Stanley’s Summer Tour by Bob Ryan

The unforgettable St Louis Blues post-season championship “run” is brought back to us as we take a peek at how some of the Blues celebrated their day with Stanley.  There were lots of family moments, local celebrations, as well as some very touching moments for special people in their lives.            

…Brayden Schenn got his day with the Cup in Saskatoon on Friday and took it right to the place where his father has worked for 28 years as a firefighter.   Schenn was seen wearing a firefighter helmet during the Blues’ parade with the Cup back in June. “You always think if I win the Cup, you put the thoughts in your head of what I would do with it,” Schenn told the team’s website. “My dad is a firefighter, so this was important to me. I’m trying to do my best sharing it with a lot of people today.” He also took it Royal University Hospital where he met with sick children, including 16-year-old John Bossaer.                   

…The Cup then headed a few hours south, where Tyler Bozak & Jaden Schwartz shared their day with the Cup with the city of Regina on Saturday. The duo planted a Blues flag on the Saskatchewan Legislative Building. They then headed to where people where melons on their heads: Mosaic Stadium. There, they paraded the trophy in front of thousands of Saskatchewan Roughriders fans who had assembled for the Canadian Football League’s game against the Calgary Stampeders. There wasn’t much to cheer for during the football game for fans — the Roughriders lost 37-10 — but Bozak and Schwartz, along with Schenn, got the crowd into a frenzy.

on July 14, Stanley returned “home’ so to speak. It was the day for STL born  & bred, Patrick Maroon. A 9am start at his house with plenty of photos with his family including parents, & grandparents began the day. His son Anthony enjoyed a bowl of Toasted Crunch directly out of Stanley. Then it was off to All-American Sports Mall in S.County, where Maron invited around 200 people who he credits for helping him develop his hockey skills. Lunch was @ one of the Lou’s best restaurants, Charlie Gitto’s. Maroon served one of StL’s most famous dishes @ Gitto’s–Toasted ravioli from the Stanley Cup. A 1 hour trip took the Maroon’s to a lake to enjoy the evening with plenty of family and friends on the lake. Adam Sanders  joined in the celebration, arriving all the way from Nashville, to enjoy the moment with Maroon’s family.

Earlier in the week, the Cup was a province over in Alberta. Craig Berube, fresh off a three-year extension as bench boss with the Blues, took the Cup back to his hometown of Calahoo, Alta. It’s not a big place — the thriving metropolis boasts a population of just 85 — but they were all out to congratulate Berube. “We all grew up here,” Berube told the team’s website. “My dad and brothers lived on this farm or just down the road. We were grain farmers, cattle farmers, we had it all here, that’s how we grew up. His mother, meanwhile, was just as thrilled. “I never dreamt it. Unreal,” said Ramona Berube, Craig’s mother. “I never thought of something like this (happening). It’s just great for everybody who was down at the arena to see it. You can see how much it means to everybody.

Colton Parayko, meanwhile, got his day with the Cup in St. Alberta, a city northwest of Edmonton. Parayko’s day also included an emotional moment as he, along with his grandfather and family, toasted his grandma, who died last November after a battle with cancer. According to Parayko, a deal was made between grandmother and grandson that if the latter made the NHL one day, the former would take a shot of peach schnapps at her home in St. Albert any time he scored. With her passing, the family honored the tradition on Wednesday.

…David Perron on July 30th, was welcomed home by a raucous crowd at the hockey rink.. Stanley went  on a ride (buckled in) through Quebec; enjoyed breakfast with his family and used Stanley as a cereal bowl for their “Lucky Charms” cereal then washed it down with chocolate mike sucked through a straw from Stanley’s chocolate milk container. A game of street hockey was enjoyed by the neighbors and Stanley was hoisted by the winning team of the day! Stanley was taken to Perron’s favorite restaurant and then enjoyed eating poutine out of the Cup for dinner.

…For Ryan O’Reilly it was 3 towns, 2 parades, hundreds of photos with Stanley. O’Reilly arrived in Seaforth and went directly to the Fire Hall @  8:00am. It was there that O’Reilly shared an emotional moment with his 99 year old Grandmother. A parade as O’Reilly rode on the “lead” firetruck…it went straight down Main Street to the Seaforth Arena. After 2 hours and millions…OK…maybe not that many…of photos, the party continued its celebration in another town. This time it was Goderich another parade ran through the town. The YMCA was the host of the photo session as well as the place that O’Reilly received gifts from the community (stuffed bear with a #90 jersey, knit hat, Blues themed birdhouse). By 4pm O’Reilly was in Bayfield for a private party for his family & friends hosted at his parents home. Perhaps the most exciting part for Stanley was arriving at the party via helicopter!

…Alex Pietrangelo was the 1st Blue to take Stanley golfing this year. Pietrangelo from King City (about 30 miles away from Toronto) spent his morning with close friends & family AND STANLEY on the golf course. He returned home to his triplets (Evelyn, Oliver & Theodore) who just turned 1 year old. When the threesome woke up from their nap, Stanley was there sitting on the countertop. After the required thousands of pics were fulfilled, off they went to Grandma/Grandpa’s house. There Stanley was used as serving bowl for a  large portion of nonna’s pasta for the main meal.

…Vince Dunn ,who enjoyed an impromptu hometown parade as he walked with STANLEY in his grasp, then marched Stanley to a public appearance @ the Lindsay Rec Complex. It was there that Dunn learned of Lawny Woodcock. Woodcock was a patient in the local hospital who was diagnosed 4 months ago with colon cancer and the doctors have indicated that he’ll be there until 2020.. He is an extremely avid hockey fan. “Big (hockey fan),” he told stlouisblues.com. “I would watch hockey from the time I get up in the morning until I go to bed, seven days a week if I could.” Because most of the Blues are Canadian-born, Lawney adopted the Blues as his team after the Maple Leafs season ended. Dunn took the cup to Woodcock’s room and shared the excitement with him “Just pretty emotional,” Lawny said, tears welling up in his eyes. “Thank you very much, Vince. It means a lot.”

…As Jordan Binnington approached his hometown, a new sign was recently installed. “City of Richmond Hill, Population 208,000, Home of Stanley Cup Champion Jordan Binnington” Binnington walked up to the sign, turns around and says, “That’s me, Baby”. Btw…Richmond Hill is also the home of Curtis Joseph (former Blues GK) and Connor McDavid (current NHL player).1st stop was his grandmother’s house. Her house is almost on the 7th green of the local golf course—maybe 100 yards. The golfers seem puzzled as they see a large crowd gathered at her house for pictures galore. Binnington then visits his Grandpa on the other side of the family who lives by himself. His Grandfather walks out to greet him in a Blues Tee, and a Blues Stanley Cup Champions hat. He’s abandon his long-time team, the Maple Leafs.  Next on the visit list is Kevin….probably the biggest Binnington fan in the area. His b-day card for Binnington had been held back by his Mom so that he could give it to him personally on this day! At his Mom’s house, the required photo of Mom had to include her 2 dogs ! Around 4:45 Binnington shows his gratitude to the Toronto Police force who had to accompany him around town all day. He visited the police station with STANLEY and let the men in Blue share in the celebration with him. A parade in his honor and was awarded the Key to the City.  

 ….Obviously, That’s not all of the Blues but you get the flavor of their “special” days with Stanley…. Each Blue had their own very special day with their families, city/town and friends.  It’s a great tradition of the NHL. Looking around the rest of the sports world, others were on tours also…

….The Cards took a tour through the basement level teams of the MLB. They were able to sweep out W’s from the basement.  The Pirates & Royals were just the tour that the Cardinals needed.

….The pre-season tour through the NCAA-F camps surprised me a bit. I really feel like Mizzou will…and should…win at least 8 or 9 games. That should put them into the top 25. The Mizzou Tiger was nowhere to be found in the SI pre-season, Top 25 poll…time will tell. Have I been bitten by the hype?

…The tour continues @ Oakville High School @ the softball and baseball fields. The Father/Son combo of Rich Sturm SR & JR has covered the Oakville tour together in an incredible manner.  Rich Sr coached the Oakville Varsity Baseball from 1983-1999 compiling an impressive 270-111 record. This year, Rich Jr begins his 26th year as a coach and teacher. His glossy lifetime record is 261-158 in baseball and 367-97 in softball. So… combined this Father/Son combo are closing in on 900 victories (@ 898) on the baseball/softball fields @ Oakville. If we want to throw the wins of Rich Sr as head Varsity Basketball Coach (96 wins), we’re closing in on 1000 wins for a Father/Son combo at the same school! WOW!  Congratulations to both Sr & Jr for their impressive mark that they’ve left @ Oakville HS.

…The tour through the pre-game batting practice as taken a turn. Surprisingly to me, the Cardinals had 2 Batting Coaches this season.  Never heard of that! In modern day baseball, it seems EACH player already has their own batting coach. Anyway…the Cards fired the asst batting coach, Mark Budaska. Budaska had been the Memphis (Cards AAA team) since 2008 so had worked with many of the players there.  It would seem to me that he was surprised…probably upset….when the Cards brought in Jeff Albert as the #1 batting coach over him. But last week suddenly…..Budaska was fired…gone the same day. The mgmt. indicated that they wanted ‘the same message” from the hitting coach. Common sense moment here….have you EVER heard 2 different people describe or say anything in exactly the same way? I’m going to speculate that one of our “boys”…probably experienced and  highly paid… complained to someone that Budaska was telling him something a bit “different” then Albert. Just like that…he’s fired! Just doesn’t sound like that’s the entire story…. maybe…. during the off season we’ll really learn the complete story. One thing for sure…this isn’t the type of matter that a team wants to occur in August of a pennant race.

….Along the same lines…of Cards batting…many fans were clamoring for Starting pitcher at the trade deadline.  Maybe they should back up for a sec, the batting woes of the Cards are dreadful. As a team, in the NL (15 teams) St Louis  is 13th in runs,  12th in OBP, 13th in slug %, 13th in OPS. Maybe NEITHER of the batting coaches should have been retained   Meanwhile, the Phillies bring back former manage Charlie Manual (70 years old) to take over their batting coach duties last week, also!?!

….As  the NCAA-F experts tour thru college campuses with their pre-season rankings of teams and individuals, one former StL area HS player is receiving a great deal of notice. Jr AJ Espensa (Iowa) has already banked two outstanding seasons as a DE. The tenacious 6-6, 280 DE from Edwardsville is viewed by many as the best rushing DE in college Football. He may apply for the NFL draft this year.

…Soccer fans….and hopefully, SPORTS fans….received great news as the MLS has indicated that St Louis would be the next expansion team.  I don’t know why the other attempts of pro soccer at the top level of American soccer failed here in St Louis but…..let’s hope that this time St Louis will succeed. It seems as if a wonderful ownership team is in place so….it’s a long road until the 1st game ..let’s hope that the momentum continues to grow each month. 

Thanks for taking YOUR tour through this blog!!   Responses are always invited….either through email-rjryansr@charter.net, directly on facebook or directly on prepcasts site. Hope to hear from many of you.

Helter Skelter Sports Style by Bob Ryan

As the 50th anniversary passed this week of the horrific killings in LA led by Charles Manson and his groupies, we’re not referring to that tragic, brutal slaughter which, according to some of the culprits, titled it “helter skelter”.  The massacres on 2 consecutive nights absolutely stunned America. For those of you too young to know the gory story, a book is out by the same title and on this “anniversary” of sorts, many of those unbelievable appalling actions, are STILL hard to believe…even after 50 years. There are many accounts of it—all of which paint a truly horrible picture. However, the helter skelter expression, that I’m referring to, was an expression that my Mom used when I was young. It was her description of us kids running around in a flurry …usually after she had given us something to do to help her around the house or the yard. On occasion, we were helter-skelter….we  were rushing all around trying to complete the tasks. We would duplicate efforts, miss others, forget some part due to our frenzy, scramble from one part to another…I guess rather typical approaches by kids .  This is the type of helter skelter that I believe the Cards are experiencing.

