High Floor – Low Ceiling by Bob Ryan

A higher floor and  a lower ceiling describes the Cardinals. With their skill & experience, we can feel comfortable that the Cards will rack up 85 wins…NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. Actually not many teams can say that…& keep a straight face However, the Lower Ceiling limits how HIGH…or how many wins…we can achieve.  The Cards have a good team…..but not a great team….some reasons…  …According to the medical world, we reach our pinnacle as a player…and as an overall person physically…. around 23 years of age. Cognitive abilities peak @ 24 years of age and perceptual speed drops continually after 24 years of age. The “Fastball” speed starts going down in a player’s early 20s, and spin rate drops with it. For a batter, Exit velocity begins to decline at 23 or 24. An average runner slows a little more than 1 inch per second every year, beginning pretty much immediately upon his debut. It takes a little over four seconds for most runners to reach first base, which means with each birthday, it’s as if the bases were pulled 4 inches farther apart. Sooo….to summarize this lesson in physiology, the body & the brain begin slowing down…for most individuals…around 23-24 years old. Now…..experience gained through learning tendencies, maintaining skills through years of repetition, expectations based on many similar…or same..situations compensates  for this snail-like decline physically. If players don’t…or can’t …adapt, they find themselves with shorter careers. The missing variable is, of course, experience. A 23-year-old begins to decline physically at the same time that he learns how to play baseball better through competition & experience @ the MLB level 

….Now…we all know that no 2 people are exactly alike….sooo…obviously some athletes reach their athletic pinnacle a bit later.  In addition, I’ve often thought that “smart” players last longer because they learn more from their experiences and use it wisely.

…Shift your gaze to the Cardinals age in their probable starting lineup….Molina-37, Goldschmidt-32, Wong-29, DeJong-26, Carpenter-34, O’Neill-25, CF-Bader-26, Fowler-34. Starting rotation of Flaherty-24, Wainwright-38, Mikolas-31, Hudson-25, Martinez-28 and the closer, Andrew Miller-35, Gallego Gallegos-28 and hopefully Jordan Hicks at the prime age of 23. This roster has veterans who have piled up significant MLB careers…. from their many of years of experience….the Cards will STILL win many games but….can they push through Mother Nature’s tugging on them as they march down the long road of a MLB season & playoffs and still win BIG through those playoffs? High floor….low ceiling. 

… after these notes regarding the aging of players, why are we waiting for Dylan Carlson?  He’s 21….we’re wide open in LF. He’s been terrific in Florida … bring him up now and start him!…Or… will he get the “Bryant” treatment…brought up just days AFTER the deadline that marks it a full season towards free agency. Any reason to keep him down is a ruse other than saving an extra year prior to him reaching free agency.

…The Cards do have some advantages though….I feel like the Brewers AND the Cubs have stepped back from their plunges into free agency and set their sights and roster at a bit lower standard. Lower floor..lower ceiling… Neither of these rosters seem equal to the rosters of the past couple seasons. The Cubs HAD their run..won a series… so now…I suppose…. they’re good for another 100 years  In the MLB, a team faces their division opponents for 44% of their entire schedule. So… the Cards do benefit if those teams have taken steps backward. 

..Some other Cardinal observations…..many Cards fans that I’ve talked with during last season & the off season felt that Paul Goldschmidt wasn’t “all that he was cranked up to be”.. When one looks @ Goldy’s  34 HR, 97 Rbi’s, played 161 games with an OPS of .821 and a glove that saved numerous errant throws out of the dirt, Goldy looks like a solid player to me. Granted his batting average dropped 30 pts to .260 & it was the lowest of his career as was his OPS. But… He is 32 years old…what did you expect? I also think that some fans are bothered by his stiff reactions after a HR or a very good play. The StL fans have come to expect all the Cardinal players to savor the exciting moment..that’s NOT Goldschmidt. 

…Kolton Wong played…maybe…the best baseball of his career last year. He led the team in OBP (on base %) @ .361, led the team in steals 24, his 136 hits tied for #2 on the team. He was 3rd on the team in WAR (wins above replacement) @ 3.7. He led the team during their 9-1 stretch in August when they “made their run”. He batted .373,  OBP .460 and an OPS of 1.02 for that month. He took the ball to LF and got himself on base..he was very valuable.

…I wish that Carlos would go back to the pen. He seems to savor & enjoy the spotlight of being the closer. In his last full year of being a starter, he was 12-11, started 32 games with a good 3.64 era. However, he pitched 6.0 innings or less in 15 of his 32 starts. Last year, he wasn’t moved to the pen until May. He didn’t really settle in as a closer until July. He racked up 9 saves, 1 loss in July. In Aug it was 5 svs, 1 w, 1 blown save. Sept saw 8 wins, 1 win, 1 hold. I think…we can find other pitchers to go 6  innings easier than we can find a good closer. To me… Carlos brings a higher ceiling than the older Miller.

