Stay Off the Line by Bob Ryan

Basketball is at its best with the continual flow, back & forth, up & down the court, layups, 3 pts, dunks, mid-range shots, defensive steals, slick passes, rebounds all taking place. The game excels in those situations. Unfortunately, from what I observe, the last 4 minutes of many college/high school games have become a free throw tournament. From my perspective, this constant parade of players to the free-throw line is damaging the game. Fouls were designed to be a penalty on the defender…not an advantage. I’d like to suggest some modifications to some of the rules on free throws & time clock….both areas that have already been changed frequently in the past. I really don’t know the exact best alternative…..so here on some possibilities to rectify the “foul instantly” mode that dominates…and bores…everyone watching the last part of the game. These pertain to NCAA level…not the pros. Your thoughts on any of these suggestions….

….currently, it’s 1&1 on the 7th foul on non-shooting fouls (in mens game) & 2 shots on the 10th foul. One approach would be on the 12th foul, 1 shot & get the ball back. On 14th, 2 shots & get the ball back. On these possessions due to excessive fouls possessions, the shot clock would be 20 seconds, not 30. Maybe by shortening the shot clock, teams wouldn’t feel so compelled to foul to get the ball back quickly?

…or, once a team has been fouled 12+ times a half, the COACH can decide to shoot 2 FT or keep the ball.

….or… another approach, in the last 3 minutes of each half, each team gets 2 fouls…after that, the team that gets the choice of the 2 options listed above. For years the NBA had a special set of foul rules for the last 2 minutes of each half so that idea does has precedent .

…Or… consider the current adjustment used by NCAA women’s games currently. There are 4 quarters (NOT 2 halves) with 2 shots on the 5th foul of a quarter automatically and each foul beyond. Starting fresh each quarter DOES seem to help regain some momentum in the flow of the game. Maybe consider, on the 7th foul of each quarter implementing some of the suggestions listed above. Find some way to Stay off the Line!

…or….make the shot clock 20 seconds for the last 3 or 4 minutes of each half with only 1 timeout. Right now college basketball is being pulled down by the last few minutes of each game(like the 4 corners offense did in its day)….the final 4 minutes SHOULD be the BEST, most exciting part of the game. Something has to be done.

Some other data on NCAA-Bk….

…for the last 20 years, the national collegiate free throw average has been hovering around 68% ..app 2 of 3.

…the NCAA introduced the 45-second shot for 85-86 season. Probably as a reaction to the 4 corners offense that teams were beginning to use throughout much of the game and was damaging the game. Shot clock became 35 second in 93-94 and 30 seconds in 2015-16 season. So changing it again is not radical change.

…Currently, the NCAA-b men’s team averaging the fewest fouls/game is Notre Dame—12.1/game! St Louis U is #247 committing an average of 18.7 fouls/game. Mizzou is #303 @ 19.7 fouls/game. These numbers, for ALL teams ,will rise noticeably from this point onward. In the early season, Cupcake games had fewer close games (more fouls in close games) and the wide difference on the scoreboards seems to help officials overlook some of those “touch” fouls(as they should).

….Which teams seem to get the most “friendly” HOME officials? Syracuse is called for 13.6 foul/game @ home and 19.0 fouls/game when on the road. Illinois is 13.4 fouls/game-HOME & 19.8 fouls/game-Road. More consistent–SLU is 17.9 fouls/game-HOME & 19.2 on the road.

…on the money line….bball commercials could be shown in the ½ or ¼ page while FT shooter takes shot and is walking to take his shot….I realize that we can’t get away from those necessary money-making commercials but the split screen approach would also help keep the flow of the game by reducing “media” Timeouts(at 16, 12,8,4 min mark of each half). Further, I think more people would see those split-screen ads…during timeouts, many viewers…if they’re like me…run out of the room to get more food, drink or other necessary reasons.

…the lines & lines of hockey fans really enjoyed the All-Star events & game. Setting an NHL record for over 30,000 tickets sold for the fan-fest, energy & exuberance throughout all the events & game, tremendous receptions for the Blues (of course), retired Blues, former Blues, StL hockey products, Charles Glenn. It was a very memorable event for all the Lou’s hockey fans…and for the NHL (don’t think that they didn’t notice)

…..Going between the lines…..to no one’s surprise, the Cards passed on Marcel Ozuna. He had approached the Cards in June to begin negotiating. MO turned him down….then, key signal from Birds. Ozuna’s agent REALLY miscalculated the market of OZ…..the Cards offered him $17.9m which he turned down. Then after weeks of negotiating, Ozuna signs for $18m with the Braves….that’s right $.1m more…..now….in the world of most people…that’s a lot of money…but in the world of MLB’s monopoly money type salaries…it’s a almost an insult…unless you have no other offersJ  Ozuna is listed as the #32 MLB OF in pre-season ratings for 2020 by 1 publication. His rating has dropped in each of the last 2 years. Also, I don’t know where it shows up but….many teams… almost all of them…ran mercilessly on him for extra bases last summer. His arm is a really liability defensively. Apparently, Oz did have some multi-year offers but chose the 1 & done approach with this signing. It almost makes me think that the Cards were lucky that he turned down their offer. The runway is now clear for the young-guns to fly away for StL.

…..Line-up–According to MLB.com’s depth chart the Cards have the same C, 1b, 2b, SS, RF as last year. But, this site shows Tommy Edman as the 3B! I was under the understanding that he was slotted in to be our “stunt” man…1 day here, 1 day there, a 3rd day, yet another place. Maybe….maybe…the Cards have sent signals to Crap… oops… Carp that he MUST produce more…or else. Cont’ on depth chart….Tyler O’Neill-LF & Harrison Bader-CF are listed alongside RF Fowler as the outfield. 26 year old, Austin Dean..just acquired from the Marlins, after they basically “cut” him, is slotted as a backup OF. 24 year old Dustin Williams is also listed in the same way. Lane Thomas is the only familiar name on the OF backup list..at least to me. Dylan Carlson isn’t listed. Don’t Worry, he’ll be up in June …the day after it doesn’t become a full year on his arbitration time. The Cards will say, “he’s being sent down to “work on” this or that in March. I do think that if a player comes up AFTER that magical date if he plays “x” number of game or “x” number of plate appearances, it WOULD become a full year towards his arbitration. Now…that depth chart just doesn’t look that strong to me.

….a scary line…for Blues fans…despite their very strong play…..only 1 team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions this millennium. Pittsburgh won back-back with Sydney Crosby as their feature player. One thought about that stat is that a star demands so MUCH money, that he drains the resources of the team to fortify the 3rd/4th lines with good players. Now, the Blackhawks DID snatch the Cup 3x in 6 years recently. HOPE!!

…off the side-lines now…..retirement of Eli Manning….probably always be remembered as Peyton’s younger bro….he DID win two Super Bowls—both of which were major upsets; played all 14 years for the same team (very rare these days); He was on good Super bowl teams and on bad teams; He was the back-up this year.. probably 1st time in his career… that probably convinced him that it was time to go admirably. Manning is 7th in NFL history with 57,023 passing yards, 366 TD passes and 4,895 completions. He finished with a 117-117 record as a starter in the regular season. I hear Arch Manning is on track to be the 3rd generation Manning QB.

…jumping into the line for contending teams– Cincy Reds have upgraded their rotation this off-season. The rotation of Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani and Wade Miley is a huge leap upward.

…an outside lines announcement from Mizzou….generally, the announcement of the assistant FB coaches staff is bland & routine. This year however, new Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz raised a few eyebrows with his staff. Coach Drink, the Head Coach will be the Off Coordinator also. Unusual, but….shows some self confidence in HIS own skills. Remaining part of O-Staff—Rush Hamdan-QB/WR; Chris Luper-RB; Marcus Johnson-O/line;Casey Woods-TE/recruiting coordinator. On the Defensive side—some confusion. Coach Drink announced that Brick Haley will remain as D-Line coach. MU LB’ers have D.J.Smith as their coach. Ryan Walters is D-C & in charge of safeties. Charlie Harbison is slated to handle the “defensive backs”. David Gibbs is going to coach “the secondary”. I’m sure it’s clear to Coach Drink…but not to me…or maybe anyone else J

Thanks for the read….I hope YOU won’t stay off the line but will send me lines with your thoughts on any part of the blog….post it directly on FB, Prepcasts.com or send it to me & I’ll get it done. I look forward to them.

