Ozo … Batman or Robin by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                TBF         NP      P/batter

1 Flaherty, J                        130         553   4.25

2 Wainwright, A               136         515   3.78

3 Mikolas, M                      145         513   3.53

4 Wacha, M                        118         501   4.24

5 Hudson, D                        116         447   3.85

6 Gant, J                               68           292   4.29

7 Brebbia, J                         64           264   4.125

8 Miller, A                           56           239   4.26

9 Leone, D                           56           224   4.0

10 Hicks, J                            46           189   4.11

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

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

MLB’s Elevators by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it worth it by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home Runs & Strikeouts….ugh by Bob Ryan

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

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

The rise in strikeouts is very similar….

       Strikeouts                   AB for league       strikeout %

2017   40104                       165,567                                 24

2001   32404                       166,234                                 19

1961   14947                    97,032                                   15

1927     6889                     84,461                                  8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raining down Hope by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Position          Player                         Rank    Age      2017 Level

Catcher           Carson Kelly               3         23        MLB

First Base        Luke Voit                    38        26        MLB

Second Base   Max Schrock   *          15        23        AA

Shortstop       Yairo Munoz   *          14        22        AAA

Third Base       Evan Mendoza           26        21        A

Corner Outfield Tyler O’Neill *         5          22        AAA

Corner Outfield  Adolis Garcia *       12        24        AAA

Center field    Harrison Bader           4          23        MLB

LH Starter       Austin Gomber           10        24        AA

RH Starter      Alex Reyes                  1          23        MLB

LH Reliever     Ryan Sherriff *           41        27        MLB

RH Reliever     Josh Lucas *                43        27        MLB

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

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

Top Cardinal Prospect of 2015:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside the Lou…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruffled Feathers by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

CSDHL back on Prepcasts 2.9.19 – 2.10.19

WE are proud to host the games from the Canlan Ice Sports in Romeoville again this year. WE will have all Rink 2 games on SAT 2.9.19 and all SUN Championship Games 2.10.19.

These games are LIVE and the ARCHIVE can be found going to the same posting on the calendar and clicking on the tab ON DEMAND to scroll to find your game.

Here is our schedule:

CANLAN

Pleimann’s Pieces 1.7.19

Pleimann’s Pieces

Hello everyone,  I am pinch-hitting for Bob this week as he is on what they call, “assignment”. He told me, write anything you want.  So… hang on, I am going to be skipping all over the place with some random thoughts from this crazy sports world we live in.

There are a lot of peaks and valleys as a sports fan – 2018 for many here in the St. Louis area was a valley.  But that is what makes following sports fun.  If you are a true fan, you live and die with your teams. 

It is a fun diversion from the rigors of everyday life.  It brings you together with family members, friends and fantasy leagues.  You often you find yourself rooting at games, or cheering at bar with people you don’t even know. 

There is nothing like the feeling you get when your teams wins a game, a playoff series or a world championship. But every fan also feels that gut-wrench when lose a big game.  Some player or coach befuddles you and you’re ready to launch something into your TV, walk out of a game early or swear them off for good.  (But if you really care, you go back).  Classic example – being a Bears fan today!!  Ouch.

With that said, I can only imagine the joy that would come watching the Blues parade the Stanley Cup down Market Street.  What a party that would be!.

I was asked by my son what were the highlights of  2018 here in the Loo? Other than the obvious PGA Tournament in which Tiger Woods stole the show, champion Brooks Koepka was so good, and the St. Louis crowds were nationally praised, there was really not that much to choose from. 

Think about it….    still thinking?

As I look back on the 2018 sports scene here is St. Louis, try as I might, it was hard to find a whole lot of positive. The Cardinals and the Blues didn’t generate any extra cash to their owner’s pockets by making playing in the post-season.

Both teams lost their manager/coach to firings in the middle of the season. That don’t happen too often around here.

 We had to watch our ex-NFL team become good (and well coached), win their division and post their best record since they were The Greatest Show on Turf in 2001.

 Mizzou football teased us and left us to think what could have been. (At least two more wins?)  Mizzou basketball had a nice run to the NCAA tournament but ended as a one-and-done.

They now are in the midst of their second straight season without their perceived best player to start their season. That is tough.  Coach Martin and company are doing a pretty good job though heading into SEC play on Tuesday – all things considered.

 Or is Ol’ Mizzou just jinxed?.  Try as they might, nothing ever seems to go the Tiger’s way.  They recruit so-called star players Like Tony Van Zant and Michael Porter Jr. that get the fan base all geeked up and crazy things happen and they don’t play.

They get to a big game and falter so often. The latest example was the Liberty Bowl. It was a game on paper, they should have won.  Oklahoma State was 6-6 for crying out loud!

Mizzou played well enough. Heck, they totaled over 600 yards in total offense!  Drew lock was very good (not sure why he carried the ball on the Tigers final play of the year).  Larry Rountree III had a career day rushing for 204 yards – but he couldn’t get a precious few to give the Tigers a chance to win in their final push.  But that leads to play calling and that’s a whole other story.  There certainly was plenty to question in that department.  Bottom line, I think the Tigers 8-5 record meant this team underachieved for the season.  This team was better than that. 

Does anyone besides me find it mind boggling how close the Vegas odds makers  get when they set things such as over/under.  They picked 77 points for the Alabama-Oklahoma game – boom it comes in at 79.  Did you really think it would be over?  I thought it high (I would have lost)!

I don’t bet much money on sports through the year and here is why.  I can only be embarrassed when I tell you I picked all four games of this past wildcard weekend wrong.  All four!  How is that possible? 

Now that Christmas is over, can we skip right to spring training? This weekend’s and Monday’s fall-like temperatures and sunshine got me all ready for pitchers and catchers to report!!  And in typical St. Louis fashion, snow is possible by the weekend.

In  the Alabama – Clemson game we will see for the first time ever, the top two ranked teams play in the NCAA championship game while both are undefeated.  I hope the game lives up to its hype.

Thanks for reading.  Hope I didn’t lull you to sleep.  I think I will be back next week…. unless the find me an “assignment”

Jim Pleimann