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.

Breaking the Tape by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September – Suspenseful & Surprising by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car Wash Sports by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Season of Crazy Bounces by Bob Ryan

It’s the season of crazy bounces…once Labor Day weekend arrives crazy bounces occur….MLB teams often bounce in different paths….contenders  play with emotion, strategize heavy during games, view each AB and each pitch as important….non contenders are experimenting for next year—some players are striving for individual achievements……then football comes onto the scene…college football opens up “real” games while NFL still plays their pretend, Pre-season, games.

…the crazy MLB bounces in late August have seen the Cardinals playing their best baseball of the season. As a result, they’ve jumped up the top spot of NL-Central. This “good” bounce has several  causes….not necessarily in this order…..Jack Flaherty & Dakota Hudson are the new #1-2 pitchers of the staff. The WW era (Wainwright & Wacha) has past. Hudson is 14-6 in 147 innings, 645 batters, 145 hits…under 1 hit/inn. Hudson is #3 in NL in WINS, #8 in games started, #6 in sacrifice bunts (keeps him in the game). He’s not a strikeout pitcher….but Flaherty IS! Flaherty holds a so-so 8-7 record for 2019 but digging deeper in the stats….he has 178 strikeouts in 152 innings. Flaherty  4th in NL in H/inn; 8th in games started in NL; 1st in Fielding %, 8th in NL in games started. He WILL BE ..or IS…the ace. He is a talented athlete…often used as a pinch runner (which he seems to screw up each time); can field.  Dexter Fowler has been a significant contributor. It seemed when he started a few games in CF (while Bader was in Memphis) that he “found” himself.  For the last 28 days he’s batting .284 with OPS of .890. Being moved late in the games to RF to allow Bader to excel in CF has seemed to bother him. I must admit…his nonchalant gait and attitude didn’t endure him to me….but he is performing now. Kolten Wong has really emerged …at least to me…as a significant player. His defense has ALWAYS been superb…..but how he’s pushed his average up to .284 (#1 on the team). He’s using his speed to bunt for hits on occasion; stealing bases (19)–#7 in league…..and…..can you believe it….he’s shortening his swing with 2 strikes and taking outside pitches to LF! Finally, Mike Shildt seems to have grown into a much better MLB manager. Let’s face it, in the minors, your primary job is player development not winning. In the MLB, it’s all about winning. Last year, he took the reins of the club to reinforce unity, team goals over individual goals, better fundamentals on bases & defense. Shildt has made the clubhouse..from what I read…more comfortable. The defense has improved dramatically. This further elevates the pitchers performance who don’t need to get 4 outs an inning as often. He has sorted out his bullpen and seems to have it under control with much less overuse (Gant & Brebbia early in the year). There are more definitive roles and better spacing of usage so as not to overwork any particular relief pitcher. Another big point…he’s removing starting pitchers with robust career numbers but currently only mediocre “stuff” (You know who I mean) when appropriate. He’s not letting them in the game just so they qualify for a win (5 innings). And….a very big point, Shildt has begun alternating Crap…oops… Carp somewhat @ 3B with Edman. Edman HAS been a spark…and can he run!  Harrison Bader’s sojourn to Memphis seems to have been the remedy. He’s taking pitches out of the strike zone, making contact an still playing an absolutely terrific CF. . I still do hear the “rah-rah” stuff coming from Shildt on most occasions(why some call him Fred Rogers)…but his actions ARE speaking louder than his words currently.

….the crazy bounce of NCAA-F hit Mizzou. Apparently expecting another rout of the Wyoming Cowboys like last year, the Tigers were shocked as they were upset 37-31. The Tigers offense DID SCORE 31 points but allowing 37 points shocks most everyone. Sure Mizzou had 423 passing yards and 114 rushing for total of 537 while Cowboys had 297 rushing and just 92 passing….but …as many say…stats are for losers. I do think that without the mega-arm of Drew Lock ,that could…at any time… gun one deep, the opponents secondary can play closer to LOS. That may take away some of those really long gainers on the ground for Mizzou. Kelly Bryant is definitely more athletic…code word…he can run faster and with ability to elude defenders but not necessarily have the strength or accuracy of other QB….but…he can’t keep the defensive secondary deep because his arm isn’t real strong. That’s why he lost the job @ Clemson to Trevor Lawrence .

