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

Sunny not Snow by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Conference

Team Stadium Capacity

Colorado Rapids Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 18,061

FC Dallas Toyota Stadium 20,500

Houston Dynamo BBVA Compass Stadium 22,039

LA Galaxy Dignity Health Sports Park 27,000

Los Angeles FC Banc of California Stadium 22,000

Minnesota United FC Allianz Field 19,400

Portland Timbers Providence Park 25,000

Real Salt Lake Rio Tinto Stadium 20,213

San Jose Earthquakes Avaya Stadium 18,000

Seattle Sounders FC CenturyLink Field] 39,419

Sporting Kansas City Children’s Mercy Park 18,467

Vancouver Whitecaps FC BC Place] 22,120

Eastern Conference

Team Stadium Capacity

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

Chicago Fire SeatGeek Stadium 20,000

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

Columbus Crew SC Mapfre Stadium 19,968

D.C. United Audi Field 20,000

Montreal Impact Saputo Stadium 20,801

New England Revolution  Gillette Stadium[A] 20,000

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

New York Red Bulls Red Bull Arena 25,000

Orlando City SC Orlando City Stadium 25,500

Philadelphia Union Talen Energy Stadium 18,500

Toronto FC BMO Field 30,000

***wouldn’t this be nice to see……….

St Louis Enterprise Stadium 20,000ish

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                                                            E

Mizzou vs NCAA by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

Now the story brings us to Mizzou……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My proposal:

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

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

…some “good news” coming about Albert Pujols.

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

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

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

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

He stepped into it by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Exploring the MLB by Bob Ryan

There is no question that the fans of the Lou are Cardinal fans….generally most games are “on” as we watch intently or while doing something else….we scrutinize the pitching changes, the lineup, the attitudes of the players….etc, etc…..but finding the stories of the MLB is like our explorers of the past finding a new continent….we see them from afar and hesitate to go deep into the country…so….let’s explore the MLB..

….a team being lost in the shuffle on the MLB land scape is the Seattle Mariners. Seattle is 46-26 …20 games over .500…yet still in 2nd place …behind the Amazing Astros….Seattle is led by Jean Segura… remember him…. at one time a Brewer….2nd in league with a .340 average, 5th in runs scored, 4th in stolen bases….traded to Arizona after Milwaukee…then AZ moved him to Seattle….Seattle signed him to a 5 year deal (with 6 year option)…still just 28 years old…Seattle also obtained Mitch Haniger with Segura…hard trade to figure from Az’s side of things….Segura his .319 for the D-backs and was 13th in MVP voting for the year?? Haniger…also in prime age, 27….has 16 HR, .269 average….btw….Haniger leads the AL in Outfield Assists in 2018!.. Seattle also sees the aged slugger Nelson Cruz still belting round trippers with regularity….Dee Gordon was sizzling at the start of the season…has cooled a bit but still keeps pressure on defense with his speed…Guillermo Heredia….is CF….can’t hit much but can play some defense….the Mariners are TERRIFIC in the bullpen… Alex Colome…recently acquired and former closer of Tampa Bay… sought by Cards last winter… is the 8th inning man now…he has 7 saves in 9 outings….the closer is Edwin Diaz….let me give you a taste of his stuff…in June…9.1 innings, 1 run, 14 strikeouts….in 3 of his last 4 saves…he’s faced 3 men in the 9th inning….now…that’s a closer.also Juan Nicasio will be returning from DL soon to strengthen 7th inning level…. so…it appears Seattle will be in there for the long run….btw….I couldn’t help but notice…some of the Starting pitchers ..one is Marco Gonzalez….I MUST admit…..I didn’t think that Marco “had it” to be a MLB pitcher but….check out these stats thus far…14 starts, 7-3, 79 inn, 82 hits, era 3.42, whip 1.28….his age startled me… he’s only 26 years old…Mike Leake is another…his numbers aren’t going to WOW you…but he’s there every 5 days…has 7 wins already….. don’t know if the pitching can hold out thru Sept for Seattle.

…btw….why didn’t the Cards REALLY go after Colome?  Cards need to give up some of those “prospects”…. Ya know my thoughts on prospects….it’s like prospecting….most of what you get isn’t really gold…so don’t expect EVERY prospect to “be the one”…would you trade Weaver now for Colome?  I know it’s too late…but….pull the trigger MO…worse thing that can happen is that you miss the target…but…if you don’t shoot….you won’t hit the target either!!

…the Washington Nats go out to obtain Kelvin Herrera from KC for some young players to strengthen their bullpen….gee…does anyone know of another  team that is really struggling in the bullpen and has failed with a $14m acquisition that needs bullpen help….the Cards could have cast aside Holland…go to a different KC relief hurler to help solve their bullpen woes….why do we keep playing the Memphis shuttle…there’s a reason those pitchers are in the minor leagues !

…..while we’re on the Nationals…..so Bryce Harper may have been lining up his chips for the mega-monster contract he expected as he entered his free agency after 2018…..not so fast…..Harper is hitting .212…swinging indiscriminately at any fastball….in or out of strike zone … lack of discipline would be a kind description…generally ..he’s been called, “ a selfish, losing player” recently in the press….not exactly a label that you want to wear around….often…. it seems athletes perform at their highest level leading up to their free agency year….with goal to increase the value of the huge contract waiting for them….not so thus far for Bryce Harper …but….he is completing a 2 years $35m contract this year….so….it isn’t like he’s “hungry” for that big money….he already has It .

