Card’s #1’s & more by Bob Ryan

As we continue to fight the coronavirus in our daily lives and our life seems to be on a continual treadmill…going nowhere fast….there STILL is action behind the scenes for the Cards & the MLB…..

….some recent Card transactions & their impact….the Cards optioned Alex Reyes. Once thought of as the crown jewel of the Cards future prospects….Reyes was rated the Cards #1 prospect for 4 consecutive years and Baseball America named him the second-best prospect overall in their 2016 mid-season ranking. Way back in 2016, Reyes was 4-1 for the Cardinals with some really impressive stats—1.57 era, in 46 innings only 33 hits with 52 strikeouts and the batting average against him was a scant .201. In 2017 he underwent Tommy John surgery which ended his season & it was followed in 2018 Reyes again had surgery…this time for a torn tendon in his lat muscle, effectively ending his season. Now….He’ll be 26 years old in August. This spring training… remember back when we had spring training J…it seemed to me that he was using a great deal of breaking balls…he didn’t seem to have the “heater” as he once did. My thought is that Alex Reyes will NEVER be a #1 in any Major League rotation and that he will struggle to even make any MLB starting rotation. It’s sad.

…speaking of #1 rated prospects, the Cardinals…arguably….have NEVER had their TOP prospect (not top draft choice) excel for the Cardinals in the MLB for more than a single year..Top Prospects of the Decade—2020–OF Dylan Carlson; in 2019,2018,2017, 2016—RHP–Alex Reyes; in 2015-Marco Gonzalez; 2014-2013–Oscar Taveras; 2012-2011–Shelby Miller. The sudden very tragic death to Oscar Tavaras jolted the Cards system….he was really expected to be “THE MAN”. He’s never been replaced in the Cards plans at the same high plateau by any hitter.  Miller WAS 15-9 in 2013. After going 10-9 in 2014 he was dealt for Jason Heyward. Miller has won just 12 MLB games since the Cards traded him prior to 2015 season.

…another “move” this week saw the Cards send catcher Andre Knizner back to AAA baseball…..1st of all with Matt Wieters on the roster as a backup, no space for Knizner. Wieters IS a switch hitter and proved himself to be a adequate backup. He was very good at the plate until late May. ON May 16, he held a .300 mark by June 19 he had sunk to .219. In June he hit .091 as he did start and play many games during a 5 week stretch. It seemed as if his swing “quickness” declined sharply with heavy every-day use.  In July, his average inclined but dipped badly in August & Sept. Lesson…..he’s much better when “fresh”—apparently quicker bat. If Yadi is out for 3+ consecutive days, bring up Knizner and start him but keep Wieters as the traditional ol’ time back-up, pinch hitter. Sitting Knizner on the bench…like Carson Kelly did….benefits no one.

..the Cards have received high accolades for their drafting ability. A franchise HAS to hit their Top Draft pick with some frequency to succeed. None of the Cards Top Draft picks have been super-stars but some have been steady to good MLB performers while others have missed badly. Take a look at the Top Picks…..

…2011-Kolton Wong- he’s carved out career of being known as a terrific defensive player, can run the bases, has been a streaky hitter for much of his career. Mysteriously….to me…Wong was on the bench for a surprising number of games. Under Matheny, Wong played in 113, 150, 121, 108, 127 games. So…other than in 2015 (50 games), he was on the bench for ¼ or more of the games. I was always puzzled—was Matheny trying to motivate him, didn’t like some aspect of his game, was Wong a complainer about “being hurt”, a “worry-wart” …. who knows…but he DID sit far too much during many of those years during his “prime” age time. Last year, he seemed to bloom under new manager, Mike Shildt.  He hit .285, earned a gold glove, recorded personal  highs in RBI’s & walks.  He was an integral part of the Cards great August….he got on base by bunting, taking the ball the “other way”and made some highlight film defensive plays.