…the NHL has a narrow distance between the lower & upper ceilings. The Blues have won many “late”, close wins this year. As of Friday, the avg goals per team was 192 for the season. The Blues have scored 208 goals (10th in the NHL)and given 178 goals—also 10th in the NHL. Generally, it’s a very, very fine line between winning & losing …according to Bob’s Stats… in OT/shootouts the Blues have won 12 games & lost 7. In regulation, the Blues are 11-2 in 1 goal regulation games…both losses to Nashville in back-back games. That’s 32 of their 66 games determined by 1 goal!….the high  ceiling & Stanley Cup ceiling  in the NHL is narrow… much tighter…. than most sports.   

…another High floor, low ceiling situation is Tom Brady. He has to sign with a good team with a strong offensive line. He can’t scramble…heck…he can barely move..but he CAN still pass with accuracy on short throws & read defensive coverage schemes very, very well.

….Jumping away from the Redbirds….I hear a “ka…kaw” out there…yep, it’s the Battlehawks!  St Louis has definitely opened their arms wide to greet this new team. The attendance at the game has been terrific for the fans…and the players. 27,000+ fans yesterday show that it wasn’t just a 1 game wonder. The viewership on the tube has been stunning.  I know that people love football in the Lou but.. I can’t help but wonder if Stan’s snarky remarks about the Lou on the way out motivated many football fans to “JUST SHOW STAN” that the Lou IS a football town… a football CITY …would be a better answer  The fans have definitely raised the floor and the ceiling for the team with their response. Btw….it’s great to hear Howard Balzer back on the airwaves again. He’s a real PRO and a football junkie!

…reaching a new “high”ceiling, the #18 UMSL Mens Basketball  team beat Ill-Springfield 86-79 to become Co-Champions of the GLVC.  The Men won the 2012 Western Division in 2012. The 25-5 Tritons continue to eclipse the previous school record (22) with most wins in a season. UMSL finished 18-0 at HOME! The GLVC Tourney & hopefully an NCAA Tourney bid is still in the future for this 2019-20 Tritons Team coached by Bob Sunvold.

…YOUR comments are always invited…generally, my blogs on the Cards elicit many thoughts…anxious to see them…..put them on Facebook ,Prepcasts or send to me.

More is Less by Bob Ryan

One of my best friends would always look @ me while I was adding football plays for our team …on the fly… and say, “Less is More”….well I’m carrying that corollary to the next level, “More is Less”.

….The MLB has just announced plans of an expansion of their playoff system to 14 teams. This follows  a grueling, 6 month long–162 games schedule to determine those playoff teams.  That full season begins after 4-6 weeks of exhibition baseball. It looks like a season from St. Patrick’s Day to Veterans Day will be on the slate soon. IF the MLB is intent on expanding the playoffs, a shortening of the regular season is essential. The Cardinals owner, Bill DeWitt, a very shrewd businessman and good owner, has already proposed reducing the schedule back to the 154 game format of decades ago. 

….All of the professional teams hover right around the 50% level of post-sesaon teams—it makes MONEY so….regular season…step aside  The NHL has 16 of 31 teams in the playoffs; NBA 16 of 30 teams; the NFL is marching in step with the MLB and considering 14 of 30 teams (47%)…fans still flock to these early round games and drive up TV ratings…both which elevate the cash flow of the league.  Owners ARE in the business of making money…increased playoffs seem to be inevitable at the time.  

….Just think if college sports went that route….there are 125 D-1 football schools….FOUR (4) make the playoffs. In basketball, @ D-1 level there are 347 teams with 68 making the tournament. If either of those sports followed the professional playoff model, we’d have 60 NCAA football teams in the playoffs and 170 D-1 basketball teams in the brackets!! When one holds these systems side-side… from my eyes …it seems  “more is less”. 

…This precept applies in many other ways….Jay Bouwmeester’s cardiac “issue” brought all the players & fans quickly back to “real” life. The tremendous work accomplished by the medical staff probably saved his life. His career may be in jeopardy…but…..due to the larger medical staff now at each professional game, there is less chance for a severe catastrophe to occur during the game. Facing this permanent loss…. seemingly… the Blues went out & acquired a rental for the rest of the year…meaning he’ll become a free agent at the end of the year…in Marco Scandella. It appears that he’ll be in regular rotation, stout defender and has experience. Even with his $4m contract the Blues easily remain under the hard cap of $81m/year.

… the Longevity of MLB games …up to 3 hours 5 min last season is too long for my taste…and many other fans. In my attendance @ Cards games last year, when the inning ends after the clock strikes 10:00pm….there is a max exodus for the gates…even if it’s a tight score. 3 hours is enough!!! The MLB ALSO realizes it   ….soooo… the implementation of new rules to speed up the game. Now relief hurlers must face a minimum of 3 batters or the reaching the end of the inning prior to a   pitcher being replaced.  I think, it’ll still be 1 batter in many cases. Managers will use that specialist, when possible,  with 2 outs in the inning.

Soooo…that relief hurler is removed at the end of the inning after his batter.

