Right Place … Right Time by Bob Ryan

We all know that being in the right place, right time is an important part of life. I bet each of you could provide examples of that happening to you. But….being at the right place, wrong time can really be devastating….you saw in the  Kentucky Derby one horse cutting off another…..who knows maybe seconds earlier…or seconds later….there’s no disqualification and we have a different Kentucky Derby winner. It’s true all around sports and has been for a long time.

…of course the classic example is the Lou Gehrig story. According to folklore, on June 2, 1925 1B Wally Pipp showed up @ Yankee Stadium with a severe headache and asked the trainer for 2 aspirin. Mgr Miller Huggins overheard the request and said, “ Wally, take the day off. We’ll try that kid Gehrig  @ 1b today and get you back in there tomorrow. Gehrig had 3 hits that day….and didn’t miss a game again until May 2, 1939. 2130 consecutive games! Gehrig wasn’t just playing…he was truly outstanding….in his HOF career he scored AND drove in more than 100 run in 13 consecutive years. In 1931, Gehrig drove in 184 runs!! In 1934 Gehrig won the triple crown….HR (49), avg (.363), RBI (165). Not being intimidated by “Big Games”, Gehrig batted .361 cumulatively in the World Series’ in which he competed. Clearly Wall Pipp was at the wrong place and the wrong time with his statement. Btw….the most recent playing streaks of over 500 games is held by a very, very unlikely candidate in my eyes….I don’t think of this guy as one who could take the daily grinds of MLB action….it’s Prince Fielder—547 games, September 14, 2010-May 16, 2014.

….the Blues hiring of Craig Berube was a perfect example of right place, right time. The Blues seemed to need a more definitive approach. Berube’s, “ you WILL do this…or that” resonated with the Blues. His handling of veterans with the same type of corrective comments…sometimes …probably…on the harsh side helped to make the players feel that his message was to ALL the players…not just the youngsters. Berube had more experience than many seem to know. He was the HEAD coach of the Phil Flyers in 2013-14, 42-27-10; and 2014-15 when his team was 33-31-18.  

…another player who was at the right place, wrong time was Ted Simmons. Looking strictly at his batting credentials as a catcher, Simmons belongs in the HOF. Now, many feel that his defense wasn’t that strong.  He wasn’t BAD…..unfortunately for Ted, he played at the same time as Johnny Bench. Bench owned 10 Gold Gloves and was an All-Star 14x. Simmons got lost in his shadow.

…being at the right place, right time was ANY fan of the St Louis Blues for game 7 of the Dallas series. What an OUTSTANDING game and series! It kept one on the edge of their seats.  Now…I must admit … the Blues WINNING THE GAME….really topped off the excitement I enjoyed the play of the team but special place in my heart for Colton Parayko and Robert Thomas. Of Course the BIG B in net was truly incredible.  LGB, LGB, LGB,LGB, LGB (you get the idea…as I mimic the fans @ the game!)

….are more of  these 100mph hurlers going to continue to appear on the scene? It doesn’t look like it statistically….soooo….is it the right time to work on curve balls?  There is a possible end to the increasing velocity trend in the MLB and one of the reasons why we keep seeing more strikeouts. In 2008, just over 12 percent of fastballs were thrown at 95 mph or higher. By 2015, that number was nearly 22 percent, a tremendous increase. The thing is, it hasn’t gone higher. In 2018, it was still just barely over 22 percent. The average fastball was 93.6 mph in ’17… and 93.6 mph in ’18. Soooo….. maybe you “control…oops….command” type pitchers can take a deep breath. You may be in the right place at the right time.

….NBA players seem to be in the right place, right time. It seems to me that more and more of the super stars are following the Lebron James path. The players CHOOSE the team that they want to join, make it public to ward off any attempts by other teams and then cajole other “supers” to join them… the owners seem to be in the secondary level and just signing the checks and smiling. If that continues…..soon it’ll only be LA Lakers, one of the NY teams, Golden State maybe the Chicago Bulls drawing in the highest level players in the near future.

…being a seasoned…probably far above the minimum pay scale.. player in the MLB, is NOT being in the right place @ the right time currently. There has/is a definitive movement towards younger players in the MLB.  Of course, despite the huge incomes….this is another matter of more $$$$$ for the owners. Take a look, according to fan graphs…In 2000, players aged 30 and older took 86,019 plate appearances, and they threw 17,373 innings. They contributed 43.4 percent of all Wins Above Replacement . In 2017, players aged 30 and older took 69,110 plate appearances, and they threw 15,241 innings. They contributed 32 percent of all Wins Above Replacement. Now that we have 2018 in the rearview mirror, we can update those numbers, and it’s more of the same. In 2018, players aged 30 and older took 60,300 plate appearances, and they threw 15,129 2/3 innings. They contributed 29.8 percent of all Wins Above Replacement. 26000+ LESS plate appearances for that age group from the year 2000 to 2018.  Jeff Gyorko….watch out for the grim reaper!!

…..if you’re a young African-American athlete , it may seem to you  like the MLB is at the wrong place, wrong time for you. In 1981, 18.7% of the MLB  players, and 22% of the All-Star game rosters, were African-American. On opening day this year, African-American players made up 8.4% of the league, and recent All-Star rosters were less than 5% African-American. Meanwhile, African-American athletes dominate the NBA (74%) and the NFL(over 65%). I’m suggesting that IF the MLB wants to make progress in this area, that THEY should pay former players to be high school coaches. Their names alone should entice young athletes to at least TRY baseball. With a professional type approach at the HS level for an entire season…and hopefully….several seasons…..I believe that we’d see some upgrade in the number of African-Americans playing baseball in the MLB. Right now, many of these former Pro’s host 1 week camps in the summer….come on….how can you REALLY change a kid’s thoughts in 5 days?

….Jason Tatum… may be…at the right place, wrong time…..fellow Dukie,  Kyring Irving’s idea of sharing the ball and setting up teammates for “good looks” seems to be on the back burner currently. Tatum’s scoring has dropped due to the” Irving Alone “offense. However, Tatum has been a defensive stalwart during this playoff series. Many NBA viewers …and seemingly observers…have been bashing Tatum for not scoring. Ya can’t score if you don’t get timely, frequent passes…sorry…that’s how it is.

…..strangely….it seems like Luke Voit…who couldn’t nail down a job in the Lou….is NOW in the right place, right time in New York. Voit’s .333/.405/.689 slash line with the Yankees over the final two months of the 2018 season was a performance that demanded skepticism. NYY had acquired him from the Cards at the trade deadline in a transaction that most outside of StL didn’t even notice. Let’s dive into the numbers for 2019 for Voit. He doesn’t go after many pitches outside the zone…. Voit uses restraint outside the borders. He’s offered at just 16% of pitchers’ deliveries in Statcast’s “chase” and “waste” zones, giving him a similar profile to several of MLB’s most consistent hitters:

Voit: 87.2% swing vs. “heart” pitches | 16% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Freddie Freeman (ATL): 85.4% vs. “heart” | 14.4% vs. “chase/waste”pitches

Corey Seager (LAD): 84.8% vs. “heart” | 15% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Khris Davis (OAK): 84.7% vs. “heart” | 18.4% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Christian Yelich (MIL): 82.0% vs. “heart” | 12.7% vs. “chase”/waste”  pitches

Then….when Voit does hit the ball….it’s with the sweet spot of the bat.

Highest “sweet spot” rate, 2019—Min. 50 batted balls (269 hitters)

1) Brian Goodwin (LAA): 47.6%

2) Austin Meadows (TB): 47.5%

3) Rowdy Tellez (TOR): 46.5%

4) Voit: 46.4%

5) Yadier Molina (STL): 46.2%

Sweet-spot rate: % of batted balls hit with launch angles between 8-32°

Further, Voit’s strikeout rate is reasonable …according to these staticians…

Voit’s reasonable 24.7% strikeout rate, his expected slugging percentage — based on his quality of contact and those punchouts — stands at .564. That ranks 16th among 216 hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.  I have nothing against Paul Goldschmidt…in fact….I think he’ll be a terrific addition but….darn…did we give away our home-towner, Luke Voit, for a smile & a shake?

