Cardinals Arrive, Hopefully Egos Don’t

Tommy-Pham-Main-1The St. Louis Cardinals officially opened up spring training camp today. With familiar faces and some new ones arriving in Jupiter, Florida to begin the 2018 season. You will see Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Yadier Molina, and Tommy Pham. You will also see Marcell Ozuna, Luke Gregorson, and Tyler O’Neill. But what I hope I don’t see is something I saw too much of last year, egos.

Sure I may be overreacting, when teams aren’t winning or living up to expectations that tends to put a spotlight on the little things. And maybe I should put on some shorts to wear with my black socks and sandals while yelling at kids to stay off my lawn. But I remember many times last year of being so taken back by some of the quotes I was seeing by the Cardinal players.

Maybe it is the modern-day athlete but last year’s players seemed very self promoting and concerned only about themselves. When watching interviews or reading articles with other modern day athletes I don’t see the same selfishness I saw from some of the Cardinals. Do you see Mike Trout, the picture perfect all-around athlete, commenting on his unique skills? Do you see Aaron Judge bragging about his raw power and then complaining when he was in a slump? Did you hear about Kris Bryant concerned with batting second in the Cubs lineup, taking away potential RBI numbers? Even Bryce Harper, a love him or hate him player who wears his passion on his sleeve and certainly brings an aura of confidence will say some dumb things but doesn’t boast about himself as much as some of the Cardinals. Yet, the Cardinals, a team that was 83-79 last season had several players that made nightly comments that undermined the team aspect of the game.

At the forefront of the Cardinal quote machine in 2017 was their breakout player Tommy Pham. Pham, who had always shown flashes, broke out in a big way by hitting .306 with 23 home runs while driving in 73 and stealing 25 bases; becoming the first Cardinal with a 20/20 season since Reggie Sanders in 2004. He totaled a 6.4 WAR, the fourth best mark in the National League last season. All of this despite starting the year in the minors and relegated to a backup role in the beginning. This is where his ego jumps in, just take a look at his quote after reaching the 20/20 mark.

“With everything I’ve gone through this year, to go out and have a 20-20 season is a proud moment for myself,” Pham said. “I wrote this down in 2012 that I could be a 20-20 player in the big leagues. Everything I’m doing now is something I’ve always believed I could do. It’s just no one else believed it.”

Now at first glance you may not think that isn’t too bad. He is just proud of his accomplishment. But you need to look at it in context. Pham was always thought of as a talented player. Why didn’t people “believe in him”? It was because he was always hurt, with a physical injury or problems with his eyes; Pham couldn’t consistently stay on the field. Until last year. Guess what happened when he was healthy, he played in 128 of the 134 games once he was recalled from the minors. So did the team not believe in him or was he just unable to stay healthy?

There were other moments that Pham’s ego shined as much as his talent, including a tweet in which he liked a FanGraphs image titled “Why is Matt Adams in the outfield?” While yes that was a failed experiment, the Cardinals were trying to get Adams’ bat in the lineup (the same Adams that hit 20 home runs in limited duty in 2017). Not much for team building there when you are calling out your own teammate. Pham also loves to talk about his talents. We mentioned the best all-around athlete in the game earlier, Mike Trout. Sorry no it is not you Tommy Pham; despite what you may think. During the off-season it was no secret the Cardinals were looking to improve. And Tommy Pham’s name came up as possible trade bait for a true impact bat or pitcher. What did Tommy think of that?

“When you look at the production of what I’ve done there are three players in the big leagues that are .300-.400-.500 guys and are 20-20 guys,” Pham said. “Look at those other two players. Are those teams trying to trade those guys? Then the question is why would this team want to trade me? And, I’m not making much money. That wouldn’t be a smart deal.”