…Meanwhile, an “untouchable” that is never approached is shortening the time between innings. That time is necessary for the sponsors to get their word “out”….so the owners can wheel-barrow their money to the bank. Here’s a suggestion….put 5-10 second commercials in the corner of the screen, between batters, to get out the message. I believe that MORE people would actually see it ..and read it…instead of stepping out of the room for food/drink/other stops between innings. Go back to the 1 minute between innings that was used for decades. It’d save approximately 20 minutes/game. 

…As the Astros ….apparently I misspelled it last week as… Asstros….who’s codebreaking program evolved over years are receiving protection from the MLB from the other players of the league. No pitching inside or retaliation is the word of the league to the players….are you kidding me…the over/under @Vegas on Houston batters getting hit-by-pitch is 83 for the season. I’m going over!! Does anyone REALLY think that all the MLB players will follow that directive? I don’t. Further,  I would encourage Jose Altuve to subscribe to Julian Javier’s ghost-like turn of DP pivots @ 2B since I have the feeling that opposing runners may be coming in harder & higher on those type of plays in 2020. On the other hand, do you think that the umpires will be “patting down Altuve” each AB? 

…the players protection is due to the immunity required by the MLB Players Union. The union required that MLB doesn’t retaliate against the players. So, the guilty Asstros, are expecting not to be treated in an unusual way by the other players. However the FANS will let them know. Already yesterday in the 1st spring training game, Houston heard the 1st ..of what will be the norm.. a long, loud, continuous chorus of boos, heckles, banging seats (I guess sending signs to the batters ) that will demonstrate the fans thoughts.

…the landscape of NCAA Mens basketball has a totally different look. This Weekend the #1, #2 & #4 teams were upset. No….it wasn’t Duke, Kentucky, N. Carolina being upset…it was #1 Baylor, #2 Gonzaga & #4 San Diego State! Meanwhile, sitting in the #6 spot is Dayton…another team arriving on the national stage. With all of the talent spread around to more & more teams, the certainty for a team …they always call it a program….to dominate for a decade.. or more…is less & less. That’ll be great for the sport.

YOUR thoughts/reaction are always invited! 

Why not Cheat? by Bob Ryan

Without question, the MLB has been shaken to its core by the continuing revelations of the deceit, planning, coordination and plain ol’ cheating of the Houston Astros. From my eyes, ALL of the players, coaches, manager are totally responsible as more and more evidence trickles out from behind the computer–perched just inside of the A-stros dugout.

….It started at the top! This wasn’t a “spur of the moment” episode that spiraled into a full team espionage system.. the idea was hatched in the team’s front office back in Sept 2016 with the label “Codebreaker” and introduced to Jeff Luhnow at that time. Initially, “Codbreaker” utilized the baseball operarations & video room staff to record the signs of the opponents electronically, enter it into a Micrsoft Excel spreadsheet—which led to an algorithm analyzing what each sign meant. That info was relayed to batters…that developed into a relay system in 2017 of using the “banging trash cans scheme” that indicated to each batter the type of pitch that he would receive on that pitch. Somehow, it evolved to a buzzer system for a couple of the star players.

….The Team Leader ruled the mob! At 40 years of age, playing in his 20th season, had earned over $220m in his career but had never worn a World Series Championship Ring, Carlos Beltran emerges as the “ruling boss”. Players described him as the “Godfather”of the clubhouse. Now that’s its exposed…. some players say that they were afraid to approach Beltran to express their disdain for the operation. One player said Beltran “steamrolled” everyone, to the point that even manager AJ Hinch seemed to be afraid to challenge Beltran for fear of losing credibility in the clubhouse. THAT sounds like C..Y..A to me! Ironically, a player noted, “Beltrán, who is the godfather of the whole program, just swings at everything after taking a strike and probably does the worst with the info,” one player said.

…back in 1919, the several of the Chicago White Sox players, including star player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, were charged on 9 counts of conspiracy for “throwing” the  World Series to the Cincy Reds. They were acquitted. The next day AFTER the acquittal, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, newly appointed  baseball’s 1st commissioner, ruled that all 8 players were permanently banned from organized baseball. Sadly, it seems the star, Joe Jackson signed papers, with the others, regarding the arrangement. Years later it was realized that Jackson could not read or write so had no idea what he was signing! That team is now referred to as the Chicago Black Sox.

Some other ramifications…..

…At a bare minimum, I feel like the Astros should be removed as the Winner of the World Series in 2017, repay back their winning share and name LA Dodgers the WS champs. Sadly, the Dodgers also lost in following year to Boston, who also was using a version of the Astros “sign stealing” system.

….other MLB players are beginning to express their “real” feelings about the situation. Angel pitcher Andrew Heaney expressed it most bluntly (its been sanitized)…. “Somebody in the locker room had to say, ‘this is —- up. We shouldn’t be doing this.’ For nobody to stand up and say, ‘we’re cheating other players,’ that sucks. That’s a __ feeling for everybody. I hope they feel like ___.

…with this elaborate relay system of sign stealing, monitors right behind the dugout…. trash can being banged or not with different pitches… I just can’t believe that Jeff Albert, Ast Houston Batting Coach at the time and now the Cardinals Batting Coach.. didn’t know ANYthing about the scheme. Did he live in a cacoon? Looking at the Cardinals batting results from last year, one would have a difficult time saying that he REALLY made a positive impact on the club. On the other hand…if he actually WAS that unobservant in Houston with the batters…do you really think that he’ll be attentive enough to help & assist the StL batters?