….Being at the right place, at the  right time was the St. Louis Patriots. Competing in the Home-School Baseball World Series at Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Florida, the Patriots won the Homeschool World Series Association Division II title with an 11-7 victor over the Richmond Patriots recently. The Patriots (23-13-1) are led by 14 seniors. St. Louis Patriots Head coach Mark Valle had his doubts about this level of success about 3 weeks ago but when his team got healthy about a week later, things began to look up. Seniors David Olejnik,  Patrick Baalman and Frank Griesbauer were all named to the HWSA All-American squad. Olejnik, who has inked a scholarship with Western Illinois, was voted as a 2-time All-American by the National Athletic Association of Private Schools. He had prodigious semifinal and championship games as he batted 6-for-6, scored 6 runs with two doubles, two triples, one home run and five RBI’s. But…it isn’t anything new for Olejnik….for the season, he has a .474 batting mark with an OPS .933. He leads the team in hits (57), 2B(10), 3B (9) HR (9 ) & RBI’s (55). Olejnik has signed with W. Illinois for next season. He follows the Footsteps of Jacob Stoker, who played last year for the Patriots and saw considerable playing time THIS year at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

…we’re at the right place and right time to sign off…….thanks for the read!

Ozo … Batman or Robin by Bob Ryan

Marcel Ozuna (aka…Ozo) has been an enigma to many StL fans. Arriving in the Lou last year with high hopes after a robust year in 2017– .312 average, 37 HR, 124 rbi’s, OPS of .924. He was an All star player, silver slugger and a gold glover, it was thought that he was the “man”. But…..in 2018 he hit .280, 23 HR, 88 ribbies, with an OPS of .748 and at times appeared to be more suited to be playing the outfield in a slow-pitch league. What had happened in one year?  Well….we may have seen Marcel in his career year in 2017. Checking his career marks of .277 average, career OPS is .788 and his HR mean is 25 Or…..maybe… Marcel fell into the Batman vs Robin mode.  We all know that Batman is the leader, the “real” star who figures out the most difficult of challenges. Robin, while extremely valuable, often provides support and insight to the problems facing the dynamic Duo. Some people relish and thrive on the idea of being the “leader” or the “man”. It drives them harder.  Others prefer to be very, very good players in a strong supportive role but don’t want the spotlight on them constantly. In 2017, Giancarlo Stanton garnished most of the headlines in Miami with his 59 HR. Ozo and Yelich were both thought of as the younger, up & coming players in the outfield. Ozuna outhit Yelich by 19 home runs, by 30 batting points in his average and his OPS was .117 higher than Yelich in 2017. But….Stanton was the real star of the team.  The Cardinals management expected Ozo to be the “man” in 2018….well….it didn’t work out to their expectations. Maybe…..Ozuna just played to his career numbers or…. maybe…..he doesn’t like the constant spotlight.  When the Cards obtained Paul Goldschmidt in the off-season, it was instantly clear that Goldie was the star. Ozuna would be a key player but …not the real “leader”.  He is sthriving again in 2019…just like 2017.  Possibly, Ozuna prefers to be Robin more than Batman? Nothing wrong with that….it’s great to having TWO strong batters in the crucial part of the lineup. But…..the gold glove part still amazes me…..his fielding has been anywhere from unbelievabley horrible to above average with the mean being on the unbelievable side of things. I’ll never forget his jumping up the wall for a fly….only to see it falling on the warning track close to him. It is ONLY one play….but a play that I’d expect a High School player to make…not a Gold Glover. Btw….I’d like to tip my hat to 101’s Kevin Wheeler who provided me with this Batman/Robin idea.

….Apparently not willing to be a Batman in the division or even a “Robin” ….the Miami Marlins destroyed a good…not great ….but good …2017 team.  Look @ some of their everyday players from that year…. the outfield was terrific….Stanton, Yelich, Ozo…behind the plate was Realmuto and the infield was filled by Justin Bour, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Derek Dietrich for most of the games.  The starting rotation didn’t put any fear into batters but…I’ve seen worse in the MLB…  Dan Straily 10-9 , Jose Urena 14-7, Adam Conley 8-8, Edinson Volquez 4-8.  Remember….the ace of that staff was scheduled to be in his prime…. Jose Fernandez. Fernandez died suddenly in a boat accident in September 2016. Effectively, Fernandez took the franchise down with him in his death.  Instead, Miami dealt themselves out of the superhero business by having a “close out” sale on any players with talen and/or some payroll. Now,  they’re probably being chased as nickel-dime robbers by the real Super Heroes for stealing money from the real baseball fans of Miami with a team disguised as Major Leaguers.

….Another suffering from his changing role to Robin after being Batman for a few years in NY  is Jeurys Familia . The Mets former closer, Familia was traded to Oakland by the Mets last July but brought back to set up for the new closer, Edwin Diaz in the off-season. Familia signed a $30m, 3 year deal with NY last December to rejoin the team in this new “Robin” capacity. Thus Far, it’s been ugly….6.28ERA, 14 appearances, with 13 walks and he has allowed earned runs in 6 of his last 10 outings. He’s 2-0….only because he’s “blowing the leads” and then the Mets rally to give him the win. Using a tactic employed often in the MLB now … Cards included….Familia was put on the DL after these poor outings.  Something had to be wrong….he couldn’t be this bad…so…. off the went to the DL to “heal”.

….for decades, Nebraska has provided NFL teams with plenty of “Robins”(good players …usually lineman who regularly became starters) with an occasional Batman(star). But not this year…for the 1st time since 1962, Nebraska had its 56-year streak snapped with none of its players being selected in the NFL draft. That alone tells you something of the “hard times: that the Cornhuskers are facing.  Now…they need a Batman to get back those “Robins”! Another Johnny Rogers would do. (Heisman Trophy winner-1972)

…Anxious to perform as the Robin in NY, Luke Voit (from Lafayette HS) belted his 9th HR this year for the Yankees this year. In his 139 MLB games in 3 years, Voit has 28 round trippers. At that rate, in a full 162 game schedule, he’d hold a 33 HR season! Ahead of Voit in NY is 1B Greg Bird. Bird seems to have a tough time staying healthy. Congrats to Voit and best of luck! Btw….the Yanks recently completed a series in San Francisco…big deal, heh?  Well…it’s only the 2nd time since the 1962 World Series that the Bronx Bombers have played in SF since that series!!! The Yanks won that Series in 7 games as Ralph Terry went 9 innings in game 7 to win it 1-0 for NY. Game ended with tying runner on 3b and winning run on 2B for the Yanks!!

…While on the StL High School level, there is a Girls lacrosse team with plenty of Batmans AND Robins. The Rockwood Summit team under Coach David Gibson is 12-0 for the season (as I write this section of the blog on Thursday). The Falcons have a bevy of talented players with many contributing offensively. Jr Kaila Larocque tops the team in Goals, Assists and Points with 25-20-45 respectively. Larocque had 3 assists in the Falcons tightest victory of the year against Eureka.Summit won in a thrilling 8-7 match. Jr Lauren Metzler is 2nd on the team in goals with 23. Jr Caroline Hager is 2nd on the team in assists (14) and 2nd in points(33). Other key offensive players are Jr Ronnie Skorcz, who has scored 20 goals and has 8 helpers.  Jr Kaylee Smarr has recorded 18 goals with 3 assists.  You’ll note that all of these players listed…..and I don’t have access to the strong defenders (which every winning team must possess)…are Juniors. So the Falcons have a bright future.

…The Blues will need to play like Batman on Tuesday in the 7th game of the Dallas series. It’s been a great, entertaining series. Plenty of speed, hitting, shots and yet the defense and the “grinding” by the Blues behind the Stars net has also been key. Thank Goodness Binnington has been playing like Batman in goal. On another note….I can understand that Blues fans of Game 5 were booing the Blues while they were playing poor hockey and all of the fans had paid ‘good” money to watch it LIVE…..but….does anyone think that they really weren’t trying? Do they think that booing will motivate them? They are playing another professional team that…maybe…is better….maybe.. not. We’ll find out on Tuesday. LGB!!! (used 3 ! because we’ll need 3 goals to win J )

…Maybe not the Batman on the mound any longer but both of these pitchers would be great “Robins”. Has anyone else wondered why NOT ONE team has signed Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel? Well… as usual….it comes down to money. BEFORE the June 3-5th MLB Draft, any team signing either of these players who rejected the $17.9m qualifying offer from their teams, pays a penalty. The signing team loses a high draft pick (#1 picks excluded). The exact pick that would have to be surrendered by each team is determined by a number of factors, including if the team received revenue sharing and the amount of money that the player ultimately signed for with his new club. In addition, most teams would also lose $500,000 from its international bonus pool for the upcoming signing period. Soooo….look for signings by both these players… shortly after the June 5 draft. I think Kimbrel would be a boost to almost any bullpen. I’m not so sure that Keuchel will demand as much money… or years…..as Kimbrel. Both are clearly are past the apex of their careers but still likely to be productive.