….in the crazy world of MLB baseball…it’s now the Minnesota Maulers…not the soft little Twinkies.  In a crazy bounce…it’s not the Dodgers or Yankees leading the league in HR, it’s the Twins! Minnesota has bombed 268 home runs in 2019 as of Sunday. The Yanks are 2nd in league with 254 and LA Dodgers 3rd with 234. Now….the AL teams DO have an advantage….every 9 batters of the season, all of those teams have a real batter….oft someone who can hit but can’t play a lick of defense….did you say Nelson Cruz?  Shockingly the Twins got 38 home runs out of the platoon catching position-Mitch Carver-28 & Jason Castro 12!  WOW! The NL teams have ….almost…an obligatory out when the pitcher bats. However….to be honest in this era of 5 inning starts, most NL teams only see their pitcher in the batters box once a game so that argument has been dramatically weakened.

…still in MLB…..it seems ridiculous for Cards-Reds to play back-back doubleheaders. Why doesn’t the league set aside 1 or 2 Mondays(definitely one in September)  in the season when there are NO games. Let those dates be used for rain out games so as to avoid the 4 games in 2 days episode.

….week 1 ….generally, one of the biggest cupcake weeks of NCAA-F …this year we saw some games  between 2 talented major conferences teams.  I am strongly opposed to power 5 conference teams playing low level D-1 schools or even D-2 schools. Ugh! Any win over a D-2 schools SHOULD NOT COUNT towards the 6 win required win total to play in one of the thousands of post-season bowls. For example,  Maryland (Big 12) beat Howard 79-0…or  Penn State 79 Idaho 7 …really?   You have at least 80 players on your roster, when it was a blow-out at half, couldn’t’ you clear the bench?  Some other surprising results…..the teams that won don’t call them UPSETS, do they?…..Georgia State 38 Tennessee 30;  N.Carolina 24 S.Carolina 20 (Tar Heels scored 15 unanswered points in last quarter to win!);Nevada beat Purdue(not considered an upset by some experts) 34-31; Cincinnati throttled UCLA 24-14. One that wasn’t a surprise to me..Boise State upended Florida State 36-31 as they shutout Florida State 17-0 in 2nd half. When I watched Florida State last year, they looked like a very athletic team (hence, high preseason expectations) but seemed poorly coached. Memphis (who Mizzou crushed last year) beat Ol’ Miss

…..most of the Best Games of week 1 included two good teams that saw crazy bounces or crazy plays determine the winner

…..Miami-Florida game was loaded with great speed on both sides of the ball….a long time rivalry due to the winner gets the spoils of the recruiting wars in Florida…so there was plenty of passion…Miami’s new coach had a couple gaffs early in the game, Florida won it in the 4th quarter,  24-20

….S.Dakota State (a customary team in D-2 championships) played Minnesota. NOW…this was a logical matchup since SDS is so good for a D-2 program.  It was really an entertaining game. The Golden Gopher (Minn)  scored against the Jackrabbits (S.Dakota St) the only TD of the 4th quarter to win it 28-21. D-2 SDS seemed to surprise Minnesota by the level of their athletes. The Head Coach of SDS really has his stuff together…plays multiple kids …e.g. rotates 7 d-lineman to keep them fresh…AND …I’ve found they practice harder when they know that they’ll be in the game.

…the #11 Oregon-#16 Auburn game was terrific. I don’t usually see Oregon on TV often….don’t like watching those 9:00pm games….they really have unbelievable speed & skill…Auburn…using a Freshman QB…fell behind…then began powering the ball over the tackles with an occasional play action. On defense the read & react defense was abandoned mid-game. It became an aggressive attacking, blitzing defensive….it was very, very entertaining game. I do think that Auburn’s Head Coach-Gus Malzohn, who’s gone back to calling the offensive plays, has a special talent for that…..I think this team will be much better due to his skill this year.

…speaking of crazy bounces…how about Liberty Coach Hugh Freesz? Recovering from back surgery for a herniated disk on Aug 16, he was still in a hospital bed in a coaches booth. Now….is that extreme dedication or stupidity?  His Liberty team was shutout by Syracuse 24-0. However, I must add…it seems to me that Liberty really “stepped up” the schedule (Playing Syracuse) and their commitment to football by hiring Freeze.

…so…..following my own suggestion…ratings should be based on strictly on which teams have the best “quality” wins thus far in the season…I don’t want to vote for a team # 1 that mauled a cupcake… I’m rewarding the teams that played  quality opponents and won…..my week 1 ballot would be:

 #1) Auburn   2)  Florida  3) Boise State  4) Oklahoma (beat an up-coming 8 win Houston team) btw…Jalen Hurts was absolutely terrific in his OU debut. We’ll have to hold judgment until OU plays some better competition.

….no more crazy bounces for me….I hoping for a no-bounce BBQ in the backyard.  YOUR  thoughts are sincerely invited. They don’t HAVE to be in response to the entire blog…pick a topic and run with it. If you don’t care to do so….that’s fine…FB readers, if you don’t respond,  pls click “like” so that I can get a better measure of the readers on that platform. 