…Pete Rose… exiled to Baseball’s Siberia and ruled out of an HOF vote due to his betting on baseball…has asked to be reconsidered. One could argue that his “crime” of betting isn’t as negative as organizing meticulously a sign stealing electronic system that impacted the actual, immediate play of the game. I think that he actually DOES have a point. Now…I must say as a young man watching Rose play with his extreme hustle… he was called “Charlie Hustle”….his durability,bat control and “all in” skills that I’d probably lean to his corner on this particular debate.

…from another angle, while the sign stealing scheme definitely elevated the platy of the A-stros, it impacted negatively on the stats & lives of their opponents. Former MLB hurler Mike Bolsinger has filed a lawsuit against the Houston Astros. In his last MLB performance as a pitcher for the Blue Jays on Aug 4, 2017 he was “roughed up” on the mound as the sign stealing was at its zenith. He was sent down the minors immediately following the game. Bolsinger’s claim is that his Astros performance…which was assisted through the illegal sign stealing scheme….cost him an MLB roster spot. By all the numbers, it appears Bolsinger was a marginal MLB player. He was 8-16, ERA 4.92 and a WHIP (walks & Hit per inn pitched) in his 4 MLB years of 1.513. But….should Bolsinger get on the docket and the “discovery phase” is reached….then the can of worms….of questions about the “fairness” of baseball…or lack of it….and what the Astros actually knew about in those days would go public. While the case seems a bit lame to me, Houston may have to “buy him out” to shut the door in that direction.

….yet another player bemoans a lost…once of a lifetime… opportunity due to the Astros cheating. David Robertson was on the Yankees roster in 2017. He was the closer in the LCS for NYY … a spot that he’d probably never be again…and that he was upset by the Astros cheating. He said recently, “I got roughed up in Game 6,” he said. “I felt like in that game I threw as well as I’ve ever thrown in my entire life. I had some pitches that got hit that I was a little shocked by and some pitches that didn’t get swung at that I was a little shocked by. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about what we know now. But it all comes together now and, you know, I’m upset about it, that’s for sure. “I’m never going to get 2017 back. I can’t say moving forward I’ll ever get to pitch in a LCS again, but I’ll never get THAT season back with that opportunity to win a World Series.”

…just heard the lame apologies from Alex Bregman & Jose Altuve…they didn’t even SOUND sincere in their statements. Sorry? I doubt it…only sorry they were caught.

…my ol’ south side nature of play fair or I’ll make you play fair probably would have led me to tell the catcher…give me a sign for a curve then I’ll buzz one right under his chin. Repeat …if necessary, repeat for next batter. They’ll get the message as they get up out of the dirt & the catcher says, “stop it”.

…so why not cheat? The mild reprimand….2 players mouthing weak apologies… amounts to nothing. In 2001, Sandy Alderson, while serving as executive vice president for baseball operations of MLB, issued a memorandum stating that teams cannot use electronic equipment to communicate with each other during games, especially for the purpose of stealing signs. So THERE was the MLB position on the issue. I realize that the ol’ school life-time ban won’t fly….the power of the MLB Players Union seems to over-ride the MLB rules…and a memorandum isn’t a rule….but a strong, very strong message must be sent to the players & teams. How about a ban of a year? 82 games(1/2 season)? 100 years ago the players were banned PERMANENTLY. In 2020, the Commissioner MUST step up and administer punishments to the Astros players. If he doesn’t, in 6 weeks the players will probably be asking, “who’s sending the signs to the batter”?

What do you think? I’m anxious to read YOUR thoughts….post them on facebook, on prepcasts.com or send me an email. Thx for the read!

A True “Super” Bowl by Bob Ryan

The Super Bowl of last weekend really was “super”. I was rooting for the Chiefs so maybe that added to the enjoyment. The late surge by the Chiefs was outstanding.  Some observations….

….late in the 1st half, owning a lead, momentum and with the ball, San Francisco decides to “run out the clock”. Why? You have momentum…use it to put additional points on the board. You can’t “ice” the game in the 1st half

.. With just 6:30 left to play in the game, the 49ers were ahead 20-10 (a 10 point lead), which should have been an insurmountable lead. Going into the Super Bowl, there had been 165 games in the 2019 season where a team led by 10 or more points with under 7 minutes left to play. Before the Super Bowl, the team with that lead posted a 164-1 record! Now….it’s 164-2…ugh!!

…In that mid-4th quarter drive with the lead, when the clock becomes as important as the score, amazingly to me, SF abandons the running game (while the clock keeps running) and throws it…and threw 3 straight incomplete passes – stopping the clock on each incomplete. That cost the Niners over 1:30 of time….gee….just think.. if the game had been 1:30 shorter for the Chiefs at the end of the game…the outcome may have been different!! 