….Recently we wrote about modifications to MLB stadiums as a way to cut back on the continual barrage of HR nightly. To no one’s surprise, the MLB provides us with another reason for the increased number of home runs in recent years. According to the MLB, while many factors are contributing to the surge in homers, the most noteworthy is the change in the makeup of the baseball. Separate studies concluded that the ball composition has changed in a meaningful way. In a June 2017 study published at The Ringer, Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman concluded that baseballs used after the 2015 All-Star break were different in terms of “bounciness,” as well as lower seam height and circumference. Easy solution…change the ball back to its previous shape and “bounciness”….if the MLB REALLY wants to change the parade of HR’s each night…and I’m not so sure that they want to do that…. they’d change the baseballs….but they want more “Batmans” not just “Robins” in those lineups….

…I use many stats in my  blogs…heck, I taught Math….what do you expect. However, I believe that one of the most useless stats is strikeouts. With no one on base, a strikeout is absolutely no different than an out AND it probably takes you more pitches to get that out. Runners on base….strikeouts take away ability for runners to advance so there IS some value for K’s then. Here’s a listing of how starters lost effectiveness each time through the order in 2015:

SP first time through order:   .705 OPS         SP second time through order: .731 OPS

SP third time through order: .771 OPS         RP first time through order:       .699 OPS

Some teams break it down in a different way for their pitchers. They use these guidelines… The Goal: 15 pitches per inning; 1 inning at 25 to 30 pitches okay; 2 innings  of 25-40 consecutively– done for the day or 1 inning at 35 pitches or more– done for the day.

A stat that you may want to begin watching is the number of pitches that a pitcher makes in a game.

Here’s a different look @ the Cards in 2019…. Pitches per batter…clearly racking up strikeouts will generally add to your pitch count. Ideally…at least in my book…getting a ground out on the 1st/2nd pitch is a better route to follow for starting pitchers.

Thus far in 2019 (thru May 2), here’s the chart– TBF (total batters faced) .NP (# pitches),Pitches/batter

                                                TBF         NP      P/batter

1 Flaherty, J                        130         553   4.25

2 Wainwright, A               136         515   3.78

3 Mikolas, M                      145         513   3.53

4 Wacha, M                        118         501   4.24

5 Hudson, D                        116         447   3.85

6 Gant, J                               68           292   4.29

7 Brebbia, J                         64           264   4.125

8 Miller, A                           56           239   4.26

9 Leone, D                           56           224   4.0

10 Hicks, J                            46           189   4.11

….final hockey note….why don’t’ the Blues schedule a few minor league games of their minor league affiliate in the Enterprise Center?  Lower the prices…..make it dirt cheap for kids….get the kids engaged…and hooked on hockey. This would be one type of “hooking” allowed in Hockey J Hockey is SO MUCH BETTER in person than on the tube. 

…read one publication that listed Adam Wainwright as the 4th best pitcher in Cardinal history.  Their reasoning: “Waino” had a remarkable run between 2009-14 (he missed 2011 with elbow injury), winning 20 games twice and also 19 games two times, with the 19-win years including his leading the National League in innings pitched. As a reliever in the 2006 postseason, he recorded four saves. Three of those came as the last outs in the divisional round, the NLCS and the World Series.  While he’s not the same pitcher any longer….he really has become a master of pitching with “less” stuff. Despite having Robin type stuff….he’s getting Batman results (at least some of the times)

MLB’s Elevators by Bob Ryan

We’ve all taken elevators….maybe every day…..the sudden jolt upward…downward..with occasional stops along the way (for departing/oncoming) passengers moves us up or down. Always though….. we’re in control of the up/down movements….not so in the Sports World Elevators. They move players/teams up or down unaccountably. Frequently… it puzzles us.  Here we go on the elevator….

GOING UP…..who would have known that on April 28, the leading batter in the AL would be Tim Anderson @.402. Anderson hit .240 in 2018 and a whopping .253 in 2017. On the same elevator is Elvis Andrus. Andrus an 11 year vet @ 30 years old “slugged” a robust .256 last year. Tonight he’s #2 in the AL in hitting at .364. No telling when someone will hit the “down” button on these two guys but… heck…they’re enjoying the ride up.

GOING DOWN…and in a hurry…..is Manny Machado. The ink isn’t dry yet on the 10 year deal for $300m with the Padres. At that moment….it WAS the largest contract in American sports history…of course Bryce Harper broke it soon after…anyway… Manny was rated #23 in the entire MLB by Yahoo baseball in the pre-season. Currently Machado holds a .245 average a whopping 4 home runs and 11 RBI’s and is ranked by Yahoo baseball @ # 404 in the league…ouch! At least we CAN say that he’s started all 26 games for the Padres in 2019….but…his elevator hasn’t stopped yet….it’s still going downward(he went 5 of 24 this week).

GOING UP….one team that has pushed hard on the UP button is the Minnesota Twins. Finishing 2018  in 2nd place in the AL Central @ 78-84….what does that say about the division?…2nd place team is 6 games below .500….however, with this UPWARD jolt, the Twinkies are in 1st place @ 16-9. Expect them to have a power shortage in their elevator sometime in June….and plummet dramatically downwards at that time. 

GOING DOWN….at least in the draft was Drew Lock. His 2nd round selection by Denver is still something that he’ll brag about as an ol’ guy…but right now it’s viewed by some as a downgrade…. why don’t those people read a little closer….I wrote on Oct 14 in this blog, “Personally, I don’t think that this guy is a 1st round pick…and I’d question if he’s a 1st day pick due to his throwing while moving deficiencies.” Actually….other than having a truck load of money to sign…..he’ll only get a trunk full….it may be better for him. #1 QB picks are expected to play like Payton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady (take ur pick) RIGHT NOW and the pressure sometimes grinds these young QB into the ground.

GOING UP & DOWN…..the thrilling NHL playoffs keep the emotions jumping up and down. First we’re up by 2 games…then tied after losing both at home….yada-yada-yada. The Dallas Stars…to my eyes.. seem to be a faster skating team than the Winnipeg Jets…and faster than the Blues. It’s hard to compensate for speed. They’ve had many more good offensive attacks that the Blues. The Blues dumping in and racing hard to forecheck behind the net has been stymied by keeper Ben Bishop. Bishop turns the puck around quickly for Dallas so the Blues are finding it difficult to keep the puck deep in the zone.  Jordan Bennington’s “hot hand” has kept the Blues in these games.. Jaden Schwartz got “hot” at the right time but we need more scoring than just Schwartz & Tarasenko to win. To score, you must shoot it on net!

GOING UP…..the excitement about the new NASL team in the Lou continues to elevate. The rendering of the new stadium..looking modern & sleek along with an ownership that has the ability to hire and maintain a top level management team makes many in the Lou excited.

STAYING DOWN  IN THE BASEMENT…unable to find the UP button, Miami remains the weakest MLB team. On Sunday, Miami had two batters in the starting lineup hitting under .200….their top batter was an over-the – hill guy….Martin Prado….hitting a mediocre .286. Their current pathetic record is 8-20 with little or NO hope of improvement.

GOING UP….maybe skyrocketing would be a better term….Dodger’s Cody Bellinger shot UPWARD all week. He was 10 of 20 from the plate…come on…all of us can figure that average …4 HR, 10 RBIs, 5  runs, 2 stolen bases, .556 on-base % and an amazing 1.756 OPS for the week!

GOING DOWN….unlike wine, aging is not usually appealing in baseball…Evan Longoria …now a SF Giant…has been pushing the DOWN button for a long while…in the pre-season Yahoo had him rated at 238…not exactly a world beater…but that number glitters now as he’s rated 911 in the league with a .206 batting mark, 3 HR, 9 runs (he must score each time he gets on base )…a shockingly low .942 fielding average, OBP of .245 and a OPS of .616.

PUSHING the UP button all spring…the St. Pius Lancers baseball team hold a 14-0 record as their record keeps moving upward. Their pitching staff has only permitted more than 3 runs in a game ONCE this season! The Lancers are in 1st place of the Jeff County Small Div with a conference record of 4-0. The leading batter for St. Pius currently managed by Mr. Jerry Woods is Sr Eli Dale, who leads the entire area in Slugging with a 1.087 mark. He’s also 2nd in the StL area with a .565 batting mark. Sr Tyler Hedtkamp is tied of 3rd in the area with 6 home runs. On the mound, Sr Jeremy Isenman holds a perfect 6-0 record. Sr Kaleb Schweigert is also unbeaten on the mound at 3-0.

GOING DOWN QUICKLY….the Indiana Pacers were swept in 4 games by the Boston Celtics in a first round series of the post-season 4-0. The highly successful Celtics franchise has won a league high 17 titles but this was their first sweep of any series since 1986-87. St Louis…of course…has a bit more of an interest in the Celtics since local Jayson Tatum wears the Green Celtic uniform.

