of QB stars took center stage…Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes.  Both were so much fun to watch….they made all the throws and yet still ran when necessary. Each QB read the coverage, made pre-snap adjustments and made the passes over and over again. Some facts to digest about that game….It was only the 3rd time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970  that opposing teams in the same game EACH  had just one or fewer losses in Week 11 or later. Those other games were:  Packers (10-1) vs. Cowboys (10-1) in 2007, Giants (10-1) vs. 49ers (10-1) in 1990 and Colts (9-1) vs. Broncos (9-1) in 1977. It was the FIRST time in NFL history that BOTH teams scored over 50 points in a single game. The part that kept me …and most fans riveted…the lead changed hands FOUR different times just in the last quarter and only two Ram interceptions eliminated a 5th lead change! Somehow I felt like a kid playing pinball again…the lights, bells, whistles cha-chinging  in the background… as I watched these two entertaining teams. It  kept me glued to the TV. I guess I was hoping that I’d win a FREE game with the score….maybe I did!!? …will it be in the Super Bowl ?

….a tip of the hat to HEAD UMSL Coach Bob Sunvold. Coach reached his 200th victory as a collegiate HEAD Coach last weekend in the UMSL Thanksgiving Classic.  Clearly, the #1 team in the tournament after chalking up 2 wins on Friday & Saturday, Coach Sunvold has his team perking …now holding a 6-1 record after beating MO Western 74-61 and Central MO State 84-74 in the UMSL T-Day classic. The Tritons won..in what amounted to the Tournament Championship…in Saturday’s game over the Mules (Cen MO St) with some incredible FT shooting..23 of 29 (80%). SR Johnathan Matthews scored 26 points, was 10 of 11 from the line and 4 of 9 from beyond the arc. Jose Grubbs came off the bench for 19 minutes of action and dropped in 15 points. Josh Carter grabbed 11 boards to top the Tritons in that area. SR Eric Dust nailed key free throws coming down the stretch and Soph Shane Wissink ran the offense, dished out 5 assists while scoring 11 points. It was a total team victory as the Tritons bench outscored Central MO bench 29-8 in the game. Both the UMSL Women/Men open up GLVC conference play on Thursday @ home against the McKendree Bearcarts @ 5:30 & 7:30.

…off season “talk” heard about Cards as they hope to move out of the #6 ranking of the NL…

apparently Manager Mike Shildt is intent on increasing “contact” level for the Cards batters this year.  The new Hitting Coach (we seem to be changing hitting coaches like we change our clothes) Jeff Albert ..who previously worked with Houston…did much work in forming and shaping the Astros recognition of “good” pitches in order to make contact. He hopes to do the same with the Cards.

…the upper levels of the Cards minor league system seems to have been drained of many..if not most..of its top MLB prospects in the last couple years. Sooo…it’s probably not ranked #1 in MLB ready prospects…with that In mind…one has to wonder if the Cards practically giving away “veteran” young players like Tommy Pham and Luke Voit at the deadline was done in haste or due to factors outside of performance. Pham and Voit both were very productive batters for their new teams. Pham hit .343, 7 HR, 22 rbi’s with a an OPS of 1.071 in 39 games with the Tampa Bay Rays. He is a 1st year of arbitration this year, so he’ll be due for  raise. As a Yankee, Voit was a crowd favorite….he banged out 14 HR, hit .333 and his OPS was 1.095. Coming down the stretch, it  seems to me that the Cards may have been looking more at their age or pocketbook rather than the standings.

…Well…I don’t want my rankings to drop due to overexposure…..have a good week!

Thanksgiving Smorgasbord by Bob Ryan

It’s Thanksgiving week….many of us look forward to the wonderful Thanksgiving meal…that’s like a smorgasbord….platters keep getting passed around until your plate can barely be seen….well…It’s like that this week….plenty of plates (topics)…be passed around..

…of course the first platter coming around was…what else…Cardinal baseball….this platter looked strange…it was empty on one side and full on the other side…on  the full side, one sees the Cards finishing 7.5 games out of 1st place means…that means just 1 more win a MONTH puts them easily in the playoffs and very close to winning the division; you also see that the Cards DID have  the best record in the National League against teams over .500 (50-39); one also sees the changing landscape of the MLB…starting pitchers DON’T complete games so accept it…in fact the Cards pitchers were tied for the league lead in fewest HR allowed/9 inning@ 0.9; Cards were 5th in NL in runs scored; however, on the empty side of the platter, the Cards were dead last in committing the most errors in the league with 133 miscues and naturally then… had the lowest fielding average in the MLB (by comparison, Houston the best defensive team committed just 77 errors); at the plate the Cards were right in the middle of the MLB with a .249 batting average (league avg .248); mediocrity continued as the Cards were right at the league average of .409 for slugging and runners LOB 1101. So you decide which part of the plate you’d like to “take from” on this Thanksgiving…next plate..

…the Mizzou football platter came next….after the convincing, positive win over Tennessee, it’s clear that the two games that this team gave away to S. Carolina and Kentucky were really devastating to the program. Add those 2 wins to the record(which they should have won..no excuses) coupled with their signature win over Florida and now the Tigers are ranked probably in the top 15 or 20…the attendance (around 50,000) has also been impacted…it’s far beneath the expectations the Mizzou staff since those bad losses….btw…wouldn’t it be nice to see Mizzou wear their traditional uniforms….I watched USC-UCLA  for a very short time yesterday…and they were recognizable immediately… I realize that Mizzou is tied into Nike.. or some other company like that….but really…each week is different ..it’s like Halloween outfits…can’t every use the same one more than once…ugh….next plate please….

