Crackerjack Surprises by Bob Ryan

When some of us were kids, Cracker Jack was a common type of candy. Inside every box came a surprise “prize”. Those surprises usually amused us for a few minutes….and then…it was forgotten or discarded.  That’s about the same spirit of sports surprises…it catches our attention….for a short while…then moves into the graveyard of our memory bank by about Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week! Nonetheless, there were a plethora of “surprises in the sports world in the last week…..

….Anibel Sanchez….who? a 35 year old, 14 year veteran who carries a 108-108 lifetime record….this grizzled vet, ties up the Cards bats like he was Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax or Greg Maddux. His “fast”ball seldom hit 90mph yet…..Sanchez gives up 1 hit in 7 2/3 innings on Friday night…. Surprise? …more like SHOCK! Listening to the game on the radio as we returned from covering a football game, the announcers were incredulous that Sanchez was performing in this manner. Once again, his control and craftiness in mixing up his pitches on key counts and putting them in absolutely perfect spots. It was a surprise to ALL!

….then the next game, two long-time pitching stalwarts….one past his prime and the other on the cusp of leaving his prime (Wainwright & Scherzer) battled in yet another pitching dual. Between the 2 of them, we’ve seen 342 wins, 4600 inn of Major League pitching, 15 shutouts, 4 saves, 794 games in the MLB, 33 complete games—two true professionals but….could they still do it? Both pitchers were superb….again it wasn’t the over powering fastball….it was the pin-perfect control, the art of pitching….again made enjoyable because EVERY batter mattered and was worked on by the art of the pitching craft. Surprised by their work? Really? These will be 2 HOF pitchers. Monday night may bring us more surprises.

… after years…maybe decades… of pandering to the televised audience and not the actual crowd in attendance, the MLB seems surprised that attendance is down…again…for 6th straight year. We ALL know the answer….MLB is making more money from televised, national games than at the gate. Here are 7 possible reasons for the drop in attendance..1) Length of game…. Years ago… was 1 minute between innings….it’s increased to 2:30 now…why has that time increased…we all know the reason…to satisfy the needs of the televised sponsors.  This time between innings  increases more for post season games… for Joe…or Jane… FAN at the game, it’s probably close to 4 hour day at the ‘ol ballpark before fans (who stay the entire game) start for home.  2) TV coverage is REALLY good…and if it’s a bad game….you just turn it off…you don’t feel obligated to “stay and watch” 3) While the attendance is down, the income generated from the fans is UP. Sooo…does it really matter to the MLB teams where the money is coming from? 4) Some teams “tank”…..grab the TV $$$…bank it…and send out a minor-league level team. These teams still show a profit due to ….yep….TV money. The fans have the opportunity to watch their team compete…for almost a month or so….then…they are outta of it in the standings.  Attendance in these markets lag far behind. One might speculate that some of these markets…after years of bad teams….are NEVER going to build a fan base. 5) Only a few franchises….like StL, Yankees, Boston, Cubs, Dodgers  have generational fans. Tradition keeps the attendance moving down the line. In the vast majority of teams, that generational pass-on doesn’t exist…and…I’m not so sure that it will even continue in the Lou. 6) MLB is doing a very poor job of reaching out “youngsters and young adults—teens or in the 20’s”. Not only is attendance dropping with that segment but how will it attendance be brought back when these current young adults have their own families?  The MLB… especially the Cardinals… seem to think that giving away trinkets … or shirts… bobbleheads… hats… whatever…will lure fans to the game…maybe that’s their “reach out” to the younger generations….but to this point, MLB, in general, doesn’t seem to care about actually taking direct steps to touch the youth….e.g. could teams could return to “teen night”- deeply reduced ticket prices for seats less than 250 feet from home plate for teens; dugout nite when much younger fans  walk thru the dugout prior to game to see their heroes,o autographs that will be sold later…by someone else; let kids or teens (not adults) play those contests shown on the big board during the game;  7) Let’s face it…there are …probably…only 10 of the 30 teams that know….deep down…that they actually have a post-season chance. Another way to raise attendance is to raise hope. Mandate a minimum salary base for EVERY team. Hopefully they’ll bring in some ‘stars”….even if they are overpriced (e.g. Harper, Machado) .. if they do ….it’ll raise hope and interest….at least for awhile.

….One additional area of MLB surprises….I’m surprised that more people  aren’t hurt at the ballpark….I would suggest…1) extend the netting all the way from foul pole to foul pole….fans want souvenirs….leave enough room under the bottom of the netting to squeeze the ball under the netting to kids. 2) Make sure that all bat boys/girls wear helmets with a face mask on it. Remember Encarcion’s career ending with a foul ball hitting him in the face….now, those batboys DO wear helmets but they should wear helmets with  a football facemask to protect their face.

…..on the NCAA-F “surprise” front…..

…a surprise was the ease that Mizzou handled Old Miss 38-27. The Tigers looked much more athletic and stronger in the line. The WR corp looks to be balanced while Roundtree is a power back that each good team needs. While seemingly always in control…there still were missteps…2 missed extra points. (footnote….I coached HS Frosh Football for 12 years….never had 2 missed PAT in an entire season…much less a single game—and I don’t think it was my coaching), on occasion the LB seem to get bottled up inside…. Mississippi….like many others have attempted…is trying to serve 2 masters by platooning QB Matt Corral (can pass & run a little) and John Rhys Plumlee (can really run and pass a little)… seldom…if ever…. Does switching QB on & off during the game result in a win over good teams…maybe over average or weak teams …but not good teams. On a side note, the Tigers played with emotion…that’s good… but… sometimes…after a good play… a bit too much emotion…that’s not good….it sometimes causes lack of concentration on the next play. I also thought that the defense took some poor angles when flying after Plumlee, who would then turn the corner on them for a longer gain. On the bright side…..the Mizzou offensive production has been terrific…the Tigers have NEVER scored less than 30 points in any 2019 game!

….Not a huge surprise….OU’s speed choked off Texas 34-27. The Longhorns did seem to adjust as the game unfolded but the LB, Secondary, WR, D-Line –ALL looked quicker that Texas. OU had the emotion to begin the game…as game unfolded, Texas regained its composure…used an unbalanced line to befuddle the Sooners defense against the run. OU QB Jalen Hurts, the transfer from Bama, seems much more relaxed by this completely up tempo offense…and also maybe because there isn’t any competition for him @ QB J  He’s not looking over his shoulder if he makes a mistake.

…most were not only surprised,,,but shocked… in the biggest upset of the day…. that Georgia (24.5 points favorite in pre-game)  fell to S.Carolina in 2-OT  20-17. S. Carolina’s kicker Parker White split the uprights for a 23 yard FG to win the game.  Georgia’s kicker missed two FG attempts at the end of the 1st & 2nd OT.  But….the real reason… some say….for the loss, was 4 turnovers (3 of them INT). The momentum still seemed to be heavily seated on the Bulldog side of the field when Georgia marched on a 96 yard drive to tie the game with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation. But…the Gamecocks survived the two missed FG attempts to snatch the win and drop Georgia out of the top 5 and maybe even the top 10.

….no one can be surprised that Antonio Brown is attempting to get back into the NFL. No doubt, he was…maybe still is…a premier receiver. However, Professional teams are reluctant to bring in a player who has experienced so much difficulty with other players and/or other teams…right or wrong…it seems the only chance that he has is  with the Patriots …yet .. it seems as if that bridge was burned a couple weeks ago.

….we began with the Cracker Jack….let’s finish it up with Cracker Jack….W.K. Kellogg was the first to introduce prizes inside Cracker Jack boxes in 1912.  The origination of Cracker Jack has varying interpretations  but most agree it was sold in 1896. It was so popular in the early 20th century that it became part of our national pastime’s favorite song, “Take me out to the Ballgame” with the lyrics , “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!” Prizes were included in every box of Cracker Jack beginning in 1912.  At one point, Baseball cards were the prizes. Some lucky person…or people…found the card a T206 Honus Wagner Card. That card sold on April 6, 2013 for $2.1 million in an online auction! Frito-Lay now owns the product.  Thanks for the read! YOUR comments….surprise or not….are always invited.  

