Mizzou @ Crossroads by Bob Ryan

Any major decision in our personal lives…changing jobs, changing marital status, changing residences, etc….has many considerations. So…it’s also true on the collegiate side of things also….Mizzou is at the point of making a major decision…a crossroads…in its major revenue sport—Football.

….First of all, let’s begin with a look at the Decision Maker– Athletic Director Jim Sterk. Jim Sterk was named the 20th Director of Athletics @ Mizzou’s on Aug., 9, 2016. His resume included leading athletics programs at San Diego State, Washington State and Portland State. Sterk arrived @ Mizzou after leaving San Diego State. He was there from 2011-12 thru 2015-16. He has proven to be a terrific fund raiser.

He promoted the Tiger Scholarship Fund (TSF) with great success. He landed 7,000 donors to raise a school-record $50.4 million during the 2016-17 fiscal year, shattering the previous record by more than $4.7 million. TSF’s record-breaking total, which included new pledges and cash gifts, was aided by a school-record 11 gifts of $1 million or more. This is a HUGE plus for an AD. Money talks…and talks louder than any wins or losses…unless the losses impact the income. Currently he’s sitting in a very powerful position due to the funds. Landing a Head FB coach is important to the income…what’s he looking for?

1) An experienced, winning Head Coach @ Major College level with a “name. When Sterk floated out his first group of top 3…it floated about as well as the Titanic; 2) Probably a coach the “opposite” of his predecessor…Odom was a defensive coach….look for a Coach with an Offensive bent in next coach; 3) A coach that knows the Mizzou situation– It ranks among the bottom 3-4 annually in SEC revenue. It’s probably in that same tier when it comes to winning. The stadium has recent updates. The fan base is solid… but in Missouri..in the 2 largest cities… there are professional sports teams (football & baseball) which share the sports dollars with the college game. There are no professional teams in these SEC states-Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky Arkansas, S.Carolina and only in New Orleans in Louisiana while in Georgia, all the pro teams are located in just 1 city(Atlanta) . So…the college team in those states draw the entire passion, adulation.. and money… of the sports fans in these states. And…football is king… hence…college football is king in those Southern states…but not in MO. 4) A coach who can bring in some top-level recruits is required in SEC circles. Many times during Odom’s tenure, we got hard working 2nd tier players or players who failed to develop…e.g. TE Albert Okwuegbunam, who seemed to regress badly in 2019…with poorer blocking skills and a severe lack of self control –causing penalties.

….Sterk’s background in hiring Head football coaches has mixed reviews. While @ Washington in the Pac 10/Pac 12, He hired two Head Coaches. Bill Doba was hired in 2003, coached 5 years held a 30-29 record. Following him was Paul Wulff who went 9-40 in 4 years. At San Diego State, which competes in a bit lower conference, the Mountain West, he hired Rocky Long in 2011. Long is still in that position with a 78-36 @ San Diego State and has won 2 conference championships and tied for a 3rd title. Sterk has accomplished one major hire at MU….Cuonzo Martin in Basketball. Martin was hired in 2017 and posted a 20-13 record in his 1st year while going 15-17 last year. Currently, Martin is 4-4 in 19-20 season.Sterk’s piggy bank will need to be tapped…and heavily… with this next football hire but…going back to point 1…he’s been a very effective fund raiser so I think he can jump that hurdle if need be.

Some other crossroads…

…With 2 losses and no consideration of NCS possibilities in 2019, one may think that Nick Saban will will be at a crossroads with his staff. I doubt it…since, he seems to prefer turnover on his staff each year anyway. Check out the Bama O & D coordinators of the past 5 years.

2019–Steve Sarkisian – Offensive coordinator; Pete Golding — Defensive coordinator/inside linebackers 

2018–Michael Locksley: Co-Offensive Coordinator; Tosh Lupoi: Co-Defensive Coordinator

2017–Brian Daboll-Offensive coordinator; Jeremy Pruitt-Def Coordinator & Tosh Lupoi-Co-Def Cord

2016–Lane Kiffin-Offensive coordinator; Jeremy Pruitt-Def Coordinator

2015–Lane Kiffin-Offensive coordinator; Kirby Smart-Def Coordinator

If you see only 1 name next to a Co-coordinator….it was the only one listed….maybe… Saban considers himself the other Co-Coordinator?! Much to my disappointment, Saban was whining about the final penalty called on Alabama that wrapped up the Auburn victory in the waning seconds. “I really feel that it was a pretty unfair play at the end of the game,” Saban said. “They substituted the punter as a wide receiver, so we put the punt team in. And then when the quarterback was still in there we tried to put the defense back in. I thought they should have given us a little more time to substitute and get [Jaylen] Waddle out as a returner. We get called for 12 guys on the field.” Btw… Mr. Saban, it isn’t the officials’ task to take care of YOUR substitutions. The multiple coordinators could mean one of a lots of things—1) Saban uses/learns the new ideas of a fresh coordinator..then finds the next “new” idea man (it’s called the Kleenex Principle—use em, throw em away quickly) 2) The Coaches get that year on their resume & tire of Saban & move on; 3) Bama coordinators are offered plum Head Coaching positions.