GOING UP…..somehow the Cards couldn’t find a place for him but Luke Voit (Lafayette HS) has found a home in NY for the Yankees. He’s batting .283, 8 Home Runs, 25 rbi’s. He may not keep up that torrid pace but we’ve played a month of baseball now so he’s already helped the Yankees to a 17-11 start to the season.

GOING DOWN….the evaluation of the Cards management team while looking to obtain a true closer. We’ve seen Brett Cecil (I can’t recall 3 straight good performances at any part of his Card career), Greg Holland (rushed back too soon),Luke Gregerson (35 now…too old), Zach Duke (still going as a short LHP in pen for a different team)…now…it seems….add Andrew Miller to that list….just to name a few…..you can’t continue to look for the aging, former good closers to come in and get the job done. Instead, when a young, star closer like Edwin Diaz is available….like he was last year….open up the chest and unload a few of these ‘golden” prospects. Diaz was obtained in a trade by the Mets.. couldn’t’ we have offered a bit more and solved our closing issues. Diaz is only 25 years old, last year he piled up 57 saves for Seattle (was that every one of their wins?). He’ll likely be a star closer (he’s 6 of 6 this year) for at the minimum 2 or 3 more years.

GOING UP….despite my own trepidation, Jose Martinez’s play has merited his continued starting role in the OF. He’s really not improved out there but somehow he hasn’t been exposed to so many tough plays.. which he can’t make….at key spots of the game.  And….one must say…he can hit. Martinez is constantly moving, twitching, leaning, talking, stretching, shaking his head…just watch him…..I NEVER see him completely still. 

GOING DOWN….Alex Reyes continues to trend downward due to injury, performance or both. His latest episode…breaking a finger…is yet another bump in this hilly…in some cases ….mountainous road to the MLB 

GOING UP…..the Union Wildcats Girls soccer team under the guidance of Head Coach Matt Fennessey is really off and running. They hold a 19-1 record as they enter this week. Jr Hannah Olive has been the keeper in all 17 shutouts for the Wildcats. Scoring isn’t an issue since the Wildcats have the leading scorer in the area. Soph Emily Graebe has an unbelievable 39 goals coupled with 13 assists for a total of 91 points—WOW! Jr Haley Cloud has found the back of the net 16 times and also has 13 helpers. Their lone loss to a much larger, Marquette Mustang team. Union has won by 10+ goals in a game SIX different times! Keep your eye on this team….they only have 3 Seniors on the roster!

GOING DOWN….maybe it could be said…further DOWN the bench…is Jeff Gyorko. The Cardinals seem set in the infield this year….Carp, DeJong, Wong, Goldie. Mgr Mike Shildt doesn’t play musical chairs with the lineup like his predecessor so these four seemed “locked in” for the most part. Gyorko is a fast ball hitter….but fast ball hitters need AB’s to keep their timing. Gyorko is 2 of 17 for the year with his $8m contract, he’ll be tough to unload. MO better get ready to “eat” some of this contract to provide a player  for the Cards who will actually have an opportunity to contribute to the team.

STAYING DOWN….well….we’ve hit the rock bottom of this elevator….thx for staying for all the ups/downs.

Is it worth it by Bob Ryan

In life we all make decisions that have an upside…and always… a downside that accompanies it. We have to make the determination….is it worth it?….is the upside greater than the downside….and many times we ACTUALLY don’t know until the action has been consummated. It’s true in the sports world too….For example…..

….it happens continually in MLB when teams sign “huge” contracts with players.  Obviously, the downside is the increase in expenditures for the club….so the real question is ….will this player bring a “return” on the money that’s greater than the expense?  When Bryce Harper signed his absurd $330m contract for 13 years…most of us just shook our heads…. is it worth it?  It seems ludicrous to us every-day Joe’s that anyone could be worth that type of money. Well…..the early response says YES it is worth it financilly….the attendance in 2019 is up 12000 fans/game for the Phillies. I assume that most of the lower level, tier 1 seats, are season ticket holders. Soooo…..these additional 12,000 fans are sitting in the 2nd/3rd tier levels. The seats on 2nd tier average $35/ticket and 3rd tier is about $30/ticket. Assuming about half of these new fans are in 2nd &half in 3rd tier….that’s an additional income of $390,000 per game. That’s an additional $31.2m for 2019(80 home games). Harpers Salary of $33 no longer looks like a financial anchor…pulling everyone else down. Will that “buzz” continue over 13 years?…of course not…but possibly the season ticket holder base will upgrade(move to tier 1) and overall…the attendance will be higher.  I haven’t even mentioned the extra income when fans DO attend…. concessions, souvenirs, etc.  Although gate money is NO longer the primary source of income for MLB teams, its STILL income. It’s the ad time on TV, streaming ads, that reap the biggest money harvest for the owners.  I couldn’t find any data on the increase income by the Phillies for their TV ads, streaming, etc but… I’m sure that one could safely say that’s its increased. On the other hand, will this “star” power keep its hold for most of the 13 years? He already shows some signs of having injury issues. In addition….in this particular case, will Harper’s personality ….with the fans and teammates…become an obstacle? Will the Phillies “go for it all” early in Harper’s tenure then…as he ages and declines athletically, will they still keep investing heavily and trying to compete?….or….will he become a living statue of the past in Philly…did you say Albert?  13 years ago the Cardinals won the Series….some pundits say it was a fluke..they only won 83 games to win their division..then beat the Padres, Mets & Tigers on their route to the world championship ring ceremony.  Look at some of the stars from that team—only Yadi, Wainwright and Albert are still playing….other key players like Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter, Jason Isringhausen are now found …if at all…in announcing booths, old timer games, golf courses, etc….and…at least to me…it seems like they’ve all been gone a LONG.LONG time. How will Harper be as a productive player in 2031?…  Is it worth it?

…..when the Blues won the first two games of the Winnipeg series….most thought….”its ours”…then dropping both games at home….ugh…I made a quick 180 in my mind, “well…it WAS a good season” then,  wrapping it up in games 5 & 6…incredible!! I haven’t seen all the games…but the ones that I watched were exciting, fast paced, momentum changing back & forth, opportunities for scoring.. sometimes missed.. sometimes foiled by the GK….Binnington usually…the prices of the tickets are elevated…substantially… in some cases.. for the playoffs….Is it worth it?   Right now….most fans who attended would probably say, “yes”

….staying in the Hockey playoff mode….some other observations….the fans at both venues were totally engaged…that cheering/noise/excitement from the fans helps to make the game more exciting for the viewers at home; one just never knows who the hero will be in the playoffs-from bum to hero in 24 hours-Jaden Schwartz….to me Robert Thomas has really “grown” up during these playoff games-controls the puck longer & checks more; the “Big Rig”—Patrick Maroon has shined by adding muscle but also skill around and behind the net; Tarasenko hasn’t been scoring but I’ve noticed him using his speed more often to get to pucks.  Finally….generally I feel like all pro athletes are trying their best throughout the year. I attribute in most cases wins over losses to simply going having the more talented players. Hockey playoffs DO seem different. I see players…who for the most part are very close in skill level… checking on almost every play… more intensity, pushing, shoving around the net….I see the games becoming personal with all the “chit chat” between the players…I’m sure that aren’t asking about the guys family, thoughJ….it really does seem like “effort” has been increased but will effort alone beat teams with better scorers? Will it be worth it?

…staying on the ice…probably thin ice for me…..should hockey teams who are contending… try to procure high scoring forwards sometime during the season….in order to win the cup? Now….it may not be possible since most teams drool over these prolific scorers and trying to grab one would be like to trying to take a baby away from his/her mother. Since 2000, only 3 Stanley Cup champions had goal scorers in the top 3 of the league. Two other Cup champions had only 2 players (different players) in the top 3 of the Points category. In a freak aberration, in the last 3 seasons, it was different. In 2018, Alex Ovechkin led the league in scoring. In 2017 Sidney Crosby #1 in goals and #2 in assists. 2016 saw Crosby #5 in goals and #3 in assists. In 2015, and 2014, the Stanley Cup champions had NO ONE in the top 10 in goals OR assists. It seems like common sense to me that a Stanley Cup championship team needs “the man” to lead them in the close games…their cost would be very, very, very  high….is it worth it to try to get one?