Bright Lights of Post Season by Bob Ryan

MLB teams compete for 6 months of games to compete in the post-season. It’s much easier now to make the playoffs than it was decades ago as for years the ONLY post season was the World Series. But….it may be more difficult…in another way….because a team now must win 2 or 3 different series against tough opponents. Each game…each series …is in the bright lights as each play, player and team are scrutinized closely throughout the month of October. Some players thrive on the pressure, others wither, some fall apart, some become stars for life with their play….for many, their play in post season will define their careers.

….Last night’s Cards-Braves game was a thrilling game. The low 3-1 score made each play, each pitch, each managerial “move” important.  Despite not winning, Adam Wainwright’s pitching was incredible. The 38 year old Wainwright was in his element in the bright lights. His mixture of his 90 or 91 mph fastball with his curve along with his control made it a thing of beauty to watch him carve up these MLB hitters. On the other side, seemingly anxious under the bright lights, Carlos Martinez fell apart . It seems to me that Carlos seems to pitch much better out of the windup. His efficiency seems to sag when he goes off the stretch. Mgr Mike Shildt used Martinez just as he’s done late in the season. On the Braves, Mark Melancon, who clearly is on the downside of his strong closing career, kept his poise…and control…. to wrap up game 3 for Atlanta. The Unlikely bright lights heroes of  SS Dansby Swanson (who made several outstanding  defensive plays & Adam Duvall will carve out a small piece of Brave history. Btw…the Cards pitched to Swanson because of his .187 batting average with runners in scoring position—which was the lowest in the majors this year among qualified players. For Duvall, it was the 2nd consecutive game that he’s delivered late in the game at clutch times. Maybe they’ll start throwing him some breaking balls…with some in the dirt. It’s clear that he can hit fastballs.  Will Shildt continue to go back to Martinez tonight or game 5? What would you do?  If not, who would you use at crunch time?  Please keep in mind an unspoken area….salary level of players …..the high priced guys probably won’t be on the bench to see a minimum pay level player replace him. IF the lower paid player fails, won’t management question their manager about the usage of the squad? Or…maybe just fire him for that type of usage.

… Some Players are “made” by their performances in post-season. Right off the bat here in StL, David Freese pops into mind. Other players are remembered …probably beyond their actual life-time stats level for their post season play—Will Clark for his huge batting numbers in 1989—he batted .650 in 22 plate appearance, slugged 1.200 for the playoff series,  and an OPS of 1.882 for that series…btw, Clark batted .468 in 70 post-season plate appearances. Just in World Series action, several Yankees dot the record book….Another StL connection, Yogi Berra holds multiple World Series records —hits with 71, he’s 2nd in runs scored-41,  3rd in HR (12). Another familiar name to more recent history—Reggie Jackson is 2nd in total bases in a season-1977; tied for 1st in HR in world series-5 also in 1977. Mickey Mantle’s name is sprinkled across many other World Series records. Across the league, Bob Gibson became recognized as a HOF pitcher with his work in the 64, 67, 68 World Series. He was 7-2 lifetime  with a 1.89 career ERA in the World Series..  And what a difference from today…he completed 8 of his 9 starts!!!  WOW!  Yadier Molina has definitely carved out of place in MLB laurels….

based on the longevity & performance of his post-season performances that spanned from 2004 to 2019. He’s participated in 21 different post-season series (including Atlanta). His post-season career batting mark is .285. He’s been in 4 different World Series that span from 2004 to 2013. The other catchers who fall into this “fame by familiarity & performance” category… are Yogi Berra (14 World Series from 1947 to 1963…he holds many batting records for post season play)  and Thurman Munson( 5 straight post-season, including 3 World Series). Munson died in a plane crash in Aug 1979 at age 32…so he could have played in a few more post-season affairs.

….Historically, the teams that shine the most under the bright lights are those that capture World Series championships. In modern times, it may be lessened to which teams “make” the World Series. The Yankees pop right into mind….and justifiably….it was the acquisition of Babe Ruth that began this 100 year run by NYY. I said one-hundred year RUN! WOW! In 1920, Ruth was sent from Boston to NYY for $100,000 equivalent to about $3+m in today’s money. It almost sounds like chump change in this new era of huge money! Ruth began this 100 year dynasty of the Yanks.  It’s really incredible….I know…I know…they spend the most money because the make the most money…none the less, judgements must be made on star players, developing players, on fading players. Take a look at these numbers

WORLD Series Champion:1923,27,28,32,36,37,38,39,41, 43,47,49, 50,51,52,53,56,58,61,62,   

                                                1977,78,96,98,99,2000,09 – 27x

World Series participant: 1921, 22,26,42,55,57,60,63,64,76,81,2001,03 -13x

Playoff participant: 1980,95,97,2002,04,05,06,07,10,11,12,15,17,18,19  -15x

That’s 55 playoff appearances since the Babe was acquired-100 years ago!

….In the 2019 playoffs to this point…..there are still players who are drawing the bright lights…Justin Verlander’s superb shutout,1 hit in 7 inn  pitching keeps him in the bright lights that he’s earned over the years; Steven Strasburg’s relief & starting roles have made him special thus far—9 inn, 5 hits, 1 run, 14 K’s; Ronald Acuna has brought bright lights for his batting (4 of 8) but also the lights go out for him as he made crucial baserunning mistakes (poor judgment on one and complete lack of hustle on another). I don’t care if he’s “only” 21….you teach baseball beginners to run out every ball…period.  Yandy Diaz’s light is shining brightly..obtained by the shrewd staff of Tampa Bay  …at a minimum pay player…he almost single-handedly won the wild card game against Oakland with two home runs. Another bright light belongs to Daniel Hudson this post season. He was obtained by the Nats at the trading deadline and in post season…where middle relievers oft determine the winner/loser of the games….he already has 2 saves.

….Bright lights don’t shine their brightest in NCAA-F until the “pre-season” cupcakes are swallowed up. We’re finally coming close to the end of these cupcake parties….some bright lights are beginning to glow…the SEC….since Mizzou moved in….has always claimed that the Western Division is superior to the Eastern side. This year in the West, it’s Alabama & LSU. Bama appears to be its usual “bright light” type of team….but its difficult to determine, when they play such a soft non-league schedule. Meanwhile, the completely revised LSU offense which utilizes all the athleticism that seems to always have been there, but was  laying dormant, has been brought to life. This year the Eastern side of the SEC has Florida and Georgia. Both are extremely capable. The Gators just knocked off a solid Auburn team on Saturday. However…. unless they win the SEC title, the cupcake wins over Towson & UT-Martin may make them unappealing to the Championship committee. The LSU-Florida game this weekend will indicate which team stays in the bright lights and which moves on.

…Mizzou’s bright lights dimmed a bit…or maybe a lot….with the injury to Kelly Bryant. The offense had been redesigned to use his running …and passing .. skills. The Tigers will have to alter their offense and count on a strong defense down the road in order to stay in the bright lights. However,  after the next 2 weeks when they face a mild challenge in Mississippi (3-3) and a cupcake in Vanderbilt (1-4). The string of three consecutive tough games for Mizzou begins. It starts with Kentucky, then bye week(why 2 bye weeks in a season now?…are we trying to play right up the the New Years Day bowl games?), Georgia & Florida. Kentucky may not look challenging to you…or the Tigers…but….Kentucky has won the last 4 years against Mizzou and the game is at Kentucky. Georgia & Florida speak for themselves.