…the next platter was very heavy….and it looked like more than anyone in StL could swallow.. at least easily….and it was….according to Forbes….the wealthiest 50 pro franchises…the #1 franchise was the Dallas Cowboys-$4.8B…following were 3 European soccer teams (Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona)..#5 was the NY Yankees @$4B..then NE Patriots…followed by two NBA teams(Knicks & Lakers-each around $3.6 & $3.3B). The Rammies are valued at $3B are in the 14th spot. To give you an idea….The Cardinals are listed at $1.9B—not making the cut-off for the top 50 franchises. It’s been a tremendous jump for the DeWitt’s though…they bought the Cards for $150m…sold the garages for $50m…and now they are worth $1.9B…that’s a B not an M any longer!! Please…the next platter

…the SLU platter arrived next….the Billikens…clearly with their best athletes in many seasons.. are improving…but still have parts of each game that are stagnant….I’d like to see Coach Ford do more as he did in the last game…less plays and more “general” approaches offensively…let the players relax and just play w/o concentrating on running to this spot or that spot..this is an adjustment for Coach Ford…who like most coaches…likes to be in total “control” throughout each game…also….the post players have been like a library drop-off slot..put it in there and it NEVER comes back out..an occasional sharing of the ball by the post players will actually lead to them receiving MORE passes..speaking of passing…..please pass the next platter….

…the Illini football platter came  next…it looked more like liver than turkey and everyone pretended to be interested after the embarrassing 63-0 loss to Iowa but quickly passed it long….with a polite…no thank you…not interested..it moved around the table VERY quickly

…the next platter was smaller….the Final Four Platter (according to this author)….it remains Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan…. almost making this platter was Oklahoma (10-1)…only loss to #15 ranked Texas by 3 points, 48-45; Washington State (9-1)only loss to USC when game tying FG on last play was blocked and Georgia (9-1)—lost by 20 points to a ranked team (LSU).. btw…Ohio State being forced into OT to beat a 5-6 Maryland team.. that game is another “mark” against them…in my book it’s not as clean as a win in regulation..OSU lost against another .500ish team (like Purdue 5-6)..two marks against you….next plate pls..

… not a plate that many fans touch often… Mizzou women’s basketball…… is struggling in the early going of 18-19 season. This is very unusual @ Mizzou, since Head Coach Robin Pingeton arrived in 2012…the Lady Tigers have rolled out seasons of 17-15, 17-14, 19-14,22-10, 22-11, and 22-5. Very good!  This year the leading scorer, SR Sophie Cunningham, returns with a totally different looking squad.  Cunningham has ALWAYS been surrounded with strong, good players….she had it that way @ Rock Bridge HS (in Columbia) and through her 1st 3 years at CoMO…but this year….not so much….as a result, it appeared to me as I watched the Tigers lose their 1st non-conference HOME game since Dec 3, 2011 to U Wisc-Green Bay 56-49. Sure.. Amber Smith provided wonderful outside shooting but Cunningham was still 2x & sometimes 3x…so to me….she occasionally tried doing too much…leading her into mistakes.  One clear suggestion is that the players w/o the ball must move to make themselves available to Cunningham, make the 1st strong, quick pass and another teammate break “back door”….it won’t always work…but….Mizzou must give Cunningham a chance to score w/o multiple players hanging all over her….pass the plate…

..the High School platter generally is filled with info about teams that have been missed or overlooked throughout the season or week…but in this special “thanksgiving” time…it’s appropriate to show some love to one of my friends….Terry Michler.  A graduate of CBC who excelled not only in soccer (played in the winter in those days) but also football where  he was the QB. Terry held many of the CBC passing records until the run-shoot passing days emerged with 2 or 3x as many passes per game. Then, Terry went on to play professional soccer in the days when the teams “HAD” to carry 2 Americans per team. So…there were about 15 American players were in the league…Terry was one of them. Then he accepted a job at CBC.  Over the weekend, his Cadet soccer team beat DeSmet 1-0 to capture the 10th STATE soccer title for CBC and #9 for Terry. Terry has won more HS soccer games than any USA soccer coach…his unbelievable record of 990-229-106 is due to….yes…he does get good players who want to play for him.. but he constantly works on ways to improve HIS coaching..despite winning 990 games.. he takes his annual trip to Europe to learn of the “newest” approaches being used there. His training of players, knowledge and passion for the game, relationship with players all lead to this outstanding season and career….congrats…. now pass the plate….

…for the dessert platter……the SEC provided plenty of cupcakes in Week 12 …with  the likes The Citadel, Idaho, Liberty, UAB, Chattanooga and Massachusetts on the platter……this isn’t anything new for SEC teams… earlier in the season they feasted on powerhouses like  UT-Martin, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Murray State and others…trying to save space here.. the list is too long…as the once famous philosopher Ric Flair said,”to be the man…ya gotta beat the man” … not feasting on cupcakes 10-20% of your games.

…so with that…hope you’ve enjoyed this Thanksgiving  smorgasbord and wishing each of you a wonderful Thanksgiving  and T-Day weekend.