…The Mizzou basketball loss to Charleston Southern(3-5) (ranked #327 out of 353 teams) was one of the worst ever. Southerns’ 5 losses had been by an average margin of 39 points! Southern was a 26 point underdog, had lost 15 straight games against power 5 teams. Charleston Southern Buccaneers ranked No. 353 in Division I in 3-point shooting — out of 354 teams. Seeminlgy out-doing their opponents at their own game, Mizzou shot 4 of 26 from beyond the arc (wouldn’t you stop shooting them at some point and go inside?) and swallowed a huge, devastating upset pill. Ugh!

…It brought back nightmares of other horrible MU basketball losses….just briefly…you can’t dwell on it too long….In 2005, Quin Snyder’s team lost to Sam Houston State (not at the Alamo)..on the court… 80-77,then in 2012 the always powerful, Norfolk State, beat the Tigers(30-5) in an NCAA OT game 86-84. Finally, the mighty Quinn fell to Belmont 71-67 in 2003.…2016 saw Kim Anderson’s team drop a 67-64 game @ Mizzou Arena to E. Illinois and 8 days later lose to Libscomb 81-76 on the same court…finally, the stunning upset by Coppin State over Mizzou@ Hearnes Center in 1997,78-70.

Still more crossroads…

…The NCAA-F games this weekend has made it easier to determine the final 4. My first 3 picks remain the same as last week: 1) LSU 2) Ohio State 3) Clemson and now #4 is Oklahoma. I think that this process is at a crossroads. Make the determination of the final NCAA-F teams be decided on the field. My idea…   all Major 5 champions advance..the 6th spot would be determined by the power 5 team that lost by the narrowest margin in the Championship game OR the best Independent Team. The committee could seed those 6 teams each year. There would be 2 first round games..seed #6 v #3 & # 5 v #4.

…moving past the crosswords of his collegiate career is a local player, Jr. AJ Epenesa. A 6-6, 280 lb def end from Edwardsville HS and currently at Univ of Iowa, he was named Big 10-1st Team All-Conf. He earned the Big 10 Def Player of the Week-3x this year! He may enter the NFL draft this year because some mock drafts have him listed as high as the #6 overall pick of the draft, several others in the top 10!   

…the State of Texas is at a crossroads…for years…even decades…it was the Cowboys that owned the state and the NFL(Nearly Forgotten League). The “Boys” haven’t even won their Divisional Championship game since…..ready…1995! They won the Super Bowl that year over the Steelers 27-17… Btw…I knew that Tom Landry was a long-time coach but I had no idea….he was HC from 1960 through1988!

…clearly a star & not at a crossroads, StL HS star, Bradley Beal is 5th in the NBA in scoring this season with a 28.3ppg. The 26 year old is now in his 8th NBA season and holds a 20.2 lifetime scoring average.

…moving again down the road, Tommy Pham gets traded by Rays to San Diego. Pham continued his strong OB% career mode with .844 mark in 2019. The Rays obtain a high prospect Xavier Edwards and a slugger, low average type hitter in Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe batted .216 with 33 HR last year. Tampa Ace LHP Blake Snell wasn’t happy about the trade, “”I’m more just upset that we gave away a huge piece of our team,” Snell said. “He was the swag of our team. He lifted a lot of our position players up with just his presence and made other guys more swaggy. Pham definitely plays with emotion.. generally, fans LOVE to see it, at least I did. I guess, the MLB management guys don’t prefer it..they want those cardboard type players… no depth to their personality.

Now, I’m at my crossroads…..I’m choosing “the END” road!

Other side of Bowl Ban by Bob Ryan

The NCAA ruled this week that Mizzou would not be permitted to accept a bowl bid. The Mizzou athletic staff seemed genuinely surprised by the decision. Their feeling was that Mizzou had cooperated with the NCAA fully. So, a severe penalty would not occur. MU expected a milder, if any, penalty from the NCAA for their “cooperation” I’ve been down this road previously…trying to present the other side of the story since the local StL paper has presented only MU’s side ….

….however, prior to looking at details of this particular situation, my common sense tells me that his isn’t a unique situation in D-1 football or basketball programs. Have you listened to any of those monosyllabic interviews with some of these players? But…the pressure of huge payouts from bowl games & television to colleges… seemed to have…from my far-away perspective…..pushed a true collegiate education… designed to provide life time skills & knowledge to sustain yourself and a family….to the back-burner for some of the larger “big-time” sports schools.

