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… 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.

… 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 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… 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!

Ice Cold by Bob Ryan

After splitting in Boston, the Lou was at a fever pitch with Blues mania.  Watch parties of all sorts, many Blues flags hanging around StL on commercial stores as well as many houses, Let’s Go Blues (LGB) was heard in neighborhoods, families, and even in churches….the priest that said it had to be in his 80’s…so I was a bit taken back. Former Blues players ….especially the ones who played in the 1968-69-70 teams were seen… and heard from…for the first time in decades.  The Blues had actually sent their entire full-time staff to Boston for the playoffs at OWNERSHIP’s expense.  Even the unmatchable Charles Glen (sings national Anthem) invited the fans to join him in what became an unforgettable rendition of the National Anthem St Louis was red hot!!    Then…the 3rd game…..the Blues were ICE COLD in their play as the Bruins 7-2 winning score did portray their dominance in the game.  Some random thoughts…

…It seemed obvious to me that the officials had indicated to both teams prior to the game that they were NOT going to permit so much hitting during this game.  Sundquist had been suspended for 1 game due to checking a Bruin’s head into the glass. THAT…hard, constant checking  is the heart & soul of the Blues! Without constant, physical checks….the Bruins are too fast for us…and just about every other team in the NHL. The pitty-pat style of playing, required by the officials,  made the Blues play like a mediocre team in this game.

….the Blues did hit a post or two….as did Boston….but our power play seems to have resorted to long range bombs from defenseman with the hopes of deflecting them into the net. I wish the outside wingers would move more without the puck and handle it more often.

…..Boston pressured our defenseman deep in our zone so that the beginning point of our counter-attacks sputtered, were disjointed and on occasion committed costly turnovers.

…..It seemed like the only names of Blues Forwards that I heard continually thoughout the game were Sammy  Blais and Zach Sanford (playing in his first game)—generally, two players viewed a mild contributors for the Blues. It seemed to me that I haven’t seen O’Reilly…or heard his name…much in this series.

….Jordan Binnington had his weakest game of the season. The 5-hole goals were shots that he generally handles with ease. Some goals were scored by wide-open Bruins …some right in front of the net…Boston had all the momentum and all the heat….theBlues were ICE Cold in this June game.

I continual to look for reasons other than……counts are longer, too long between pitches, too many mid-inning pitching changes, 2:30 break every ½ inning, too many strikeouts making the counts longer that make MLB games seem long…etc…one of my thoughts was that the games are too one-sided. The lopsided score might just make the games seem so long.  So I broke down all the games by the difference of the winning score and losing score.   Well….I chose 7 consecutive days of MLB baseball to look for results……there were  98 total games for the week.

There were 31 -1 run games—- 31 %     

There were 14—2 run games— 14 %

There were 13—3 runs games—13%

There were 10—4 runs games—10%

There were   9 – 5 run games —    9%

There were   3 – 6 run games—-   3%

There were   8 – 7 run games—     8%

There wer     5 – 8 run games—      5%

There were   2 – 9 run games—      2%

There were   3—10+ run games–   3%    

Some results……45% just 1 or 2 runs games—should be red-hot games; 23% of the games were 3 or 4 run games— I guess OK;   30% of game had  5+ runs difference per  game—fans interest would be icey cold (if they were still there). Another  possible reason for StL fans to notice the time of the game may be the  Cards fans are spoiled….spoiled by the red-hot teams of the past. From 2000-2015 (16 years), the Cards fielded 12 playoff teams …3/4 of the years!  Tony LaRussa was the manager from 1996-2011. He won 2 World Series and his record in the Lou was 1408*–1182*,.544. Mike Matheny, ironically, may have been impacted by these high expectations. He was “let go” with a career Managerial record of  591–474,.555. While he DID have a higher winning percentage than Tony, he won ZERO World Series and only 1 NL pennant during his tenure.

Some other RED-HOT or  ICE COLD news….

….Mizzou’s newest QB, Kelly Bryant (transfer from Clemson) is receiving some high praise in the pre-season. He is considered one of the league’s top candidates for the SEC Newcomer of the Year Award! In 2017, he did lead Clemson to 12 wins.  His passing accuracy (66.2) actually exceeds is Mizzou predecessor , Drew Lock (56.9). The only Ice-cold water being thrown on this new starter is that he piled up yards & passing TD’s against the no-names and struggled at times against the big boys.

…Gloating on their red-hot pre-season pick by NFL writers, the Cleveland Browns have been chosen by to win the AFC North. The red-hot betting line…from early this week …was 8-1! I guess the next thing that I’ll hear is that Jim Brown will be in the backfield J

….To no one’s surprise, the MLB established a new mark for HR in a month. In the month of May, MLB batters banged out an incredible 1120 round trippers. That broke the record that was established last August. Meanwhile most MLB teams still seem to be seeking more of the  red-hot, heat seeking fastball pitchers.  Breaking ball pitchers will be back …give them 3 more years!

