Raining down Hope by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Position          Player                         Rank    Age      2017 Level

Catcher           Carson Kelly               3         23        MLB

First Base        Luke Voit                    38        26        MLB

Second Base   Max Schrock   *          15        23        AA

Shortstop       Yairo Munoz   *          14        22        AAA

Third Base       Evan Mendoza           26        21        A

Corner Outfield Tyler O’Neill *         5          22        AAA

Corner Outfield  Adolis Garcia *       12        24        AAA

Center field    Harrison Bader           4          23        MLB

LH Starter       Austin Gomber           10        24        AA

RH Starter      Alex Reyes                  1          23        MLB

LH Reliever     Ryan Sherriff *           41        27        MLB

RH Reliever     Josh Lucas *                43        27        MLB

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

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

Top Cardinal Prospect of 2015:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside the Lou…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign Him Now! by Bob Ryan

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

….a DEEP LOOK @ CARDS in February

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

MINOR LEAGUE Yo-Yo SYSTEM..

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

….the minor league salary is pitiful.  

Level                                       1st Year 2ndYear 3rd Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard incentives include:

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

$5000 bonus after 60 days Big League time.

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

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

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

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

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

STARTING ROTATION..

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

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

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

LOOKING AHEAD…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or …if we keep going down the list—

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

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

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

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

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

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

…OFF THE MOUND….to the OUTFIELD

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

…NOW…brief INFIELD “take”

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

Around Baseball…

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

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

Oasis in Sports Desert by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You probably haven’t heard by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

These stats are from 2018:          

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mizzou vs NCAA by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

Now the story brings us to Mizzou……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My proposal:

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

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

…some “good news” coming about Albert Pujols.

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

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

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

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

Collusion or Common Sense by Bob Ryan

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

Click here for the chart …

Avg        HR          OPS        WAR      Runs      RBI         hr/ab

                                                                                    Created

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

                                                .346        32           1.078     8.7          156         80          16.25

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

                                           .276        39           .939        7.4          132         105        14.8

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

                                                .297        37           .905        4.6          117.7     107         17.1

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

                                                .249        34        .889        4.2          115.8     100         16.2

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

                                                .290        34           .881        5.3          105.4     111         17.8

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

                                                .283        34          .892        4.2          99           104         15.5

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

                                                .278        24           .864        5.0          96.2        68           15.7

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

Here’s the actual players on the list above:

Pppp is Mookie Betts Boston Red Sox

Xxxx is Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians

Cccc  is Manny Machado—Free agent

Yyyy is Bryce Harper—free agent

Vvvv is Javier Baez Chicago Cubs

Qqqq is Eugenio Suarez Cincinnati Reds

Zzzz is Matt Chapman—Oakland A’s

Not included on the list were Christian Yelich & Michael Trout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fans Demand Change! by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the Sports World Turns by Bob Ryan

Constantly, continually….the sports world turns…..like real life….nothing stays exactly the same…for long….before plowing through some of those “turning” areas…..my thanks to Jim Pleimann for holding the fort down for the last 2 weeks as Jean & I went on a vaca

….For Alabama, the world was spinning far too fast last week as Clemson not  only upset them, the Tigers slaughtered them…no one that I know ever expected that type of game….now ….I didn’t see any of the game but…..I had seen Bama play a couple weeks earlier…. Back-back plays stuck out to me….a SR offensive tackle for Alabama…jumped off-sides twice…on back-back plays…..EVERYONE knew who had committed the penalty..it was obvious…..he was yanked out of the game and Saban really made a big show of chewing him out and sending him to the bench. He really humiliated the player in front of the world. I know as a coach, that type of “leadership” doesn’t cut it any more….ONLY a guy with Saban’s record could ever get away with it….and I wondered if ….behind the scenes as the world turns, players change…when things start to go sour.. which they seldom do @ Bama…..how was Saban with his staff & players?  I’m not saying that HE lost the game or that Clemson didn’t deserve the championship…but I’m wondering who the real Nick Saban currently is…. on the sidelines and off the field….is it always someone else’s mistake when things go south?…and I don’t mean to Alabama J ….btw….5 coaches have left Alabama this year so only 2 coaches remain from the 2015 championship season…..hmmmm?