…According to the KC Star, on Nov 2, 2016 Yolanda Kumar said she reported her “academic dishonesty” during an 18-minute phone call Nov. 2 with Mary Ann Austin, Mizzou’s executive associate athletic director for compliance. Kumar had worked as a tutor for Mizzou on/off during the past 6 years. She indicated that she had been “groomed” to help keep athletes eligible (primarily basketball & football). Since Kumar started work for the program in 2010, she said she tutored hundreds of Mizzou athletes. But 15 cases, she said, involved serious academic fraud. “Either, I completed an online class, I took a placement test, I assisted with the placement test,” she said, “or I was present during your online assessment and you asked me questions while you were taking the online assessment.” Kumar said SHE reported her actions after reaching a breaking point. She said she participated in at least a dozen serious cases of academic fraud involving both men’s and women’s athletes during a 16-month period. “I was at my wit’s end,” Kumar said. “I had pretty much had enough, and I felt good that I had told her.” Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk announced 5+ hours later that it had “received allegations of potential academic rules violations” and opened an investigation. Kumar continued in her interview with the KC Star about a particular student, “A men’s athlete had been placed with Kumar last summer for help in a core class that she was told he needed to graduate. “I did everything I could and he passed,” she said, “but he really was struggling with very basic things that my eighth-grader could do.” When the athlete needed additional help to stay eligible this fall, he was again placed with Kumar for help with an online statistics class. “It’s taken almost four weeks for him to even understand it. … I looked at him,” Kumar said as she burst into tears, “and he was so depressed that he couldn’t do it.” Her voice now cracking, she repeated, “He couldn’t do it. “No matter how many times I told him, how many examples I gave him, he couldn’t do it. It was just doing adding. That was all he had to do was add it up, and he couldn’t do it. It was me. I was looking at what I had done, because I helped this. I didn’t start it with him. I wasn’t the person who pushed him through high school. I didn’t get him this far in college, but I did this. I helped with this test. This kid was going to fail and it was my fault, too.” Kumar said the athlete was despondent because he couldn’t keep up with his coursework. She brought it up with his academic coordinator, who said he was advised to meet with a school psychologist, but nobody could force him to go. She continued her story with another specific incident,” After becoming a full-time adjunct statistics instructor and part-time math instructor during the 2011-12 academic year, Kumar stopped working as a tutor. She briefly left Columbia after the spring semester, but returned in fall 2012 and resumed tutoring. That’s when the grooming started, as she puts it. “You’re just groomed,” Kumar said. “It’s just something that’s understood and the next thing you know, the same person keeps sending you students with the same situation. … I was put in a situation where I felt harassed to do certain things.” Kumar declined to name specific athletes or staff members because she expects to be asked to testify in the NCAA investigation. However, she said she can document each case of alleged academic fraud. “At some point, I realized this might come back to bite me,” Kumar said. “There’s classes, semesters, students.” Kumar said her “first inkling” that she was doing more than tutoring came when she had a student who stopped going to a math class. “I taught him the entire course, because he missed it,” she said. “He wasn’t a low-functioning student; he was a high-functioning student, but he just wasn’t motivated to sit through that lecture.”(go to class).

…In another example, Kumar points to another case in 2015, when she was called to a special meeting to discuss how to help a football player stay on track with summer courses while he was ill with the mumps. “He needed to pass a finance class to be eligible, so I helped him,” she said. “He wrote down his username and password. His coordinator knew about it, saying help him with whatever.” Roughly a month later, with that athlete playing football again, Kumar received a call from the basketball academic coordinator to help what she called “two high-profile athletes” with an online class.

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

….Some Mizzou fans keep bringing up the N. Carolina episode…i.e. Students could just walk into the class, sign in, walk out and get a passing grade. Why no punishment for the Athletic department?  Because… ALL students at NC receive the same treatment….unbelievably, fake credit.. in that class…it wasn’t “special” for the athletes. NCAA isn’t responsible for bad schools.

…Let’s be totally honest…this 2019 Mizzou team wasn’t really a bowl team anyway….their 6-6 record with 1 win over a D-II school and 5 other wins all over teams under .500 for the season.

…I feel sorry for Barry Odum….this was his dream job. He seemed like a nice guy who threw himself into his job. But, it was his FIRST NCAA-Head Coaching Position. I’ve indicated that I thought he needed more experience prior to jumping into the SEC deep waters of high expectations. With the dwindling attendance, lack of bowl money, it….as always it seems…it comes down to money…he was fired despite getting a contract extension just last year! Speaking of money, Odum was the lowest paid SEC Head Coach. MU better get ready to “buck up” this time…often, you get what you pay for.

…Bama’s soft schedule with few..if any.. close games… catches up to them as Auburn edges them 48-45 in a wild offensive game. The final series capped it off…. on 4th & 4 from deep on their end with under a minute to play…Auburn lined up quickly as if they were “going for it”. Alabama substituted & resubstituted late..too late.. and was called for too many players on the field…1st down Auburn…game

…I’m just wondering if all these Blues injuries are due…at least in part….to the short summer to completely heal up from 1 season and get ready for the next season?  Just wondering….

….My top 4 NCAA-F teams this week….1) LSU  2) Ohio State   3) Clemson  4) Utah

….Counzo Martin has the Tigers (2-2)playing a well-rounded pre-conference schedule…couple cupcakes, couple real teams. He has to find a way to keep Jerimiah Tilmon on the court against good teams. Tilmon continues to get into early foul trouble against talented opposing players, as he has done throughout his MU career. This is a key year for Martin, his 3rd year…in his first 3 head coaching positions (MO State, Tennessee, California), he left after 3 years.

…Ohio State’s demolition of Michigan 56-27 must have some of the Wolverine fans/boosters wondering if Coach Harbaugh will ever….or eventually ..lead them to a Big 10 title.

That’s my side of the story….love to hear your thoughts….directly on FB, Prepcasts or an email to me.

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.

Saban Loses Gamble by Bob Ryan

Nick Saban rarely loses these days….seldom loses games, rarely loses on this top recruits, usually procures the assistant coaches that he wants , gets most of everything that he wants from Alabama University….but he lost out on a big gamble this week.