Raining down Hope by Bob Ryan

It’s been raining and raining…..for centuries… rain provided hope for anyone involved in agriculture…and it still does. However, this spring’s rain has brought down HOPE in the sports world also…

…..of course  the Cards must feel hopeful.  Paul Goldschmidt will be the anchor of the lineup just as other Cardinal “greats”…Stan  & Albert come immediately to mind….but there were other superb 1b…Cha-Cha Cepada,  Jack Clark, Johnny Mize and even Keith Hernandez were very talented First-Baseman….Goldschmidt was just named the Best First Baseman in 2019 by the MLB! That HAS to bring us hope.

……the Cards have a different level of hope when they hope that their “up the middle” defense (2b-Wong, SS-DeJong, CF-Bader) will remain healthy, get on base with some regularity and play most every day.

….the Cards have their finger-crossed type of hope that their young pitchers…at least 2 of them… perform to the high hopes that we’re giving them.  Flaherty, Hudson, Hicks have the arms…but are they real pitchers?   Our hopes say “yes”!

…the Cards fans have the hopes that Mr. Marcel will disappear quickly….he’s overweight and can’t cover more ground than most slow-pitch OF, throws only to the relay man because he CAN”T throw to the base directly. It appears that he’s trying to swing Babe Ruth’s heavy bat….it’s slooowww coming around the plate for Mr. Marcel.  Some may have thought that Piscotty & Grichuk weren’t good enough….maybe they were right…but…I do know …that each is better than Mr. Marcel right now.

…Cards fans have the “dream” hopes that somehow…someway…Yadi will catch for many more years…it’s not a realistic hope…..but we all MUST have hope J

….Cardinal fans have the hopes that Andrew Miller isn’t another Greg Holland.

….some fans have the hope that if Tyler O’Neill could just make contact, he’d be super….with his Popeye arms and strength…..ANY contact will result in a positive offensive result in most cases.

…some fans seem to be ALWAYS wanting to bring up that next young prospect and hope that he’ll be the star that we need……following is a list of Cardinal Nations 2018 All-Prospect Team

The Cardinal Nation St. Louis Cardinals 2018 All-Prospect Team(last year’s team)

Position          Player                         Rank    Age      2017 Level

Catcher           Carson Kelly               3         23        MLB

First Base        Luke Voit                    38        26        MLB

Second Base   Max Schrock   *          15        23        AA

Shortstop       Yairo Munoz   *          14        22        AAA

Third Base       Evan Mendoza           26        21        A

Corner Outfield Tyler O’Neill *         5          22        AAA

Corner Outfield  Adolis Garcia *       12        24        AAA

Center field    Harrison Bader           4          23        MLB

LH Starter       Austin Gomber           10        24        AA

RH Starter      Alex Reyes                  1          23        MLB

LH Reliever     Ryan Sherriff *           41        27        MLB

RH Reliever     Josh Lucas *                43        27        MLB

**footnote….2 have been traded & 5 are already on..are have been on …the Cards roster, so they have progressed to the MLB …which is the goal of prospects. Now….will they be GOOD MLB players or always just be good prospects? …that’s another question.

Just to moderate my high hopes a bit…I looked back at the Cards TOP prospects of 2015…. who… should by this time….be productive MLB players…here ya go…

Top Cardinal Prospect of 2015:

Catcher–Carson Kelly;    First Base–Xavier Scruggs;    Second Base–Jacob Wilson;

Shortstop–Aledmys Diaz    Third Base–Patrick Wisdom  Corner OF–Stephen Piscotty

Corner OF–Randal Grichuk    Center–Charlie Tilson   LH Starter-Marco Gonzales

RH Starter–Alex Reyes   LH Reliever–Dean Kiekhefer    RH Reliever–Sam Tuivailala

Only Alex Reyes is still on the team!….and…what has he done yet? (gone with the wind…)My hopes faded a bit…but Oh well….what did Scarlett O’Hara say in the final words of Gone with the Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day”….there ya go…more HOPE!

….The Blues..and their fans…. certainly have plenty of HOPE as they’ve reached the real season of the NHL….the playoffs. It was a tremendous drive to reach 1 pt out of 1st place. But…now that the playoffs are here…the REAL NHL season begins. The Blues continual hard-skating, crisp passing, depth and goal keeping provide all of the St Louis fans with lots of HOPE for this post-season…is THIS the year?….heck….even the Cubs eventually won the World Series…is it time for Blues?… btw… I’ve watched more Blues hockey…way more… in the last 2 months than I have for a long, long time.  The action is fast paced…. continual… except for the two intermissions… and heck….we all need a break too…especially when you get older J. The game is over in a reasonable 2 hr 30-40 minutes. Of course, winning …and winning a lot….have raised my hopes high….like all of you, probably.  LGB!!