The Cards management seems to be “helter skelter” with the plethora of transactions…many which don’t seem to have any long term impact, some are repeated, some are reversed within a very short span of time.  Here are some….I’ve left out the entire list because I hope that you’ll make it to the bottom of my blog J  and the complete list would put you to sleep. These transactions are taken from the MLB transactions…in chronological order

Jul 4, 2019       Lane Thomas              CF        Sent to Minors

July 5 2019      Rangel Ravelo             1B        Called Up from Minors

Jul 11, 2019     Rangel Ravelo             1B        Sent to Minors (up for 6 days)

                        Chasen Shreve           RP        Purchased From Minors

Jul 16, 2019     Edmundo Sosa           SS        Called Up from Minors

Jul 19, 2019     Edmundo Sosa           SS        Sent to Minors  (up for 3 days)

Jul 21, 2019     Rangel Ravelo 1B        Called Up from Minors (in minors 10 days)

Jul 23, 2019     Chasen Shreve           RP   Designated for Assignment (on team 12 days)

Designated for Assignment is the MLB verbiage for “cutting” you entirely from system

Jul 23, 2019     Mike Mayers  RP        Removed From 60-Day IL (Right shoulder lat strain)

Jul 23, 2019     Mike Mayers  RP        Recalled From Minors Rehab Assignment

Jul 27, 2019     Chasen Shreve           RP  Outrighted to Minors (16 days in MLB)

Jul 30, 2019     Adalberto Mejia         RP  Acquired Off Waivers From Los Angeles

Jul 30, 2019     Lane Thomas              CF  Called Up from Minors (down minors- 10 days)

Aug 3, 2019     Rangel Ravelo 1B        Sent to Minors  (in MLB  13 days)

Aug 4, 2019     Mike Mayers  RP        Designated for Assignment (on team 11 days)

Aug 6, 2019     Mike Mayers  RP        Outrighted to Minors  (4 transactions for him since 7/23)

Aug 6, 2019     Adalberto Mejia         RP  Designated for Assignment(with team 7 days)

With these many, transactions many of which are reversed in less than 2 weeks ….it seems clear to me that the Cards are reacting in a helter-skelter manner. The current policy of players are brought up…if  they don’t produce immediately…sent back down…or released… then resigned. It doesn’t seem like that there is an overall plan for short and long term improvement. Most of the transactions being executed are  aimed at the 24 or 25th spot on the roster. Those level of players may provide a short term boost but let’s face it…if you want a dramatic change, a team must revise the players closer to the highest level on the team . In the long run….does it really, really matter who our 24th or 25th guys are?   Don’t’ the top 20 players on the team comprise the real nucleus of the team? The bottom 5 players on the roster seldom really WIN games for you. The manager may be hoping for lightning in a bottle with some of these unseen minor leaguers as they enter the MLB for the first time…but…. those are generally–mild,  temporary boosts…at best. 

Meanwhile, there is 1 name…amazingly….left out of this up/down policy. Randy Arozarena! In an article find on Viva ElBirdos in Feb 2018, A.E.Schaefer (writer) listed him as the #5 prospect in the system.  According to Schaefer, “Randy Arozarena defected from Cuba at the end of 2014. Due to difficulties establishing residency and going through all the other steps required of Cuban defectors at the time in order to be able to sign with an MLB club, Arozarena sat out all of 2015. He played a short stint in the Mexican League in 2016, signed with the Cardinals late in the year, and was then pushed straight to Palm Beach to begin 2017, his first season playing in the United States.  Oh, and also his first full season since 2014.” This 24 year old is batting .370 right now in Memphis. I know…I’m a bit skeptical of the competition level in AAA baseball…but it IS .370. Only 6 HR, but his OPS is 1.007 as I write this. Why hasn’t he been brought up to the Lou?  Because…..He isn’t on the 40 man roster. In order to be promoted to the MLB, a player MUST be on the 40 man roster.   Defined in Major League Rule 2, the 40-man roster is also known as the Major League Reserve List.   Sooo. If he goes on the 40 man list…. someone else is removed.   Let me make it easy for MO…..remove Drew Robinson (obtained in a trade, 27 years old, running on a treadmill @ Memphis). In his 100 games in the MLB, his combined average is .202….I rest my case for that part of the issue. Then, the Cardinals have responded that they”don’t know if they can get him enough AB”…. are you kidding me? Ozuna will always be out there…as he should be.  But… Fowler, Martinez, Edman  or whoever else  roams the StL…. To me…none of these players should be depriving a .370 hitter from getting his chance..

…in the Helter-skelter world of the NFL, the team that appears to have experienced the best off season is the Cleveland Browns. The Browns, who went 7-8-1 last year with 3 OT non-wins  and won 3 of their last 4 games. A huge jump from the 0-16 record of 2017. Cleveland was void of a top receiver. The Browns went out and signed Odell Beckham, Jr. While at times troublesome to handle, Beckham clearly is a #1 receiver. Oliver Vernon was added to be the rusher while Sheldon Richardson (from the Lou) is assigned the run-stopper role. In the draft, Cleveland looked to improve their defense with the picks of CB Greedy Williams and LB Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson.

…NO helter-skelter on determing the Ace…Jack Flaherty has been really outstanding and looked like the ace that the Cards envisioned in his last 2 starts. He’ll be the building block of the staff for the next few years not Carlos or Mikolaus. Btw…where should Carlos be?  Starter?  Bullpen? He has good days and bad days on both spots.

Helter-skelter isn’t just a Cardinal thing….its all over sports…quick changing plans…sometimes anticipated….sometimes not so much…

In NCAA football……

….@ Kelly Bryant (Mizzou’s QB) had a helter-skelter year @ Clemson last year. He lost the starting QB job to Trevor Lawrence after 4 games. Bryant had spent the start of his Clemson years behind QB DeShaun Watson and fully expected to assume the starting role last year. Lawrence won the job after 4 games, Bryant quit the team. When Lawrence got injured, Coach Swinney indicated that he’d welcome Bryant back to the team. Bryant refused the offer and remained off the team. Sooo…..when Championship rings were distributed after beating Alabama, Bryant did not receive one. Swinney indicated that a person HAD to be on the team to receive a ring…Bryant was not.

….I think that NCAA-F teams should be ranked strictly on the basis of the level of their wins. Thus, a team beating a very good team(expected to be a Top 10 team)…or a good team (expected top 25) or even a team from the Power 5 conferences should be rated higher than teams that play D-II schools or schools from smaller D-1 conferences. The system now is that the writers vote in the pre-season. If a team is ranked #1 in the pre-season, that indicates to me that the writers think that this team will be #1 at the END of the season….not automatically #1 in week 1…and every week thereafter until they lose. Judge the rankings by the level of wins . Are the wins over weak, soft, good or very good teams….not just  the pre-season expectations. Look @ our annual choice, Alabama. The Tide opens with Duke (power 5 conference team that went to a bowl..which means that they were a solid, good team, a win there would be a good one. However week 2 Bama has facing N.Mexico State  who went 3-9 last year to beat up on.., than a 6-5 team from conf USA–S. Mississippi and the 4th non-league game is against a D-II team—W.Carolina. Alabama’s non-conference schedule is weak. Even if they go 4-0, and were rated #1 in the pre-season, they should not be voted as the #1 team at that point. At least 1 school..but probably many others have played better non-conference teams and were unbeaten, they should be ranked above Alabama at that juncture of the season. If…and when…. Alabama would continue to win….beating other quality opponents along the way….they’ll move up the rankings. Presumably, if they continue to win them all, they’ll beat some very high quality opponents. Reward them THEN… after  they’ve done it….don’t rank them #1 all year just because we EXPECT them to be there at the end of the season. Rankings should be based on which teams have beaten good opponents. For example, In week 1, Auburn plays Oregon (great matchup), Florida v Miami is another good game; Houston v Oklahoma (what’s the over/under on this game? 120 points).If any of these teams–Auburn, Oregon, Flor, Miami, Houston, Oklahoma should play very well in week 1 …THEY should be #1. Bama v Duke IS one of the top 10 games of this week but not close to the best. The voters should vote on which team plays the best. Beats the best  and make them #1 in week 1. A close win over a very good opponent is more valuable than a 40 point win over  a cup-cake team in my opinion. Btw…Nick Saban generally schedules at least 2 soft non-league games…in 2020 Bama has scheduled USC (very good opponent), but the threesome of  Georgia St, Kent State and UT-Martin is embarrassing to have on  Bama’s schedule.

…helter-skelter fate takes place also in other MLB front offices….2 years ago, the Tigers treasured starting pitcher, Michael Fullmer (Rookie of the Year in 2016 & All-Star in 2017). So much so…they actually turned down offers for Javier Baez and Alex Bregman for him.   Since that time, Fullmer has fallen off the radar due to injuries. He currently is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, Baez and Bergman are EACH considered to be in the elite circle of players of the National League

…in the helter-skelter world of rotating NLF coaches….Steve Spagnuolo is being brought in to be the D-Coordinator @ KC. He’s expected to  elevate the play of the Chiefs defense. KC had a terrific offense in 2018 but couldn’t stop anyone.  They permitted 405.5 yds/game—2nd worst in the entire league. It made for great TV in 2018 as the Chiefs raced up & down the field only to see their opponents doing  the same . Hope Spags isn’t still relying on his 4 pillars….like he did in St Louis.

….The Cards..and the other NL Central teams….benefit from a helter-skelter schedule. In the MLB, each division team plays 72 of their 162 games against their own division. Soo….44% of their entire schedule is against those 4 teams. Right now, the Cards are 28-20 against the Central competition…their best record against ANY other division. STL is 16-14 vs the NL East, 9-10 vs the NL West and 7-11 vs AL teams. As I said last week, they should be grateful to be in the NL Central division.

…An article due to stir up helter-skelter with baseball fans.. …it listed the top 10 starting pitchers of this decade, 2010-2019…they were 1 Clayton Kershaw, 2 Max Scherzer, 3 Justin  Verlander, 4 Chris Sale,  5 Madison Bumgarner. They seem right on. The next 5 may raise some eyebrows….6 Cole Hamels, 7 Zach Greinke, 8 David Price, 9 Jon Lester, 10 Felix Hernandez. Your thoughts? It appears that being a starter for most or all of the 10 years was important in the choices. I hear you now…where’s Wainwright?  He was very good in the first part of this decade. He won 73 games in 4 years (missed one entire year-2011). Between 2015-19, Wainwright has won just 36 games with an ERA over 4.40 in 4 of the years. Sooo….he won 109 games during this 10 year stretch.

Enough Helter-Skelter for me….I’ve been rushing around trying to get to the bottom J

Between and Beyond the Lines by Bob Ryan

The trading deadline and other actions caused several ideas/issues to bubble up and reach the surface recently. Some were inferences between the lines….others were extrapolations beyond the lines.

Many had to do with the Cards @ the deadline as many fans seemed incensed by the Cardinals inaction at deadline time. ….

….one reason Mo cited about his abstinence from the trade market was that the other teams all kept coming back to his top 2 prospects (Nolan Gorman &  Dylan Carlson) to be included in the trade… sooooo….that means…to me…. the other teams don’t want our aging, declining veterans already on the Card roster and don’t give two hoots about all these other “hot prospects” touted so highly by the Cards & Cards TV. Basically….going further… the Cards..it seems….REALLY have ONLY 2 premium prospects that others covet….all the others are basically at a level that other teams don’t consider them to be “high MLB players at any time of their career”…they could be put into a fish pond drawing by another team….and drawn out blindly….with the result being about the same despite which name(fish) you drew

….the “story line” by MO was that “there just wasn’t the type of trade that we wanted”….between the lines….we wanted to protect and keep the players that other teams wanted in trades. Trades CAN ALWAYS be made….but….you must trade something of value to get something of value. Trades are NOT expected to be one-sided deals but fill needs for each team…maybe short term needs..maybe long term needs. The supportive StL fans were generally livid with the Cardinals management team that seemed paralyzed by the thoughts of trading decent players away to other teams. You aren’t always ..or maybe ever…..going to get the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio type trade again.    

….When the Mets wanted Harrison Bader or Tyler O’Neill for Zack Wheeler, the Cards were apprehensive that Wheeler would walk away when his contract expires at the end of the year AND that Bader or O’Neill would become stars. I would have accepted that deal instantly. When trading, one must do what’s good for YOUR team…not concern yourself with the results on the other team. Funny though….why are we so protective of these 2 outfielders? Yes….each is a tremendous athlete, but can they play baseball at the highest level? Bader was just sent down because of his batting. He was batting .195, 221 AB, 73 strikeouts(just about once every 3 AB). Will he EVER hit? He’s 25 now so he should be in the prime of his career. His superior defense, speed, hustle may …or may not… ever be seen again @ the MLB level. O’Neill acquired in a trade of July 2017 for Marco Gonzalez is 24 years of age.  He has 36 hits, 46 strikeouts while hitting  a respectable .279. His defensive skills do not reach that of Bader but they are far from the weakest on the team. I suppose that isn’t an overwhelming endorsement J  He is putting the ball in play much more often of late, does have very good speed (beat out an infield grounder to the 3B last week), will hit 25-30 HR if he played daily. YOU had to make that trade!!!