…the difference of the QB play was significant. Mahomes is a “big game” QB. He possesses tremendous arm strength (with accuracy), can run for positive yardage and can run to escape some of the defensive pressure.  Jimmy Garoppolo is a QB ”manager”—he can drive an offense well when the blocking is good & the receivers run their option routes correctly. However, he isn’t going to scramble for positive yards or make super-exceptional passes (like Mahomes). Further… in the biggest game of his life, he completed just 3 of 11 passes for 36 yards in the 4th quarter (Overall, he went 20 of 31 for 219 yards and… at times… he looked sharp ….but not in the last 5 minutes of the game— the “crunch” time of any NFL game.

…obviously, the 49’ers have a different evaluation for Garoppolo. He signed a 5 year deal last year for $27.5m/year. Another game-manager type, Kirk Cousins signed for 3 years @ $28m/year. Eyeballing those numbers, I can understand why Dak Prescott (Cowboy QB) declined a contract last year worth $27.8m/year…that offer was halfway in value between the above mentioned pair of QBs. Prescott seems a clear notch above that level….Heck….its only money….and the NFL is rolling in it!

…maybe I’m showing my age here but….I disliked the halftime shake-it show. There were millions of young women and girls watching the game….what message were we sending them?…in this current age….why return to using the Woman’s body… alone… to be the primary focus. I realize that it was targeted for a much younger audience but…really(could you hear that tone?) …couldn’t Ms Lopez & Ms Shake-ur-rear  taken a different approach with their talents?

In other sports throughout this past week…

…The Billikens lost to the Duquesne Dukes 82-68 in an A-10 game. It just seemed to me that the Dukes simply had taller, more athletic team than the Bills. Duquesne has beaten SLU twice this year.  Coach Ford was unhappy…as all losing coaches are after games…..but….the Bills would need to play a perfect game to beat Duquesne. In order to do that, the SLU would have to stay out of foul trouble & hit their perimeter shots with some regularity. The loss on Saturday @ Dayton (19-2) 71-65 was a tough one. I don’t know if the Bills can play any better in a road game. They shot 49% from the field, shot 5 of 11 from beyond the arc, outrebound the Flyers 33-30. Dayton did convert 20 FT to the Bills 10 in the game. It seems to me that HOME teams always shoot more than the visitors in most games. While 13 turnovers isn’t a huge number…it was more than twice as many as Dayton’s 6 turnovers. 

…In CoMO…the Tigers have lost 6 of the last 8 games…ugh. The OT win over Arkansas yesterday so help the spirits of this club that is buried deep in the SEC standings. The absence of Jerimiah Tilmon in the post seems to be a hurdle that MU just can’t jump. Its hard to find 6-10 players who can move and score. While he is viewed by some as being a disappointment in his career…it’s clear now …that he MUST be on the court for Mizzou to compete against the “big boys”. Despite some rumblings about the coaching, Cuonzo Martin won’t be fired this year….or next….Cuonzo inked a 7 year deal for $21m at the signing in 2017. According to sources, “There’s virtually no escape for either side during the first four years. That late-spring timing all but ensures Mizzou will ride with Martin through at least 2020-21, especially since he’s owed a $6 million buyout from May 1, 2020, until April 30, 2021. That figure drops to $3 million the next year, $1 million a year after that and $300,000 during the final year between May 1, 2023, and April 30, 2024. The pot is sweetened even more….If Missouri wins 20 games or reaches the NCAA Tournament at any time during Martin’s tenure, the time frame for when the school can terminate without cause — a fancy term for the Tigers not winning enough games — pushes back one year, as does the $6 million buyout. A subsequent NCAA appearance would mean MU can’t fire Martin without cause until May 1, 2022, and would owe a $6 million buyout in the sixth year of the contract and $3 million in the seventh. On top of it, the Mizzou Athletic Department went in the “red” last year by $1m+. Soooo….one wouldn’t expect them to add to that deficit by relieving Martin .. with a substantial buyout….and hire another, probably highly paid coach simultaneously.

…still in the NCAA-B world….there were many very touching moments on Saturday @ Indiana U. After a 20 year hiatus from the school because he was fired, the legendary basketball coach, Bob Knight returned. He won 1273 games with a 70%+ winning mark in his long career. It was the place of the most 29 glorious seasons of his 42 years  as a head coach.  Now 79 years old, he was visibly touched by the tremendous ovations. Fittingly, he led the crowd in chants of “Defense, Defense, Defense”—his signature mark in the game. I admired him a great deal as a beginning coach. Nooo….I didn’t like…or throw chairs!!  But, through most of my career…it was defense, discipline, offensive fundamentals… that I hoped my team would possess. As a young coach, I purchased his pamphlet on defense(Let’s Play Defense). It wasn’t fancy…had a picture of a devil snorting on the cover of this paper-back, ½ page high, 30 page book… actually..more like a term paper. Anyway, as a young coach, I made copies of the cover and made all my players hang it eyeball high on the inside of  their locker door….even my girls teams that I coached!  THAT’s when they knew that I was passionate..or crazy… about bball. 