Blues Made Me Do It by Bob Ryan

The Cardinals have owned the St. Louis sports scene for a long time. The Cards do an excellent job of continuing to put good… or very good ..teams on the field annually. The other teams in the Lou are generally in their shadow. Like a big brother, almost, the Cards want the other teams to do well….but ..maybe not BETTER than the Cards?! When the Rams compiled their tremendous seasons in 1999-2001 and very strong seasons following—winning 1 Super Bowl and losing another, it seemed to stir the Cards to an even higher level. The Cards fielded probably their best team in 2004 (won 105 games, lost series to Red Sox). They Jim Edmonds just before 2000 season and acquired Scott Rolen in 2002 in major trades. Along with Albert they are sometimes known as “MV3”. The Rams success may have been…probably was…. at the very least… one… of the impetus for the Cards to stay in the spotlight and improve their roster via major trades. Now…. The Blues just won the Stanley Cup..and the city went crazy in over their play. Now, the Blues are enjoying another very strong season….could it be the time for the Cards to “answer” by consummating a major trade….say… for Nolan Arenado? Acquiring  a real superstar… to supplement an already good roster…could push us over the top.   I’m not saying that there is a rivalry between these teams in the Lou but that when one team has been the prominent team for decades…..it isn’t just going to just “roll over” and surrender its prominence to a different local team on the rise. Did the Blues MAKE them do it? Maybe…and that’s OK….it’d be outstanding to have another long post season run in the fall. Sooo….LGB and Go Cards! Btw…I want to thank my friend, Scott Brown, for leading me down his path.

….If the Cards really, REALLY want to regain the StL spotlight…they can..and should…. acquire Nolan Arenado. The latest offer that seems to be Dakota Hudson, 3b-Nolan Gorman (ranked #2 prospect), Tyler Bader, Andrew Knizner. That doesn’t appear to be anywhere near his value and ISN’T going to get it done. Hudson is probably going to be a #2 or#3 starter… Gorman is a top prospect but according Cards system…not due to arrive in MLB until ’22. Bader hasn’t shown he can hit in the MLB. Knizner is completely unproven….sooooo….we’re going to trade that foursome, that includes two MLB players. Only Hudson brings good stats to the table…and that’s only for 1 year….. for one of the best hitters in the entire MLB? Come on….The offer will definitely have to be upgraded and trade good players with possible high upside if the Cards are REALLY serious about acquiring Arendo. Do it Cards!  You have the financial resources, the necessary number of quality players, and a division that is weaker than last year.

…Meanwhile, MO State faced some huge demands to radically change their approach in football. They hope that they took a huge step toward in the right direction by  hiring Bobby Patrino as the Head Football Coach—WOW! Patrino isn’t arriving in town flying his angel wings. This will be his 17th stop in his career which began in 1983. A perusal through his resume makes one realize that MO State is desperate to win. Patrino HAS been able to produce winning teams throughout most years…but a) he doesn’t ever stay long  b) it often ends badly… with the worst result in his 2nd tour @ Louisville. It went completely off the tracks for him! After suffering a motorcycle injury, he first claimed he was alone. Minutes prior to the police tape of the accident showing him with a female companion. He “came clean”… admitting a relationship with her for several months. He had given her cash gifts under the ruse of salary payments…he was quickly fired. Then stops in W.Kentucky and back to Louisville with each one ending badly…. soooo…so MO State must feel that Patrino—a) can still coach  b) he’ll win   c) he’ll stay…& stay out of trouble.  

….Sooo…what about the demands on the defending NHL champions?   They continue to win…and do it without a real superstar. It seems to me that NHL teams that repeat generally have a superstar—e.g. Gretzky, Sindey Crosby, etc. David Perron (in his 13th NHL season @ 31 years of age) leads this team in scoring ….at least for the moment. Perron was the Blues #1 draft pick way back in 2007! Bennington & Allen share the netminding and are performing in a very impressive manner ..but not equally..Bennington holds about a 2-1 ratio in games played. However, Allen actually has a better GAA and Sv% marks but Bennington is the #1. As expected, the team leaders of Schenn, Schwartz, O’Reilly and Pietrangelo continue to lead the way with a high level of play. They do it statistically but also in less measurable ways that lead to victories. To me, Colton Parayko plays like an NHL defensive star. One must congratulate the Blues on their continuation to bringing up…and playing…young talent. Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyou and recently Nikko Mikkola are adding to the team while building up experience. I often forget that Vince Dunn is only 23. He’s played so much in the last 1.5 years that I think of him as an “old guy” J The “grinders” (non scorers who check the opposition persistently, skate hard and play hard) are invaluable-especially, Ivan Barbasev &  Tyler Bozack. It seems to my untrained eye, that Oscar Sundquist continues to develop into an all-around player. It’s still a long, long road but it sure has been fun to watch them thus far.

…SLU will see the demands on their team rise as the heart-breaking , split-second loss to Dayton in OT 78-76 demonstrated that the Bills CAN play with the big boys. The Billikens outrebounded the Flyers 45-33. Each team traded turns at having big “runs”—typical in games between 2 good teams. SLU stretched the lead to 13 points twice before Dayton raced to a 24-6 run that gave the Flyers a 66-61 advantage with 1:59 remaining. The Billikens answered & outscored the Flyers 8-3 the rest of the way, sending the game into overtime on Goodwin’s driving layup at the buzzer. There were 5 lead changes and 4 ties in the OT. Yuri Collins sank 2 free throws with 6.1 seconds remaining to give SLU a  76-75 lead. Jalen Crutcher – who also went 4-of-4 from the foul line in the last 49 seconds – hit the game-winner 3-pointer from the top of the key. That wonderful performance that included 5 players in double figures should raise the Demands of all the Billiken fans for good fortune in future games.

…suggestion for the MLB….one easy way to STOP teams from using technology to steal signs.  Don’t show the CF camera shot until the catcher gives an agreed upon sign to the camera man(like holding his glove up), that his signs to the pitcher are over. Sooo….do you think Pete Rose’s prohibition from baseball for betting on games is worse than players stealing and distributing signs with technology? I’d enjoy reading YOUR thoughts

.. Will the demands make the Cards do it…..According to minor league evaluations, Dylan Carlson (highest ranked StL minor leagurer) is expected to arrive in the Lou sometime in 2020! I seriously doubt that we’ll see him until the season is 87 days old (then it won’t count as a full season towards arbitration)

…SEC football coaches face high demands…they MUST win..period. It does not permit coaches of mediocre or poor teams to survive. Typically, SEC Football coaches change each winter….this year 4 SEC schools of 14-28% have new Head Football Coaches– Mizzou, Ole Miss, Mississippi State & Arkansas. Several other schools have brought in new Off Coordinator (OC) & DC.

 …Apparently no demands are being made on the Tigers ….unable to move upwards in the SEC standings is Mizzou Basketball….1-3 in the SEC after a pitiful game vs Miss State. The Tigers lost 72-45 in a game that they didn’t compete for the last 30 minutes.

…I’ve heard this rumor….don’t know if its true…..Bill Belicheck is applying for a coaching job with the Astros. Apparently, they share the same values J  However, Aaron Rodgers recently praised Belickek. He thought the NFL has changed due to Belicheck. Now….they seem to follow the Belichick method of scheming defensively for each and every game instead of the ol’ approach…we’re a team that does this…or that…and that’s what we’ll do.

….Some teams demand wins and will tolerate some “individuality”. Some won’t. A national article feels that the Pham trade to San Diego was a “steal” for the Padres.  It’s felt his OB% will benefit the power hitters ….they’ll actually have some 2 or 3 run-HR..not all solo shots from their power hitters. They also felt that his competitive nature would benefit the maturity of this very young team.

….There are always demands for winning coaches. After winning the NCAA title, 2 LSU Football top assistants are leaving to bigger pastures. Staying only 1 year as the Passing Coordinator, Joe Brady moves back to the NFL as an OC @ Carolina. The DC, Dave Aranda, leaves LSU to become the head coach @ Baylor replacing Matt Ruhle.  

…Well….the demands on me are over for this week. Hope that you’ll respond to any part of this blog. Do it on Facebook, Prepcasts or email it to me. Thanks for the read!

Astros-Gate by Bob Ryan

It began with Watergate…since then every type of subterfuge becomes a “gate”….so I couldn’t wait until next Monday to dive in on the Astros-Gate. Everyone will get damaged in some way……

..it began on Nov 12, 2019 when former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules. While his allegations have proven to be absolutely true….one would think that Fiers doesn’t ever expect to be back inside an MLB clubhouse again. Breaking the sacro-sinct code of “what goes on in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse”….even Fiers— the guy who began the wagon rolling over the cliff will suffer from his revelations.