…groomed for the bright lights  of the future by the Cards…maybe as early as next year if Ozuna is not resigned…slim chance that will happen….20 year old Dylan Carlson batted.281 this  year in 108 games @ Springfeild-AA. He did draw 52 walks, struck out 98x in 417 official AB (almost 1/4o f the time) and belted 21 round trippers. What do you think… we throw him out there right away next year ….or….keep him down past the magic day that gives the Cards an extra year of control……knowing the Cards history….we probably know that answer. Not viewed as such bright light is Randy Arozarena. However, I would give Arozarena a legitimate shot …starting in spring training…he’s now 24….ready to arrive in the bright lights at the highest level.  Carlson will get his day.

….never thought that I’d see the day that WWE goes prime-time bright lights on a major network. It’s a shame that Ric Flair isn’t 20 years younger…..he’d be a national hero! Whhoooooaaa….I’m turning off my lights now….thx for the read! Love getting YOUR responses…you can disagree that’s natural….no 2 people always think exactly the same.

Breaking the Tape by Bob Ryan

For the majority of the MLB teams….the race to the finish line never existed….or many faded …or… never were in the race to the finish line….that leads to some usual …and unusual responses..

….first of all, the Cardinals despite some struggling times during the 2019 season, break the tape on the final day of the regular season. With the Cubs as the opponent….Joe Madden already fired….the 3 best players on their roster injured…and with Jack Flaherty on the mound…I felt that if the Cards jumped to an early lead of a couple runs or more that the Cubbies would fold… and they did. The outcome of game wasn’t in doubt after 4 innings. The bottom of the 8th …with the Cards coasting easily….saw a genuinely “neat” moment. Long time MLB player, 38 year old Ben Zobrist pitched the bottom of the 8th.   His 70ish MPH fastball was sometimes in the strike zone,  and sometimes had movement (seemed to drop from lack of speed), but he apparently was fulfilling a life-time dream. He was known as a player who played every IF and OF positions. The Cubs missed all of his contributions this year as he went to a prolonged marital issue. When he struck out Yadi to end the game, the two of them realized that he was a professional but living out a childhood dream.

…why did we not go “all out” to reach the finish line first? Did anyone else find it strange that in the last week, in the heat of a tight pennant race, that the day after the upteen hour game that lasted until 3:30am against Arizona…the Cards played only one regular starter (Tommy Edman)?  I realize that they’d be tired….but wouldn’t their opponents be the same way?  Btw…the Cards lost this game 9-7….with every game being  extremely important in this very, very tight pennant race. Why give one away …with a day off the next day and only 3 games remaining? Rest up all winterJ

…as long as we’re talking Cardinals….in the 2nd last game of the year, trailing by 2 runs, closer Carlos Martinez was brought into the game to pitch the 9th inning. He struggled to get through the inning and threw 26 pitches. There are only 2 other times that Martinez has thrown that many pitches as a reliever since July 1. On both those occasions, he did NOT pitch the next day! Why would you take the chance of weakening him or not be able to use him for the crucial final game of the year. We were already behind by 2 runs on Saturday!!

…talking about going wire to wire…..Paul Goldschmidt will play in 161 games this year! WOW!   Sure….some wanted a higher average….I would too….but he is a typical #3 or #4 batter in the lineup—has power and avg is secondary. His defensive play at 1B can not be understated. Our 1B defensive play last year between Crap…oops…Carp…and Jose Martinez was almost amateurish in nature. 161 games in this era is phenomenal…..the last Cardinal to play 160 games was Albert Pujols in 2009. Prior to 2009, the next year that a Cardinal played in 160 or more games was 1989 (30 years ago) when Pedro Guerrero, Jose Oquendo and Terry Pendleton ALL played in 160 or more games. Also in 89, Ozzie played in 155, Milt Thompson 155 and Tom Brunasky played 158 games…never were Bob Dylan’s words more true, “ the times…they are a changing” btw…the Cards were 86-76 in 1989.

…now we look ahead to the next “tape”….the division series against the Braves…taking it one area at a time…the Braves have been more productive at the plate in 2019. To me the most important stat isn’t Home runs, hits, on base…it’s simply –who scores the most runs.  The Braves are #7 in the MLB while the Cards are #21. In the OPS (on base+ slugging %), Atlanta was #7 in the MLB @ .791 while the Cards were #22 with a .735 mark. To some experts…far above my pay grade…the lineup is said to be “thin”. They could site these reasons—only one healthy regular is above .275 (Tommy Edman—Wong is injured); 4 of the starting 8 players have more strikeouts than hits;  the Cards have scored 4 runs or less in 86 of their games while Atlanta average 5.27 runs per game. On the other side……the Cards are a different team than many…the Cards are statistically the #1 defensive team in the MLB….the Cards have been aggressive and successful running the bases (outside of pure steals)..the Cards bullpen was steller in September. The Braves have stayed healthy throughout 2019. Four very important players (Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and Ozzie Albies have all played in 150+ games this year. All four of them have an OPS over .800! Nick Markakis contributes significantly in key situations.  In many games, this foursome bats #1-2-3-4 in the lineup. The starting pitching as a young ace (just like the Cards) 21 year old Mike Sorotka was 13-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 164 innings.  Seasoned vet, Dallas Keuchel was acquired just for this purpose—post season experience. He’s a lot like the Cub pitchers that we’ve seen in 7 games in the last 10 days. He was rocky in his first few outings in mid-season but has found his niche of late. Julio Tehran seems to really struggle against the Cardinals. Mike Foltynewicz was down and then back up later in the season with better control. Young Max Fried..may or may not get a start…hope he does…we’ll hit him.   The bullpen has struggled on and off throughout much of the season. Mark Melancon was acquired to nail down games. Cards starters…..Ride Flaherty as often as you can….he’s our man! Get 2 starts out of him! I’m worried about Dakota Hudson in this series. He’s given up 22 HR and Atlanta is a HR ball-park. Hudson has thrown 174 innings already this year…hope he still has some gas in the tank.  As much as I admire Adam Wainwright…you can tell almost immediately if he “has his stuff”.  If he doesn’t, take him out earlier rather than later.

….soooo…what should you watch for…..which team has to go early to the bullpen…the Cards seem to be better set for the 8th & 9th but the mid-innings could be a struggle for both teams…so whichever team calls for bullpen help early…they’re in trouble;  I think that the Cards have the advantage in the 8th-9th innings with their pen; the Braves bat the “big” guys at the top of the order—Cards can not allow the bottom of the Brave order to get on base early in an inning and set up these guys with men on base; Cards have speed now (Edman, Bader, Wong—maybe?, Fowler to a point)….I don’t think that the Braves catchers, Tyler Flowers & Brian McCann, are real good at throwing out runners—advantage Cards; Cards defense MUST stay steller despite the “pressure” of the game; the Cardinals must make the Braves hurlers throw strikes…too many times this season, the Cards batters went after low breaking sliders outside the strike zone and came up empty. If the Cards swing at those pitches, we’re in trouble. The Cards really need Goldie or Ozuna to have a big series….they can’t get by without those big bats.

….In the world of NCAA-Football….…the finish line for the Heisman Trophy race puzzles me….how can Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts be considered as a Heisman candidate when he left Alabama because he had lost the #1 job? He wasn’t the best QB @ Bama yet now some think that he’s the best player in the entire NCAA?

…A team that most fans thought would make a run to the finish line…fell short….way short….the most disappointing MLB team this year was the Philadelphia Phillies. All the hoopla about signing Bryce Harper has led to nothing except an enormous salary…the first year of contract was amazing low..only $11m….next year it jumps up $27m and stays at that scale for 8 more years! It drops to $23m for his last 3 years of the contract. 2019 saw Harper hit a mediocre .258 with 34 HR and an OPS of .877. Harper did lead the team in RBI’s -109 and runs scored-96. Another key acquisition,  JT Realmuto, carried a .275 batting mark with 83 RBI’s (high for a catcher) and OPS .820….anything over .800 is good… and played in 145 games. Juan Segura was signed prior to 2019 season fr a $14.9m salary. Pitcher Juan Nicasio was grossly overpaid…at least from my eyes…for $9.5m. Pitcher Jason Vargas got $8m from the Phils and Inf Ceasar Hernandez $7.75m. Total team salary over $174m….this club isn’t at .500 as I write it on Friday afternoon!