All that glitters isn’t Gold by Bob Ryan

The ol’ expression “All that glitters isn’t Gold” holds true in the sports world  too…in fact…right here in the Lou…

…Yadier Molina is without question a hero throughout StL…his durability, his ability to call the correct sequence of pitches, his relationship with pitchers—especially young ones, his increased batting ability over the years…his “hero” status ranks right up there with Stan, Red, Lou, Ozzie, Dizzy, and others….but……with all those accolades being true….his receiving of the Gold Glove is due to his glitter …not his play in 2018 …..take a look at some actual statistics from Fan Graphs…not mine…that demonstrate that Yadi is NOT the premier “catcher” of NL.

Assists…Yadi is #19 in the MLB with 42 assists

The numbers of runs above or below that the catcher was worth to his pitcher based on framing …Yadi was +1 which was put him at #29 in the MLB

Total Fielding above average …Yadi’s numbers put him at #9 in the MLB

How many runners were caught stealing  31%…that’s # 35 in the MLB

The number of RUNS below the average that the catcher was worth based on baserunner kills or baserunner advances….Yadi was at -1…which was #87 in MLB

The number of runs below the average that the catcher was for the pitchers ERA…he was -3 which put him at #7 in the MLB

Total passed balls…4 …was #9 in the MLB….and a personal note here……Yadi must get all those PB on the road…at home, his handling of low pitches..  usually to the right of him that he needs to shift his feet, bend at the waist and keep in front of him….rarely happens….those seemingly are ALWAYS called Wild Pitches by the home town official scorer.

…..Yadi did earn and deserved many gold gloves….but not in 2018.

….Baseball writer and research expert, Bill James…..really threw the baseball players out  like they were only fools gold….not gold at all….when he said this week, “baseball  players are overpaid and, when it was suggested that some were underpaid, he sarcastically said “my heart bleeds for them.” He went on to say “If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on and in three years it would make no difference whatsoever.  The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are.”  ..do YOU think that’s true?

….not only did he have a golden career but a golden send-off…this is the tale of Joe Maurer.

He was born in Minnesota…attended a HS in St. Paul, was drafted #1 overall by the Twins in 2001. He played his entire career in Minnesota. Mauer appeared in 1,858 games, tallying 2,123 hits and 143 home runs, and posting a slash line of .306/.388/.439 not for 1 year….but his entire career. In 2006, Maurer became the 1st full-time catcher to win a batting title. Maurer won 3 batting crowns total in his career. He was named the league MVP in 2009….only Thurman Munson, Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez have grabbed that honor as catchers. His golden sendoff was very touching…he started the game@ 1B and was greeted by his 2 daughters there. In his final AB, the ripped a double to left-center (he was a  left handed hitter) so this was so typical of his hitting style of hitting the ball where it was pitched throughout his career.  Then, for the last time, Mauer put on his catcher’s gear (first time in more than five years)  and caught one pitch from Matt Belisle before leaving  the game to a rousing ovation from the Twins fans. He has a very strong set of numbers to consider in 5 years when he becomes eligible for the HOF.  Despite the indifferent approach of most MLB fans to the Twins…. the HOF voters won’t ignore his accomplishments.  Best of all….in the “big picture”…Mauer’s  career will be remembered fondly. He was universally well-regarded by fans across the league, by his teammates, coaches, and ..even…. the media….as a consummate professional from day 1 to his final day! Congratulations to him! If there was a Stan Musial Award for professionalism, performance, gentlemanliness, plain ol’ goodness… he’d receive it.

….Coaches and organizations KNOW the golden superstars when they have one….about 46% of Pro Football HOF’ers played for just ONE team in their NFL careers!

…..Many college football coaches are hired due to their “gold”…..but often it turn out only to be glitter… look at the University of Illinois football program and litter of coaches over the past 25+ years…When John Mackovic bolted Illinois for Texas in 1991 , he had taken the Fighting Illini to 4 bowls in 4 seasons and compiled a 30-16-1 mark at Champaign…some might say that he was the last “golden” coach @ Illinois…. Lou Tepper spent 5 years there, went 25-30-1 with 2 winning seasons and a 5-5-1 season; from 1997 -2004 (8 seasons) Ron Turner went 35-57 for his tenure which included gold seasons 10-2 and 8-4 (2 bowls: next came in Ron Zook for the 2005 season ..he went thru 2011, Zook posted a 35-51…he had 3 winning seasons of his 7 seasons…all three winning years resulting in bowls…2012 saw Tim Beckmann brought in …he went 12-25 in 3 seasons….Bill Cubit lasted just 1 season…. then with golden anticipation, Lovie Smith was hired.  In his first 2 seasons, Lovie has gone 2-10 and 3-9…. clearly since Mackovic left, the program….why do they call the football team a “program”.. there’s no Frosh team, soph team, JV team….just  1 team…anyway…the Illini have left the golden stage and now find themselves buried deep in the celler….all those “golden” coaches  were hired….all turned out to be glitter…btw…..MOST …if not ALL… of the former Illini coaches would have been fired after 2016-17 seasons ….Lovie’s NFL reputation has bought him “HOLD ONTO THE JOB card”…at least for the time being.

….on the other hand, the Lou enjoyed all the golden years of Vince Coleman.  Somehow… I thought that he had spent most of his career here in the Lou…..nope…only the first 6 years when he terrified the NL with his speed…..he won the Stolen Base Crown all 6 years. From 1985-1990 Vince stole 110, 107, 109, 81, 65, 77 bases…then he left St Louis…..surprisingly to me… Vince played 7 more years in the MLB!  He played for the Mets, Royals, Reds ,Seattle and Detroit in those next 7 years….but he was never GOLDEN like he was in St. Louis. Vince changed the game….pitchers began using “slide steps”…repeated throws to 1B….”holding the ball” longer to throw off the rhythm of the runner….it was exciting for me when he got on 1B, Vince knew what he was going to do, the opposing team knew, the fans knew, everyone knew…but he stole the base anyway…and it was golden.

