Best & the Biggest by Bob Ryan

All of you reading these blogs are sports fans….and probably strong Cardinal &/or Blues fans. We all have our favorite games that we really remember.  I’m throwing “out there” two of the most memorable games of each franchise for me. Sure….other fans may choose other games…while writing this blog, it brought back many wonderful memories.. hope it does for you too. These are two of the BEST games….

…the Blues had been down the Playoff trail so often but with the same futile endings…some of the frustrating years–1999-2000 team (51-19-11) for 114 points (most franchise history); 1980-81 team-103 points; or even way back 1967-68, 1968-69, 1969-70 teams that made the Stanley Cup Finals but it always ended good but “just a bit short”..However..the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Championship, Game 7 has to be the brightest & BEST of these hockey games.

It was a miracle on ice (step aside 1960 USA Olympic teamJ)..of sorts…the Blues were in last place on Jan 1, 2019! In those days, playoffs weren’t the talk…it was trade talk. But, things changed…and in a hurry. New Head Coach Craig Berube used a relentless checking game by the forwards, tying up the opposition deep in their end, then eventually forcing a turnover and a shot on goal….the Blues advanced through the playoffs to reach the Finals. The Bruins held home ice advantage after smashing the Blues 5-1 in game 6 to push the series back to Boston. Game 7 was a classic. The Bruins controlled…maybe dominated would be a better word…most of the 1st period. They kept the pressure on with aggressive fore-checking and the Blues were barely getting any good “rushes” down the ice. Bruin Capt Zdeno Chara –a 6-9 defenseman who’s been in the NHL since 1997 was zeroing in on Blues forwards as they entered their offensive zone & he’d knock most of them over like bowling pins…it looked lopsided in the early going….I had a quick flashback of how it looked way back in 1970  when the Bruins swept the Blues with Bobby Orr flying….remember that SI cover…all over the place & the Bruins dominating. Jordan Bennington was putting on a show as he kept it clean with his glove saves & deflections. Suddenly…out of nowhere…with 3:13 remaining in the 1st period–Jay Bouwmeester’s shot got through a screen of players and Ryan O’Reilly tipped the puck past Tuukka Rask for the opening goal. Everyone was stunned! The Blues fans were ecstatic! Then, with only 8 seconds left in the 1st period, Jaden Schwartz passed to an open Alex Pietrangelo who backhanded his shot for his 3rd goal of the playoffs. Like everyone else…I was almost in shock….up 2-0 after practically having our head handed to us in the first 15 minutes!! Boston outshot the Blues 11-6 in the 2nd period but no one scored! In the 3rd Boston came out flying-committing to an all-out offensive approach…. which opened up opportunities for the Blues.  At 11:25 mark, Vladimir Tarasenko reached a puck deep in the Bruins’ zone and passed to an open Brayden Schenn who fired in the 3rd goal. When 3rd liner, Zach Sanford made it 4-0 just 2 min 57 later, the 4-0 lead gave Blues fans lots of smiles.  Boston wasn’t done though…the all-out assault continued as for the last 4:38 of the game as Boston pulled their goalie. One shot after the other whistled in from near & far as Jordan Bennington was terrific…despite surrendering a goal at the 17:50 mark. The 50 years of frustration came to an end as…speaking for most fans…I was exhausted J It was GREAT!

….Not to be overlooked….game 6 of the 2011 World Series… the David Freese game! The Cards had led a charmed life to get to this point as their journey to that Series was almost as eventful. They were still 10.5 games out of 1st place on Aug 28 after beating the Pirates 7-4.  That win began a long string of 21 wins-8 losses to squeeze them into the Wild Card game. Miraculously, Octavio Dotel won 3 of those game in September..his only 3 wins EVER as a Cardinal!!  The Cards defeated Houston on the final day of the season to snatch the wild card spot when the Braves who had been tied with them for the WC spot, lost to the Phils 4-3 in 13 innings on that last day. The Cards HAD TO KNOW at that point that something “special” was going to happen.

…Cards then opened their playoffs with those same Phils (Eastern Div champ). The series was tied 2 games apiece as game 5 began. It was a classic matchup-Chris Carpenter v Roy Halladay. Raphael Furcal led off with a triple followed by the next batter, Skip Schumacher who sent  him home with a double making it 1-0….and THAT was IT! Final score 1-0…Carpenter allowed 3 hits in his complete game shutout. He used 110 pitches and faced only 31batters (27 batters is a perfect game!) Cards knocked off the Brewers 4-2 in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the Rangers.

…In the Series opener, the Rangers led the in the 1st game 3-2 as the Cards came to bat tied 2-2 in bottom of 6th.  David Freese doubled with 1 out and scored with 2 outs on a base hit from Allen Craig. The Cards made it stand up for winning pitcher Chris Carpenter when Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes & Jason Motte  handled the last 3 innings….look @ that five-some of relievers…what a hodge-podge conglomeration of so-so pitchers that shined on that night! Texas won 2 of the next 3 games so the Cards were down 3 games to 2.

…game 6  scoring line is shown below…  On Mike and Mike in the Morning the next day, ESPN senior baseball analyst Buster Olney called it the greatest game in the history of baseball. The scoring was continuous–Texas led 1-0, Cards grabbed 2-1 lead, tied 2-2 after 2 innings; In top of 7th the Rangers got HR from Adrian Beltre & Nelson Cruz to take what seemed to be an insurmountable 9-6 lead. The Cards rallied & scored runs in the 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th innings of a WS–the only team to EVER DO THAT ! Allen Craig homered in the 8th ,it was now 7-5 after 8 innings. With 2 outs in the 9th, 2 runners on base and down, 1-2 in the count, David Freese hit a drive over RF head for a triple—driving home both runners and sending the game into extra innings. Texas answered…Josh Hamilton hit a 2-run HR in the top of the 10th. In bottom of 10th, Cards had Leadoff singles by Daniel Descalso & John Jay and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. Lance Berkman drove in the tying run with a single to tie the game!! now it was9-9!! Then it was David Freese’s magic moment, his HR to right-center field was the game-winner…it’s still exciting to see him throw his helmet off between his legs as he’s ready to cross home plate with the winning run of Game 6.  WOW!   WHAT A GAME!  Chris Carpenter won game 7 for the Cards 6-2. David Frese had another key hit. David Freese became only the 6th player in MLB history to earn League Championship Series and World Series MVP awards in the same postseason. When he retires, I suggest he opens a “Game 6” restaurant!

Then there are BIG games…games that changed the sports arena permanently..                     …Super Bowl III, Jan 12, 1969 has many special memories. The AFL, which began in 1959, was separate and apart from the NFL.  While the NFL was more established, the AFL had wealthier owners in many cases. The leagues had agreed to merge in 1966. It’d almost be like the XFL teams wanting to merge with the NFL today. Many fans…and experts still felt that the AFL was inferior. The Packers of the NFL had crunched the AFL opponents in Super Bowls I & II. The Colts of the NFL were 18 point favorites against the NY Jets in III. The Jets were led by their confident… some would say cocky…QB from Alabama, Joe Namath. Namath “guaranteed” that the Jets would WIN the game in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. Shockingly, the Jets had a 16-0 lead early in the 4th quarter. Final score 16-7! Namath was named the MVP of the game without scoring or throwing a touchdown!  He is only player to ever do that!! Shortly thereafter, parity in the leagues began to evolve…so this game caused very important consequences in the NFL.                   …..in 1966 Texas Western beat Kentucky in the NCAA Championship game 72-65. An upset– absolutely! But there were much deeper implications. Kentucky’s Head Coach Adolph Rupp was the kingpin of the SEC. Rupp began coaching @ Kentucky in 1930! He took Kentucky into the SEC in 1932. By 1966, he’d been there 36 years!  When he retired in 1972, his record was 876-190… He ruled the SEC on the court AND off the court. The “Baron” ruled SEC basketball. All the other SEC coaches followed his lead in many ways.  He had always refused to recruit black players. But…when he lost to Texas Western, who started 5 African-Americans, he changed his policy….and….and began recruiting African- Americans. …consequently, so did all the other SEC coaches! That one game changed SEC & NCAA basketball forever!        

Thanks for the read…your thoughts…maybe your most memorable game(s)…post them on my FB page, email me your thoughts or post on prepcasts.com. THANKS!

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Frozen Sports World by Bob Ryan

The Coronavirus has…or seems to have…frozen many areas of our life. The Sports world is no exception as games @ all levels—amateur, collegiate, professional—have all been cancelled.