….2012 Michael Wacha—was on MLB roster for 7 years; was MVP of NLCS in 2013 vs Dodgers. His best year was 2015 with  a 17-7 record & was an All-Star.  In 2018, despite arm issues, he was 8-2 with only 68 hits allowed in 84 innings. In 2019, Wacha earned $6.3m, declared free agency at the end of the year and signed with the NY Mets for $3m. Clearly the grave concerns about arm issues & consistent performance were the driving forces for the Cards disinterest.

…2013 Marco Gonzalez drafted as top Card pick in 2013. He flew to the MLB by 2014. Arm issues in 2015 & 2016. He was traded in 2017 for Tyler O’Neill. In the last 2 years Gonzalez has won 29 games and last year led the MAJOR LEAGUES in starts-34—a reliable starter & lefty….seems like Cards still have those needs.

….In 2014 the top choice was Luke Weaver. He skyrocketed to the Cards by 2016. He was a starter in 52 games during 2016-17-18.… After a 2018 season with a 7-11 record, 150 hits in 136 inn, WHIP 1.496, the Cards must have determined that his ceiling wasn’t as high, as they had thought, earlier in his career. In 2019 arm issues limited work.  He was traded to Arizona as part of the Goldschmidt trade.

…the 2015 Top Pick was OF Nick Plummer. He was drafted right out of High School. He missed all of 2016 due to injuries. The 2019 season was a real struggle for Plummer. His slash line was .199/.345/.315…ugh. He continues to have problems with contact—he’s struck out 31.5% of his minor league AB’s!! At this point…at least to me….this 25 year old seems to be longshot. What may hurt the most is that the very next pick of the 2015 draft was the LA Dodgers chose of  RHP Walker Buehler.

…the top pick of 2016 wasn’t Dylan Carlson or Dakota Hudson (both drafted that year)! It was SS Delvin Perez! Perez was only 17 when drafted. The positive PED test just prior to the draft didn’t scare off the Cards.  At the time of the draft, the general scouting report on Perez was that his defense was ALREADY about MLB ready at shortstop. He had speed and contact, but very little power in his wiry youthful frame. In his first short-season, Perez opened eyes with his outstanding.294/.352/.393 numbers in 43 games @ Gulf Coast. In 2016 he seemed to make progress but the ’17 & ’18 seasons were huge steps backward. For example in 2017, after only 13 games, he was only hitting .140 and was promptly demoted to the GCL Cardinals. Eventually he returned to Johnson City in late July and had a slash line of only .203/.314/.271 with both clubs in 34 games. Perez only had five stolen bases and nine RBIs with GCL and Johnson City combined. In 2018 his slash line of .213/.301/.272 with 21 RBIs in 64 games was really disappointing. His base stealing regressed also with only 8 stolen bases and was caught stealing on 6 occasions. In 2019, he spent his entire time in Peoria and batted .269. He’s still only 20 years old but he’s been in the minors for 4 years. You don’t hear his name any longer when “top prospects” discussions occur.

2017 Top Pick: OF Scott Hurst—in 2019 Hurst was promoted to AA-Springfield. There he batted .191. Enough said.

2018 Nolan Gorman-still only 19 years old….seems to be the big power/ high strikeout type batter. At Peoria last year he batted .241 with 10 HR in 282 AB. Since he’s so young, its too early to make any decisions on him.

2019 Zack Thompson ….still at low level…he pitched in 13 games, 15 innings….makes me think that they are grooming him to be a “lefty” bullpen man but ,he does have to get that .302 batting mark against him, down.

…While not choosing the TOP PICK with great success, without question the Cardinals HAVE drafted many, many players in lower rounds who became productive…and sometimes…MLB All-Stars. So maybe the Cards don’t reach the highest level player in the 1st round…but overall…they continue to feed many MLB players to the Cards. Both still look promising. It does seem to me that the Cards have more success drafting college players than the very young High School type players.

…other recent transactions, former Cardinal, Randy Arozarena was optioned by Tampa Bay. It seems that Arozarena, who is already 25 years old, couldn’t find a spot on the TB roster. Tampa Bay has won over 90 games in each of the last 2 years. They fell to Houston 3-2 in the ALCS last year. So, it’s a tough roster to crack.

