Rebuild … Win … or Both by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter of the Law by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Off the Line by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other data on NCAA-Bk….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blues Made Me Do It by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear John by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Wonderland by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Sports Resolutions by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stanley’s Summer Tour by Bob Ryan

The unforgettable St Louis Blues post-season championship “run” is brought back to us as we take a peek at how some of the Blues celebrated their day with Stanley.  There were lots of family moments, local celebrations, as well as some very touching moments for special people in their lives.            

…Brayden Schenn got his day with the Cup in Saskatoon on Friday and took it right to the place where his father has worked for 28 years as a firefighter.   Schenn was seen wearing a firefighter helmet during the Blues’ parade with the Cup back in June. “You always think if I win the Cup, you put the thoughts in your head of what I would do with it,” Schenn told the team’s website. “My dad is a firefighter, so this was important to me. I’m trying to do my best sharing it with a lot of people today.” He also took it Royal University Hospital where he met with sick children, including 16-year-old John Bossaer.                   

…The Cup then headed a few hours south, where Tyler Bozak & Jaden Schwartz shared their day with the Cup with the city of Regina on Saturday. The duo planted a Blues flag on the Saskatchewan Legislative Building. They then headed to where people where melons on their heads: Mosaic Stadium. There, they paraded the trophy in front of thousands of Saskatchewan Roughriders fans who had assembled for the Canadian Football League’s game against the Calgary Stampeders. There wasn’t much to cheer for during the football game for fans — the Roughriders lost 37-10 — but Bozak and Schwartz, along with Schenn, got the crowd into a frenzy.

on July 14, Stanley returned “home’ so to speak. It was the day for STL born  & bred, Patrick Maroon. A 9am start at his house with plenty of photos with his family including parents, & grandparents began the day. His son Anthony enjoyed a bowl of Toasted Crunch directly out of Stanley. Then it was off to All-American Sports Mall in S.County, where Maron invited around 200 people who he credits for helping him develop his hockey skills. Lunch was @ one of the Lou’s best restaurants, Charlie Gitto’s. Maroon served one of StL’s most famous dishes @ Gitto’s–Toasted ravioli from the Stanley Cup. A 1 hour trip took the Maroon’s to a lake to enjoy the evening with plenty of family and friends on the lake. Adam Sanders  joined in the celebration, arriving all the way from Nashville, to enjoy the moment with Maroon’s family.

Earlier in the week, the Cup was a province over in Alberta. Craig Berube, fresh off a three-year extension as bench boss with the Blues, took the Cup back to his hometown of Calahoo, Alta. It’s not a big place — the thriving metropolis boasts a population of just 85 — but they were all out to congratulate Berube. “We all grew up here,” Berube told the team’s website. “My dad and brothers lived on this farm or just down the road. We were grain farmers, cattle farmers, we had it all here, that’s how we grew up. His mother, meanwhile, was just as thrilled. “I never dreamt it. Unreal,” said Ramona Berube, Craig’s mother. “I never thought of something like this (happening). It’s just great for everybody who was down at the arena to see it. You can see how much it means to everybody.

Colton Parayko, meanwhile, got his day with the Cup in St. Alberta, a city northwest of Edmonton. Parayko’s day also included an emotional moment as he, along with his grandfather and family, toasted his grandma, who died last November after a battle with cancer. According to Parayko, a deal was made between grandmother and grandson that if the latter made the NHL one day, the former would take a shot of peach schnapps at her home in St. Albert any time he scored. With her passing, the family honored the tradition on Wednesday.

…David Perron on July 30th, was welcomed home by a raucous crowd at the hockey rink.. Stanley went  on a ride (buckled in) through Quebec; enjoyed breakfast with his family and used Stanley as a cereal bowl for their “Lucky Charms” cereal then washed it down with chocolate mike sucked through a straw from Stanley’s chocolate milk container. A game of street hockey was enjoyed by the neighbors and Stanley was hoisted by the winning team of the day! Stanley was taken to Perron’s favorite restaurant and then enjoyed eating poutine out of the Cup for dinner.