Now no player likes to be traded. But much like when he was sent to the minors because he couldn’t stay healthy. If a team could include a player like Pham in a trade to get someone like Manny Machado or Giancarlo Stanton; they shouldn’t take it personally. The game is about getting better, and there is almost always someone better than you. Pham had a statisically great season last year but it was ONE season, by a 29-year old who has played just 264 total games (less than two full seasons) in four years in the majors. Maybe you should put it together for a full year before you start placing yourself in the same sentence as Trout.

One of the bigger storylines last year was the Molina-Matheny spat on Instagram. Molina, the face of the Cardinal franchise and a possible MLB Hall of Fame catcher made a subtle reference to former, and now back again, Cardinal coach Jose Oquendo on Instagram with implication of missing his former coach, implying differences with his current one (Matheny). This was just days after an initial social media flare up when Molina responded to Matheny’s suggestion that Molina may be tired from catching too much. I may be wrong but saying that Molina may be tired, the man who has caught more innings than any other catcher in the game over the last decade, might not be too far of a stretch. However Molina decided to take it to social media with a post.

“I train to play 174 games because that’s what it takes to be Champion, and the day I feel tired I’ll express it myself. #misinforming” Molina posted. 

Molina is unquestionably the face of the franchise, and in my mind one of the best catchers of all-time. But if you can’t handle your manager saying you looked tired followed by him praising you for your skills, dedication, and leadership. Then that is on you. Don’t take it to social media. Don’t whine like a teenage girl and start sub-tweeting or posting about the issue. Let go of your ego.

Then there is the battle of the lineup ego going on between Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter. Carpenter, whose ego apparently won’t allow him to hit anywhere other than from the leadoff spot, and Fowler who was the Cardinals prized free agent signing for the 2017 season and spent his career as a leadoff man, decided that they both were the best fit at leadoff. With the 2018 season just beginning we don’t know who will bat where. But both of them need to check their egos at the door and do what is best for the team. There is no reason Carpenter shouldn’t be able to hit third, probably the best spot for the Cardinals lineup. But his numbers show that mentally he can’t make the adjustment. Fowler meanwhile has changed as a player as he has gotten older, becoming more of a gap and power threat, which would translate well into batting lower in the order. Yet he wants to hold onto his memories of youth and leadoff. At least he has let go of the idea of playing centerfield…so far.

I understand that baseball players must be confident in their abilities. Baseball players, more than any other athlete, need to believe in themselves because you are more often than not going to fail. Whether it is failing to get a hit 7 out of 10 times at bat on average or a pitcher knowing that their one mistake pitch or inning led to a teams loss; baseball players must be mentally strong. And mental strength and confidence can feed an ego. But there are also ways to be strong and confident without coming across cocky or like a teenage girl or not being a team player. Take a look around the league gentlemen, it can be done. Heck, all you really have to do is look out at the field on Opening Day at the men in red jackets; those players can tell you a little on how to behave. Those are St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famers. And if they can check their egos at the door, then you should be able to as well.

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The Inaugural Modern NFL Hall of Fame Class

2018content.webpage.634x311Late last week the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame class was announced and includes “modern era” players such as Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Brian Urlacher. While this class was certainly a talented group during their playing days I want to talk about this class for another reason. This class can be considered the inaugural ‘MODERN NFL’ group of players. And by modern I don’t mean the modern era, which the NFL refers to; no I mean modern as in players that are part of the über talented, absurd athletic talented, ego filled, me-now era of players.

The four above mentioned players all meet the criteria. Each one of them is a generational talent; a player that could have played at any moment of history in the NFL. They redefined their positions with their never before seen athleticism. But, excluding Brian Urlacher, each of the other three players also had considerable baggage.