…The Boston Red Sox invited Yairo Munoz to spring training. A couple weeks ago, Munoz bolted from the Cardinal camp without a reason..or at least…not a reason known by the public. I suspect the Cards & Munoz know but I doubt that we’ll know any time soon. After he left camp, he was released by the Cards..presumably… for going AWOL. There hasn’t been much of an explanation about that exit! Boston took a flyer.

…in local news, BattleHawk QB, Jordan Ta’amu, signed with the Chiefs….no…he isn’t going to push Mahomes aside but a) NFL teams require many QB for spring practices (if we have any?) b) he’s mobile like Mahomes so maybe Coach Reid thinks that the Chiefs will require that type of QB to simulate other NFL QB’s… we wish him luck!

…..in other significant NFL transactions, Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay. For weeks, it seemed clear that Brady was leaving the Pats so… no surprise on that end. TB signs Brady, lets their starting QB Jameis Winston go as a free agent. What DOES surprise me is that, Jameis Winston, doesn’t seem to have any interest…hmmm….on the up side…he’s durable—he’s only missed games in 2 of his 5 years! He piled up over 5000 yards passing last year. On the other hand, he’s only had one season over .500 in 5 years @ TB! He also DID throw the most interceptions of anyone in the NFL last year-30!  That’s a ton of drive-stopping, momentum changing passes. Tampa hasn’t won a playoff game since 2002 when they won the Super Bowl. In the NFL, the “future” is about 2 or 3 years and peak performance years of players are generally found on one hand. Does Brady match-up with the other QB’s of the Division? He seems right at home with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Teddy Bridgewater. For sure…he’s in the right age-group J  but as a passer w/o the tough, strong blocking Patriot line will he have time to read the defense?

Thanks so much for the read….YOUR thoughts are always invited…on Facebook, Prepcasts, or email to me.

Best & the Biggest by Bob Ryan

All of you reading these blogs are sports fans….and probably strong Cardinal &/or Blues fans. We all have our favorite games that we really remember.  I’m throwing “out there” two of the most memorable games of each franchise for me. Sure….other fans may choose other games…while writing this blog, it brought back many wonderful memories.. hope it does for you too. These are two of the BEST games….

…the Blues had been down the Playoff trail so often but with the same futile endings…some of the frustrating years–1999-2000 team (51-19-11) for 114 points (most franchise history); 1980-81 team-103 points; or even way back 1967-68, 1968-69, 1969-70 teams that made the Stanley Cup Finals but it always ended good but “just a bit short”..However..the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Championship, Game 7 has to be the brightest & BEST of these hockey games.

It was a miracle on ice (step aside 1960 USA Olympic teamJ)..of sorts…the Blues were in last place on Jan 1, 2019! In those days, playoffs weren’t the talk…it was trade talk. But, things changed…and in a hurry. New Head Coach Craig Berube used a relentless checking game by the forwards, tying up the opposition deep in their end, then eventually forcing a turnover and a shot on goal….the Blues advanced through the playoffs to reach the Finals. The Bruins held home ice advantage after smashing the Blues 5-1 in game 6 to push the series back to Boston. Game 7 was a classic. The Bruins controlled…maybe dominated would be a better word…most of the 1st period. They kept the pressure on with aggressive fore-checking and the Blues were barely getting any good “rushes” down the ice. Bruin Capt Zdeno Chara –a 6-9 defenseman who’s been in the NHL since 1997 was zeroing in on Blues forwards as they entered their offensive zone & he’d knock most of them over like bowling pins…it looked lopsided in the early going….I had a quick flashback of how it looked way back in 1970  when the Bruins swept the Blues with Bobby Orr flying….remember that SI cover…all over the place & the Bruins dominating. Jordan Bennington was putting on a show as he kept it clean with his glove saves & deflections. Suddenly…out of nowhere…with 3:13 remaining in the 1st period–Jay Bouwmeester’s shot got through a screen of players and Ryan O’Reilly tipped the puck past Tuukka Rask for the opening goal. Everyone was stunned! The Blues fans were ecstatic! Then, with only 8 seconds left in the 1st period, Jaden Schwartz passed to an open Alex Pietrangelo who backhanded his shot for his 3rd goal of the playoffs. Like everyone else…I was almost in shock….up 2-0 after practically having our head handed to us in the first 15 minutes!! Boston outshot the Blues 11-6 in the 2nd period but no one scored! In the 3rd Boston came out flying-committing to an all-out offensive approach…. which opened up opportunities for the Blues.  At 11:25 mark, Vladimir Tarasenko reached a puck deep in the Bruins’ zone and passed to an open Brayden Schenn who fired in the 3rd goal. When 3rd liner, Zach Sanford made it 4-0 just 2 min 57 later, the 4-0 lead gave Blues fans lots of smiles.  Boston wasn’t done though…the all-out assault continued as for the last 4:38 of the game as Boston pulled their goalie. One shot after the other whistled in from near & far as Jordan Bennington was terrific…despite surrendering a goal at the 17:50 mark. The 50 years of frustration came to an end as…speaking for most fans…I was exhausted J It was GREAT!