…For Ryan O’Reilly it was 3 towns, 2 parades, hundreds of photos with Stanley. O’Reilly arrived in Seaforth and went directly to the Fire Hall @  8:00am. It was there that O’Reilly shared an emotional moment with his 99 year old Grandmother. A parade as O’Reilly rode on the “lead” firetruck…it went straight down Main Street to the Seaforth Arena. After 2 hours and millions…OK…maybe not that many…of photos, the party continued its celebration in another town. This time it was Goderich another parade ran through the town. The YMCA was the host of the photo session as well as the place that O’Reilly received gifts from the community (stuffed bear with a #90 jersey, knit hat, Blues themed birdhouse). By 4pm O’Reilly was in Bayfield for a private party for his family & friends hosted at his parents home. Perhaps the most exciting part for Stanley was arriving at the party via helicopter!

…Alex Pietrangelo was the 1st Blue to take Stanley golfing this year. Pietrangelo from King City (about 30 miles away from Toronto) spent his morning with close friends & family AND STANLEY on the golf course. He returned home to his triplets (Evelyn, Oliver & Theodore) who just turned 1 year old. When the threesome woke up from their nap, Stanley was there sitting on the countertop. After the required thousands of pics were fulfilled, off they went to Grandma/Grandpa’s house. There Stanley was used as serving bowl for a  large portion of nonna’s pasta for the main meal.

…Vince Dunn ,who enjoyed an impromptu hometown parade as he walked with STANLEY in his grasp, then marched Stanley to a public appearance @ the Lindsay Rec Complex. It was there that Dunn learned of Lawny Woodcock. Woodcock was a patient in the local hospital who was diagnosed 4 months ago with colon cancer and the doctors have indicated that he’ll be there until 2020.. He is an extremely avid hockey fan. “Big (hockey fan),” he told stlouisblues.com. “I would watch hockey from the time I get up in the morning until I go to bed, seven days a week if I could.” Because most of the Blues are Canadian-born, Lawney adopted the Blues as his team after the Maple Leafs season ended. Dunn took the cup to Woodcock’s room and shared the excitement with him “Just pretty emotional,” Lawny said, tears welling up in his eyes. “Thank you very much, Vince. It means a lot.”

…As Jordan Binnington approached his hometown, a new sign was recently installed. “City of Richmond Hill, Population 208,000, Home of Stanley Cup Champion Jordan Binnington” Binnington walked up to the sign, turns around and says, “That’s me, Baby”. Btw…Richmond Hill is also the home of Curtis Joseph (former Blues GK) and Connor McDavid (current NHL player).1st stop was his grandmother’s house. Her house is almost on the 7th green of the local golf course—maybe 100 yards. The golfers seem puzzled as they see a large crowd gathered at her house for pictures galore. Binnington then visits his Grandpa on the other side of the family who lives by himself. His Grandfather walks out to greet him in a Blues Tee, and a Blues Stanley Cup Champions hat. He’s abandon his long-time team, the Maple Leafs.  Next on the visit list is Kevin….probably the biggest Binnington fan in the area. His b-day card for Binnington had been held back by his Mom so that he could give it to him personally on this day! At his Mom’s house, the required photo of Mom had to include her 2 dogs ! Around 4:45 Binnington shows his gratitude to the Toronto Police force who had to accompany him around town all day. He visited the police station with STANLEY and let the men in Blue share in the celebration with him. A parade in his honor and was awarded the Key to the City.  

 ….Obviously, That’s not all of the Blues but you get the flavor of their “special” days with Stanley…. Each Blue had their own very special day with their families, city/town and friends.  It’s a great tradition of the NHL. Looking around the rest of the sports world, others were on tours also…

….The Cards took a tour through the basement level teams of the MLB. They were able to sweep out W’s from the basement.  The Pirates & Royals were just the tour that the Cardinals needed.