…For the Blues…..there now is some ….probably ….only a tiny bit….but at least… some hope…. of reaching the playoffs. It exists while the Hockey Season continues to turn & spin in many different directions for our Blues..  As you recall, I’m not really “into” winning the division titles in hockey…so what ?….the real season is post-season.  Just qualify for the playoffs…that’s the story. While still looking with their hopeful eyes, the Blues have 36 games remaining (as I write this part on Friday night)… that’s plenty of time….only Edmonton….gee….I guess Hitchcock found that winning touch that the  Blues thought that he had lost for them….has a better record against winning teams than the Blues out of the remaining teams “looking in”for a playoff spot. If Berube has ANY chance of staying on the bench, he MUST get into the playoffs…. soooo..LGB.

….the hockey world stopped spinning for Patrik Burgland…the former Blue….traded earlier this year to Buffalo…walked away from his multi-year, multi-million dollar contract….He just wasn’t enjoying it. He did play in 10 seasons, scored 168 goals. It stunned most fans. Most fans dream of playing and can’t imagine getting tired of it.  In his defense….he’s probably been playing hockey competitively since he was a very young boy…think of the hours of skating, practicing, chalk talks, various coaches trying to “motivate” you, yada-yada-yada….to use an ol’ time expression….he got “burned out”.

…the world spins differently for HS basketball players being recruited….they are wooed, praised, fawned over in ways that may make it hard for them to see the REAL world….St Louis U lost  Carte’ Are Gordon about the time  we left StL….I wasn’t surprised….he’d left his 1st high school, he left his original AAU team… we all know those kind of guys…the grass is always greener else where…I’d seen him play…he was good…especially when considering that he was only a Freshman but he wasn’t anything like the “one & done” Freshman that cycle in & out of Kentucky every year. I later learned that he wasn’t the easiest teammate to have on your team….his loss has really impacted the Bills…they’ve won 5 straight since his departureJ

…the world is spinning a bit quicker for the MU Men’s Basketball team after their impressive, dominating win over Texas A&M 66-43…now holding a 10-6 record…This was one of their best wins of the season. 4 of their previous wins were over Cen Arkansas, Kennesaw State (by 4 pts), U-Tx Arlington and Moorhead State… none of those wins really count for much. In the other 5 wins, only a couple were wins with some quality to them –by 2 pts over UCF, 6 pts over Oregon State (11-5)-THAT was a good win, over Oral Roberts (8-13 of Summit league), Xavier (11-7)-nice win, Illinois(5-12). The devastation of losing the Porter brothers has been difficult to overcome for the Tigers….but yesterday Jordan Geist hit some early 3’s, Jerimiah Tilmon didn’t even have a foul until long after the outcome of the game had been determined and scored inside very effectively with his hook shot (the hook shot is coming back into vogue, and the MU defense forced A&M into long, hurried…sometimes out of control shots. GOOD  road win got the Tigers.

…the college football world was spinning a bit out of control with the retirement of Mark Reicht (Miami) it surprised many….I have to wonder if the Miami AD realized that Richt had played the easiest schedule of his career (according to sports reference.com) and yet finished with the lowest rating (according to same reference) of his career….his glossy career record of 171-64 was tainted in 2018….maybe HE recognized the decline in his own efficiency or maybe THE MIAMI AD recognized it and asked him to resign (or retire)… or be removed