First the most glaring, Ray Lewis. A phenomenal talent on the field, but with numerous issues off the field. In the midst of his rise as an NFL superstar, Lewis was caught up in a murder trial. Two men were killed during the 2000 Super Bowl weekend and Lewis was connected…in someway. Whether you believe the reports that he was the one to stab the men or not; he was in fact charged and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Lewis’ incident was the beginning of the NFL trend of players being involved with the law. Let’s also not forget that in his pursuit of a second Super Bowl near the end of his playing career Lewis, at age 37, he miraculously recovered from a torn triceps and credited deer antler spray for the recovery. But this is the NFL so let’s not talk about HGH, steroids, and other products that are in the grey area of performance enhancing.

Terrell Owns meanwhile helped revolutionize the wide receiver position. He was a supremely athletically gifted player, built like a Greek god, and willing to do anything on the field to win including going across the middle (a place WR’s do not favor). Owens finished his 15 year career with over 150 touchdowns and 15,000 receiving yards; the second most by any receiver in NFL history. But as talented as revolutionary as Owens was he also defined NFL WR diva. Despite his obvious talents, and the fact that he always give his all, Owens still played on five different teams during his career. Wearing out his welcome quickly and often. Even though we played hard, he certainly made it difficult to be in the locker room with him.

Maybe the most picture perfect version of the modern era athlete was Randy Moss. A receiver that had rarely seen combination of height, speed, and hands. Moss was a freak athlete even at Marshall. But therein lies part of his issue. Why was he at Marshall? He certainly had the talent to play at a bigger school and in fact had originally signed with Notre Dame before losing his scholarship for a fight, then transferred to Florida State, where he again lost his scholarship because of a drug test. Moss had skills never before seen. But unlike his other Hall of Fame class member and fellow transformational receiver Owens, Moss did NOT give his all on the field. It has been well documented about Moss decisions to not run routes if the ball was not designed to go to him. Moss was a diva in the full sense, often putting his numbers and himself before the team.

The one player I mentioned in this group that I exclude is Brian Urlacher. Urlacher was insansely talented just as the other three but never dealt with off the field issues. I did want to mention him however because he deserves to be recognized for his skill set and redefining the linebacker. A safety in college, at 250 pounds, Urlacher made the position switch and became the best linebacker in the NFL during his career. His ability to cover ground and play the run, showcasing speed and size, allowed the Bears to build their defense around him.

While the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame class is a deserving one. This is the first class I will remember not just for their moments on the field but for their moments off the field as well. This ‘modern era’ class, was the beginning of the ‘modern era’ athlete. One that is talented, isn’t afraid to let people know it, and thinks they can get away with anything because of it. For these three, I guess that is true. They got away with it and took it right into the Hall of Fame.

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The Big Game Wayback Time Machine

IMG_3053Let’s get in our DeLorean head back to the first month of the year 2000. Why? Because yesterday, January 30th, marked the 18th anniversary of the ST. LOUIS Rams win in Super Bowl XXXIV. And yes I said Super Bowl, so go ahead and sue me NFL. By the way quick sidenote which further exemplifies why the NFL is ridiculously run; they prohibit the use of the word Super Bowl unless it is officially sanctioned by them. So you will notice on all the morning shows this week, even on talk radio, hosts refraining from saying Super Bowl and refering to it instead as “The Big Game.” As I said ridiculous.

So back to January of 2000. That is right the Rams Super Bowl Championship is now an adult, 18 years old. And no matter what my feelings are about the Rams and the NFL now, that Sunday still remains a special time and always will.

The 2000 Super Bowl was the pinnacle of a remarkable season. Coming into the year the Rams had made substantial moves; signing Trent Green and Adam Timmerman, trading for Marshall Faulk, and drafting Torry Holt and were expected to improve upon their 4-12 record from 1998. All of that hope was temporarily dashed when Green suffered a torn ACL in the third game of the preseason. Cue Kurt Warner. The infamous quote from Head Coach Dick Vermeil was “we will rally around Kurt Warner and play good football.” And boy did the Rams rally and play good football.