….Not to be overlooked….game 6 of the 2011 World Series… the David Freese game! The Cards had led a charmed life to get to this point as their journey to that Series was almost as eventful. They were still 10.5 games out of 1st place on Aug 28 after beating the Pirates 7-4.  That win began a long string of 21 wins-8 losses to squeeze them into the Wild Card game. Miraculously, Octavio Dotel won 3 of those game in September..his only 3 wins EVER as a Cardinal!!  The Cards defeated Houston on the final day of the season to snatch the wild card spot when the Braves who had been tied with them for the WC spot, lost to the Phils 4-3 in 13 innings on that last day. The Cards HAD TO KNOW at that point that something “special” was going to happen.

…Cards then opened their playoffs with those same Phils (Eastern Div champ). The series was tied 2 games apiece as game 5 began. It was a classic matchup-Chris Carpenter v Roy Halladay. Raphael Furcal led off with a triple followed by the next batter, Skip Schumacher who sent  him home with a double making it 1-0….and THAT was IT! Final score 1-0…Carpenter allowed 3 hits in his complete game shutout. He used 110 pitches and faced only 31batters (27 batters is a perfect game!) Cards knocked off the Brewers 4-2 in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the Rangers.

…In the Series opener, the Rangers led the in the 1st game 3-2 as the Cards came to bat tied 2-2 in bottom of 6th.  David Freese doubled with 1 out and scored with 2 outs on a base hit from Allen Craig. The Cards made it stand up for winning pitcher Chris Carpenter when Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes & Jason Motte  handled the last 3 innings….look @ that five-some of relievers…what a hodge-podge conglomeration of so-so pitchers that shined on that night! Texas won 2 of the next 3 games so the Cards were down 3 games to 2.

…game 6  scoring line is shown below…  On Mike and Mike in the Morning the next day, ESPN senior baseball analyst Buster Olney called it the greatest game in the history of baseball. The scoring was continuous–Texas led 1-0, Cards grabbed 2-1 lead, tied 2-2 after 2 innings; In top of 7th the Rangers got HR from Adrian Beltre & Nelson Cruz to take what seemed to be an insurmountable 9-6 lead. The Cards rallied & scored runs in the 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th innings of a WS–the only team to EVER DO THAT ! Allen Craig homered in the 8th ,it was now 7-5 after 8 innings. With 2 outs in the 9th, 2 runners on base and down, 1-2 in the count, David Freese hit a drive over RF head for a triple—driving home both runners and sending the game into extra innings. Texas answered…Josh Hamilton hit a 2-run HR in the top of the 10th. In bottom of 10th, Cards had Leadoff singles by Daniel Descalso & John Jay and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. Lance Berkman drove in the tying run with a single to tie the game!! now it was9-9!! Then it was David Freese’s magic moment, his HR to right-center field was the game-winner…it’s still exciting to see him throw his helmet off between his legs as he’s ready to cross home plate with the winning run of Game 6.  WOW!   WHAT A GAME!  Chris Carpenter won game 7 for the Cards 6-2. David Frese had another key hit. David Freese became only the 6th player in MLB history to earn League Championship Series and World Series MVP awards in the same postseason. When he retires, I suggest he opens a “Game 6” restaurant!