….Boston Red Sox are actually doing what the Cards hope to do…..Xavier Bogarts, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi,  Jackie Bradley, Rafael Devers….all every day starters for the BoSox …. All were  drafted or signed directly by Boston!   Half of their every-day lineup was acquired via draft… true the free agent acquisition JD Martinez has provided Boston with a power slugger…but…..it’s the “farm” that’s saving the day…and saving money …. for Boston.  Martinez is a perfect fit for Fenway…his stroke plays well to both power alleys…22 HR, league leading 55 rbi’s AND a .315 average are incredible numbers… Funny… Martinez was originally by Houston…released after  a few years, hit .300+ for most of his 3+ years at Detroit… then was traded to Arizona last year…..they wanted him for the “run to the roses” in October…didn’t work out…free agency….now on the verge of being a super star.

…so most Cardinal fans keep looking @ NL Central and expect to see the Cubs on top….really, it’s amazing that they are as close as they are to Milwaukee…..check out these numbers…Rizzo .246, 11 hr; Bryant .281, 9 HR; Javier Baez .255 14 HR; Wilson Contreras .276, Ian Happ  .232…..yet with those stats and a team mark of .258, the Cubs are 4th in the MLB in average and 4th in runs scored….Cards are 16th @ .244!!….

….shockingly….Atlanta Braves are relevant again!….I mean….how long has it been since Maddux, Chipper and the boys dominated their division?…..no one….at least no one that I know….saw this coming….currently  in 1st place in the East … Freddie Freeman is being recognized as a super star, Nick Markakis has pushed himself out of the ordinary mode into a the league leading vote getter for the All-Star game….he’s never even BEEN in an all-star game previously…all this at 34 years of age…he’s in his 13th year in the MLB…lifetime .289 average..played 9 years @ Baltimore prior to his Atlanta stint..currently leads NL in hits….he’s been the league leader in 9 of his seasons at innings played in the field…so…..he’s a gamer….now though….he’s clearly  excited about being surrounded by some talent…some youthful, talented infielders around him…. 2B Ozzie Albies…hitting .286, 16 HR, 41 rbi’s, league leading 53 runs and league leading 21 doubles, just 21 years old…he was signed as an amateur when he was just 16 years old; SS-Dansby Swanson and 3B Ryan Flaherty. Swanson was the 1st choice of Arizona in 2015…traded by DBacks as part of Shelby Miller trade. Flaherty has been around the block…8th season in MLB…..probably caught up in the excitement of being on a winning team. Atlanta’s foursome of their starting staff all have 14 starts each…. being led by 25 year old lefty Shawn Newcomb 8-2, 2.70 era, 1.18 whip;  Mike Foltynewicz , 26 years old, 5-4 batters hitting .199 against him; 27 year old Julio Teheran,  5-4, batters hitting just .209 vs him; veteran Brandon McCarthy was obtained to add depth and experience to this staff…which he has done for the first 3 months of the season…..just as a comparison…Cards have 3 pitchers with 14 starts…Mikolas, Wacha, Weaver…so….not much difference 3 pitchers  vs 4 with 14 starts.

….the way that the game is played now….HR being the primary focus….maybe the MLB teams should back up….the more important factor is scoring runs (to win games)….the top 6 teams in scoring runs right now?   #1 Houston Astros-388; #2 Boston-371; #3 NYY-363; #4 Atlanta-344; #5 Cleveland—340;and #6 Cubs -337..aren’t these the leaders of MLB now?

…sad state of hitting in MetLand….highest batter …Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting a whopping .272…Brandon Nimmo is actually at .287 but he has about 100 less at-bats…so….he may not be considered a “full time” player….any more questions why NY Mets aren’t  winning?  Speaking of the Mets…what happened to Jay Bruce this year…..he’s “aged” quickly….hitting .212 with 3 home runs in 212 at-bats this year….boy…the Mets had counted on him….sorry…he’s done….

….some MLB BATTING numbers…with comments

….Top OB%(only batters over .400)–#1 Mike Trout .462; #2 Fred Freeman .427; Joey Votto .425; Mookie Betts .419…wow–.462….on base almost…almost half the time!!!

….RBI(must be over 50)—#1 JD Martinez—55, #2 Trevor Story-54, #3-4Mitch Haniger/Manny Machado-53, #5 Eduardo Suarez-52  ……Trevor Story & Eduardo Suarez….would have never guessed those two names

Runs—(over 50) #1 Mike Trout-60; #2 Mookie Betts-55; #3/4 Francisco Lindor/George Springer-54; #5-6—Ozzie Albies/Charlie Blackmon-53; #7-8 Tommy Pham/Jean Segura-52; #9 Andrew Benintendi-51; #10-11 Paul Goldschmidt/Edwin Rosario-53..I thought someone said that Goldschmidt was off to a bad start?

 

Bouncing to the NBA….

….2018 NBA Championships won the long-range Warriors demonstrated the “new” approach…..long ago….kick out passes often set up 3-pt shooters ….now the defenses are spread out so much to guard all of these 3-point bombers….the inside game benefits as players cut the basket for quick drop-down passes…the ever-changing world of adapting in professional sports.

…while we’re in the NBA…LeBron appears to be moving again…..to me…it seems like LA is the destination….he’s longing for the “big-time” adulation…where is but tinsel land? Btw….he was absolutely terrific in the finals of the NBA…he IS the class of the league right now.

….3rd NBA comment….THIS clearly is a record for me…….I hope that Michael Porter is ready for the grueling athletes of the NBA….I would be more concerned about his mental & emotional  steadiness than his athleticism.

 

You didn’t ask me but…here’s what I’d do against the Cards if I were an opposing manager……

 ….throw a  1st pitch strike of every AB to Matt Carpenter

…bunt on Carlos Martinez….early and often..