….MLB Baseball has been postponed for several weeks. This work stoppage seemed rare to me but….looking back….we’ve had our share of stoppages in professional sports. This will be the 9th work stoppage for the MLB. The 1972 strike, 73 lockout, 76 lockout, 1980 strike, 1981 strike, 1985 strike,1990 lockout, 1994 strike. Of course, the strike is done by the players and the lockouts by the owners. Free Agency was a center piece of many of these stoppages. The NFL has seen 5 stoppages (4 strikes, 1 lockout), the NBA & the NHL have experienced 3 stoppages each. Soooooo….19 professional work stoppages since 1972—48 years. The last major professional lockout of 1998 in the NBA seems to have left a long…if not lasting….negative impact on attendance & interest. All the pro leagues became acutely aware of that situation and have worked hard to escape stoppages since then. We fans should be more accustom to them but…speaking just for myself… I really only remember 2 or 3 being significant to me(it messed up my good fantasy teams J).  Now, this stoppage isn’t any disagreement between players & management over money (through free agency) so it will be viewed totally different by the fans. But…while loyal fans will be anxious to return….many, many fans may find other interests to grab their attention and slip away from one…or all…of the professional sports.

…In this frozen time…..

….maybe this frozen time with a shortened “training” session for the MLB will be a catalyst for shortening spring trainings of the future.

…maybe this frozen time will provide managers with scheming for their required 3 batter relief hurlers. I suspect that there will be a steep increase of intentional walks so a Relief Pitcher can bypass a batter from the opposite side…or even be brought into the game with 3 balls on a batter…throw ball 4 and be credited with 1 of the 3 required batters.

…maybe we fans…in this frozen time… will find a bit of sympathy for the thousands of Senior collegiate & High School spring athletes who lost their final opportunity to compete…really compete…. against other strong talent after working all fall/winter to prepare for the spring season.

…this frozen time impacts all NCAA-F spring practices but it REALLY hurts 1st years coach….like Coach Drink @ MU..to install their new off & def “stuff”

….this frozen time will probably take away our enjoyment of the whispering announcing of Jim Nance & the unbelievable golf @ Augusta National in the Masters Tournament.

…will this frozen time lead to more muscular strains/pulls by players after this long layoff

….how will this “frozen time” impact the service time of non-arbitration players? Now there are 187 days in the regular MLB season and each day spent on the active roster or injured list earns a player one day of service time. A player is deemed to have reached “one year” of Major League service upon accruing 172 days in a given year. Upon reaching six years of Major League service, a player becomes eligible for free agency. Changes of reaching 172 days in this abbreviated season will be extremely slim…unless a player begins the season on the MLB roster & remains on roster for the entire year. It won’t take many “minor league” days to keep the 1st year player under 172 days this season.

…were the baseballs “frozen” in the post season? After a 2019 season that saw 6776 HR, 1.39 HR/game(11% more than previous record), 15 teams established HR records for their franchise. 58 players hit 30+ HR in 2019!! From July 15 through Aug 20, EVERY day had at least one player with a multi-HR game! Even two Triple-A leagues used the MLB ball this and BOTH saw their HR rates shoot upwards dramatically by nearly 60%!. But..then in the playoffs….with supposedly the same type of baseballs–it wasn’t the same. In the 9th of Game 5 of the NLDS, the score was tied after the Washington Nats had scored 2 runs off of LA’s Kershaw. In the next half inning, when Will Smith of the Dodgers blasted a 103mph fastball with the right trajectory, some Dodgers got to the top step… waiting to sprint onto the field & celebrate the winning hit…but…much to their surprise it “died” and was tracked down & caught on the track. Half inning later, Howie Kendrick blasted a grand slam(barely FAIR and barely over the wall) to send the Nationals on the road to their World Series Championship. Several Dodgers & Nats were shocked that Smith’s ball “died” on the way to RF. Apparently, other similar balls didn’t clear the fence in the post-season. It seemed to several of the participants that the baseballs were a bit different than the baseball used in the regular season. No one knows how the baseballs…at least some of them…were not carrying. Was it the colder temps or a Frozen Ball? J

….some teams seem to be always frozen…almost permanently… they annually land in the bottom echelons of their division…it always seems to be the same ol’ teams. Well….maybe the “frozen” shell will be broken this year by a couple of them….the San Diego last enjoyed a +.500 season in 2010. Last year Manny Machado & Fernando Tatis Jr arrived. Tatis was VERY exciting…Machado is one of the many big swing stikeout/HR batters in the league. The Padres acquired Tommy Pham (a high OB%, emotional) player. SD is expecting Jurickson Profar, now 27, to finally tap into his highly touted potential.  He is expected to elevate the defense of SD which was 13th of 15 NL teams.

….the Chicago White Sox haven’t finished above .500 since 2012 and haven’t tasted the post-season waters since 2008 when they fell to Tampa Bay. The excitement this year has come from all of the young…tested & untested players…who’ve been assembled patiently over the past couple seasons. Sluggers Jose Abreu & Eloy Jimenez each passed the 30 HR plateau in 2019. SS Tim Anderson hit .330+ last year. Highly touted Yoan Moncado who hit .315, 25 HR & a .915 OPS returns. Joining this crew is minor league player of the year– Luis Robert. Signing one of the best hitting catchers, Yasmani Grandal, followed by acquiring two lefty’s—Dallas Keuchel & Gio Gonzalez to supplement the starters. They should provide some experience for this youthful team. With all that new, young talent, I think that there actually may be more interest in the White Sox than the Cubs in Chicago in 2020.

My time is frozen now..until next week! But….your responses don’t have to be frozen…send in any of your thoughts via email, FB or Prepcasts…thx J

Not So Fast by Bob Ryan

Some ideas seems obvious to us….but…upon closer inspection… NOT SO FAST on some of these suppositions.

…I often hear the Cardinal announcers saying “Yadi Molina the future HOF’er coming to the plate”.  Granted he’s performed very well for a long period of time. But…NOT SO FAST….compare him to some of the other catchers who haven’t yet made the HOF…..trying to use the same comparables–

Yadi Molina  16 years;  9x All-Star; lifetime .282 avg; voting in  MVP race-#3  ,#4, #21, 23(2x)  lifetime WAR 40.2;  9 Gold Gloves;   4 world series-won 2

Elston Howard  14 years; 9 straight All-Star; .274 avg; Won MVP-1x; voted #3,10,17 (3x); lifetime WAR 27; 9 world series’-winner in 4 of them

Thurmond Munson  11 years; 7 All Star games; .292 lifetime avg; WAR of 46; Won AL MVP once; #7 (2x), #12, 19, 21, 22; 3 Gold Gloves;  Career postseason: .357 BA, 3 HR, 22 RBI

Lance Parish-19 years; 8 All-Star games; .252 avg; 345 HR; WAR 39.5;In MVP vote#9, #13, #16

Joe Maurer 15 years(10 catching; 6 All-Star games;  lifetime avg-.306, WAR 55.0; He won the MVP once, with a#4 &# 36     Is Yadi such an obvious choice?

I would contend that EACH of these catchers are better than 1/3 to ½ of the current HOF catchers. Further….look @ the battle to get Ted Simmons into the HOF by the Veterans Committee. He played 21 years, .285 lifetime avg; 248 HR; when he retired held the record for most Hits (2472) & doubles (483) by a catcher and 1389 RBI’s–2nd highest total by a player who played at least 50% of his games behind the plate. Yet.. Simmons was only named on 3.7% of votes in 1994, so he fell off the ballot. He’ll be inducted in 2020 by Vets Committee.

….Often we hear that a player is born with all the skill he needs to succeed at the Professional Level. NOT SO FAST…despite being born to a MLB player (so probably inherited some..or more likely… a ton of athleticism)..Patrick Mahomes indicated recently that he didn’t know how to read defenses until 2018! The 24-year-old revealed that he only learned how to read defenses “until halfway last year”. It took more than just pure athleticism! Sooo…after acquiring those skills necessary @ the professional level….he really elevated his game. btw…. I find him to be the most entertaining QB in the NFL currently.

…often we hear….what can we do about the starting pitching in the MLB? It can’t be changed, NOT SO FAST….here’s a couple thoughts….1) go to an Ace-6 rotation…it’d look like this:   A2345  A6234  A5623 A4562  A3456   repeat..your ace starts every 5th day; all the other starters on the 6/7th day. Look what it did for Waino last year. Adam Wainwright’s two “long” rests were followed by his best games in 2019! His best games of the year were on July 14, with 11 days rest– 7 IP, 0 runs vs AZ; then on Sep 2, with 7 days rest-7 IP, 0 runs vs SF. 2) Another thought is to indicate to pitchers that in the off-season, THEY are each responsible for coming to “camp” ready to throw 100 pitches @ full speed. They know their own arm…do it in whatever method they require to get ready.  Same principle for the batters. Then…. shorten spring training by about 4 weeks..play 2 games each day, using all the players, so EVERY player is playing…but the current system …is far too long—it was designed for players who were working part-time winter jobs. That isn’t the case any longer. Adjust!!