Then there are BIG games…games that changed the sports arena permanently..                     …Super Bowl III, Jan 12, 1969 has many special memories. The AFL, which began in 1959, was separate and apart from the NFL.  While the NFL was more established, the AFL had wealthier owners in many cases. The leagues had agreed to merge in 1966. It’d almost be like the XFL teams wanting to merge with the NFL today. Many fans…and experts still felt that the AFL was inferior. The Packers of the NFL had crunched the AFL opponents in Super Bowls I & II. The Colts of the NFL were 18 point favorites against the NY Jets in III. The Jets were led by their confident… some would say cocky…QB from Alabama, Joe Namath. Namath “guaranteed” that the Jets would WIN the game in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. Shockingly, the Jets had a 16-0 lead early in the 4th quarter. Final score 16-7! Namath was named the MVP of the game without scoring or throwing a touchdown!  He is only player to ever do that!! Shortly thereafter, parity in the leagues began to evolve…so this game caused very important consequences in the NFL.                   …..in 1966 Texas Western beat Kentucky in the NCAA Championship game 72-65. An upset– absolutely! But there were much deeper implications. Kentucky’s Head Coach Adolph Rupp was the kingpin of the SEC. Rupp began coaching @ Kentucky in 1930! He took Kentucky into the SEC in 1932. By 1966, he’d been there 36 years!  When he retired in 1972, his record was 876-190… He ruled the SEC on the court AND off the court. The “Baron” ruled SEC basketball. All the other SEC coaches followed his lead in many ways.  He had always refused to recruit black players. But…when he lost to Texas Western, who started 5 African-Americans, he changed his policy….and….and began recruiting African- Americans. …consequently, so did all the other SEC coaches! That one game changed SEC & NCAA basketball forever!        

Thanks for the read…your thoughts…maybe your most memorable game(s)…post them on my FB page, email me your thoughts or post on prepcasts.com. THANKS!

.                 

Frozen Sports World by Bob Ryan

The Coronavirus has…or seems to have…frozen many areas of our life. The Sports world is no exception as games @ all levels—amateur, collegiate, professional—have all been cancelled.

….MLB Baseball has been postponed for several weeks. This work stoppage seemed rare to me but….looking back….we’ve had our share of stoppages in professional sports. This will be the 9th work stoppage for the MLB. The 1972 strike, 73 lockout, 76 lockout, 1980 strike, 1981 strike, 1985 strike,1990 lockout, 1994 strike. Of course, the strike is done by the players and the lockouts by the owners. Free Agency was a center piece of many of these stoppages. The NFL has seen 5 stoppages (4 strikes, 1 lockout), the NBA & the NHL have experienced 3 stoppages each. Soooooo….19 professional work stoppages since 1972—48 years. The last major professional lockout of 1998 in the NBA seems to have left a long…if not lasting….negative impact on attendance & interest. All the pro leagues became acutely aware of that situation and have worked hard to escape stoppages since then. We fans should be more accustom to them but…speaking just for myself… I really only remember 2 or 3 being significant to me(it messed up my good fantasy teams J).  Now, this stoppage isn’t any disagreement between players & management over money (through free agency) so it will be viewed totally different by the fans. But…while loyal fans will be anxious to return….many, many fans may find other interests to grab their attention and slip away from one…or all…of the professional sports.

…In this frozen time…..

….maybe this frozen time with a shortened “training” session for the MLB will be a catalyst for shortening spring trainings of the future.

…maybe this frozen time will provide managers with scheming for their required 3 batter relief hurlers. I suspect that there will be a steep increase of intentional walks so a Relief Pitcher can bypass a batter from the opposite side…or even be brought into the game with 3 balls on a batter…throw ball 4 and be credited with 1 of the 3 required batters.

…maybe we fans…in this frozen time… will find a bit of sympathy for the thousands of Senior collegiate & High School spring athletes who lost their final opportunity to compete…really compete…. against other strong talent after working all fall/winter to prepare for the spring season.