…Can he help us get to the finish line first? I must admit that I really LOVE Harrison Baders’ style—tremendous CF with unbelievable range, cannon of an arm; speedy baserunner who challenges other teams but…’s the hitting. When he returned from the Minors after 3 weeks from Aug 20 to Aug 31 , he batted .313 while chalking up 8 walks and only 5 strikeouts. At that time, I thought “YES…that’s all he needed—a brief refresher”. However, since Sept 1, Bader has regressed..and big time.  In the 25 games of September until today, he’s 17 of 88, a .193 average, with 8 walks and 37 strikeouts. His OPS for this time frame is a weak .618. Randy Arosarena may not have the pretty boy looks of Bader, or the cannon arm but he can play good D in CF, covers ground and …most importantly….he’s come up swinging in the MLB. Or…maybe …it’s Tommy Edman who in 300+ AB in the MLB has demonstrated the ability to hit pitching at this level. I hope I’m wrong….but….to this point, Bader is swinging at too many pitches outside the strike zone and not making contact to remain a starting regular CF. Maybe, he could be a defensive replacement in the last few innings?

….has the finish line changed for our expectations?  Veteran Rangers pitcher Mike Minor reached his finish line of 200 strikeouts in a season. But…it was accomplished in a shady manner. With only 3 games remaining in the season and Minor, a starting pitcher, not scheduled to start another game. His last appearance was his last chance for 200 K’s. So a foul pop up that should have been caught easily, was dropped by a teammate (apparently intentionally). This was done so Minor could strike out this batter and reach his 200 K’s plateau. My ol’ baseball style says, “it stinks”.  A MLB player should never try less than his best. So what if this big league player doesn’t’ get  his 200 strikeouts. Who cares other than him? Why downgrade the performance level for personal reasons?   It makes me wonder…who else is dropping balls, throwing balls away, striking out or any other play without their best effort.  Your thoughts? 

….its extremely difficult for NCAA football schedule makers to have appropriate schedules since they are done years in advance. We’re going into October now and most NCAA-F teams have played….maybe 1… or on occasion.. 2 teams… appropriate to their level.  Here’s a suggestion… why don’t all the Power 5 conferences help solve this matter.  Make each of their schools keep their second weekend open. Then schedule on that weekend…. For example…the Pac 12 schools play  the ACC schools; same weekend  SEC schools vs Big 10; Big 12 vs best independents or Mtn west.  Using the standings from the previous season,  Let the #1 of each conference  play the #1 of the other conference and #2 vs #2’s …all the way down to #12 vs #12. Ideally, you could do it on a 3rd also weekend on all their schedules…only mix up the conference matchups.  If that’s too “tough” on the #1 Teams…just draw their opponents out of hat in this conference v conference matchup. At least, they’d be playing other power 5 conference teams.  No more…. D-II’s, or extremely low level D-1 AA schools. Currently, all these silly one-sided games , that really benefit no one except giving an easy “W” to the host team are an insult to the fan and the sacrificial lamb’s who walk away with some cash but no dignity, less recruiting ability for the “good” players, and the ultimate put-down of being recognized as what they really are….no one like to look at the mirror that closely J

September – Suspenseful & Surprising by Bob Ryan

September brings to us many tense, suspenseful moments in baseball & football.  While September also ushers in some startling, surprising facts about players and teams. So are “good” surprises while others are disappointing surprises.  So… we go ..

…it was more than was shocking as the Cards swept the Cubbies 4 straight wins by one run! The Cards did it in all ways…coming from behind…jumping out early…good starting  pitching….good relief hurling…Paul Goldschmidt drives in a winning run in the 9th. Not only were the Cubs shoved out of the division race but they’ve fallen 4 games behind in the wild card…..I’ll write about the upcoming Cards-Braves series next week.

…right under our nose…..Adam Wainwright has really been spectacular in this point this month…he’s won all 4 starts, pitched  27 innings, just 20 hits allowed, just ONE earned run for the entire month! He’s dropped his season long ERA from 4.52 on Sept 1 to 3.83 on Sept 20. Apparently, he’s abandoned the attempt to strike out players… he now throws up there a variety of breaking balls at varying speeds.  He has forced the Cardinals into resigning him for next year……one exception…if by some miracle (like 2011)….the Cards DO pull off something unbelievable and take home all the marbles….I hope he retires then.. on the top.

….On Aug 12, the Cards fired batting coach, Mark Budaska. I thought that it was weird having 2 batting coaches anyway. I wrote about it in the following blog. But….eliminating a 2nd voice… may have been significant and given us our suspenseful September. The Day Buddha was fired the Cards were 61-55…going nowhere fast. As I write this prior to Sunday’s game,  the Cards are 88-67 soooo…they’ve gone 27-12 since the time that the firing occurred. What’s really strange is that Buddha was a proponent of ol’ school hitting….make contact, advance runners, swing “big” at times. Jeff Albert(who remained as the hitting coach) was an advocate of the new launch angle, analytics, don’t worry about K’s…they’re just outs, etc. Since his removal, the Cardinals, at least to me, seem as if they ARE playing more ol’ school offense. The Speed of Wong, Edman, Bader has ignited this offense….it’s a surprising situation.

…unless you’re really an avid numbers guy in MLB stats….the player with the best average in the MLB…..Tim Anderson (CWS)…that is startling to me….who’s ever heard of the guy? Well.. he does play for arguably one of the worst MLB teams (CWS). He was a 1st round draft choice in 2013 by the Sox.  He’s batting .334. He has hit 18 HR, stolen 17 bases with an OPS of .866.  Now…THAT is stunning!

….it was startling…..the MU Tigers handled …somewhat easily…one of their SEC nemesis, S. Carolina on Saturday.  The 34-14 victory did have a couple key “turnaround” plays in the 1st half for the Tigers…but being objective….MU dominated the stats as well as the scoreboard. MU outrushed S.Car 194-16 on the ground. MU moved the chains 26x as to just 11 for the Gamecocks. Time of possession was one-sided…Mizzou 37 min, SC just 22 min! It was an impressive SEC win for the Tigers. Meanwhile, the folks in Columbia…Columbia SC…are calling for the head of Head Coach Will Muschamp. If he doesn’t make a bowl this year..he’s toast.

…this September has been particularly suspenseful for the Chicago Cubs and their fans…. yes…I hear all of you shedding tears for them J . Even as the Cubbies made a run at the Cards for the Division Lead but now look like also-rans….rumors were hovering about Wrigley….that Joe Madden would be fired; that players had not performed up to expectations despite a huge payroll; the Addison Russell debacle; and if one looks even deeper at the Cubs, another huge obstacle arises. The Cubs starting rotation has 4 pitchers that are 30 years of age or older and the 5th starter is 29 years old. Hendricks is signed to 2024,$70m remaining on contract; Darvish til 2023 $81m still owed; Lester just until 2021 and only $45m owed him; and Quintana has only 1 year left for $11.5m commitment. The bullpen had 4 more pitchers over 30 years old and another at 29.  This club appears to be on the brink of a complete pitching rebuild while their starting 8 field players have NO starter at 30 years of age yet! Is this the doings of the GM or the manager?    Sooo…Cubbies have some issues in the future…and this year has been ….almost….wiped out this  week by the Cards series in Chicago.