….The pre-season tour through the NCAA-F camps surprised me a bit. I really feel like Mizzou will…and should…win at least 8 or 9 games. That should put them into the top 25. The Mizzou Tiger was nowhere to be found in the SI pre-season, Top 25 poll…time will tell. Have I been bitten by the hype?

…The tour continues @ Oakville High School @ the softball and baseball fields. The Father/Son combo of Rich Sturm SR & JR has covered the Oakville tour together in an incredible manner.  Rich Sr coached the Oakville Varsity Baseball from 1983-1999 compiling an impressive 270-111 record. This year, Rich Jr begins his 26th year as a coach and teacher. His glossy lifetime record is 261-158 in baseball and 367-97 in softball. So… combined this Father/Son combo are closing in on 900 victories (@ 898) on the baseball/softball fields @ Oakville. If we want to throw the wins of Rich Sr as head Varsity Basketball Coach (96 wins), we’re closing in on 1000 wins for a Father/Son combo at the same school! WOW!  Congratulations to both Sr & Jr for their impressive mark that they’ve left @ Oakville HS.

…The tour through the pre-game batting practice as taken a turn. Surprisingly to me, the Cardinals had 2 Batting Coaches this season.  Never heard of that! In modern day baseball, it seems EACH player already has their own batting coach. Anyway…the Cards fired the asst batting coach, Mark Budaska. Budaska had been the Memphis (Cards AAA team) since 2008 so had worked with many of the players there.  It would seem to me that he was surprised…probably upset….when the Cards brought in Jeff Albert as the #1 batting coach over him. But last week suddenly…..Budaska was fired…gone the same day. The mgmt. indicated that they wanted ‘the same message” from the hitting coach. Common sense moment here….have you EVER heard 2 different people describe or say anything in exactly the same way? I’m going to speculate that one of our “boys”…probably experienced and  highly paid… complained to someone that Budaska was telling him something a bit “different” then Albert. Just like that…he’s fired! Just doesn’t sound like that’s the entire story…. maybe…. during the off season we’ll really learn the complete story. One thing for sure…this isn’t the type of matter that a team wants to occur in August of a pennant race.

….Along the same lines…of Cards batting…many fans were clamoring for Starting pitcher at the trade deadline.  Maybe they should back up for a sec, the batting woes of the Cards are dreadful. As a team, in the NL (15 teams) St Louis  is 13th in runs,  12th in OBP, 13th in slug %, 13th in OPS. Maybe NEITHER of the batting coaches should have been retained   Meanwhile, the Phillies bring back former manage Charlie Manual (70 years old) to take over their batting coach duties last week, also!?!

….As  the NCAA-F experts tour thru college campuses with their pre-season rankings of teams and individuals, one former StL area HS player is receiving a great deal of notice. Jr AJ Espensa (Iowa) has already banked two outstanding seasons as a DE. The tenacious 6-6, 280 DE from Edwardsville is viewed by many as the best rushing DE in college Football. He may apply for the NFL draft this year.

…Soccer fans….and hopefully, SPORTS fans….received great news as the MLS has indicated that St Louis would be the next expansion team.  I don’t know why the other attempts of pro soccer at the top level of American soccer failed here in St Louis but…..let’s hope that this time St Louis will succeed. It seems as if a wonderful ownership team is in place so….it’s a long road until the 1st game ..let’s hope that the momentum continues to grow each month. 

Thanks for taking YOUR tour through this blog!!   Responses are always invited….either through email-rjryansr@charter.net, directly on facebook or directly on prepcasts site. Hope to hear from many of you.

Stanley III rules the Lou by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds & Ends….