…factual findings of the MLB investigation led by Comish Manfred (shortened, but these ARE the exact words of the report”)… “At the beginning of the 2017 season, employees in the Astros’ video replay review  room began using the live game feed from the center field camera to attempt to decode and  transmit opposing teams’ sign sequences (i.e., which sign flashed by the catcher is the actual sign) for use when an Astros runner was on second base. Once the sign sequence was decoded, a player in the video replay review room would act as a “runner” to relay the information to the dugout, and a person in the dugout would notify the players in the dugout or signal the sign sequence to the runner on second base, who in turn would decipher the catcher’s sign and signal to the batter from second base”…it gets worse…” Early in the season, Alex Cora, the Astros’ Bench Coach, began to call the replay review room on the replay phone to obtain the sign information”…” Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs  and communicating the signs to the batter. Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout”. As season progressed, “. One or more players watched the live feed of the center field camera on the monitor, and after decoding the sign, a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to the batter” Then, “However, witnesses made clear that everyone proximate to the Astros’ dugout presumptively heard or saw the banging. In addition to players using the monitor installed near the dugout to decode signs, employees in the Astros’ replay review room continued to decode sign sequences using the monitors in the room and communicate those sequences to the dugout for use when a runner was on second base. Both methods of sign stealing were used by the team in parallel throughout the 2017 season”. While further East, “In August 2017, the Boston Red Sox were caught transmitting sign information from their replay review room to individuals in the dugout wearing smart watches. The incident received significant media attention, and I(Manfred) issued a press release on September 15, 2017 announcing the fine of the Red Sox” It was addressed again in MLB meeting with management in the off-season—emphasizing that mechanical assistance to steal signs was forbidden. It continues in Manfred’s report, “The Astros’ methods in 2017 and 2018 to decode and communicate to the batter an opposing Club’s signs were not an initiative that was planned or directed by the Club’s top  baseball operations officials. Rather, the 2017 scheme in which players banged on a trash can was, with the exception of Cora, player-driven and player-executed. The attempt by the Astros’ replay review room staff to decode signs using the center field camera was originated and executed by lower-level baseball operations employees working in conjunction with Astros players and Cora. The efforts involving the replay review room staff were mentioned in at least two emails sent to Luhnow, and there is conflicting evidence about conversations with Luhnow on the topic. When the Astros players were interviewed , Many of the players who were interviewed admitted that they knew the scheme was wrong because it crossed the line from what the player believed was fair competition and/or violated MLB rules. Players stated that if Manager A.J. Hinch told them to stop engaging in the conduct, they would have immediately stopped. Although the Astros’ players did not attempt to hide what they were doing from Hinch or other Astros employees, they were concerned about getting caught by players from other teams. Several players told my investigators that there was a sense of “panic” in the Astros’ dugout after White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar appeared to notice the trash can bangs. Before the game ended, a group of Astros players removed the monitor from the wall in the tunnel and hid it in an office. For the Postseason, a portable monitor was set up on a table to replace the monitor that had been affixed to the wall near the dugout.

All of the above is taken directly from the report….some of my thoughts…

…I totally agree that Luhnow & HInch are guilty and their firing (and hopefully never rehired) is just

…I also agree that the owner had absolutely NO idea of this illegality taking place.

…MLB fining the Astros huge money, taking away draft choices seem appropriate.

But……how can these players….ALL of them involved get a “pass”?   They all KNEW it was illegal… forbidden by the league. It clearly is the most serious cheating scandal in the history of the MLB. Manfred ..more or less…excuses them since their manager was the leader. Come on…all the players knew it was wrong. For example, if the player was taking PED’s …did he need the manager to tell him directly “NOT TO DO IT” to be wrong?…same with the signs!

 I would have been far more severe with the entire roster….I would hold them accountable…

While Luhnow & company(including Carlos Beltran) will hopefully be excluded from any roles in MLB teams ever again, ALL the players knew that cheating was taking place..and many participated in it.

1st …make them refund all their extra playoff money from those seasons. Give to charity.

2nd….don’t ever allow any of them to accept management roles in the MLB

3rd…remove any bonuses for batting titles or award or achievements in their contracts.

Hold these men accountable….remember 1919, Joe Jackson was accused of cheating. He signed a guilty plea…despite being totally illiterate…he had NO idea what he was signing. To this day, 100 years later, he’s still not in the HOF despite being identified by his peers as the “Best Swing of his Era” and one of the very best defensively. In those day, apparently, men in those days were held responsible and not excused because the management didn’t indicate to them that an obvious wrong …is WRONG! Manfred actually says, ““I recognize that some players may have understood that their conduct was not only condoned by the Club, but encouraged by it.” Think about that  one…  Little Leaguer Players  have been held to higher standards than these MLB’ers.   Manfred’s report lowered the hammer on Hinch & Luhnow but the actual cheaters skated away.. free as a bird!

4th..Should all long term contracts of these Astros be negated…or renegotiated? Surely, there’s some clause in those contracts about abiding by all the MLB rules/regulations.

Now a short bit on real sports thoughts…

The LSU-Clemson game was absolutely terrific. I didn’t have a dog in this fight…I just wanted a good, competitive game with lots of outstanding catches, throws, tackles (Yea….I still like hard tackles) and plenty of emotion. LSU was the best team in the USA this year! Congrats to them! I do wish that the game didn’t take half a work-day to play!

While I’m on football…..the NFL playoff games are totally different from the hum-dum of the regular season games. Players are using football skills…not trying to injure the opponents. The KC Chiefs –Texans game was really a Tale of Two halves….well, maybe 1 qtr vs 3 quarters….but any way.. it turned on the failure of a fake punt and then KC exploded.

I’d love to read YOUR thoughts on the Astros-Gate…..thanks for taking the time to read a 2nd edition this week.

Dear John by Bob Ryan

Dear John letters/notes, still exit. It’s title began as a letter from a woman to a man, especially a serviceman back in the day. IT terminated a personal relationship. Currently, it  has probably taken   different forms. But….it’s still there. No doubt, tweets, texts, & many other ways, saying “so long”, “goodbye”, or maybe a gentler, “maybe another time”…. Take place daily. These separations are also taking place in the sports world….maybe,  in more diverse  ways. Take a look…

….Dear Mo, We’re not accepting the idea that Nolan Arenado, after signing an 8 year contract last Feburary, is in a genuine discussion about coming to the Lou. His $260m contract is not palatable for the Cards scale. We’ve been down this road before with winter rumors about other extremely high priced FA signing with the Cards. He isn’t coming…now ….or probably ever. Say goodbye to the fake notion of bringing  Arenado here, don’t tease & toss  this fan base.

…Dear Travis, you’re doing a fine job @ SLU(13-3, 2-1-conf). But…don’t say you don’t get any breaks….in a tight game vs George Washington University last week, with only 20 seconds remaining in the game, Terrence Hargrove was sent to the line in a double bonus.  His 1st shot hit the back of the rim, bounced 5-6 ft high, then came down thru the basket. The 2nd shot ALSO hit the back rim and also bounced up high in the air, approximately 3 ft high and it ALSO came down thru the basket.  Those were very important points at the time. The Bills beat the Colonials in A-10 action 63-58….yes sir, it was beyond being lucky….so Travis say goodbye to Lady Luck….at least for a while!

…Dear Tom, It’s been fun and its been a long run but….Tom….all good things DO come to an end. Father Time has caught up with you (you can’t throw a ball deep downfield, , you have plenty of money and are still healthy. Why risk another year of NFL football? It’s been unbelievable but.. Say Goodbye to the NFL…while you’re still close to the top(and more importantly–healthy)!

….Dear Cards fans say goodbye to Randy Arozarena & a good hit, no field, likable -Jose Martinez this week to Tampa Bay for Matthew Liberatore. Also, the trade included the exchange of compensation picks. Rays gave up their #66 pick for the Cards #38. Interesting trade …. Several “takes”..1st– Cards seem  very good at analyzing & developing young pitchers. Let’s hope those skills continue with this lefty. Liberatore may be that LH starting pitcher that we’ve been looking for since Steve Carlton. Libatore was listed as the #4 pitching prospect in TB organization but is listed as the #2 Pitching prospect for the Cards. He’s said to be 2 years away.2nd-some “prospects really have great “stuff”…the ones that mature & develop become elite pitchers. However, many never find that fine line of great control.   3rd…..Cards reduced their glut of young outfielders on the roster. Arozarena came on very strong in 2019, seemingly surprising the brass with his play and became a nice trading chip. I would have preferred keeping Arozarena over Popeye (Tyler O’Neill) but let’s be pleased with filling the LHP need. Baseball America: said Liberatore projects as a polished middle-of-the-rotation lefty. He thrives on a wide assortment of pitches combined with excellent command. He’s about as safe a bet as a young pitching prospect can be.His size and smooth delivery give him a high upside as well. Despite their OF glut, the Cards system have NOT developed strong, long-term  MLB outfield players for a long time.  Since 1950, our best home-grown OF, who have played 5 years with Cards, have been Ray Lankford, Vince Coleman, Bernard Gilkey and Mike Shannon. Our star outfielders, for the most part, have been obtained in trades—Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Jim Edmonds, Willie McGee, George Hendrick, Matt Holliday are prime examples.  However, it appears that the Cards have all their “future” eggs in the Dylan Carlson basket.  Keep in mind….all these players are PROSPECTS. Let’s hope he isn’t JD Drew part II!

…In the Nearly Forgotten League playoffs, teams must wave goodbye to the high-scoring, prolific passing, pin-ball type scores and to go back to the good, ol’ fashioned run games that win playoff games. Frisco outrushed the Vikings 186-21 in their 27-10 win. Tennessee upset the highly favored Baltimore Ravens 28-12 by using the huge ground game of 217 yards while only recording 83 passing yards.

…Growing up, the NHL’s premier product was the Montreal Canadians. Times have changed! Montreal just lost their 8th straight game and are 10 points out of the last playoff spot and appear to be destined to miss their 3rd straight playoff…say goodbye to the good ol’ days Montreal!