….the Cardinals will be opening up spring training shortly….while there are a lot of questions….will they go with 2 young outfielders, stay with Crap…oops…Carp….a true bullpen closer?….starting rotation?… luckily for them, the Cubs AND Brewers seemed to have taken large steps backwards this off-season. The Reds have improved their roster but can they leap from a 75-87 record  last year and win 15 more games to become a contender? That’s a lot to ask!! Despite our concerns, the Cards HAVE to be the clear favorites to win the NL Central Division.

…..One of the fears when free agency began decades ago was that the extremely Big Cities…like LA, NY, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta…would dominant the league due to the size of their super-sized wallet. It’s proving to be true! The MLB MUST establish a hard cap on the upper & lower end of the pay scale.  The HUGE gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” seems to be widening. There are exceptions… like Oakland & Tampa Bay…but for the most part, several of the MLB teams are “out of it” prior to the 1st pitch of the season.  Would you go watch the Royals, Tigers, Marlins on a regular basis? This really isn’t a new phenomenon…. back decades ago, Connie Mack owned and managed the Philadelphia Athletics. He was a manager for 50 straight years! He owned the team WHILE being the manager the last 12 of those years. Let’s be kind and say that he was very frugal. This expression from him says it all, “The best thing for a team financially is to be in the running and finish second. If you win (the title), the players all expect raises. Mack saw baseball as a business, and recognized that economic necessity that drove the game.  That’s not to say that he NEVER won…his clubs won five World Series champion (1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930) He has the most managerial wins, losses and games managed in major league history…I guess so….50 years of managing!!! Notice he did manage during the depression soooo…. maybe…that experience altered his scrimp & save approach. It’s  surely,  a FAR, FAR different world in baseball now.

…I hope that this has been a “super” read for you   I encourage you to respond to any part of the blog…put it directly on my FB page, or on the Prepcasts page, or email it to me….

Rebuild … Win … or Both by Bob Ryan

The huge trade of Bookie Betts to the Dodgers coupled with the Chicago White Sox in the process of coming close to the completion on their “rebuild” are classic examples of the WIN or BUILD mentality of the MLB.

….in general, even the teams “rebuilding” are making money due to the television contracts. Attendance is no longer the primary source of income sooooo….if you can’t REALLY compete, some teams trade off their highly paid players….coast … lose big  for a couple years as their young players “mature”. They are banking in the hopes of several of their “Key” young players developing at the point that they’ll reach the golden land of a World Series Championship. Perfect example was the KC Royals…it worked for them as they reached the World Series in 2014, 2015 after decades of fielding weak teams…so others witness their success and try traveling the same long, slow, unknown road.

…meanwhile our Cards take a very unique, different approach. They walk a highwire with meticulous care. If their key players drop suddenly…they’ll fall off that highwire. The Cards continually try “building with youth” while STILL trying to win..and win big. This is a REAL challenge. It seems to me that the Cards are one of the few teams that travel down this road.  While the fans here are spoiled and expect a WINNER EVERY year, they do their part and reach the 3m mark in attendance . Even while reaching the NLCS last year, some fans STILL complained….maybe it’s the nature of the game…its ALL or NOTHING…..Win it all…or rebuild?!  CAN you do both may be a question?!

… The Cards keep a corp of good, solid players while zeroing in on one/two positions a year to “rebuild”or   have a young, prepared player ready to jump in if the ol’ guy falters. Meanwhile, they go out and sign/trade for “star” power (eg Goldschmidt) on a regular basis. This year…It seems…there are some unique challenges. The Cards are uncertain in 2 OF positions , maybe 3B,  uncertain in the starting rotation in a couple spots and an undetermined closer.

…the way to develop these young players is to have them on the field…and on the field for significant points of the game…not just defensive replacements in the 9th,or pinch hitters/runners, or mop up when the club is down by 4 or 5 runs. One gauge to judge real usage of a player is to use the At Bats for a player. The average AB for the #5 hitter (Middle batter of lineup) is 4.24 ab/gm or app 544 AB for the season….let’s round it off to 500 AB’s give a player a “true” full season of experience. In 2019, the Cards did NOT get nearly as many AB’s as most teams. They were #28 in the MLB (of 30 teams) in At-bats for the season– Averaging 33.61 ab/gm…not enough guys getting on base to “keep the line moving”

…prior to showing these stats…remember a plate appearance is EVERY time that you reached the batters box, At Bats are lower because walks, HBP, sacrifice bunts/hits are removed from the total.

..in 2019, the Cards “rebuild” players…Harrison Bader (406 plate app/347 AB), Tommy Edman (349 PA, 326 AB), Tyler O’Neill only  151 plate app & 141 AB. Lane Thomas had 222 PA & 197 AB.  Harrison Bader has accumulated 925 plate appearances already in his career….far, far above any of the others. The Cards need to reach a decision on him….I do LOVE his speed & defense….and…maybe…that overrides his seemingly C- hitting accomplishments.  I do wish that he’d bunt more often and work on taking that outside pitch to RF. Edman, a versatile performer  and still young, could probably be used at any OF position or 3B on a regular basis….getting  3-5 days of action each week.