…overlooking the warm…if not hot ….OBP stats of 2 Card outfielders –Dexter Fowler & Harrison Bader. As of Saturday morning, Fowler was 6th in the NL Outfielders in OBP with a .382 mark. Bader was 12th in the same category with a .352 mark in OBP. Both are vastly superior to Jose Martinez defensively.  Further ….what little bit that I’ve seen of Lane Thomas—his short swing, good speed & defense……I believe it’s time to throw some ice water on the Jose Martinez experiment. 

…I had the opportunity to announce the Class 3 STATE baseball championship game @ Car Shield Park in O’Fallon, MO between the Blair Oaks Falcons and the Fatima Comets. It was a GREAT game… a red hot one. It had a family flavor to it….the two teams are located about 15-20 miles apart in mid-Missouri knew each other, had played earlier in the years and there were actually cousins on opposite teams. They play with or against these same players in summer ball. Both teams were scoreless in the first 3 innings which snapped by quickly despite Blair Oaks having a runner thrown out at the plate to end the 2nd inning. In the 4th inning with 2 outs, no one on base, Ian Nolph tripled to left-center. He scored on Jacob Stegman’s single. Meanwhile Falcon Starter, Parker Bax mowed down 9 straight batters.  Blair Oaks threatened in the 6th  with an inning opening 2B by Maclain McCarter. It was followed by a infield error…runners on 3b & 2b one out. Fatima brought all their infielders in…way in..the next 2 batters hit sharp ground balls to the shortstop, who looked the runner  @ 3b back each time and threw out the batters. A pop out ended the threat. Still trailing 1-0, the Comets threatened in the bottom of the 7th.  With 1 out, Trey Herzing was HBP, then Dean Hagenhoff ripped a single to put 2 men on base.  A fielder’s choice & fly out ended this exciting 1-0 game. The game was played in approximately 1:35 minutes. Yes Sir….it moved along with good pace! Pitchers took around 10 seconds between pitches, threw  strikes, good defense….a true State Championship game. Parker Bax the winning Falcon pitcher went the 7 inning distance as he threw just 89 pitches!  Fatima’s starter, Josef Keilholz went 6 1/3innings throwing the maximum permitted 105 pitches.  It was very well played…tight score throughout….some hits (combined 13 hits in the game) but only 2 walks and 2 HBP which kept this championship game moving along! Congrats to both teams for a very entertaining, well-played Championship game. 

….btw…lets’ throw some ice water on the phrase that we keep hearing, “ the ol’ Cather Matt Wieters” does this or that….Wieters is just 2 years older than Jose Martinez!! The difference is that Wieters is in his 11th year of MLB experience. He’s been an All-Star 4x and a Gold Glove catcher 2x. Martinez is in his 4th year and just passed the 300 hit mark in his career.  “the Ol” guy stuff means that he’s experienced many MLB games not just his age.

….Talk about a RED-HOT start to 2019….Cody Bellinger (LA Dodgers) is the NL Leader in Average(.379), OBP (.468) and SLUG% (.743)!   He’s 2nd in HR with 20! WOW!

….from a TEAM perspective, the Cards pitching staff is a bit warm to a ice cold level….depending on the category.. the Redbirds staff is luke-warm being 8th in the NL in team ERA with a 4.38 mark. StL is very warm being  4th in ground ball % in NL with a  44.8 % level.  That’s assuming that you prefer a ground ball to a fly ball…which I prefer….you can’t score on one ground ball J The Cards are a chilly 12th in the NL in walks/game with a mark of  3.68 walks/game. The Cards are an icy cold 14th of 15 NL teams in HR per 9 innings with a 1.48 level.

…It’s time now to bring an abrupt, icy ending….I”m sliding away …..LGB!!!

Mighty MOX goes Blue by Bob Ryan

Never thought that I’d see the day….KMOX (the mighty MOX)… according to their contract….pushed the Cards off to another station to cover the Blues Stanley Cup Finals. I’m thinking that the management team of KMOX NEVER thought the Blues would return to the Stanley Cup Finals again(at least in their lifetime J….well…it has been 49 years between drinks for the Blues…..