….I had the opportunity to attend the Blues-Sharks game on Friday night.  It was really a “golden” game…the Blues checked constantly, skated hard..the Sharks ..to my recollection,  only had 3 or 4 times of long possessions and mild pressure on the Blues.  The Blues demonstrated some deft passing right in front of the net as the Blues players were moving while receiving or tapping in passes. Johnson was sharp in goal.  Beleaguered Blues defensemen found open teammates either horizontally or vertically to keep possession and make the transition from defense to offense smoothly. Only a few penalties… which kept the game moving along….and yes….we were in our cars by 9:40 smiling & happy over enjoying a golden Blues game…now it must be repeated…since ..we are what we repeatedly do (Plato).

…My “golden” NCAA rankings for this week….1) Bama  2) Clemson 3) ND   4) Michigan… it was brought to my attention last week that ND had beaten Michigan so how could Michigan be ranked higher….great point…so….I flip-flopped them back again. Catching my eye…but not necessarily in this order is Washington State, OU,  West Virginia, Georgia.

….Not real golden is the non-conference schedule for SEC teams. Texas A&M’s new head coach Jimbo Fisher had the pleasure of holding the mark as the toughest non-conference schedule in the SEC…..Opening up with his former team, Clemson, was a top notch game…. Then they “played” powerhouses like Northwestern State, LA-Monroe, Ala-Birmingham… and this is reportedly the toughest SEC non-conference schedule in 2018?  Much more glitter than gold in the schedules of these teams.

…All the Power 5 conferences want to dodge each other in early non-conference games…. they might lose 1!!  Shouldn’t a Power 5 team that tight  loses to another Power 5 team get more value than wins over teams from much, much less talented conferences? And…if they lose by a substantial amount…they probably shouldn’t be ranked anyway. A major part of the problem is that teams draw up their schedules YEARS…almost decades…in advance. Who’s crystal ball can tell them who’ll be “good” in 10 years?   I believe that the magical number of wins (6) to qualify for a bowl MUST be wins over Power 5 conference teams….no more counting wins over D-II teams , or NW Southern Alaska type teams, or any team from Division I-AA…a team may play those type of teams….but wins would not be “counted” towards the magical number of 6 to qualify for one of the ….is it 30 bowls? Btw…way, way TOO many bowls. I’m dreaming here…..wouldn’t it be phenomenal that all of the power 5 conferences and top teams outside those conferences to form an imaginary 6th conference for scheduling purposes agreed to keep open weeks 2 & 3 for non-conference games against each other? For example, the #8 team of one conference would play the #8 team of another…#7 v #7….etc …all the way up to #1 v #1. Each team would have 1 home and 1 road game.  After the 2 year cycle ..repeat process with conferences facing different conferences in the same manner. It won’t happen because the teams at the TOP don’t want to lose their grip on the control of the arbitrary voting procedures currently in use.

….Divisional Conference Championships seem to mean very little..if anything… any longer. In the Big 10, Northwestern is on top of the Big 10 West with a 6-1 league mark. Their overall record is 6-4. The Wildcats began the season 1-3 with losses to Duke, Akron (ouch), Michigan. They’ve won 5 of the last 6 games with their only loss to ND. Weirdly, this club is 4-0 on the road and 2-4 at home (guess they don’t’ schedule any cupcakes at home). They’ve won 4 games by 4 points or less soooo.. they arent’ piling up the points with the voters of the polls. It appears that they will win the West since Minnesota and Illinois are their last 2 opponents.  Another team winning their division ..and being ignored…is the Pittsburgh Panthers. Pitt is on top of the ACC Coastal Division with a 6-1 conference record. Overall the Panthers are 6-4, again it was their slow start…they were 2-3 with lopsided losses to Penn State and Central Florida. Since that time they are 4-1 with wins over Syracuse (ranked), #23 Virginia, and their only loss in that time was a loss to Notre Dame who beat them in the final minutes of the game.

…Back in the day….Don Faurot ….Head Mizzou Coach/AD from 1935-1956 put Missouri “on the map” by playing a golden schedule. He was 110-80 with those wicked schedules.  His immediate successors, kept the same attitude. Typically ALL of the non-conference opponents came from …what we now call…the power 5 conferences. According to one article published in Jan 2015 using the SRS method, the Top 10  Mizzou football teams in their history are listed below:

                                       Coach                                                 record             rank            SRS

1 1969 Dan Devine 9-2 6th 23.7
2 1960 Dan Devine 11-0 5th 21.9
3 2013 Gary Pinkel 12-2 5th 20.0
4 1968 Dan Devine 8-3 9th 18.9
5 1941 Don Faurot 8-2 9th 18.9
6 1973 Al Onofrio 8-4 17th 17.1
7 2007 Gary Pinkel 12-2 4th 16.8
8 1965 Dan Devine 8-2-1 6th 16.0
9 1980 Warren Powers 8-4 15.8
10 1978 Warren Powers 8-4 15th 15.3

 

 Soooooo….the “golden” way now…schedule at least 3 cream puffs ..preferably 4… in the 1st month of the season…..pile up big one-sided wins….dodge any top 25 teams in non-conference teams in your “pre-season”…lose 2 or 3 conference late in the season….don’t worry about winning you’re the division of your conference….so & so’s team is always “loaded” so how can you be expected to win it??…. and …you’ll be ranked, land in a bowl close to New Years, keep the alumni, students smiling because a win is a win…doesn’t’ matter who the sacrificial lambs were in September…and all that’s fine…..but how does it make you a higher ranked team than one who DOES play challenging non-conference games and then wins their division in their power 5 conference?

