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…..no 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@ nffstl.com. 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…..it’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…..college 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 Cards..it seems….REALLY have ONLY 2 premium prospects that others covet….all the others are basically at a level that other teams don’t consider them to be “high MLB players at any time of their career”…they could be put into a fish pond drawing by another team….and drawn out blindly….with the result being about the same despite which name(fish) you drew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do You Expect to Be by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birds with New Nests by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ODDS & ENDS…….

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help Wanted … No Experience Needed by Bob Ryan

Generally, when one sees a sign that says, “Help Wanted, No experience necessary”…we assume that it’s an entry level job requiring limited talent and lots of elbow grease. Not so in the major leagues! At the foundation of every team is it manager. Yet, there are many inexperienced managers at the helm of major league teams currently.  

In the Major Leagues, where the competition is the best in the world, 1st time managers are very common. Historically….. teams looked for managers who could handle people and strategize during each game. i.e. Keep his players prepared, happy, performing to their optimum level while still regulating his pitching staff to as now to overwork some and maximize all the skills of each pitcher. The regular every-day lineups were used without a great deal of alteration. Oh there were some daily decisions…there were the platoon players to mix & match –rt vs Left late in the game. The use of pinch hitters at key moments was an essential ingredient to be used sparingly but effectively.  The use of the bullpen became relevant in 7th or later. Generally, it was experienced players who’d piled up years of experience and were able to play under many different managers who were hired as managers. Hence…it was assumed…. this manager could opt to use the best of each of his former managers. Each manager was judged solely on his win-lost record. While those qualities are still admired, more teams are now seeking younger managers. Often without ANY managing experience! This new generation of managers are favored due to a couple factors. Many major league teams (mostly non-contenders) have a roster loaded with younger players(primarily in an effort to keep cost down). The supposition is that these younger managers will be better equipped 1) relate to this  growing number of  young players on their rosters and their needs. It’s the “Mr Rogers” approach to handling current clubs vs the Tony LaRusso style. 2) Use and make judgments on the many, many aspects of  baseball “analytics”  that now weave their way into and through the fabric of baseball– Specialists galore in the bullpen, the idea of starting rotations staying in tact throughout the year….or…even a month….is  about as common now as someone without a cell phone.3) Since they are young and inexperienced, these managers don’t demand the salaries of veteran, successful managers.  As a result of this “youth” movement, MLB majors, without ANY major league managing experience, are being hired at a high clip to be a MLB manager.  Currently, there are 16 (of 30) teams who have managers in the 1st major league managing position. 6 of those 16 managers are in the 1st year of managing  any team, much less  at the MLB level! 4 other managers are in the 2nd year of their 1st MLB managerial experience. Some have lasted a long time in their 1st manager job—Craig Counsell (Mil)-5th year of 1st MLB job; Dave Robers (LA)-4 years; Brian Snitker (Atlanta)-5 years. Soooo…what does that all mean…..like all of us…doing any job for the first time…it’s a “learning” experience. Experience is probably the best teacher for all of us in ANY job. A 4th reason that teams may want these inexperienced managers– the teams may feel like they can “control” the “moves” and thoughts of the newbie easier than a grizzly ol’ veteran manager.

All-Star game….it needs some major revisions. Ideally, the REAL stars of the game should play …and play the most..in the All-Star game.  With that in mind as my goal….here are some suggestions…                          …reduce the roster to 25 players (13 field players, 10 pitchers, 2 others described below)

…remove the every team must be represented requirement. Do you really think that ANYONE cared about Paul DeJong (or the other 4 guys chosen only  because each team HAD to have a representative) playing this year?  I’m not even sure that the Cardinal fans cared! Choose the best 23 players… period.

… So, while the winning team already gets paid $20000 while losing team gets nothing from the league somehow find an incentive to make the “win” in the game mean something more to these individual players….don’t let it impact world series games, regular season games…something that applies only to these particular players.

…have free substitution in the field throughout the game…and let pinch hitters bat…and at any time the starter may return to bat in his same original spot or the pinch hitter could bat again in the same spot later on in the game.

..let pitchers …especially starting pitchers…throw 2 or 3 innings…3 would be the max (not like it seemingly it is now with cameo appearances of a parade of pitchers who see a batter or two

…let each team choose a “designated runner” for their squad….this runner may enter 3 different times as a pinch runner throughout the game. Guys like Vince Coleman, Billy Hamilton don’t have the all- around skills to earn a spot…but…they should would be exciting as a pinch runner.(24th spot)

…pitchers may only be changed a) between innings  b) after they’ve given up 2 or more runs in an inning

…insist that the city hosting the game has at least 1 player in the game

…the 2 HR Derby finalists are guaranteed spots on the roster(the 25th spot)

…always have each team with a DH(can bat in any spot in the lineup or have his own spot—total 3x a game)…rather than all those pinch-hitters making their cameo appearances

….if game is tied after 9 innings, use the softball rules, put the leadoff batter on 2B to start the inning.