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

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

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

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

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

Anticipation by Bob Ryan

Here on Sunday morning, the anticipation of tonight’s Blues 6th game vs Boston is gripping the city. Is it REALLY going to happen…Lord Stanley’s Cup hoisted up by the Blues??  There is anticipation in sports…and life for that matter….continually….just  as Carly Simon reminded us in her hit song in 1971.(entitled Anticipation)..Anticipation, anticipation….Is makin’ me late…Is keepin’ me waitin’ “

….the anticipation of Paul Goldschmidt becoming the slugger we…and the Cards…. expections continues to grow. Currently many of his personal marks are at career-low levels excluding his first part-time season….in 269 plate appearances…..his average of .268 previous low mark .286; .358 OBP..to this point his lowest for a season was his 1st full season .359; slugging % of .438….previous low .489 (2016); with 69 strikeouts to this point, if he continues at this pace will be to set a personal high if 184 strikeouts. It’s not a wasted season….yet….but we are at the 3/8 pole of the season.

….the Cubs anticipation of post-season success just got a shot in the arm with the signing of Craig Kimbrel. I don’t think that he’ll be the same ol’ untouchable closer but….he’s got to be better than Pedro Strop. One may disagree with the salary demanded by Kimbrel that the Cubs matched but… you must say….the Cubs went out to find a player to fill a big gap in their roster. What would YOUR anticipation be if I told you that the Cards had acquired Zach Greinke from Arizona for the rest of this year?  Sure Greinke is 35 years old and his mega annual salary of $35m makes the Cards owners choke just hearing it…. but….in his 14 starts this season, 87.2 inn, just 68 hits, ERA of 2.87.He’s projected to finish with 13 wins and a 3.37 ERA. The Cards completely ignored any improvements to their starting staff in the off-season but….right now….is there ANY anticipation of a post-season run by the Cards  this year?  Wouldn’t his addition ignite that flame again?  He’s already been on 5 different post-season teams in his career. Trade 2 of those hot Cards ”prospects” …ya know…the ones that the Cards announcers make it sound like they are headed directly to Cooperstown ….but….are actually are closer to .500 pitchers or .250 batters…and go get Greinke.

….like two jolted lovers…. the Cards fans and Marcel Ozuna ….in which  the anticipation is a soon-to-be permanent separation …feelings are uneasy and uneven.  It’s easy to understand in one way…. Marcel with his huge, lusty swing that leaves his flashy neck chain zinging around his neck and … often  leads to strikeouts…but heck….show me a Cardinal that DOESN’T strike out a lot(with or without a neck chain)…and Marcel’s early season defensive OF plays would have almost  been comical if he didn’t have  a gold glove award hanging up in his house..heh…wait a minute….maybe that’s the glove that he’s actually using in the OF….no wonder it’s a bit stiff J  Marcel’s throwing from LF has improved but it’s not on-line very often…if ever….but….all that being said …check his batting marks.. in the NL thus far in 2019… he’s 5th in RBI’s; tied for 10th in HR’s;  12th in runs scored and 20th in slugging%.  How would the Lou be raving if those stats belonged  to Paul Goldschmidt …not Ozuna?

…Anticipation is the key word at the MLB draft. Generally,  a team has to wait, wait and wait for the development of their draft choices. Very, very seldom does a player get drafted on summer and excel in the MLB the next summer.  It’s usually a slow-cooked process so as the patience increases so does the anticipation.  Some observations to note about the Draft….for the first time since 2008, when Buster Posey (5), Kyle Skipworth (6), and Jason Castro (10) were all were selected in the top 10 picks, two catchers became top-10 selections last Monday night. Chosen #1 overall was Adly Rutschman (Oregon St) by the Orioles while Baylor’s Shea Langeliers was chosen by the Braves with the #9 pick of the draft. With the importance of having a good to great catcher necessary to have a post-season contender, one might think that MLB teams would regularly look in that direction.  Not so….in fact, Buster Posey, Jason Castro, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Zunino, and Josh Phegley are the only five major-league catchers who have started a majority of their team’s games this season and were selected in Round 1.  The Cards gambled  @#19 when they picked Zach Thompson (LHP from U of Kentucky). Thompson’s fastball seems to have good movement along with a reliable slider…..but….Thompson has experienced shoulder & elbow issues  along with inconsistent control in the past. If you have the anticipation for your son, nephew, neighbor…whovever…to reach the “big time” of the MLB….make him a shortstop in his younger days. On the 1st night of the 2019 draft, 9 of the first 32 picks were SS then another 10 were chosen in the 2nd round! Soooo..19 of the 77 players chosen Monday were shortstops….close to 25% of the players!!