Well…Rome wasn’t built in a day….so neither are these “golden” suggestions.   

 

Behind the Scenes by Bob Ryan

Sometimes we see “stuff’ in front of us….but sometimes…the REAL ACTION is behind the scenes where deals are done, info is spread,  ideas are planted for future harvesting, often we learn about it later..much later… about these deal….or…maybe not at all…

…Clearly the talk behind the scenes in CoMO recently about Barry Odum wasn’t flattering..or even positive… prior to the Florida game.  The Tigers….who wear a different uniform each week (why all white?-aren’t the colors black & gold?)….anyway…were very well prepared and had an outstanding game plan for the fleet footed Gators….they used running fakes then quick outside screen passes and used a running game that made the speed of Florida work against themselves …. the primary running play was a stretch play that saw the Florida defenders fighting to get outside only to see the Mizzou back cut behind his blockers and run north-south for good yards, the short passes to the TE (until he was injured) and backs out of the backfield was followed by the fake and then throwing the ball deep. Drew Lock played a terrific game in front of a national audience.  The O & D lines were better than Florida’s….and that’s where you REALLY win the game. Barry Odum did a “number” on the Florida Gators with his a approach offensively.. meanwhile Mizzou’s defense  was aided by Felipe Franks…the starting Gator QB….who threw every pass like  a fastball…. And for that matter …ran like most MLB pitchers ….his fastball  worked on down & outs and short passes….but the lack of arch on his long passes made the chances of success for the deep balls very low. Florida didn’t pull him until it was too late. The announcers commented that Franks often “got down” during a game….I don’t think that he’ll have to worry about that any longer….he won’t be in the game…to get down about his play. 

…..Interestingly, long-time  HOF baseball writer Rick Hummel gave HIS grades for the Cards field players for 2018…maybe you haven’t seen these grades previously since  they’ve been behind the scenes for most of the StL area.. Matt Carpenter- A-;  Patrick Wisdom- B;  Paul DeJong –  B; Kolton Wong- C+;  Jedd Gyorko-  C; Matt Adams-  C; Greg Garcia- D;  Yadier Molina- A+; Francisco Pena-  C;  Carson Kelly- D; Jose Martinez- A-;  Harrison Bader- B+;  Tyler O’Neill- B; Marcell Ozuna- C+, Dexter Fowler- F; Field Staff- C-.  Obviously, these grades compare actual production to the expected production…I mean Patrick Wisdom didn’t produce more than Jedd Gyorko..but he surprised most observers with his play after languishing in the minors for many years. Even before Halloween, Garcia and Francisco Pena were pushed out the door. The grade for the Field Staff must be based on the last month when the club faltered, matchups seemed less favorable for the Cards, errors in judgment about misusing or not using players were highlighted as the playoff ticket slipped away. I personally wouldn’t rate Martinez with an A-….his fielding cost us several games.

….Right out in the open…not behind the scenes …are my weekly NCAA rankings…I only go 4 deep because….how many teams make the NCAA playoffs?  FOUR!….1) Alabama  2) Clemson, 3) Michigan  4) Notre Dame….I flip-flopped ND & Michigan this week…I think Michigan is improving as the season progresses and their defense is terrific.

…Behind the scenes,  there must be concern by the MLB management….after a drop in regular season attendance, the ratings for the World Series between two of the biggest  Market teams (Boston & LA) averaged 14, 125,000/game….down 25% from last year’s 18,909,000 average viewers.  It’s the 4th lowest total EVER!  Those painfully, sllllooooowwww, long games where one sits 20-30 minutes between fleeting moments of exciting plays doesn’t appeal to many Americans…who are accustom to instant pics, news now, replays on demand, exciting plays or a fast moving contest don’t want to sit and watch guys strikeout.

….Behind the scenes, there HAS to be talk about the inept Oakland Raiders. Jon Gruden has really flopped thus far. Some whispered rumors are  that the players have quit on Gruden.. Gruden’s July quote “If I can’t get it done, I’m not going to take their money,” is starting to boomerang in his face….It’s only half a season but…the Raiders ARE really bad. There’s no pity or sympathy in the Nearly Forgotten League for the downtrodden.

…..Behind the scenes…..is anyone else wondering why 3 of the Brewers coaches have left their staff this off season…this coming off of a Playoff Production year?  Is it environment? the Manager?, the salary? the expectations? The management? Hmmmm?

…behind the scenes at Florida State where the pressure has mounted and all the “talk” about what a horrible hire 1st year Coach Willie Taggert has been thus far for Florida State. The Seminoles were humiliated by Clemson 59-10 and their record sank to 4-4..Taggert tried emphasizing in a press conference that he wants his players to embrace being a “Seminole”.. that’s not real inspiring for a team  who may miss a Bowl for the 1st time in 42 years!!!!  

….behind the scenes when youngsters are very, very young…their parents are often instructed to have their children specialize…don’t waste time playing other sports….it seems so foolish to me…how does one know the best sport for an 8 year old, 10 year old, even 16?…anyway…one of the all-time best NBA basketball players…Wilt Chamberlain won three straight Big Eight Titles in the High Jump and was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame… Athleticism trumps at the higher levels.