… the Top Cardinal prospect for each year of  the last 10 years– 2020: OF Dylan Carlson;  2019: RHP Alex Reyes; 2018: RHP Alex Reyes; 2017: RHP Alex Reyes;  2016: RHP Alex Reyes; 2015: LHP Marco Gonzales; 2014: OF Oscar Taveras; 2013: OF Oscar Taveras;  2012: RHP Shelby Miller; 2011: RHP Shelby Miller. That list is rather discouraging to me! Alex Reyes for 4 straight years??? Say goodbye to that notion of a deep farm system.

…Never thought I’d say it….but…..N.Carolina say goodbye to national prominence in Mens basketball in 2019-20. The Tar Heels are 8-7. Even HOF coach Roy Williams who has 879 wins and 3 national titles said on a radio interview that this was “the least gifted team I’ve ever coached in the time that I’ve been back here”. It took a lot of people by surprise, mostly NC fans, despite it being completely true.

….Dear Matt Ruhle, don’t let the door hit you in the rear after bolting from the Baylor football program for the Carolina Panthers. Sending this note to your players on the way out, ““I’m sorry you guys are hearing about this through the media,” Rhule said in a text, via Sports Reporter Darby Brown. “I love you and this team. I have a unique chance to go try to win a Super Bowl and take the Process to the NFL. I hope you understand. I’ll be here in town so please come see me at any time”.  Nothing like I love you guys? Or an…. I’ll always be here if you guys need anything? Or, it’s been great coaching you. Or…thanks for all your hard work. Or…thx for helping me land this contract of a lifetime….Say goodbye to Common Courtesy Mr. Ruhle! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

…Dear Blues fans, say goodbye to having a single super star carry this team. The Blues are a COMPLETE team. While their intensity in forechecking, to me,  seems down just a bit from the post-season of last year, they still play the “team” game as demanded by Coach Berube. The Blues continue to slip in newer, younger players to supplement the vets. I think that “younger” movement is very important. Play in the NHL demands fresh legs and it may be a bit tougher for the 30+ guys to do it night after night. Now, we DO need that experience in the playoffs where the game takes on a different dimension. But, holding the Cup high last year has also seemed to give the entire team an inner confidence to adjust to the tempo, tenacity and pace of each game. Let’s enjoy this Blues team.

….Dear Kolton, It’s time!  You’ll be making $10.2m this year, you have 6 full years of ML experience. Step up and just play!! Somehow….relax—really believe you ARE a good MLB player!  You are a tremendous asset but during Manifesto’s regime your progress slowed as you sat on the bench many more games than one would expect.  You only played in 107 games in 2017. You seemed to be on the bench for inexplicable reasons. However, your play in August of 2019 was a vital part of the Cards surge to the top. Say goodbye to Ms. Nervous Nelly…you belong.

…Dear Hasahn, with your FT% 34.5%, say goodbye to your current FT approach. Why not try holding the ball right above your elbow (instead of under our chin), bring arm & elbow straight up…voila!

..Dear Cuonzo, your Mizzou team holds an 9-6 record, please don’t tell us how “tough” the SEC play is in 19-20. As of today, in the top 25 NCAA polls, there are only TWO SEC teams ranked. Auburn is ranked #5 and Kentucky #14. Please say goodbye to excuses…this is your 3rd year…..time to perform.

…Dear Nick, say goodbye to having premier football players stay for 4 complete years at Alabama. With Tua Tagovailoa stepping away from Bama despite coming off a serious surgery, Saban must recognize that the recruits that he’s seeking, aren’t EVER going to stay 4 years….hurt or not.

…UConn women Basketball say goodbye to your 126 game regular season winning streak! The Baylor Lady Bears upended them 68-57. The Huskies last regular season loss was in 2014!!! WOW!!

..Dear John, it was been fun but all good things must come to an end. Thanks for your attention for the last 5 minutes. Hope that you’ll come back next week….. Bob

Winter Wonderland by Bob Ryan

Now that we’ve passed the New Year, we’re really in the heart of the Winter Wonderland of sports. Action on the ice, the court and the gridiron with plenty of twists,turns & upsets. Some passing (that’s all they do these days) thoughts on the sports action.

…as always, the holidays are filled with college bowl games. There isn’t any way that I could comment on all 30 of them…I DO have a life. But…..there are SOME reactions.

…in the NCAA championship semifinal, to no one’s surprise the OU secondary was torched by LSU. Oklahoma, for the most part, just outscored people more than stopping people in 2019. Throughout the last half of the season, OU’s defense saw 48, 41, 31, 24, 16, and 23 points scored on them. LSU continually threw deep over the deep coverage. Give LSU credit…they had speedy receivers (primarily one) and a QB, Joe Burrow, with deep accuracy (a professional type throw). Burrow was so obviously the Heisman choice, that if one would be $100 on him on that award, you’d win less than $1. Burrow’s father coached football for 40 years so it was definitely in his blood. Burrow started his collegiate career @Ohio State. He redshirted, then backed up JT Barrett for 2 years. When he realized that Dwayne Haskins would be named the starting QB for the Buckeyes, he transferred to LSU as a graduate student. Special credit must be given to Joe Brady – the passing coordinator @ LSU. He had been the New Orleans offensive coach for 2 years prior to moving to LSU. He won he Frank Broyles award which goes to the Nation best college ast coach. Playing the politician, Head Coach Ed Orgeron called OC Steve Ensminger the team MVP! Gotta keep em both happy.

…the other game that I watched for more than just a few minutes was Bama-Mich….guess I was drawn to the Big name schools. It was won by Alabama due to their premier receiver, Jerry Jeudy, that Michigan just couldn’t match up with defensively. Jeudy caught 6 balls for 204 yards and a TD. Basically, the Crimson Tide had the future NFL players and Michigan did not. Generally, the big plays come from the future NFL players. Bama 35-16. Since 2001, the Wolverines are 4-11 in bowl games. Jim Harbough is now coming under fire. He’s been labeled as a coach who fields good teams every year…but NOT great teams in his 5 years in Ann Arbor. He’s changed his coaching staff all around without change on the field. His reputation as a coach that develops QB (@ San Diego it was Josh Johnson, @ Stanford, Andrew Luck, @ SF he propped up Alex Smith & Colin Kapernick but he’s been unable to find and develop that game-breaking QB @ Michigan. Maybe….it was because his receivers couldn’t get space against the Alabama receivers? Clemson & LSU have receivers who can use their speed & athleticism to get space from the defender & use their tremendous ability to make extraordinary catches. Michigan doesn’t have that type of receiver. Will Michigan stay with Harbough?  He does have GOOD teams annually….but is that good enough?

…in 2018, the SEC was 6-6 in bowl games, 2019 was much better 7-2 with LSU in title game.  

…the Blues are really spoiling us despite their latest nightmare in Vegas. Their 26-10-7 record is phenomenal. After winning 8 straight, the Blues have struggled in last week or so. Ryan O’Reilly is again showing wonderful offensive skill—his work on faceoffs, slick passing(leads team in assists-27) and shooting. His shooting % is 11.1 currently, I anticipate it’ll rise as we move deeper into January. I really like Colton Parayko’s play—he uses his size well, passes out of his end effectively, checks with force but his shooting % of 2.2% -2 goals, 93 shots needs some refining. His stellar defensive play is vital but maybe some more concentration on the accuracy of his shots . I realize his 11 assists are due primarily to rebounds on low shots but his higher shots need to be on net also. I’m not much of a fan of Troy Brouwer. I feel like the days of the muscular forwards with minimal NHL offensive skills passed along with the Philadelphia Flyers Broad Street Bully Days in the 70’s. However, It does appear that Justin Faulk is finding his game legs after looking slow in his first several games.

….the St Louis U Billikens hold an impressive 11-3 record. There are some strong wins- 66-63 over K-State (7-5 of Big 12), 60-55 over Belmont (9-4, 1st in OVC, 86-62 over Tulane (8-5 in American Conf), 64-54 on the road over Boston College (8-6, 4th ACC).Now, the Bills have to keep winning against these more talented teams. If you want to make a post-season tourney and WIN….you must have the experience of good wins under your belt. But, I’d like to focus on the outstanding play of one of the local players-Justin Goodwin. Goodwin has played 35+ minutes in 8 of the games. He’s averaging a double-double—15.2 pts/11.4 reb per game while leading the A10. In addition to leading the team in those 2 categories, he’s the leader in steals and 2nd in assists. With Goodwin and Yuri Collins the Bills have 2 of their top players from the Lou. It’ll be fun to watch these Bills, who seem more athletic than most of the past teams compete and grow throughout the season. The Bills must find a way to keep Hasahn French on the court. His rebounding, blocked shots (31) and scoring are essential in games against strong opponents. His early foul trouble is troublesome for Coach Ford. I expect other teams will go “right at him” in the first 10 minutes of each game in an effort to get him on the bench. The season long Foot injury to Gibson Jimerson (3 pt shooter) presents a real challenge. He converted 43% of is 3 point shots, was named A-10 rookie of the week twice during nonconference play. Question is— can/will someone assume that roll with close to the same results? Coach Travis Ford sees his team ranked #56 by NET ranking currently. It’s better than it first seems…in that same poll….Kentucky is #40, Florida #55, Missouri #52, Georgia #66, Texas A&M is #191. This same poll had Duquesne #98 with 11-2 record..Bills lost on the road to 73-59 to Duquesne in A-10 opener on Thursday. So much for polls, right?