…on the High School level we generally recognize teams that have been somewhat overlooked but this week is a bit different. We want to tip our hat to 2 long time coaches retiring from the same school. The Webster Groves community and school are hoping that they will be able to meet the high challenge of replacing two long-time successful coaches. In the winter, Head Boys Basketball Coach Jay Blossom announced that his would be his last season. His active participation from the bench often reminded me of myself. However, I never achieved his glowing winning record…best I can figure… @ WG  his record was 447-122. But…I do love when a coach gives their ALL…that’s what we ask our kids to do!  Every time I saw Jay announce, his heart was in the game…totally in the game.  Congratulations to Jay on a very, very successful career @ WG. I have a special memory of Jay. Back in 2002 when Prepcasts was just beginning, our 1st basketball game ever covered in St Louis was @ Webster Groves. Like most everyone else at that time…he didn’t have a clue about “streaming” on-line….of course…I didn’t either…I was …. as my partner said, “ the mouth not the producer”.  We had to get on-line by phone dial-up for our audio production… and it all went well. So……WG & Jay’s hospitality ..and trust in us….were never forgotten. On the other side, I don’t know at all, the departing soccer coach, Tim Cashel. But….whenever a team that I was covering was playing Webster, all coaches praised…without exception…the work of Coach Cashel. Coach Cashel became the head coach in 2002. Not only was he the HEAD Boys Soccer Coach but he established …and directed… the WG Soccer Club and formed and developed the WG Summer youth Camps. He was not just a leader… he continued to expand and refine his craft throughout his career @ WG. Congratulations to both coaches for spending and sharing their life for so many years with the Webster Groves students and community…they’ll be missed.

Outside the Lou…

….Hopes for Drew Lock being in a 1st round draft choice are rising. From all I read, he’s almost a lock…pardon the pun….to be in that 1st round. Looks like I totally misread his skills. I don’t like his quick..or not so quick… footwork which I think is a prerequisite  to be successful NFL QB but….the NFL scouts DO like it….and those evaluators are the key people soooo….let’s wish Drew Lock well.

…NCAA-F….the Georgia Football program apparently has high hopes for the future…the Bulldogs just added home-home non-conference games with Florida State & Clemson on their schedule.  Now…with the ridiculously long range scheduling of the NCAA…these games will occur in 2027 & 2028….give me a break….the players in those games are in about 4th grade now….wait…did Georgia get the Top 4th grade QB out of  UThrowEM  grade school?

…..largest jump in the “HOPE” category of the MLB world HAS to belong to the Phillis fans. These fans haven’t cheered for a .500+ team since 2011!  That may not seem long to you….but that’s 7 years of mediocrity to bad baseball….in 2018, it was 80-82; 2017 66-96; 2016 71-91; 2015 63-99; in 2014 73-89; in 2013 another 73-89 and 2012 it was 81-81. Their attendance has slipped from 3,565,718 in 2012 to 2,158,124 last year. The Phils signing of Bryce Harper snatched all the headlines but that wasn’t their only move to improve their team. Home grown talent is maturing….Maikel Franco should be reaching his Prime years while Rhys Hoskins is a rising star. Acquired proven players like Jean Segura..who  provides real speed…and JT Realmuto, who  is listed as one of top catchers in the league…Odúbel Herrera’s role changes from being a Prime player to a very good supportive player bolsters the depth. The quick start of the Phillies has really ignited the “HOPE” fire in a strong way.

….NCAA basketball fans are hoping for another great basketball game on Monday night. Both semifinals…..like many other games in the tourney….were terrific.  I was a particularly interested in the defense of Texas Tech. Coach Beard had been on Bobby Knight  staff @ Texas Tech.  The helpside defense that coach Knight demanded is still there …under Coach Beard… but it’s taken some different angles. The game has changed since the departure of Coach Knight so adjustments are required. I was a disciple of Coach Knights m/m defensive principles. In fact, in some years I made my players hang up a picture of the cover of his defensive book—it had to be eyeball high!! The Auburn-Virginia game was very close. Clearly there was a foul on the shot with .6 sec remaining…but…clearly also the VA ballhandler committed double-dribble while coming up court. Both calls went Virginia’s way…sometimes it goes that way.  ? I will say that Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl was extremely gracious and impressive in masking his disappointment in his interview about the final call. It was real classy! Btw….I’m happy to see some “new and fresh” schools in the NCAA championship game. I guess the shoe deals are starting to slow down for the “big time” schools, heh?…ouch!

…..by this time….you’re probably hoping that I’m close to the end….and…your right!