…challenge  Ozuna as often as possible while running the bases

….start a RHP with hopes of Dexter Fowler being inserted as a starting OF

…if Jose Martinez plays 1b…..trying drawing many throws to 1B from pitcher…..he’ll eventually miss one

…mostly breaking balls to Gyorko…any fastballs would be high & out of the zone

….dont’ throw strikes to Jose Martinez…..breaking balls that dip below the strike zone or high riding fastballs up & in

..1st pitch to tommy Pham…..inside fastball just above the waist or under his overhanging elbow…get ahead In count….then off speed down; fastball up

…only swing at strikes from Matt Bowman…most of his outs come on pitches outside of strike zone

…encourage batters…especially early in the game…to concentrate on swinging only at strikes…take as many pitches as possible….get into the Cards bullpen

…swing at 1st pitch from Jordan Hicks…it’ll be a fastball

…pray that  Brett Cecil comes into the game

 

In case you missed last week’s blog…loaded with Cards stuff..here’s the link ..

 http://prepcasts.com/breath-of-air-by-bpb-r/

 

I’d love to read YOUR thoughts….send them back to me in an email… or publish yourself just below this article…..our tour of the MLB has not concluded…..

Sweet Sixteen by Bob Ryan

NCAA Basketball has taken us to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament…of course, lots of comments…16 to be exact…. on those games & teams but what about other 16’s……..we’ll widen our scope to see the wider horizon of the 16’s across the sports world according to other sources with some mild personal modifications   …..so here’s 16 thoughts on the 1st NCAA weekend…in no particular order….

1…Mizzou’s loss had to be expected….Mizzzou  had problems with quick guards all season…Florida State not only had quick guards but quickness all over the lineup….too many “run out” layups for the Seminoles….I always thought that the team that shot the most layup baskets and/or baskets off the backboard (meaning it was a close shot)…will win the game….Miracles didn’t happen for the Tigers…Michael Porter still looked like a player far from his best ..kudos to Cuonzo Martin for the tourney bid…but this was a non-memorable game

2….statistically …it HAD to happen some day….finally….#16 upends #1…UMBC….sounds like a Juco team to be not only beat Virginia but blasted them 74-54…VA Coach Tony Bennett who uses a slower offensive style better check his NCAA results in past years….this year…lost round of 32 scoring 54 pts; 2017 lost round of 32 scoring 39 pts; 2016 lost in elite eight scoring 62 pts; 2015 lost round of 32 scoring 54 pts and in 2014 lost round of 32  scoring 59 points…you can’t win many games in the NCAA tournament scoring in the 50’s

3…..#11seed, 30-5 team from the Valley… Loyola-Chicago ..is the darling of the tournament….their 2nd round win 1 point win over #3 seed, Tennessee 63-62 follows a 2 point victory over #6 seed, Miami(22-10) 64-62 in the first full round … the 2nd win over the Vols was an gigantic win…..the 1st win wasn’t a real surprise….The U was only 5-5 in their last 10 games…at one point they were 11-0 (11 cupcakes)…so their REAL record..at least in my mind… was 11-10! Their only win over a significant team was over #9 N.Carolina on Feb 27, 91-88 but just 10 days later the Tar Heels thumped them 82-65…

4….”Doing it MY Way” …is the slogan not only of Frank Sinatra but of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim…. he’s going to play a zone and you better have 2 or 3 ways to attack it because he’ll adjust his zone movements and stymie a lone pattern of attack….once again he’s pushed hit Orangeman past the 1st weekend…..what a thrill for a guy who played for Syracuse!

5….don’t think that I’ve ever seen N.Carolina or a Roy Williams team look so bad as in their bad loss to Texas A&M…btw…the Aggies were tied for 7th in the SEC this year

6…..some were surprised when a #7 team –Rhode Island beat #10 seed Oklahoma 83-78 in OT…..while Rhode Island won the A-10…it’s difficult to find a win over a top 20 ranked team on their schedule….. OU’s wild shooting selection in the OT would have driven any coach crazy…it looked like they thought that there were 4 point shots from 40 feet out  …..I was one of those surprised by the win

7….Charles Barkley entertains me….he’s like Terry Bradshaw….they know their sport but aren’t so serious like this is a discussion on solving a world-wide issue…I must admit….the roles of those commentators…being on-live for 4 consecutive days of evaluating, pontificating, predicting,etc IS very difficult….soooooo….we do need some levity

8….I watched much of the enjoyable game between #12 seed Davidson(21-12) &  #5 seed Kentucky (25-10) won by the Wildcats 78-73.  Clearly KU had the better athletes…I’m not sure…athletically…that any of the Davidson players would have been in KU’s top 8…but….Davidson was extremely well coached….moved the ball and themselves with a purpose…fell behind at half 34-24 and I was about ready for the “switch” to a different channel when Jon Ax Gudmundsson…I didn’t make his name up… knocked down 3 straight 3 balls early in 2nd half to make it game…and it remained close until Kevin Knox hit some mid-range jumpers  very late for the Wildcats…..very entertaining…. Kentucky made zero… nada… none…3 pointers in the game! btw…..Davidson beat SLU by 3 points this season??!! Comparative scores are dangerous…very dangerous…..I’m not saying that the Bills would take the  Wildcats to the final minutes… but…ya never know…

9…I’ve thought for that the NIT should be the opening tournament of the following year with the final 16 …or 8 teams ….from the previous year NCAA tournament

10….You might hate to say it….but….Kentucky looks like they may go real deep in the tourney…Coach Cal doesn’t have his usual stable of #1’s but he’s doing a good job of mixing & matching

11….swirling around Arizona was the “shoe scandal money”…..who knows maybe the players thought that their “bonus money” would cease…at any rate, #4 seeded Arizona was completely beaten my MAC Champion-Buffalo 89-68. Buffalo converted 15 of 30 from beyond the arc…..looking back, one may think that the Pac 12 just wasn’t that tough…Arizona lost 3 games early against top-flight competition then breezed through Pac 12…then all 3 Pac 12 teams are eliminated by the round of 64….formerly called the 1st round

12….in the battle of muscle vs speed, #8 Seton Hall prevailed over fleet footed #9 N. Carolina State  94-83…no sweet Caroline after this game because it was one of the slowest…tightest called games  in history….ugh

13…the current college teams are playing 35-37 games a year now…..too many…..I recall when UCLA under Coach John Wooden won each of his tournaments …playing max # of games in each and  winning the NCAA championship  and their final record  was 30-0

14….it looked the seeds were backwards…#10 Butler had two long runs over #7 Arkansas…it was Butler defense to start the game…Arkansas did not hit its 2nd field goal until 13:13 remained in the first half…and then the Bulldogs used the offense to close it out on a 23-11 run…winning it 79-62.