…Behind the scenes for many years in the Lou has been pro basketball….when Ben Kerner (owner of the St. Louis Hawks) declared in 1966 after the Blues opened shop.. that this city wasn’t big enough to support two winter teams, he left for Atlanta. NBA has been on the back-burner ever since….only..it seems when a local (Larry Hughes, Bradley Beal, Jason Tatum) makes the NBA and is a significant player does one hear anything about the NBA…but.. the latest plan of the NBA could revamp college basketball. The NBA has developed its own minor league system….beginning in 2000, most of the NBA teams sponsored teams for players who weren’t in college, were 20 years old but demonstrated some possibility of playing someday in the NBA. Called the NBA-G league (because Gatorade sponsored much of it)…some 40%of NBA current players have experienced some time in the NBA-G league. The League plays a 50 game schedule, has two rounds of 1 game playoffs and then a 3 game series for the championship. Starting this year will be a new approach….18 year olds….formerly designated as the “one and done” college players…may now skip the pretend college experience where they attend class 1 semester and not much…if any .. in the 2nd semester and go directly to the NBA…Now they’d go to the NBA-G league and will be paid  $125,000 salary under a new ‘select” contract. Recent HS graduates   may only play for 1 year in this league under this new “select” clause at which time they’ll go directly into the NBA draft. Will it work?  Who knows…. It does like an effort to remove all the shoe “hush money” that gets funneled to the HS and college players. (Does anyone REALLY think that any of these big-time NCAA coaches don’t know of this going on behind the scenes? Their biggest effort is to stay clear of any way showing involvement.) It may work out that the players will still “play along” with the shoe money, get 1 year of college notoriety and THEN jump into the NBA-G league mid-season . It sounds like a step towards more openness ….but…time will tell how the system actually works out.

….behind the scenes in many cases, was the best NCAA GOW… W.Virginia 42 Texas 41. This game had TEN different lead changes, 1 tie and the winning score came with only 16 seconds left. When WVa Gary Jennings’ caught a 33 yd pass from Will Grier, that cut the Texas lead to 41-40.  Will Grier ran a bootleg for the 2 point conversion to give the  Mountaineers  the thrilling 42-41 win. This 3 hour 49 minute game was played before 100,703 people in Austin. Grier passed for 346 yards for WVa while Sam Ellinger(Tx) had 354 passing yards to his credit. WVU had 9 different receivers and a total offensive number (run+passing yards)  of 583 yards. The Longhorns were held to just 539 yards of total offense…yep…1100+ yards of total offense in this wild game.

…on the High School scene…oft behind the scenes, St. Charles West Boys Soccer team 24-1 for 2018, has assembled an outstanding season and has advanced to the Final Four of Class 2 Boys Soccer Championships with a convincing 6-1 win over Christian O’Fallon. The Warriors had a much, much tougher opening round in the STATE tourney (called Sectional) as they edged Whitfield 3-2 in OT. In that game, all 5 goals of the game were scored by just 2 players!  For Whitfield it was Tyler Arulsamy scoring both goals. SCW’s “turkey” belonged to SR Evan Eickhoff.  The leading scorers for SCW ,however,  has been the metropolitan scoring leader, SR Nick Schreiber who has a whopping 46 goals this year. Following him in scoring for the Warrriors is JR Adam Mays with 22 goals. This prolific offense has netted 115 goals this season…that’s 4.6 goals per game.  The only loss suffered by St Charles West was way back in August as they dropped a 2-1 match with Trinity. SR Keeper Logan Lingle has 10 solo shutouts and has permitted only 17 goals all season. While scoring goals and stopping goals ARE very significant, a tip of the hat to the other seniors on the team since total team play is required to win—(in alphabetical order)  Trent Champagne, Devon Emrick, Eddie Garcia, Aiden Gremminger, Clark Justin, Jason Maull, Mitch Smith. Best of luck to the Warriors,  as they take on Pembroke Hill in the STATE semifinals.

He stepped into it by Bob Ryan

In the NLCS, Manny Machado clearly stepped on the foot of the Brewer 1B….then he really stepped into it…..he was called out by the Brewers as being “dirty” since he’s done similar types of things previously… despite his prodigious power….Machado’s action …it seems to me…..relegates him to a 2nd tier type team signing him …the top tier teams probably don’t want to be sidetracked… apologizing for a “dirty” star …..does this mean that he’ll get less money… I doubt it….but I can’t see any of the current playoff teams of 2018  looking towards him to be “the guy” due to his tendency to “wake up” the other teams with his type of play. I’m thinking…he seems to be a big city guy….although he wants to be with a “winner”… I think that it could be Philadelphia, San Francisco, Mets as the front runners for his services.

….speaking of stepping into it….so now the NFL sees the trouble brewing between Kronke and the Chargers….so they float the idea of the Chargers going to StL…right!..with all the bitterness still rampant in the Lou about the move and the last 2…or is it 3..years with no NFL…people have moved on…btw.. from what I read about the Lou’s suit against Kronke/Rams…it appears that St Louis’ has a very strong set of arguments and facts…..the number being thrown around is $140 to St. Louis….that’d really be super….maybe… St Louis could step out of all their debt….pay off that dormant, ugly  Dome….and move the city forward.