The Rams flew past the 1998 win total, winning their first six games of the season and scoring over 34 points in each game including a pair of 40 point games. Just four years in from the Rams move to St. Louis, football fans were finally getting a good football team to go with the excitement of having a team once again. Back-to-back losses stopped the win streak but only served to push the Rams focus in the right direction. Winning their next seven games with the only other loss that season coming in the final week of the year to the Eagles. The Rams wrapped up the regular season 13-3 and averaging 32.9 points per game.

On to the playoffs. The entire postseason was memorable not only because of the obvious Super Bowl win but because each playoff game had its own signature moment. First up was the Minnesota Vikings. The Rams made a statement at home against the Vikings, rolling up 49 points in the win. The signature play came on the Rams first offensive play of the game with Warner hitting Isaac Bruce racing down the field for a 77-yard touchdown as Holt cheerfully ran next to him. The Rams would not be nervous and showed a team doesn’t need experience before success. After going into halftime down 17-14 the Rams racked up the next 35 points including returning the opening kick of the second-half for a touchdown thanks to Tony Horne. The Rams gave St. Louis football fans the first playoff win EVER by a St. Louis NFL team, including the football Cardinals.

Next up was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. The Bucs were 11-5 in the regular season and starting their run of four straight playoff appearances, with a dominating defense leading the way. Many thought the high-powered Rams couldn’t win a defensive game against a physical team. But many people forget the Rams allowed just 242 points that season, an average of 15 points per game. They weren’t just an explosive offense, they were a complete team. Down 6-5 late in the fourth quarter the Rams scored the ONLY touchdown of the game. The signature play, Warner hitting Ricky Proehl on a fade into the end zone from 30-yards out with just over four-minutes remaining. On to the Super Bowl.

The Rams would go against a similarly tough and physical team in the Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl. The Titans handed the Rams their first loss of the season so the Rams were ready for revenge. A team that put up touchdowns with ease during the regular season was scoring at will against the Titans, albeit with three straight field goals to take a 9-0 lead in the game. The Rams finally found the end zone in the third quarter to take a 16-0 lead and it appeared the team could cruise to an easy win. However the Titans fought their way back, evening the score at 16-16 with just four-minutes left on the clock.

The next four minutes is what I will remember. And not just because of the intense moments on the field but because of where I was and who I was with, watching those moments together. I was at my Aunt Karen and Uncle Gary’s house. My parents, brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and college roommate together hoping (and cussing) the Rams towards a win. While every game in the playoffs that year had their signature moment it was the Super Bowl, so this game had two signature moments.

The first came with two-minutes left. Kurt Warner playing with broken ribs and taking a beating dropped back on the first play of their next drive after the Titans tied it up and stepped into the pocket, lofting a ball 30 yards down the field where Isaac Bruce slowed his route to catch the ball and then raced the rest of the way for a 77-yard touchdown; giving the Rams a 23-16 lead. The second signature play would not come until the final play of the game. In between gasps and curse words the Titans drove down the field, reaching the Rams 10-yard line. Titans quarterback Steve McNair found Kevin Dyson open at the five yard line. Dyson caught the ball and raced towards the end zone only to be stopped by Rams linebacker Mike Jones, holding onto Dyson’s ankles and stopping him one yard short as time expired.

The entire basement of my Aunt and Uncles house exploded with cheers. High fives, yells, drinks spilled, food thrown. It was a pure celebration. A celebration not of just a win but the return of professional football to St. Louis. A celebration not just for the hometown team but because it marked the first professional sport championship by a St. Louis team since 1982. A celebration not because it was the Big Game but because my family and I spent every Sunday together watching the Rams magical season together.

Being an adult changes things. And 18 years later things have certainly changed. St. Louis no longer has the Rams. My family may not get together anymore to watch every Rams game on Sunday. My grandpa and dad are no longer here with us to cuss at the television when the team is playing bad. The NFL and Rams may have broken my heart but one thing they can never take away is that feeling on January 30, 2000. And I don’t need a DeLorean to remember that feeling. I just need to close my eyes and hear Mike Bush saying….”Warner drops back”.