….Saban had gambled on his 2019 schedule. It was soft…really soft…his selection of non-conference foes would be glossed over by fans, the press and most importantly the Selection Committee. The Cupcakes like New Mexico State with an anemic  0-9 record, Duke…this isn’t basketball..is 4-5 for the season!…and from the “powerful” Southern Conference, Western Carolina Catamount is 3-7. It was rated the 2nd easiest schedule in the SEC and 44th rated schedule  in the country.  He gambled that his feeble foes would be glossed over when he hung up an 12-0 regular season record…followed by an SEC Championship. He’d strut into the Championship Final Four…btw….this is the same approach taken by Clemson….enjoy the cupcakes for the season and waltz into the final four. He could count on it. The writers …and selection committee…from an outside perspective, they seemed awed by the NFL talent on the team, the legendary coach, the tradition of Bama football all the way back to Bear Bryant.

…while Saban realized that LSU would be a athletic foe but he’d always handled them…he’d beaten them 8 straight times through 2018. Why would it be different this year?

….On a side note….I’ve been clamoring all season to judge the college football rankings not strictly  on the number of wins, or the reputation, or the draft status of their stars…but who did they actually beat on the field?

…But…..these well designed plans fell apart on Saturday as Louisiana State University beat Alabama 46-41. LSU was NEVER behind in the game!  The Tigers led 33-13 at half. The 3rd quarter was rather tame offensively as Bama scored the only 7 points of the quarter..now trailed 33-20. The Crimson Tide sliced the margin to 39-34 with 4:35 remaining in the game. LSU came right back with a 7 play, 3:55  drive 75 yard drive to push it to 46-34 and scored with only 1:37 remaining in the game. Alabama struck right back, 16 seconds later with  a 75 yard TD pass but LSU hung on for the exciting win. LSU did outgain Bama 559-541,

Now…back to Saban’s gamble….how can any voter put Alabama in the top 4 based on their competition level, lack of a conference championship…or even an appearance in the SEC title game. Generally, teams don’t get “points” for losing to good teams.

….btw…according to the Steele report, the “toughness” of the SEC football schedules in the country is as follows:  Below are Phil Steele’s rankings of schedule for SEC teams:  1. South Carolina  2. Auburn  4. Texas A&M   6. LSU    7. Tennessee      10. Florida     13. Georgia     18. Vanderbilt 19. Mississippi State    21. Ole Miss     32. Arkansas    41. Missouri   44. Alabama  51. Kentucky.  Yes, he thinks Mizzou’s schedule with SEMO, Troy, & W.Virgina( 3-6) record is BETTER than Alabama’s!

Sooooo….who would YOU have in your Top 4 NCAA-F teams?  I’d have 9-0  LSU @ #1 with wins over these ranked teams: Alabama, Texas, Auburn and Florida, They have Ole Miss, Arkansas & Texas A&M left on their schedule. #2 Ohio State…has really been rolling over teams early in games..only “big” win is over Wisconsin #3 Clemson 10-0…only “good” win is over Texas A&M…..it appears that These Tigers follow the same script as Alabama with the “Charmin” type schedule  #4 Oregon(8-1)—only loss was in week 1 against Auburn with good win over Washington. On the cusp: Georgia (wins over Notre Dame, Florida) with Auburn & Texas A&M coming up next…wins over both these good teams could push them into the TOP 4. Minnesota 9-0 had a very easy first 4 weeks with narrow wins in some cases but has been dramatically improved over the last 5 weeks….continuation of this type of play providing them with “good” wins could make them a factor.

…Mizzou seems to have lost their gamble this fall. The Tigers thought that Kelly Bryant was going to be the difference maker for them this season and push them to the top. He led Mizzou to wins in the W. Virginia, SEMO, South Carolina, Troy and Mississippi.  He had poor passing days against Kentucky (130 yards) and Vanderbilt (140) yards. He had 23% of his total passing yards (423) for the season in a losing effort against Wyoming. At this point, it looks like one of those mid-December bowls will be the Tigers ticket this year.

….Cards gamble very little…but they customarily sign at least 1 free agent who they can promote in the off season…who’s In their Free agent headlights this winter?   How about 1 of the following pitchers as my guess– Madison Baumgarner, Sonny Gray, Julio Tehran, Kyle Gibson. I don’t see Cards signing any every-day field player this winter.

….the Nearly Forgotten League continues to gamble with their fans…..insulting St. Louis on the way out, completely shut the door from any NFL team meeting success…or relocation… here again. Now San Diego Chargers ’s ownership doesn’t seem to like Stan’s terms and way of handling the “new” stadium in LA. They are looking around but…being told by Jerry Jones to “stop and like it”….this is going to be your home stadium. I’m sure that the Chargers fans are just thrilled with this on again-off again deal. It’s always been a challenge to draw well in LA unless you have a championship type team…..doesn’t look like that’s happening!

….the Blues finally pulled the trigger…Robby Fabbri just didn’t fit into the “new” heavy checking style. He sat out often during Berube’s tenure. So the was traded to Detroit for a Jacob De La Rose. A player who it seems to fit into this heavy checking mode. I expect Fabbri will score some goals for the Red Wings ( I think he has 3 already) but it really wasn’t a gamble from my eyes…he just didn’t fit here.