…the world hasn’t been spinning much for the Cards …..only the hype has been spinning ….soooo…the Cards starting staff for the start of 2019 looks like—Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright & Michael Wacha…same as it was in the final months of 2018….no doubt about Mikolas & Flaherty being there ..probably as #1 & #2….however, Martinez actually seemed better as a reliever last year….facing batters for the 1st time as a starter the batting avg against him was .222, the OBP-.338 and OPS 6.49, facing them the 2nd time as a starter… same categories…214, .308, .630 and the 3rd time facing the same batters it looked like .289, .388, .759. As a reliever, 1st time facing them… the avg was .180,OB%- .292, OPS-.521…2nd time thru as a reliever: avg- .000, obp-.500, OPS-.500. He claims that he’s 27 years of age…I always wonder about those Latin American ages….at any rate…Martinez seems more fitted to be a “long” closer (2+ innings) than a starter to me. Wacha and Wainwright both require more than 4 days rest….a start once a week suits their arm difficulties, arm strength, “stuff”, much better….I’ve been clamoring for a 6 man rotation….starters can use the extra day and hopefully go deeper into each game…hence saving the pen a bit. Andrew Miller will be the new closer with the set up men mix-matching….The 2019 Miller will actually have a difficult time outperforming the 2018  Bud Norris for his work over the first 5 months of the season. Compare the work of each in 2018…. In April, Norris had 12 appearances, 5 saves & 2 holds; May—12 appearances, 6 saves, 1 win, 1 loss; in June –10 appearances, 4 saves; 2 wins, 2 blown-sv, 1 loss ..editorial note here…so by July 1 he had pitched in 34 games; he had 15 saves, 3 wins, 2 losses…in July,Norris-10 appearances,  5 saves & 1 loss; August saw 11 appearances, 8 saves, 1 blown save…by September the 32 year old was toast…8 appearances; 3 losses 1 blown save, 0 saves or wins. Norris is still unsigned… personally…with a bit more rest…I think that he’d be a terrific set up man(which were the original plans last year)….at any rate, Miller’s 2018 stats look like this….Mar/Apr-11 appearances—zero runs during that time!!  1 save, 1 win, 4 holds; May-just 6 appearances-3 blown saves, 3 losses, 1 save..era now 4.40..ugh.. He missed all of June and July! In August, Miller was in 10 games, 3 holds, 1 win..era down to 3.38 by the end of the month. September had Miller in 10 games, 2 holds, 1 save, 1 loss. ERA for the season 4.24. I personally think 10 games should be the max per month per pitcher…. that’d be 60 games a year. I’m of the belief…pitching 70+ games in a season damages your arm…and 75 games makes the cliff even steeper for the relievers. Now…the story line is that Miller was injured….my thought is….once you have experienced a bad arm….does it EVER get back to its original strength & durability..on occasion, it does.  Often it does not.  Let’s hope that Miller has fully recovered.

…the world was spinning out of control…at least for a minute…while scanning the Top 25 NCAA-M basketball list…I found @ #16 — Buffalo!!!  Huh? Where did they come from? They are 17-1 at the moment! It’s great…that team has beaten 17 of 18 opponents should get recognitiion….including W. Virginia, Syracuse, S. Illinois-twice(they beat the Bills). The Bulls…this is no bull…..are averaging 85ppg. I’m not forecasting that they will win the NCAA … or even get picked for the NCAA…but give them their “due” when appropriate. Enjoy the ride Bulls

….if you haven’t noticed…the world has been spinning quicker for the Cincinnati Reds this off-season. Already possessing a strong lineup, the Reds added Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. I’m not a big fan of either…one is a hot dog and the other more talk than performance… but… each should improve the team. Puig DID have a very strong 2nd half for LA last year (remember when his HR killed the Cards in a key home game). On the mound, Cincy acquired Alex Wood & Tanner Roark to boost their staff. Both will provide experience, innings and probably more wins. Returning starter Luis Castillo had a terrific 2nd half of 2018…he was the ranked # 27 for that period. HE may really be the ace in 2019. Closer Raisel Iglesias is legit….and….he goes more than 1 inning if necessary. The Cards won’t be able to count on those sweeps against Cincy as often next year as in the recent past.