…the thought is that in order to win as a pitcher in the MLB , pitchers MUST throw fastballs in the high 90’s. MLB scouts & GM’s REALLY believe that a pitcher can’t win w/o that velocity……yet….watching Adam Wainwright  in the sunset of his career and Kyle Hendricks of Cubs who throws an 86mph fastball…sharp CONTROL with good breaking balls will also win games.  Sure the blazing Fastball lights up the speed gun but MLB players can hit fastballs …even those in the high 90’s if they cross over the central part of the plate. You must have movement and pinpoint control.  Remember John Tudor?

…the thought was that the Cubs had built a dynasty a couple years ago….well…their big 3 of Baez, Rizzo and Bryant really are good but only Heyward is a strong 2-way OF(boy, would he have solved many of the Cards OF issues if he had been resigned), catching continues to face the injury problems and the starting staff seem to be old, off-speed style pitchers AND the owner indicated early this year that he (the Cubs) had topped out on the salary scale…btw….why DON’T batters bunt on Jon Lester who has some type of mental block about throwing to bases?  Ego?

…..while the Cardinals publicly talk about the return of Yadi Molina, there may be whispers  in the background heard about his return. First of all, I don’t remember Yadi actually ever playing rehab games in Memphis. Was this to delay his return? Are the Cards not breathing breathlessly to have him back?  At this point of his career, the Cards MAY be better with Yadi hurt and Wieters behind the plate. Wieters certainly has more pop in his bat, is a switch hitter, has belted 10 HR,  handles pitchers and has thrown out some runners attempting to steal. Btw…the Cards are 20-14 in his starts. In the other games without Wieters behind the plate, the Cards are 38-38. Btw…this IS the type of backup that the Cards should have on their roster. A veteran who knows his role…not a young up & coming player on the way up who sees sparse playing time and has his development stunted by the inactivity. Carson Kelly for example.

…the idea that major league fans just want to see only home runs is rubbish. Many …like myself…want to see some emotion in professional sports on occasion. EVERY other professional sport does it. Happy celebrations after scores, frustration about officials calls, disappointment. I rather enjoyed the baseball brawl between the Reds & Pirates. Look….both of these teams were still “in the race” 10 days ago, then both were dropped from the tails of the front runners (Pirates are 1-9 in last 10 games).  They were frustrated, angry and disappointed.  Soooo….anger erupted quickly. Both teams fully indulged in the fight…even the managers went head to head in wrestling. It was a Royal Rumble on the Diamond. Where was Vince McMahon? Would I want to see it every week…nope….but I DO enjoy seeing some emotion in a baseball game. another example missing of late….angry managerial arguments with umps

….the idea for decades in the MLB has been pitching wins….well…maybe and maybe not. If one checks out the top 7 teams of the team OPS batting category….look what you find  1) Minnesota (1st place)  2) Boston (3rd place 59-50 record) 3) Houston (1st place)  4) NY Yankees (1st place) 5th LA Dodgers (1st place)  6th Atlanta (1st place)  7th place Cubs (1st place—on this date)—all 6 leaders in top 7 spots! Our Cards are in the 23rd (of 30) spot.

….as NCAA-F begins, Mizzou…who should have a very strong team this year…is left out of the polls due to its NCAA violations. Many fans seem angry about the ruling. Mizzou DID turn themselves in…AFTER a whistle-blower (an academic) went public about giving answers to student-athletes. It was undeniable that Mizzou had broken regulations to assist athletes. This service wasn’t done for all students…only athletes. The NCAA …in my opinion, rightly…imposed restrictions on the program. I’ve heard some fans complain that N.Carolina was left untouched after it was disclosed that students could register for a class…I can’t remember what mickey-mouse class it was…students just signed it, no real class,  and received a good grade. After investigation, the NCAA discovered that this procedure was available to ALL students…not just the athletes. As the NCAA responded, they indicated that there was no special treatment of athletes, the school sanctioned the class for ALL students.  Gee..beyond the lines…if you knew of ANY N. Carolina student, wouldn’t you be wondering? The NCAA can only sanction schools that treat athletes in “special” ways…which they all do in many ways….but at least (hopefully) not inside the classroom. Btw….it strikes me that the KC Star newspaper went in great detail about the disclosure by the Mizzou “counselor” while the StL Post publishes only the Athletic Dept side of the story…hmmmm?

…the 5 year, $100m signing of Michael Thomas of the Saints set a new standard. Obviously, New Orleans expects huge returns on their investment. I don’t doubt the abilities of Thomas for one minute. Thomas is only 26 years of age, has demonstrated in 3 years that he’s a very high level receiver. But….what about on the other end? It takes great receivers AND a great QB to pile up the numbers. I have admired Drew Brees for years. He looks like an ol’ time NFL gunslinger. But, he just turned 40 years old. Last year,he had a stunningly low interception number of 5 on 489 throws. On the other hand, he only had 6 long TD throws(over 40 yards). Check out the record of some the 15 other well known NFL QB’s who started games as a 40 year old: Tom Brady 13-3, Matt Hesselbeck 5-3, Brett Favre 13-12, Vinny Testaverde 8-17, Warren Moon 11-14, Doug Flutie 3-3, Len Dawson 1-4, Johnny Unitas 1-3. The others only played 1-2-or 3 games. That record seems to make it a steep hill for Brees. Can he and Thomas thrive at the top?

…the supposition at the start of the year was that the Cardinals were competing in a tough division. Between the lines….sure, some one HAS to be in 1st place AND it is a 3 way battle in the NL Central so it must be good. However, the Cubs are 60-51 while the Cards are 58-52 just 1.5 games behind. With that record,the Cards  would be 8.5 games behind Atlanta, 13 behind the Dodgers, 14.5 behind the Yankees, 10.5 behind the Twins, 135 behind the Astros. Not one team in the NL Central is even .500 on the road…..beyond the lines….this clearly is the weakest division of the MLB. Please don’t play the parity card, it isn’t like the Central plays only other Central division teams….every team faces teams from across the NL.

…many seemed surprised that Kyler Murray chose the NFL over the MLB. Part of the answer came this week….Murray was names starting QB for the Arizona Cardinals THIS year. In our instant society, it’s not appealing to ride around a bus in the minors for a couple years, make little money and be “just another guy”. Current athletes want their reward (big contracts) now and want to play on the biggest stage right now.

…the thought was that Matt Carpenter would be sent to Memphis and find regain his batting touch. Carp spent 9 days in minor league competition. He was 2 for 26, 1 double, 7 walks, 8 strikeouts….. He returns as the lead-off man?! But…between the lines….how can they justify to the OTHER bubble players on the roster that he belongs in the lineup?  I DO believe that the MLB should have their own corp of physicians that could verify and evaluate these “injuries” with their own judgments and THEY should establish the expected IL time. From my view, some teams are manipulating the IL by confusing injuries with performance.

…..the story has reached end…between the lines….hoping to read responses from you. Either on FB are prepcasts.com beneath the story….not your cup on tea….just click “like” so I know that you read it.

Where do You Expect to Be by Bob Ryan

As the MLB turns the calendar to August,  not only the heat rises…but so does the intensity in MLB baseball. The Cards have perplexed their engaged fan base for much of the season. They raced out of the starting blocks to pile up an early 20-10 record….fans were buzzing.  Then…things slipped and on June 1, the Birds were holding a disappointing ….yet modest ..29-28 record.  As the summer weeks unfolded, on July 28 the Cards were coming off a hot stretch and shoved their record up to 56-49. This is really about where the Cards belong.

Not that the Cards are a powerhouse team, but….they should be above .500. Some….probably many…feel like the Cards SHOULD be MUCH Better.  Tony LaRussa’s succinct quote, “Our record says who we are” really does say it all.  Looking back….maybe we should be grateful to be in the NL Central Division…..in the NL and AL Western Divisions the Dodgers and Astros are already coasting to a division title. Maybe…..when one considers…..the Cards really don’t have an ace…haven’t found a permanent shut down closer, are 11th in the NL in scoring runs, 12th in NL in batting average, have seen some of their key veterans falter….. Molina injured, Ozuna limped out of the blocks to start the season …then…after piling up several good batting weeks, he hit the DL; Carpenter…from my view…..has aged; Cards continue to look for answers by bringing up the next “star” prospect month after month, Goldschmidt started out with several early dingers then limped through a multi week draught through the HR desert, the RF position has NEVER really been won by any particular player throughout 2019. A winning team…its thought…must win the close (1 run) games…currently the Cards are 14-15 in 1-run games. The Brewers are 15-11 in 1-run contests. Amazingly, San Francisco is 23-10 in 1-run games!! With all that being said…..the Cards ARE tied for 1st place.

On the up side….the Cards pitching staff is 4th in the NL in runs allowed ….it doesn’t surprise me that LA is the stingiest pitching staff but that Cincy is #2 and the Cubs #3 in runs allowed does set me back… the defense is vastly improved over last season…sure…they make errors…but…the Cards are #1 in fewest errors in NL at this point….Cards pitching staff is #4 in NL in team ERA, #4 in team Batting average against them and they play half their games in the #3 rated “best stadium” of the MLB and #1 of the NL according to one article. Here were their thoughts..”They don’t call it “Baseball Heaven” for nothing. Our pick for the best stadium in the National League is St. Louis’ Busch Stadium.  You get a stunning view of the city’s skyline from any upper seat and there’s a huge number of brews to choose from at the on-site beer garden, which is fitting for any stadium named after a brewer. Also, Busch Stadium’s Ballpark Village, located right outside the park, it turns each game into an event with its entertainment and dining options before and after.”

Soooo…..the long and short of it….the Cards are really where they belong.  Now…that being said…..a few possible ways to improve this team. Just a couple extra wins COULD make the difference.  Trade 1 of these can’t miss OF prospects for a proven starter…Seattle did this to us when we swapped Marco Gonzalez for Tyler O’Neill in 2017. While we’re still waiting for O’Neill to become a “regular”, Gonzalez is 26-18 since 2017 for the Mariners. Right now he’s 5th in AL in wins with 12! I don’t know if it’s right or wong….but Keep Kolton Wong playing 5x a week. Continue to find reasons NOT to use Wacha.  With Bader gone… how many weeks has he been working on hitting sliders?…..our “D” takes a tumble…Dex does have some range but no where near the arm. Marcel in LF and …I suppose… O’Neill in RF…how about Lane Thomas? He doesn’t have the Hulk Hogan arms of O’Neill but his swing is much shorter (and better) in my view. Placing Tommy Edman (3b)in front of an experienced hitter (like Yadi) might encourage him to just get on base and then use his speed for hit/run or stolen base opportunities….and ….make yadi more productive at the plate.

Lucky for the Cards that they belong to the NL Central Division….

In an article written by Bleacher Report in Feb, 2019, the author tried quantifying which team(s) had the best “young” talent. To be considered “young”…players had to be 25 or less on June 30 of this year. A point scale was established…

Established MLB Stars (10 points): Players with at least one 5.0-WAR season or a zWAR of at least 5.0 for the upcoming campaign were worth the most. These players have already established themselves as All-Star-level performers or are expected to do so in 2018. Ten players qualified.

Budding MLB Stars (5 points): Players with at least one 2.0-WAR season or a zWAR of at least 2.0 for the upcoming season. A 2.0 WAR is generally identified as the baseline for an everyday player, and producing at that level before the age of 26 is a good sign of a bright future.

Top Prospects (1-3 points): Using the top 100 prospect lists from Baseball America, MLB.com and ESPN.com, prospects were awarded one point for each list where they made an appearance.