…this frozen time impacts all NCAA-F spring practices but it REALLY hurts 1st years coach….like Coach Drink @ MU..to install their new off & def “stuff”

….this frozen time will probably take away our enjoyment of the whispering announcing of Jim Nance & the unbelievable golf @ Augusta National in the Masters Tournament.

…will this frozen time lead to more muscular strains/pulls by players after this long layoff

….how will this “frozen time” impact the service time of non-arbitration players? Now there are 187 days in the regular MLB season and each day spent on the active roster or injured list earns a player one day of service time. A player is deemed to have reached “one year” of Major League service upon accruing 172 days in a given year. Upon reaching six years of Major League service, a player becomes eligible for free agency. Changes of reaching 172 days in this abbreviated season will be extremely slim…unless a player begins the season on the MLB roster & remains on roster for the entire year. It won’t take many “minor league” days to keep the 1st year player under 172 days this season.

…were the baseballs “frozen” in the post season? After a 2019 season that saw 6776 HR, 1.39 HR/game(11% more than previous record), 15 teams established HR records for their franchise. 58 players hit 30+ HR in 2019!! From July 15 through Aug 20, EVERY day had at least one player with a multi-HR game! Even two Triple-A leagues used the MLB ball this and BOTH saw their HR rates shoot upwards dramatically by nearly 60%!. But..then in the playoffs….with supposedly the same type of baseballs–it wasn’t the same. In the 9th of Game 5 of the NLDS, the score was tied after the Washington Nats had scored 2 runs off of LA’s Kershaw. In the next half inning, when Will Smith of the Dodgers blasted a 103mph fastball with the right trajectory, some Dodgers got to the top step… waiting to sprint onto the field & celebrate the winning hit…but…much to their surprise it “died” and was tracked down & caught on the track. Half inning later, Howie Kendrick blasted a grand slam(barely FAIR and barely over the wall) to send the Nationals on the road to their World Series Championship. Several Dodgers & Nats were shocked that Smith’s ball “died” on the way to RF. Apparently, other similar balls didn’t clear the fence in the post-season. It seemed to several of the participants that the baseballs were a bit different than the baseball used in the regular season. No one knows how the baseballs…at least some of them…were not carrying. Was it the colder temps or a Frozen Ball? J

….some teams seem to be always frozen…almost permanently… they annually land in the bottom echelons of their division…it always seems to be the same ol’ teams. Well….maybe the “frozen” shell will be broken this year by a couple of them….the San Diego last enjoyed a +.500 season in 2010. Last year Manny Machado & Fernando Tatis Jr arrived. Tatis was VERY exciting…Machado is one of the many big swing stikeout/HR batters in the league. The Padres acquired Tommy Pham (a high OB%, emotional) player. SD is expecting Jurickson Profar, now 27, to finally tap into his highly touted potential.  He is expected to elevate the defense of SD which was 13th of 15 NL teams.

….the Chicago White Sox haven’t finished above .500 since 2012 and haven’t tasted the post-season waters since 2008 when they fell to Tampa Bay. The excitement this year has come from all of the young…tested & untested players…who’ve been assembled patiently over the past couple seasons. Sluggers Jose Abreu & Eloy Jimenez each passed the 30 HR plateau in 2019. SS Tim Anderson hit .330+ last year. Highly touted Yoan Moncado who hit .315, 25 HR & a .915 OPS returns. Joining this crew is minor league player of the year– Luis Robert. Signing one of the best hitting catchers, Yasmani Grandal, followed by acquiring two lefty’s—Dallas Keuchel & Gio Gonzalez to supplement the starters. They should provide some experience for this youthful team. With all that new, young talent, I think that there actually may be more interest in the White Sox than the Cubs in Chicago in 2020.

My time is frozen now..until next week! But….your responses don’t have to be frozen…send in any of your thoughts via email, FB or Prepcasts…thx J

High Floor – Low Ceiling by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More is Less by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR thoughts/reaction are always invited! 

Why not Cheat? by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

Some other ramifications…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!