….Some say that the 3-batter requirement for pitchers (or end of the inning) will change baseball….NOT SO FAST….it’s ALREADY CHANGED. It was not until 1987 that even half the teams in baseball had relievers with fewer innings than appearances. It’s a big adjustment given that most of today’s mgr came into baseball after that, but it’s been done previously.

…the acquisition of Troy Brouwer on Nov 11 was lauded as  “protection” for the Blues when they acquired him. His rough & tumble style would be welcomed….NOT SO FAST…1st of all.. the Broadstreet Bullies of the NHL are gone…since Dec 19, Brouwer has played in 3 Blues games. His minutes played 5:49, 8:33, 9:19 reflect that he really didn’t “fit in”. It was a mistake… so be it….all teams… & people…make mistakes…at least this wasn’t a costly one.

…We often hear about the Cardinals farm system & drafting….and it is good…but…NOT SO FAST.. what about the Blues? They drafted all of the following- David Perron (1st #26, 2007), Alex Pietrangelo (1st rnd, 2008, #4 pick); Jake Allen (2nd rnd,2008 #34),Jaden Schwartz (1st rd, #14, 2010), Jordan Bennington (3rd, 2011), Colton Parayko (,3rd rd #86pick 2012) Mackenzie MacEachern (3rd, 2012) IvanBarbashev (2nd, #33 2014); Sammy Blais( 6th, 2014),Vince Dunn (2nd, 2015) Jordan Kyrou (2nd,#35 2016)  Robert Thomas (1st#20, 2017).  Many of these players aren’t STARS…but they are productive… and they are Stanley Cup winning players.

…. While the NCAA has cancelled post season tourneys..one sometimes hears, “the Bills don’t ever play post-season”….NOT SO FAST.  While the longest consecutive stint of post season years for SLU is 3, maybe it’s changing. It was last done 2011-12, 12-13, 13-14. It was Ric Majerus final year & Jim Crews’ first 2 years. Prior to that, you must go back to John Benningtons’ 3 straight NIT teams—58-59, 59-60, 60-61. Eddie Hickey took his teams in 54-55, 55-56, 56-57. The Bills have only reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tourney once… it looks like Coach  Ford will lead the Billikens into this “new” territory soon. With so many prominent players returning next year, don’t be surprised to see Ford dip into the JUCO world for instant improvement in 20-21.

…in the NCAA the NIL(name, image & likeness) rule will permit players to receive compensation for their NIL. That’s a huge transformation…NOT SO FAST…now the NCAA is considering allowing transfers to play immediately in their new school. Restrictions– 1) receive a release from their previous school; 2) leave their previous school academically eligible; 3) maintain their academic progress at their new school; and 4) leave under no disciplinary suspension. I would like to see schools lose a scholarship when a player doesn’t leaves without graduating. That’s the goal of the scholarship…I know…fat chance J

…the Cardinals adhere closely to the “system” with players in their first 3 years of non-arbitration. They cling to the basic minimum for all non-arbitration players. The Cards offer the minimum, if a player refuses to sign, they dock him $10,000.. I suppose to make a point. NOT SO FAST… What point are they making? We’ve got ya..so sign it or we’ll fine you after we force you to play for that minimum salary. Tommy Pham objected…C U later Tommy. Now Jack Flaherty has refused to sign it for 2 years…he’s been renewed each year.  Coming off a year where he established himself as the clear ACE of the team and a top level NL pitcher, Flaherty posted 11-8 record, 2.75 ERA, 196 inn, 4th in Cy Young voting & 13th in the MVP vote. It seems to me that players that excel and meet certain levels of achievement during their non-arbitration years—stats like games played, certain batting or pitching marks…they would be rewarded automatically “x” amount of money above the minimum. Flaherty’s WAR of 5.9 last year was phenomenal. For contracts signed in the free agency in 2017 the average was a massive $10.5m per  WAR, meaning if you were going to sign a player who would get 4 WAR for each of the next 4 years you should expect to pay him $168m(4war x4years  x$10m per war) for that contract. Meanwhile, Flaherty gets the minimum. Would you sign it? Thanks for the read!  YOUR comments are welcome…NOT SO FAST…they are encouraged J

Bubbling Up by Bob Ryan

…While the MLB seems snarled up over stealing signs, length of the game, preserving the careers of the stars & other areas….a serious topic is bubbling up under the surface for the MLB.

….unlike the NFL & NBA, the MLB must fund their own development system….commonly called the “Minor Leagues”. The Minor Leagues have been in existence since 1901. It was formed so teams could sign players and keep them despite their skill level being a bit short of that required of an MLB player. With extra development & teaching… it was thought…that many would elevate their game and eventually reach the MLB.

…Currently the MLB roster has 40 players on it. Only 25 can play in the MLB, so the other 15 players are relegated to the Minors. The salaries of these 15 players are far above the standard MiLB salaries.

…this system worked for decades…in 1932, there were 14 leagues and 102 clubs..it continued to grow so that by 1947, there were over 52 leagues and 388 clubs. The apex of popularity was…arguably… 1949 when 59 leagues and 448 clubs comprised minor league ball. It also  attracted 39,640,443 fans, a record that stood for 54 years. It began declining after that point…maybe…. it was to TV availability, maybe MLB’s expansion, maybe the proliferation & growth  of other professional sports, maybe different generational attitudes.

Well……the minor league players & system are bubbling up right now. After years of protests from the players, the salaries remained anemic. However, beginning in 2021, minor league players will receive raises in their monthly pay. The raises will range between 38 percent and 72 percent. Here are the weekly raises broken down by level: Rookie and short-season: Up to $400 from $290; Single-A: Up to $500 from $290; Double-A: Up to $600 from $350; and

Triple-A (level directly beneath the MLB): Up to $700 from $502. $700/week….For AAA players….about $3000/month..for the 5 month season—about $15,000!  Minor leaguers are not paid during the offseason or for spring training. Go back to that line, “The raises will range between 38 percent and 72 percent”. Sooo..for all these decades…. MiLB (minor league) have been accepting these substandard salaries just to hold onto their hopes of making the MLB. Once they reach…and many never will reach it… heaven…oops…the MLB…the minimum salary is slightly over $560,000/year. These minor league reflections don’t even touch on the long bus rides, the many, many McD’s meals on the go, modest motels, hours & hours spent refining your skills, time away from family & a social life with these strangers called your “teammates” (who come & go frequently).

… There are various levels for the players as they move upward…Rookie, A, AA, AAA. The very high draft choices begin either on the 40 man roster or up on AA or AAA level. Players may be moved up… or down… at any point. At some point, a lengthy-experienced MiLB player gets a label as a MiLB’er and your chances are slim of reaching the MLB.  Overall chances of making the MLB?  For an NCAA senior player drafted by a (MLB) team: Less than eleven in 100, or 10.5 percent.  For a High school senior players eventually drafted by an MLB team: About one in 200, or 0.5 percent.

What about these Minor League Systems (each team has their own system). Who has the most promising “future” MLB players? That’s the purpose…develop MLB players….not necessarily winning games in the MiLB. According to reports….NO….I haven’t been driving around Florida & AZ checking this out J …Tampa Bay is listed as #1; San Diego #2, Dodgers hold #3 position; Atlanta #4, Seattle #5. The Cards are listed at #12 according to my source.

..Would let YOUR son chase his dream in the minors?

..hopes are bubbling up @ St Louis U..the Billikens are 22-8 in the Atlantic-10 conference. The Bills are assembling some impressive credentials…win @ Rhode Island; 2 very tight losses to Dayton (currently 28-2 & rated #3 in the USA)-one in OT. The Bills now have a youthful, talented top 5…with another sharpshooting Frosh (Gibson Jimerson)out all year due to injury.  Jr Javonte Perkins emergence as a strong perimeter shooter has been vital: Jr Justin Goodwins slashing & mid-range game, Jr Hasahn French’s strong 1 on 1 inside game; the athleticism of Fr Terrance Hargrove and the solid play of Frosh Pt Guard Yuri Collins. Collins’ doesn’t need to score to make contributions to the overall game plan. This club now has depth, balance and more than 1 scorer. I’m not predicting an NCAA championship…or even a berth…. it’s the best Billiken team since 2011-12 Rick Majerus team that went to the NCAA.