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NFL Continues To Disappoint Me

902444Here we are two years after I swore off my allegiance to the NFL as a fan and yet somehow the league continues to disappoint me. I only tangently follow the NFL for the sole purpose of remaining in a friendly fantasy football league with my buddies. Bragging rights are always fun right? So as I tuned in over the past few weeks because it is the playoffs afterall and well…the playoffs in any sport is fun (I’ll watch anything from little league to handball if it is an elimination game). Well these last few weeks of NFL playoffs are prime example as to how the NFL continues to disappoint me.

First off my most hated team, the Rams, make the playoffs despite me hoping for a winless season. Can we first of all address the final week of the season where many were saying the Rams were attempting to lose their final game of the regular season in order to gain a more favorable (what many thought at the time) #4 seed and face the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round. However in typical Rams fashion even though they did lose, resting several starters, they still got the #3 seed because both the Falcons and Carolina Panthers lost their regular season finale as well; so that was kind of funny.

Now back to seeing the Rams in the playoffs for the first time in a decade; at least I got some satisfaction in seeing them completely fall apart in their first round game, at home none-the-less, to the Atlanta Falcons. The “potent” offense of the Rams was completely non-existent, putting up 13 points, only the third time the team failed to score 20 or more points in a game this season. That did give me a chuckle.

But that was about the extent of the joy I got watching the NFL playoffs this year. The next day we got to see an abysmal offensive game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. The following week gave us a snooze fest between the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots and a close but boring game between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. We did get two wild games with the Pittsburgh Steelers/Jacksonville Jaguars unexpected high scoring affair and the ridiculous ending in the New Orleans Saints/Minnesota Vikings game.

However in all four of those games, I had either picked or was rooting for the team that ended up losing. That’s right my sleeper picks of the Falcons knocked out because the offensive coordinator can’t figure out how to score more than 10 points with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman on the same team. A team I enjoyed following this year because of the fantasy draft steal of the year, Alvin Kamara, decided to not tackle on the final play of the game. A team I briefly considering switching my NFL allegiance to after the Rams left, the Titans, had no chance at all; it would have been fitting if I remained a NFL fan to choose the Titans because wow, they are frustrating. And the team I felt had the best chance of unseating my second most hated team, the Patriots, let the Jaguars put up 45 points against them. (insert eye roll here)

So now we move onto the Divisional Championship round. The Jaguars, could they actually do it? Could they continue their play and take down the dynasty. The Jaguars were up 10 points in the fourth quarter and just had to essentially get three first downs to milk the game for a win. So what happens, yep. They punt, punt, punt and their historic win falls short like a Blake Bortles deep ball.

The other game featured the Vikings against the Eagles. The Vikings fresh off their memorable win with a chance to become the first team to ever play in the Super Bowl at their home stadium, facing an Eagles team with Nick Foles at quarterback come out and lose 38-7. Oh Viking fans how you continuously get disappointed, just like me.

So what does all of this mean? It means that in two weeks we get a Super Bowl between the Eagles and the Patriots. Ahhhhhh….seriously!!! Can we NOT get someone new in there. I mean the NFL gods really gave Tom Brady and the Patriots, a season in which they are probably their most vulnerable in a long time, a playoff road against quarterbacks the likes of Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, and Nick Foles. Seriously!?!? How can that be real? Which of course you know what happens next right? Brady and the Patriots hoisting yet another Lombardi trophy on February 4th in Minnesota. Ugh, so disappointing.

