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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                TBF         NP      P/batter

1 Flaherty, J                        130         553   4.25

2 Wainwright, A               136         515   3.78

3 Mikolas, M                      145         513   3.53

4 Wacha, M                        118         501   4.24

5 Hudson, D                        116         447   3.85

6 Gant, J                               68           292   4.29

7 Brebbia, J                         64           264   4.125

8 Miller, A                           56           239   4.26

9 Leone, D                           56           224   4.0

10 Hicks, J                            46           189   4.11

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

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

MLB’s Elevators by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raining down Hope by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Position          Player                         Rank    Age      2017 Level

Catcher           Carson Kelly               3         23        MLB

First Base        Luke Voit                    38        26        MLB

Second Base   Max Schrock   *          15        23        AA

Shortstop       Yairo Munoz   *          14        22        AAA

Third Base       Evan Mendoza           26        21        A

Corner Outfield Tyler O’Neill *         5          22        AAA

Corner Outfield  Adolis Garcia *       12        24        AAA

Center field    Harrison Bader           4          23        MLB

LH Starter       Austin Gomber           10        24        AA

RH Starter      Alex Reyes                  1          23        MLB

LH Reliever     Ryan Sherriff *           41        27        MLB

RH Reliever     Josh Lucas *                43        27        MLB

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

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

Top Cardinal Prospect of 2015:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside the Lou…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow UP Spring Training by Bob Ryan

Spring Training…the rite of starting a new year….well..not exactly…it’s starting the PRACTICE for the new year. While results may be kept some place…probably only by agents and MLB management….everyone knows that this is “practice”.  The players are elevating their skills, stamina, practice time while decreasing on their weight, public appearances and amount of leisure time.   And…..it’s been this way for a long, long time….say 100 years! BLOW IT UP!

I think that it’s far too long…originally, major league baseball players were paid slightly above the “average Joe”…take a look …looking way back….then to recent days..

…..in the 1920’s, the AL team salaries looked like this on opening day 2019

Boston Red Sox, $93,475; New York Yankees, $91,330; Chicago White Sox, $88,461

Detroit Tigers, $81,433;Cleveland Indians, $78,913; St. Louis Browns, $63,000

Washington Senators, $63,000;Philadelphia A’s, $42,000  (25 players per team)..btw..Connie Mack..oft revered now as a baseball pioneer…was the owner of the Phil A’s and was known for is low budget(he was the owner AND the manager)….I’m trying to be nice here. Check out his 1920 pay scale…ugh

Average for the AL per player in 1920–$ 3323  the average working salary  in 1920 was $1236. I have to assume that the NL was comparable to the AL in salaries in 1920.

….at 1950, Joe Average’s median income was around $3000, MLB players were about $12,300

Soooo……a Major league Player to that point was 3x or 4x the working guy.  He felt compelled to work in the off season.  Many sold cars, insurance, owned restaurants, etc. The players stayed busy “making a buck” because …while their pay was excellent for the time….they realized that their careers would end in the early part of their life and that this money was not enough to sustain them for the remainders of their life.

….once Marvin Miller opened the flood gates to enormous salaries in 1975, the income discrepancy had a dramatic difference between MLB players & the working guy.

During the 1980, the avg income in MLB was $143,000. 1980 avg for working guy $17,757

It keeps jump exponentially for MLB players….by 1990 it was $597,000, in 2000 it was $1,895 000 and so on & and so on…two things here…the average is elevated substantially by the highest paid players receiving  multi-hundred million dollar contracts so the average is skewed somewhat. I was unable to find the median income (the middle point income) for the MLB. Btw…the current minimum is over $ 555,000

….so what’s the point with all these pay numbers….MLB players DON’T need to work in the off season in jobs away from baseball any longer. Their FULL time..FULL year….job is baseball.

…With that supposition, baseball players should take a short time off after the season. Then, beginning preparing for the individual skills required for the next season with a trainer, batting instructor, nutritionist, fitness guru, whatever it takes to begin playingat full speed  when spring training opens up. Let the team batting coach watch your swings on-line…. or, your pitching delivery on-line…or fly out to work out in front of him.

Spring training should be 4 weeks….TOTAL…1 week practice, each day it’d be 9-12, 1-5 to review the team skills  (relays, bunt situations, cutoffs, run downs, etc) for a good part of the day.  Some part of the day (maybe afternoons) focus on the individual skills. 3 weeks of games with additional practice in the mornings.  Play tons of B games for the young players, maybe even DH for them. Don’t pretend that most of these 20, 21 year old guys are actually candidates to make the team…cut us a break…who are you kidding?