….this will break the heart of many of you…trouble is bubbling up in New England. Bilicheat doesn’t want to offer Brady a 2-year contract… maybe not even a 1 year deal!! Brady wants that 2 year guarantee. Maybe this dynamic duo will be parting ways? Personally, I agree with Coach….Brady has no escape ability when rushed, weak arm, brilliant mind..so…. bye-bye.

….under the surface…but still bubbling up…at least partially….there is still unrest in the MLB about the Houston Asterisks …I’m thinking that those players may get worn down by the constant barrage and at least 1 of them will “lose it” sometime during late July or August.

…I realize that interest is still bubbling up very high for the BattleHawks….but…I would have preferred NOT to open the upper deck….at least NOT yet….see how it looks in a month…or open it up for the playoffs…if they reach that level. I’d rather have people clamoring for seats.

…. early bubbling up..or down… in Jupiter….some observations…..veteran backup inf/OF Brad Miller (6 years—9th team) has been seen often in games…puzzler to me?… why a 30 year old backup vet with all the young “hot prospects” in the system?…CF battle between Harrison Bader & Lane Thomas will come down to …who can HIT! Bader can hit a bit less with his scintillating speed & defense….bullpen closer role?  Ryan Helsley appears to be on a higher level than Jr Fernandez …Fowler looks disinterested….Alex Reyes is no longer a fire-balling pitcher–he’s a breaking ball pitcher..ugh!…Daniel Ponce DeLeon is looking sharp but he IS 29 years old..if not now….When?…. Both Gant & Brebbia were terrific in 1st half last season with lots of use… then each fell off badly in 2nd  half…sometimes arms don’t ever really recover from over-use…watch each closely. Martinez IS pitching like an ACE.

…with excitement still bubbling up @ Mizzou over new coach, one has to look at what the experts say about the recruiting class of new HC Drinkwitz. Mizzou’s  National Rank: 50; Previous Year-37; next year-46. SEC rank-13. These numbers alone aren’t real significant… but…they do show the opinions of those of follow the NCAA-F game closely.

..listed by an  MLB expert under the TOP 10 spring training surprises–”Adam Wainwright has had an excellent spring, and that’s good for the Cardinals and for all of baseball. This spring has offered hope that the 36-year-old RHP can still pitch at a high level after a season in which his elbow ached and his ERA soared to a career-high 5.11. With his elbow sound, he’s throwing his curve from multiple angles and locations. One of baseball’s great citizens, Wainwright knows he has far more yesterdays than tomorrows, but he has offered us all hope that he’s got another good run left in him.”  Cool!  Go Waino!

Please feel free to comment—on FB, Prepcasts, or via email…I’ll sign ur name w/initials.

High Floor – Low Ceiling by Bob Ryan

A higher floor and  a lower ceiling describes the Cardinals. With their skill & experience, we can feel comfortable that the Cards will rack up 85 wins…NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. Actually not many teams can say that…& keep a straight face However, the Lower Ceiling limits how HIGH…or how many wins…we can achieve.  The Cards have a good team…..but not a great team….some reasons…  …According to the medical world, we reach our pinnacle as a player…and as an overall person physically…. around 23 years of age. Cognitive abilities peak @ 24 years of age and perceptual speed drops continually after 24 years of age. The “Fastball” speed starts going down in a player’s early 20s, and spin rate drops with it. For a batter, Exit velocity begins to decline at 23 or 24. An average runner slows a little more than 1 inch per second every year, beginning pretty much immediately upon his debut. It takes a little over four seconds for most runners to reach first base, which means with each birthday, it’s as if the bases were pulled 4 inches farther apart. Sooo….to summarize this lesson in physiology, the body & the brain begin slowing down…for most individuals…around 23-24 years old. Now…..experience gained through learning tendencies, maintaining skills through years of repetition, expectations based on many similar…or same..situations compensates  for this snail-like decline physically. If players don’t…or can’t …adapt, they find themselves with shorter careers. The missing variable is, of course, experience. A 23-year-old begins to decline physically at the same time that he learns how to play baseball better through competition & experience @ the MLB level 

….Now…we all know that no 2 people are exactly alike….sooo…obviously some athletes reach their athletic pinnacle a bit later.  In addition, I’ve often thought that “smart” players last longer because they learn more from their experiences and use it wisely.

…Shift your gaze to the Cardinals age in their probable starting lineup….Molina-37, Goldschmidt-32, Wong-29, DeJong-26, Carpenter-34, O’Neill-25, CF-Bader-26, Fowler-34. Starting rotation of Flaherty-24, Wainwright-38, Mikolas-31, Hudson-25, Martinez-28 and the closer, Andrew Miller-35, Gallego Gallegos-28 and hopefully Jordan Hicks at the prime age of 23. This roster has veterans who have piled up significant MLB careers…. from their many of years of experience….the Cards will STILL win many games but….can they push through Mother Nature’s tugging on them as they march down the long road of a MLB season & playoffs and still win BIG through those playoffs? High floor….low ceiling. 

… after these notes regarding the aging of players, why are we waiting for Dylan Carlson?  He’s 21….we’re wide open in LF. He’s been terrific in Florida … bring him up now and start him!…Or… will he get the “Bryant” treatment…brought up just days AFTER the deadline that marks it a full season towards free agency. Any reason to keep him down is a ruse other than saving an extra year prior to him reaching free agency.

…The Cards do have some advantages though….I feel like the Brewers AND the Cubs have stepped back from their plunges into free agency and set their sights and roster at a bit lower standard. Lower floor..lower ceiling… Neither of these rosters seem equal to the rosters of the past couple seasons. The Cubs HAD their run..won a series… so now…I suppose…. they’re good for another 100 years  In the MLB, a team faces their division opponents for 44% of their entire schedule. So… the Cards do benefit if those teams have taken steps backward. 

..Some other Cardinal observations…..many Cards fans that I’ve talked with during last season & the off season felt that Paul Goldschmidt wasn’t “all that he was cranked up to be”.. When one looks @ Goldy’s  34 HR, 97 Rbi’s, played 161 games with an OPS of .821 and a glove that saved numerous errant throws out of the dirt, Goldy looks like a solid player to me. Granted his batting average dropped 30 pts to .260 & it was the lowest of his career as was his OPS. But… He is 32 years old…what did you expect? I also think that some fans are bothered by his stiff reactions after a HR or a very good play. The StL fans have come to expect all the Cardinal players to savor the exciting moment..that’s NOT Goldschmidt. 

…Kolton Wong played…maybe…the best baseball of his career last year. He led the team in OBP (on base %) @ .361, led the team in steals 24, his 136 hits tied for #2 on the team. He was 3rd on the team in WAR (wins above replacement) @ 3.7. He led the team during their 9-1 stretch in August when they “made their run”. He batted .373,  OBP .460 and an OPS of 1.02 for that month. He took the ball to LF and got himself on base..he was very valuable.

…I wish that Carlos would go back to the pen. He seems to savor & enjoy the spotlight of being the closer. In his last full year of being a starter, he was 12-11, started 32 games with a good 3.64 era. However, he pitched 6.0 innings or less in 15 of his 32 starts. Last year, he wasn’t moved to the pen until May. He didn’t really settle in as a closer until July. He racked up 9 saves, 1 loss in July. In Aug it was 5 svs, 1 w, 1 blown save. Sept saw 8 wins, 1 win, 1 hold. I think…we can find other pitchers to go 6  innings easier than we can find a good closer. To me… Carlos brings a higher ceiling than the older Miller.

…the NHL has a narrow distance between the lower & upper ceilings. The Blues have won many “late”, close wins this year. As of Friday, the avg goals per team was 192 for the season. The Blues have scored 208 goals (10th in the NHL)and given 178 goals—also 10th in the NHL. Generally, it’s a very, very fine line between winning & losing …according to Bob’s Stats… in OT/shootouts the Blues have won 12 games & lost 7. In regulation, the Blues are 11-2 in 1 goal regulation games…both losses to Nashville in back-back games. That’s 32 of their 66 games determined by 1 goal!….the high  ceiling & Stanley Cup ceiling  in the NHL is narrow… much tighter…. than most sports.   

…another High floor, low ceiling situation is Tom Brady. He has to sign with a good team with a strong offensive line. He can’t scramble…heck…he can barely move..but he CAN still pass with accuracy on short throws & read defensive coverage schemes very, very well.