…Is this a gamble or what? from what I read from the Cardinals Propaganda sheet…. oops…their on-line site….the Cards are hoping…and working…on Matt Carpenter returning to the production level of 2 or 3 years ago. I guess…it is only natural to hope… since you can’t dump the guy to anyone with that enormous salary.

…maybe my eyes were tricking me….but…every time I attended a Cardinal game last year and saw the “announced” attendance figure it surprised me! I’d look @ all the empty seats and hear 40,000+. I realized that it’s paid attendance not actual attendance but are the Cards gambling that those announced figures will boost their corporate sales to advertising in Busch. ..btw…some regular fans ALREADY think that Busch is overloaded with advertising on walls, screens, boards, seats, press boxes, across the street, on every hand-out, vendors, concession stands, yada-yada-yada.

…no more gambling for me, I’m done…..thx for reaching the bottom…..your thoughts are ALWAYS invited…agree or disagree…any part…

Nationals Time by Bob Ryan

From an ancient proverb comes  these words….”There is a time to be born, and a time to die;  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away… well, it certainly was the Nationals time to “get”…..they overcame many obstacles…many deficits…severe odds….with some familiar names…some on the way up….some already there….and some sliding down the downside of their career. Some of the remarkable parts of this exciting World Series….  

…..the Nationals repeatedly overcame deficits… They overcame a two-run, eighth-inning deficit to beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild-card game. Erased a 3-1, 8th-inning deficit in Game 5 of the NL Division Series with home runs from budding stars–Rendon and Soto – before Howie Kendrick finished off the highly favored, 106-win,  LA Dodgers with a grand slam. The “destiny” Nats kept it up… Washington overcame a 2-0 deficit to win Game 1 in Houston. They scored six 7th-inning runs to break open a tie Game 2. Then,  in a must-win Game 6, trailed 2-1 after 4 innings before scoring 6 times in the final five innings to force Wednesday’s Game 7.  Game 7 itself, trailing 2-0 to a seemingly invincible Zach Greineke…suddenly Rondon’s HR….another runner….and Greineke was removed (too quick for my taste…you pay him $34m to be in the game at crunch time)…and Kendricks’ 2 run HR off of a good pitch that he took the other way….and it tailed into the Foul Pole screen …the Nats led instantly, Washington was on top…never to slip… for the remainder of game 7.

…The Astros held Washington to just 1 run in each of the 3 games in Washington. This was the first time that the visiting team…during the middle 3 games of the Series, allowed 1 run or fewer in all three contests

….Game 7 of the World Series was the 210th game this year for the Astros, including 30 exhibition games during the spring, the 162-game regular season and 18 postseason games. Washington played 208 games,  29 in the spring and 17 games in postseason.

…the time already seems to have passed for the Nats…Rondon has become a free agent, Strasburg opts out of his $100m/4 yr contract,  Ryan Zimmermann’s option wasn’t picked up; Matt Adams released….ahhh…the short time of celebrating the championship

…Some Players performed far above normal expectations in the Series….

….Stephen Strasburg, whos 8 2/3 innings win of game Game 6 forced game 7 is the FIRST OVERALL #1 pick of the draft to win a World Series MVP with a team that drafted him. Strasburg had also won game 2 and completed the entire post-season with a shining 5-0 record and a dazzling 1.96 ERA.

…Gerrit Cole was totally dominating…and pushed his Free Agency value skyward like a rocket takeoff…Cole stands in rarified air in terms of dominance. Sunday marked his fourth start this October with at least seven innings, seven strikeouts and one or fewer runs allowed — the second most in a single postseason behind Curt Schilling’s five such outings in 2001….then Cole piled up an 8-0 record .. Including his 2 road starts in the postseason, with a 0.89 ERA (a scant 6 earned runs across 61 innings) over his past nine starts away from Minute Maid Park. Cole’s strikeouts totals were eye-popping ! He struck out 9 Nationals on Sunday, raising his total in this postseason to 47. That’s tied with Randy Johnson (2001), Josh Beckett (’03) and Cliff Lee (’10) for the second-most strikeouts in a single postseason, trailing only Curt Schilling’s 56 for the D-backs in ’01. Further, Cole’s strikeout of Adam Eaton in the fourth inning marked his 368th strikeout of 2019, passing Nolan Ryan in 1974 for the 5th-highest single-year total (regular and postseason combined) in modern history. Johnson holds the all-time mark with 419 K’s in 2001. Despite these incredible numbers, Cole’s post-game remark after being asked for his thoughts on the game, “I’m not an employee of the team” any longer seemed bitter about his treatment and anxious to jump into FA waters. Now, in reflection, “I was upset, and my tone did not come off quite the way I wanted it to,” Cole told the Houston Chronicle. “One win away. We had the lead with eight outs to go. It’s just a tough pill to swallow.” It DOES have to be tough…immediately after losing the WS…that writers are right in your face with personal, tough questions…it seems we all’d talk before we think. But, in a short time….he’s gone from Houston.

But, there were “other” times for athletes this week…

…Already, the Cardinals time is being spent promoting their top prospect…Dylan Carlson. He just turned 21 in October…this switch hitter batted .281 @ Springfield (AA) and .361 @ Memphis (AAA). We fans have been down this trail previously…remember Alex Reyes’ was 4-1 in late 2016…he was going to be our next “ace”….well…now the forecast on him by Baseball Reference for 2020 is a 2-2 record….prospects are just prospects until they actually DO IT in the MLB.