…I enjoyed watching the 2 games of the Nearly Forgotten League yesterday. On a larger stage, it appears that Tom Brady’s great career may be over. Remember centuries ago..it seems..he played the Rams in the Super Bowl!! Clearly his athleticism has diminished—his weaker arm, slower movements, less agility. When the Titans handed the Pats a 20-13 defeat yesterday and the Pats offense was mediocre (at best), it was a clear signal to Brady & the Pats. He’s been great…he’s a sure HOF’er….but everything comes to an end. The other wild card game between Houston Texans & Buffalo Bills was a story of 2 totally different halves. Buffalo controlled first half as Josh Allen looked sharp & led 13-0. However, in the 2nd half, he fell apart. He looked and played like an overwhelmed QB. He appeared to be “over his head” in the deep depth of this game with poor decisions on targets, accuracy, and panicking when his team lost their momentum. Meanwhile, DeShawn Watson came alive in the 2nd half. He used his legs for escapeability as well as gaining yards and his arm for key throws on crucial downs. The regulation score of 19-19 was the 1st time in NFL history that a game had that score. On the winning drive in OT, Watson made some terrific throws and runs, on one play he was hit by both DE..almost simultaneously…but kept his feet and gained big yards on a run. It led to a 22-19 victory. It was a wonderful week of winter wonderland in the sports world.

2020 Sports Resolutions by Bob Ryan

The New Year always brings resolutions. Resolutions of all sorts…start this; stop that; continue this; resume that; yada-yada-yada……here it goes for me in the sports world…

…..I resolve to never stop trying to help the Cards! The Cardinals might want to start over in their search for an “Oz” replacement. I know we can’t find someone to replace that bright gold sleve, or jump the wall for flies that hit the warning track, or 3 bounce it into 2B..we’ll have to sacrifice that for the team… but…..how about free agent OF Corey Dickerson? He has several convincing numbers….last season …of all hitters with at least 200 batted balls , Dickerson was 3rd highest in “sweet spot” rate (he’s actually very close to Mike Trout in that stat!)…he’s one of 23 hitters to be an above-avg hitter by OPS+ standards for 6 straight seasons (Min-200 AB)…His .870 OPS against RHP since 2014 is tied with Giancarlo Stanton for 17th out of 108 hitters with 2000 AB; his numbers are strong against all types of pitching vs fastball(.293 avg, .512 slug%) breaking balls he holds (.286 avg, 506 slug); off speed (.270 avg; .486 slug). Defensively, Dickerson posted a +10 outs above average in 2018 (tied for 12th among 174 OF in the league). Resolution for Cards -sign him for 2 years.

…I resolve to keep quiet my question of….if Houston was sending signals by banging trash cans..were the other teams deaf? Thought it was Tuesday Trash Day? Thought it was normal? Come on….

…I resolve to push out of my mind..the thought that Lovie Smith looks like an African-American Santa.

…Resolution—remind me again NEVER again to watch any part of the bowl games with the names like Celebration Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Frisco Bowl, Fake Bowl, Bahamas Bowl, Camellia Bowl, Crappy Bowl— watching bits & pieces of those games drove me back out shopping last week!!

…I resolve to continue to make suggestions to improve professional sports events. Could the NHL consider reconfiguring the 60 min of hockey into four 15 minute periods with only ONE long breakand two one-minute breaks? Two long breaks is ONE too many. Who wants to sit in those cold ice rinks for TWO long breaks. Here’s a comparable….no one wants to watch Hamlet any more…not because it isn’t a classic Shakespearean play …NO, NO..it’s something else….it’s because it has 5 acts & 4 breaks…3 breaks too many J

….I resolve to continue being confused (most say that it’s a life-long trait)….Cleveland is considering “moving” their star Player, Francisco Lindor. Lindo isn’t a free agent until 2022 and he IS their best player. How do you trade your BEST player who is young and improve the team?

…I resolve to stop feeling empathy for Joe Maddon. He holds a strong MGR record of 1252-1068,.54%. He gets pushed out of Chicago after he leads them to their 1st World Series championship since 1908 in 2016. 3 years later, they decide to downgrade personnel and fire Maddon…. Immediately Maddon lands the managerial job in Angel Land where he’s going to have to deal with Mike Trout & Anthony Rendon in his every day lineup… TWO…if not the best players in MLB right now…very, very close to the BEST MLB’s players in 2020, 21 & 22. Joe–Bye-bye Pity……

…I resolve to ignore the “cheat sheets” the Cards OF seem to require. They can’t memorize defensive positions for 8 different batters?

…I resolve to follow Mizzou Mens Basketball closer in Jan/Feb. It seems that the SEC could actually be a race this year! Kentucky–has 3 losses already. Only Arkansas has less than 3 losses thus far this season, so the race seems wide open.  

…I resolve to keep harping on making MLB games faster….this week’s suggestion is to remove that Box that supposedly forms the strike zone. How can it? It’s only 2 dimensional while the actual strike zone is 3 dimensional. That “box” forms the umpires ratings and forms a small strike zone….ugh. Consistency…and hopefully.. a bit larger strike zone, without the box would benefit the players and fans (and the speed of the game)!

…I resolve to attempt to get Paul Goldschmidt to give us a hat wave after one of his important round trippers. Come on, Paul. I know it isn’t your nature…but that’s how we do it in the Lou.

…I resolve to keep admiring the work of Andy Reid while wishing that his work would have been on the other side of the State. If so….the Lou WOULD BE a football town. This year, Chiefs are—11-4, 2018-12-4, 2017- 10-6, 2016-12-4, 2015—11-5, 2014—9-7, 2013—11,5….2012…year before he arrived—2-14.

…I resolve to keep rooting for UMSL-Men’s Basketball (10-1) under Coach Bob Sunvold as they play Jan 2 @ home. The Tritons have all conference games remaining on their schedule.

…I have to resolve myself to the fact that the Blues are GOOD. The upgraded play of Justin Faulk, the exceptional speed of Jordan Kyrou, the incessant hard skating of Ryan O’Reilly, the magical puck handling of Robert Thomas along with the veteran stars-Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden Schenn, David Perron, steadiness of Colton Parayko and TWO sharp keepers and a group of veteran players who’ve done it before….has to make one feel good about their play now….and later….in the Playoffs.

… I should resolve to keep closer tabs on the Wash U Men’s basketball team. As usual they are doing very well…they’re 9-1, ranked #10 in the Country.

…I resolve to put aside the idea that Urban Meyer will be the next Cowboy Coach. Jerry & Urban… together for more than 3 years….I doubt it

…I resolve not to whine about Wainwright in ’20. If we had anyone better, he’d be watching from the press box. Besides, it’s fun to see MLB hitters flail away at those slow curves.

..I resolve not to whine about Carpenter’s strikeouts, refusal to take outside pitch to LF, his defense @ 3b…..if that continues, I should be whining about the manager who plays him.

….I have to resolve that Lamar Jackson is NOW the most fun NFL QB in the league to watch…step aside Mr Brady…but slowly…you can’t move that fast any longer.

…I resolve to keep having a special enjoyment of football games played in bad weather. What beats a game in the snow? It’s terrific …all those game plans go down the toilet and ya gotta play street ball. It was/is so much fun that Texas Stadium, prior to Jerry’s palace, had a hole in the roof. At times, not often, you’d get the bad weather sneaking in and making the game much more exciting. Some Dallas Players (never known for humility) said that the hole was there so God could watch the games!!?!

…I resolve to try not to drink the Redbirds cool-aid in 2020. Some baseball experts…which definitely excludes me….propose that the Cards should NOT have make it as far as they did last year. Some say…they were the least bad team in a very mediocre division. The starting rotation was a Jekyl  Hyde look about it during many parts of 2019. On July 13th, the Cards were holding a .500 mark 45-45. A 12-2 surge in late August pushed aside the Central boys.  Remember also, the Cards backed into the division championship as they lost 4 of their last 5 games of the season. That More on their questions for 2020 later.

…I resolve to try to admire Cuonzo Martin’s team defense more sincerely…however his 15-21 SEC record in his first 2 years @ MU make admiration more fleeting than permanent

…I resolve to watch Carlos Martinez wiggle around about his role in 2020. Myself…he’d be my closer…he’s a 5 inning starter….we can easily find those type of guys…just signed one….Gwang-hyun Kim—31 year old southpaw. Kim does bring along versatility—can start, long relief, short relief.

…I resolve to wish All of you the Best of New Years. May 2020 bring the best to all….