….Jumping away from the Redbirds….I hear a “ka…kaw” out there…yep, it’s the Battlehawks!  St Louis has definitely opened their arms wide to greet this new team. The attendance at the game has been terrific for the fans…and the players. 27,000+ fans yesterday show that it wasn’t just a 1 game wonder. The viewership on the tube has been stunning.  I know that people love football in the Lou but.. I can’t help but wonder if Stan’s snarky remarks about the Lou on the way out motivated many football fans to “JUST SHOW STAN” that the Lou IS a football town… a football CITY …would be a better answer  The fans have definitely raised the floor and the ceiling for the team with their response. Btw….it’s great to hear Howard Balzer back on the airwaves again. He’s a real PRO and a football junkie!

…reaching a new “high”ceiling, the #18 UMSL Mens Basketball  team beat Ill-Springfield 86-79 to become Co-Champions of the GLVC.  The Men won the 2012 Western Division in 2012. The 25-5 Tritons continue to eclipse the previous school record (22) with most wins in a season. UMSL finished 18-0 at HOME! The GLVC Tourney & hopefully an NCAA Tourney bid is still in the future for this 2019-20 Tritons Team coached by Bob Sunvold.

…YOUR comments are always invited…generally, my blogs on the Cards elicit many thoughts…anxious to see them…..put them on Facebook ,Prepcasts or send to me.

More is Less by Bob Ryan

One of my best friends would always look @ me while I was adding football plays for our team …on the fly… and say, “Less is More”….well I’m carrying that corollary to the next level, “More is Less”.

….The MLB has just announced plans of an expansion of their playoff system to 14 teams. This follows  a grueling, 6 month long–162 games schedule to determine those playoff teams.  That full season begins after 4-6 weeks of exhibition baseball. It looks like a season from St. Patrick’s Day to Veterans Day will be on the slate soon. IF the MLB is intent on expanding the playoffs, a shortening of the regular season is essential. The Cardinals owner, Bill DeWitt, a very shrewd businessman and good owner, has already proposed reducing the schedule back to the 154 game format of decades ago. 

….All of the professional teams hover right around the 50% level of post-sesaon teams—it makes MONEY so….regular season…step aside  The NHL has 16 of 31 teams in the playoffs; NBA 16 of 30 teams; the NFL is marching in step with the MLB and considering 14 of 30 teams (47%)…fans still flock to these early round games and drive up TV ratings…both which elevate the cash flow of the league.  Owners ARE in the business of making money…increased playoffs seem to be inevitable at the time.  

….Just think if college sports went that route….there are 125 D-1 football schools….FOUR (4) make the playoffs. In basketball, @ D-1 level there are 347 teams with 68 making the tournament. If either of those sports followed the professional playoff model, we’d have 60 NCAA football teams in the playoffs and 170 D-1 basketball teams in the brackets!! When one holds these systems side-side… from my eyes …it seems  “more is less”. 

…This precept applies in many other ways….Jay Bouwmeester’s cardiac “issue” brought all the players & fans quickly back to “real” life. The tremendous work accomplished by the medical staff probably saved his life. His career may be in jeopardy…but…..due to the larger medical staff now at each professional game, there is less chance for a severe catastrophe to occur during the game. Facing this permanent loss…. seemingly… the Blues went out & acquired a rental for the rest of the year…meaning he’ll become a free agent at the end of the year…in Marco Scandella. It appears that he’ll be in regular rotation, stout defender and has experience. Even with his $4m contract the Blues easily remain under the hard cap of $81m/year.

… the Longevity of MLB games …up to 3 hours 5 min last season is too long for my taste…and many other fans. In my attendance @ Cards games last year, when the inning ends after the clock strikes 10:00pm….there is a max exodus for the gates…even if it’s a tight score. 3 hours is enough!!! The MLB ALSO realizes it   ….soooo… the implementation of new rules to speed up the game. Now relief hurlers must face a minimum of 3 batters or the reaching the end of the inning prior to a   pitcher being replaced.  I think, it’ll still be 1 batter in many cases. Managers will use that specialist, when possible,  with 2 outs in the inning.

Soooo…that relief hurler is removed at the end of the inning after his batter.

…Meanwhile, an “untouchable” that is never approached is shortening the time between innings. That time is necessary for the sponsors to get their word “out”….so the owners can wheel-barrow their money to the bank. Here’s a suggestion….put 5-10 second commercials in the corner of the screen, between batters, to get out the message. I believe that MORE people would actually see it ..and read it…instead of stepping out of the room for food/drink/other stops between innings. Go back to the 1 minute between innings that was used for decades. It’d save approximately 20 minutes/game. 

…As the Astros ….apparently I misspelled it last week as… Asstros….who’s codebreaking program evolved over years are receiving protection from the MLB from the other players of the league. No pitching inside or retaliation is the word of the league to the players….are you kidding me…the over/under @Vegas on Houston batters getting hit-by-pitch is 83 for the season. I’m going over!! Does anyone REALLY think that all the MLB players will follow that directive? I don’t. Further,  I would encourage Jose Altuve to subscribe to Julian Javier’s ghost-like turn of DP pivots @ 2B since I have the feeling that opposing runners may be coming in harder & higher on those type of plays in 2020. On the other hand, do you think that the umpires will be “patting down Altuve” each AB? 

…the players protection is due to the immunity required by the MLB Players Union. The union required that MLB doesn’t retaliate against the players. So, the guilty Asstros, are expecting not to be treated in an unusual way by the other players. However the FANS will let them know. Already yesterday in the 1st spring training game, Houston heard the 1st ..of what will be the norm.. a long, loud, continuous chorus of boos, heckles, banging seats (I guess sending signs to the batters ) that will demonstrate the fans thoughts.

…the landscape of NCAA Mens basketball has a totally different look. This Weekend the #1, #2 & #4 teams were upset. No….it wasn’t Duke, Kentucky, N. Carolina being upset…it was #1 Baylor, #2 Gonzaga & #4 San Diego State! Meanwhile, sitting in the #6 spot is Dayton…another team arriving on the national stage. With all of the talent spread around to more & more teams, the certainty for a team …they always call it a program….to dominate for a decade.. or more…is less & less. That’ll be great for the sport.

YOUR thoughts/reaction are always invited! 

Why not Cheat? by Bob Ryan

Without question, the MLB has been shaken to its core by the continuing revelations of the deceit, planning, coordination and plain ol’ cheating of the Houston Astros. From my eyes, ALL of the players, coaches, manager are totally responsible as more and more evidence trickles out from behind the computer–perched just inside of the A-stros dugout.

….It started at the top! This wasn’t a “spur of the moment” episode that spiraled into a full team espionage system.. the idea was hatched in the team’s front office back in Sept 2016 with the label “Codebreaker” and introduced to Jeff Luhnow at that time. Initially, “Codbreaker” utilized the baseball operarations & video room staff to record the signs of the opponents electronically, enter it into a Micrsoft Excel spreadsheet—which led to an algorithm analyzing what each sign meant. That info was relayed to batters…that developed into a relay system in 2017 of using the “banging trash cans scheme” that indicated to each batter the type of pitch that he would receive on that pitch. Somehow, it evolved to a buzzer system for a couple of the star players.

….The Team Leader ruled the mob! At 40 years of age, playing in his 20th season, had earned over $220m in his career but had never worn a World Series Championship Ring, Carlos Beltran emerges as the “ruling boss”. Players described him as the “Godfather”of the clubhouse. Now that’s its exposed…. some players say that they were afraid to approach Beltran to express their disdain for the operation. One player said Beltran “steamrolled” everyone, to the point that even manager AJ Hinch seemed to be afraid to challenge Beltran for fear of losing credibility in the clubhouse. THAT sounds like C..Y..A to me! Ironically, a player noted, “Beltrán, who is the godfather of the whole program, just swings at everything after taking a strike and probably does the worst with the info,” one player said.

…back in 1919, the several of the Chicago White Sox players, including star player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, were charged on 9 counts of conspiracy for “throwing” the  World Series to the Cincy Reds. They were acquitted. The next day AFTER the acquittal, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, newly appointed  baseball’s 1st commissioner, ruled that all 8 players were permanently banned from organized baseball. Sadly, it seems the star, Joe Jackson signed papers, with the others, regarding the arrangement. Years later it was realized that Jackson could not read or write so had no idea what he was signing! That team is now referred to as the Chicago Black Sox.

Some other ramifications…..

…At a bare minimum, I feel like the Astros should be removed as the Winner of the World Series in 2017, repay back their winning share and name LA Dodgers the WS champs. Sadly, the Dodgers also lost in following year to Boston, who also was using a version of the Astros “sign stealing” system.