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The NBA, Just Play

SPORTS_PORTLAND-MAVS_3_DAIn case you aren’t a fan of the NBA, one of the biggest stories in the league this past week has been the divisive nature between players and officials. In fact all season long it seems there has been a nightly discussion over technical fouls issued and the general demeanor between the two parties. Players have also been involved with each other on, and off the court, with physical altercations. Such as on Monday when players from one team attempted to go into their opponents locker room. And as always players getting involved with fans, such as Utah’s Rodney Hood slapping a phone out of a fans hand, is something to be concerned about. The NBA, which over the last few years has gained in popularity, is suddenly trying to fend off a perception of having bad attitudes.

What I mostly want to talk about today is the strife between players and officials. Players feel like they are being disrespected by officials and unfairly being given technical fouls. Even NBA Player President Chris Paul recently called out referee Scott Foster after his game on Monday. (Quick side note Paul was also one of the players that entered his opponents locker room after the game; now whether he was an aggressor or peacemaker remains to be seen.) There were a total of 21 technical fouls and five ejections in Monday’s 11 game slate. That may seem an inordinate amount, however according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver the amount of technical fouls is right in line with previous years. This season the NBA is on pace for 760 technical fouls, which would be lower than nine of the last 13 seasons according to the USA Today.

So what is the issue? I think it is communication. Players want to be able to talk to officials; they have done so in the past. However, as someone around numerous courts and games, times have changed and officials do not want to be questioned. I also think that the societal trend of social media, fans see everything instantaneously over and over, has escalated the issue. The NBA even does a two-minute report that highlights missed calls by officials. All of this creates a negative connotation for the official, leading them to be short-tempered and quicker with the whistle.

Players should be able to ask why a certain call was made so they can avoid making that same mistake. But how many times while watching a game do you see a player automatically complain or put his hands up in disagreement when called for a foul? Even when it is a clear foul to everyone at home and in the stands. It has almost gotten as bad as soccer players diving. Do players ever say “yep, you got me on that one”. No. NBA players assume they have done no wrong and the official is always wrong. While yes officials have a hard job and do miss calls, can you imagine the annoyance of being questioned…ON…EVERY…SINGLE..PLAY? It is the officials job to deal with this however I can’t blame them if they are tired of players whining every time down the court.

The NBA is supposedly meeting over All-Star Break in a few weeks to discuss solutions. This is a good sign for fans. The NBA has realized this is an issue and wants to address it as soon as possible. Step one of a solution is always communication. But I hope the players realize that while fans are not there to see officials make calls, we are also not watching the players see them complain about every single play or call. So NBA players, please, just shut up and play.

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50 Shades of Grey

1424958522413A recent quote from Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr caught my attention. He was talking about the coverage of Lavar Ball, the outspoken father of NBA rookie Lonzo Ball. Kerr said, ” This is not an ESPN judgement, it’s a societal thing more than anything. But where we’re going is away from covering the game and we’re getting closer to just sensationalized news, and it’s not even news, it’s just complete nonsense.”

Kerr is not only right in his assessment of the Ball situation but in media, news, and pop culture as a whole. Society has become sensationalized. Yes or No. Love or Hate. But typically there is more to the story, it’s not simply only two choices. It’s not black or white. There is often a grey area to every story.

In this age people want scores as soon as it is over, they want news as it is breaking, they want answers before the question is even asked, they want to know the end before the story has had a chance to develop. Take a look at Twitter, a great informational tool, that has now become many people’s source of news; despite people often posting things without fact checking or verification. That news then spreads as truth. This ‘answer now’ demand has even played a role in the sports talk trend of ‘hot takes’. It is just another way of sensationalizing the stories, having two people take opposite opinions and arguing or even taking a drastic opposite point of view just to argue the popular thought.

What is getting lost are the actual news stories. This is not a paid plug but is an endorsement; I recently signed up for The Athletic and love the content. They are generating real sports stories with facts and producing quality content with unique story lines. It is not the click bait stories or Top (insert number) list you see all over the internet.

What happened to being able to have a discussion about a topic? Why does it have to involve yelling? Why must we have an answer at this moment? Why must things be reduced to for or against? Why can’t people have differing opinions? And why do people have to be on one side or the other? Sometimes a story not only has two sides (black and white) but several sides. Many times it is the area between the black and white that tells us the real truth, the why.