I always enjoy reading YOUR thoughts and comments about any part of the blog. I really don’t expect you to agree with everything that I write…so let ‘em fly. If you have trouble posting, send them to me…I’ll get it done– signed by with your initials.

Sunny not Snow by Bob Ryan

Despite looking out the window and seeing snowflakes coming down, sunny days are not far away…take a look…

I enjoyed a wonderful evening this week as I attended the Blues-Nashville game… it was terrific…plenty of energy on the ice and in the stands. I do think that hockey..maybe more than any other sport….is MUCH, MUCH better in person than on the tube. You can really appreciate the speed and skill of these talented skaters.  Seeing the entire play develop on the ice really adds to the game. However, I don’t buy into all of that hockey lingo “character”, “perseverance”, “dig deep”, yada-yada-yada alone wins games.. SKILL and athleticism wins games….in any sport….I would EXPECT maximum effort of professionals in EVERY game…on a lower lever..the line changes are hardly ever talked about by our local announcers. I wish that they would give us the line matchups when possible…. LGB! Meanwhile, It was a “sunny”, happy experience for us @ the Enterprise Center.

…the Harper/Machado saga has finally ended…I was weary of reading about the two  of them being unhappy about their “paltry” offers…they were only being offered a couple hundred million…come on fellows…enjoy life….now you’ll make enough money to take care of your family, grandchildren’s families etc. It had to be a sunny day for you and your family…and for me (I don’t have to read about it anymore)…btw, I was interested in Harper’s choice of numbers @ Philly. He had taken #34 @ Washington because 3+4 = 7 ..Mickey Mantle’s #.  34 was worn in Philly by Roy Halladay…Harper felt that Halladay should be the last player to wear that number…so he took #3.

…the Cards quiet sunny side has to do with the moves that were made in the winter to their 40 man roster. Adding RHP fireballing Ryan Helsley, LHP Genesis Cabrera (obtained  for Tommy Pham), Lane Thomas.. who’s already getting a long look due to his defensive skills and his ability to pop the long ball(seems like that’s a necessity in the Cards eyes these days) and Ramon Urias. Urias won’t be up early…or maybe even at all….but he’s an infielder without an established position yet who really hit “big time” until last year.  Keep your bright, sunny eyes on these 4 names for the Cards…maybe this year….but probably next.

….while the Billikens aren’t a national power…the Bills outlook in the A-10 tournament could be sunny. Let’s hope that the Bills have some “sunny” days from the perimeter offensively in that conference tourney.

….I read that Travis Ford & Cuonzo Martin have a good, sunny relationship….and that maybe it’ll lead to a SLU-Mizzou basketball game in the near future. It could be lots of fun to watch our local favorites.. like kids playing our best friends…battle each other. That would be terrific.

…great news from the MLS..there is talk now by Commissioner Don Garber of expanding beyond the 28 team quota that will be filled in the upcoming months. In 2019, Cincinnati enters MLS, its Nashville & Miami in 2020 and Austin no later than 2021.

…..Right now, the MLS league, stadium name & capacity looks like this:

Western Conference

Team Stadium Capacity

Colorado Rapids Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 18,061

FC Dallas Toyota Stadium 20,500

Houston Dynamo BBVA Compass Stadium 22,039

LA Galaxy Dignity Health Sports Park 27,000

Los Angeles FC Banc of California Stadium 22,000

Minnesota United FC Allianz Field 19,400

Portland Timbers Providence Park 25,000

Real Salt Lake Rio Tinto Stadium 20,213

San Jose Earthquakes Avaya Stadium 18,000

Seattle Sounders FC CenturyLink Field] 39,419

Sporting Kansas City Children’s Mercy Park 18,467

Vancouver Whitecaps FC BC Place] 22,120

Eastern Conference

Team Stadium Capacity

Atlanta United FC Mercedes-Benz Stadium[A] 42,500

Chicago Fire SeatGeek Stadium 20,000

FC Cincinnati Nippert Stadium[A] 33,800  1st year team

Columbus Crew SC Mapfre Stadium 19,968

D.C. United Audi Field 20,000

Montreal Impact Saputo Stadium 20,801

New England Revolution  Gillette Stadium[A] 20,000

New York City FC Yankee Stadium[A] 30,321

New York Red Bulls Red Bull Arena 25,000

Orlando City SC Orlando City Stadium 25,500

Philadelphia Union Talen Energy Stadium 18,500

Toronto FC BMO Field 30,000

***wouldn’t this be nice to see……….

St Louis Enterprise Stadium 20,000ish

….I think the schedule of each team is an interesting, fair one….you play each of your division teams twice a season and each team from the other division just 1 time. Sooo…you’d have a home game with each conference team each year and a home game with each team from the other conference once every 2 years. It would be a sunny day when/if StL is granted a franchise.

