Saban Loses Gamble by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nationals Time by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Age by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crackerjack Surprises by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

…..on the NCAA-F “surprise” front…..

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

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

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

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

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

Bright Lights of Post Season by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking the Tape by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September – Suspenseful & Surprising by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car Wash Sports by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freshness of September by Bob Ryan

January 1 is still the newest month of the year but….September brings in some “newness” as well as some “fresh” looks…the summer weather fades as the new freshness of autumn arrives; school starts in earnest in September with full activities; September sees one major sports season fade and another arrive with new players, new coaches, etc.  Taking a look @ some of those  “new” arrivals….

…..the MLB pennant race fever arrives in September….sure there’s the 5 month march but in September, each game seems more relevant, more important….some thoughts…hurting the pennant race fever is the current use of the roster expansion to 40 players…what a joke…the contending teams still play each game with energy & ferver AND use their regulars as much as possible to win games. The also-rans send out their prospects for a “look see”…gee…that’s great for the fans …It’s the A team vs the B Team! Thank goodness this is the last year of this fiasco. Next year the roster expansion crawls up to only 28 players.

…while there are many, many  new arrivals in the MLB in September….only a couple that merit our close attention. In a case of …the rich get richer….the LA Dodgers are practically drooling over their up & coming 2b Gavin Lux. When he had a slash line of .342/.421/.607 in Double A baseball,  he was promoted to Triple-A. There he actually hit better!  He banged out a .392 average in 49 games. He may/may not actually get called up since Dodgers may choose not to “start the clock” on him towards his free agency  days. Brendan McKay (Tampa) …on the other hand…has already been “up” this year. Like Ohtani of Angels, he is a pitcher AND a field player. Apparently he was firm in signing with TB that he be given the opportunity in both areas…(actually, I wonder why more players don’t do the same thing…..from my experience, my pitchers were usually my best hitters….hmmm). He has pitched brilliantly for TB and when he was returned to the minors. Now…with Tampa Bay’s staff struggling, he COULD be the one to “plug up the hole” and sneak the Rays into the post-season.

…when fresh blood arrives….. it’s also a time to wish some former great players “good-bye”. They won’t want to accept the news…they’ll say that they’ll work harder in the winter….that this was an off-year…or something of the sort. Two players that I’ve really admired for many years need to look in the mirror. The first player in this category is Albert Pujols. The 10x All-Star, and 3x NL MVP seems to be a sure HOF’er. He’s a shell of his former great self in the batters box. He did hit 21 HR but also a .253 average, OB% of only .314, slug% of .451. He doesn’t need to play any longer just to “hang on”. Quit Albert…buy yourself out of the Angel “service” contract and don that Cardinal hat for your HOF day . Another favorite of mine….another 1b…Joey Votto…dropped off significantly this year. The 6x All Start, 2010 NL MVP is turning 36 on Sept 30. He holds a .262 average and a career low .767 OPS. He’ll probably hang on…darn…I like to remember his as he was for some many years….a tremendous 1b who could hit for power and average. He also did a lot of the “little things” that winning players do. There are several others but I don’t have the same strong feelings about their careers like these 2.

…The fresh, new face @ WR in Oakland was Antonio Brown. After signing a 2 year, $29mi contract ($1milfor signing, $14m for 2018 and $14m for 2019 in the summer.  A 2019 payment of $500,000 hinged upon Brown attending 85% of 2019 off-season workouts. He did not soo…..no payment there. Brown missed 2 practices early in season so got fined by $53000+ by Oakland. Brown then  went into a hissy-fit…..yelled, cursed at GM Mike Mayock, called him a “cracker” and was in short…just a huge jerk about his fine over his missing practices. After even more incidents….Oakland invoked their right to suspend him for game 1. That meant that his “guaranteed” contract could be completely nullified. The guarantee only applies if you are on the roster for game 1. One outrageous thing led to another outrageous statement or two & Brown was separated from Oakland. And….of all things, the NE Patriots, who demand absolute discipline on the field, have taken a flyer on Browns. Clearly, this is a complete bust or a tremendous boom for them since their receiving corp didn’t have a deep threat.

….staying in football…..many men think back about all the enjoyment that they experienced while playing high school and/or college football. It elicits life-time memories for many of us. For me…it was scoring the only touchdown of my 2 year high school football career….somehow, my 120 pounds got turned around by the 1st player attempting to tackle me around the 5 yards from the  goal line…so I was half turned and was running backwards for a couple yards as another player tackled me—driving  me INTO the end zone. It was a key score… it added to our lead…..making it 49-7 in the 4th quarter. But I DO remember it….if you have similar thoughts…there is a way that you can “stay in touch” with football. In their 28th year, The St Louis-Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation gives out over $25000 a year in awards to high school players. A sizable part of that money comes from the memberships . It is just $40/year to join. Either send a check to NFF-STL at Bob Bunton, 848 Courtwood Ln, Ballwin, Mo  63011 or sign up on-line@ nffstl.com. Members are needed to continue to carry on this worthwhile mission. I am a proud member of this charitable organization. Keep the memories alive for you AND the next generation! Btw…I was NOT given the game ball for that game despite this one-of-a-kind touchdown.