….The #3Georgia-#7 Notre Dame game was really a good game between two very good teams. Georgia won 23-17. The Bulldogs had more “big-play” athletes than the Irish. ND’s game plan was to run the ball…shorten the game. It was a highly competitive, suspenseful game.  Statistically…other than the scoreboard-the ultimate stat…it was close–.total yards—Geo-339,ND-321;1st downs—Geo-18, ND 14. Now Georgia did hold a wide gap in ball control-34 min to ND’s 25 minutes. QB Jake Fromm of Georgia was very impressive with his poise, arm and accuracy. In my mind, Georgia now holds the best “victory “ of the season and should be rated #1. I would not drop ND out of the top 10 because of a 1 score loss to a likely #1 team.

….the MLB race for the wild card spots is really suspsensful….one night it looks like this team is in or out…and the next night a different team. I was NOT an advocate for the wild card but it has added excitement to the last weeks. Quietly, Oakland, with 90 wins  will be back in the playoffs again…that Billy Beane style of squeezing out wins  is amazing!

…I was shocked the other evening as I watched the Cards…Marcel Ozuna actually threw out a runner trying to advance last week!  That seemed about as likely to me as an Ivy League team beating an SEC team in any sport….oops…other than scholar bowl J

….does anyone EVER  think of the words “Colorado Rockies” and “good pitching” in the same sentence?  The Rocks bullpen has been stellar in 2019. A big part of it is the emergence of Chad Bettis in the bullpen. The RHP has thrown 24.2 innings, holding a 1.46 ERA and a terrific 0.93 WHIP. He’s been a 1 batter specialist and a multi inning guy…whatever is needed. He’s led the Colorado bullpen which usually surrendered runs easily and often in past years. This year the bullpen has been decent while the Rocks have sank to the bottom of the NL West.

….biggest butt-kicking of the weekend, was Wisconsin running all over Michigan. 2 weeks ago I thought that the Army-Michigan game was outstanding and thought that ARMY must be really good….well….it’s just Michigan isn’t real good. It was 35-0 in the 3rd quarter when Wisconsin called off the dogs a bit and coasted to a 35-14 win. Wisconsin has an image…huge, smart, feet moving lineman who’ll run right at you, use a bit of play action, multiple formations & motion  to disguise their simple run plays. Generally, because of their style, the can recruit good or even outstanding running backs. The Michigan team looked like a C+ team playing an A level team. Jim Harbough?  Ya gotta wonder…yes he can coach, but in the Pro’s, the GM’s acquired the players….in college, its HIS choice of whom to pursue and coach.

…here’s a suspenseful question for all of you….who is the Cardinals MVP in 2019. Sure…Paul Goldschmidt does have the HR and the Defense…but he just doesn’t seem like he’s ignited the team upwards  with huge hits at key moments… I’m anxious to see YOUR thoughts.

…I never have been able to get “into” MLB spring training or NHL/NFL pre-season…still can’t.. the Blues pre-season like all the others …just doesn’t do it for me. Not that I don’t’ want them to do well in the season….but heck…their season just ended 10 weeks ago!

…Antonio Brown….ur outta sight….outta mind.

….I’m rather surprised by it….but I think that Jim Edmonds is making a case to become more of a coach…of some kind…with the Cards. His comments on Fox Sports…nowadays…refer to discussions and advice that he’s given the players.  In my mind, he’s also doing a much better job of being an analyst…instead of reminiscing about the good ol’ days.

…somehow .many thought that USC had been shoved aside as the Pac 12 top-dog. Those fans thought that Utah has supplanted them. In their suspenseful game Friday night, USC grabbed a 30-23 win. Gone for Utah after this game is their Top 10 ranking, favored status in the Pac 12 South and any hope of a making the College Football Playoff. Doesn’t matter that they had 79 offensive plays to USC’s 54 or that they outgained the Trojans 457-381 or that they scored only 1 TD in their last 5 trip inside the 20 yard line….the “L” next to the game is what matters in these tight games. Voters seldom vote for losers in September top 10  polls. Unless…you lose in a close game to a top 10 team. (see above—ND-Georgia)

There’s no surprise coming down….I’m wrapping it up. I encourage you to send comments to a) email to me; b) post on Prepcasts   c) post on Facebook on my page  Thanks for the read!

Car Wash Sports by Bob Ryan

When you get a car wash for your car, its all shiny and bright (hopefully) on the outside. But….the real “guts” of the car …the engine and all its components …are under the hood….and…we can’t see how that looks or is doing. Same in sports…we see the outside (the games) but really don’t see what’s under the hood…..let’s take a look under the hood.

….the 1st place Cardinals, despite our objections, really have reached the top of the standing on their batting!  It looks all nice & shiny on the outside!  But….Arguably the best 4 teams in the MLB (Houston, Minn, NYY, LA Dodgers) do something that the Cards don’t possess. StL has more strikeouts as a team than HITS! Those top FOUR teams have more HITS than strikeouts. The Cards have 1248 Strikeouts while having 1223 hits in 2018. These really good teams have more HITS than strikeouts…. Houston (perhaps the best MLB team) has 1431 hits and just 1081 strikeouts; Minnesota has a 1413-hits to 1237-strikouts look; under their hood, the NYY are 1403 to 1309.  Oh yeah…some of you say…only AL teams with DH’s can do that…and that is a valid point but….sorry.. the Dodgers are 1307 hits and 1237 hits. Further, some of the key Cardinals compound this issue of NO batted ball put in play…Paul Goldschmidt  149 K’s, 142 hits; Paul DeJong 139 K’s to 133 hits;  Dexter Fowler holds 118 K’s to 109 hits; Matt Carpenter’s numbers are alarming– 116 K’s to 85 hits!! Harrison Bader has 96 whiffs and 64 hits.  Other less significant contributors like Tyler O’Neill, Matt Wieters,  Jedd Gyorko have similar numbers with respect to more K’s than hits.

….for years, I’ve admired Coach K of Duke. I was under the impression that the Duke’s  car always looked so shiny to me and  was clean on the inside also….well…maybe not so much…..the entire collegiate basketball world was shaken by the shoe deals of the shoe companies paying extremely talented high school players to go to a particular school and wear their shoe.  Duke’s name came up but direct hits were taken on the outside of the car. Now….after the State of California wants to pass a bill to pay the athletes, Gilbert Arenas , who played 11 NBA seasons comes out and says, that play players are already getting paid! Further, he says he that knows of two players in the last five years who were paid $200,000 to attend Duke rather than Kentucky. My suggestion of 2 years ago still stands…..forget about the student aspect of college basketball….pay the players like entertainers…like you would a band that comes into the university to entertain them. Set a tight team limit on team overall spending…let’s stop playing the “pretend” game that these basketball jocks are really students. Further, these basketball entertainers would not have to be fed, housed, tutored, or even doctored by the university.  They would be independent contractors. It’d  really be less expensive to just pay them outright. Would you cheer for your team less under that system?

…..the unbelievable 2018-19 season that brought the Stanley Cup to The Lou for the first time made their car VERY bright and shiny.  But under the hood, things could break down in a hurry. As we look ahead however, success on the ice leads to payroll increases for the Blues. This season, GM Doug Armstrong squeaked under the max limit by a scanty $500,000 or so. Next year, the payroll battle will accelerate as several key players on their final year of their contract before becoming unrestricted  a free agent. That includes Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Brayden Schenn and Robby Fabri. Some will probably be signed, some released and some traded this year. I will stick my neck out from under the hood and say Bouwmeester and Fabri will likely be traded this year.