I never thought that I’d see another Cup Finals in the Loou….here on some thoughts on game 6 of the Western Conference Championships….In game 6, San Jose’s roster was depleted and many of their missing players were “key”2019  performers. I think some of them will hang up the skates this off season. The StL crowd was electric! The Sharks just didn’t seem to have the zip…nor the talent at this point….to compete for 60 minutes of hockey with the “grinding” Blues. Even when the Blues were just trying to bite off 1 minute at a time, the Sharks couldn’t get sustained pressure. The post-game celebration on the ice with the players skating around like little kids looking to see who they could “congratulate” next was something that I thought that I’d never see again….it was very enjoyable to watch. And…my memories of Glenn Hall, Ron Schock (I actually was AT the game of his winning goal!), a young Red Berenson, Gary Sabourin, Frank St Marseille, Al Arbour, Jimmy Roberts, Bobby & Barclay Plager, of course big ol’ Noel Picard (yes…he was born on Christmas!!) are beginning to fade a bit but have been brought back to life with this trip to the Finals. btw…every single player on that 1980 Blues team was from Canada.

In game 1, Boston demonstrated their depth with all 4 lines contributing. The Bruins also prevented the Blues from “dumping in the puck”, checking aggressively to keep the puck deep and eventually getting good shots. I also thought that the Bruins were much more aggressive physically.

I never thought that I’d say that the Blues opponent in the Cup Finals had a role in the development of OUR goal keeper. Last year, Blues did not have an AHL affiliate so they split their prospect between several different AHL teams. With limited options for play time in net, the Blues chose to leave Ville Husso, along with many of his teammates,  on the San Antonio Rampage – now the team’s new affiliate – and loaned Binnington by himself to Providence for the year. Providence was a farm team of… guessed it… Boston!  Binnington made 28 appearances for the team last year.

I didn’t think that I’d ever see the day to suggest a new lineup for the ailing Cards. However, Mike Schildt beat me to the punch on Friday night. My proposed lineup attempts to get our speedy guys in front of batters who handle the bat.  We need baserunners when we pop our home runs…it seems like we have an abundance of solo HR.  Soooo.. I’d lead off with Dexter Fowler….we’ve seen that already….the guys’ earned it…..I’d have Paul DeJong in the two hole. Paul Goldschmidt would have the 2 highest OB% guys on the Cardinals team batting in front of him. Marcel would hold down the clean up spot….hopefully, with runners on base for him more frequently, he’d actually cut down his swing… just a bit.  When he does make contact and lays off that low outside slider, it jumps off his bat. We don’t need HR from him….how about RBI’s. The first 4 batters are easy. I’d go with Harrison Bader in the 5th hole.  With Ozuna’s power, teams will pitch around him to get to Bader.  All we want is contact from Bader is contact with men on base. If the bases are empty, and Bader gets on base,. He’ll be able to run on the bases. At #6 Carpenter…he takes lots of pitches. It would enable Bader to steal more often. With Carp’s power, in the 6 hole, his round trippers should have more runners on base. Not so many solo shots. The shift on him would have to be changed…..with a runner on 1B…better yet 2B…. Carp could…..actually use left field as a way to drive home a run without hitting a HR. BTW…..all…or most…teams are throwing pitches on the lower outside part of the strike zone to Carp. At some point…..he MUST adapt and just take that pitch to LF for a single. If he doesn’t do that, he’ll continue to carry around a .203 batting mark…ugh!   I’d have Wong in #7 spot…hopefully he’ll get on base in front of Yadi. At #8, it seems like Yadi could be a wonderful hit & run guy. Further, he could “take” pitches to let Wong run. Yadi is a smart hitter. He’d be willing …and able…to hit those non-strike pitches into the field of play. If he gets on….bunt him to 2B…he’s not a stolen base guy. Note…I don’t have Martinez as a starter. I really do feel like his defensive skills…or lack of them…even though he isn’t committing errors, is costing us outs….and… our pitchers don’t seem to be able to pitch around any extra outs.

I never thought that I’d see the day that starting pitchers were expected to go 5 innings! Since the bullpen usage is a very critical part of the game.  Let’s look @ some of our Redbird relief stats… in 50 games, we’ve used 168 relief hurlers (3.36/game).  Runs allowed per game is 4.66 (which is right at the league median). Cards have converted on 13 of 18 save opportunities-72%–13th in MLB. Much to my surprise, 48 times our relief hurlers have retired more than 3 outs and 49 times less than 3 outs

Some names that I never expected to see as MLB pitching leaders as we approach Memorial Day.

MOST WINS –NL -Max Fried (Atl)-7;  AL –Domingo German (NYY)-9

LOWEST ERA—NL- Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD)-1.52; AL- Tyler Glasnow (TB)  1.86

SAVES—NL-Kirby Yates (SD)-20; AL- Shane Greene (DET) 16

Other Pitching Highlights from 2019…Career Strikeout Records-

CC Sabathia (NYY)—3000 K’s (17th pitcher to reach this plateau. He’s only the 3rd lefthander to strikeout 3000—joining Randy Johnson & Steve Carlton (some heavyweights)..I NEVER thought that he was that great…or even that good.

@ 2500 strikeouts

Max Scherzer (WAS): He became the 35th player to do so.