Blue Santa by Bob Ryan

Santa was in a predicament…he had so many orders In StL for Blues shirts, jerseys, souvenirs, etc….he decided to have a special “run” just for St Louis and who better than Craig Berube to replace Santa on that “run” using a sled rented from Enterprise. Soooo, he made arrangements with Enterprise Reindeer Carriers and it was all set.

First of all some training was in order prior to the special StL Christmas delivery run. Berube was instructed that he may only use “stop”, “jump”, “deer”, and “fast” as his only 4-letter words while driving the sled—NO  others. He couldn’t drop off gifts and replace them 90 seconds later only to replace them again in another 90 seconds. Neither could he permit Fighting between his helpers –which was absolutely forbidden.  With those succinct instructions, dressed in Blue and with new set of reindeers named:  Jordan, Vladimir, Colton, Ryan, Jaden, Alexander, Ivan  and their leader, Alex.  Berube was ready to begin his historic “run” through the Lou….

….Blue Santa first delivered a clubhouse gift which was taken to Mgr Shildt’s office…a Cardinal hat about 2 sizes smaller than he wore last year (when we couldn’t ever see his face while wearing it)

 …Next Blue Santa delivered a simple set of “code breakers” for Yadi. Use a sign to indicate WHICH sign is the “Live one”.  The 1st sign doesn’t have to be the only sign given to pitchers…with or w/o runners.

…Delivering a book entitled “Contact for ALL” was delivered to the StL Cards batting coach after the Cards struck out 48 times in the 4 game series against Washington.

….a gift was delivered to the bullpen…a remake, of sorts, of Paul Anka’s 1956 hit, “Put Your (Head) Hand on My Shoulder” was delivered to Mike Maddux

…still in the Cards clubhouse, Blue Santa delivered the “Most Unappreciated 30 HR player” Award to Paul DeJong. Further DeJong played in 159 games….reliable SS are hard to find.

….Yet another gift in the Cards Clubhouse, Blue Santa next delivered a “resurgence” package to Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy had his lowest– batting average, # of walks, OBP, slugging percentage in the last 5 years in 2019. IN this case “resurgence” doesn’t mean that Santa was delivering drugs!!

…Santa flew quickly a few blocks to the Enterprise Center (home of the Blues & Bills). He delivered a Free Throw Shooting Manual and a guarantee of 10 free hours of shooting FT in the Chaifetz Arena to Hasahn French who’s 35.3 FT % (18 of 51) really is unacceptable at the collegiate level.

…while still @ the Chaifetz, Berube presented Coach Ford with…”Best 19-20 Game Yet” for the play against Auburn (9-0). Beating so-so & bad teams doesn’t compare to competing, albeit losing 67-61, against a team that is only one of five unbeaten teams at this point.

…on the other side of the Enterprise Center, Santa tried finding that big “S” that Jordan Bennington wore on his chest last year…..but….couldn’t find it..and had to move on

… Vladimir Tarasenko received the Superman Award for his unbelievable 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) for his high powered scoring in the 28 day span (Jan 23-Feb 19) that the Blues leaped from  a seemingly hopeless position to 1st place with a 11 game winning streak. In that stretch the Blues went 493 minutes and 42 seconds without trailing in any game!!

…Chris Gerber received the Prepcasts Sportsman of the Year Award for his willingness to share the biggest moments of his career on the microphone with Dan Kelly. He permitted Kelly to do all the 2nd periods of each of the  Stanley Cup Final round games.

…Blues also received the Award for the completely changing the mode of “Victory Parades” in the Lou. Despite their wobbly legs, slurred speech,  & maybe impaired vision, they hopped on & off the floats to greet fans, have pics with them, shook hands and seemed to truly enjoy with interaction with the fan while treasuring the moment. It REALLY changed the scope and approach of any future championship parades in the Lou

….Leaving the Enterprise Center, The “quickest Start” Award was snatched “on the fly” by new MU Coach Eliah Drinkwitz who…seemingly within hours… was visiting key prospects in the Lou for MU football.

….A “Gold Star” Award for Drew Lock…who now being given a chance in Denver…is showing poise, leadership, strong arm and “swag” as a professional….Congrats to him for his start!!

…Blue Santa didn’t know where to deliver the package marked “Bright Yellow Neon Shirt Sleeves” ….apparently for Marcel Ozuna…who I believe wore them either a) to be individualistic b) aggravate the Birds Brass c) maybe both. Marcel’s off-season work..or lack of it…along with a defense that kept all fans/mgmt on the edge of their seats….and an arm that seemed more suited to throwing horseshoes…not a professional MLB OF….doomed him at the Lou…btw…Marcel stopped wearing his “gold” look in early spring…by the time that “look”  returned in August….I think it was Ozuna sending a signal…not to subtle…to the Cards management…I’m not wearing YOUR color this year….or next year. However, $$$ does talk.

…Blue Santa, turned around and returned to Busch to deliver the “Amnesia Pills” which will be administered by the Cards to their entire 2019 post-season roster to wipe out any memories of the Washington NLCS series. Btw…all of the Cards bats from the Nats Series were sold as new bats….hadn’t been used…not much contact had been made vs Wash!

…While there, Berube quickly dropped off a surprise Gift @ Busch, the “New Face of the Franchise” Plaque will be awarded to Jack Flaherty. The award finally moves on after Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright have controlled it for the last 10+ years.

Suddenly….almost accidently……Blue Santa found a new, somewhat hidden button on the sled. It sent him into super, hypersonic-like speed around the world….so  Craig Berube … thought…. hey, what the heck….let’s make more sports guys happy…..

…the first stop was in Wrigley Field….there Blue Santa dropped off an “empty Cupboard”.. it was a true symbol of the 2020 Cubs roster.

….In Washington, Stephen Strasburg received Blue Santa’s next gift….it was an “Ol’ School” patch….since Strasburg had signed with his original team and it appears that he’ll spend his entire career there.

.…An “atta Boy” hurrah was delivered to Fayetteville, Arkansas for Barry Odom. Coach Odom gets a fresh start and one would think that all Mizzou fans wish him well.

…With that delivery, our Blue Santa flew off into the horizon.  If you know of any other Santa Gifts that were delivered or want to comment on these gifts….just send me an email, post on FB or send to Prepcasts. Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!

I-I-I-I’m Not Your Stepping Stone by Bob Ryan

The popular song of the Monkees in the 60’s….I-I-I-I’m Not Your Stepping Stone has several applications in the sports world today.

…The Mizzou hire of Eliah Drinkwitz seems to be a terrific hire. He’s young, enthusiastic, looks like he’ll be a good recruiter and implements the “latest” in offensive approaches in the college game. But…Mizzou has to be careful…..will they be his stepping stone?

…Mizzou has struggled in the SEC…the average # of conference wins per season is 5.3 since their entry into the league. That places them 10th overall in the league. The familiar names of Alabama, Tennessee (many glorious years prior to the  70s), Georgia, Florida, LSU, Auburn dot the top the these rankings. Sooo….should Drinkwitz pile up some quick (3 or 4) seasons with 9+ wins, he’ll be a hot, real hot, commodity. I suspect, he’d use that Tiger resume to move onward & upward into a job that pays much more and receives much more attention. Mizzou would his stepping stone.

This really wouldn’t be anything new @ Columbia.  In reverse order….Odom 4 years, Pinkel(the exception in recent decades) – 15 years, Larry Smith-7 years, Bob Stull-5 years, Woody Windenhofer-4 years, Warren Powers-7 years, Al Onofrio-7 years. The acceleration of quicker “returns” expected from new coaches has slimmed that 6-7 year window down to 3-5 years currently. And…..on the other side….younger coaches (like Drinkwitz), currently don’t seem to want to hitch a sizeable part of their career (10+ years) to one school. It’s a delicate balance…..but don’t be surprised if Mizzou is in the “search” again in less than 5 years.

…While researching MU Football Coaches, Don Faurot’s name pops up. He led Mizzou into “the big time” of NCAA Football. He is credited with inventing the split-T formation. After piling up 63 wins in 9 seasons @ Kirksville State and owning a 25-0 record in the last 3 years, he inherited a program that had won 2 games total in 3 years and was badly in debt. He scheduled tough non-league opponents (to encourage fans to attend games to assist in retiring the debt—which he did) and expected his successor Dan Devine to do the same. But…to my surprise….I didn’t realize that Faurot was Head Coach 1935-42.. he  entered the military…after the war, he resumed his Head Coaching duties @ Columbia from 1946-1956. He then remained as Athletic Director and hired Dan Devine.

…Mizzou isn’t alone in this HC turnover…from a survey just a couple years ago, how many FBS schools in the last decade retained Head Football Coaches for 10 years? 14 Coaches….that’s about 11%. SEC schools average 2.5 coaches per a 10 year span according to this survey.

…btw…Mizzou was ranked as the 40th best HC College football position in the country, Drinkwitz comes from Appalacian State which was ranked #98 in the same article. Big Jump for him!!