…Maybe, it is Mike Matheny’s time?  He was hired as KC manager. During this Cardinal “time”, I felt he wasn’t prepared to be a MLB manager since he had absolutely NO experience as  a manager other than coaching High School. Now….he does…6.5 years. His remarks sounded like he’d grown…”I must communicate better”, “I must listen better”, yada-yada-yada. But.. WILL he improve on his teaching of running the bases, of handling the bullpen (no more Seth Maness acts) or of Fielding…3 woeful areas during his tenure.  Now….all that being said….basically, there are 2 types of managers hired…. those hired to compete for the title…and those hired to “baby-sit” the doormats. 

…Too much time on hill? Will Harris (Astros reliever) who couldn’t wrap the game up for Houston was probably overused. That appearance was his 80th of the 2019 season & post season…and he was coming on back-back days. I would say that the “time” of any 34 year old pitcher performing with that much work under his belt for the season and so little rest would face steep odds of succeeding

Then….there are some that the time just isn’t right!

…The Detroit Tigers “time” just wasn’t right. They had the pitchers…but not at the right time. Look at their 2014 Starting rotation—Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, David Price, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez.  What’s happened to those guys…Justin Verlander – 2017 World Series champ; Rick Porcello – 2018 WS champ; David Price- 2018 WS champ; Max Scherzer – 2019 WS champ; Anibal Sanchez – 2019 World Series champ

…it is time for MSHSAA to look @ the HS playoff system for Missouri. The first 9 weeks of the season are used to seed district teams. That part seems solid. However, why let all 8 teams get into the STATE tournament level. I’d like to see only the top 4 teams of each district advance into the MO HS playoff system. Football is the most difficult sport…in my opinion…to upset another team. As it is now, 1 plays 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6 and 4 v5 in week  10 of the season, which is week 1 of District play.  Soooo….I’m suggesting to let the #5 team play #6 and #7 v #8 for their 10th game of the year (those games would be competitive) while #1-4 seeded teams compete in District(which is the first level of the STATE tournament)….  Currently, the sad, horribly one-sided scores this weekend doesn’t make the losers …or the winners…  happy. I mean…how many football teams seeded 5, 6, 7, or 8 EVER made it to the STATE Championship game anyway? Further, it’d shorten the season by a game so the season wouldn’t have to start around the brutally hot days of Aug 20ish.

…Sooo. ..it seems…in time, some things do run in cycles …

Urban Meyer’s career looks as if it’ll be resurrected again. After coaching 10 straight years with the final 6 years @ Florida…Meyer resigned due to migraines after 2010 season. A year later, he returned to take the Ohio state position. He coached there 7 years, went 83-9 then.. again, resigned due to health reasons… Well…after 1 year, the coaching bug must have bitten him again… rumors are circulating again about another return. Could it be ND or USC?

…well….my time is up….hopefully, you’ll respond, to any part of the blog…in time    

The Golden Age by Bob Ryan

The Golden Age could apply to many parts of history…the Romans, Greeks, Middle Ages, etc….it also applies to the sports world…

…the golden age of each World Series dominates the sports cycle for 10 days-2 week period. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, while many expected Houston to out-hit the Nationals, the Astros have only permitted 9 runs in 4 games. The 4th game seemed like the key…..either Washington could balance the series at 2-2 or Houston would take a strong 3-1 lead.  Jose Altuve blasted yet another HR in the 1st inning to put the Astros up 2-0. Altuve is clearly living up to his “superstar” status in this post-season. Other random notes on players…Nats’ Trea Turner is a terrific shortstop….He  blasted 19 HR, held a .298 average, stole 35 bases, and is a very good shortstop defensively. Antony Rendon will be driving the Brink’s Truck this winter as he signs a mega-deal with some team. The 29 year old has an OPS of over .900 for 3 straight yeasr. Apparently, Houston’s 25 year old Alex Bregman is the unofficial batting coach of the Astros. His astute observations are shared with all in the dugout. He backs it up with OPS averages in the last 3 years of 1.019, .926, .827. Will Harris, a middle reliever, entered the 4th game in a tight spot for Houston and the momentum ready to swing back to Washington. He got the key out, ended the inning and snuffed out the smell of a rally. He had 26 holds this season.  In 5 years with the Astros, he has 104 holds! Final thoughts…..the games are…in my opinion….way too long…..I watched an hour of game 3 and saw 2 innings…period.  Ugh!! Between half innings must be 3 minutes…put those ads on the screen between batters…. more people would see them anyway.

…some say the Golden Age of MLB drafting was the 2011 Draft. Part of that star-studded class was the Astros George Springer, Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon who all were all 1st rounders. Others selected were Javier Baez, Trea Turner, the late Jose Fernandez, Mookie Betts, Trevor Bauer,and Francisco Lindor. That’s quite a team right there!