…..MLB baseball realizes that TV/internet enriches their coffers more than the everyday Joe walking through the gate does for them. However, the fans at the game bring the emotion (see hockey section above). Currently costs at stadiums are becoming prohibitive for many people (hence MLB attendance is dropping at a slow rate)…according to Statista’s data on a Dodger game…which may be a bit higher than other cities….but not much…. the average ticket price to see a Dodger game in 2018 was $41. The average price of a ticket across the MLB during 2018 was $32. This is before parking costs (average $15-16 according to CBS News) and food prices at the park. The average cost for two people to go to a game in their car, while spending nothing else at the stadium, would be $79. For three people it would be $111 and for four people it would be $143. But…..you can’t sit there for 3-4 hours not eating or drinking… A Dodger Dog costs just below $6 and the average around baseball was just below $5.  Buying enough of them for a family, plus drinks (which also have crazy high prices), just isn’t an affordable option for most people. Soooo…people aren’t as inclined to go to the ballpark. Btw…in Atlanta, the Falcons recently introduced family-friendly concessions where a hot dog is $2, a soda with unlimited refills was $2, fries were $3, and burgers and beer were $5. The results worked out well for them as they actually MADE 16 percent more than they did before their affordable options. At some point, MLB has to determine if it’s worth it to have a stadium with several thousand, enthusiastic fans or if the TV payroll is enough.

…..At many….maybe even most…workplaces, a worker may have some “given” sick days provided by the employer. Some work places don’t provide that amenity. The current DL in the MLB is a croc. OK… you’re hurt….you can’t play…why should you still get full pay? In addition, a player from the minors is brought up to replace you. That adds cost to the team. I think that if a player goes on the DL, he is responsible for paying the cost of his replacement (probably MLB minimum scale). Maybe each player gets a few “free” days on DL….5 days, 7 days, 10 days per year…. Whatever…after those number of days, the player begins paying for his replacement. Something must be done to halt these continual trips to the DL.  Is it worth it to keep the players responsible for their health….just as the team should do? For example, if a player injures his arm and misses an entire season, why should he be paid?

….wrapping up a unbelievable career 39 year coaching career this spring is a long-time friend, Steve Nicollerat of SLUH Baseball. Steve & I first met as young teens umpiring little girls softball games on adjacent fields at Mallinckrodt school on Hampton in the South Side. We would continue to bump into each other over the decades….I umpired some of his games, we coached against each other as head coaches(I got slaughtered) and then when I was an assistant varsity baseball coach, he taught some of my kids, we coached in schools that competed in the same league so we saw each other at conference games in other sports.  A tremendous person –family oriented, friendly, unassuming, and one-helluva baseball coach, Steve epitomized what you wanted in a coach. He had the brains, the heart, the drive and soul to make it work. He worked his teams hard on fundamentals, taught baserunning better than anyone I’ve seen do it. And…oh yea…he won. He won over 600 HS games… remember this is in the HS level where you have limited number of games each season. He won 29 district Championships and made the final Four three times. He’s been inducted into the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association (MHSBCA) Hall of Fame. But….most of all…he’ll be remembered for his relationships with the students and families. We wish him well in retirement! His career has definitely been worth it.

….I appreiciate you making to the bottom….hopefully, it was worth it.

Home Runs & Strikeouts….ugh by Bob Ryan

Watching a complete MLB baseball game has become a tedious process…unless you’re doing something else and looking up when the announcer raises his voice…..or when you are there in person. It seems to have become a marathon of long counts on each batter, walks galore, home runs flying out in bunches, strikeouts…more strikeouts…. and the longer time between innings. You better carve out 3+ hours to enjoy game….and that IS a long time for any one activity. You must either…really, really love the game or….have the patience of a saint. Is it the thrill…and chance… of the home run ball that keeps us there? Let’s look at a few statistics regarding home runs & strikeouts. Dan McLaughlin, Cardinal announcer, said recently on-air…this is not an exact quote, but very close….’Major League Baseball is concerned about the game with all its Home Run, Strikeouts and Walks’…and they should be!

……The man who changed baseball was Babe Ruth. His prodigious HR blasts, personality, location, and personal charm took baseball to the forefront of the entertainment world. In 1927 when Babe blasted 60 home runs, it was 6.5% of the league total, he hit a home run once in every 9.0 AB. IT was so stunning because across the league, home runs were hit on an average of once every 98 at bats! Sooooo.. Babe was hitting home runs 10x more often than the other MLB players!!! Home runs were rare….unless the Babe was playing.  Hence, being in New York, Babe Ruth was the center of attention…. and so was baseball….btw…..we all know about Babe’s unbelievable home run total…but he really was an all-around player….some of his records still standing…his slugging percentage for a career .690, most times hitting 2 home runs in a game-72x; longest home run-575 feet!!; Highest Winning Percentage for a left-handed pitcher: 67.14%; He was the AL batting champion one year!; Runs batted in, career: 2,213; Lowest ratio of hits per nine innings pitched for a left-handed pitcher: 7.1774…now a couple of those pitching records have been broken…but he was ..to use a football term….a true 2-way player!  His 60 home run total stood until 1961. In 1961, another Yankee, Roger Maris poked 61 home runs out of the park. By that time, his 61 dingers were just 2.2% of league total. Maris hit a home run every 9.67 AB, across the league it was every 36.1 AB. The substance abuse “power” hitters arrived in the late 90’s…In 2001, Barry Bonds….beefed up by the roids….poked 73 HR and incredible 6.5AB….now…one must remember that Barry drew tons of walks –which kept down his official At bats. Barry hit HR at a 6.5AB clip—really incredible. The rest of the league did it at 48.7 AB(about twice as often as in 1927).. I guess most of the guys couldn’t afford the masking agents of the drugs J  Bonds HR were 2.7% of the total league homeruns….just a notch above Maris’ 61 total. In 2017 , GianCarlo Stanton blasted 59 HR in Miami…the Siberia of MLB. He hit a HR every 10.1 AB and he was 3.56% of the overall league total. Now, the MLB hit HR across the league every 27.1 at bats.  Remember at Babe’s era, it was once every 98 at bats! Sooo.. from  a fan’s view point, all MLB teams get through their lineups 4x…sometimes 5x….that means that we should statistically see about 3 HR per game. They aren’t so special any longer.

The rise in strikeouts is very similar….

       Strikeouts                   AB for league       strikeout %

2017   40104                       165,567                                 24

2001   32404                       166,234                                 19

1961   14947                    97,032                                   15

1927     6889                     84,461                                  8

So in a baseball game in 2017, you were seeing 3x the strikeout percentages as back in 1927. “back in the day” it was viewed as a negative to be unable to hit the ball in 3 swings.  Now….it’s accepted that with the new launch angle swing,  that you’ll strike out much more often. NOW, the rational is that “an out is an out”….forget about that hitting the ball, it may…just may…cause some errors and could advance runners…even when making outs.

Why the dramatic increase in HR?  There are several possibilities ….here’s a few..

…..it seems that salaries are directly related to power players vs the “contact hitters”. Good average hitters don’t get to drink as deep into the salary well as the round trip boys. This is the primary reason from my view….if an owner paid more for .300 hitters than big HR numbers.. .you’d see a change.

…. I didn’t realize this fact…..after Babe Ruth’s 1927 HR barrage and the increasing popularity across the league….the owners wanted to see that excitement across the league all the time. Soooo…..most owners brought in the fences so that the home runs would increase.  The old ballpark that the Boston Braves played in was 550 feet to straight away center. The Polo Grounds was 455 feet to center. Teams thought that bat control, sacrificing,  and hitting behind the runner was more valuable than they did the home run. Babe Ruth changed all that, though. And once the fans became enamored with the home run, as stadiums were built, their dimensions became smaller and smaller

…the change physically of the players in the MLB.  From the stats that I could gather, it seems like MLB players are 4-5 inches taller in the norm than they were decades ago. However, in todays larger population base, the abnormal—much, much larger players –are arriving in greater numbers to the MLB every year.  Remember, back in the day in 1957, a 6-7 player named Frank Howard arrived on the scene.  Every game…almost every AB.. the size of Frank Howard was mentioned. Now…according to my (unofficial) research…there are 34 players 6’6” or taller in the MLB. Obviously…..the bigger the players the more strength, more power…..hence…more home runs.

Soooo….what can be done…..it all goes back to the owners….do they want this high number of home runs?  If not….pay the high average hitters more….move back the fences…..get rid of that box on TV showing the strike zone (let the umps stretch the “corners” a bit more). Specifically…here in St Louis…here’s one easy idea to subtract some HR and add speed to the game…..take out the entire “green” area in CF.  Make that area “in play”….we’d have less HR but many more triples….which I believe is one of the most exciting plays in baseball. There are probably ways in every ball park to cut down HR….maybe putting up a screen…or netting…. like the one at Busch I in front of cozy dimensions in some ball fields ….keep the ball in play….keep the game moving.  What do you think?