…when a player reports, he should be given a physical exam and an exam of his bat speed, running ability, throwing ability, eye test (great batters have tremendous eyesight) and pitching test. If he fails the physical part of the exam …not rehabbing injuries…his contract becomes null & void …like the NFL. Common sense does still prevail….if a player had an extensive surgery….that the team knew about & sanctioned….it would be reasonable to expect some of those type players to be incapacitated….e.g. alex Reyes. Not like Ozuna & Martinez coming to camp without their arms being “ready”. If it wasn’t ready…their contract could be voided by the team.

….Further, I believe a totally different approach is demanded of pitchers. Currently, pitchers come to camp, throw 30-40 pitches in the 1st week. I would expect pitchers to ARRIVE at camp being able to throw 100 pitches.  From that point on…build them up to 140 or even 150 pitches.  NO……I don’t expect them to pitch 150 pitches a game…but…if you ALWAYS stop at 100 pitches….guess what….your arm will begin to always get tired and weaker at 100 pitches. I was never a professional player….but even at high school level….an athlete OVER prepared for their sport …swung a bat more, shot more baskets, ran around the track more, etc. So.. this isn’t rocket science.

…in the exhibition season (3 weeks)….play the top 30-35 players only…they should play games 5x a week…this isn’t a vacation as it once was….I’m aware of a former Cardinal player whose children attended schools in StL….he’d pull them out for a couple weeks of spring training because “they could spend time together in the afternoons”…..spring training should be a player fighting for a spot..either on the team or in a starting position.

Thus far, it may seem as if I’m laying it all on the players….the managers/coaches would also have full 8 hour days. Spring training should be more like a “boot” camp than a trip to the lake J

As usual, money plays a part in spring training.  MLB teams …at least some of them….are drawing decent sized crowds to their games. Apparently, Boston sold out all of their home games in Florida (it’s a replica of Fenway). The league draws over 4 million fans to exhibition games every year since 2015. Other teams drawing well are the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers…..gee…seems like the rich get richer, heh?

Blowing up an arm….you’ll recall my warnings about Brandon Morrow’s work load in the 2017 post season for the Dodgers.  He pitched in 14 post season games for Lain 2017….last year, after the Cubs signed him to a “nice” contract, his arm went dead after 35 games.  It’s still not doing well this spring. Morrow will be 35 years old in July….an veteran who went to the pen after being a starter while compiling 334 appearances and almost 900 MLB innings can’t be abused in that way and not expect some repercussions.

Blowing up the pay-scale….In an effort to prevent the “big” teams from dominating the free agent market, the MLB instituted the luxury tax.  The luxury tax threshold this year is $206m. If eclipsed by a team for 3 straight years (like the Dodgers did in recent years) the team is required to pay a 50% tax on every dollar they spend over the limit. The Dodgers experienced this “tax” recently and then pulled back from over-the-top free agency…at least temporarily….now the Nationals are facing the same dilemma as they consider adding Craig Kimbrel and/or Dallas Keuchel.

Early Cardinal reactions to spring training….

….Ozuna & Martinez arm problems are disconcerting. Neither seemed to do much to get the arm issue resolved in the off –season. I think Ozuna has already “checked out” of  the Lou and is drooling as he waits to become a free agent at the end of 2019….I guess he doesn’t understand that teams will elevate or …lower….their offers depending upon his production.

…Keeping in mind the Ozuna “issue”, Jose Martinez is getting more positive ink than Bryce Harper in the Post.  Every 2nd or 3rd day, he gets a feature. It seems to me that the Cards… oops Post-Dispatch…..want the fans to be ready to accept Martinez as an every-day type guy.

….Haven’t heard much about Paul DeJong and Kolton Wong. To me…it’d be good for the team if each of them played 140+ games….no one plays 150+ any more, do they?…if they play that often…a) they are healthy   b) they are performing

…Harrison Bader continues to struggle hitting the slider in Florida. Throw him sliders in half of his batting practice pitches. His defense is terrific, we need just “some” hitting.

….Starting rotation still seems thin to me…btw…free agent starters are cheaper now than in June or July..

Basketball hysteria!!!

It’s a great time of year for College and High School basketball….you’ve all been following your favorite teams or your favorite underdogs… some thoughts…

….on the women’s side of basketball…..Mizzou’s Lady Tigers (23-11)should get a post-season bid after finishing 5th in the SEC regular season schedule. Losing in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament to #1 seed, Mississippi State 71-59 should not hurt their chances. I was fortunate to see Sophie Cunningham play as an underclassman @ Rock Bridge HS (in Columbia). She was the star of her talented team then. She just became the all-time leading scorer in Mizzou Women Basketball. Currently Cunningham has scored 2157 points. She broke the record established way back in 1985. That is surprising because in 1985 ,Women’s basketball wasn’t played at the level that it is now.