…new Cardinal batting coach Jeff Albert is getting rave reviews …especially from one of the Cardinal leaders…Matt Carpenter….who says Albert is one of the best hitting coaches he’s had and one of the best he thinks there is in the game. Wouldn’t that be great not seeing so many strikeouts each game….plus….it’d make the game move faster by putting it in play. It’s also “sunny” when the players have confidence in their coaches.

…I like the sunny idea of Columbus’ Head Coach Tortorella….he wants every OT game in the NHL to keep playing 3 on 3 hockey (no shootouts) until someone scores. Recently he said,” Get rid of the shootout (and) just play the three-on-three until a team dies”. To me…the NHL using the shootout would be like the MLB deciding an extra inning game stops after 12, 13, ..whatever number of innings… and then have a HR derby.

…..a very sunny event occurred  as one of our own “locals” who’s been on the National Scene as a middle-distance runner just won her 1st National Title in the 2019 USATF Indoor Championships. Colleen Quigley, graduate of Nerinx Hall and daughter of long time XC and track Coach, Gaylerd Quigley, upset the reigning title holder & 8x champion, in the 1500m race. Quigley ran a 60.09 (sec)final 400 meters to beat the favorite Shelby Houlihan. Congratulations to Colleen and her family for this tremendous achievement.  Colleen was a participant in the last Olympic for the USA. I ran track & cross country in High School. I can’t imagine all the hours, days, years, pain (you can’t be that good and not have real pain) that Colleen has spent to reach this tremendous pinnacle. I recall when I was young, StL hosted a summer track meet for the best runners in the USA. There was always lots of excitement for 2 races….the 100m dash and the mile (now the 1500m). Congrats again to the Quigleys!

…congrats to the UMSL Men’s basketball team for a SUNNY season. Head Coach Bob Sunvold’s team reached the 20 win plateau win a win over Maryville. The Tritons are 20-8 as they begin the GLVC Conference Tournament. It was only the 4th time that  UMSL has won 20 games or more. The last time was back in 1990-91 (22-6) season under Coach Rick Meckfessel. The other years were in 1987-88, 22-9 also under Coach Meckfessel. The 1st time that UMSL reached the 20 win plateau was back in 1971-72 under Coach Chuck Smith. Smith was the first Head basketball coach @ UMSL. The inaugural mens basketball season was in 1966-67.

…Well…while its SUNNY in the sports world…it’s time for me to shovel snow

                                                                                                                                            E

Sign Him Now! by Bob Ryan

…….He’s a “Winner”, he’s already demonstrated his skills, he’s experienced with several years of play behind him,  has plenty of talent, adjusts to the situation, knows his way around the league, has proven that he’s worth the contract, the fans love him, players respect him…..is this Bryce Harper?…..not a chance…it’s Craig Berube.  Berube took over a Blues team that was in shambles in November. In those days, the playoffs seemed like a dream …to be experienced some year down the road. When Berube took over the reins of the St. Louis Blues, they had just been shutout by the last-place Los Angeles Kings at home….ugh! It was already mid-Nov  and in the first 19 games, the team was 7-9-3. They sat 14th in the Western Conference and were 30th out of 31 NHL teams. Apparently, Mike Yeo had lost the locker room….to me …that means that they players had lost confidence in his leadership and weren’t responding to him or his ideas any longer. This is the WORST thing that can happen to any coach. In this situation, the players do their “own” thing….which they think is better than the Coach’s ideas. I recall watching a Blues game sometime in November…I wasn’t watching many during those days…it was boring….dump & chase, it didn’t seem like we had control of the puck much, Tarasenko wasn’t getting shots, Boumester-Pietrangelo looked like they belonged in a Senior league, Patrick Maroon appeared to be a home-town bust  and Yeo was actually yelling at the players on the ice…I’d never seen a hockey coach yell AT not TO his players. In comes Berube, a 17 year veteran of NHL competition, so he’d seen/played for many different coaches. Soo… he was able to take a little from each of them. He was a “tough guy”….he was the guy throwing down the gloves and tangling with you. ….personal note…I like those feisty guys…not thugs who can’t play or skate. He already had some NHL coaching experience with the Flyers 2013-15During that time he went 75-58-28. Then he coached the AHL’s (minor league)Chicago Wolves in 16-17 before joining Blues in 2017 as a coach. Since Berube has become the Blues Head Coach, the 12 game winning streak… really unbelievable!!… overall record 26-14-2. At this moment, Sunday afternoon, the Blues hold the 5th highest level of points in the entire NHL!!  It seems as if he’s holding ALL players…young, old, rookies, veterans, aged veterans responsible for their play. GOOD!   He’s direct, honest, able to evaluate using his experience as a player & coach. He’s held some veteran Blues players off of shifts after they perform in a sub-standard way on the previous shift. Sure…with time it’ll probably change….but in the professional sports arena, you’d better win NOW or you won’t have to worry about “down the road”….SIGN BERUBE…..LGB!!…btw…maybe you saw it also, the Blues viewing # on NBCSN recently was the highest EVER on that channel for a hockey match.