….other MLB players are beginning to express their “real” feelings about the situation. Angel pitcher Andrew Heaney expressed it most bluntly (its been sanitized)…. “Somebody in the locker room had to say, ‘this is —- up. We shouldn’t be doing this.’ For nobody to stand up and say, ‘we’re cheating other players,’ that sucks. That’s a __ feeling for everybody. I hope they feel like ___.

…with this elaborate relay system of sign stealing, monitors right behind the dugout…. trash can being banged or not with different pitches… I just can’t believe that Jeff Albert, Ast Houston Batting Coach at the time and now the Cardinals Batting Coach.. didn’t know ANYthing about the scheme. Did he live in a cacoon? Looking at the Cardinals batting results from last year, one would have a difficult time saying that he REALLY made a positive impact on the club. On the other hand…if he actually WAS that unobservant in Houston with the batters…do you really think that he’ll be attentive enough to help & assist the StL batters?

…Pete Rose… exiled to Baseball’s Siberia and ruled out of an HOF vote due to his betting on baseball…has asked to be reconsidered. One could argue that his “crime” of betting isn’t as negative as organizing meticulously a sign stealing electronic system that impacted the actual, immediate play of the game. I think that he actually DOES have a point. Now…I must say as a young man watching Rose play with his extreme hustle… he was called “Charlie Hustle”….his durability,bat control and “all in” skills that I’d probably lean to his corner on this particular debate.

…from another angle, while the sign stealing scheme definitely elevated the platy of the A-stros, it impacted negatively on the stats & lives of their opponents. Former MLB hurler Mike Bolsinger has filed a lawsuit against the Houston Astros. In his last MLB performance as a pitcher for the Blue Jays on Aug 4, 2017 he was “roughed up” on the mound as the sign stealing was at its zenith. He was sent down the minors immediately following the game. Bolsinger’s claim is that his Astros performance…which was assisted through the illegal sign stealing scheme….cost him an MLB roster spot. By all the numbers, it appears Bolsinger was a marginal MLB player. He was 8-16, ERA 4.92 and a WHIP (walks & Hit per inn pitched) in his 4 MLB years of 1.513. But….should Bolsinger get on the docket and the “discovery phase” is reached….then the can of worms….of questions about the “fairness” of baseball…or lack of it….and what the Astros actually knew about in those days would go public. While the case seems a bit lame to me, Houston may have to “buy him out” to shut the door in that direction.

….yet another player bemoans a lost…once of a lifetime… opportunity due to the Astros cheating. David Robertson was on the Yankees roster in 2017. He was the closer in the LCS for NYY … a spot that he’d probably never be again…and that he was upset by the Astros cheating. He said recently, “I got roughed up in Game 6,” he said. “I felt like in that game I threw as well as I’ve ever thrown in my entire life. I had some pitches that got hit that I was a little shocked by and some pitches that didn’t get swung at that I was a little shocked by. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about what we know now. But it all comes together now and, you know, I’m upset about it, that’s for sure. “I’m never going to get 2017 back. I can’t say moving forward I’ll ever get to pitch in a LCS again, but I’ll never get THAT season back with that opportunity to win a World Series.”

…just heard the lame apologies from Alex Bregman & Jose Altuve…they didn’t even SOUND sincere in their statements. Sorry? I doubt it…only sorry they were caught.

…my ol’ south side nature of play fair or I’ll make you play fair probably would have led me to tell the catcher…give me a sign for a curve then I’ll buzz one right under his chin. Repeat …if necessary, repeat for next batter. They’ll get the message as they get up out of the dirt & the catcher says, “stop it”.

…so why not cheat? The mild reprimand….2 players mouthing weak apologies… amounts to nothing. In 2001, Sandy Alderson, while serving as executive vice president for baseball operations of MLB, issued a memorandum stating that teams cannot use electronic equipment to communicate with each other during games, especially for the purpose of stealing signs. So THERE was the MLB position on the issue. I realize that the ol’ school life-time ban won’t fly….the power of the MLB Players Union seems to over-ride the MLB rules…and a memorandum isn’t a rule….but a strong, very strong message must be sent to the players & teams. How about a ban of a year? 82 games(1/2 season)? 100 years ago the players were banned PERMANENTLY. In 2020, the Commissioner MUST step up and administer punishments to the Astros players. If he doesn’t, in 6 weeks the players will probably be asking, “who’s sending the signs to the batter”?

What do you think? I’m anxious to read YOUR thoughts….post them on facebook, on prepcasts.com or send me an email. Thx for the read!

A True “Super” Bowl by Bob Ryan

The Super Bowl of last weekend really was “super”. I was rooting for the Chiefs so maybe that added to the enjoyment. The late surge by the Chiefs was outstanding.  Some observations….

….late in the 1st half, owning a lead, momentum and with the ball, San Francisco decides to “run out the clock”. Why? You have momentum…use it to put additional points on the board. You can’t “ice” the game in the 1st half

.. With just 6:30 left to play in the game, the 49ers were ahead 20-10 (a 10 point lead), which should have been an insurmountable lead. Going into the Super Bowl, there had been 165 games in the 2019 season where a team led by 10 or more points with under 7 minutes left to play. Before the Super Bowl, the team with that lead posted a 164-1 record! Now….it’s 164-2…ugh!!

…In that mid-4th quarter drive with the lead, when the clock becomes as important as the score, amazingly to me, SF abandons the running game (while the clock keeps running) and throws it…and threw 3 straight incomplete passes – stopping the clock on each incomplete. That cost the Niners over 1:30 of time….gee….just think.. if the game had been 1:30 shorter for the Chiefs at the end of the game…the outcome may have been different!! 

…the difference of the QB play was significant. Mahomes is a “big game” QB. He possesses tremendous arm strength (with accuracy), can run for positive yardage and can run to escape some of the defensive pressure.  Jimmy Garoppolo is a QB ”manager”—he can drive an offense well when the blocking is good & the receivers run their option routes correctly. However, he isn’t going to scramble for positive yards or make super-exceptional passes (like Mahomes). Further… in the biggest game of his life, he completed just 3 of 11 passes for 36 yards in the 4th quarter (Overall, he went 20 of 31 for 219 yards and… at times… he looked sharp ….but not in the last 5 minutes of the game— the “crunch” time of any NFL game.

…obviously, the 49’ers have a different evaluation for Garoppolo. He signed a 5 year deal last year for $27.5m/year. Another game-manager type, Kirk Cousins signed for 3 years @ $28m/year. Eyeballing those numbers, I can understand why Dak Prescott (Cowboy QB) declined a contract last year worth $27.8m/year…that offer was halfway in value between the above mentioned pair of QBs. Prescott seems a clear notch above that level….Heck….its only money….and the NFL is rolling in it!

…maybe I’m showing my age here but….I disliked the halftime shake-it show. There were millions of young women and girls watching the game….what message were we sending them?…in this current age….why return to using the Woman’s body… alone… to be the primary focus. I realize that it was targeted for a much younger audience but…really(could you hear that tone?) …couldn’t Ms Lopez & Ms Shake-ur-rear  taken a different approach with their talents?

In other sports throughout this past week…

…The Billikens lost to the Duquesne Dukes 82-68 in an A-10 game. It just seemed to me that the Dukes simply had taller, more athletic team than the Bills. Duquesne has beaten SLU twice this year.  Coach Ford was unhappy…as all losing coaches are after games…..but….the Bills would need to play a perfect game to beat Duquesne. In order to do that, the SLU would have to stay out of foul trouble & hit their perimeter shots with some regularity. The loss on Saturday @ Dayton (19-2) 71-65 was a tough one. I don’t know if the Bills can play any better in a road game. They shot 49% from the field, shot 5 of 11 from beyond the arc, outrebound the Flyers 33-30. Dayton did convert 20 FT to the Bills 10 in the game. It seems to me that HOME teams always shoot more than the visitors in most games. While 13 turnovers isn’t a huge number…it was more than twice as many as Dayton’s 6 turnovers. 