.….maybe it’s my imagination…or just me….but since the phony class scandal @ N.Carolina and the shoe scandal @ Duke…I’m not as interested in either program as I once was.

….I’ll miss Barry Hinson who resigned as SIU-C’s coach after their last loss. He reminded me of Charlie Spoonhower….often saw the funny side of things, won basketball games, kept it simple for the players.

…on the Missouri High School side of things…the Yankees of Girls Basketball, Incarnate Word Academy will snatch their next State Trophy next weekend. It doesn’t seem to matter who the opposition is for the Red Knights. Coach Dan Rolfes works very hard, drives his staff and works his players for constant improvement and onto excellence,  expectations are set high and met. This year’s team is 28-2. Last weekend they avenged an earlier loss to Parkway North in the STATE Quarterfinal 60-52.  Marissa Warren, is 1 of 4 Knights scoring in double figures, and is leading the team at a 14.2 clip. Warren also leads the team in assists and steals and is 3rd in rebounding. Other players scoring over 10ppg are Kiki Britzmann, Kate Rolfes, and Rickie Woltmann.  Woltmann tops the team in rebounds also while Rolfes’ 3 point baskets are the most on the roster. Incredibly, this will be the 10th straight year in the Final Four for Coach Rolfes. IWA took home the top prize in 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010….their records go far beyond that point…but you get the idea!

….on the other side of the coin, making their 1st trip EVER to the Final Four – under Head Coach Bryan Turner on the boys side are the St. Mary’s Dragons. SM had appeared in only two STATE Quarterfinal games (last year and 1967)prior to Saturday’s game. The Dragons were under the radar all year. Sure… everyone had heard about this guard, named Yuri Collins, going to St Louis U next year but Collins had shoulder surgery that postponed his arrival on the court this year. The Dragons, without Collins, started slowly. They were 3-5 on Dec 15 after losing to conference foe, Tolton Catholic (Columbia, MO). Btw…Tolten has some more Porters coming along for Mizzou. Anyway…SM’s conference is largely overlooked by most observers. Probably,  because of its design and size. These are mid-sized High schools. The AAA conference large division is a regional conference. It has SM (South City), Borgia (Washington, MO), St Dominic (O’Fallon, MO), Cardinal Ritter (North City) and Tolten Catholic (Columbia, MO).  It is a talented basketball conference. SM is going to STATE. Borgia won district and Ritter & Tolten dropped their district championship games. Ritter went toe-toe with Vashon in the title game. Needless to say, SM was a huge underdog against Hillsboro (23-4) in the Sectional. The Dragons speed was far too much for the Hawks as SM won 95-46. In the STATE Quarterfinal, Cape Central 26-3 had lost their 3 games by a grand total of 10 points…they were good, very good. SM fell behind 13-2 but used some pressure defense and Yuri to come back. In the 2nd half, it was all Yuri as he scored 31 for the game  with 10 assists and really “ran the show” as Dragons won 68-62. Donovan Parker had an amazing 9 blocks in the game.  Noah Hamilton snatched 5 steals and knocked down 4 consecutive FT late in the game. One never knows about the Final Four but for the Dragons .. they’ve already  broken the barrier to the Final Four.

….well…..thanks for making it to the bottom and not “blowing up” my blog J

Sign Him Now! by Bob Ryan

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

….a DEEP LOOK @ CARDS in February

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

MINOR LEAGUE Yo-Yo SYSTEM..

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

….the minor league salary is pitiful.  

Level                                       1st Year 2ndYear 3rd Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard incentives include:

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

$5000 bonus after 60 days Big League time.

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

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

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

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

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

STARTING ROTATION..

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

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

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

LOOKING AHEAD…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or …if we keep going down the list—

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

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

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

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

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

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

…OFF THE MOUND….to the OUTFIELD

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

…NOW…brief INFIELD “take”

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

Around Baseball…

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

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

Oasis in Sports Desert by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You probably haven’t heard by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

These stats are from 2018:          

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mizzou vs NCAA by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

Now the story brings us to Mizzou……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My proposal:

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

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

…some “good news” coming about Albert Pujols.

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

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

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

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

CSDHL back on Prepcasts 2.9.19 – 2.10.19

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

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

Here is our schedule:

CANLAN