15….read that the viewing numbers were way down for the “Selection Show”….of course, they showed all the teams in the first few minutes….duh…..why would anyone watch any longer? No one really cares if those athletes  are sitting together in a special spot celebrating the fact that they are “in”

16…the Pac-12 wins the prize for having the worst performances of their teams in the NCAA..UCLA & Arizona State both lose in the “play in” games…in round 1, #13 Buffalo upended #4 seed, Arizona..ugh

 

Now…..some other 16’s…….

….the top Cardinal pitchers of All Time with some anecdotal info about them…..

#16 Bill Sherdel…..pitched 13 seasons with the Cards…a feat in itself…finished 1st in saves in the NL in 3 seasons…with the overwhelming total of 6 per year; 3rd in career appearances as a Redbird and 4th in innings in this career which was a totally different era— 1918- 1930 and back again in 1932

#15  ”Wild Bill” Hallahan-pitched in 4 Cards World Series (1926,30,31 34) , 93 wins as a Cardinal

#14 Lee Smith –once the All-time career save leader with 478…racked up 160 saves in 3+ seasons (#2 in Cards history) late in career with StL… who can forget his casual stroll from the bullpen to the mound?  The sponsors could run 3 or 4 spots during that time. Currently is #3 in MLB history in SAVES with 478.

#13  John Tudor. Acquired in 1985, Tudor’s 1985 season was arguably the best single season ever by a Cardinal lefthander…that season he carried the Cards to post-season with his 21-8, 1.93era, 36 starts-14 CG, 10 shutouts in 275 innings. Remarkably, he didn’t win the Cy Young that year… a guy named Dwight Gooden was the winner. Tudor is the Cards All-time leader in ERA 2.52 and WHIP 1.08 in his 3+ seasons. He looked more like an usher than a player..with his frail, thin looking stature, who would have thought that he’d get out major leaguers in dramatic fashion in 1985…..with his control that year he would have been able to hit a dime any place in the strike zone

#12 Joaquin Andujar—dominant pitcher in the 80’s…back-back 20 win seasons….. After coming over to the Cardinals from the Astros in 1981, he went 15-10 the next year for St. Louis and dominated in the World Series, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA.  In 1984, he was 20-14, and in 1985, he was 21-12, pitching for the Cardinals in the World Series. He was 68-53 wearing a Card uniform. This guy was a live wire…. Apparently the club house was never quiet with Joaquin around…

#11 Jason Isringhausen—with little experience closing (only 18 saves) prior to arriving in the Lou… between 2002 & 2008 piled up 217 saves for StL—most in Cardinal history…currently tied for 26th spot in career saves with 300…personally…he frequently drove me crazy….always…it seemed that he’d allow men on base, usually in scoring position in the 9th…very few “clean” 1-2-3 innings.

#10 Mort Cooper –Cooper was a stalwart of the Cards staffs in the 40’s when they went to 3 straight World Series (won it in 42 & 44) and Cooper won 65 games in those years…in 1942, Cooper was the National League MVP with a 22-7 record, 1.78 ERA. His 105  Redbird wins place him 10th in Cards history.

# 9 Bruce Sutter pitched for the Cardinals from 1981-1984, notching 127 saves, which was, at the time, a club record. It stands in the 4th spot now. He set the NL save record with 194 in 1982, which has since been eclipsed many times since then. He ended his career with 300 overall. He won the Cy Young in 1979 He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006. His No. 42 is retired by the Cardinals. I recall many swing-misses when Sutter pitched and how quickly he dispatched the opponents in the 9th inning.

#  8″Harry the Cat,” Brecheen had an 11-year career with the Cardinals, racking up 128 wins-8th in Cards history. He was known for his deceptive screwball. His 4 World Series wins were a Club record for the Cardinals until Bob Gibson broke it in 1967. Breechen was the ace of the Cardinals staff for 3 of their 4 World Series appearances in the 1940s. They won in 1944 and 1946. He would have pitched in the 1942 Series (which St. Louis also won) were it not for his service in World War II. He is 4th in career WHIP 1.18

#7 Bob Forsch was a staple of the dominant Cardinal teams of the 1980s. His career with St. Louis lasted from 1974-1988, during which he pitched in three World Series, winning one in 1982. He gained all but five of his 168 career wins with the Cardinals, good for 3rd all-time with the club. He and his brother, Ken, are the only brothers ever to have each pitched a no hitter.

#6 Steve Carlton  While not a star for the Cardinals, Carlton is generally considered the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time (by experts…not just me) Steve Carlton pitched 23 years, won 329 games, played in 10 All-Star Games, won four Cy Young Awards and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. While he won all of his Cy Youngs with the Phillies, he began his career in St. Louis in 1965.  He currently is 8th in career strikeouts with 951 in his 5 Redbird seasons. We all know the story…he won 20 games in 1971 with the Cards—contract dispute….shipped off to Philly for his historic career….sad story last year relayed by his close friend, Tim McCarver…apparently Carlton was in his car driving to talk to Cardinal GM to indicate that he’d accept their “lower” offer when he heard on the radio that he’d been traded….OMG!!  Shame on Gussie for this one…..