…on the ice, games 1 & 2 of the Blues series were thrilling to watch….the momentum changed back and forth throughout the match to keep the interest high….I’d forgotten about how aggressive hockey players become in the real season(the playoffs)..the “white out” in Winnipeg has been very impressive…and standing outside to watch the game on the big screen…..boy!! Somehow, O’Reilly, Boumeester & Pietrangelo seemed to be a marked men by the Jets—they’ve been pounding them from the first whistle…..Robert Thomas just keeps growing as a player…his puck control …and speed …are exciting…. Jaden Schwartz has demonstrated…repeatedly in games 1&2…the swirling, turning moves to free himself up for passes or shots….I still wish that he shot more…..Patrick Maroon’s strength, puck control, passing around the net and aggression have been noticeable and significant for the Blues….what can I say about Binnington….he’s been very good…he ALONE may be the catalyst that spiked the Blues upward to begin the Blues turnaround in 2019… game 3 was a REAL clinker….it was all Jets…they played at a different level and speed than the Blues…the Blues couldn’t get out of their zone…the forwards were standing at the blue line and the defensemen couldn’t escape the checking Jets forwards pressure. Binnington was fabulous in the 1st period but eventually the odds swung to the more aggressive, speedier and more physical Jets. On Sunday night, the Blues were outclassed.

…..The “Roar of the Tiger” was dominant on Sunday….yes…all pro golfers receive applause and/or clapping when they hit a magnificent shot but no one matches the Roar of the Tiger. The extremely loud cheers from many…if not all…. of the gallery ALWAYS belonged to Tiger Woods. Btw…just saying the word “Tiger” and most sports fan know immediately who you are referring to in the discussion…few others have experienced that one-word distinction….Babe, Stan, Ali, Wilt, Michael are some that come to mind. Any others?  Anyway…..Tiger winning in Augusta for the 1st time since 2002 was a tremendous accomplishment ….wow….think about yourself 17 years ago…..and now repeating that same difficult task against the best of the world …who were totally different competitors than 17 years ago…..and doing it on the biggest golf stage of the year. In addition to his unbelievable shots, Tiger’s emotion AFTER he won the tournament was refreshing to see.   These athletes….who have worked their entire lives to reach this incredible level of achievement…SHOULD by smiling, fist-pumping, hugging, kissing, waving their hat, etc, when they win!

Across the sports world….there are players/owners/teams/and even a TV personality hitting home runs and striking out in different ways. Hitting HOME runs..literally sometimes!  Sometimes in different ways.

….Cody Bellinger (LA Dodgers) has 8 home runs already…here we go again….look what I point out FIRSTJ… 21 rbi, 1.378 OPS..last year Bellinger had 25  HR and struck out 151x…every 3.68 at bats!

….It’s fitting right after the Masters Weekend to write about a golf team! Soooo…..UMSL’s men golf team Head Coach, Troy Halterman, has to be pleased after his team shot a school record of 852. The Tritons finished 2nd at its own Las Vegas Desert Classic last week. UMSL shot rounds of 291, 278,283 to break the record. Individually, Freshman Joel Sylven finished 2nd place with a school record of 208. #3 ranked West Florida won the tournament

…unknown in his first 3 years @ Seattle, Daniel Vogelbach is batting .400  with an OPS 1.646 as of Apr 12. He’s never hit over .214 in any of his first 3 years.

….Washington University’s baseball team is 22-5-1..Head Coach Pat Bloom has him team rolling after beginning the season 2-2-1. Frosh Caleb Durham from Lake Forest, Il tops the team in batting with a .438 mark. SLUH graduate, Junior John Brinkmann, is second in batting with a .384 average.

….Frank Cusamano just celebrated 26 years of working @ KSDK. Of course, he does a radio show each weekday also. Frank works very hard at his craft…always has the “Lou” prospective on sports matters and wears his StL heart on his sleeve. Congratulations to Frank for all his success over 26 years of work and wishing him many more.

….Rookie Pete Alonso of the Mets has hits in 7 of his first 10 games this year….batting .370 (17/46) with 6 round trippers.  Be careful before you add him to your fantasy team…the Mets have played Miami and Minnesota in 2 early series…not the toughest pitching staffs.

…after losing to 4 large schools to open the season in the Vianney tournament, Valley Park’s baseball team has now won 9 consecutive games under Head Coach Dave Fleer. Justin Maloney holds a .469 batting mark and Braden Spawr is also over .400 @ .429 as the team batting leaders.

….3B  Anthony Rendon (Wash) is off to a good start….avg of .426, 6 HR, 16 rbi, OPS 1.438

….the Lafayette Girls Lacrosse team remains unbeaten @ 12-0! The Lancers’ Sr Katherine Goddin leads the entire StL area with 51 goals and 62 points. Not far behind, 4th in the area with 53 points on 41 goals and 12 assists is Soph Sophia Scheller.

Some…however…. are striking out…..figuratively…as well as literally… in most cases

…Peter Bourjas (also on the Angels) is just 1 of 24 at the plate

…Daniel Palka (CWS) is 0 for 25 to start the season!

…Eric Stamets (Clev) is 1 of 24 in 2019

…that’s 3 strikes…. and I’m out J…… YOUR comments are always invited…just put them on the Prepcasts site….if difficulty arises.. send them to me….rjryansr@charter.net…and I’ll get them published for you.

Raining down Hope by Bob Ryan

It’s been raining and raining…..for centuries… rain provided hope for anyone involved in agriculture…and it still does. However, this spring’s rain has brought down HOPE in the sports world also…

…..of course  the Cards must feel hopeful.  Paul Goldschmidt will be the anchor of the lineup just as other Cardinal “greats”…Stan  & Albert come immediately to mind….but there were other superb 1b…Cha-Cha Cepada,  Jack Clark, Johnny Mize and even Keith Hernandez were very talented First-Baseman….Goldschmidt was just named the Best First Baseman in 2019 by the MLB! That HAS to bring us hope.

……the Cards have a different level of hope when they hope that their “up the middle” defense (2b-Wong, SS-DeJong, CF-Bader) will remain healthy, get on base with some regularity and play most every day.

….the Cards have their finger-crossed type of hope that their young pitchers…at least 2 of them… perform to the high hopes that we’re giving them.  Flaherty, Hudson, Hicks have the arms…but are they real pitchers?   Our hopes say “yes”!

…the Cards fans have the hopes that Mr. Marcel will disappear quickly….he’s overweight and can’t cover more ground than most slow-pitch OF, throws only to the relay man because he CAN”T throw to the base directly. It appears that he’s trying to swing Babe Ruth’s heavy bat….it’s slooowww coming around the plate for Mr. Marcel.  Some may have thought that Piscotty & Grichuk weren’t good enough….maybe they were right…but…I do know …that each is better than Mr. Marcel right now.

…Cards fans have the “dream” hopes that somehow…someway…Yadi will catch for many more years…it’s not a realistic hope…..but we all MUST have hope J

….Cardinal fans have the hopes that Andrew Miller isn’t another Greg Holland.

….some fans have the hope that if Tyler O’Neill could just make contact, he’d be super….with his Popeye arms and strength…..ANY contact will result in a positive offensive result in most cases.

…some fans seem to be ALWAYS wanting to bring up that next young prospect and hope that he’ll be the star that we need……following is a list of Cardinal Nations 2018 All-Prospect Team

The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Cardinals 2018 All-Prospect Team(last year’s team)

Position          Player                         Rank    Age      2017 Level

Catcher           Carson Kelly               3         23        MLB

First Base        Luke Voit                    38        26        MLB

Second Base   Max Schrock   *          15        23        AA

Shortstop       Yairo Munoz   *          14        22        AAA

Third Base       Evan Mendoza           26        21        A

Corner Outfield Tyler O’Neill *         5          22        AAA

Corner Outfield  Adolis Garcia *       12        24        AAA

Center field    Harrison Bader           4          23        MLB

LH Starter       Austin Gomber           10        24        AA

RH Starter      Alex Reyes                  1          23        MLB

LH Reliever     Ryan Sherriff *           41        27        MLB

RH Reliever     Josh Lucas *                43        27        MLB

**footnote….2 have been traded & 5 are already on..are have been on …the Cards roster, so they have progressed to the MLB …which is the goal of prospects. Now….will they be GOOD MLB players or always just be good prospects? …that’s another question.