….a DEEP LOOK @ CARDS in February

While the winter play on the ice has us all looking at hockey, the Cards have opened spring training. It’s SO much different than years ago…..decades ago MLB players worked winter jobs to “get by” for their families. Now, players work out for several weeks prior to reporting to Florida for training.  Most “regulars” don’t even play games in the 1st week of spring training.  I think that they could cut spring training time down …way down…report  March 1…that would give you a month to hone, sharpen the skills that the players have been developing on their own during the off season and  finalize roster formation…on the 1st day of camp, the MLB teams already know 23 of the 25 spots anyway.

MINOR LEAGUE Yo-Yo SYSTEM..

It’s a new era in MLB….starters are expected to complete 5 innings…6 is a bonus, 7 or 8 is unbelievable and 9 innings is a HOF candidate  I assume that the Cards will be using the Memphis overnight express to wing up starters for a day and then immediately wing them back to the poverty league…oops the Minor leagues. Couple points here…

….the minor league salary is pitiful.  

Level                                       1st Year 2ndYear 3rd Year

Rookie                                  $1150/mo $1200/mo $1250/mo

Short Season A                   $1150/mo $1200/mo        $1250/mo

Low A                                   $1300/mo $1350/mo $1400/mo

High A                                  $1500/mo $1550/mo $1600/mo

Double A                             $1700/mo $1800/mo    $1900/mo

Triple A                                $2150/mo $2400/mo $2700/mo

Standard incentives include:

$500 bonus after 60 days in Double A time. $1000 bonus after 60 days Triple A time.

$5000 bonus after 60 days Big League time.

All minor league players receive $20 meal money per day ($140 a week)

Split salary means that a player receives MLB salary for at least part of the minor league time.

The MLB minimum for 2019 is $555,000. The MLB season is considered to by 172 days long. Hence one day in MLB is valued @ $3226 per day!! So if a player like Kyler Murray has a choice between NFL football and MLB baseball….it’s really a no-brainer.

CHANGE ROSTER FORMATION …as I’ve done previously, I propose the hockey format for MLB. Have a 27 man roster but dress only 25 players per game. You’d be adding 2 more roster spots for each team (probably all pitchers) so the Players Union would no doubt like that aspect. If you DO bring up a player for any reason, he must remain on the MLB roster for 3 days before being sent back to the bush leagues.  This 1 day up and back is really unfair to the players on that yo-yo.

Looking deeper at the work of the past, the health of the present, what might be in the future may raise an eyebrow or 2 for the loyal…sometimes almost blindly loyal.. fans .

STARTING ROTATION..

using baseball reference as the source….one finds some rather stunning stats for our starters in 2018…..

……the pitcher with the most starts…1 & 2 are easy…Mikolas & Flaherty…#3 John Gant!

…..Mikolas finished with 200 innings…right on the nose…I think that Shildt knew that so he made sure that Mick hit his bonus…at any rate..2nd most innings on the staff was  Flaherty all the way down at 151 innings.

LOOKING AHEAD…..

….if a starter averages 5 innings in a 32 start year….that’s 160 innings per starter and 800 innings expected from the starting rotation….now many of our starters started & relieved so it’s difficult to determine the length of each start….but one can say that only one averaged 6 innings per start — Mikolas (6.25)…..ergo……the bullpen has 4 innings for work just about every night. We’ll hone in on the pen another time but…for today…it’s a deep look at the rotation.

Baseball Reference also provides….from their perspective…a 2019 projection. No ONE knows for sure the future but these are professional baseball people, the Cards starting rotation…as of the beginning of camp…. The 2019 projection numbers that looked like this…

Adam Wainwright, 37 years old, w-L–6-5, era-4.70,  92 inn, 98 hits, 11 BB, 79 K’s, 399 batters

Miles Mikolas, 30 years old, w-L– 13-5,2 sv, era-3.26, 160 IP, 149 hits, 657 BF (batters faced)

Jack Flaherty, 23 years old, w-L–7-8, 2 sv, era–3.68, 137 IP, 108 hits 569—BF

Michael Wacha, 27 years old, w-L 8-5, 1 sv, era-3.97, 118 IP, 112 hits, 502 BF

Carlos Martinez, 27 years old, w-L-8-7, 3 sv, era-3.48, 132 IP, 114 hits, 560 BF

Now…already….Martinez….in the 1st week….has arm issues…maybe that’s why Baseball Reference only had him for 132 innings for 2019. Even MO made one of his subtle…yet stinging…statements about…” working in the off season with your arm”.