The Cardinals were rated  8th in the MLB in this “young star” poll…it broke down like this for them….. St. Louis Cardinals (24 Points)-top prospect-Jack Flaherty.  Lesser Stars (High WAR): CF Harrison Bader (3.8), SS Paul DeJong (3.8), RHP Jack Flaherty (2.6) Key Prospects (Lists): RHP Alex Reyes (3), 3B Nolan Gorman (3), 3B Eli Montero (2), RHP Dakota Hudson (1)

According to the article by Bleacher Report,”the St. Louis Cardinals’ best prospect is at a frustrating crossroads.  Alex Reyes looked like the next big thing when the Cardinals called him up in 2016, but then he underwent Tommy John surgery in February 2017. He seemed to be ready to make a roaring comeback in 2018, but then his shoulder quit on him. Now the Cardinals don’t know what to expect out of the 24-year-old.But if Reyes’ uncertain situation is a knock against St. Louis’ farm system, the team’s young major leaguers are more than worth going to bat for. Harrison Bader, 24, might be the game’s best defensive outfielder. Paul DeJong, 25, is a far better slugger than most shortstops. Jack Flaherty, 23, whiffed 10.8 batters per nine innings as a rookie last year. Not even pictured are right-hander Jordan Hicks or outfielder Tyler O’Neill. The former has enough of an arm to improve on last season’s subdued results. The latter—who, despite his appearance in Baseball America’s top 100, lost his rookie eligibility in 2018—has the sheer manpower to be a great slugger.”

#7 Texas Rangers  — 27 Points—top prospect–Joey Gallo;  Other Stars (High WAR): LF Joey Gallo (3.2), 2B Rougned Odor (2.7), RHP Jose Leclerc (2.5), RF Nomar Mazara (2.0*) Key Prospects (Lists): RHP Hans Crouse (3), RHP Cole Winn (2), OF Julio Pablo Martinez (1), OF Leody Taveras (1)

#6  Minnesota Twins (28 Points) Superstars (High WAR): CF Byron Buxton (5.2)

Lesser Stars (High WAR): RHP Jose Berrios (3.9), SS Jorge Polanco (2.2)

Key Prospects (Lists): SS Royce Lewis (3), OF Alex Kirilloff (3), RHP Brusdar Graterol (2)

#5 . San Diego Padres (32 Points) Best prospect: Fernando Tatis; Lesser Stars (High WAR): CF Manuel Margot (2.5). Key Prospects (Lists): SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (3), LHP MacKenzie Gore (3), 2B Luis Urias (3), C Francisco Mejia (3), LHP Adrian Morejon (3), RHP Chris Paddack (3), RHP Luis Patino (3), LHP Logan Allen (3), 1B Josh Naylor (1), RHP Michael Baez (1), LHP Ryan Weathers (1)

#4  Los Angeles Dodgers (34 Points) Superstars (High WAR): SS Corey Seager (7.0) Lesser Stars (High WAR): 1B/OF Cody Bellinger (4.2), RHP Walker Buehler (3.4)  Key Prospects (Lists): C Keibert Ruiz (3), OF Alex Verdugo (3), SS/2B Gavin Lux (3), RHP Dustin May (3), C Will Smith (2)

#3. Tampa Bay Rays (39 Points)  Lesser Stars (High WAR): 2B Daniel Robertson (2.6), SS Willy Adames (2.0), LHP Jose Alvarado (2.0)  Key Prospects (Lists): SS Wander Franco (3), RHP Brent Honeywell (3), LHP/DH Brendan McKay (3), C Ronaldo Hernandez (3), LHP Matthew Liberatore (3), OF Jesus Sanchez (3), 2B Vidal Brujan (2), 2B Brandon Lowe (1), 1B Nate Lowe (1) RHP Shane Baz (1), SS Lucius Fox (1)   #2   Houston Astros (41 Points)  –only team with 2 superstar  ratings of young players already!!  Superstars (High WAR): 3B Alex Bregman (7.6), SS Carlos Correa (6.3) Lesser Stars (High WAR): RHP Roberto Osuna (2.9) Key Prospects (Lists): RHP Forrest Whitley (3), OF Kyle Tucker (3), RHP Josh James (3), RHP Corbin Martin (3), OF Yordan Alvarez (2), RHP J.B. Bukauskas (2)

#1  Atlanta Braves (45 Points)  Ozzie Albies (L) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (R)  Lesser Stars (High War): LF Ronald Acuna Jr. (4.1), 2B Ozzie Albies (3.8), INF Johan Camargo (3.7), SS Dansby Swanson (2.3)

Key Prospects (Lists): 3B Austin Riley (3), RHP Ian Anderson (3), RHP Mike Soroka (3), RHP Kyle Wright (3), RHP Touki Toussaint (3), RHP Bryse Wilson (3), OF Drew Waters (3), OF Christian Pache (3), C William Contreras (1)

The Cards were the highest rated team of the NL Central in this highly unofficial rating system…..it’s rather middle of the pack in the MLB… but its looking good when comparing to other Central teams.

Now…I head to the bench…where I belong….thanks for reaching the bottom!

Birds with New Nests by Bob Ryan

It’s fun to “check in” on some of the former Cardinals every so often….these ex-Cards have changed their nest…so to speak….this isn’t meant to reflect good or bad moves by the Cards but merely updates on some familiar names that you may have “missed” .. one way or the other…

….Daniel Descalso(Cubs)has played more…probably much more…than expected. The unavailability of Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist opened up a spot for him. Playing in 70 games already, batting just 185 with OBP .283, Descalso is in his 10th year of MLB as a 32 year old. He’s been with Col & Arizona between the Cards and the Cubs.

…. Sam Tuivailala was reinstated by Seattle from the 60-day injured list last week. Tuivailala will join the MLB bullpen. It was less than a year ago that the Cardinals traded Tuivailala to Seattle in exchange for minor league righty Seth Elledge as part of a “dramatic” midseason roster shakeup. Shortly there  after  Tuivailala suffered a torn Achilles tendon just weeks after being traded and hasn’t pitched in the Majors since that time. Seattle has  hopes that he’ll strengthen their bullpen in the middle innings

…John Jay (CWS) has a minimal role with the White Sox. The 34 year old, 10 years MLB  vet is batting .298.. sound good…but he’s 14 of 47 from the plate this season. This is his 5th team since leaving StL.

….Detroit Tigers are hoping for lightning in a bottle with Trevor Rosenthal. After a disastrous spring with the Nats (6.3 inn, 8 hits, 16 runs, era of 22.74), the Tigers are throwing him a bone. What do they have to lose….they are 1 of the worst MLB teams, no long term commitment, cheap. If he DOES, rebound, they win BIG. If he doesn’t… it was a “nice knowing ya” situation for them.

…Randall Grichuk of Toronto is now in his 6th year in the MLB. Batting .238, 16 HR, 42 rbi (on course for career averages). He’s in the 1st year of a 5 year, $48m contract. He was traded for Dominic Leone.

…Greg Garcia moved on this season to SD Padres. Garcia is now 29 in his 6th MLB season. He’s batting .261 with 47 hits, 180 AB. He has 20 rbi’s which is 1 rbi every 9 AB. He has played all 4 infield positions this season for San Diego.

….Sandy Alcantara was the big “chip” in the trade with the Marlins in Ozuna trade. The 23 year old has 18 starts in 2019, 4-9, 3.94 ERA,  6 quality starts, 107 inn, 76 strikeouts .

…Arizona has 3 former Cardinals in 2019. Carson Kelly, at 24 years of age is now the every day catcher  for the D-Backs. His batting stats–.268, 10 HR, OPS .872; Luke Weaver is 4-3, with 3.03 era, 62 inn, 68 strikeouts, 55 hits—currently on 10 day IL; Greg Holland is the AZ closer at 33 years of age—1-1, 15 saves while finishing 23games, 31 inn, 19 hits, 37 strikeouts

…NY Yankees have Luke Voit(from Lafayette HS—same HS as David Freese)…..batting .280, 17 HR, OPS of .897, 50 rbi’s. Relief hurler, Adam Ottovino, began his career with the Cards, now in his 9th year and has appeared in over 400 MLB games.. spent 7 years with Colorado…in 2019, he’s currently holding a 3-3 mark, 44 appearances, 41 inn, 56 k

…Oscar Mercado of the Indians is in his 1st year of MLB play @ 24 years of age. Currently he holds a .284 average, 6 HR, 14 rbi’s, 7 sb in 200 ab. Starting every day now for the Tribe. Traded last summer for Connor Capel.

…Texas Rangers own Lance Lynn who’s now 12-4, 3.69 era, 122 inn, 120 hits, 19 starts and Shelby Miller. Lynn pitched 5 full years with the Cards piling up 943 innings.  He was 71-49 with no losing seasons during his tenure. On the other hand, Miller pitched his 1st 3 years in the Lou and was 26-18. But, in this last 6 years since departing StL, Miller is 12-38. This year, Miller has been pushed into the bullpen for middle inning work. He’s carrying a 1-3 record, 8.59 era, 44 inn, 58 hits (my own barometer is 1 hit for 1 inning ratio is OK…get below that 1:1 ratio …that’s good….above it…not so much. Texas also has Patrick Wisdom on their roster. Wisdom is a utility player, batting .154 (4 of 28) and has struck out 15 times. He was traded by Cards  for Drew Robinson.

…Stephen Piscotty was traded….supposedly….to help him take care of his ailing Mother. Last year @ Oakland he hit 27 HR while holding a career .264 average in his 5 years of MLB play. This year , he’s at .242 with 9 HR. He was traded for Jairo Munoz. One must wonder how  the OF of Piscotty, Mercado, Grichuk would compete as the Card outfield.

…we can’t forget “Mr Game 6”…David Freese…now a Dodger in his 11th year, despite beginning his MLB career at 26 years of age. Hitting .305 with 25 rbi’s in 131 AB’s (1 every 6 AB…not bad). When he reaches the stage of “moving on” from MLB competition, I’d suggest to him to open a bar/restaurant named “Game6”…we’d all know who owned it J

….wrapping up our birds in different nests, we look west again…this time to the Angels. While many fans cursed him, yelled about it, belittled him when he left….his return this year to the Lou showed that time does heal wounds.  Albert Pujols….clearly the best Cardinal in the last 20, maybe 40 years .. now toils for the Angels. His numbers currently are that of a “common” bird. But…I’m still hoping that he’ll buy out his service contract and enter the HOF as a Cardinal.  That’s the latest on some of the former Cardinals who have moved on to other nests.

For you NUMBERS guys…..he’s some of the current WAR numbers on some of our starting lineup…. Yadi 0.3, Goldschmidt 1.1, Ozuna 1.6, Matt Carpenter 0.3, Dex 1.5, Wainwright 1.0, Martinez 0.5, Mikolas 0.6, Miller -0.1, Wacha -0.5 Wieters 0.2. WAR (wins above replacement with a AAA player) 

The Cardinals pride themselves on their “farm” system. It’s very difficult drafting so far down the draft to develop true MLB “stars”. The Cards develop plenty of starters through their many prospects but not often the game changers. Myself….I’d prefer the Cards to trade some of their prospects for proven MLB stars. Oh….it’d have to be a package of prospects and a MLB player or 2 but…get the proven commodity. Even then it doesn’t always pan out e.g. Paul Goldschmidt to this point. However, check out some of the key, talented players that we got in trades over the decades—60’s –Lou Brock,  Curt Flood, Julian Javier, Orlando Cepada; in the 80’s it’was Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Willie McGee, Lonnie Smith, George Hendrick, Joaquin Andujar; in the 2000’s the Cards brought in Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Mark McGwire, Edgar Renteria, Jason Isringhausen, Fernando Vina. I’m sure that I missed a couple of the “stars” that the Cards acquired by using their prospects in trades. That doesn’t mean that you don’t keep the very best of your prospects but ……in my opinion…..many, many times these prospects don’t ever become the stars that some scout projected for them. They’re just prospects. Of late, MO hasn’t really landed a real star ( exceptions-Goldschmidt, Ozuna) via the trade route to supplement our younger players.

ODDS & ENDS…….

….Monday, Monday…..that wonderful song from the 70’s is the motto of the Cards. According to my totally unofficial stats, the Cards are 8-0 on Mondays in 2019.

….One of the most disappointing teams in the first half of 2019 was the Philadelphia Phillies. Hyped higher than a kite due to the signing of Bryce Harper and the acquisition of other quality MLB players (McCutheon, Realmuto, Arrieta, Segura) along with the expected development of their own system (Hoskins, Nola, Franco) , the Phils have stumbled to a 48-46 start. Harper’s many round trippers don’t offset his plethora of strikeouts. He seldom has the chance to show off his good  speed on the bases because either a) it’s a HR   b) he’s not on base. And….this is only his 1st year of a century long contract  well… almost J

….The Cardinals nest is always full as they continue to draw huge crowds. Currently, St Louis is 2nd in the entire MLB in attendance only behind the Dodgers. While I really don’t believe the numbers given on certain nights as I view the empty seats around Busch, you must tip your cap to the Cards. They have a “give-away’ almost every night, clean stadium, friendly workers but …ultimately…it’ll come down to winning. The Cards do have another advantage…no longer an NFL team to grab September games if the Cards aren’t contending close to the top.