…after a tarnishing the shiny, HUGE outside of the car @ Texas….. on Monday, LSU Head Coach  rattled the engine of the Texas Longhorns when he said that there was NO air conditioning in the visitors locker room BEFORE or DURING  the game @Texas (that includes half time).The Temperature at game time was just under 100 degrees. Coach O had been warned about that locker room condition by Louisiana Tech who had played the previous week @ Texas. Coach O did have his staff bring along several fans but that wasn’t enough. Many LSU Tigers had cramps during the game, especially the 2nd half. To top it off, the Texas fans, presumably not knowing about the torrid locker room temps, were booing repeatedly  as the LSU Tigers lay on the ground with cramps. Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte released a statement on Monday afternoon.  He said, “The comment today about lack of air conditioning in our visiting locker room is the first we’ve heard of any issues in that area. We provide one of the best visitor setups available and are proud of the efforts we put forth in hosting our guests. Our facilities staff did not receive any complaints from either Louisiana Tech or LSU, and we’ve confirmed that our air conditioning in the visiting locker room is in good working order”.  That’s the biggest non-denial, denial since Richard Nixon’s days!! Who do you believe?

…Marcel Ozuna is trying to shine up his car and make it presentable for the Cardinals to sign him to another contract. He says that it  is “My Priority”.  While he’s hopeful…from my view…the Cards have far too many young, cheap (always important) outfielders to keep Ozuna. In fact, I could see the Cards deciding on which 2 or 3 OF that they want to keep (Harrison Bader, Lane Thomas) and trade 1 or 2 OF (Tyler O’Neill. Randy Orozarena, Adolis Garcia –too old, now 26 in minors) of bolster the starting staff for 2020. Wacha won’t be resigned…and not sure of the magic of Wainwright…againJ

….while the shine of donating to the Red Cross Blood Drive was evident on many collegiate gridirons.. as many lower teams gave blood (the game) for money….for example—Mizzou 50 SEMO (D-II) 0; Tennessee 45 Chattanooga 0; Georgia 55 Ark State (D-II) 0; Notre Dame 66 New Mexico 14; Miami 63 Bethune-Cookman (D-II) 0. ANY WIN over any division II team should NOT count towards the minimum of 6 wins to play in a bowl.  Let’s see if it makes sense….beat teams of lower levels of competition so that you may qualify to play one of the top teams of division 1 in a post-season bowl.  There is one good point…IF Mizzou insists on playing sub-standard teams on their schedule … and paying them to play.  Keep that money in the STATE of Missouri….pay another team from Missouri.

….one school shined up their car for the 1st time in a long, long time. Kansas won a game against a Power 5 program for the first road win in 5 YEARS and a win for the 1st time since 2008 at the stadium of the team beaten by KU (the other game was a bowl game)! The Jayhawks pummeled Boston College4 8-24. Head Coach Les Miles had to be ecstatic. His club had been beaten by Coastal Carolina…not exactly a household name in D-I football…the previous week. Keep shining it up Coach!

….btw….there are far too many bowls…..I wish that there were only 20 bowls ..the top 40 teams. The crowds are miserable for these tiny…not so shiny bowls….its pure & simple…TV money keep those bowls going….ugh! btw….even Nick Saban agrees with me….he thinks that the SEC should play a 10 game conference schedule not just 8 games…which is done to provide many schools to play cupcakes .. gain 3 or 4 wins in the pre season so that they may reach the 6 WIN level plateau to qualify for a bowl game.

….speaking of Alabama, it seems that they’ve ALWAYS been bright and shiny and their engine has always been perfectly timed. Well….look back just a few years…and it actually sputtered, halted and stopped a bit. After Gene Stallings retired in 1996, Mike DuBose was hired. He was the SEC Coach of the Year in 1999 but an overall 24-23 in 4 record and rumors of an affair with the secretary led to his removal. Dennis Franchione went 17-8 in 2 seasons. Mike Price didn’t even last a year. He was hired in Dec, 2002. But in May, 2003, his contract was rescinded after news reports of Price being seen at a strip club while attending a golf tourney in Pensacola, Florida and an unknown charge of $1000 on his hotel bill. MikeShula was next in line, he was 10-2 in his first year and won the Cotton Bowl in 2004. He sank to 6-7 mark the following year and due to violations of NCAA rules, Alabama had to vacate the 16 wins from 2005 and 2006. Nick Saban arrived in 2007. He has shined up that Alabama football car and driven them to a 127-20 record during his time at the wheel.  Soooo….short of the story…. every  car …even shiny ones…..have troubles under the hood at some point and time.

…well….my ol’ 2009 Malibu needs some shining myself….thx so much for the read!  Your comments are always welcome…send to me, publish on Prepcasts, put on Facebook…doesn’t matter.

Freshness of September by Bob Ryan

January 1 is still the newest month of the year but….September brings in some “newness” as well as some “fresh” looks…the summer weather fades as the new freshness of autumn arrives; school starts in earnest in September with full activities; September sees one major sports season fade and another arrive with new players, new coaches, etc.  Taking a look @ some of those  “new” arrivals….

…..the MLB pennant race fever arrives in September….sure there’s the 5 month march but in September, each game seems more relevant, more important….some thoughts…hurting the pennant race fever is the current use of the roster expansion to 40 players…what a joke…the contending teams still play each game with energy & ferver AND use their regulars as much as possible to win games. The also-rans send out their prospects for a “look see”…gee…that’s great for the fans …It’s the A team vs the B Team! Thank goodness this is the last year of this fiasco. Next year the roster expansion crawls up to only 28 players.

…while there are many, many  new arrivals in the MLB in September….only a couple that merit our close attention. In a case of …the rich get richer….the LA Dodgers are practically drooling over their up & coming 2b Gavin Lux. When he had a slash line of .342/.421/.607 in Double A baseball,  he was promoted to Triple-A. There he actually hit better!  He banged out a .392 average in 49 games. He may/may not actually get called up since Dodgers may choose not to “start the clock” on him towards his free agency  days. Brendan McKay (Tampa) …on the other hand…has already been “up” this year. Like Ohtani of Angels, he is a pitcher AND a field player. Apparently he was firm in signing with TB that he be given the opportunity in both areas…(actually, I wonder why more players don’t do the same thing…..from my experience, my pitchers were usually my best hitters….hmmm). He has pitched brilliantly for TB and when he was returned to the minors. Now…with Tampa Bay’s staff struggling, he COULD be the one to “plug up the hole” and sneak the Rays into the post-season.

…when fresh blood arrives….. it’s also a time to wish some former great players “good-bye”. They won’t want to accept the news…they’ll say that they’ll work harder in the winter….that this was an off-year…or something of the sort. Two players that I’ve really admired for many years need to look in the mirror. The first player in this category is Albert Pujols. The 10x All-Star, and 3x NL MVP seems to be a sure HOF’er. He’s a shell of his former great self in the batters box. He did hit 21 HR but also a .253 average, OB% of only .314, slug% of .451. He doesn’t need to play any longer just to “hang on”. Quit Albert…buy yourself out of the Angel “service” contract and don that Cardinal hat for your HOF day . Another favorite of mine….another 1b…Joey Votto…dropped off significantly this year. The 6x All Start, 2010 NL MVP is turning 36 on Sept 30. He holds a .262 average and a career low .767 OPS. He’ll probably hang on…darn…I like to remember his as he was for some many years….a tremendous 1b who could hit for power and average. He also did a lot of the “little things” that winning players do. There are several others but I don’t have the same strong feelings about their careers like these 2.

…The fresh, new face @ WR in Oakland was Antonio Brown. After signing a 2 year, $29mi contract ($1milfor signing, $14m for 2018 and $14m for 2019 in the summer.  A 2019 payment of $500,000 hinged upon Brown attending 85% of 2019 off-season workouts. He did not soo… payment there. Brown missed 2 practices early in season so got fined by $53000+ by Oakland. Brown then  went into a hissy-fit…..yelled, cursed at GM Mike Mayock, called him a “cracker” and was in short…just a huge jerk about his fine over his missing practices. After even more incidents….Oakland invoked their right to suspend him for game 1. That meant that his “guaranteed” contract could be completely nullified. The guarantee only applies if you are on the roster for game 1. One outrageous thing led to another outrageous statement or two & Brown was separated from Oakland. And….of all things, the NE Patriots, who demand absolute discipline on the field, have taken a flyer on Browns. Clearly, this is a complete bust or a tremendous boom for them since their receiving corp didn’t have a deep threat.