…In CoMO…the Tigers have lost 6 of the last 8 games…ugh. The OT win over Arkansas yesterday so help the spirits of this club that is buried deep in the SEC standings. The absence of Jerimiah Tilmon in the post seems to be a hurdle that MU just can’t jump. Its hard to find 6-10 players who can move and score. While he is viewed by some as being a disappointment in his career…it’s clear now …that he MUST be on the court for Mizzou to compete against the “big boys”. Despite some rumblings about the coaching, Cuonzo Martin won’t be fired this year….or next….Cuonzo inked a 7 year deal for $21m at the signing in 2017. According to sources, “There’s virtually no escape for either side during the first four years. That late-spring timing all but ensures Mizzou will ride with Martin through at least 2020-21, especially since he’s owed a $6 million buyout from May 1, 2020, until April 30, 2021. That figure drops to $3 million the next year, $1 million a year after that and $300,000 during the final year between May 1, 2023, and April 30, 2024. The pot is sweetened even more….If Missouri wins 20 games or reaches the NCAA Tournament at any time during Martin’s tenure, the time frame for when the school can terminate without cause — a fancy term for the Tigers not winning enough games — pushes back one year, as does the $6 million buyout. A subsequent NCAA appearance would mean MU can’t fire Martin without cause until May 1, 2022, and would owe a $6 million buyout in the sixth year of the contract and $3 million in the seventh. On top of it, the Mizzou Athletic Department went in the “red” last year by $1m+. Soooo….one wouldn’t expect them to add to that deficit by relieving Martin .. with a substantial buyout….and hire another, probably highly paid coach simultaneously.

…still in the NCAA-B world….there were many very touching moments on Saturday @ Indiana U. After a 20 year hiatus from the school because he was fired, the legendary basketball coach, Bob Knight returned. He won 1273 games with a 70%+ winning mark in his long career. It was the place of the most 29 glorious seasons of his 42 years  as a head coach.  Now 79 years old, he was visibly touched by the tremendous ovations. Fittingly, he led the crowd in chants of “Defense, Defense, Defense”—his signature mark in the game. I admired him a great deal as a beginning coach. Nooo….I didn’t like…or throw chairs!!  But, through most of my career…it was defense, discipline, offensive fundamentals… that I hoped my team would possess. As a young coach, I purchased his pamphlet on defense(Let’s Play Defense). It wasn’t fancy…had a picture of a devil snorting on the cover of this paper-back, ½ page high, 30 page book… actually..more like a term paper. Anyway, as a young coach, I made copies of the cover and made all my players hang it eyeball high on the inside of  their locker door….even my girls teams that I coached!  THAT’s when they knew that I was passionate..or crazy… about bball. 

….the Cardinals will be opening up spring training shortly….while there are a lot of questions….will they go with 2 young outfielders, stay with Crap…oops…Carp….a true bullpen closer?….starting rotation?… luckily for them, the Cubs AND Brewers seemed to have taken large steps backwards this off-season. The Reds have improved their roster but can they leap from a 75-87 record  last year and win 15 more games to become a contender? That’s a lot to ask!! Despite our concerns, the Cards HAVE to be the clear favorites to win the NL Central Division.

…..One of the fears when free agency began decades ago was that the extremely Big Cities…like LA, NY, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta…would dominant the league due to the size of their super-sized wallet. It’s proving to be true! The MLB MUST establish a hard cap on the upper & lower end of the pay scale.  The HUGE gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” seems to be widening. There are exceptions… like Oakland & Tampa Bay…but for the most part, several of the MLB teams are “out of it” prior to the 1st pitch of the season.  Would you go watch the Royals, Tigers, Marlins on a regular basis? This really isn’t a new phenomenon…. back decades ago, Connie Mack owned and managed the Philadelphia Athletics. He was a manager for 50 straight years! He owned the team WHILE being the manager the last 12 of those years. Let’s be kind and say that he was very frugal. This expression from him says it all, “The best thing for a team financially is to be in the running and finish second. If you win (the title), the players all expect raises. Mack saw baseball as a business, and recognized that economic necessity that drove the game.  That’s not to say that he NEVER won…his clubs won five World Series champion (1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930) He has the most managerial wins, losses and games managed in major league history…I guess so….50 years of managing!!! Notice he did manage during the depression soooo…. maybe…that experience altered his scrimp & save approach. It’s  surely,  a FAR, FAR different world in baseball now.

…I hope that this has been a “super” read for you   I encourage you to respond to any part of the blog…put it directly on my FB page, or on the Prepcasts page, or email it to me….

Rebuild … Win … or Both by Bob Ryan

The huge trade of Bookie Betts to the Dodgers coupled with the Chicago White Sox in the process of coming close to the completion on their “rebuild” are classic examples of the WIN or BUILD mentality of the MLB.

….in general, even the teams “rebuilding” are making money due to the television contracts. Attendance is no longer the primary source of income sooooo….if you can’t REALLY compete, some teams trade off their highly paid players….coast … lose big  for a couple years as their young players “mature”. They are banking in the hopes of several of their “Key” young players developing at the point that they’ll reach the golden land of a World Series Championship. Perfect example was the KC Royals…it worked for them as they reached the World Series in 2014, 2015 after decades of fielding weak teams…so others witness their success and try traveling the same long, slow, unknown road.

…meanwhile our Cards take a very unique, different approach. They walk a highwire with meticulous care. If their key players drop suddenly…they’ll fall off that highwire. The Cards continually try “building with youth” while STILL trying to win..and win big. This is a REAL challenge. It seems to me that the Cards are one of the few teams that travel down this road.  While the fans here are spoiled and expect a WINNER EVERY year, they do their part and reach the 3m mark in attendance . Even while reaching the NLCS last year, some fans STILL complained….maybe it’s the nature of the game…its ALL or NOTHING…..Win it all…or rebuild?!  CAN you do both may be a question?!

… The Cards keep a corp of good, solid players while zeroing in on one/two positions a year to “rebuild”or   have a young, prepared player ready to jump in if the ol’ guy falters. Meanwhile, they go out and sign/trade for “star” power (eg Goldschmidt) on a regular basis. This year…It seems…there are some unique challenges. The Cards are uncertain in 2 OF positions , maybe 3B,  uncertain in the starting rotation in a couple spots and an undetermined closer.

…the way to develop these young players is to have them on the field…and on the field for significant points of the game…not just defensive replacements in the 9th,or pinch hitters/runners, or mop up when the club is down by 4 or 5 runs. One gauge to judge real usage of a player is to use the At Bats for a player. The average AB for the #5 hitter (Middle batter of lineup) is 4.24 ab/gm or app 544 AB for the season….let’s round it off to 500 AB’s give a player a “true” full season of experience. In 2019, the Cards did NOT get nearly as many AB’s as most teams. They were #28 in the MLB (of 30 teams) in At-bats for the season– Averaging 33.61 ab/gm…not enough guys getting on base to “keep the line moving”

…prior to showing these stats…remember a plate appearance is EVERY time that you reached the batters box, At Bats are lower because walks, HBP, sacrifice bunts/hits are removed from the total.

..in 2019, the Cards “rebuild” players…Harrison Bader (406 plate app/347 AB), Tommy Edman (349 PA, 326 AB), Tyler O’Neill only  151 plate app & 141 AB. Lane Thomas had 222 PA & 197 AB.  Harrison Bader has accumulated 925 plate appearances already in his career….far, far above any of the others. The Cards need to reach a decision on him….I do LOVE his speed & defense….and…maybe…that overrides his seemingly C- hitting accomplishments.  I do wish that he’d bunt more often and work on taking that outside pitch to RF. Edman, a versatile performer  and still young, could probably be used at any OF position or 3B on a regular basis….getting  3-5 days of action each week.

….the Cards will again work hard to win but….they must make hard decisions this year about which “young” players will be “their guys”.

….Meanwhile the Dodgers go “all in” in obtaining Mookie Betts. Their lineup is clearly superior to any other in the NL.  One bypass of rebuilding is to a) sign high priced Free agents  b) trade for those high priced players a year PRIOR to their free agency and hope to convince him to remain with your club. The Cardinals DO NOT use this course of action…hence, no Nolan Arenado…may opt out after ‘21.

…Long ago when free agency was just coming of age….many baseball people were concerned that the really big markets, i.e. New York & LA, would dominant the market. New York had 3 baseball teams at one time (Yankees, Dodgers, Giants) so the ad money/fans  were somewhat split up. LA still does have the abundance of teams –Dodgers, Angels and basically the Padres aren’t far away. Its clear to me that a HARD cap in needed on the top end AND the bottom end for the MLB. Just check out the NFL….it seems that at least 1 or 2 teams rise dramatically…maybe not all the way to the Super Bowl… every year. It brings interest…and hope…for the fan base.