….Why doesn’t the MLB use  split screen commercials in between batters and shorten the time between innings …go back to 1 minute. That would make the length of the game vastly improved.

….One player that has changed nests more than anyone…at least to my knowledge of birds…. Edwin Jackson. This bird entered MLB competition when he was 19 years of age as a Dodger. He was just released this week as a 35 year old pitcher—17 consecutive seasons in the MLB—WOW!. His resume of teams takes us around both leagues….ready for the flight?…here we go….LA Dodger 2003-04-05; Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2006-07-08; 2009 it was Detroit; 2010 saw him on Arizona & the White Sox; in 2011 it began with the White Sox and finished the season in St Louis (5-2, 3.58 era; the Washington Nationals had Jackson in 2012; in 2013 & 14 he was with the Cubs;  he began 2015 with the Cubs, finished the season in Atlanta with the Braves; 2016 saw Jackson with Miami Marlins & San Diego Padres; in 2017 it was Baltimore and Washington (again); in 2018 Jackson was 6-3 with Oakland A’s; he’s just been released by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019. What a journey that landed in many different nests!! Congrats to Jackson…he must be a “good guy” or teams wouldn’t want to deal with him….btw…it was 14 different teams!!! Another btw…he earned just  under $79m in his career.

I’m outta nests…old and new…..thanks for checking out these nests with me.

Waiting for More Fireworks by Bob Ryan

We’ve already enjoyed all the July 4th fireworks…either watching the commercially done presentations or just our own in the backyard.  Now….we’re ready for the fireworks from Busch to begin….we’re all hoping for more than just a few sparklers….we’d like to see and hear the robust booming sounds of flashing fireworks across the sky.

…Prior to focusing on the 2019 fireworks…..let’s look back at one of the Cards fireworks of past years. In 1982 The Cards were still 3 games behind on August 3rd. They were 35-22 in 1 run games as Bruce Sutter piled up 36 saves & 9 wins. Those wins either came about when Sutter entered a tied-up game or blew the lead and the Cards rallied to win. Darrell Porter signed as a free agent just prior to 1991 season had largely been a mediocre hitter for the Cards. He batted .24 in 1991 and .231 in 1992 regular seasons. But his fireworks in 1992 post season brought him the NLCAS MVP Award and the World Series MVP Award.

Throughout the year, the Cards generated some….but not a great deal …of offensive fireworks as the team relied on tremendous speed, excellent defense and late season winning streaks. The defense was led by Ozzie & Tommy Herr up the middle. Ozzzie was #1 in Defensive WAR in the NL while Herr was #7 in the same defensive category. Lonnie Smith led the team with a .307 average(4th in NL). He generated his fireworks on the bases! He stole 68 bases(2nd in the NL behind Tim Raines.. while being thrown out 26 times. Lonnie Smith’s OPS of .815 was tops on the Cards while Keith Hernandez was 2nd best @ .810. Hernandez padded his OPS by drawing 100 walks…not dynamic fireworks…but enough to keep further explosions alive. The Cards really began shooting their fireworks in August with an 8-2 streak and con’t the display of fireworks with an 8 game winning streak in September. The anticipated leaders of the pitching staff—Joaquin Andujar and Bob Forsch each won 15 games. Steve Mura contributed with his ONLY strong MLB year. He won 12 games…..in his MLB career, Mura won a total of 30 games!!! Couple side notes before moving on…..notice with Sutter’s numbers – he obviously had some clinker games, but Whitey Herzog stayed with him as his closer..period. Darryl Porter was not a fan favorite throughout much of 1992 as the fans expected more…again Whitey had confidence in him and stayed with him. A powerful ACE wasn’t needed for the Cards to win the NL divisional crown.  Note also, Lonnie Smith was thrown out 26 times…..Whitey didn’t tell him to run less due to all those outs…he wanted that pressure and fireworks… from the speed on the bases. Finally, despite having developed SOME of these key players, the Cards had dealt for over half of the starters…going all the way around C-inf-OF…Porter (from KC), Keith Hernandez & Tommy Herr (system), Ozzie Smith (from San Diego—(TU Gary Templeton for your obnoxious reaction to fans that forced the trade), Ken Oberkfell (system), Lonnie Smith (Phil), Willie McGee(NYY) and Silent George–George Hendrick (Oak-Clev-SD). Btw…George got this nickname because he didn’t talk to reporters after the game…any game…so Jack Buck dubbed him, “Silent George”

…currently in the MLB, the best fireworks from individual players in the month of June came from this list according to baseball experts–

Mike Trout gets a mulligan…..his numbers are really fantastic…but somehow …because its expected of him…..it’s not the same explosive looks to his fireworks since some have come to expect it!!

…..maybe not sizzling fireworks….but clearly….something was sparkling nightly…. John Sterling has called all but two New York Yankees games since taking over as the team’s radio play-by-play announcer in 1989. That streak, which began after he missed two games that first season, is about to end. Sterling has worked 5,059 consecutive Yankees games, including the postseason, according to the team. “My program director felt it’d be a good time to take some time off,” he said. Sterling will be celebrating his 81st birthday during his brief hiatus from the microphone.

…the fireworks from pitchers….it seems…is based on watching pitchers throw 100+mph pitches. Jordan Hicks has thrown 24 of the fastest 25 pitches in the MLB this season. Amazingly, he’s thrown slightly less than all of the next FOUR closest pitchers with pitches over 100 COMBINED!  But….while we fans seem to be fascinated by the sizzle of the 100mph pitch, some MLB experts aren’t so sure of its value. A’s Catcher Stephen Vogt says, “We’re seeing so many young kids come up, they throw 95, 98, as hard as they can for a full season and then they come back and their arm’s gone. Our bodies are not designed to withstand that much velocity. If you do, you’re a freak,” Vogt said. “But I think it’s become a mentality of a lot of organizations is, ‘Well, let’s just use this guy ’til he can’t pitch anymore and then next in line.’ And I’m not a big fan of that. We see what’s happened to Hicks in a half a season. It’s what my friend Stan called, “the Kleenex Principle”…..”use em, throw em away quick”mentality.

…I realize that the Lou is a baseball town….well….let’s add hockey to the list now but…the MLB draft and post season is  B-O-R-I-N-G when compared to the NBA post season. In the MLB, after the 1st 10 picks of round 1, obscure names are chosen for 15-20-25 more rounds….I don’t know..who cares?  A few will sign…many will wait a year and be drafted again…some will sign and most will NEVER,  EVER see the fireworks of the MLB. Then….the free agency season begins as agents of the best players tour MLB cities promoting themselves for months and months. Their quotes and innuendos during those “tours” would make WWE promoters proud. J Eventually, they sign with 1 of about 10 teams. Meanwhile in the NBA, in those first couple weeks, it’s lit up with tons of roster action…it’s really interesting. The NBA draft has fireworks….. the draft occurs and players are signed almost instantly and have an immediate impact(not 3,4,5 years of training in the minors); trades are finalized quickly to match the talents of the super stars of each team, free agents signings come at you hot and heavy, teams rosters are unraveled then rebuilt in a matter of a couple days. To start the season, NBA teams don’t seem to have a “lets tank it approach”.  As one writer put it, “So the drama built into the NBA vs. the HOPE for drama that MLB tries to sell every day are inherently different”

… Atlanta Braves had their own type of fireworks on July 4th! For the 2nd time in franchise history, the entire infield hit HR in the same game….SS Dansby Swanson hit #16 & 17 for the year; 2nd Base-Ozzie Albies smashed #14 in 2019; 1b Freddie Freeman hit #23 to opposite field;  3b Josh Donaldson took his 17th trip around the bases.

…Fireworks should be going off in Columbia, MO this fall.  In addition to assembling a strong roster and adding a superior QB to the fold, the Tigers…according to one football magazine… have the 3rd easiest schedule in the country.  His reasoning—1) Unless W.Virginia gets ranked under a new coach…highly unlikely…generally, coaches don’t leave if they THINK that they’ll have a good team coming back…..2) Mizzou won’t face a nationally ranked team until November. Hence, new QB Kelly Bryant (Clemson graduate transfer) will have ample time to adjust.  3) Mizzou has 5 consecutive games at Faurot Field in Columbia—who loses at home?

…causing fireworks in the soccer world….the USA womens’ 4th World Cup Championship in a 2-0 win over the Netherlands saw a relatively even 1st half but once the PK was scored by Meagan Rapinoe in the 61 minute  mark and a 2nd goal 8 minutes later by Rose Lavelle it became a game of “keep away” and defense with a few break outs permitting forwards to have wonderful scoring opportunities.  I’m not a knowledgeable soccer person but it does seem to me like the USA Women have a “chip” on their shoulder. Maybe it’s the difference in salary from the Men’s Team, maybe it’s recognition, maybe it’s the “blowouts” over inferior teams that rankles other countries, probably there are many other reasons.

….the 1st place Minnesota Twins don’t want any fireworks with their starting rotation…just stability. Incredibly, the Twinkies starting rotation has started 83 of their first 88 games!!

….what is needed for Cardinal fireworks to pop in the sky…..using some of the tactics of other successful Cardinal teams….Consider trading some of their “prospects” to get players that can contribute right now. It was done that way in the 60’s, 80’s and early 2000’s. Then, determine what area should be the “best” for the Cards in 2019—starting pitching, bullpen, defense, base running, power hitting, OB% hitting and really emphasize those areas. It can’t…won’t .. work every day but stay grounded to your strengths. Have a definitive expectation for each player. Don’t expect each player to be an all-star.  A few examples…Kolton Wong….play great defense, getting on base is more important than HR for you. Relax…you look tight as a drum….you’re going play every day.  Harrison Bader….just get on base …abandon that HR, loopy swing. The team needs you on base. Swing the ol’ school way…LEVEL….ur going to make ur big money with your speed on the bases and defense than with HR. Marcel….get 3 good cuts every time at the plate….keep smiling…you play at a higher level when ur happy..tidy up the defense but keep hustling out there. Jack Flaherty…YOU have big league stuff… throw 1st pitch strikes…don’t try fooling these guys or respect them too much, throw YOUR good stuff. Throw it low & in for strikes, low & away for strikes… later in count, then get the “swing & miss”. Ground outs are quicker than strikeouts… keep the ball low. Your strikeout pitches are generally sliders off the plate. Paul Goldschmidt…..strive to find your bat speed, if it isn’t too late… we need YOU to hit the ball hard…. Dex…show more intensity…like that you REALLY want to win(this isn’t a slow pitch game with your buddies); Carp—start putting the ball in play….use LF as an asset not a toxic wasteland..heaven forbid….bunt down 3b line when you leadoff an inning…. Your bases empty HR’s don’t’ really spark rallies. Andrew Miller…ur back!….several good performances recently…show that swagger again! You ARE our left-handed ACE. Think like an ACE. Each player should know where they stand…some already do….make sure that they all know…and that YOU (Cards) know. Strive to peek in August & September.. don’t be satisfied winning a series 2-1….a 3-0 sweep is a 2 game difference.

….I’m outta fireworks….thanks for the read….all replys are invited

Greatest Fear of the MLB by Bob Ryan

In the 1970’s, one of the greatest fears of MLB free agency …at least to some…was that large cities would dominate the league since they had more money available to them and would use it to cause an imbalance of success for those mega-cities.  But…first… a brief look back @ the evolution of free agency in the MLB. All fans know that Curt Flood…almost single-handily….brought free agency to the MLB. Curt Flood had a stellar career in Major League Baseball. The center fielder made the All-Star team three times in his career, won seven consecutive Gold Gloves and had a lifetime batting average of .293. But Flood’s numbers during his career from 1956 to 1971, all but two of them with the St. Louis Cardinals, are not the reason he is remembered. Flood, despite a set of hard challenges, almost single-handedly ushered in the era of free agency in baseball by suing the league. His battle to take control of his own career, rather than essentially being the property of a baseball team, transformed the game. Flood was a good…not great… player who spent most of his career with the Cardinals.  The CF made the All-Star team three times in his career, won 7 consecutive Gold Gloves and had a lifetime batting avg of .293.  Flood was traded in 1969 by the Cards to the Phils. He rejected being traded and refused to report to spring training. The MLB had used the “reserve” clause which stated that players essentially were owned by teams. The rules, although hazily written, stated that players play the next season for the team they played for in the previous season. Flood went to Marvin Miller, director of the Player’s Association, and said he wanted to sue Major League Baseball. Miller warned him that it would cost him his career and that no team would hire him. Flood said he wanted to do it, anyway. Throughout this significant court battle, NO other players of his time supported Flood. Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg, two former players, were the only two to back him publicly. They both testified for Flood in court, as did former team owner Bill Veeck. He asked for the right to consider offers from teams other than the Phillies. Kuhn rejected his idea. I actually had thought that it was this court case that changed baseball. NO….it wasn’t. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Flood lost the case by a 5-3 vote. Eventually, a judge in Federal District Court in New York ruled that players and teams should  negotiate the “reserve clause,” which essentially kept a player tied to a team for years and years unless cut or traded. HOWEVER…. the district court judge’s suggestion that players and teams negotiate is exactly what happened. By the late 1970s, other players sought to end the reserve clause and seek free agency. Flood had lost the case, but opened the free agency door for future players. Unfortunately, he reaped no benefits for himself. He died, in 1997, of throat cancer at the age of 59.  It seems strange to me that Flood hasn’t been honored by the MLB union & players. His lone march, without any other players or player support, led him to some lonely, tough times with his family after the battle but led the players to the mega-bucks money that players now have come to expect…even the mediocre players.