….but use a team or school as a stepping stone isn’t unique to college football….the “one & done” policy in NCAA basketball has proliferated over the past few decades. It’s really a sham in my eyes…these young men know the rules…they attend classes in 1st semester to stay eligible, then they register but don’t bother much with attending classes in 2nd semester. Why should they?…their million dollar ticket is coming on NBA Draft Day in June. That approach isn’t new….it’s been going on for over 20 years. I’m hoping that this “D” league of the NBA will begin accepting these type of “one & done” players into their league to make the transition easier and better for these future NBA players.

…it’s not exactly “one & done” in the MLB but….after the initial 6 year requirement has been fulfilled, may MLB players use those years as their stepping stone to unbelievable long term, lucrative contracts. Often, it’s with a different team. The list is far too long ..at least for my taste…but recently….close to home—Albert (Cards to Angels), Bryce Harper (To Phils from Wash), Manny Machado (from O’s to SD), David Price (Rays to Boston),Prince Fielder (Brewers to Detroit)…those are just a few that the players used their original team as a stepping stone to the jump to theland of REAL monopoly money.

..seeing it as the final step in the stepping stone process, the Cards seem to be interested in acquiring a left handed hitting OF (namely Nomar Mazara) and/or a left handed starting pitcher. I was very surprised to learn that Mazara is just 24 years old despite having 4 complete years in the MLB. He already has 1,988 official AB. His lifetime average is .261, OPS of .754. The lineup is definitely right-handed heavy but….are we just swapping apples for apples…is he really a difference maker? Meanwhile, the LHP starters on the burner are -Bumgarner, Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu. Bumgarner hasn’t won even 10 games in any of the  last 3 seasons. Keuchel’s 2019 wasn’t impressive. He held a WHIP mark of 1.387 in 2019.Ryu’s numbers were far better than Bums or Keuchel last year. He did win 14 games, ERA-2.32, WHIP-1.007. I don’t have a clue on the money that it’d take to acquire him.. but the best stepping stone for us, from my view, is Ryu.

Outside our stepping stone world…

….maybe I’m just too much of an idealist but….some of these college football players are refusing to play bowl games because of the upcoming draft. This IS old school…but….he signed a contract…the school provides education, housing, medical care, stipends, tutors, etc and he provides his best efforts to compete for the school in all practices and games. Should there be a NCAA regulation that denies any/all of the above when he makes that declaration of skipping the bowl game for private reasons?

…on the other hand, its still very, very enjoyable for me to watch the Army-Navy game. Both teams giving their “ALL” each play, with lots of pomp & history surrounding the game, very, very few penalties, quick moving games (it’s all running plays). It’s clear that the players/coaches realize that football is just a part of their life….not their entire life.

Well…..this blog has been a bit shorter…it’s a stepping stone for me…it leads me directly into tree trimming (We do have a 10 foot tree!!). I’d love to hear your thoughts on any parts of this blog…or any other sports for that matter…post on FB, post on Prepcasts.com or email me.  Thanks!

Luhnow – Hero or Villian by Bob Ryan

Jeff Luhnow –say his name and you’ll ALWAYS get a reaction….some StL fans drool over him and his work….others think that he’s a descendant of Satan…others have heard his name but know little about him and his work @ St Louis & Houston.

….Luhnow was hired by the Cards to implement the ideas of the moneyball philosophy and it was thought that he had an “eye” for talent. However, He was described as a “polarizing executive” and almost immediately had issues with ol’ school Exec Walt Jocketty.  So much so that Jocketty was fired in 2007…just after the Cards has won the 2006 Championship. Why?  Here’s Bill DeWitt’s response, “I think we had a little different philosophy and vision with respect to some baseball issues,” DeWitt told AP, “There was clearly tension. We couldn’t achieve our goals given what was going on.”  However, Luhnow was excellent at his job of player development. While he led that department, the Cards organization, according to mlb.com, had “the best system record in baseball in 2010 as they won 5 minor league championships. Further, it states, the Cards developed 24 Major League Players from his first 3 drafts in 2005-2007—more than any other Major League team in that same time.But…. Jocketty wasn’t the only fatality of Luhnow’s reach in the Cards system. You were either with Luhnow or you weren’t, and as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch describes it, “The turf war left a high body count.” However, on Dec 11, 2011, Luhnow was hired by the Houston as GM.

…Luhnow apparently convinced the Astros new owner, Jim Crane who had purchased the Astros at the price of $680m in 2011, that a massive “rebuild” should take place. It’d pay dividends in the long run. That it’d take time but …that it would be worth it. In the 2011 season, Houston posted a 56-106 record with a payroll of $85m. 2012 Season saw more deterioration on the field—55-107 but a team slimmer payroll of $54m. 2013 was rock bottom for the ‘Stros 51-111 with a miniscule payroll of $35m…for the entire TEAM, not one player! As a result, the new owner actually MADE a profit! It was said that the raked in an estimated $99 million in operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) this season. That is nearly as much as the estimated operating income of the previous 6  WS championship teams.  Sooo….Luhnow bought his time to develop the star players that he had drafted. 2014 saw some improvement on the field as they went 70-92. By 2015, Luhnow knew it was time to produce on the field. He hired a new manager, HIS manager,  AJ Hinch. Houston went 86-76 with some of the future stars appearing early in their careers. In 2017-18-19,Houston won over 100 games & 3 consecutive division titles.  No team has since the Cardinals in the 1940s has reached that plateu. This year’s “really good” Houston team is the sixth in major-league history to win 100 games in three consecutive years, the first since the 2002-2004 Yankees. But the Yankees didn’t win a World Series in that span. Neither did the Braves from 1997-99, and the 1969-71 Orioles went to 3 consecutive World Series, but won only 1! Many viewed Luhnow as a terrific hero!

….But….all isn’t rosy for Luhnow now. His team…and him…are coming under heavy scrutiny and criticism. The Athletic (subscription required) reported on Tuesday that 4 players, including Mike Fiers, on the 2017 Astros–World Series winning team , admitted that their club stole signs using illegal electronics during games. The Astros would look at a monitor in the tunnel to see what a catcher’s signs were and then if it was a breaking ball or changeup they would bang a trash can to alert the hitter. First released by The Athletic and confirmed by ESPN, Goldstein — a special assistant to GM Jeff Lunhow — sent out email, leading up to the 2017 postseason, to Astros’ scouts with instructions on picking up opponent’s signs with the use of “binoculars or cameras”.  The exact wording in the August 2017 email went as follows:“One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. “What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings. Apparently a similar procedure was implemented again  in 2019 post-season games! Now….some say he’s the dastardly villain of the MLB. It isn’t over yet though…keep your eyes…with or w/o binoculars, on Houston & Luhnow J    ..btw…does this change our view of our Jeff Albert? Reportedly, he was brought in to implement the Astros “way” of hitting. The Cards batting marks in 2018 did not come close to our expectations.  Just wondering….did Albert’s skills lie in batting or subterfuge?   …Maybe it was just me being naïve…..I thought that NCAA D-1  football & basketball players received Free Tuition, Room, Food, Medical treatment, Free time with educational advisors, free tickets for their parents, etc. Now I learn that some schools…..which probably means ALL of them..pay a stipend to these players. I’ve learned that it varies with the school. Alabama pays a $5000 to at least SOME of their football players. Mizzou seems to be around $2500. I don’t know if that is just for the starters, upper classmen, or EVERYONE. I’m sure that the remaining SEC schools…and for that matter, all D-1 schools are dishing out these stipends also. Sooooo…..what’s all the fuss about players earning MORE money with their facial resemblances on other products. Or…on the other side of it…why do they even need it? The cat is outta the bag…and out of control. I’m wondering if these “students” are paying taxes on all their benefits across the board?                                                                                     …Robert Thomas, Blues forward, seems more comfortable playing center. His shifty, elusive moves with the puck followed by dazzling passes seem far more suited in the middle of the ice than packed against the boards…oops…now they call it…. the wall.        

…NCAA –BCS (Final 4 format) began in January 2015.Thus, there has been 5 years of this format. In the 5 years of this format–the SEC has placed 6 teams, ACC-5 teams, Pac 12-3 teams, Big 12-3 teams, Big 10-3 teams and 1 Independent (of course, in NCAA-F circles, that means Notre Dame). They aren’t villians I have known personally one of the voters on the committee. He’s indicated to me all the time that the committee members watch tapes of the games and  have substantive meetings to discuss all the teams. It appears to me though, that a trio of teams monopolize the voters inclinations.. Alabama has been in the Final 4 selection  ALL 5 years. Clemson for 4 of the 5 years (and last 4 consecutive years) and Oklahoma for 3 of the 5 years. So of the 20 spots filled in the 5 years of this format, 12 of those spots have been filled by just 3 schools. Were these teams ALWAYS the best 4?….maybe, they were…..certainly, they were good teams….but maybe their history, or big name coaches, or the money generated by their conference carried undue weight. We’ll never know. On the other hand, we should not eliminate a team(s) because they’ve been there recently or frequently. From an outside perspective—again voting on the number of Good teams that these schools have beaten, not their pro prospects, reputation or history, or Coaches’ pedigree….1) LSU   2) Ohio State  3) OU 4) Utah… Clemson’s schedule (modeled after Bama’s soft non-lg) just doesn’t warrant…to me.. top 4 status.