#5 Chris Carpenter has led the Cardinals pitching staff to two World Series titles (2006, 2012). He currently has 144 lifetime wins with a 3.76 ERA. He won the Cy Young award in 2005 and finished second and third in 2009 and 2006, respectively.  But Carpenter vaulted ahead of many other Cardinals pitchers due to his clutch postseason pitching. He is 9-2 overall, and his highlights include a 1-0 deciding Game 5 win over Roy Halladay and the Phillies in the 2011 NLDS and a 3-0 record in the World Series with a 2.00 ERA. In the 2011 World Series, he pitched three games and won two of them. He currently is 16th in career Card wins, 4th in career Strikeouts and 2nd in career WHIP.  Not a favorite of mine… I still see him chastising Brendan Ryan on the mound…in front of the entire crowd….after a Ryan miscue….to me… that isn’t the way a pitcher….any pitcher ….. treats his teammates…at least in public

#4 Adam Wainwright…starting his Card career as a closer in the 2006 playoffs with 4 saves…Waino is in this 13th Cardinal season in 2018…. presently is “reinventing” his repertoire;  Wainwright is currently 5th in career Cardinal wins-146, 5th in career Card starts, 8th in career innings…should pass up the next two in line by end of May; 2nd in career strikeouts…..don’t get your hopes up…he’s about halfway to Gibby’s total; has been considered the Cards ace for several seasons; has pitched in 24 post season games—4-4, era 3.03;

# 3 Dizzy Dean…He came from Arkansas. He dropped out of school after the second grade, and Cardinal scouts eventually discovered him playing sandlot ball. He became the most famous member of the Cardinals “Gashouse Gang,” averaging 24 wins over five seasons. He won a World Series in 1934 and an MVP (30-7, 2.66).

His career was cut short after a line drive hit his foot in the 1937 All-Star Game, affecting his mechanics and ultimately damaging his arm. His 11-year career ended with 150 wins and a Hall of Fame induction. His 134 wins with the Cardinals are sixth all time for the team.  His No. 17 is retired by St. Louis.

#2 Jesse “Pop” Haines pitched 18 seasons with the Cardinals, amassing 210 wins and pitched 3203 innings, second in both categories only to Bob Gibson.  He won two World Series for the Cardinals. The first in 1926 with Grover Cleveland Alexander, where he won two games including the decisive seventh game.  The second came in 1934 with Dizzy Dean and the “Gashouse Gang.”

#1 Bob Gibson…who else?  Bob Gibson is not only the greatest Cardinal pitcher of all time, but one of the greatest pitchers ever. He overcame asthma as a child to become a proficient athlete (he left the Harlem Globetrotters to play baseball). He refused to leave a game after Roberto Clemente broke his leg with a line drive. He is the all-time Cardinals leader in wins (251) and strikeouts (3,117), innings pitched (3,884.1) complete games (255), shutouts (56) and hit-batsman (102). An eight-time All Star, and two-time Cy Young Award winner, Gibson was one of the most feared pitchers of his time described by players as simply “terrifying.” He glared at opposing hitters, threw inside at will and was known for working extremely fast. Teammate Curt Flood said he could throw a baseball through a brick wall. His 1968 season where he won the MVP award going 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA, the lowest ERA ever with 300 or more innings pitched. This led the MLB to lowering the mound….

Who are the 16 best pro athletes to wear #16?…..I had to go to several sports…sooooo he are players who wore #16 through their career….hopefully most of their career….but no guarantees….no

Bronco Nagurski, Henri Richard, Lenny Dawson, Whitey Ford, Bobby Clark, Hal Newshouser, Ray Lankford, Bob Lanier … in the NBA a #16?…Pat LaFaontaine, Frank Gifford, Joe Montana, Ken Stabler and our favorite #16—Brett Hull!

I can’t give you 16 ways why I’m stopping….but ….thx for reading the 16’s !

Still Up in the Air by Bob Ryan

So…spring training has officially opened….every team should have high spirits at this time of the year..but there are still many balls up in the air…not only about roster configuration but the implementation of the 10-day DL rule…

…..I’ve been asking for MLB teams to consider a variety of  ways to save the bullpen….6 man rotation, bridge man, 6-ace rotation….I’ve felt that the Birds Bullpen was overused in the past couple years and ran outta gas when it counted….well….it was right under my eyes…..keeping the balls…oops pitchers…up in the air with respect to the 10 day DL ….I think the worst rule ever dreamed up….either you are hurt or you’re not….real injuries don’t disappear in 10 days…sorry …I digress….the LA Dodgers manipulated the 10 day DL throughout 2017.  With Kershaw & Rich Hill were the #1-2 that went “on time” throughout the season….after that….the Dodgers  used a plethora of guys—Maeda, Wood, Ryu, Urias, McCarthy and finalized the season with Yu….of course Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling, Brett Anderson or Scott Kazmir also made starts for the Dodgers….and they were manipulating  the DL rule…using 10 day DL often and judiciously… a starter can often miss only 1 start in the 10 days….10 guys made starts for the NL Champions, seven of them made 9+ starts..everyone was fresher as innings were spread around like candy at a child’s party.  It’s the new course….wear the league down by quantity not quality…. The Cards are perfectly set up for the “quantity” approach….we have Carlos as #1….every 5 days….Waino, Wacho, Miles M, Weaver, Flaherty, Lyons, Norris….throw in Dakota Hudson……surely one of these guys can have a “sore” arm once every 4-6 weeks..right ….put them on the 10 day DL…move the others in & out as starters…follow the Dodging routine established last year …  We’ll we wear em’ down with quantity!  Acquiring Bud Norris & Jason Motte clearly was a sign of the “wear em down with quantity approach”…Norris is a 64-84 career wise; lifetime 4.49 era…last year it was only 4.21…now he did close games last year…19…nice total……some say that Manifesto will use the “quantity” approach with the closers…..I’ve NEVER seen him do it that way….he always seem to prefer one closer…why the Cards don’t trust Tyler Lyons is beyond me….in my view…he was the best in the pen last year…50 g; 2.83 era, 54 inn, 39 hits, 68 strikeouts (1+/inn), 4-1, 3 sv,HR /9 inn-= 0.5… man… he’d be my closer  to start 2018