….not many MLB observers anticipated the Minnesota Twins to be 2nd in wins in the entire AL on June 9th. The Twinkies 43 wins are just 2 behind the Astros. From the plate, Minnesota leads the AL in runs scored (370) slugging % (.510), and Home Runs (121). On the pitching mound, the Twins have issued the fewest walks and are 5th in team ERA.  If not the ace… certainly a key component …of the starting staff is Jake Odorizzi. Currently he’s  8-2, 1.96 era, 64 inn, just 41 hits (usually a 1:1 ratio of inn: hits is a relevant number).   He was drafted in 2008…..so I guess back in  2007 or 2008….I announced the Highland-Bresse Central baseball game from Grizzlies BallPark. This was a big local HS rivalry so Prepcasts covered the game. I recall the rare occurrence…and I made a big deal of it at the time….this right-handed hitting batter named Odorizzi hit a home run over the right-center field fence!  Hitting home runs in these closed in fields was rare enough….but …to the opposite field. I …to this day…haven’t only seen it done ONCE…on that day. He wasn’t pitching that day so he was the shortstop. Now an  8 year veteran, Odorizzi will definitely be in the all-Star game this year so cheer him “on” as a home town boy.  Btw… he’s a free agent after the season! Connect the dots …J

…is it fair to anticipate that professional players….even lower level minor leaguers…should have developed a professionalism  about “doing whatever it takes to win”..recently, in a Double A game, the Hartford Yard Goats (I didn’t make it up…it REALLY is the name of the team) had a combined no-hitter going in the 9th inning.  When Matt Lipka of the Trenton Thunder bunted for a base hit! The Yard Goats went crazy…how could he? It was a no-hitter (albeit a combined no-hitter).  Lipka must have broken the rule found deep in professional pamphlets  “Thou shall not bunt to break up a no-hitter!”….the benches emptied as a fight broke out over the bunt!  Could we anticipate a bit more professionalism the next time? As one local writer said, “Quit crying. Get tough.  Also, it was a combined no-hitter! The starter wasn’t even in the game anymore. Good lord, get over yourselves!” I would anticipate that the parents of the Yard Goats refused to buy their “boys” sno-cones after the game for their tawdry behavior J

….I had anticipation through the first 2 months of Cardinal baseball….would Fred Rogers…oops..Mike Shildt… and his Happy Neighborhood jingo…ever “sit” a veteran who held a regular starting position. I was pleased to see that Fred….oops…Mike…”sat” Matt Carpenter out of a game.  I didn’t want to hear that his foot bothered him (which was the story the next day).  Any MLB manager must demonstrate his “leadership” by sitting players who aren’t performing period. Being  4 or 6 or 10 year vets makes it tougher….sorry….that’s why you’re getting the big  bucks …to make those tough decisions.

…its too early in the summer to have a real high anticipation of NCAA-football….but…just to  whet your appetite…..couple surprise teams to watch…Nebraska under 2nd year head Coach, Scott Frost will take his 4-8 team of last year back into bowl level territory…maybe not a New Years Day Bowl…but a bowl nonetheless…..Texas A&M under Jimbo Fischer …with that 1st name—he has to coach in the South J…..will finish in the top 10 and be in a major bowl. On the other side of the field….despite his personal issues, Urban Meyer was a terrific “big game” coach…..the Buckeyes will miss that little edge…I look for them to slip just a bit. And….of course….we all anticipate the annual Clemson-Alabama Championship Game to take place again.

…well…we started with the Blues and we’re skating into the locker room now with our anticipation with hopes sky high, our fingers crossed, and plenty of LGB’s reverberating around the Lou!