…Early Christmas idea for ur favorite baseball fan– there’s this Astros Sign-Stealing bobblehead. The bobblehead features an Astros employee wearing a jersey that says MVP, holding a Macbook next to a trash bin. The spring effect on the mallet he uses to smash the trash can is the perfect final touch. It doesn’t appear that this is being sold anywhere, but it should be…especially in the Lou J                                                       

…Let’s hope Barry Odum doesn’t get a pink slip for Christmas….however…check this out–

2016   4-9 record–beat–E.Michigan, Delaware St, Vanderbilt, Arkansas    

2017   7-6 record–beat—MO State, Idaho, U Conn, Florida, Tenn, Vandy, Arkansas        

2018   8-5 record–beat- UT-Martin, Wyoming, Purdue, Memphis, Florida, Vandy, Tenn, Ark 

2019   5-6 record–beat- W.Va, SEMO, S.Carolina, Troy, Mississippi

Total SEC wins—Vandy-3x, Ark-3x, Tenn-2x, Florida-2x, S.Carolina-1x, Mississippi-1x

You don’t become a hero because you lose to good teams.

…Lebron James, now in his 16th year at 35 years old was moved…by his own choice…to point guard this season for the Lakers. Sooo…what are the early returns?  Many of his stats are remarkably close to his lifetime stats… FG made/gm; FG att/gm; reb/gm; steals/gm. Down slightly…maybe due to advancing age or the positional change—min/gm; steals/gm; turnovers/gm. Only  a few categories have changed markedly– 2pt % is a career low; Ast/gm at a career high (what you would expect); FT/gm at career low. Lakers record is currently 13-2! It appears that his positional move has clearly benefitted the Lakers to this point and extended his career (not taking the “beating” inside.

Cards Thin the Ranks by Bob Ryan

With Free Agency beginning, each MLB team reaches crossroads on their roster. The Cardinals are no different. These vital decisions will impact the entire 2020 season. Taking a look…

…..To no one’s surprise, Ozuna rejected the Cardinals qualifying offer. It has been raised to a hefty $17.8/year by the league.  If those qualifying offers are accepted, the player fulfills their 1 year obligation and then…may…become a free agent the following year. After accepting 1 qualifying offer, it may NOT be done again to the same player by the same team. So…with Ozuna gone, the Cards outfield seems to be leaning towards a youth program….and a “cheaper” one.  Candidates include (in no particular order)….Tommy Edman, Harrison Bader, Randy Arozarena, Tyler O’Neill,  Adolis Garcia, Lane Thomas and the Cards brightest prospect, Dylan Carlson.  Veterans Dexter Fowler & Jose Martinez also have OF roster spots. Even though the MLB rosters in 2020 will have an additional spot …now 26 players…that’s still a boatload of Outfielders. I would expect Martinez to be moved prior to the start of the season….while he does have a relatively “strong” bat….his defensive liabilities are just too high. Edman has versatility…in fact, he played SS primarily in the minors. Last year, he was used @ 2b, 3b, & RF by the Cards. He DID bat .304…with an OPS of .869 (OPS—on base % + slugging %)…but …Rome wasn’t built in a day or a single year…and neither is a MLB player. We need to see him have 1000 AB prior to making a decision. Adolis Garcia…most remembered for falling down while pinch running in 2018 in a key post-season game is now 27 years old. He has become a “power” hitter in the minors. I see him becoming part of a trade package. Harrison Bader…one simple question…can he hit .240? His elite defensive skills and tremendous speed don’t require a slugger at the plate…but  the .205 average in 2019 is beneath acceptable standards. Tyler O’Neill, built like Popeye, has shown deep power ability but…..can he hit enough just to get on base? Seattle gave up on him and traded him to us for Marco Gonzalez in 2017. Gonzalez won 16 games last year and 13 in 2018. Thus far, that trade tilts heavily towards Seattle. Haven’t seen enough of Randy Arozarena , other than to see he possesses some outstanding athletic skills. Lane Thomas has demonstrated a short, sweet swing in a small sample size. Then, all the talk about 20 year old Dylan Carlson continues to get louder & louder.  The Cards are going to have to thin out this gaggle of OF. It’ll have severe impacts on the immediate future. The Cards have already thinned out OF previously and one has to wonder if the best decisions were made by MO & his boys. Pham was exiled to the Rays. There he’s  batted.277 , OPS avg of .844. Now 31 years old, Pham  seemed to have been moved to Tampa for non-baseball reasons. To some observers, his “edge” that drove him personally was a bit too much for the Cards when he lashed out at the team. So….he was moved.  Oscar Mercado was also moved in 2018, He went to Cleveland. I suppose that Mercado was thought to be behind Bader.  However, he had over 400 AB’s last year, played a very strong CF, OPS .761, , .269 average & 15 HR. We traded him for Conner Capel & Jhon Torres—who?  So basically, the Cards chose Bader over Mercado. So far…it doesn’t look too good to me. It doesn’t seem like we got much for an immediate every-day starter like Mercado. Soo…the Cards begin thinning again…here in winter 19-20 …watch it closely in the next 2 months.   My guess is that O’Neill & Garcia will be wearing different uniforms next year as the Cards try to deepen their starting staff and thin out the OF ranks.

 …..if the Mizzou attendance against SEC teams look thinner to you…it is! In 2014, it was 65,285; 2015-65,120; 2016-52,236; 2017-51,490; 2018-51,466. Sure…the  W-L record is very important but there is an additional factor that may be limiting non-student fans. The SEC football schedule doesn’t announce the starting times for games until the game is a week or 2 away. It doesn’t matter to the students…they’ll be there any time day or night. But,  to some fans driving in from the 2 largest metro areas of Missouri (StL & KC) it does matter. Starting times that vary from 10am, to 1pm, to 3pm to 6pm make it much more difficult to “plan the day” for the OOT fan.  This game time decision is done by SEC  so that the winning teams get the prime spots. But…if you..or the SEC… REALLY want OOT fans at the games …post the schedule with the times in the spring.

…the Heisman Trophy candidate list was thinner after Saturday’s game. Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa was injured late in the 1st half.  Alabama was leading 35-7, but Nick Sagan decided to let Tagovailoa play one more possession to get some work in the two-minute drill. He was injured during that drive. Tua will miss the rest of the 2018 season due to the injury.

….The time line is thinning out for a former NFL QB. Colin Kaepernick had his own personal workout for the NFL on Saturday. It was hastily arranged, on a Saturday when all NFL coaches are zeroed in on Sunday, there were 8 teams in attendance. Why the rush? Why even hold this very unique “workout” for a player 3 years out of the leage? CYA….the NFL is attempting to avert a discrimination lawsuit with the workout. They need some tangible evidence of deterioration in performance to justify Kaepernick not being on an NFL roster.

….The NHL season isn’t any where near thinning out but an observation from a casual Blues fan. When I do watch the Blues, there doesn’t seem to be that constant, deep in the zone, intense forechecking. To me, that’s what carried them to the Golden Stanley Cup Land last year. My early “take” on newly acquired defenseman, Justin Falk I, is that he’ll probably help us in the playoffs but doesn’t look too special to my untrained eyes at this point.

…I had the chance to see SLU basketball last week. It was exciting to watch St Mary’s grad, Yuri Collins perform. He ignited the offense with crisp, classy passes to teammates that often resulted in dunks or wide open jumpers. He ran the show! Now, the opponent that night will never be found in the top 25 but Yuri is for real!  I’d suggest ..if you are a basketball fan…take in a Billiken game….they’re fun to watch as Yuri leads the offense with his golden passes.

….their schedule is thinning out….Mizzou lost to Florida last Saturday. More significant to me than the loss (Florida is simply better) is the lack of discipline for the Tiger players…who commit senseless personal fouls in key spots.  However,  there seems to be no limit  to the  unlimited supply of uniforms. I don’t recognize them from week-week. Maybe Walmart had a sales special on Uniforms? Don’t worry though…MU will whip Arkansas in the last game and qualify for a bowl with 6 wins. It’ll probably be the “Make-Believe” Bowl in Mayberry, Alabama with a starting time close to 10am about 2 weeks after Thanksgiving. Exciting, heh?

…as the college football season thins out….my weekly top 4 has a change. I watched the tremendous Oklahoma come-back against an unbeaten Baylor team. That was a signature win. My new top NCAA-F top 4:  1) LSU   2) Ohio State   3) Oklahoma  4) Clemson (unbeaten but a soft schedule). Putting a Big-12 team into the playoffs seems tough for the NCAA.

…..to wrap it up….special Kudo’s to Larry Kindbom (Washington U’s Head Football Coach). He held the title of Head Coach for 30 years. Prior to his arrival, Wash U struggled in football.  He turned that around andwon 219 games in his 30 years. But….like all really “good” coaches… he’s remembered for much more. He always mentions all the Doctors, scientists, and leaders of the community that he’s coached. He worked with HS coaches. He was a TRUE coach in the fullest sense of the world…he coached all about life…thanks to Larry for all his contributions.