Félix Hernández (SEA): vs Red Sox on May 11. He became the 36th player to reach this mark

@ 1500strikeouts

Stephen Strasburg (WAS): With his 1,500th,he became the fastest pitcher in Major League history to reach this mark accomplishing it in 1272 ​1⁄3 innings erasing Chris Sale’s mark of 1290 innings.

I sometimes wonder why the MLB…and other major sports …don’t consider the number of games that a player actually plays.   Now …. I would assume that each guy will miss 10-15 games a year but ….beyond that?  I’m told that MLB teams have insurance policies … I assume on each player…to cover their salary cost while injured. But…..couldn’t you contract with players based on number of games played…or not played? With that in mind, check out the players who have played in EVERY game thus far—

53 games –Swanson • ATL           Markakis • ATL       Semien • OAK              Albies • ATL       

52 games–Villar • BAL    Haniger • SEA   Ahmed • ARI         Acuna • ATL    Chapman • OAK 

           Laureano • OAK   Harper • PHI     Freeman • ATL Arcia • MIL

Atlanta has played 53 games as I write this on Sunday…soooo…they have 3 players who have played EVERY game and Freeman & Acuna  who’ve missed just 1 game. So 5  out of their starting 8 field players have missed a total of 2 games COMBINED!! Apparently, the Braves don’t believe in the “he needs a day off” policy often employed by our local heroes. I thought that they called those days “travel” days J

I never thought that I’d see the day that a player might be named Jethro or Jedd. His fame captivated viewers in the 1960’s  being one of the famous Beverly Hillbillys. But…clearly one of the WORST MLB contracts is that of Jedd (Jethro) Gyorko. He’s being paid $13m for the year…($8m from Cards & $5m from Padres). He’s not driving Jed around in Beverly Hills, Ca causing havoc because they are out of place but it’s almost as bad….he does seem to out of place…i.e. the Major Leagues….For that $13m…as we approach the ¼ pole of the season… Jethro… oops… Jedd … has ugly stats of — 28 g, 48 PA, is 8 of 43 batting (.186) 1 HR, 5 RBI’s, 3 walks, 13 K’s. In his 48 innings in the field, he’s committed 2 errors of his total of 15 chances! Ugh!! How do you dump that type of salary with that type of production? (you don’t) …. you just hope that he’ll ride off smiling in the California sunset in his jalopy J

Gone from the Lou for decades, the NBA seems to be only a notch above Rodeos on the StL TV screen ratings. I’ve started watching a some NBA….not up to an entire game yet….or even a half..but the players really are incredible. The NBA players REALLY have outgrown the size of the court & height of the basket. The Championship series between Golden State & Toronto should be entertaining.  Just a short bit….most teams need a “break”, a superstar or 2, or a key play to make it to the finals. For Toronto, it came in the final game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Philadelphia’s 76’ers. In Game 7 of that series, Philly’s Jimmy Butler hit the game tying shot with 4.2 seconds left. After a Toronto timeout, Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard received the ball, dribbled around and shot it from the deep baseline, just inside the 3-point arc. The shot bounced on the rim…not once, not twice and not even 3 times but bounced four times off the rim  before falling through the nets to give the Raptors the series win. Now…I would have LOVE to have seen that!!  It was the first buzzer-beater to win a Game 7 in NBA playoff history. At the same time in the Western Conference Semis’, the Warriors won the Series 4 games to 2 over the Houston Rockets. For the 1st time in NBA playoff history, all 6 games had a point differential of 6 points or less! 2 possessions! I never thought that I’d see that!

You may have thought that you’d never see the end to this blog…..thx for the read! 

Hand pass goal game by Bob Ryan

All StL fans seem to be wrapped up in the Blues post-season. The devastating 3rd game loss to the Sharks on a goal with a hand pass, a shot, and a goal… stings.  Some ways to look at this….

These types of official errors have always taken place….1985 World Series, umpire Don Denkinger’s incorrect call @ 1B, in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 helped the Royals rally to a 2-1 victory, forcing a seventh game against the Cards. Seemingly the Cards were heart broken as the Royals crushed the Cards and won game 7 in an 11-0 laugher. Years later Denkinger wants to see a replay. “I . . . wish they had the replay rule that night, so we could have gotten it right,” Denkinger said from his Phoenix-area home. 34 years later we don’t need a replay….handle it in a different way.

….first of all, I really believe that the officiating in all professional sports is ABOVE the level of play of that sport. Players make mistakes continually….for example….Pietrangelo’s decision to attempt to “bank in” two shots in the last 2 minutes of the game….missing…and then icing the puck was invoked against the Blues…. actually cost them the game (at least it seems that way to me).