Just to moderate my high hopes a bit…I looked back at the Cards TOP prospects of 2015…. who… should by this time….be productive MLB players…here ya go…

Top Cardinal Prospect of 2015:

Catcher–Carson Kelly;    First Base–Xavier Scruggs;    Second Base–Jacob Wilson;

Shortstop–Aledmys Diaz    Third Base–Patrick Wisdom  Corner OF–Stephen Piscotty

Corner OF–Randal Grichuk    Center–Charlie Tilson   LH Starter-Marco Gonzales

RH Starter–Alex Reyes   LH Reliever–Dean Kiekhefer    RH Reliever–Sam Tuivailala

Only Alex Reyes is still on the team!….and…what has he done yet? (gone with the wind…)My hopes faded a bit…but Oh well….what did Scarlett O’Hara say in the final words of Gone with the Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day”….there ya go…more HOPE!

….The Blues..and their fans…. certainly have plenty of HOPE as they’ve reached the real season of the NHL….the playoffs. It was a tremendous drive to reach 1 pt out of 1st place. But…now that the playoffs are here…the REAL NHL season begins. The Blues continual hard-skating, crisp passing, depth and goal keeping provide all of the St Louis fans with lots of HOPE for this post-season…is THIS the year?….heck….even the Cubs eventually won the World Series…is it time for Blues?… btw… I’ve watched more Blues hockey…way more… in the last 2 months than I have for a long, long time.  The action is fast paced…. continual… except for the two intermissions… and heck….we all need a break too…especially when you get older J. The game is over in a reasonable 2 hr 30-40 minutes. Of course, winning …and winning a lot….have raised my hopes high….like all of you, probably.  LGB!!

…on the High School level we generally recognize teams that have been somewhat overlooked but this week is a bit different. We want to tip our hat to 2 long time coaches retiring from the same school. The Webster Groves community and school are hoping that they will be able to meet the high challenge of replacing two long-time successful coaches. In the winter, Head Boys Basketball Coach Jay Blossom announced that his would be his last season. His active participation from the bench often reminded me of myself. However, I never achieved his glowing winning record…best I can figure… @ WG  his record was 447-122. But…I do love when a coach gives their ALL…that’s what we ask our kids to do!  Every time I saw Jay announce, his heart was in the game…totally in the game.  Congratulations to Jay on a very, very successful career @ WG. I have a special memory of Jay. Back in 2002 when Prepcasts was just beginning, our 1st basketball game ever covered in St Louis was @ Webster Groves. Like most everyone else at that time…he didn’t have a clue about “streaming” on-line….of course…I didn’t either…I was …. as my partner said, “ the mouth not the producer”.  We had to get on-line by phone dial-up for our audio production… and it all went well. So……WG & Jay’s hospitality ..and trust in us….were never forgotten. On the other side, I don’t know at all, the departing soccer coach, Tim Cashel. But….whenever a team that I was covering was playing Webster, all coaches praised…without exception…the work of Coach Cashel. Coach Cashel became the head coach in 2002. Not only was he the HEAD Boys Soccer Coach but he established …and directed… the WG Soccer Club and formed and developed the WG Summer youth Camps. He was not just a leader… he continued to expand and refine his craft throughout his career @ WG. Congratulations to both coaches for spending and sharing their life for so many years with the Webster Groves students and community…they’ll be missed.

Outside the Lou…

….Hopes for Drew Lock being in a 1st round draft choice are rising. From all I read, he’s almost a lock…pardon the pun….to be in that 1st round. Looks like I totally misread his skills. I don’t like his quick..or not so quick… footwork which I think is a prerequisite  to be successful NFL QB but….the NFL scouts DO like it….and those evaluators are the key people soooo….let’s wish Drew Lock well.

…NCAA-F….the Georgia Football program apparently has high hopes for the future…the Bulldogs just added home-home non-conference games with Florida State & Clemson on their schedule.  Now…with the ridiculously long range scheduling of the NCAA…these games will occur in 2027 & 2028….give me a break….the players in those games are in about 4th grade now….wait…did Georgia get the Top 4th grade QB out of  UThrowEM  grade school?

…..largest jump in the “HOPE” category of the MLB world HAS to belong to the Phillis fans. These fans haven’t cheered for a .500+ team since 2011!  That may not seem long to you….but that’s 7 years of mediocrity to bad baseball….in 2018, it was 80-82; 2017 66-96; 2016 71-91; 2015 63-99; in 2014 73-89; in 2013 another 73-89 and 2012 it was 81-81. Their attendance has slipped from 3,565,718 in 2012 to 2,158,124 last year. The Phils signing of Bryce Harper snatched all the headlines but that wasn’t their only move to improve their team. Home grown talent is maturing….Maikel Franco should be reaching his Prime years while Rhys Hoskins is a rising star. Acquired proven players like Jean Segura..who  provides real speed…and JT Realmuto, who  is listed as one of top catchers in the league…Odúbel Herrera’s role changes from being a Prime player to a very good supportive player bolsters the depth. The quick start of the Phillies has really ignited the “HOPE” fire in a strong way.

….NCAA basketball fans are hoping for another great basketball game on Monday night. Both semifinals…..like many other games in the tourney….were terrific.  I was a particularly interested in the defense of Texas Tech. Coach Beard had been on Bobby Knight  staff @ Texas Tech.  The helpside defense that coach Knight demanded is still there …under Coach Beard… but it’s taken some different angles. The game has changed since the departure of Coach Knight so adjustments are required. I was a disciple of Coach Knights m/m defensive principles. In fact, in some years I made my players hang up a picture of the cover of his defensive book—it had to be eyeball high!! The Auburn-Virginia game was very close. Clearly there was a foul on the shot with .6 sec remaining…but…clearly also the VA ballhandler committed double-dribble while coming up court. Both calls went Virginia’s way…sometimes it goes that way.  ? I will say that Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl was extremely gracious and impressive in masking his disappointment in his interview about the final call. It was real classy! Btw….I’m happy to see some “new and fresh” schools in the NCAA championship game. I guess the shoe deals are starting to slow down for the “big time” schools, heh?…ouch!

…..by this time….you’re probably hoping that I’m close to the end….and…your right!

I always enjoy reading YOUR thoughts and comments about any part of the blog. I really don’t expect you to agree with everything that I write…so let ‘em fly. If you have trouble posting, send them to me…I’ll get it done– signed by with your initials.

Cards crystal ball by Bob Ryan

At the start of the MLB season….for St Louisians….that means the Cardinal season…I’m going dust off my crystal ball, shine it up and then throw out some predictions about baseball with a heavy accent on the ElBirdos….some will be serious….some not so much…you’ll have to determine which category that belong in…..also….following up on last week’s fun of choosing a “walk up” song….you may agree/disagree with any of mine OR….better yet….make your own…send to me & I’ll get them published as a response….or….just send the ones that you agree/disagree

….Jack Flaherty wins more games than Adam Wainwright & Michael Wacha COMBINED

….Jeff Gyorko doesn’t see July 30th in a Cardinal uniform

….In 2018 Jose Martinez led the team in batting average and was the only regular that hit over .280…..if both those parameters are true again in 2019….the Cards won’t make the playoffs

….Adolis Garcia, on th 2018 post-season roster who fell rounding 3B with a possible key run in the playoffs, won’t play in 30 games for the Cardinals in 2019.

… Matt Wieters will have less than 18 starts behind the plate this year(unless Yadi gets hurt)

…Mike Shildt will walk out to the mound this year less times than we hear about no Corn syrup in the Dilly-Dilly Bud Light commercials

….Paul DeJong will get over 500 PA this year…the 1st time in his career @ that level

….Marcel Ozuna will hit better in 2019 (over .280) but never really become a fan favorite

..Jordan Hicks will have more stikeouts than Dexter Fowler has hits by the end of the year

….last year Tyler O’Neill struck out 57x in 61g….this year, that strikeout/game ratio will drop because a)he’ll be in more games(not so many PH roles)   b) better contact

 …Unlike many stars…..Manny Machado MAY help raise  the crowds in San Diego….but not on the  road…he’ll be a villain on the road!!

..Paul Goldschmidt receives the imaginary Stan Musial Award for being  the MLB player most like Stan Musial ….in tremendously consistent daily performance, strong in all aspects of hitting (power, on-base), plays every day, good guy—win or lose…we stole him from Arizona—it’ll rival the Lou Brock heist in the future…..now he won’t have the 22 years of excellence as Stan or the 11 years of domination of Albert but let’s hope that Goldy can do what Stan & Albert did at 36 years of age (Goldy’s final year of contract)..

At the age of 36, Stan hit  .351, 29 HR, OPS 1.034, 102 RBI btw..Stan missed a year due to war

At the age of 36, Albert hit .258, 31 HR, OPS  .780, 119 RBI

…the Cardinals will have more “giveaway” home games than WINS by the Cards at Busch

…unlike the last 3 years, the Cardinals WILL MAKE some type of acquisition in mid year… either in June or August. This has the underlying supposition that the Cards will be In the division/playoff race.