….some experts were wondering why…with some many balls up in the air…if the Cards really wanted Archer…that they didn’t package two of the up & coming starting “prospects” to the Rays for Archer

…always up in the air is pitching…here’s my pick of the top 5 rotations going into 2018

  • Washington Nationals—still have the really big #1—Super-Max Scherzer…then the look of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez (don’t think he’ll be quite as good in 18 as 17), AJ Cole and Tanner Roark
  • Cleveland Indians 1)Corey Kluber ; 2) Carlos Carrasco; 3) Trevor Bauer 4) Josh Tomlin  5)Danny Salazar — all are right handers… sooo…maybe….they struggle against strong hitting left handed hitters..but they haven’t in the past
  • Arizona D-backs…if they didn’t play in that matchbox stadium with light air…it’d be much easier to recognize their skills: 1) Zack Greinke  ;  2) Robbie Ray 3)Taijuan Walker  4) Patrick Corbin; 5) Zack Godley                –all hard firing …aside from Greinke, still in peak years of performance
  • Houston—won MLB championship …brought in Verlander late last year and now they’ve added Gerrit Cole…the bottom two of rotations will be replaced by July 4th: 1) Justin Verlander; 2) Dallas Keuchel; 3) Gerrit Cole; 4) Charlie Morton 5) Lance McCullers
  • New York Yankees….  With Severino emerging last year; Tanaka sharp when he isn’t injured at the top of the order….Sonny Gray can be very good & CC is good when not on the DL …Jordan Montgomery is so-so   1) Luis Severino;  2) Masahiro Tanaka; 3) sonny Gray; 4) CC Sabathia  5) Jordan Montgomery      

…still on Card baseball….his career is definitely “up in the air”…catcher Carson Kelly can’t probably won’t start 30 games this year…..would you REALLY do that to one of your TOP prospects….sure he  may be used to “finish up” blow out games but …is that what you want?…..funny..he’s still listed as a prospect…will be stay a prospect until Yadi retires? By that time…he’ll have qualified for the MLB pension.  While I’m talking about Prospects, I think that a surprise young OF Adolis Garcia may pass up Bader & O’Neill  in the long run.  Remember our #1 pick, SS Delvin Perez of a couple years ago…..his ETA to MLB is 2021….meanwhile another SS, Edmundo Sosa has an ETA of 2019…..seems to me like Perez has been pushed down the chain…ya gotta forget about reading the hype about our draft choices.

….my thoughts were clearly up in the air last week when I noticed as I read the HS basketball box scores….most exciting part of my day …..that Incarnate Word had lost a game to Parkway North 76-63….now North is a very good team…and have been for several years now….so this is no “shot” at them but IWA beat them by 20 points 60-40 just 2 weeks earlier so kudo’s to  Head Coach Brett Katz for turning his team around against one of the supreme teams in Girls Basketball in the Lou .. and the countryfor many years now…

….in the Nearly Forgotton League….the NFL’s QB are still the ultimate position in the league…so when Washington obtains  Alex Smith from KC it appears that Kirk Cousins is on his way out….  apparently in an effort to keep his status “up in the air”, the Skins might “franchise’ him….driving his cost way up…probably beyond his value…why would they do that…..most experts…that’s not me…..indicated that it’s a move of “Pettiness”…..I guess human nature prevails over business sense in this one, heh?

…nothing up in the air here……locally, the UMSL Women’s Basketball team (18-5) is riding high these days….the Tritons have won 11 straight games to ensure themselves a spot in the 8 team GLVC post-season tournament. Coach Kate Vaughn is closing in on the all-time record for most WINS by the Women Coaches.

….Coach Cuonzo Martin has the Mizzou Tigers riding high….their 18-8 record, just had 5 game winning streak snapped by 1 point loss to LSU…wins over Bama, Kentucky, Old Miss, Miss State & Tx A&M…have legitimized Mizzou as a real “player” in the SEC conference…Martin’s intense style demands defense on the perimeter & keeping the ball out of the paint.  Even without Porter, the Tigers are “back”…no doubt about it.. nothing up the air regarding those thoughts.

…as St Louis U continues  to move upward…the coaching position could be “up in the air” …now 15-12 for the season…despite the quantum leap back to acceptability…..there has been a terrific amount of turmoil around the “program”… centering around the recruits of Head Coach Travis Ford….I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ford “move on”….I mean he was in this very same conference  as the Head Coach of UMass for 3 years(2005-2008) then jumped to a bigger…better conference…the  Big 12-Ok State…..why would he stay @ SLU….the “investigation” was soooooo sllllloooowwww…was it fair?….I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what happened…I’m not so sure that even  the participants were lucid enough to really know what happened either  ……at any rate…we’ll NEVER know if it was fair/just… anyway..  after a wonderful “turnaround” season @ SLU this year..he was 12-21 last year…he may find Depaul, Pittsburgh, Memphis or E.Carolina more inviting…all…or most…of those will be hunting for a new head coach in the upcoming months.  SLU may…may…be back on the quick change cycle that they experienced between John Bennington & Rich Grawer….it went something like this… Buddy Brehmer – 4 years; Bob Polk-5 years; Randy Albrecht-3 years; Ron Coleman-1 year; Ron Ekker- 4 years…then Rich Grawer 10 years….Spoon for 7 years; Lorenzo Romar-3 years; Brad Soderberg-5 years; Rick Majerus-5 years; Jim Crews – 4 years and now Travis Ford in his 2nd year…btw…Jim Crews was the only coach to take the Bills to the 3rd round of the NCAA twice in the history of the school.