….secondly….somehow, fans expect a perfectly officiated game—perfect calls on hockey penalties, perfect strikes, out/safe calls in baseball, football fans incredibly believe that the football officials can see all the penalties that may occur between 22 players who are all moving simultaneously in different parts of the field. This notion Is utterly ridiculous….yet fans (most who whom have NEVER officiated) hold onto the belief that each and every call should be perfect. What’s perfect in life?

…thirdly….in an attempt to attain this “perfectly called” game (point 2)….we now experience multiple appeals that really bring the game to a standstill….a boring standstill. It seems that ice melts faster than these continual appeals.

All that being said…..we’ve seen recently (Super Bowl & now conference finals in Hockey) grossly egregious calls late in the game , that clearly impacted the winner of the game. My solution for playoff games, post-season games, bowl games, NCAA b-bball tourney games….….once the game reaches the  last quarter, last period, last 3 innings, whatever the “late part of a game” time frame…some designated time frame…these oganizations should have an assigned official, either on site or a different site, with video replay access from many different angles. If that video official spots a mistake by the officials…without an appeal….notify the officials to change it.. right then and there…no appeal necessary. Don’t put the burden on the team that just got screwed to appeal. IF the organizations REALLY want the get as many calls correct as possible late in the game  have that off-the-field official , if it is very clear to him, change the call to attempt to make it as correct as possible…it still won’t every be perfect every time…see point 2 above…but it combines using technology with officiating without appeals.

Btw….why don’t players ever complain to the base umpires on half-swing calls….I don’t recall any arguments with those umpires on half-swing calls….yet some look “sketch” to me.

…..Keeping the puck moving without hand passes….Game 3 thoughts….the Sharks REALLY ARE a good team. The Blues & Sharks exchange taking control of the matches. That’s the way it’s going to be….each team has strong team. I tend to think that the Sharks may have more punch and explosiveness on their front line and the Blues seem to have a slight edge on the defense. It seems to me that the San Jose front liners don’t go back as far defensively. That means 2 things….1) more open shots for Blues in offensive end 2) quicker transition for the Sharks. The maligned Keeper of the Sharks has played well….sometimes, very well except for a 5 minute stretch in game 3. At this point, not sure if Vince Dunn will return. He’s become a vital cog on the back line and WILL be missed.

….4th game reactions “passing thoughts”…..the 1st period was totally Blues. There was great forechecking, movement w/o puck, good scoring opportunities. As the game wore on….it seemed that we wore down. The Sharks again stymied our power play by standing all 4 defenders right on the Blue line forcing us to dump & chase…which we had a difficult time doing effectively. It was good to see that in the waning seconds that the Blues cleared the puck without icing…lesson learned from game 3

….5th game ramblings….WOW! Blues came out checking and frustrating the Sharks. San Jose resorted to desperation, dirty, cheap hitting plays throughout much of the match. It was ironical to me that many of the Sharks players got injured…. when it was San Jose taking many cheap shots during play and after the whistle…throughout most of  the game.

….not called for a hand pass but getting “passed over” least at times… is Paul DeJong. As I write this on Friday, May 17, Cody Bellinger is #1 in WAR in the NL with a 3.8 mark. #2 is Christian Yelich with 3.1 and sitting in the #3 spot with a 2.9 WAR mark is Paul Dejong. The next 3 leaders in WAR are George Springer, Mike Trout and Javier Baez. That’s some heavy company for a SS that wasn’t a high draft choice but plays every day.  What is this WAR stuff anyway?….well…here’s the explanation–

What is this WAR stuff?   Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a statistic that attempts to measure the “total value” of a player over a given season. WAR calculates the total number of wins that any player adds to his team over the course of a season by comparing the player’s performance with that of a fictitious replacement. The “replacement player” is assumed to be an average Triple-A callup who might appear in the majors only as replacement for an injured player, and whose hitting/fielding or pitching skills are far below league average. According to Baseball Prospectus, a team consisting entirely of replacement-level players would likely be historically bad, winning only 20-25 games over a full 162-game season.

…for pure power-hitters…nothing passed over here… one needs to consult the IPO (isolated power index) to find the leaders. Currently it is Christian Yelich on May 17. The highest Card in this category is Marcell Ozuna @ #15. Marcell HAS been swinging  the bat aggressively for several weeks now and really has been a dominant hitter after his first 2 weeks …those 2 weeks looked more to me like he was in spring training play more than actual season play.

….there were plenty of good passes @ Busch last week as the USA Women’s Soccer team crushed New Zealand 5-0. Too much depth for the USA …as the game progressed, N Zealand couldn’t keep up with the more talented USA squad. Upwards of 30,000 energetic fans made it a tremendous atmosphere for both teams. The “friendly” (European term for non-conference) game brought out the best in the Lou.