Back to step 1….One of the thoughts at the early time of free agency was that the teams in huge cities, who could generate more money available to them since attendance was the primary source of income, would dominate the league. We’ve had free agency almost 50 years now. Some of those fears may be warranted…the largest city, NY Yankees dominates the AL with a mega-bucks salary structure. The #2 city-LA is the best team in the NL. At #3 in size, Chicago’s Cubs, after years of poor management, now consistently battle for division title. Houston is the 4th largest city in USA….dominant in many of the last 10 years. Now it doesn’t work 100% of the time for major metropolitan areas….a team needs a  GM who is aggressive, smart, good evaluator of talent and fully utilizes all the resources available to them. Some teams that DO have large cities at their disposal have not yet developed the mega-$$ approach—Texas Rangers in Arlington–part of Dallas #9in US-Ft Worth #16 area; Philly is #5 in size in USA; Phoenix #6 (D-Backs);@ #8 is San Diego  The Cardinals really are the only mid-size market that competes on a very regular basis in the MLB post-season.  I believe that’s one reason why commentators laud so much praise on our local boys…they are surprised and amazed!  In fact, both Central divisions (AL & NL)…aside from Chicago are filled with other moderate size cities. So, it’s easier for teams like the Cardinals to make the post-season out of the Central Divisions. Btw….the MLB could adapt a “hard cap”… if they really wanted to do so….to level the playing field a bit….but….they prefer the high return currently that ensures lucrative national television contracts for the league. It almost always comes down to $$$$.

One of the fears of the Cardinal management must be that the Cards MUST continue to win…and win BIG to keep the fans.  Other teams that witness a dramatic drop in attendance..especially from the mid-size market teams….just don’t have the cash (they say)….to acquire multiple major stars.  Bill DeWallet handles the Cardinals in a manner that will generate money for ownership—his teams win (the most important factor), they provide give-aways often aimed at youngsters, they receive outstanding TV coverage (they do own part of Fox Midwest), Busch III is always clean, accessibility to highways is far better than most stadiums. But….clearly winning baseball is the foundation…so looking @ this year–

…..on the bright side, this club is right on the .500 with a 40-40 record. In the NL Central, they are still in the race to win a wild card spot and if things are upgraded slightly…even win the division. On May 1, the Cards were 20-10 after beating Max Scherzer & the Nats.  Paul DeJong (on May 1 was hitting .343, 5 HR an OPS 1.01) while Jose Martinez also was red-hot at the plate in April….holding a .364 average with a OPS of .858 on May 1. Even Dexter Fowler played with some energy. John Brebbia looked like a slimmed down Bruce Sutter as he closed out game after game. Jack Flaherty was 3-1 through April. John Gant(7-0)…..another no-name….code word for “we didn’t pay him much”…came into games at all different time slots and performed well.

….Since May 1, the clouds have darkened. As a team, since May 1, the Cards are 21st in MLB in runs scored; 26th in ISO(hits that are double/triples or HR only); 10th in strikeout%; 23rd in batting avg. StL is as a team, is 23-28 against .500+ teams. Individually, not only the calendar flipped on May 1 but so did the level of Card performance. Flaherty is 1-4, his ERA during May/June was 4.16 & has given up 11 HR during that time; DeJong now holds a .263 mark with .818 OPS….he DID hit only .241 last year but many seemed to ignore that stat during April and looked upon him as the next Cal Ripken. Martinez is now @ .282with an OPS of.748. Matt Carpenter, viewed as a key component offensively in the pre-season, has been largely ineffective….he’s batting .216 for the season with 10 HR and 80 strikeouts. Father Time appears to be tapping Crap (as some call him)… instead of Carp… on the shoulder, he’s 33 years of age. The Cards have played Tommy Edman @ 3B the last 2 nights. Does that signal the beginning of the end for Carp as a regular starter? Or…will Edman be a stunt man…moving from 3B, to SS, to 2b regularly? Harrison Bader’s inability to hit the breaking ball and get on base to use his speed has been a never-ending issue this year. Paul Goldschmidt the center-piece of the offseason acquisitions has been mediocre…at best…to this point. Signing him so quickly to an additional 5 years may prove to be painful. Marcel Ozuna has been the primary power source of the club (hopefully, last night’s injury won’t keep him out of the lineup too long). While he’s a streaky hitter (really–who isn’t—they all get hot then cold, etc), his power numbers stand alone at the top of the Cards. Ya don’t hear it on TV from Danny …the real mouthpiece of the Cardinals as he nightly spins their side of the story… but…..I feel like Marcel can’t wait to get outta the Lou after this season when he’s a free agent….apparently, it’s not his type of town. 

Soooo…back to the original question….how do the Cards alleviate the fears of the fans? ….  Look for a trade of some sort bringing in some starting pitching involving one…or some… of the following—John Brebbia, Andrew Miller, Jose Martinez ,Tyler O’Neill, Miles Mikolas, or Paul DeJong , Daniel PoncedeLeon … maybe even Ozuna…if the Cards.. down deep.. feel like he isn’t returning next year, get something for him now. Many of you want some sucker… oops… team…. to take Fowler, Gyorko, Wacha, or Carp off our hands.  Only the St. Vincent DePaul team would accept those donations J Let’s see how the Cardinals handle those fan fears of watching a .500 team all the way through September. Btw….Mike Shildt is feeling the pressure of this fear of losing….his “explanation” to the fans recently that said in summation “ be patient, we’re working hard, doing all we can, we’ll win, these are good players”….was revised 2 days later by Schildt…to further explain his belief that we’ll win.  Managers only give those types of talks when they KNOW that the team is in trouble.

….But the Cards aren’t the only team dealing with their roster. The Stanley Cup Champions—St Louis Blues….never thought that I’d actually EVER type that expression……have a hard cap established by the NHL to meet. Doug Armstrong annually has to deal with that league cap. Coming off of the tremendous Stanley Cup Championship, he’ll face players with higher expectations of being rewarded after hoisting Stanley around in the post-season. Some seasoned veterans may be “too rich” for our blood and have to be dealt or released. Further, some younger Blues players are bubbling up from the lower levels. Hockey really IS a game for younger players (ya gotta be able to skate fast and recover fast from your shifts). I’m guessing Robby Fabbri, Chris Butler, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Thorburn will be some of the players that “move on”. I think that if Patrick Maroon is willing to take a bit less than he could get on the open market, he’ll return. He may…or may not…want to do that.

…finally…for you guys who want “old school”….the NY Mets just hired 82 year old  Phil Regan to be their pitching coach!  Now…in 2019….this former LA pitcher who pitched in the majors from 1960-72, is hired to work with the NYM pitchers. He’s been a minor-league instructor for 6 years in their organization so he already knows most of the pitchers.  Supposedly, the players love him…..we’ll see!

No fears for you….you made it to the bottom. YOUR thoughts are always welcome. Thanks for the read.

Shooting for the Stars by Bob Ryan

We’re just about at the half-way mark of the season. The Cards seemingly take 3 steps forward, 2 steps backward over & over again. Many fans are agitated by the silent bats, the use of the bullpen, the questionable quality of the starting staff, the seemingly lack of urgency by management & coaching staff. But…..despite our almost 80 games under our belt this year….with one of the brightest stars of last decade who has dimmed recently, Albert, returning to the Lou this weekend….I thought that it’d be appropriate to look back at 2011.

In 2011, the Cards finished in 2nd place, 90-72, 6 games behind the Brewers. Both teams recorded high number of wins because Houston (in the same division at that time) was in a “rebuild”and finished 56-106. Jeff Luenow was still working for the Cards in 2011. The Cardinals highest average belonged to Yadier Molina @ .305. Lance Berkman held a .301 mark. 3 other Cardinal batters hit in the .290’s (Pujols, Freese and Holliday). While this veteran team was in 1st place for 73 days of the season, they were actually 10.5 games BEHIND Milwaukee on Sept 5th! The stars sure didn’t look aligned at that point! The Cards won the final 7 series’ of the season. During that last month of September, Octavio Dotel won 3 games (out of the pen) with 2 saves. Jason Motte was a winner twice and notched 8 saves in September. The Cards packed together one 5 game winning streak and another of 4 games in September. Most observers and….probably….most StL fans, gave the Cards only a tiny chance to go “deep”. Then came October.  The Cards got crushed 13-6 in game 1 of the 1st post season series with Philadelphia then fell behind 3-0 in 1st inning of game 2 as Chris Carpenter was knocked around for 4 runs in 3 innings. The patchwork bullpen of Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, Arthur Rhodes and Jason Motte held the fort down as the Cards scored 3 runs in the 4th, 1 in the 6th & 7th innings to win it 5-4. Dotel again got the win and Motte the save. Phils won game 3 when Ben Francisco belted a 3 run HR in the 7th as Philly edged the Cards 3-2 and took a 2-1 lead in the series. Game 4 saw Cards starter Edwin Jackson (he’s STILL pitching in the MLB!!) surrender 2 runs in the 1st inning. Cards still trailed 2-1 in the bottom of the 4th when David Freese drove home 2 runs with a double giving the Cards a 3-2 lead. In the 6th, it was Freese again with a 2 run blast off of Roy Oswalt making it 5-2…..final score 5-3 Cards. Now, the series tied 2-2. The final game of the series, game 5,  was a tremendous pitching dual between Chris Carpenter & Roy Halladay. The game was actually decided by the first two Cards batters in the bottom of the 1st. Rafael Furcal tripled and Skip Schumacher doubled…that was it….Cards won it 1-0. Carp gave up 3 hits, Halladay 6 hits….game lasted 2:29 minutes…WOW!!! In the National League Championship Series the scores, generally, weren’t nearly as close: game 1—Milwaukee scores 6 runs in the 5th to win in 9-6 despite David Freese’s 3 run HR against Zach Greineke. Cards romped over the Brewer 12-3 in game 2 with Albert & yes….once again…David Freese hitting HR’s. Cards scored 4 runs in the 1st inning of game 3 and made it stand up for a 4-3 win. Motte with the save. Milwaukee evened the series at 2-2 with a 4-2 win in game 4. In game 5, the Cards fivesome of Jaime Garcia, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte guided the Cards to a comfortable 7-1 win. Cards exploded for a 12-6 win in game 6 to end the series. It was Albert & Freese again taking round trippers. Of course the World Series against Texas concluded this impossible dream. In game 1, the Cards snapped a 2-2 game with a run in the 6th David Frees doubled and Allen Craig drove him home with the game winning run. Colby Lewis (Tx) outpitched Jaime Garcia 2-1 in game 2. Game 3 saw the Cards racing around the bases continually in a 16-7 romp as Albert banged out not 1, not 2 but 3 home runs. Game 4 saw Texas ….miraculously… shut out the Cards 4-0. In game 5, Cards jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 2 innings but the Rangers scored the final 4 runs of the game to take a series lead of 3-2. Then the never forgettable….still totally unbelievabe…game 6. It was a back & forth game—Tx 1-0 after midway 1st, Cards 2-1 after 1…..2-2 after 2 innings…still 2-2 at end of 3 innings….3-3 after 4 inn..tx 4-3 after 5 innings….4-4 after 6 innings…tx 3 runs in 7th , so now Cards down 7-4. Allen Craig belted a solo HR in the 8th, Cards still trailed 7-5 going into the bottom of the 9th. David Frees tripled to RF driving home Pujols & Berkmann to tie it up and send the game into extra innings. Texas scored 2 runs in the top of the 10th only to see Ryan Theriot drive in the 1st run on a ground out and Lance Berkman the tying run with a single.  Then, in the bottom of the 11th, it was David Freese hitting yet another HR. We’ve all seen it many times…. Freese… about 20ft from home, throwing off his helmet between his legs…jumping high with a looked of complete joy …and I think ..some incredulation…..sooooo….where does this take us. Note the many familiar names that pushed the Cards along to the World Series championship….but also note….the many, many nondescript players who made HUGE plays along the way and gave the stars a chance to win it all. Sure…we didn’t expect David Freese to be the brightest star of the post-season but…ya just never know. The stars seemed aligned “just right” for us….but were they really? A team MUST have certain ingredients to line up the “Stars”.  How does all this tie into the Cards of 2019?