…for the Metro Panthers Girls Basketball team….the world just keeps spinning along in the usual way…. Head Coach Gary Glasscock has his team holding a 13-5 record and sitting atop the PHL standings at 4-0.  This isn’t anything new for the Panthers….they’ve been unbeaten in conference play the last 3 years!  Metro is 13-5 for the season as they play a wide assortment of teams. 5-9 Jr Faith Bland leads the club in scoring(18.0 ppg), rebounding (11.0/gm) & blocked shots-39. Other leaders on the Panthers are the only 2 seniors on the team….Mikenzie Burt (20 points in the last win over Visitation) & Micah Goldman (assist leader). If the name of “Glasscock” seems familiar to you from the past, earlier in his career, while Head Coach at Cor Jesu, he coached Niele Ivey. Ivey was probably the best players of her era while she starred at Cor Jesu.  Ivey went on to star for Notre Dame at the collegiate level from 1996-2001. She finished her career after 2 seasons in the WNBA. I had the “opportunity”…while coaching….of facing Cor Jesu with Ivey….it was a looonnnggg game for me J  Hope that YOUR world is spinning around just right for you!

 

Pleimann’s Pieces 1.14.19

Pleimann’s Pieces…

The “Powers That Be” are letting me ramble again this week as I sub for the irreplaceable Bob Ryan.  Bob will be back in this space next week as I think the infamous assignment he is on, will be completed.  I am just giving a few thoughts on the sports scene here in St. Louis.  That in-depth fact-digging you get from Bob?  I don’t have that kind of time – I am not retired like he is!  Ha!

I thought the first three games of the NFL playoffs last  weekend  would be the best match-ups. It was completely the opposite with the Rams, Chiefs and Patriots easily winning.  The game I thought would be a blowout was the Saints and Eagles. It turned out to be the only good game (in my opinion) of the weekend.

The best four teams in the NFL remain.  I’d love to see Kansas City win at home in front of their championship-starved fans.  Remember they have home field advantage only because of the crazy lateral play the Dolphins beat New England on the last play of their game.  I think they have a chance but Tom Brady sure looked good in defeating the Chargers.  Is he the best-ever quarterback? 

That leaves the Saints and the Rams.  I will be hate-watching as I peek at this one.  I am one of those who are still so angry that we lost another football team.  I miss it.  I hope the Rams fall apart and lay an egg in New Orleans.  (But they are good, you can’t take that away from them).  Jeff Fisher would never have this team where they are now I can promise you that. 

What could be worse than watching Stan Kroenke being interviewed and raising the NFC trophy or worse yet the Lombardi trophy at the Super Bowl?

Will Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and all the rest ever sign?  Will it be before spring training starts?  As a fan, this is frustrating to see.  This is yet another year this drags on.  To me it is not helping the game at all.

There are so many signs that are leading to a huge work stoppage in 2022.  Owners, players and agents are nowhere near being on the same page as owners are refusing to sign long term contracts in most cases to players who are a little too old to command them.  There are very few statistics that will back up signing 32-35 year old will remain productive in their later years.  I wouldn’t pay them either! 

Players need to become free agents sooner in the process.  Arbitration is a problem.  There will be a lot to iron out.

I see a number of Blues players being traded in the very near future.  Much maligned Jay Bouwmeester could help a team down the stretch with his veteran savvy.  Not sure who would take on Alexander Steen’s contract but he could help somebody.  David Perron?

Heck, almost anybody – I know he’s not having the best of seasons if Vladimir Tarasenko is moved, (rumor mill) it better be to the Eastern conference because he is the kind of guy who would kill us if we played against him four times a year or in a playoff series.  He still has a lot of goals left on his stick.  I would hold on to him.

It is becoming obvious that Jake Allen will not lead us to the promised land.

I can’t wait to see what the Blues do for a coach.  I don’t think Craig Berube is the answer they are looking for.  They need a coach who has delivered the Stanley Cup.  A coach who knows what it takes to work, unify  and to get the whole team to work together and be on the same page. 

Consistency for this team would be nice. A power play that scoresd a few goals would be nice. 

Yet, as I write this they have just beat the defending Stanley Cup champions for the second straight time.  This time on the road!    Oh, oh, this just in… the Blues are at the .500 mark!  Maybe they won’t sell…  stay tuned….  They make you dizzy!

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read – if you made it to the end. 

 I hear there could be another snow storm coming to the area this coming weekend.  Make sure you have plenty of gas in your car this time and if you work, leave earlier!!