….not passing up many good AB’s are the Houston Astros…with the addition of Michael Brantley(leading league in hitting currently), there is actually talk of the best offense of all-time…..I’m not ready to quite make that leap….but….the Astros are 29-15 (they’ve won 204 games in the last 2 years)…their pitching staff is 2nd in the AL in team ERA with a  3.52 mark (led by Justin Verlander&Gerrit Cole)…the batting of this club is really unbelievable.. 5.6 run/gm; 83 HR, .282 team batting average, .354 OB% and .512 slugging% or OPS of .866! Brantley just supplements the already strong lineup

….same ol’, same ol’….fans passed on this one….the two teams with the lowest MLB attendance are the Marlins & the Rays…when they played last week, a “crowd” of 6,300+ was announced. When one actually sees a pic of the crowd during mid-game, it appears that they were exaggerating by about 5,000! They may have seen more ushers than fans J

Cards passing notes…..

…..a week of baseball that we wished had “passed us by” for the Cards…StL hasn’t won a series since the National series Apr 29-May 2. Generally…it seems…we need to score 6+ runs to win a game. In fact, we’ve only won 3 games when we scored less than 5 runs all season. We really DON’T have an ace. Flaherty seems like he has talent…and he DOES have the lowest ERA of the starting staff @ 4.19 but…is that the type of numbers you expect of your ACE…..maybe….with time for him. Without the 2 Johns in the bullpen..what a luxury J…. (Brebbia & Gant), it’d be hard to find bright spots. Defensively…24 errors in 47 games…..ugh!!!

…..not waiting any longer as he was passed over in StL….C Carson Kelly has played in 26 of the D-backs 44 games…he’s hitting  .247 (18 of 73), 3 HR, 11 RBI’s, OBP .313, SLUG .479, OPS .792.

….sent back to the minors a few weeks ago, Tyler O’Neill is again sending bombs into the stands at Memphis on a regular basis. His return presents some other choices…. send Bader back to Memphis to “find his stroke”…trade Martinez while his stock is high…or trade… O’Neill himself. Many clubs would be happy with this type of “Popeye” hitter….great, big bulging arms, speed and plenty of HR & K’s.

….Add Luke Gregerson to the growing list of veteran relief hurlers that the Cards have “passed on their evaluations” … sometimes for substantial amounts of money…..and gained little then “kleenexed’ them quickly….Greg Holland, Brett Cecil, Zach Duke are examples.

…at this moment, the Cards have allowed 210 runs to score against them with their 23-22 record. The best teams in the “run prevention” category are—Tampa Bay 127, Houston Astros 159, Cubs 161, NYY 171, Twins/Dodgers 177….all but Tampa are in 1st place (behind the Yankees)…Cards don’t need more hitting….the difference between the “good” and “average” teams is  on the mound.

… on the High School Baseball level, District tournaments just concluded last week and not letting the   season “pass by them”, the Hillsboro Hawks, the #4 seed won the Class 5 District 1 tournament.  In the vast majority of cases in MO High School baseball, the #1 seed wins their district. #2 seed wins it on occasion. But having the #4 seed, who almost always must beat the #1 seed in the semis, rarely wins.  The Hawks, began the Class 4, District 1 tournament with a 11-6 record. Edging #5 seed, Cape Central (7-12) 4-2 in the opening round didn’t make it look like the season would extend much longer.  The next day, the Hawks stunned the #1 seed, the Jackson Indians(20-8), 8-6 in the semifinals….yes sir… a #4 beating a #1, you just don’t see that often in ANY sport in a district tournament. The Championship game between Hillsboro & Seckman was an outstanding game. The Hawks jumped ahead 2-0 then fell behind 4-2 until the 6th when Hillsboro tied it 4-4. The Hawks scored 4 runs in the top of the 7th only to see Seckman score twice to bring plenty of excitement to the last at bat of this District Title game. Hillsboro draws defending State Champion, Vianney, to open the STATE tournament this week.

Well…I’m going to pass it along now…..I’m asking you, with this new delivery system,  to help me keep a record of readers.  Yes… may sound weird….but I’m getting close to 70,000 readers in my “blog history”

As you noticed, this blog was delivered in a different manner. Due to some uncontrollable circumstances,  I sent it directly. I’m asking you…if you read the blog, to do me a favor, and just return my email to you…with a YES at the top of the email or on the subject line.   Yes….I am a numbers guy..I do record the amount of my readers every week ….I’m closing in on 70, THANKS for your response.

Now….pass it on….without a hand pass J

Right Place … Right Time by Bob Ryan

We all know that being in the right place, right time is an important part of life. I bet each of you could provide examples of that happening to you. But….being at the right place, wrong time can really be devastating….you saw in the  Kentucky Derby one horse cutting off another…..who knows maybe seconds earlier…or seconds later….there’s no disqualification and we have a different Kentucky Derby winner. It’s true all around sports and has been for a long time.