….rebuilding takes place in all sports. Sometimes we forget about the struggles of the seemingly long-time winners….it’s happened .. and continues to happen in college football….even to the BIG boys…

….Even the current kingpin of them all—Alabama which  ALWAYS seems to be and have been on the top….not so….Between 1996-2007, Head Coach Mike Dubose arrived in 1996 and compiled a 24-23 record in 4 sesons. Dennis Franchione was 7-5 then 10-3 but bolted for Texas A&M  because Bama was to undergo NCAA sanctions for violations. Mike Price was hired as his replacement but before he could coach a game @ Tuscaloosa, he was fired for frequenting strip clubs. Mike Shula followed him,  he registered a 4-9 record in 2003, was 6-6 in ’04, elevated to 10-2 in 2005, in 2006 the Tide fell back to 6-6—Shula was bought out of his contract. In 2007 Nick Saban was hired and things have been turned around.

….Notre Dame….maybe the most recognized NCAA football program over decades…ND has experienced its moments of futility and rebuilt. From 2003-2011, the Golden Dome wasn’t so bright.  Ty Willingham 1st year record in 2002 was 10-3. It was followed by 5-7 and 6-6 seasons and he was removed. Charlie Weis arrived from the Pats Coaching Staff claiming that “this was only college ball”…more or less…he started beautifully. He recorded 9-3 and 10-3 records in his first 2 years. But…then HIS recruiting classes  went 3-9, 7-6 and 6-6 and Charlie exited. Brian Kelly replaced him and still holds the job.

Thanks for the read!  I’d enjoy reading your thoughts about WIN vs build mentality.  Just post your thoughts on my FB page….others would enjoy the comments as much as I do. There isn’t any right or wrong….we all have our own thoughts.

Letter of the Law by Bob Ryan

Sometimes in life…not often…the “Letter of the Law” is taken in an exact interpretation. We’ve seen some of that recently…..

…Kris Bryant’s contract is a classic example. Now, I rarely do I side with any professional athlete when it comes to salary or money. But….Bryant was brought up to the Cubs on Apr 17, 2015. It gave him 171 days of major league service. That number is 1 day short of a “full year” MLB service. Hence, his arbitration and free agency dates were pushed back 1 full year over that 1 day. Bryant took it to court. The Judge ruled by the “letter of the law” and denied his request. In 2015, Bryant played in 151 games, had 650 plate appearances, 26 HR, 99 Rbi. He played as an All-Star, was 11th in MVP voting & Rookie of the Year (it said “year”…not Rookie of the Part-time Year)—clearly…at least to me…those are numbers of a full time player. It seems to be an easy addendum to this regulation regarding evaluating a “full” year of service would be….if a player misses the arrival date but attains certain specific numbers….plate appearances, games, whatever…it’d “count” as a full year. Now I don’t expect the owners to agree to this change easily…or ever, for that matter. The owners know all too well that once a player reaches free agency, his value catapults. This decision was strictly by the letter of the Law…not the spirit of the Law…and the Owners won….fat chance that they’ll change now.

…The recent Hockey All-Star game & its events started a train of thought for me. All-Star games, in most of the Professional Sports, are playing by the letter of the law. They follow all the rules, attend required appearances for the event, and act as if they’re happy about being there. But….the REAL competition of athletics during the game is on a low burner…barely on…. for the most part. Watching the Pro Bowl game …for about 5 minutes… was pitiful. The players don’t play hard because that don’t want to get hurt playing in a game that means very little…if anything… to them. I’ve seen more enthusiasm during a family game played on Thanksgiving than I did in the Pro Bowl. “Hard” Hits were about as frequent as a triple play in baseball. The monetary incentive, of $70,000 paid to each player on the winning team while the losing team suffers with only $35,000 for the week that seemingly means very little to them.

….Other All-Star games seem much more concerned about having each player get into the game. Who wins the game…which is at the heart of all athletic contests… seems to be irrelevant. In All-Star baseball games, pitchers still DO pitch their best and batters still DO their best. However, don’t expect any diving attempts, running for extra bases or heaven forbid that you’d emulate Pete Rose slamming into the catcher at home. Instead of playing just to the “letter of the Law” in a game..that often seems rather boring since there isn’t any flow to it…let these supreme athletes compete in skills contests. MLB is already moving down that track…they have a HR Derby…Why not replace the game with additional specialty events…add a Fastest man of the Year event….a runner races around the bases from Home Plate back to home plate.. a contest for throwing accuracy by outfielders to each base; pitchers throwing to hit specific small targets over Home Plate area. Heaven forbid…let bunters try to get the ball inside small circles…have a rep from each team for each event…or other similar type events. MLB already realizes this transformation in the fans interest. In 2019, Players at each position in each league receiving the most fan votes (three OF and 1 at each other position) will receive $15,000 apiece. Second place vote-getters will receive $5,000 and third will get $2,500. This totals a $360,000..for the entire team. All players selected are required to attend unless injury prevents them from doing so and are given a $1,000 stipend. Recognizing the popularity of the side show over the game itself, MLB will spread a total $2.5 million among the just 8 Home Run Derby participants, with the winner taking home a cool million. I’d prefer the specific skills contests.

….The NBA All-Star game, the NBA attempts to motivate the players by a paying a wide difference to the winners/losers. Each winning player gets $100,000 while the loser a measly $25,000.

….While these All-Star games now seem to suffer because a) Players fear injury b) Players salaries don’t require too much supplemental money (how many work in the off-season now?)  c) Players may require a brief “vaca” themselves..for example,NHL had an entire week off from games while All-Star game was played…I suppose for that purpose. D) For the very, very highly paid players(biggest stars)…it’s a tax beating. In the 2019 All-Star game, Clayton Kershaw, who made $31m that season will pay total taxes of about $20,300 for the “privilege” to pitch in 1 or 2 innings of the game. $20,300 is not a lot of money for a guy making $31 million (it’s .065% of his salary)…It is the letter of the law…but… the fact that he is paying money to pitch in a game while the MLB is making millions in TV & sponsorship money just doesn’t seem like it should be “letter of law”

…One final All-Star thought….The initial All-Star game of 1933 @ Comiskey Park was part of the 1933 Worlds Fair. It was the idea of Chicago Tribune sports editor, Arch Ward. It was thought that it would be a good idea to spark life during the depression days. The proceeds ($45,000, net gate receipts) from the game went to a charity for disabled and needy major league players. It was so unique for fans to see ALL the best players of the day…there weren’t televised games, interleague play, there were only 16 teams. 20 of those 36 players from those ‘33t rosters entered the MLB HOF later!! From 1959-1962, there were two All-Star games. The funds of the 2nd All-Star game went to the MLB pension funds. Currently, MLB controls and owns All-Star rights. The MLB is also responsible for all the pension funding. I would suggest that some portion of this All-Star money be directed towards the Minor league players. Those poor guys live sub-standard lives while toiling in the minors. While the letter of the law doesn’t require it, the “spirit” of the game would lead one to support these youngsters.

….The “letter of the law” indicates that good NCAA Mens Basketball teams will win more close games than they lose. St Louis U bounced back from a sub-par performance against Davidson with a smart OT win @ LaSalle. The 77-76 OT win was highlighted by special achievements of a couple Billikens. Jordan Goodwin displayed his all-around talents as he registered 12 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. It’s so refreshing to see an all-around player! He also reached the 1,000pt plateau as a Billiken (only 1 of 10 players to do it as a Junior). The emergence of Javonte Perkins as a sharp outside shooter has helped Bills relieve the inside defensive pressure on Hasahn French. Frosh Yuri Collins became the all-time leader in Assists for a Freshman and we have several weeks remaining. Collins’ unselfish offensive approach helps build cohesion throughout the entire team.  

….The Letter of the NCAA Basketball Law is that Coaches remain in their Coaches Box. Very, very few do so. Sometimes, I think, its done by the coach so HE becomes the focus. I wish it would stop.

….The spirit of the law leads one to believe that the Best Player in the league should be seen often in post season play. Mike Trout, the best player of his generation and already an inner-circle Hall of Famer, has played only 3 postseason games in his entire career, all losses in the 2014 ALDS. It’s a shame for the Angels, it’s a shame for Trout, and it’s a shame for baseball at large. Fans hope to see Trout in October on a regular basis.

….It is Super Bowl Game day…sooooo…. I HAVE to make a pick..as if anyone else cares J. It may be more with my heart than anything else but I’m expecting the Chiefs to win in a high-scoring game. To paraphrase Hank Strams’ famous expression from his Super Bowl– 5 decades ago, “Boys, keep matriculating the ball down the field”. I think that Andy Reid’s offense will do JUST that and do it often. 

…The Letter of the law tells me that it’s time to end this week’s blog. Thanks for the read! Please feel free to respond on Facebook, Prepcasts.com or email to me. I don’t expect everyone… or anyone… to agree with all the ideas that I float out thereJ