One of the biggest issues locally is the argument over St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Off to one of the best starts in managerial history he is often chided by fans and media alike. But why? Does he make some bad decisions? Yes. But according to a study by analyst James Click managers make a minimal impact on their teams wins or losses over time.

 “Only six times in thirty-three years has any manager used sacrifice attempts, stolen base attempts, and intentional walks to increase his team’s win expectation over an entire season. Even the best managers cost their team more than a game per season by employing these tactics. At worst they can cost a team three games per season.” Over multiple seasons, no manager employed those tactics for a positive effect.

Now that is not to say that Matheny is off the hook but maybe the question shouldn’t be is he a good manager yes or no. Maybe the question should be does he have the roster to win? I think one can look at the roster he has had to work with and see that as the roster has become weaker (either due to age, performance, or injury) that it correlates to the Cardinals record. So as you see there is more depth behind the questions about Matheny. There is a grey area that we just don’t have the answers to yet.

Another recent love for St. Louis fans has been to take shots at Vladimir Tarasenko. When the team slumps they love to question his work ethic and ask if he is an elite player. You must take a side and he is the reason the Blues are struggling. Sorry but as one of just four players in the league with at least 19 goals AND 25 assists; I don’t think he is the issue. Yes there are shifts it seems like he takes off or games when he doesn’t appear to be having the impact he should. But let’s look into the grey area again. Could it be because with other Blues offensive stars out (Fabbri and Schwartz) or underperforming (Steen) that now he gets all of the opponents attention? Wouldn’t that frustrate you and stress you out? Isn’t it true that stress can tire a person out and heck maybe he is sick but still playing. Hmm….makes you wonder? Maybe we don’t know all of the facts. Again he does not get a free pass but let’s not jump to the conclusion that he is overrate without looking at the whole story.

So next time you hear people arguing over a certain topic. I want you to keep in mind that it isn’t love or hate, yes or no, black or white; it’s black, silver, platinum, ash, nickel, charcoal, slate, taupe, white…look in the grey. That is where you will find the real story and then form your opinion. But please just get offended if I disagree with your take.

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2018 Goals

2018 Goals

The new year is here, 2018. And with the turning of the calendar means everyone turning the page on 2017 and setting new goals for the next 365 days. For me one of my goals this year is to do a “Writing Wednesday”. This means my goal is to write something, whether it is a long story, short story, or just put some thoughts down; each Wednesday. So let’s get the year started with some sportcentric fan goals I would like to see for 2018.