…of course the classic example is the Lou Gehrig story. According to folklore, on June 2, 1925 1B Wally Pipp showed up @ Yankee Stadium with a severe headache and asked the trainer for 2 aspirin. Mgr Miller Huggins overheard the request and said, “ Wally, take the day off. We’ll try that kid Gehrig  @ 1b today and get you back in there tomorrow. Gehrig had 3 hits that day….and didn’t miss a game again until May 2, 1939. 2130 consecutive games! Gehrig wasn’t just playing…he was truly outstanding….in his HOF career he scored AND drove in more than 100 run in 13 consecutive years. In 1931, Gehrig drove in 184 runs!! In 1934 Gehrig won the triple crown….HR (49), avg (.363), RBI (165). Not being intimidated by “Big Games”, Gehrig batted .361 cumulatively in the World Series’ in which he competed. Clearly Wall Pipp was at the wrong place and the wrong time with his statement. Btw….the most recent playing streaks of over 500 games is held by a very, very unlikely candidate in my eyes….I don’t think of this guy as one who could take the daily grinds of MLB action….it’s Prince Fielder—547 games, September 14, 2010-May 16, 2014.

….the Blues hiring of Craig Berube was a perfect example of right place, right time. The Blues seemed to need a more definitive approach. Berube’s, “ you WILL do this…or that” resonated with the Blues. His handling of veterans with the same type of corrective comments…sometimes …probably…on the harsh side helped to make the players feel that his message was to ALL the players…not just the youngsters. Berube had more experience than many seem to know. He was the HEAD coach of the Phil Flyers in 2013-14, 42-27-10; and 2014-15 when his team was 33-31-18.  

…another player who was at the right place, wrong time was Ted Simmons. Looking strictly at his batting credentials as a catcher, Simmons belongs in the HOF. Now, many feel that his defense wasn’t that strong.  He wasn’t BAD…..unfortunately for Ted, he played at the same time as Johnny Bench. Bench owned 10 Gold Gloves and was an All-Star 14x. Simmons got lost in his shadow.

…being at the right place, right time was ANY fan of the St Louis Blues for game 7 of the Dallas series. What an OUTSTANDING game and series! It kept one on the edge of their seats.  Now…I must admit … the Blues WINNING THE GAME….really topped off the excitement I enjoyed the play of the team but special place in my heart for Colton Parayko and Robert Thomas. Of Course the BIG B in net was truly incredible.  LGB, LGB, LGB,LGB, LGB (you get the idea…as I mimic the fans @ the game!)

….are more of  these 100mph hurlers going to continue to appear on the scene? It doesn’t look like it statistically….soooo….is it the right time to work on curve balls?  There is a possible end to the increasing velocity trend in the MLB and one of the reasons why we keep seeing more strikeouts. In 2008, just over 12 percent of fastballs were thrown at 95 mph or higher. By 2015, that number was nearly 22 percent, a tremendous increase. The thing is, it hasn’t gone higher. In 2018, it was still just barely over 22 percent. The average fastball was 93.6 mph in ’17… and 93.6 mph in ’18. Soooo….. maybe you “control…oops….command” type pitchers can take a deep breath. You may be in the right place at the right time.

….NBA players seem to be in the right place, right time. It seems to me that more and more of the super stars are following the Lebron James path. The players CHOOSE the team that they want to join, make it public to ward off any attempts by other teams and then cajole other “supers” to join them… the owners seem to be in the secondary level and just signing the checks and smiling. If that continues…..soon it’ll only be LA Lakers, one of the NY teams, Golden State maybe the Chicago Bulls drawing in the highest level players in the near future.

…being a seasoned…probably far above the minimum pay scale.. player in the MLB, is NOT being in the right place @ the right time currently. There has/is a definitive movement towards younger players in the MLB.  Of course, despite the huge incomes….this is another matter of more $$$$$ for the owners. Take a look, according to fan graphs…In 2000, players aged 30 and older took 86,019 plate appearances, and they threw 17,373 innings. They contributed 43.4 percent of all Wins Above Replacement . In 2017, players aged 30 and older took 69,110 plate appearances, and they threw 15,241 innings. They contributed 32 percent of all Wins Above Replacement. Now that we have 2018 in the rearview mirror, we can update those numbers, and it’s more of the same. In 2018, players aged 30 and older took 60,300 plate appearances, and they threw 15,129 2/3 innings. They contributed 29.8 percent of all Wins Above Replacement. 26000+ LESS plate appearances for that age group from the year 2000 to 2018.  Jeff Gyorko….watch out for the grim reaper!!