Here are some suggestions for the Cards of 2019 to realign their stars for this season. They really need an ACE on the mound. Carp was the man in 2011….we need that type of pitcher that brings the players confidence that today we’ll …..most of the time….have a well pitched game. Do we have that guy now? For the last 2 years, Carlos Martinez was touted as the “ace of the staff”. For some reason….I guess arm issues….he’s now a bullpen man (one with an undefined role). If he can’t be the ace any longer….the Cards must obtain a real #1 starter. Baumgartner comes to mind. Trade some of our highly touted “prospects” and get a proven commodity. Jack Flaherty seems like he’ll be proficient pitcher but he’s not a #1 in his first full year. Without that ace, StL’s starting staff still needs reinforcements. Long time heroes—Wainwright & Wacha just can’t get it done consistently. There are way too many 4 and 5 innings outings from this pair. I would even suggest going to a 6 man rotation and finding 2 “long” relief men …like Carlos….who can pitch 3-4 innings. Save those arms in the pen….already Brebbia and Gant are already looking showing signs of wear & tear. In the lineup, I’ve noticed on rare occasions some Cardinals actually bunting…and getting on base …against the shift…do that a few times and there won’t BE ANY SHIFT!  Although his average isn’t high, his OB% is the same as Carp…sooo.. lead off with Bader….use his speed(his best quality). The trick to winning in most sports is to use the best qualities of your players to the maximum.  Make Bader realize that a walk and getting on base IS important. Not much we can do about Goldschmidt other than wait…and pray…. I suppose…that he’ll get back that bat speed. RF is still an issue…..Martinez is a real liability in the field and Dex’s laissez-faire approach isn’t what we need… let’s get some guy with a little fire and “stir up” the boys. Oh…..and its trivial….maybe even petty….but don’t use Jack Flaherty as a pinch runner any more….in his 2 chances, he was thrown out at home because he looked back over his shoulder @ 2B and was picked off second base by the Angel.  I can’t remember that last time that I heard ANY MLB player getting picked off 2B. The last time I saw it was when my 7th grade team picked off a runner…about a hundred years ago! The Cards, often making us feel discouraged or disgusted this year, are still right in the NL Central race…just like 2011… but the stars aren’t completely configured just right……yet.

 Quick flight around the sports-world…

….the stars did shine brightly in the Lou this weekend with Albert’s return. The fans, put aside their resentment of Albert leaving for mega-bucks 8 years ago, treated Pujols with an outpouring of appreciation with repeated standing O’s, long applause and royal treatment.  I just have the feeling…that somehow….someway…Albert will buy himself out of that service contract shortly after retirement so that he can wear his Cardinal hat at his HOF induction & become part of the Cardinal vets who return to St Louis on occasion to “work” with the team, visit and just enjoy former teammates.

….while Barry Odum is having much better recruiting success in St Louis(that’s great), it’s rather awkward that his own brother leaves his staff to join the Oklahoma football coaching staff

…for the past couple weeks, the Houston Astros have seen Jose Altuve, George Springer  and Carlos Correa on the IL but still have a 48-27 record for the season. To give you an idea of how good that is….if the Cardinals with their 38-35 record were in THAT division, they’d be 9 games out of 1st place.

…I sometimes wonder how the Cards define “young” players.  To me …it’s 20-23 years of age….I assume that most players peek out physically between 24-30 years of age. Here are some “young” (as the Cards promote them) current players….Kolton Wong is 28, Michael Wacha -28, Jack Flaherty is 23, Austin Gomber-26, Harrison Bader-25, Paul DeJong will be 26 on Aug 2nd, Dakota Hudson is 24 (25 in sept), Tommy Edman-24, Andrew Knizer-24, John Brebbia is 29, Marcel Ozuna is 29.

…with starting pitchers sometimes being “openers” and many not making the required 5 innings to record a win, is it possible that CC Sabathia will be the LAST 250 game winner?

….why are the hitting woes of Bryce Harper not receiving much sympathy across the USA? J

…apparently Tampa Bay is being pushed by MLB to consider some games in Montreal…. Haven’t we don’t that before?  I know TB has one of the best teams in the MLB… yet draws only flies. I’ve always wondering why a team in Oklahoma or Tennessee wouldn’t be considered by the MLB.

Let’s hope the Cards get their “stars aligned” quickly

Stanley III rules the Lou by Bob Ryan

Last week, Stanley III arrived in Lou!  It was brought back by the St Louis Blues. While no one has ever heard Stanley talk……in his long lifetime, he’s had quite a life….one with several traditions flying around it….some tidbits on our new friend, Stan III…..

..The Stanley Cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston who was the 1892 Governor General of Canada.  He purchased the decorative cup for about $50 then donated it (him) to be an award for Canada’s top amateur hockey club. It was awarded for the first time in 1893 to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Assn .

…annually, Stanley is hoisted over the players head by both hands, generally  kissed gently and then skating around the rink with it high above the players  held in their arms with huge smiles

…then up to 52 names from the organization are meticulously etched onto the cup. Over the years there have been misspellings (believe it or not)….the worst was in 1996 when Colorado Av’s Adam Deadmarsh’s name was spelled “Deadmarch”.  When he publicly proclaimed how heartbroken that he was over the misspelling, for the only known time, it was stamped out and corrected. Others just remain…misspelled…sometimes…even the name of the team has been misspelled!

….who has their name most often on Stanley’s Cup?  Henri Richard (younger bro of Maurice the Rocket Richard) is on the Stanley 11 times. Scotty Bowman is the most for a coach with 9 NHL championships.

…Stanley then goes on a tour. Each player of the winning team gets 24 hours of companionship with Stanley. These fleeting flirtations, while there is always a NHL chaperone to monitor the activities, have led to some real escapades.  Stanley has often been used as a Champaign cup for parties; babies have been baptized from the water in Stanley; at least once,  he was used as a cereal bowl; another time or 2…he was tossed into a swimming pool to see if he could float….he could not…so he had to be rescued from the bottom of the pool; one fan in 1962 tried stealing Stanley. In Chicago, a  Montreal fan said when caught walking out the door, “it belongs in Montreal”…duh!

…Stanley has really been abandoned at times….while driving back after a wild celebration, the Ottawa Hockey Club had a flat tire. To reach the spare tire, Stanley was taken out of the trunk and put on the side of the road…the tire was replaced….anxious to get to the next party, the car took off quickly …..and yep….Stanley spent the entire night shivering on the side of the road. The next morning….

coming to their normal senses….the players drove back to the spot on the road that they had replace the flat….and …there was Stanley. No kind words would soothe Stanley after being ignored in that manner! But that wasn’t the first time a Montreal hockey team had forgotten the Cup. The 1907 Montreal Wanderers left it at the home of a team photographer; the photographer’s mother used the Cup as a flower pot until the team came back to retrieve it! Way back in 1905, members of the Ottawa Senators may have celebrated their victory a bit too much. After the team banquet, some …shall we say… not so sober…brought the trophy outside and tried kicking the then small-Cup into the Rideau Canal. Once successful, they staggered their way home and had no memory of it…until the next day when it was retrieved out of the canal and given to the most responsible player on the team for safekeeping ….I guess that means that he didn’t drink? 

…. Like many men…Stanley has been to war. He was taken to an active war zone at Camp Nathan Smith(filled with Americans & Canadians)  in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for a meet and greet. Like all … leaving the war zone, put him back at ease.

…Some think that Stanley III MAY have a curse attached if it (he) is disrespected. There are two situations that may lead one to think that Stanley III has some unknown power. A) During the ’39-’40 season, the mortgage on the Rangers’ home rink was finally paid off. To celebrate, the management of the team symbolically burned the mortgage documents in the bowl of the Stanley Cup. Then, left-winger Lynn Patrick and his teammates…. Allegedly…. urinated into  the Cup’s bowl to celebrate their victory. The Rangers finally took home the trophy again in 1994 (54 years later), but they haven’t won hockey’s ultimate prize in the last 25 years.  B)    The Edmonton Oilers were a force to be reckoned with in the 1980s. Between 1984 and 1990, the team won five Stanley Cups and were led by two hockey greats, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. Legend has it that after their 1986-87 win, Messier brought the Cup to an Edmonton strip club and set the trophy on the main stage. One of the ladies dancing at the club then reportedly , incorporated the Cup into her risqué routine. The Oilers haven’t won the Cup since 1990! You decide if Stanley’s disrespect leads to a curse?!?

So….Stanley III is currently in the hands of the Blues after a series that saw….the Blues dominate  in 5 on 5 (game 7 had just 1  penalty) The Blues had a 15-10 edge in goals scored during the 337:11 of 5-on-5 ice time through seven games. St. Louis had a 7-4 edge in 5-on-5 goals in the last three games, including a 6-2 advantage in Game 5 and Game 7 combined which were both in Boston.  The Blues also held a 48-44 edge in high-danger scoring chances created during 5-on-5 play versus the Bruin’s, as well as a 9-4 edge in goals scored on those high-danger chances. Binnington  kept the Blues during the first 10 minutes of game 7 with some cool-headed, quick-moving saves. Maybe…..the Bruins felt pressure.   This was the Bruins first-ever Stanley Cup Game 7 at home, and the first Game 7 since the Bruins beat Vancouver in 2011.  The “checking” in game 7 was much more restrained by both teams….I suppose….everyone feared a penalty. The first 5 games especially….were really vicious. The Blues were “opportunistic” in game 7 as they scored despite having little control of the puck in their offensive zone while the Bruins DID have territorial control and blistered the Blues GK with shots in the early going….towards the end of the 1st period, that also came to a halt. As a Boston newspaper put it, “This wasn’t a close game lost in a blaze of anger due to a terrible call or a nasty hit. The Blues just straight up won and the Bruins just straight up lost, thanks to two early St. Louis goals from Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo. The Bruins never figured out a way to answer, despite taking about a million shots right at the center of Blues goalie Jordan Binnington’s chest. The Blues held the 2–0 lead until the third period, when they scored twice more. Boston got on the board thanks to a goal from Matt Grzelcyk.”  Apparently, despite his advanced age…Stanley III has found a romance with Gloria in recent weeks. Rumors are circulating about their “made for each other. But…that’s not my field…I’m not Ann Landers……..for now…..Let’s enjoy the company of Stan III and let handle him handle his own luv life J

Looking back at time, Stan I had a MUCH, MUCH longer stay in the Lou. “Stan the Man” was his nickname. Here was the epitome of the gentle warrior who battled at the plate each and every day for 22 (all spent as a Cardinal). Because only the ol’ guys remember seeing Stan I in action…here’s a capsule of some of his baseball accomplishments—3630 hits, career OPS of .976 (over 22 years!!).. led the NL in doubles (8x), triples (5x) but never led the league in Home runs despite taking 475 trips around the bases, league MVP 3x and voted 2nd in MVP voting another 4x, an All-Star for 20 straight years ….ignoring the missed year due to Military service in WWII….but despite all of these unbelievable baseball achievements, Stan I was the best of gentleman. He played hard on the field, was a vital cog in the integration of the Cardinals (as I understand it, he coaxed the Africa-Americans to join the card games that the players used to pass time)..who was going to object? I  never recall Stan being involved in an argument with an umpire or “showing up” another player.  According to the Baseball Scholar Publication, he’s listed as the 11th best player of ALL-TIME in the MLB!!! After his playing career, Stan I spent one season as the general manager—1967. The Cardinals won the World Series that year over…..yep…Boston!   Stan I was a soft spoken, genuinely happy man who lived in the Lou for his entire professional and post-career life.  He loved to make people smile (he’d play “Take me out to the Ballgame” on his harmonica in his later years to entertain his fans). Stan I was the type of man that fathers would point out to their sons, “be like the Man”.