….the Cards will again work hard to win but….they must make hard decisions this year about which “young” players will be “their guys”.

….Meanwhile the Dodgers go “all in” in obtaining Mookie Betts. Their lineup is clearly superior to any other in the NL.  One bypass of rebuilding is to a) sign high priced Free agents  b) trade for those high priced players a year PRIOR to their free agency and hope to convince him to remain with your club. The Cardinals DO NOT use this course of action…hence, no Nolan Arenado…may opt out after ‘21.

…Long ago when free agency was just coming of age….many baseball people were concerned that the really big markets, i.e. New York & LA, would dominant the market. New York had 3 baseball teams at one time (Yankees, Dodgers, Giants) so the ad money/fans  were somewhat split up. LA still does have the abundance of teams –Dodgers, Angels and basically the Padres aren’t far away. Its clear to me that a HARD cap in needed on the top end AND the bottom end for the MLB. Just check out the NFL….it seems that at least 1 or 2 teams rise dramatically…maybe not all the way to the Super Bowl… every year. It brings interest…and hope…for the fan base.

….rebuilding takes place in all sports. Sometimes we forget about the struggles of the seemingly long-time winners….it’s happened .. and continues to happen in college football….even to the BIG boys…

….Even the current kingpin of them all—Alabama which  ALWAYS seems to be and have been on the top….not so….Between 1996-2007, Head Coach Mike Dubose arrived in 1996 and compiled a 24-23 record in 4 sesons. Dennis Franchione was 7-5 then 10-3 but bolted for Texas A&M  because Bama was to undergo NCAA sanctions for violations. Mike Price was hired as his replacement but before he could coach a game @ Tuscaloosa, he was fired for frequenting strip clubs. Mike Shula followed him,  he registered a 4-9 record in 2003, was 6-6 in ’04, elevated to 10-2 in 2005, in 2006 the Tide fell back to 6-6—Shula was bought out of his contract. In 2007 Nick Saban was hired and things have been turned around.

….Notre Dame….maybe the most recognized NCAA football program over decades…ND has experienced its moments of futility and rebuilt. From 2003-2011, the Golden Dome wasn’t so bright.  Ty Willingham 1st year record in 2002 was 10-3. It was followed by 5-7 and 6-6 seasons and he was removed. Charlie Weis arrived from the Pats Coaching Staff claiming that “this was only college ball”…more or less…he started beautifully. He recorded 9-3 and 10-3 records in his first 2 years. But…then HIS recruiting classes  went 3-9, 7-6 and 6-6 and Charlie exited. Brian Kelly replaced him and still holds the job.

Thanks for the read!  I’d enjoy reading your thoughts about WIN vs build mentality.  Just post your thoughts on my FB page….others would enjoy the comments as much as I do. There isn’t any right or wrong….we all have our own thoughts.

Letter of the Law by Bob Ryan

Sometimes in life…not often…the “Letter of the Law” is taken in an exact interpretation. We’ve seen some of that recently…..

…Kris Bryant’s contract is a classic example. Now, I rarely do I side with any professional athlete when it comes to salary or money. But….Bryant was brought up to the Cubs on Apr 17, 2015. It gave him 171 days of major league service. That number is 1 day short of a “full year” MLB service. Hence, his arbitration and free agency dates were pushed back 1 full year over that 1 day. Bryant took it to court. The Judge ruled by the “letter of the law” and denied his request. In 2015, Bryant played in 151 games, had 650 plate appearances, 26 HR, 99 Rbi. He played as an All-Star, was 11th in MVP voting & Rookie of the Year (it said “year”…not Rookie of the Part-time Year)—clearly…at least to me…those are numbers of a full time player. It seems to be an easy addendum to this regulation regarding evaluating a “full” year of service would be….if a player misses the arrival date but attains certain specific numbers….plate appearances, games, whatever…it’d “count” as a full year. Now I don’t expect the owners to agree to this change easily…or ever, for that matter. The owners know all too well that once a player reaches free agency, his value catapults. This decision was strictly by the letter of the Law…not the spirit of the Law…and the Owners won….fat chance that they’ll change now.

…The recent Hockey All-Star game & its events started a train of thought for me. All-Star games, in most of the Professional Sports, are playing by the letter of the law. They follow all the rules, attend required appearances for the event, and act as if they’re happy about being there. But….the REAL competition of athletics during the game is on a low burner…barely on…. for the most part. Watching the Pro Bowl game …for about 5 minutes… was pitiful. The players don’t play hard because that don’t want to get hurt playing in a game that means very little…if anything… to them. I’ve seen more enthusiasm during a family game played on Thanksgiving than I did in the Pro Bowl. “Hard” Hits were about as frequent as a triple play in baseball. The monetary incentive, of $70,000 paid to each player on the winning team while the losing team suffers with only $35,000 for the week that seemingly means very little to them.