…Carlos Martinez’s primary role will be out of the pen in 2019…an extended (multiple inning) closer or bridge man from starter to closer.

A ramdom selection of “forecasts” outside of the Cardinals Crystal Ball

….After winning 90 games last year, Tampa Bay won’t win 83 this year

….In the battle of the Bulge (bulging wallets)….Harper hits more HR than Machado

…. In another battle of the Bulge…Machado plays more games than Harper

….The Reds will finish higher than the Pirates in the standings this year

Milwaukee series wrap-up…

…sure it’s only the 1st series….so one can’t come to any generalities after 4 games… but..

….I would have batted Carlos Martinez for Fowler..not Wong… in the 9th inning of game 1….I realize that Wong is a LHB but he seemed to be “on” at the plate….once again, Kolton Wong gets the short end of the stick after belting 2 round trippers…and to protect Fowler’s self-esteem…what else must Wong do to get key AB’s?….btw… I called it at the time….not after Dex was totally overmatched by those fastballs

…comments made by Thompson & Danny Mac about Ozuna in game 1 “not catching balls that he probably should have”…tells me a few things….a) he hasn’t improved defensively  b) the gloves are off this year on Ozuna…no more protection by the media  c)  How did he EVER win a gold glove?  Was his Mom the only voter? D) The Cards will NEVER resign him,  even if he wanted to do so…which I don’t think that he has those inclinations either.

….the Cards still don’t have the defense that Milwaukee possesses

….I don’t know her name…but the new young woman handing off to Al & Jimmy in the studio did a much better job than Scott Warman last year…now …if she could just eliminate that squeaky voice…oh well…you can’t have everything.

…game 4 really hurt and it seems like a huge difference..a tied series with a  2-2 series mark  or a 1-3 mark..2 games under .500 and it “smarted” when the winning run came all the way around from 1b on a double….Harrison Bader had dove to cut the ball off…it bounced off his arm away from Ozuna…who relayed it to DeJong..we never saw a replay of that OF relay throw…either it was dropped by DeJong or bounced into him..couldn’t tell….so the 3B coach challenged the Cards outfielders to make the play…and they didn’t…ugh

…….Movement off the field/court in NCAA

…Jaylen Hurts leaving Alabama to transfer to OU as a grad student…it’ll really be a challenge for him to adapt to a PASS 1st team that constantly runs a “hurry up” offense…btw.. I’ll repeat my disdain for graduates playing college & almost always transferring to some other school to do it…would we let a college player compete in the HS level if he hadn’t played 4 years of Varsity HS football?

… the U of Buffalo was stunned…they had just signed their highly successful head basketball coach, Nate Oats to an extension  through 2024 with a high buyout of $750,000. It wasn’t enough.. Alabama University stepped in and hired Oats from right  under the nose of Buffalo. Oats HAD accomplished a great deal in his 4 years @ Buffalo. He took his team 3x to the NCAA and reached the 2nd round in each of the last 2 years. He was named the conference Coach of the year the last 2 seasons…clearly he HAD put BUFFALO U. on the basketball map. But…we all know the expression….money talks….and coaches walk…or something like thatJ

…….NCAA Basketball…

I didn’t see all the games…..just a few passing thoughts on the games that I did see…..

….Super Game#1….Purdue beat Tennessee for 2 reasons…Ryan Cline got RED HOT in the closing parts of the game. He buried four 3-pt baskets in the final 5 minutes and scored 9 straight points for Purdue.  The Boilermakers also found a way to get some close shots late in the game from their center. It was a a very enjoyable game…at least the last 10 minutes that I watched. Purdue is coached by Matt Painter.  He’s been very successful at Purdue(2005-present) 346-163 as a Head Coach in a very tough league. He’s won/tied for the Big 10 championship 3x. He’s taken Pudue to the NCAA Tourney 11x…this being the first time that he’s reached the Elite Eight level. As a beginning Head Coach , he took SIU-C to the NCAA tourney!  His name made me reach way back…I remembered something about him & Mizzou…well, in 2011 when Mike Anderson left, Painter met with Mizzou…verbally agreed 1 day to take the job then changed his mind the next to remain @ Purdue. He would have been a good one.

…Auburn was absolutely terrific in their 97-80 sweet 16 win over N.Carolina. While using a deep bench that kept up a lightning fast pace, the Tigers shot an unbelievable 46% from beyond the arc as they were 17 of 37. In fact according to post game stats, the Tigers reflected the “new offensive wave”…layups or dunks & 3’s IS the offense. Auburn shot only 5 shots in the entire game that weren’t backboard layups/dunks and 3’s! N. Carolina… in a very rare occurrence ….did not have the bench of their opponent.

….Michigan State put on a clinic as how to protect a 2nd half lead against LSU in the Sweet 16 game..long possessions but still scoring somewhat late in the possession….constant, good defense throughout game..offensive boards late in the game

…there were two absolutely terrific NCAA games on Sunday….Auburn…led on by the cheering of Charles Barkley & his stuffed dog called AuB…edged Kentucky in OT 77-70….the game was much, much tighter than the final score.  To me…it appeared that Auburn had more depth than the one & done specialists. John Calipari, the 1st NCAA Coach to really maximize the value of one & done stars, makes the NCAA tournament each year. However, he’s only won 1 NCAA Championship…in 2012. And…going back further for Kentucky…that 2012 title is the only Kentucky title since 1998 when Tubby Smith was at the helm. Auburn’s guards will be very difficult for Michigan State to handle in the 2019 championship game

…speaking of Michigan State…the Spartans upset over the Duke Blue Devils was a different type of game.  Late in the 1st half…it seemed…the referees decided to let some “contact” take place under the boards for both teams. It actually made for a better game….far fewer “touch” fouls by the big, strong 6-10 guys of both teams and the game kept a real flow to it. It was  another GREAT game!!

….I don’t know about you but I get weary in the last 2-3 minutes of a NCAA game with the plethora of fouls.  Players are fouled intentionally and quickly. WE watch the teams march back & forth like in a parade to the free throw line…and now…throw at least 3 video reviews and action stalls even more. Boring!! Fouls were NEVER intended to reward the defensive team. The pros got it right decades ago…in the last 2 minutes of a game, a different standard is set for fouls. It could be done at the NCAA level also… e.g. On the 3rd foul after the 2 minute mark….the player getting fouled either a) gets an extra FT shot b) or maybe even, shoot 1 shot and get the ball back. I’m sure that someone else has a better suggestion….but … please….let  the game by played off the FT line without all the marching back & forth. Maybe… some fans find all those free throws exciting….I prefer action.

…..…Under the category…  some things are made for each other….

…the wonderful fans of Philadelphia booed Bryce Harper in game 1 of the season!

……Under the category….what do you think will happen…

…from Saturday’s MLB box scores…only ONE team pitched less than 5 pitchers in a game on Saturday.. Houston used 3 hurlers in its win….now….let’s see…5 pitchers …almost have the teams used six pitchers…that 800+ appearances in a season for any one team….and your SURPRISED when the MLB pitchers sustain sore arms, balky elbows,  lose their velocity, or their “sharpness” declines?

…..In High School Sports, a sport often overlooked by sports fans is Boys Volleyball. Played in the spring time while there are a plethora of other HS sports….it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. This week we’d like to highlight the Pattonville Pirates. The Pirates are 9-0 in 2019 under Head Coach Kyle Walsh while winning 18 of 19 sets and the huge Francis Howell Central Tournament(there were 4 pools of teams). The Pirates upended Francis Howell North (7-1-2)in the Championship Match 2-1. That was Pattonville’s only set loss of the season. 6-6 Soph Cole Schuler has the highest Avg/kill/gm with a 3.83 mark and a 48% average ;on his kill attempts. However,  Jr Landon Chan tops the club with 129 kills. On the defensive side, Sr Cole Cwiklowski is #1 on the Pirates in digs with 59.  Cwiklowski also leads the team in aces with 11. The team leader in blocks is 6-4 Jr Rodney Wallace with 22. It’s early in the season, so Pattonville has just a 2-0 conference record.  A key match will be against Parkway North on April 17 @ North. My crystal ball tells me that it should be a great match!

Well….my crystal ball is going hazy now…I hope that you’ll send me a Cardinal prediction or 2…I get them posted under the blog using just your initials. We had a tremendous response to the golf-walk-up-to –the-tee songs last week…THANKS…hope you’ll participate this week!

Little Guys Rule by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

Some other little NCAA thoughts….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruffled Feathers by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow UP Spring Training by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Cardinal reactions to spring training….

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

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

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

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

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

Basketball hysteria!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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