Fans aren’t the only one ones concerned about the unevenness of the league. The MLB players voiced some strong opinions at Cleveland’s all-Star game about possible work stoppage when the current CBA contract expires Dec 1, 2021. Josh Bell told USA TODAY Sports. “I know work stoppages in the past have worked to our benefit, for the longevity of the game, the longevity of the player, and for the compensation of the player. Just for equal rights.” The belief among the players was always that the owners would hold the power over them when they first entered the league, paying close to the minimum salary as long as possible. But once they became free agents, they’d open those checkbooks. Teams no longer view free agency the same, particularly those in their 30s.  “Our free agency structure and our salary structure,” Clayton Kershaw said, “is that teams have a right not to pay guys when they’re getting older. The analytics say to pay guys in their prime, the younger guys. “So, IF that’s not going to happen anymore, we’ve got to find a way to get these guys paid during their peak years if they’re’ not going to be rewarded on the way out.’’ said JD Martinez. “Teams don’t want to pay players late, and they don’t want to pay them early, but you got to pick one. You got to pick your poison”. “So, underpaid on your way in and overpaid on your way out, relatively speaking,” Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. Myself…..its difficult for me to have much sympathy for these performers raking in millions of dollars. But…they do have a point. Owners are providing about a 2-4 window for players to “cash in”. Now….when they DO cash in……its enough money for themselves, their immediate descendants, as well as  2nd & 3rd generation descendants if the money is handled properly. I could see free agency either being reduced from 6 years in MLB, to a 4 or 5 years in MLB or.. total time in the organization being 6 years….or a chronological age …maybe 26.  Players are particularly upset about owners keeping future stars in the minors past mid-May that adds another entire year of waiting for the players to reach free agency. It’s used all the time—Kris Bryant (Cubs) , Pete Alonso (NYM) Vlad Guerrero, JR (Toronto) are just a few of the players who’ve seen this happen to them. The last strike was in the 1994-95 season. Btw….The average age of the National League’s starting lineup was 25.8, the youngest in baseball history. In addition to the salary issues, the players believe that the competitive balance of the league is way out of kilter. There are 7 teams, here at the All-Star break, who are 17.5+ games out of 1st place and are on a pace to lose 100 games….most of them went into the season expecting to be in that lowly place of the standings. “I think the most overarching thing is competition,” Kershaw said. “You GOT to get all 30 teams competing the best you can. The strategy now is if you’re not going to be in it, to just be out of it, and get rewarded for that.  “A lot of those teams might end up becoming better with all of the draft picks that they’re getting, but some of them are not. The Cubs and Astros of the world did win, (won World Series), but a lot of teams won’t win big or make the playoffs. How do you end up selling that to your fan base?  “Competition and paying guys go hand-to-hand to some extent. We’ve got to find a way to get every team competing to some extent every year.” Some players cited 5-time All-Star Adam Jones plight. He was without a job until Mid-march, then signed a $3m contract accepting a $14m pay cut. Pulling against these thoughts are the contracts of the super stars. Look @ Michael Trout & Justin Verlander… It’s difficult for the players to gain traction for their cause from the fans when they see these salaries–Trout, whose 12-year, $426.5 million contract is the richest in major league history and  Verlander, whose two-year, $63 million contract, set a record for average annual value for a pitcher this spring.

Things to watch in the 2nd half….

…Will Christian Yelich’s HR tear continue at the same rate?….he’s on a pace for 58ish HR

…DJ LaMahieu was always considered a good hitter only because he played ½ of his games in Coors field. Landing with the  NY Yankees in the off season, his current league leading .336 average has dispelled the “spirits of Coors” from his resume as he leads the AL in batting average. Will he become the FIRST player EVER to win undisputed batting titles in both leagues!

…despite his 16 HR, Paul Goldschmidt’s OPS of .769 is paltry (less than Dex!), does he need to have a OPS of .800?   .825?    .850?  .900? for the Cards to win? Or….won’t they win no matter what he does?

Well….I’m taking down my “Help wanted” sign now …my job is finished

Waiting for More Fireworks by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shooting for the Stars by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

 Quick flight around the sports-world…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanley III rules the Lou by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds & Ends….

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

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

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

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

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