…finally…there’s nothing up in the air about this one….I want to recognize my wife’s cousin..and good friend…Steve Wieberg. Steve who covered  sports for the USA Today in his entire career… just completed his “tour” on the NCAA College Football Championship Committee… For his excellent work Steve received the Bert McGrane Award from the Football Writers Association…this award is equivalent to the organization’s Hall of Fame.  Steve has “put up” with my calls and snarky blogs…about the procedure used by the NCAA in choosing the Final four….First, I suggested a point system…then a system by conference champions…then ….eventually…I realized it would be a committee choosing the teams like the NCAA Basketball Committee after hours of watching film, extensive discussions, and plain ol’ hard work….Congrats Steve…it’s well deserved….

 

                 

same ol’, same ol’ … sometimes by Bob Ryan

As winter continues with us….hockey playoffs seem galaxies away….MLB baseball is still talking but not playing….March Madness a month away….some of the good ol’ stuff just isn’t here now….maybe in a lot of ways..

….there are still some significant MLB free (what an inappropriate word) agents unsigned…of course the agents…who’ve promised their clients millions of dollars..or maybe even billions….are hollering about collusion…… take a deep look @ this ol’ assumption…

….Since MLB teams NOW bring in more money from outside sources other than the Gate ….e.g.  in 2016…can’t find any 2017 numbers….guess they’re still juggling the numbers ….anyway in 2016 using the Cardinals… their revenue was $310m with $127m coming directly from the gate revenue…I’m sure that they are typical in that respect of earnings from the gate is NO longer the primary income…. there’s the local income for media rights, in-stadium sales…those $9 beers pile up, merchandising of official Cardinal stuff all year long and then there’s the big-moma….income for national media rights… what does that mean for free agents?….

…IF you are a team that  feels like that you are a contender and NEED to fill a particular spot on your roster, some of those teams WILL  pay the big price but there are already 10 or so teams this off season who have declared that they are “rebuilding”…PC term for we’re gonna lose with cheap guys and hope we can find real players later

…then there are the always wealthy franchises …LA Dodgers, Boston, Cubs, Giants, Tigers who are generally active in the free agent market to fill their needs….but…..the luxury tax penalty has taken a toll….e.g. the Dodgers paid a luxury tax of $30+m over the past few  years …these big spenders have halted their ramping upward to snatch each & every free agent who looks good to the eye…these big-spenders have been reaching for their wallet for a while now ..a long while…the Yanks have paid a”luxury tax” 15 consecutive years…of course it includes all the “dead” money that they have to pay..they paid $22.3m to players no longer on the 2017 team with $21m of that total going to A-Rod alone!! Other teams landing on the luxury tax spot…the only other place I ever heard that term prior to the last 2 years was on the Monopoly board …. are the Dodgers ..5 straight years…Red Sox/Giants for 3rd consecutive years & Cubs/Tigers are 2-time offenders…finally…it seems they teams are slowing down on their long term high payments to their stars…soooooo. Free agents don’t have the big spenders at the table

…and then there are the teams like the Phillies….NO ONE ever says ….”Oh yeah…those Phillies know what they’re doing”….well…in 2016…which team…according to Forbes mad the most money… yep…the Philadelphia Phillis made $88m while posting a 71-91 record…..why WOULD they want big-time free agents when they are making money as a non-contender?

…..Remember….for the owners….the goal is to make money……sometimes you need a winning team to do it….sometimes you don’t’…read above paragraph

…now if you want to travel to the other side of the tracks and listen to the agents…according to the agents the players percentage of the revenue has dropped from a peak of 56% in 2002 to 40% in 2015…of course…they fail to mention that the overall money pie being sliced up is FAR, FAR larger in 2015 than 2002.

…Generally fans can’t identify with the players…..their annual salaries are well publicized, scrutinized, and when a guy strikes out, is  thrown out, gets bashed as a pitcher…many moan, “and that guy is getting  paid $____(fill in the blank)…the owners seem to escape our criticism unless they DON’T pay enough payroll …e.g. Bill Bidwill…..this is an interesting dilemma for the fans… They want the owners to be generous but the players to not earn tremendous amounts of money…how does that work???

…so…the long of the short of it…..free agents may get a little less…or fewer years on their contract  this year  but…..they still are living “the good life”…and its due to US…the fans….who support MLB on and off the field.  It’s isn’t the same ol’ same ol’ approach to handling free agents.

…along the most recent Free Agent signings…Yu Darvish goes to the Cubs. He’s at least as good as Arrieta has been for the last couple years.  This has been the plan of the Cubs mgmt. team….draft field players who will be high quality and be “under control” for several years then buy the pitchers…why?  They felt that too many drafted pitchers  “never make it” due to arm issues while field players…the best ones…will have many more productive seasons for a team prior to their free agent years.  So far…it’s working out for them.

Odds & Ends…….

 For most of us….we were taught to be a man..or woman….. of your word…..doesn’t seem like the same ol’ same ol’ on that either…Josh McDaniels (NE off coordinator) accepts the Head Coaching  job verbally for Indianapolis Colts than 22 days later reverses course and turns down the job…. Meanwhile…several prominent candidates for the Colts have been gobbled up in the interim…..most are guessing that McDaniels will  be Belichick’s successor but maybe he picked that skill up from his current mentor…Bill Belichick …in 2000, Belichick resigned as coach of the Jets with a handwritten note within 24 hours of signing!!

….sometimes I wish that the Billikens had stayed with the same ol’ same ol’ and not departed the Missouri Valley Conference…discounting the manageable distance for fans, the decrease in travel expenses for the school, the addition of more days out of class due to trips, the history of SLU in the MVC…discounting all that…in ranking of the top 11 major basketball collegiate conferences in the USA…who’s the 11 on the list?…the Atlantic 10…the lowest spot….the Missouri Valley is #10 so it’s not a major jump upward…..but it is a move upward. Boy…just think if the same ol, same ol’ teams were still in the MVC…Wichita State, Tulsa, Bradley, Cincinnati,  Creighton, N. Texas St …a look way back in the MVC shows these schools being members  at one time Louisville (1963-74),  Houston  (63-74), Washington University of St Louis(1907-1942)…..and at one time most of the schools that later formed the Big 8 conference were members of the Missouri Valley Conference.