….the Golden Age of Baseball, or sometimes called the Baseball’s Golden Era began around 1920 to app. 1960. The Golden era of baseball links the Dead Ball era with the Modern Era of baseball. During this time the 1st baseball game was broadcast in color in 1951. By the mid, 1960’s all baseball games were in color. The Golden Age included super stars like  Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Hank Greenberg, Rogers Hornsby and especially Babe Ruth. Ruth was an iconic figure who’s popularity mushroomed the size of interest in the MLB. Also, during the Golden Era-specifically 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color line and led to the growth of the sport. Some of the Modern Era stars began their careers in the Golden Era. Players like Bob Gibson, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn, Ernie Banks were some of the prime examples of this nature.

…The Nats thought that Bryce Harper would lead them to the Golden Age of baseball—the World Series. Doesn’t one have to wonder if the departure of Harper this season was a major reason for the success of the Nationals THIS year.  I guess they got tired of trying to make the door way wider so that Harper could get his big head…..and salary…. through the door J

….in college football, the SEC is living in the Golden age currently. As one looks at the Head Coaches, it’s very surprising to me that 7 of the 14 Head coaches..exactly ½… are in their 1st Head Coaching College Position.  Barry Odum (Mizzou), Matt Luke(Mississippi), Jeremy Pruitt(Tennessee), Derek Mason (Vanderbilt), Ed Orgeron(LSU) ,Mark Stoops(Kentucky), Kirby Smart(Georgia). Now, Orgeron and Stoops have built up long careers coaching college football. Orgeron has been coaching college football for 36 years—but mostly just as a defensive line coach. Stoops has been in the business 29 years, with 9 years as a defensive coordinator.  Kirby Smart’s 20 year coaching resume includes 3 different stints …total 11 years…with Nick Saban.  Saban…btw…is in his 47th year of coaching college or pro football. To expect a 1st year head coach to compete successfully in a league with so much pressure is probably unrealistic, unless they have tons of experience. So…..is it any surprise that the other 4 first-time coaches are all experiencing difficulties? Why would schools hire the most important position on the athletic staff who have NEVER been a Head Coach previously?

…Speaking of coaches, CBC soccer has been in the Golden Age for 49 years now under the leadership of Terry Michler.  Coach “Micks” recorded his 1000th victory recently. He’s the winningest high school boys soccer coach in the nation. Think about it…..almost 50 straight years of 20  wins are needed to nail down that 1000 win bullseye.  Coach attended CBC as a student and was a star athlete as he was the starting QB in football in the fall and obviously….starred in soccer in the winter…..yes….for you younger readers, MO played boys soccer in the winter until the late 1970’s. For years he held some of the passing records @ CBC until the run & shoot offense evolved.  He graduated from Rockhurst University in 4 years. He turned down an opportunity to coach @ CBC upon graduation so that he could play professional soccer. Terry went on to play professional soccer in the days when the newly formed American league REQUIRED 2 Americans to be on the team. As I recall…there were 16 American born players in the league, Coach was one of them. Two years later, the CBC opened up again…this time, Coach accepted the offer. He moved back to CBC …and the golden age began. He has taken several trips to Holland to stay current in the “latest” soccer approaches and strategies. His current record is 1000-283-117. Congratulations to our friend for his skill, quest to keep improving, teaching skills and love of the game! …College Football is golden in many ways. It has the Golden Gophers (Minnesota), Golden Eagles (So. Mississippi), Golden Hurricanes (Tulsa), Golden Panthers(Florida International), Golden Knights (Cen Florida), and of course the Golden Dome @ Notre Dame J

….In the College Football mode….it was a Golden week of games…surprises galore! …I was really surprised that #19 Michigan manhandled #8 Notre Dame 45-14. The Wolverines dominated the line play and pounded ND’s defense all day with a fierce running game inside the tackles. Michigan’s Head Coach, Jim Harbaugh, needed the win badly to hold onto any claim of being a national power. His Michigan team had only beaten 1 top 10 ranked team in 11 games prior to Saturday….I was shocked as I scanned around the multitude of NCAA-F games on TV on Saturday afternoon, early in the game, to see K-State ahead of Oklahoma. The Wildcat crowd was extremely enthusiastic and their energy carried over to the players. The final of K-State 48, OU 41 was shocking! It wasn’t surprising to see OU with 41 points but for K-State to put 48 on the board was incredible. Offensively, K-State was as balanced as can be…213 rushing and 213 passing. On Defense, K-State sometimes rushed only 3 players on many downs, hoping to “cover and take away the quick score.  As I watched Mizzou, the QB’s in the “shotgun” formation on running much more often on the college level. Kentucky’s QB wasn’t a good passer, so MU went man-man coverage on passing. Using the others to rush the passer….it often worked…but on occasion, when the Kentucky QB broke through the initial wave of players, usually on a QB counter run play…it was a huge gain. Mizzou’s loss hurt.