….staying in football…..many men think back about all the enjoyment that they experienced while playing high school and/or college football. It elicits life-time memories for many of us. For me…it was scoring the only touchdown of my 2 year high school football career….somehow, my 120 pounds got turned around by the 1st player attempting to tackle me around the 5 yards from the  goal line…so I was half turned and was running backwards for a couple yards as another player tackled me—driving  me INTO the end zone. It was a key score… it added to our lead…..making it 49-7 in the 4th quarter. But I DO remember it….if you have similar thoughts…there is a way that you can “stay in touch” with football. In their 28th year, The St Louis-Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation gives out over $25000 a year in awards to high school players. A sizable part of that money comes from the memberships . It is just $40/year to join. Either send a check to NFF-STL at Bob Bunton, 848 Courtwood Ln, Ballwin, Mo  63011 or sign up on-line@ Members are needed to continue to carry on this worthwhile mission. I am a proud member of this charitable organization. Keep the memories alive for you AND the next generation! Btw…I was NOT given the game ball for that game despite this one-of-a-kind touchdown.

….the fresh team on the playoff picture is the Arizona D-Backs. Having won 10 of their last 11 games, AZ is now …Sunday morning…just 1.5 games out of Wild Card spot. It’s tough to gain ground on these playoff teams. Despite their 10-1 record, AZ had only gained 3 games in the standings on their competitors. This team is very well-rounded. They have the 4th best run differential in NL (+81) and are the only team to rank in the TOP 10 in both runs scored and runs allowed. In addition, they run the bases well. According Fan graphs are #1 in MLB in baserunning value and #2 in Defensive runs saved. Ketel Marte is the leader offensively. His slash line (avg/OB%/slug%) is .331, .390, .598) with 31 HR. Eduardo Escobar has 33 HR and 110 rbi’s as the “power” hitter in the lineup. The Goldschmidt trade has been a real plus for D-Backs. Christian Walker , who was the emerging 1B in their system has replaced Goldschmidt @1b. Walker holds batting marks of .262, .347, .474, 25 HR. Carson Kelly, hailed by some of one of the best emerging stars in MLB, has broken out this year. He’s batting .256, 18 HR, OPS .877. btw…Walker’s numbers compare very favorably to Goldschmidt…..259, .340, .462, 29 HR. So basically AZ changed names at 1B, got the same production and then picked up a young, every-day catcher who’s already better than most in the league! Soo…they kept the same numbers @1b, added a good catcher and reduced their payroll. That’s not to say that it was a one-sided trade. The Cards added a legitimate #4 hitter (plenty of power) and a tremendous 1B. I believe that Goldschmidt alone, with his many scoops, range and soft hands, has been the primary reason of the elevation of the Cardinals defense and their fielding percentage. It really was a win-win trade.

…..the early, fresh part of the NCAA-F season provided some great entertainment in week 2. As we all know, these “big-time” teams buy many of their pre-conference wins. They pay their opponents to play them. Army received $1.5mil to travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan. None the less, I was mesmerized by the Army-Michigan game. The unique Army ground game, which chews up yardage in small bites and the clock in huge chunks, controlled much of the first half. Michigan’s talented, athletic team struggled to move the ball..when they had it…in the 1st half.  The game was a 2-OT, thrilling 24-21 victory for Michigan. Army had the chance to win the game in regulation but missed a 50 yard FG attempt that went just wide. I felt badly for Army’s Freshman kicker when he missed that kick. N pressure, heh? Eventually, the Wolverines far superior athleticism led them to some success in the pass game, stopping some of the Army drives and ultimately the victory.

…the best college game of the day between two very talented teams was the LSU-Texas game. The game began slowly….like 2 prize fighters sizing up each other in the early rounds. It was 3-0 LSU after the 1st Quarter. Then the teams began unloading on each other. There was over 1000 total yards in this contest. LSU Coach Ed Orgeron, who had been questioned in the past over his run-first philosophy seemingly of the ol’ school 60’s approach, went out and revised his offensive staff in the off season.  Orgeron committed himself …and his team…to an entirely different offensive approach. He Hired Joe Brady from New Orleans Saints staff. He became the passing game coordinator. Also brought in was Steve Ensminger as O-Coordinator who completely discarded the LSU “we’ll bang you hard for the whole game, wear you down with our superior athletes and win the game approach’. QB Joe Burrow became the final piece…and whatta piece he is!  This game saw LSU grab a 20-7 lead after 1st qtr. Texas rallied to outscore the Tigers 14-3 in 2nd quarter.  Texas was led by QB Sam Ehlinger. He can pass…I don’t think that he quite has the arm strength of Burrow…but he also runs and runs hard..not just fast. He likes to run more of a power game than most college QB!  He actually works hard in the weight room on his strength! Most QB don’t take THAT approach. Back to this great game…Texas held LSU to a FG in the 3rd qtr…still trailed 23-21. The 4th qtr saw LSU score TD, Texas a TD, LSU another TD, Texas a FG, LSU a TD and finally Texas a TD. Final score of 45-38 LSU kept fans on both sides..and casual fans… engaged in a game that saw the momentum going back and forth continually.

…In our first look @ Clemson in their game against Texas A&M. The Tigers just had too much athleticism on both sides of the ball and their QB Trevor Lawrence is a really a sharp-shooter. He seemingly loves that deep ball.  He also seems to have an edge. Showing an attribute that has already been noticed in practice, Lawrence was “horse Colllared” in a tackle. He bounced up, yelled at the guy and urged his crowd “on” to jeer him. On the other hand, A&M Isn’t a bad team…..or even a good team…that are very good…but not quite in the highest echelon of the NCAA. Don’t know if they can beat Bama in the SEC WEST, but for Clemson…that may have been their toughest game until post-season.

….finally, my freshest rankings…..remember….its based on who’ve you’ve beaten thus far. Even Dabo Swinney agrees with me. He said recently, “They’ve got us ranked No. 1 and who knows what we are. We haven’t earned that. That’s just what people have nominated us” Swinney’s point makes sense. This is a new season, so the accomplishments of last year’s team do not carry over.  I only choose 4 teams because only 4 teams make the final tournament. Listing teams beyond that level is strictly for promotional purposes of the school and the television networks. Basically, these top 25 come from… almost exclusively.. the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac 12, SEC, 3 major independent schools).  The other D-1 conferences –Conf USA, American Athletic, Sun Belt, Mid-America and Mountain West haven’t had a national contender in football for years…maybe decades. The Top 25 listed by many places really is actually coming from a grand total of 67 schools. Soooo  37% of these power 5 conference schools comprise the Top 25 each week. I’m sticking with my top 4.

#1) LSU (they have the biggest win of season thus far with Texas win)   2) Clemson   (win over Texas A&M)   3) Auburn (has that good win over Oregon)  4) Michigan has a nice win over a good Army team. Where’s Bama you ask….the Tide beat Duke(1-1-their win over a D-2 team) and New Mexico State a D-II team.  The get a 1-1 S.Carolina team next week in their conference opener.

…well…the freshness of my blog has worn off…..time to go.