  • Michael Porter Junior in a University of Missouri basketball uniform
    I was lucky enough to be one of the 8,000 or so fans at the Mizzou Black and Gold scrimmage this past homecoming weekend. Which means I got to see more of MPJ than the majority of Tiger basketball fans because unfortunately he has not played since the first two minutes this season. While watching Mizzou basketball this season has been a much more enjoyable experience than the recent years (they should make the NCAA Tournament) it is not the same excitement that was anticipated when he announced he was coming home, and bringing a much heralded group of players with him. There have been many rumors about when/if MPJ is coming back. I am not holding my breath because I know that he has his professional career to think about rather than coming back early and risking injury again. However, the way he speaks (and posts on social media) about his love for Mizzou makes me think he will be on the court in a Tigers uniform before the year is over. Could he run out on the court when the Tigers take the floor in two months at the SEC Tournament in St. Louis, Mo.? That is a day I can’t wait for.
  • A healthy St. Louis Blues team
    The Blues got off to a fantastic start this season. Even after losing Robby Fabbri in the pre-season and going without Alexander Steen, Jay Bouwmeester, Patrick Berglund and others the Blues were fighting for best record in the league early on. However the injury bug has stricken the Blues and done so with a vengeance. They are a deep team but when top talent goes missing (Jaden Schwartz) it is hard to keep pace. The Blues, not surprisingly, are going through a tough stretch right now. Their once potent offense has gone cold. The question remains can they hang on and push through the slog of the cold months until they get healthy. Spring is a time for rebirth and if the Blues can manage to stay near the top until the spring months come, they should get a rebirth of sorts when Schwartz returns; just in time for the playoffs.
  • Cardinals prospects turning into real stars
    Since the DeWitt ownership the Cardinals have been a competitive organization. But after missing the playoffs in each of the last two years, and a disappointing showing in 2015 after a 100 win season, the Cardinals are feeling some local pressure. Do you know what would help? If some of their highly prized prospects live up to the billing. The Cardinals have developed one of the top farm systems in MLB and are stock full of highly talented players. But that is nothing new to the Cardinals in recent years. However when one looks at the past, where the Cardinals have suffered, is in the lack of true elite development from their prospects. Looking back all the way to J.D. Drew, who was an above average outfielder, to Rick Ankiel, who fought inner demons, to Oscar Taveras, an untimely death; the Cardinals top prospects have been serviceable if not good; but failed to become true impact players. Even Carlos Martinez, while the Cardinals ace, and one of the best arms in baseball, has yet to truly pitch to his potential. It seemed like Alex Reyes could be that generational talent that teams covet, only to see him blow out his arm last spring. Can he return to form? Can Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, or Luke Weaver become top of the rotation men that make a difference? Will Carson Kelly forever be stuck behind Yadier Molina? Will Harrison Bader or Tyler O’Neill live up to their potential and be a consistent threat with the bat? The reason the Cardinals have not been as successful lately as they would like is because of a lack of impact players. Instead of boasting a deep and talented farm system the Cardinals need those prospects to live up to their potential and become stars.
  • Patience
    I would like some patience from fans. From Cardinal fans calling for wholesale changes after a three game losing streak, to Blues fans questioning the talent of Vladimir Tarasenko if he goes in a scoring slump. Fans need to be patient. This of course stems mostly from the outcry of Mizzou football fans this past fall. While yes the Tigers looked horrible at the start of the season and yes they beat some down teams during their six game winning streak at the end, the fact remains it was only Barry Odom’s second season. Too much today, especially in college football, results are expected immediately. And while I was frustrated by what I saw on the field at times last season I think every coach needs a full four years, one recruiting class, to go through the school before they can be truly evaluated. With their best offensive and best defensive players coming back next year, and Odom in his third season, 2018 should give a better picture of the state of the program.
  • A Big Man For SLU
    Much like the Mizzou basketball team, SLU has been better this year than last. Although that certainly wasn’t too hard to do. SLU did not get the top end talent to campus like the Tigers but the did bring in some good recruits. They will take longer to develop but look at freshman Jordan Goodwin, averaging 11.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while also leading the team in steals. He is a freshman, running the point while still getting acclimated to the college game. Imagine him with a full year of offseason training and more experience. Now think ahead to this fall when Carte’Are Gordon joins him at SLU. Gordon IS the top end talent recruit, a 6’9″ versatile big man who starred for the US Under-17 basketball team. Gordon will give SLU something they desperately need. An inside force with true inside size and should team up with Goodwin to continue SLU’s rise.
  • A New SuperBowl
    This may be my inner dispise of the Patriots and disdain for the Steelers, but can we please get some new teams in the SuperBowl. I am tired of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. I don’t like Ben Roethlisberger’s aurora. Thankfully the Seattle Seahawks are out. So how about we get us some surprise teams in there with “Can You Believe This QB Is a SuperBowl Winner” like Case Keenum, Nick Foles (or whatever QB they use by then), Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor; and yes those are all starting playoff quarterbacks. Or even seeing some “old fogies” like Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, or Drew Brees hoist the trophy. Please, please, please…anyone but Brady.

 

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