….continuing in more off-season baseball…..more and more clouds are surrounding Wrigley Field…. apparently management isn’t seeing eye to eye with Joe Maddon ….but…they don’t want to “step in it” with the public. This mgmt. team HAS been aggressive in trading & signing highly skilled young players…..and currently…. management holds more cards with ownership than the field manager…the expectation was that 2018 would be another run at the Series for the Cubbies…..it didn’t work out that way….they were bounced out of the post-season prior to the Series….. however, it’s one thing to acquire good players….it’s another to get them to play “hard” every day….year after year……IF…probably a big IF…. they part ways….Maddon won’t be unemployed very long. It may sound strange to us about Maddon…it’s about as surprising as learning that Bill Buckner had more hits in his career than Ted Williams! Which he did!!

….Sooooo…as of Nov 1, 2018 ….the Cards 2019 rotation….at this point….seems to be Martinez, Mikolas, Flaherty, Wacha and Gomber…..Wainwright’s role?….I feel like the Cards are stepping into it with Wainwright…..I don’t believe that he can pitch effectively in relief every 2nd or 3rd day with his aging arm/elbow….although relief pitching  IS a need for all MLB teams…find 2 guys who can go 2-3 innings every 3rd day…chew up those middle innings with bridge pitchers…save those arms…sooo…if Wainwright CAN pitch…which I doubt…but for the sake of argument…let’s say that he can pitch regularly…I’d start him and make Martinez that “Bridge” man or long closer that I’ve just described. Martinez may balk because those type of guys aren’t getting paid the big bucks but….he did serve us well as a closer/reliever late in 2018. I really think that the back end of this starting rotation is only fair to middling anyway….at best….they seem like 5 inning guys. The Bullpen is the emphasis currently throughout the MLB…hope that the Cards really work hard to upgrade their pen… moving Martinez there would be a start to solving the problem.

…While many Card fans are yelling about “sign” him…or sign that guy…watch where you step……it made me think of all the stink in 2012 … right after winning the 2011 Series….when Albert Pujols left the Cards….we knew with our brain that it was the right move but our hearts tugged a different direction….looking over the past 7 years…the Angels have really stepped into it….Albert’s performance in LA looks like this in a nutshell…he’s hit 188 HR, hit 40 dingers once…over 100 rbi’s –4x, 95 once and in the 60’s twice…batting average…his 1st year as an Angel… .285..since then .272 in 2014 in the .260-.240’s all the other years…he’s been paid $153m to date by the Angels with 3 more years at $28, 29,& 30m…the ironical part is that he’s NEVER really been the “man”….Since Mike Trout arrival, Trout has been the shining star for Angels. The Cards management has been extremely careful about not “stepping into it” when it comes to free agents but currently there is more pressure on them to “bring in” a top level player which means top level salaries.

….but…the baseball season isn’t over…Boston has a 3-1 lead in the Series as I write this on Sunday morning….not only can the Red Sox knock the ball out of the ballpark…like most other teams today….they are fast and aggressive on the bases and play very good defense. I must admit that I do enjoy the games @ Fenway…it’s quirkiness around the ballpark adds a dimension of uncertainty that “spices” up the game for me. Many of those old ball parks were built in eras when the ballpark had to fit into the dimensions of a busy city….so…it wasn’t perfectly symmetrical and quite so spacious as the modern-day ballparks. The peculiarities of long-gone parks like Polo Grounds, Forbes Field, Ebbets Field brought different challenges to each game. Why don’t the Cardinals take out about 2/3 of that greenery in center field…make the walls rounded there….let’s see some triples… your thoughts on that suggestion?

…Mizzou really stepped into to it on Saturday….Dropping a heartbreaking , job killing, game to Kentucky 15-14  was devastating … when the game was extended due to a penalty on the Tigers …..but NO 1st downs offensively in the entire 2nd half for Mizzou…. unbelievable….an ill advised pass play in the 4th quarter that went incomplete and allowed Kentucky to hold onto their final time out for the last O-drive when the coaching staff decides to “fool” the opponent with a “safe”  pass (that went incomplete) and not follow the “norm” of making the opposition use up all their time outs…I’ve coached a long time…my good teams ….somehow found a way to win….my poor teams always found a way to lose…sometimes very creatively … like Mizzou just did…clearly Mizzou can play with these teams…. but …..can they beat them? What mighta been, coulda been…shoulda been…..hasn’t happened.

….clearly Mizzou’s game was the most exciting of the day….at #2 for the day, was the thrilling #14 Washington State ‘s late FG to beat #24 Stanford 41-38.  When the  Cougars (7-1, 4-1)fell behind 28-14 in the 1st half, the Cougars didn’t seemed fazed. QB Gardiner Minshew put the Cougars on his back….he was 40 of 50 passing, 438 yards passing, 3 TD passes and involved 10 different receivers!  He completed his first 19 passes of the 2nd half!  Even when Stanford tied the game 38-38 with a 1:25 left in the game, Minshew felt confident that his club would score again. The big play on the drive was a 35 yard completion to Jamire Calvin on a 3rd & 2 situation. Minshew advanced the ball to the 24 with 1 more pass. Then..Blake Mazza….attempting his FIRST ever game winning kick…. booted a 42 yarder for the winning score. Washington State has now knocked off ranked teams in back-back weeks for the 1st time since 2002 and with only 1 loss and are on top of the conference.