….Other All-Star games seem much more concerned about having each player get into the game. Who wins the game…which is at the heart of all athletic contests… seems to be irrelevant. In All-Star baseball games, pitchers still DO pitch their best and batters still DO their best. However, don’t expect any diving attempts, running for extra bases or heaven forbid that you’d emulate Pete Rose slamming into the catcher at home. Instead of playing just to the “letter of the Law” in a game..that often seems rather boring since there isn’t any flow to it…let these supreme athletes compete in skills contests. MLB is already moving down that track…they have a HR Derby…Why not replace the game with additional specialty events…add a Fastest man of the Year event….a runner races around the bases from Home Plate back to home plate.. a contest for throwing accuracy by outfielders to each base; pitchers throwing to hit specific small targets over Home Plate area. Heaven forbid…let bunters try to get the ball inside small circles…have a rep from each team for each event…or other similar type events. MLB already realizes this transformation in the fans interest. In 2019, Players at each position in each league receiving the most fan votes (three OF and 1 at each other position) will receive $15,000 apiece. Second place vote-getters will receive $5,000 and third will get $2,500. This totals a $360,000..for the entire team. All players selected are required to attend unless injury prevents them from doing so and are given a $1,000 stipend. Recognizing the popularity of the side show over the game itself, MLB will spread a total $2.5 million among the just 8 Home Run Derby participants, with the winner taking home a cool million. I’d prefer the specific skills contests.

….The NBA All-Star game, the NBA attempts to motivate the players by a paying a wide difference to the winners/losers. Each winning player gets $100,000 while the loser a measly $25,000.

….While these All-Star games now seem to suffer because a) Players fear injury b) Players salaries don’t require too much supplemental money (how many work in the off-season now?)  c) Players may require a brief “vaca” themselves..for example,NHL had an entire week off from games while All-Star game was played…I suppose for that purpose. D) For the very, very highly paid players(biggest stars)…it’s a tax beating. In the 2019 All-Star game, Clayton Kershaw, who made $31m that season will pay total taxes of about $20,300 for the “privilege” to pitch in 1 or 2 innings of the game. $20,300 is not a lot of money for a guy making $31 million (it’s .065% of his salary)…It is the letter of the law…but… the fact that he is paying money to pitch in a game while the MLB is making millions in TV & sponsorship money just doesn’t seem like it should be “letter of law”

…One final All-Star thought….The initial All-Star game of 1933 @ Comiskey Park was part of the 1933 Worlds Fair. It was the idea of Chicago Tribune sports editor, Arch Ward. It was thought that it would be a good idea to spark life during the depression days. The proceeds ($45,000, net gate receipts) from the game went to a charity for disabled and needy major league players. It was so unique for fans to see ALL the best players of the day…there weren’t televised games, interleague play, there were only 16 teams. 20 of those 36 players from those ‘33t rosters entered the MLB HOF later!! From 1959-1962, there were two All-Star games. The funds of the 2nd All-Star game went to the MLB pension funds. Currently, MLB controls and owns All-Star rights. The MLB is also responsible for all the pension funding. I would suggest that some portion of this All-Star money be directed towards the Minor league players. Those poor guys live sub-standard lives while toiling in the minors. While the letter of the law doesn’t require it, the “spirit” of the game would lead one to support these youngsters.

….The “letter of the law” indicates that good NCAA Mens Basketball teams will win more close games than they lose. St Louis U bounced back from a sub-par performance against Davidson with a smart OT win @ LaSalle. The 77-76 OT win was highlighted by special achievements of a couple Billikens. Jordan Goodwin displayed his all-around talents as he registered 12 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. It’s so refreshing to see an all-around player! He also reached the 1,000pt plateau as a Billiken (only 1 of 10 players to do it as a Junior). The emergence of Javonte Perkins as a sharp outside shooter has helped Bills relieve the inside defensive pressure on Hasahn French. Frosh Yuri Collins became the all-time leader in Assists for a Freshman and we have several weeks remaining. Collins’ unselfish offensive approach helps build cohesion throughout the entire team.  

….The Letter of the NCAA Basketball Law is that Coaches remain in their Coaches Box. Very, very few do so. Sometimes, I think, its done by the coach so HE becomes the focus. I wish it would stop.

….The spirit of the law leads one to believe that the Best Player in the league should be seen often in post season play. Mike Trout, the best player of his generation and already an inner-circle Hall of Famer, has played only 3 postseason games in his entire career, all losses in the 2014 ALDS. It’s a shame for the Angels, it’s a shame for Trout, and it’s a shame for baseball at large. Fans hope to see Trout in October on a regular basis.

….It is Super Bowl Game day…sooooo…. I HAVE to make a pick..as if anyone else cares J. It may be more with my heart than anything else but I’m expecting the Chiefs to win in a high-scoring game. To paraphrase Hank Strams’ famous expression from his Super Bowl– 5 decades ago, “Boys, keep matriculating the ball down the field”. I think that Andy Reid’s offense will do JUST that and do it often. 

…The Letter of the law tells me that it’s time to end this week’s blog. Thanks for the read! Please feel free to respond on Facebook, Prepcasts.com or email to me. I don’t expect everyone… or anyone… to agree with all the ideas that I float out thereJ

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!

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.