The Outsiders by Bob Ryan

There are always situations of people being “in” or “out”, It begins early in our life in elementary school as we sense …somehow…that we’re “in” or “out”.  The outsiders almost always have a different “take” on situations than the “in” folks. Let’s look @ some outsiders…

….jumping out immediately is Kolten Wong. He seems to be on the outside. Each of the last 2 managers have sat him for “days off” for ….well, for  unknown reasons to me …somewhat frequently. I’m a bit puzzled by it. This player is in the peak of his career, he’s 28. He can’t play 162 days a year? He’s been an outstanding fielder…has range, steadiness, turns the DP…he’s a real attribute defensively. SO I ask…must EVERY player be a huge batting threat? Anyway…The Cards haven’t put many speedy guys on the field until recently. Wong provides speed…a characteristic that all pro teams covet. Most teams attempt to get their speed men higher in the order so that he can use it with the extra base hitters following him. Yet….he’s batted 8th or 9th frequently-59x so…if he gets on base, the pitcher will bunt him over to 2b…not using his speed. The last 2 games Fred Rogers has batted him 2nd in the order….maybe ….maybe…his day as an outsider or coming to a close…

….Pat Maroon decides to become an outsider as he signs with Tampa Bay. It REALLY does make a lot of sense for him to sign there. Tampa Bay was one of the favorites when the Stanley Cup Tournament began…they have a strong team. Their strength has been their potent offense…especially  their speed and puck handling. Maroon will bring other skills to complement those already there. AS you recall, Maroon didn’t really “come alive” until after Jan 1. He struggled to score…which is NOT his primary purpose….but …nonetheless…some scoring of points (assists count) is expected. And….the elephant in the room…the chances of the Blues winning the Cup again isn’t high. Not because they aren’t good, aren’t trying or anything like that…..since 2000, there has only been 1 back-back Stanley Cup championships. The Pittsburgh Penguins won titles in 2016 and 2017. I think that the extreme length of the post  season for the Stanley Cup champions takes a bit of a toll…especially on players over 30 years of age. We wish him well @ TB for the next season.

….another player currently on the “outside” is Jose Martinez. Last year, the Cards gushed with joy as this popular, hard-working player (who’d toiled in the minors for many years) made it frequently into the starting lineup. While I was extremely happy for the guy, his defense …particularly @ 1B was not up to MLB standards. It cost the Cards frequently. Soo…this year with Goldy now manning 1b exclusively, Martinez was limited to OF duty. While he has improved substantially, no one would ever refer to him as a top level…or even medium level…defensive OF…he’s cost the Cards some games with his lack of movement….especially  to his right. Sooo…with his injury pushing him aside ….Fowler, Bader, Ozuna, and even Tommy Edman have been handling the OF positions.  The Cards defense has skyrocketed with these players. The Stl Cards are 1st in team defense now!!!  Think about how many games were given away last year with 4 outs per an inning for the opposition. Sooo…Jose has become an outsider…much to the good of the team from my perspective.

…in the 3 horse race in the NL Central…..I think that the outsider will be the Brewers. Milwaukee’s pitching is suffering. The injury to starter Brandon Woodruff was disastrous. The 26 year old was 11-3, arguably the best record of any starting pitcher of the top 3 teams (Mil, StL,Cubs), when he left a game on July 21st. He had gone 6+ innings in 10 of his 20 starts in 2019 and only less than 5 innings once prior to his injury date. In his 117 innings, he fanned 136 batters, held an ERA of 3.75. btw…In the 3 games he lost, Milwaukee scored 1 run, 2 runs and got shutout! Losing this ace complicated things for the Brewers. Corey Knebel a serious bullpen weapon for the last 2 years has been out since Mid-April. Starter Jhoulys Chacín hurled over 190+ innings last year. He was 15-8 and a WHIP of 1.1 in his 190+ innings. This he fell off…way off…was 3-10 holding a 5.79 era…frankly, he was toast. Despite Christian Yelich’s incredible year, the Brewers just don’t have the pitching.  Before leaving, in case you’ve missed it….Yelich’s staggering numbers this year, in the National League he’s  1st HR, 1st Batting Average, 1st OB%, 1st Slugging %, 1st OPS, 1st in OFF WAR.  The Cardinals walked him 4 times in their last series. I think that Yelich will be given many more walks by the other teams in September so some of his batting numbers may slide a bit.

…….clearly, Mizzou is an outsider in the SEC. The Southeastern Conference just seems to have a different view of athletics than the Midwest states. The SEC breathes, LIVES, dies with football…it’s more than a sport…more than a passion…it really is their life.  Who dominates SEC football?  Bama, LSU, Georgia, Florida….generally, these are the top teams. Mizzou works very, very hard at football… don’t misunderstand me….but it isn’t their entire life….mens’ basketball was celebrated with the Norm Stewart years, football was very good (actually a national power) under Don Faurot and Dan Devine. Gary Pinkel elevated the program for 2 strong years. But….all in all…..Mizzou views athletics more like Big 12 teams than the SEC.  Just listen to the Paul Finebaum show…the mouthpiece of the SEC….hear the disdain, disrespect and apathy towards Mizzou football. Their condescending tone indicates clearly…why is this team in “OUR” league?  Actually…we know the answer…more money.

…I guess that I’m on the outside of many StL fans. I really don’t care for the Cardinals to roll out new looking uniforms every couple months. The all-white ones seemed very difficult to read….oh wait…that isn’t the goal….the objective is to increase sales of uniforms to the fans. Plain & simple… let’s find a way to make money…but, it’s all good…’s optional for fans…they are doing it because they want to do so.

…I couldn’t believe my eyes….he’s not an outsider to the MLB wins any longer. When I saw the name Tim Mehlville in a box score…something clicked in my mind….hadn’t there been a StL HS pitcher by that name a long while ago?  Sure enough, Melville signed with KC Royals after graduating  from Holt HS in 2008. He’s been in the minors..bouncing around…since then. What perseverance. He actually made it to the MLB in 2017 for 2 games with San Diego (one of the many organizations that had his rights) but no wins. Finally, here in 2019, Mehlville notches his 1st MLB victory for Colorado. Pitching 7 innings, surrendering just 2 hits against Arizona, he was the winning pitcher. Congratulations to Mehlville for his skill and clearly, his persistence, to reaching the MLB.

…. I think Marcel Ozuna is an outsider.  With just 1+ months left on his contract, no discussions of renewal, it seems likely that Marcel is  “moving on” from the Cards this off season. He can hit very well, doesn’t seem to take care of his body too well, has improved in the OF over last year (he WAS really bad in the OF last year)…but again….he’s a hitter.

….I wonder  why the Cards called up Randy Orozarena?  He was 1 for 2 …then shipped back to the minors. Why is he an outsider?  Sure….Bader was batting well in the minors but….why bring up Orozarena for only a week? It almost seems as if Cards mgmt bowed to pressure from the media to call up Orozarena. When the talk about him abated…. Out ya go! What is Orozareana thinking now?

…no longer an outsider to the MLS, it appears to me that much of the StL community is excited about the arrival of this franchise. With the ownership building the stadium on their dime, many of the objections, previously raised, were erased.  I’ve actually began an effort to watch European soccer to get a “feel” for the game at that level. I think that I’m the only South Side boy that didn’t play soccer as a youth…..I could run (that’s about all I could do athletically)…My Mom thought it was too rough.

…guess I’m an outsider… football on August 24! The college football season …which once was 4 months….is now  5 months long. None the less, the opening game of Florida-Miami  was a highly competitive, exciting game to watch.

Well….it’s time for me to be ouside your screen……thx for the read…YOUR thoughts…..big or small or always invited….couple  ways to do it….post on facebook under the blog; send to me and I’ll get it published on Prepcasts. If you’re reading this on facebook…just to assist me in getting a count of readers…pls either comment or clikc “like”….thanks!

Helter Skelter Sports Style by Bob Ryan

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

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

Jul 4, 2019       Lane Thomas              CF        Sent to Minors

July 5 2019      Rangel Ravelo             1B        Called Up from Minors

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

                        Chasen Shreve           RP        Purchased From Minors

Jul 16, 2019     Edmundo Sosa           SS        Called Up from Minors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In NCAA football……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Between and Beyond the Lines by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do You Expect to Be by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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