….the fresh team on the playoff picture is the Arizona D-Backs. Having won 10 of their last 11 games, AZ is now …Sunday morning…just 1.5 games out of Wild Card spot. It’s tough to gain ground on these playoff teams. Despite their 10-1 record, AZ had only gained 3 games in the standings on their competitors. This team is very well-rounded. They have the 4th best run differential in NL (+81) and are the only team to rank in the TOP 10 in both runs scored and runs allowed. In addition, they run the bases well. According Fan graphs are #1 in MLB in baserunning value and #2 in Defensive runs saved. Ketel Marte is the leader offensively. His slash line (avg/OB%/slug%) is .331, .390, .598) with 31 HR. Eduardo Escobar has 33 HR and 110 rbi’s as the “power” hitter in the lineup. The Goldschmidt trade has been a real plus for D-Backs. Christian Walker , who was the emerging 1B in their system has replaced Goldschmidt @1b. Walker holds batting marks of .262, .347, .474, 25 HR. Carson Kelly, hailed by some of one of the best emerging stars in MLB, has broken out this year. He’s batting .256, 18 HR, OPS .877. btw…Walker’s numbers compare very favorably to Goldschmidt…..259, .340, .462, 29 HR. So basically AZ changed names at 1B, got the same production and then picked up a young, every-day catcher who’s already better than most in the league! Soo…they kept the same numbers @1b, added a good catcher and reduced their payroll. That’s not to say that it was a one-sided trade. The Cards added a legitimate #4 hitter (plenty of power) and a tremendous 1B. I believe that Goldschmidt alone, with his many scoops, range and soft hands, has been the primary reason of the elevation of the Cardinals defense and their fielding percentage. It really was a win-win trade.

…..the early, fresh part of the NCAA-F season provided some great entertainment in week 2. As we all know, these “big-time” teams buy many of their pre-conference wins. They pay their opponents to play them. Army received $1.5mil to travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan. None the less, I was mesmerized by the Army-Michigan game. The unique Army ground game, which chews up yardage in small bites and the clock in huge chunks, controlled much of the first half. Michigan’s talented, athletic team struggled to move the ball..when they had it…in the 1st half.  The game was a 2-OT, thrilling 24-21 victory for Michigan. Army had the chance to win the game in regulation but missed a 50 yard FG attempt that went just wide. I felt badly for Army’s Freshman kicker when he missed that kick. N pressure, heh? Eventually, the Wolverines far superior athleticism led them to some success in the pass game, stopping some of the Army drives and ultimately the victory.

…the best college game of the day between two very talented teams was the LSU-Texas game. The game began slowly….like 2 prize fighters sizing up each other in the early rounds. It was 3-0 LSU after the 1st Quarter. Then the teams began unloading on each other. There was over 1000 total yards in this contest. LSU Coach Ed Orgeron, who had been questioned in the past over his run-first philosophy seemingly of the ol’ school 60’s approach, went out and revised his offensive staff in the off season.  Orgeron committed himself …and his team…to an entirely different offensive approach. He Hired Joe Brady from New Orleans Saints staff. He became the passing game coordinator. Also brought in was Steve Ensminger as O-Coordinator who completely discarded the LSU “we’ll bang you hard for the whole game, wear you down with our superior athletes and win the game approach’. QB Joe Burrow became the final piece…and whatta piece he is!  This game saw LSU grab a 20-7 lead after 1st qtr. Texas rallied to outscore the Tigers 14-3 in 2nd quarter.  Texas was led by QB Sam Ehlinger. He can pass…I don’t think that he quite has the arm strength of Burrow…but he also runs and runs hard..not just fast. He likes to run more of a power game than most college QB!  He actually works hard in the weight room on his strength! Most QB don’t take THAT approach. Back to this great game…Texas held LSU to a FG in the 3rd qtr…still trailed 23-21. The 4th qtr saw LSU score TD, Texas a TD, LSU another TD, Texas a FG, LSU a TD and finally Texas a TD. Final score of 45-38 LSU kept fans on both sides..and casual fans… engaged in a game that saw the momentum going back and forth continually.

…In our first look @ Clemson in their game against Texas A&M. The Tigers just had too much athleticism on both sides of the ball and their QB Trevor Lawrence is a really a sharp-shooter. He seemingly loves that deep ball.  He also seems to have an edge. Showing an attribute that has already been noticed in practice, Lawrence was “horse Colllared” in a tackle. He bounced up, yelled at the guy and urged his crowd “on” to jeer him. On the other hand, A&M Isn’t a bad team…..or even a good team…that are very good…but not quite in the highest echelon of the NCAA. Don’t know if they can beat Bama in the SEC WEST, but for Clemson…that may have been their toughest game until post-season.

….finally, my freshest rankings…..remember….its based on who’ve you’ve beaten thus far. Even Dabo Swinney agrees with me. He said recently, “They’ve got us ranked No. 1 and who knows what we are. We haven’t earned that. That’s just what people have nominated us” Swinney’s point makes sense. This is a new season, so the accomplishments of last year’s team do not carry over.  I only choose 4 teams because only 4 teams make the final tournament. Listing teams beyond that level is strictly for promotional purposes of the school and the television networks. Basically, these top 25 come from… almost exclusively.. the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac 12, SEC, 3 major independent schools).  The other D-1 conferences –Conf USA, American Athletic, Sun Belt, Mid-America and Mountain West haven’t had a national contender in football for years…maybe decades. The Top 25 listed by many places really is actually coming from a grand total of 67 schools. Soooo  37% of these power 5 conference schools comprise the Top 25 each week. I’m sticking with my top 4.

#1) LSU (they have the biggest win of season thus far with Texas win)   2) Clemson   (win over Texas A&M)   3) Auburn (has that good win over Oregon)  4) Michigan has a nice win over a good Army team. Where’s Bama you ask….the Tide beat Duke(1-1-their win over a D-2 team) and New Mexico State a D-II team.  The get a 1-1 S.Carolina team next week in their conference opener.

…well…the freshness of my blog has worn off…..time to go.

Season of Crazy Bounces by Bob Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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