As genuinely nice Stan I was as a person, Stan II fell into the opposite end. Ironically,  Stan II was actually named after Stan I as he was born in Mora, Missouri.  He was highly successful in real estate then married into the Walton family (Walmart). On April 13, 1995, Stan Kroenke helped Georgia Frontiere move the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams from Anaheim to St. Louis by purchasing a 30% share of the team. In 2010, Stan II exercised his right of first refusal to buy the remaining interest in the Rams from the estate of late owner Georgia Frontiere. On August 25, 2010, he became full owner of the Rams by unanimous consent of the NFL.  Using language in the original move in 2013, Stan II began the process of moving the Rams. He would have found some way to do it. By 2016, the Rams had moved back to the LA area…in a new stadium..under the leadership of Stan II. Stan II was..and is… loathed by the vast majority of the Lou …as is  the entire NFL ..due to what was perceived as the deception,  money-grab, selfishness and just wrong moves with plenty of lies that led to the departure from the Lou. The antagonism towards Stan II hasn’t diminished much…if at all….since those dark days of 2013-2016. The Rams Super Bowl victory in 2000 over Tennessee was quickly erased by the 2002 loss to New England (fancy name for Boston) as the Patriots come-from-behind win seemed to sink the Rams ship on the post-season waters.

Sooo….there you have it…..Stan I, Stan II and now Stan III…the Good, the Bad and the Pretty (you didn’t think that I’d say Ugly, did you?) Now…to the sports world OUTSIDE the Stanley’s …

Odds & Ends….

…and then there was the Blues parade & rally!  WOW!  It was terrific.  I’m NOT a parade watching type of guy….but …this one was different…way different.  The players interacted with the crowd. They made the crowd part of the celebration. They hopped on & off their trucks ….taking selfies, letting them actually touch Stanley III, spraying Champaign on them, high five’s with the fans, leading cheers, signing autographs, etc, etc with them! It was GREAT!  The rally with thousands of people packed around the Arch Grounds followed ( almost 45 minutes late). After announcing each player, they spent almost an hour recognizing many of the key players and team officials in a special way. It was almost anticlimactic after the excitement of the parade but nonetheless, it  kept me watching it.

…..by far the easiest…most cupcake part ….of the schedule for the Cards just arrived at the right  time as the Cards crawled out of Chicago after being swept in 3 games. Sure….everyone plays 162 games but some parts of the schedule are easier …or harder…than other parts. Playing the woeful Miami Marlins team in two series with the NY Mets sandwiched between them, allows the Cards to build up a significant winning stretch of ball for 10 games. Miami really is a discredit to MLB…this team doesn’t even appear to be trying to develop a winning team.

….seeing the Mets for just 2 days….it’s very easy to see a major cause of their lowly place in the standing…..their bullpen imploded against the Cards. The Mets brought in Edwin Diaz to be their closer…he was unbelievable last year for Seattle…65 games, 57 saves, 73 inn, 41 hits, era 1.96. This year…not so much! Not only did he “blow the game”  against the Cards but he’s not the same pitcher…25 g, 14 saves,  27 inn, 28 hits, era 3.58. Last year, the Mets “gave up” on their closer. Meanwhile, the setup man, Jeurys Familia, who was the closer last year prior before being  shipped out to Oakland. He was brought back this off season by the Mets. He’s still having troubles…real troubles. His current ERA is 6.91! Even worse he’s permitting OVER 1 home run permitted for each inning! The Mets aren’t that good…probably no team is…to mount a winning streak without a good backend of the bullpen… much less, a weak ….to mediocre….  Backend of the pen.

….As Flag Day has come & gone…..check out these “fresh” names in the top 10 of MLB averages….#1 Cody Bellinger (LAD). #2 Christian Yelich, #3 Jeff McNeil (NYM), #4 Jorge Polanceo (Minn), #5 David Dahl (Col), #8 Austin Meadows (Tampa Bay) #9 Josh Bell (Pitt), #10 Tim Anderson (CWS).  Side note…how about Yelich being tied for #4 spot(15) in MLB in stolen bases!! What an all-around player!

Well…..I’m going to ice the puck for the final time of this season now….I appreciate you making it through the entire blog…. and …..for one final time….LGB!!  Stanley Cup Champions!!!!!

Anticipation by Bob Ryan

Here on Sunday morning, the anticipation of tonight’s Blues 6th game vs Boston is gripping the city. Is it REALLY going to happen…Lord Stanley’s Cup hoisted up by the Blues??  There is anticipation in sports…and life for that matter….continually….just  as Carly Simon reminded us in her hit song in 1971.(entitled Anticipation)..Anticipation, anticipation….Is makin’ me late…Is keepin’ me waitin’ “

….the anticipation of Paul Goldschmidt becoming the slugger we…and the Cards…. expections continues to grow. Currently many of his personal marks are at career-low levels excluding his first part-time season….in 269 plate appearances…..his average of .268 previous low mark .286; .358 OBP..to this point his lowest for a season was his 1st full season .359; slugging % of .438….previous low .489 (2016); with 69 strikeouts to this point, if he continues at this pace will be to set a personal high if 184 strikeouts. It’s not a wasted season….yet….but we are at the 3/8 pole of the season.

….the Cubs anticipation of post-season success just got a shot in the arm with the signing of Craig Kimbrel. I don’t think that he’ll be the same ol’ untouchable closer but….he’s got to be better than Pedro Strop. One may disagree with the salary demanded by Kimbrel that the Cubs matched but… you must say….the Cubs went out to find a player to fill a big gap in their roster. What would YOUR anticipation be if I told you that the Cards had acquired Zach Greinke from Arizona for the rest of this year?  Sure Greinke is 35 years old and his mega annual salary of $35m makes the Cards owners choke just hearing it…. but….in his 14 starts this season, 87.2 inn, just 68 hits, ERA of 2.87.He’s projected to finish with 13 wins and a 3.37 ERA. The Cards completely ignored any improvements to their starting staff in the off-season but….right now….is there ANY anticipation of a post-season run by the Cards  this year?  Wouldn’t his addition ignite that flame again?  He’s already been on 5 different post-season teams in his career. Trade 2 of those hot Cards ”prospects” …ya know…the ones that the Cards announcers make it sound like they are headed directly to Cooperstown ….but….are actually are closer to .500 pitchers or .250 batters…and go get Greinke.

….like two jolted lovers…. the Cards fans and Marcel Ozuna ….in which  the anticipation is a soon-to-be permanent separation …feelings are uneasy and uneven.  It’s easy to understand in one way…. Marcel with his huge, lusty swing that leaves his flashy neck chain zinging around his neck and … often  leads to strikeouts…but heck….show me a Cardinal that DOESN’T strike out a lot(with or without a neck chain)…and Marcel’s early season defensive OF plays would have almost  been comical if he didn’t have  a gold glove award hanging up in his house..heh…wait a minute….maybe that’s the glove that he’s actually using in the OF….no wonder it’s a bit stiff J  Marcel’s throwing from LF has improved but it’s not on-line very often…if ever….but….all that being said …check his batting marks.. in the NL thus far in 2019… he’s 5th in RBI’s; tied for 10th in HR’s;  12th in runs scored and 20th in slugging%.  How would the Lou be raving if those stats belonged  to Paul Goldschmidt …not Ozuna?

…Anticipation is the key word at the MLB draft. Generally,  a team has to wait, wait and wait for the development of their draft choices. Very, very seldom does a player get drafted on summer and excel in the MLB the next summer.  It’s usually a slow-cooked process so as the patience increases so does the anticipation.  Some observations to note about the Draft….for the first time since 2008, when Buster Posey (5), Kyle Skipworth (6), and Jason Castro (10) were all were selected in the top 10 picks, two catchers became top-10 selections last Monday night. Chosen #1 overall was Adly Rutschman (Oregon St) by the Orioles while Baylor’s Shea Langeliers was chosen by the Braves with the #9 pick of the draft. With the importance of having a good to great catcher necessary to have a post-season contender, one might think that MLB teams would regularly look in that direction.  Not so….in fact, Buster Posey, Jason Castro, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Zunino, and Josh Phegley are the only five major-league catchers who have started a majority of their team’s games this season and were selected in Round 1.  The Cards gambled  @#19 when they picked Zach Thompson (LHP from U of Kentucky). Thompson’s fastball seems to have good movement along with a reliable slider…..but….Thompson has experienced shoulder & elbow issues  along with inconsistent control in the past. If you have the anticipation for your son, nephew, neighbor…whovever…to reach the “big time” of the MLB….make him a shortstop in his younger days. On the 1st night of the 2019 draft, 9 of the first 32 picks were SS then another 10 were chosen in the 2nd round! Soooo..19 of the 77 players chosen Monday were shortstops….close to 25% of the players!!

….not many MLB observers anticipated the Minnesota Twins to be 2nd in wins in the entire AL on June 9th. The Twinkies 43 wins are just 2 behind the Astros. From the plate, Minnesota leads the AL in runs scored (370) slugging % (.510), and Home Runs (121). On the pitching mound, the Twins have issued the fewest walks and are 5th in team ERA.  If not the ace… certainly a key component …of the starting staff is Jake Odorizzi. Currently he’s  8-2, 1.96 era, 64 inn, just 41 hits (usually a 1:1 ratio of inn: hits is a relevant number).   He was drafted in 2008…..so I guess back in  2007 or 2008….I announced the Highland-Bresse Central baseball game from Grizzlies BallPark. This was a big local HS rivalry so Prepcasts covered the game. I recall the rare occurrence…and I made a big deal of it at the time….this right-handed hitting batter named Odorizzi hit a home run over the right-center field fence!  Hitting home runs in these closed in fields was rare enough….but …to the opposite field. I …to this day…haven’t only seen it done ONCE…on that day. He wasn’t pitching that day so he was the shortstop. Now an  8 year veteran, Odorizzi will definitely be in the all-Star game this year so cheer him “on” as a home town boy.  Btw… he’s a free agent after the season! Connect the dots …J

…is it fair to anticipate that professional players….even lower level minor leaguers…should have developed a professionalism  about “doing whatever it takes to win”..recently, in a Double A game, the Hartford Yard Goats (I didn’t make it up…it REALLY is the name of the team) had a combined no-hitter going in the 9th inning.  When Matt Lipka of the Trenton Thunder bunted for a base hit! The Yard Goats went crazy…how could he? It was a no-hitter (albeit a combined no-hitter).  Lipka must have broken the rule found deep in professional pamphlets  “Thou shall not bunt to break up a no-hitter!”….the benches emptied as a fight broke out over the bunt!  Could we anticipate a bit more professionalism the next time? As one local writer said, “Quit crying. Get tough.  Also, it was a combined no-hitter! The starter wasn’t even in the game anymore. Good lord, get over yourselves!” I would anticipate that the parents of the Yard Goats refused to buy their “boys” sno-cones after the game for their tawdry behavior J

….I had anticipation through the first 2 months of Cardinal baseball….would Fred Rogers…oops..Mike Shildt… and his Happy Neighborhood jingo…ever “sit” a veteran who held a regular starting position. I was pleased to see that Fred….oops…Mike…”sat” Matt Carpenter out of a game.  I didn’t want to hear that his foot bothered him (which was the story the next day).  Any MLB manager must demonstrate his “leadership” by sitting players who aren’t performing period. Being  4 or 6 or 10 year vets makes it tougher….sorry….that’s why you’re getting the big  bucks …to make those tough decisions.

…its too early in the summer to have a real high anticipation of NCAA-football….but…just to  whet your appetite…..couple surprise teams to watch…Nebraska under 2nd year head Coach, Scott Frost will take his 4-8 team of last year back into bowl level territory…maybe not a New Years Day Bowl…but a bowl nonetheless…..Texas A&M under Jimbo Fischer …with that 1st name—he has to coach in the South J…..will finish in the top 10 and be in a major bowl. On the other side of the field….despite his personal issues, Urban Meyer was a terrific “big game” coach…..the Buckeyes will miss that little edge…I look for them to slip just a bit. And….of course….we all anticipate the annual Clemson-Alabama Championship Game to take place again.

…well…we started with the Blues and we’re skating into the locker room now with our anticipation with hopes sky high, our fingers crossed, and plenty of LGB’s reverberating around the Lou!