…..if you’re a young African-American athlete , it may seem to you  like the MLB is at the wrong place, wrong time for you. In 1981, 18.7% of the MLB  players, and 22% of the All-Star game rosters, were African-American. On opening day this year, African-American players made up 8.4% of the league, and recent All-Star rosters were less than 5% African-American. Meanwhile, African-American athletes dominate the NBA (74%) and the NFL(over 65%). I’m suggesting that IF the MLB wants to make progress in this area, that THEY should pay former players to be high school coaches. Their names alone should entice young athletes to at least TRY baseball. With a professional type approach at the HS level for an entire season…and hopefully….several seasons…..I believe that we’d see some upgrade in the number of African-Americans playing baseball in the MLB. Right now, many of these former Pro’s host 1 week camps in the summer….come on….how can you REALLY change a kid’s thoughts in 5 days?

….Jason Tatum… may be…at the right place, wrong time…..fellow Dukie,  Kyring Irving’s idea of sharing the ball and setting up teammates for “good looks” seems to be on the back burner currently. Tatum’s scoring has dropped due to the” Irving Alone “offense. However, Tatum has been a defensive stalwart during this playoff series. Many NBA viewers …and seemingly observers…have been bashing Tatum for not scoring. Ya can’t score if you don’t get timely, frequent passes…sorry…that’s how it is.

…..strangely….it seems like Luke Voit…who couldn’t nail down a job in the Lou….is NOW in the right place, right time in New York. Voit’s .333/.405/.689 slash line with the Yankees over the final two months of the 2018 season was a performance that demanded skepticism. NYY had acquired him from the Cards at the trade deadline in a transaction that most outside of StL didn’t even notice. Let’s dive into the numbers for 2019 for Voit. He doesn’t go after many pitches outside the zone…. Voit uses restraint outside the borders. He’s offered at just 16% of pitchers’ deliveries in Statcast’s “chase” and “waste” zones, giving him a similar profile to several of MLB’s most consistent hitters:

Voit: 87.2% swing vs. “heart” pitches | 16% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Freddie Freeman (ATL): 85.4% vs. “heart” | 14.4% vs. “chase/waste”pitches

Corey Seager (LAD): 84.8% vs. “heart” | 15% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Khris Davis (OAK): 84.7% vs. “heart” | 18.4% vs. “chase/waste” pitches

Christian Yelich (MIL): 82.0% vs. “heart” | 12.7% vs. “chase”/waste”  pitches

Then….when Voit does hit the ball….it’s with the sweet spot of the bat.

Highest “sweet spot” rate, 2019—Min. 50 batted balls (269 hitters)

1) Brian Goodwin (LAA): 47.6%

2) Austin Meadows (TB): 47.5%

3) Rowdy Tellez (TOR): 46.5%

4) Voit: 46.4%

5) Yadier Molina (STL): 46.2%

Sweet-spot rate: % of batted balls hit with launch angles between 8-32°

Further, Voit’s strikeout rate is reasonable …according to these staticians…

Voit’s reasonable 24.7% strikeout rate, his expected slugging percentage — based on his quality of contact and those punchouts — stands at .564. That ranks 16th among 216 hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.  I have nothing against Paul Goldschmidt…in fact….I think he’ll be a terrific addition but….darn…did we give away our home-towner, Luke Voit, for a smile & a shake?

….Being at the right place, at the  right time was the St. Louis Patriots. Competing in the Home-School Baseball World Series at Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Florida, the Patriots won the Homeschool World Series Association Division II title with an 11-7 victor over the Richmond Patriots recently. The Patriots (23-13-1) are led by 14 seniors. St. Louis Patriots Head coach Mark Valle had his doubts about this level of success about 3 weeks ago but when his team got healthy about a week later, things began to look up. Seniors David Olejnik,  Patrick Baalman and Frank Griesbauer were all named to the HWSA All-American squad. Olejnik, who has inked a scholarship with Western Illinois, was voted as a 2-time All-American by the National Athletic Association of Private Schools. He had prodigious semifinal and championship games as he batted 6-for-6, scored 6 runs with two doubles, two triples, one home run and five RBI’s. But…it isn’t anything new for Olejnik….for the season, he has a .474 batting mark with an OPS .933. He leads the team in hits (57), 2B(10), 3B (9) HR (9 ) & RBI’s (55). Olejnik has signed with W. Illinois for next season. He follows the Footsteps of Jacob Stoker, who played last year for the Patriots and saw considerable playing time THIS year at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

…we’re at the right place and right time to sign off…….thanks for the read!

Ozo … Batman or Robin by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                TBF         NP      P/batter

1 Flaherty, J                        130         553   4.25

2 Wainwright, A               136         515   3.78

3 Mikolas, M                      145         513   3.53

4 Wacha, M                        118         501   4.24

5 Hudson, D                        116         447   3.85

6 Gant, J                               68           292   4.29

7 Brebbia, J                         64           264   4.125

8 Miller, A                           56           239   4.26

9 Leone, D                           56           224   4.0

10 Hicks, J                            46           189   4.11

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

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

MLB’s Elevators by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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