….I can hear it already…there’s got to be 2 SEC teams in the final four of NCAA football championships. My top 4 college football teams at this moment…Alabama, Clemson, ND, Michigan. How can some polls still have Ohio State #9 after being swamped by an unranked team? Michigan’s loss was to #3 ranked ND by one score. Oklahoma’s only loss was to #15 Texas by 3 points.

….I’m not a hockey expert….just a hockey fan…but even I can tell that something is wrong with the Blues…. Sure… they beat the Hawks by scoring 7 goals on Saturday…but…how often are they going to do that?..most of the team looks slow to me…especially the defensemen…..Jake Allen may not be the best….but he’s had many…way too many….easy shots against him….. I see Mike Yeo yelling frequently now …don’t remember him yelling at all last year…..the  open shots for the opposing teams must be eliminated if the Blues want to succeed….I don’t know  if Glen Hall was in the nets that he’d do any better… with those “good looks”….these NHL scorers WILL put it into the net. I’m getting tired of hearing, “we gotta give effort throughout the entire game”… That’s ridiculous…of course they do…that’s a minimum expectation for any professional. ..or even an amateur…or even a youth sports member… ALWAYS give your best effort!  Maybe…our players simply aren’t good enough…it seems to me the passionate Blues fans have a hard time…very hard time… saying that simple statement. Unfortunately…it’s really a shame … since Enterprise stepped into this situation and basically “saved” the Blues. Let’s hope that the Blues can tighten up on this home stand. However…..I see the lynching crowd forming for Yeo…you can’t fire the entire team….he might be walking the long green mile …oops…the long blue mile shortly.

…the Billikens Basketball team is “stepping up” …not into it….chosen in pre-season as the top team in the A-10..the Billikens have Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, Houston and Florida State coming into town for non-conference games in 18-19 season. This is a huge upgrade in non-conference opponents. It should be an exciting season.

…Lane Kiffin has stepped into it….he’s at Florida Atlantic now….after a recent loss t Louisiana Tech 21-13 he lamented, “We killed ourselves… but it’s just ridiculous, you know, the things we do.”…11 penalties, a pair of turnovers that dropped Owls record to 3-5….this is a bit ironical when one looks @ Kiffin’s coaching career which has been slipping down the coaching totem pole throughout his career….after several positional coaching positions, he was hired as HEAD coach of the Oakland Raiders by Al Davis in Jan, 2007…gone by Jan, 2008…in Nov 2008 hired as HEAD Coach Tennessee University..in Feb 2009…before he even coached a Volunteer game…he accused Urban Meyer of illegal recruiting, ‘”I’m going to turn Florida in right here in front of you,” Kiffin told the booster breakfast crowd. “As Nu’Keese (Richardson) was here on campus, his phone keeps ringing. And so one of our coaches is sitting in the meeting with him and says, ‘Who is that?’ And he looks at the phone and says, ‘Urban Meyer.’ Just so you know, you can’t call a recruit on another campus. But I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn’t get him.” Interestingly, it was Kiffin who was rebuked because he used the actual name of a recruit. Urban Meyer escaped without a scratch. On Jan 12, 2010 Kiffin bolted for USC. After a couple successful years, he was fired on Sept 28, 2013 when his club was 0-2….then slipping back to the Coordinator level…he was hired as Offensive Coordinator @ Bama in Dec 2013.  Florida Atlantic hired him on Dec 12, 2016. He went 11-3 in his 1st year(17)…but it seems to an outsider….that he’s a “flash in the pan” where ever he goes….yet….”it’s  just ridiculous the things we do”…I’d say that about his career … btw….the name “Kiffin” may be familiar to you….his Dad…Monte Kiffin was a long-time Defensive Coordinator in the NFL, making his fame @ Tampa Bay.

….last week, while MO high school football was playing in the 1st round of districts with most games being terrible mismatches (#8 vs #1 and #7 vs #2 in district) scores like 83-0, 90-6, 86-0, 63-0, 61-0, 62-0, 64-0 are found in the unfortunate one-sided massacres that took place….again I suggest….only the top 4 football teams should be entering into the district competition for the State Title. Let the other “also rans” finish the season with some dignity and play teams with similar records (e.g. #7 vs #8, #5 vs #6). We use a mercy rule during the game….why can’t we use the mercy rule in scheduling? The contention that the teams will miss out on district play is egregious. With the new point system seeding the teams through the first 9 weeks of the season, each game IS part of a district ranking….i.e. competition … these less talented teams have ALREADY competed in the district standings.

….Meanwhile there were cross-country districts across Missouri on Saturday. Last week we highlighted in depth the spectacular Festus XC team….well…it was no fluke…Festus ran away…pardon the pun… with the Class 3 District 1 Title with the tiny score of 24 points. Herculaneum was a distant 2nd place with 59 points. Herky has been a very strong XC program for decades. Festus captured six of the first 9 places…..winning the meet was Maxwell McDaniel with a time of 15:53.94. Teammate Alec Whitener,  was 4th @16:46.57, in 5th spot was Simon Ogle  16:59.77, at #6 it was Jonah Krieg 17:05.34, at #8 was Garrett Rhine,17:20.20 and the 6th runner on the team finished 9th Dominik Kayser @ 17:23.64. The final member of the team finished at 15th place Trenton Childress 17:37.23. Seven runners in the top 15 of a District Meet…WOW! Congrats again to this outstanding team!! Remember….only the points of the top 5 runners count towards the team total. Clearly they are the favorites to win the Class 3 title. Now it’s time for me to run away…not as fast as the Festus runners…. without “stepping in it”