…Love to read YOUR thoughts on any of these topics….send them to me via email (rjryansr@charter.net), on FB (Bob Ryan), or respond on Prepcasts (www.Prepcasts.com)

Green Light – Red Light by Bob Ryan

We all know about the green-red-yellow light system as we drive. However, we also face it in our daily life– the same green light (go ahead make that move in your life) or red light (nope…can’t do it) system. It’s true in sports also…

….the Cardinals are facing a tough decision on Marcel Ozuna…do they resign him (green light) or…..more likely… offer a qualifying offer (a 1 year deal) to him. I don’t think that the Cardinals are considering a multi-year offer to Ozuna. So…it’ll be a qualifying offer. The qualifying 1 year offer would be  for $17.8m. If another team signs Ozuna …after this qualifying offer has been made….that team would have to surrender a draft pick compensation to the Cardinals. The latest trend in MLB is that teams DON’T want to sign a high priced free agent (or one un qualifying offer status) AND give up a draft choice. If no team signs Ozuna…or he refuses to sign with another team, he’ll be a Cardinal again.   Do the Cardinals REALLY want him back? He did carry a big offensive load in August/Sept push that put the Cards into the playoffs. But, in the playoffs his bat was silent for the most part. His defense has been spotty and his throwing to bases from the OF has been challenged over and over again (no red light for runners when Marcel is throwing the ball). His key drop in the NLCS against Washington was determined by statistics to be 75% catchable. So….what would you do…you can’t trade him…he’s a free agent.

…..Barry Odum’s Mizzou Tigers really had a BAD RED Light on Saturday. A huge…almost 4 TD favorite….the Tiger 21-14 loss to Vanderbilt was a real RED Light for the program. Coupled with the Wyoming loss in week 1, the Tigers under Odum are 3 -7 in games that have a 7 point or less difference in the final score in his career.  I haven’t seen all of the Mizzou games but have noticed a few things. They DO have talent offensively and defensively.But,  I have also noticed areas of weak self-discipline when they make a good play…they occasionally “talk the talk” to the opposition. Even Albert O after his TD pass was penalized for “yapping” at the opponents. I think this type of “talking AT your opponents” really manifests lack of self discipline AND in close games that weakness jumps up to bite them in keep spots late in the games….with penalties, missed assignments, whatever. It can be corrected…..Coach Odum has that as one of his challenges.

….I applaud the decisions of Cardinal Ritter HS about the illegal use of a player in game 1 of the season. Using a player, who had been suspended for just that first game, sends a horrible message to the player, team, parents and community. There ARE rules that must be followed. Ritter forfeited all their games  for this season(according the MSHSAA), fired the entire coaching staff and suspended the team for the entire season. All the coaches and players knew what was going on when this star running back wore a different jersey, used a fake name to play in the game. the Violation was caught be a StL P-D high school writer who noticed the tattoo on his “unknown”  player’s arm that matched the tattoo of the star running back of this VERY talented team. The Athletic Director also retired due to the affair.  While I love sports…and worked as hard as I could to win in sports…..a coach and all the players MUST stay within the rules AT ALL TIMES. 

…..just when I was ready to write a fire him (RED LIGHT) note on Lovie Smith for his work @ Illinois, the Illini jump up and spring the upset of the yaar in the Big 10 with a win over #6 ranked Wisconsin 24-23 with a last second FG. It was the first win for Illinois over a ranked team since 2007. With that win, Lovie holds a 12-31 record @ Illinois. Lovie was made famous by his work in the NFL…especially with his cover 2 defense (2 deep safeties) but that was almost 20 years ago. The last winning team that he coached as a Head Coach was in 2012!

…STAR players make BIG plays in BIG games…..how about the Green Light for Jose Altuve’s walk off Home run for the Astros in game 6 against the Yankees sending them to the World Series. The Cards never received the benefit for a STAR player performing like that in the 2019 post-season.

…..we’re moaning in the Lou about losing the NLCS to Washington….what about the Yankees?  NYY has always handed out the cash year after year but haven’t made the World Series since 2009. They have a deep bullpen, sluggers galore, a deep bench…the only weak link seems to be the starting staff. Due to it’s shortcomings, the bullpen gets a bit overused at times. NYY management will need a GREEN LIGHT to sign a top-flight starter…did you say Gerrit Cole?

….there was a RED LIGHT on passing in the Georgia-Kentucky game on Saturday. Bulldogs QB, Jake Fromm was 9 of 12 for a whopping 35 yards. Kentucky’s QB was just 2 of 15 for 17 yards in passing!  There was a total of 106 total snaps for both teams in this fast moving, no incomplete pass, mode….to give you an idea Boise State had more than that number by itself earlier in the year!

….sorry….I have a RED LIGHT on the Blues…..I’ve never really watched them closely until after New Years…..still holding to my tradition. That’s real hockey time…when the weather gets cold outside J

…I recently had an email from a friend who wanted the Cards to trade Matt Carpenter. While the idea is appealing…who’d take the guy with his salary.  I think that the ONLY  way that he could be traded would be with a young, talented, inexpensive player to another mid-level team  for a rather high cost, aging player or pitcher. Free Agent-wise 3B Josh Donaldson is on the market…his last contract was for $23m…will the Cards go above that?

….Could the Cards use Tommy Edman as their “variety”GREEN LIGHT man.  He’d play most days..but just not at one position….3B, RF, CF….where ever…. he hasn’t reached our 1000 AB mark yet (that’s the minimum time before one should determine the skill of a player) so he’s not yet an absolute, but I’ll take my chances on him.

…some have asked that I shorten my blogs(use a RED LIGHT)…..so I’ll give it a try this week. Thanks for reading and I’m anxious to read YOUR thoughts on Marcel….and/or any other part of the blog.

Crackerjack Surprises by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

…..on the NCAA-F “surprise” front…..

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

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

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

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

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

Bright Lights of Post Season by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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