…The names of professional franchises don’t stay same ol’, same ol’ …they change…Recently the Cleveland Indians “shelved” Chief Wahoo emblem on their hat…apparently,  PC America ?….anyway look at most of the Names…there are distinct categories….for example..the animal names—Cubs, BlueJays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Orioles, Tigers, Marlins… Then there are the human vocational names—Padres, Mariners,  Pirates, Brewers, Rangers, Royals… another category are the demographics names….Mets (Metropolitans), Twins, Nationals, Phillies, Dodgers ..Phillies & Dodgers?….. well….the Dodgers name originated in Brooklyn in 1890’s when Brooklyn began installing/using trolley lines… unfortunately there were many collisions with pedestrians…even fatal ones…so the Dodgers were the people who dodged the trollies!  The name ran the almost exactly the same lifespan as the Brooklyn Dodgers…last Trolley ran on Oct 30, 1956…11 months later team moved to LA….in that vein…WHAT should the LA team be called?  LA Highway Men?  LA MovieStars?…maybe just LA Stars?LA Crush? LA fog?….. What’s YOUR idea for a LA name? Yankees actually are exactly what it says..Yanks…originally known as the Highlanders since they played in the higher elevation of Manattan,..they were also called the Americans…..so the nickname for Americans from this area was Yankees… or another possibility….Yankees may have stemmed from Civil War references… or….maybe yet….it goes way back to the 18th century…the word Yankees was a derogatory name for the colonists… you take ur pick!… The Phillies name  was an abbreviation….the NL team established there was called the Philadelphias…that was shortened to the Phillies….so actually they are the Philadelphia Philadephians.  Some names are distinct to an area— Rockies, Astros…some…well….I guess you can find reasons for Rays…sting Rays?, Sun Rays? There are the hoosiery names—White Sox, Red Sox and the Red…once called the Redlegs. Then you have the non-humans…Angels and Giants.  Braves names is probably on its way out also….if Chief Wahoo got scalped can his fellow Braves be far behind?  What nicknames would you like?  I think the NBA has some of the best nicknames that have a local reference to them….Rockets, Celtics …Boston is known for its heavy numbers of Irishmen, Lakers …originally in Minnesota…. 76’ers, Suns, Spurs, Nuggets, Pistons, Pelicans, Jazz, Trail Blazers, Pacers, Mavericks. The non-area related names—Bulls,  Magic, Grizzlies, Warriors seem appropriate.

…..The Olympics surely has NOT stayed the same ol’ same ol’…..there are many new sports….for one…I really don’t care for ski gymnastics with double cartwheels, flips, multiple side turns….save that stuff for the summer Olympics….the gymnastics section.  Even the ice skating performances are so JUDGMENTAL….was it a triple or a double sho-she turn, a double cowsill….weren’t they singers?…I really don’t care for any of the sports that have Judges scoring…..it smacks of nationalism to me….I want stop-clock or tape measure sports… the ol’ time stuff— ski jumping…do those guys…and gals…have courage or what?  Speed skating….downhill skiing…long, long ski races, hockey.. just my own taste on Olympic sports…HOW ABOUT YOU? Btw….just learned that the US Olympic committee…not the US itself….. rewards athletes monetarily when they win medals.  That just doesn’t sound right to me….guess I’m too idealistic.  Scale–$25000-gold, $15000-silver and $10 grand for bronze.

….a Super Bowl area that might be considered same ol’ same ol’….14 years ago Justin Timberlake appeared with Janet Jackson. Jackson suffered through her “wardrobe malfunction”…that performance was considered scandalous…now  in 2018 show, Timberlake again is being ripped for extremely poor sound production during his show….he’s  2 for 2!…they should have done what I did…I turned off the sound when the show started…left on the picture just so I would know when it was over.

…. the High School Basketball scene has its regular season winding down…2 more weeks prior to district….if you follow HS sports, you have an idea of where “they stand” in relation to other teams. I generally find the state wide polls to have a different flavor.  According to Max Preps, the #1 Large School is Hazelwood Central, followed by Chaminade, Sikeston, St. Marys, Rolla, Oak Park, Rockhurst, Rock Bridge, Vashon and Webster Groves.  I have not seen most of those teams …and I don’t believe that these voters have either ….so a vote is often based on comparative scores and “scuttlebutt” from other writers and coaches….at any rate,,,3 of the top 4 are St. Louis Teams.  St. Mary’s is the highest rated Class 4 team from St. Louis in the rankings….does that mean anything in the post-season…NOPE…but it’s ALWAYS nice to receive recognition.

…in girls basketball, Francis Howell Central was listed as the #9 team in the pre-season poll.  The Spartans are 18-3 now but not rated at all in the top 20 teams.  FH Central has won 5 games by 6 points or less and 3 games by 7, 8,9 or 10 points…soooo…they are winning but not “blowing people out”.   Now you know why coaches …who want recognition for their team…run the score up! Central is led in scoring by Yani Curry (12.8ppg). Lauren Ebert leads the team in 3’s with 32 conversions. Ebert also has 20 blocks!  Hannah Currant tops the rebounding numbers  with 142.In the final 2 weeks, Central will face the #10 rated…and fellow school district rival….Francis Howell Vikings (14-7)-ranked #10…two times!!  It should be exciting for both schools…it won’t be the same ol’ same ol’ wrap up of the regular season.

…..Speaking of wrapping up…..I’m taking the same ol’ same ol’ departure line…thanks for reading..have  a good week!