…A FACT…with the starting rotation listed above…the projection is for just 639 innings. Sooooo…. who’s up next… John Gant…largely ignored as a “regular” starter…had these projections for 2019

John Gant, 26 years old, w-L 6-6, 1 sv, era-3.86 105 IP, 91 hits, 450 BF-only 52 less than Wacha

Or …if we keep going down the list—

Austin Gomber, 25 years old, w-L 5-3, 1 sv, era-4.14, 76 IP, 74 hit, 329 BF

Mike Mayers, 27 years old, w-L 3-2, 1 sv, era 4.67, 51 IP, 53 Hits, 224 BF

Dakota Hudson, 24 years old, w-L 3-2, 1 sv, era 3.69, 39 IP, 30 hits, 165 BF

Alex Reyes, 24 years old, w-L 3-2, 1 sv, era 3.52, 46 IP, 40 hits, 193 BF

Using this mix of starters piles up another 206 inn…would that all be as starters or bullpen guys?

Personally, Wainwright & Wacha EACH have recent  histories of arm problems that severely limit their work load.  We’re NOT going to push Reyes who seems to be teetering on the brink of “if I miss another year…I’m done” cliff. Hudson was bullpen guy last year.  I realize that MO’s tendency is to take care of his pitching concerns with home-grown guys. It’s cheaper…. much cheaper….that way. However, the 3 years abstinence of post-season ball does NOT permit the Cards to waffle around long AND still expect to keep the loyal fans walking through the turnstiles. Don’t be surprised if the Cards elevate from their farm someone with “a great arm” and “great stuff” who we’ve never seen… or heard of… previously. We’ve been down that road many times in the past 5 years. Since Wacha (who had 1 really good year) & we’ll give Martinez credit for 2 good years (14-7, 16-9)… who’s been an outstanding starting pitcher from our farm system?  Lots of hype.. so-so production. Ironically….the guys who don’t have the power arms (Mikolas & Lance Lynn) won many games for the Cardinals than most of these so-called “power arms”. Mikolas’ variety of breaking balls…can’t call them curve balls any longer …. may…. may… become a model for other pitchers to emulate.

…OFF THE MOUND….to the OUTFIELD

I haven’t even discussed the corner OF problems…it’s stronger than issues to me!!  First glance @ Ozuna , he again appears to be a sore-armed OF … this being his free agent year… he may be positioning himself for a DH role in the AL. Bernie Miklasz inferred in a recent show that he wasn’t sure that Ozuna actually wanted to be here in the Lou!!  My take on Fowler is that he’ll start strong….then …sometime in June/July he’ll begin to really struggle at the plate. At that point, the Cards will have to look in the mirror and admit….it isn’t going to work out. I’m looking for Tyler O’Neill to have a break out year…hopefully this new batting approach will assist him in making contact….he’s so darn strong that ANY contact should lead to higher average and still have plenty of power.  Adolis Garcia may be in the mix in the OF by mid-summer…just hope that he doesn’t round 3B at full speed too often….ooohhh….that was low.

…NOW…brief INFIELD “take”

Infield bench concerns….where does Gyorko fit in?  Carpenter & Goldschmidt play almost every day…hopefully, we won’t try him in platoon @ 2B again.  We need Wong’s defense…it he hits .250 that should be enough with the bats around him. Gyorko @ SS….only if DeJong falls flat on his face (hopefully, he doesn’t)…..I have a lot of “hopefully” statements floating around here

Around Baseball…

….Aledmys Diaz….cast off by the Cards..has landed a spot on the Houston Astros roster as a utility player. He replaces free Agent Marwin Gonzalez who became a free agent. The multi-positional Gonzalez entered the free agent market looking for a 4 year deal close to $40m. He signed this weekend with Minnesota for 2 years @ $21m. The MLB free agents are decrying the drop in pay in the last 2 off-seasons.  Let’s be honest….it’s hard for all of us who actually worked for a living… w/o being an entertainer (baseball player)… to have pity on a player receiving $21m. The other side of the coin…the owners are reaping in larger incomes than ever before in baseball history. As long as the golden goose (TV) keeps cranking out the mega-bucks, MLB owners will be wheelbarrowing their money to the bank.

…I’m tired of the Bryce Harper rumors initiated & perpetuated by Scott Boras. Harper isn’t Babe Ruth …or even Barry Bonds…I realize Harper is only 26 but 10 years is a LOOONNNGGGG time. Speaking of Long….thanks for running through hockey & baseball today….Have a Great Week!