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Bernie Bits: Molina Don’t Take No Mess, Kris Bryant Is Mr. Excitement, Cards-Cubs, Heat It Up

Presenting your heaping helping of Bernie Bits for this Jan. 22, 2019

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU: Blues forward Robby Fabbri is 22 today. … NHL Hall of Famers Serge Savard and Mike Bossy are 72 and 61, respectively … and Journey lead singer Steve “Don’t Stop Believin’ is 69.

BORN ON THIS DAY: Bobby Young, who played second base for both STL major-league teams, the Cardinals (1948) and Browns (1951-1953), was born in 1925. A veteran of eight MLB seasons, Young moved with the Browns to Baltimore and also played in Cleveland. He died in in 1985 at age 60.

DIED ON THIS DAY: Lyndon B. Johnson, our nation’s 36th President was stricken by a fatal heart attack at his Texas ranch and passed at age 64 … retired Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died from lung cancer at age 85 … actor Heath Ledger died of a drug overdose in 2008, at age 28

THIS DAY IN SPORTS HISTORY — at least the things that interest me: In 1945, the all-time greatest Cardinal, Stan “The Man” Musial, enlisted in the military and did not compete in the ‘45 season … in 1969, Musial and retired Dodgers’ catcher Roy Campanella were elected to national baseball Hall of Fame … in 1984, Apple introduced its new computer, Macintosh … in 1958 St Louis Hawks forward Bob Pettit became the first member of the losing team to win the NBA All-Star MVP award, scoring 28 points and with 26 rebounds, as the East defeated the West, 130-118 at Kiel Auditorium… In 1951 Cuban pitching prospect Fidel Castro was ejected from a Winter League baseball game after hitting a batter.

TRENDING UP: St. Louisan Adam Long, who captured his first tournament title on the PGA Tour with a come-from-behind victory over Phil Mickelson and Adam Hadwin on Sunday in the Desert Classic in at La Quinta, Calif. Competing against a Hall of Famer (Mikelson) and Canada’s most prominent golf star, the unheralded Long, 31, rolled in a 15-foot birdie on the 72nd hole for a final-round 65. He finished 26 under over his three rounds. “I had nothing to lose,” said Long, who exclaimed “holy crap!” moments after realizing he’d won the tournament.

Long, a graduate of Francis Howell HS and Duke University, is an avid fan of the Cardinals, Blues and Duke basketball. He’s certainly paid his dues, grinding through obscurity for several years, logging time on the Mackenzie Tour, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica tour and Web.com Tour. Long earned his PGA Tour card with a 13th place finish on the Web.com tour regular season in 2018.

Until Sunday, Long had one professional victory, on the Hooters Tour in 2011. A PGA Tour rookie this season, Long had gone 20 over par in his previous five starts, missing four cuts. His best result was a tie for 63rd place at the Safeway Open last fall.

Long collected $13,568 for that tie for 63rd.

His prize for winning the Desert Classic: $1.062 million. Whew. But that’s not all. This victory means Long has a tour exemption until the end of the 2020-2021 season, and, among other sweet bonuses, will play in The Masters.

Next up for Adam Long: An expanded field is off to Torrey Pines for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open — which also marks Tiger Woods’s 2019 debut.

“In some ways it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster, but it’s been a steady improvement throughout my career,” Long told reporters. “I’ve played on pretty much most tours and just steadily progressed. It can seem like it came out of nowhere, but my game has been trending in the right direction for the last two years now.”

TRENDING DOWN: Your St. Louis Blues. After an encouraging mini-run of energized and efficient play, the Blues have flattened out … again. Monday’s loss at Los Angeles was simply awful, with the Blues squandering a 2-0 lead to fall at the skates of a team that’s been near the bottom of the overall league standings all season — and a Kings team that went into Monday’s contest with a 5-22-3 record when the opponent scores first. The Blues are five points out of the second wild-card spot in the West, but their mission is more difficult than that. The other teams chasing the wild card — Vancouver, Anaheim and Arizona — have more points than the Blues. Probably a good idea to win Wednesday at Anaheim. I guess this is how it’s going to be for a crazy team in a crazy season. I’ll be more restrained in my praise from here on out. One reason: Can’t trust them.

READING TIME,  7 MINUTES

Let’s get out the report card. As trashing a rival city goes, I’d have to give the Kris Bryant, Ryan Dempster giggle fest a C minus grade overall. The fellows get credit for stirring up a fuss, and arousing the media and fans. But the execution was awkward. Bryant and Dempster had to sell it harder. They didn’t put their hearts into it. The insult seemed a little forced. As for the “boring” insult directed at St. Louis … that’s a decent if predictable dig. But generally speaking, how many U.S. cities aren’t boring unless you know where to go, what to see, and are familiar with the local restaurant-entertainment landscape?

I’m not sure Bryant and Dempster were the best spokesmen to initiate this little kerfuffle. Of course Dempster finds St. Louis dull; I wouldn’t like this place at all as a visiting pitcher who had a horrendous career ERA of 4.82 when pitching in St. Louis. And Dempster claimed — or at least suggested — he rejected the idea of waiving his no-trade clause he had in his Cubs’ contract to accept a deal to join the Cardinals. This would have been late in 2012. And if Dempster exercised a his no-trade clause to block a deal to St. Louis … well, thank goodness. He was dealt to Texas and had a 5.09 ERA in 69 innings.

And Bryant is one helluva baseball player, and he seems like a solid guy. But let’s be straight about something here. He doesn’t have much of a personality, right? It’s kinda, well, boring. As a couple of Chicago sports talk-show hosts told me Tuesday morning, this was the first time that Bryant said anything that qualified as remotely interesting.

And, much like Dempster, Bryant hasn’t had a good time in St. Louis for an obvious reason. In MLB ballparks where he’s had at least 40 career plate appearances, Bryant has his lowest batting average (.228), OBP (.307) and slugging percentage (.382) at Busch Stadium. He’s struck out 31% of the time in his 140 PA at Busch. How humdrum.

A while back, when the Chicago Tribune asked Bryant this question — “what’s your guilty pleasure,” this was his response — “I eat a lot of bad food. Ice cream. Chocolate. At movies, I always get sour candy or Junior Mints. I usually make sure I have my own dessert. I don’t share well.”

Bryant’s wife says Kris knows the soundtrack to the Disney film, “Frozen,” by heart. He’s been known to play the guitar — especially Taylor Swift songs. (That according to The Sporting News.)
Disney films for kids … Junior Mints … Taylor Swift … How thrilling. Would somebody please get this wild man under control? And St. Louis is boring? OK, champ.

As for Yadier Molina’s response to this …

“Stars, elite players and leaders of their teams do not speak bad about any city,” Molina wrote on his Instagram account. “There should be respect and you should play and compete with respect.” A little heavy, yes. But that’s the Molina ethos. No one should be surprised by his oh-so-serious reaction. Proud man. Fierce competitor. Lives by the code … whatever the code is. (Loosely translated, I think the code goes something like this: Do not bleep with me.) I give the first part of his response a “B.”

Then Molina added, “Only stupid players and losers make comments like the ones made by Bryant and Dempster.” Oh, that’s an E-2. Molina lowered himself to the Bryant-Dempster level by making it personal in a name-calling way. Grade: D.

Molina had better message discipline on Monday at the Winter Warmup, saying that Bryant’s jab “will carry (into the season]. I can’t wait to get on the field.”

Taking it personally?

“St. Louis is home,” Molina told reporters. “If anybody says something bad about my home, I’m going to be there for us. I said to the guys, ‘We are like a family. We have to stick together. We have to defend ourselves and we have to defend our ground.’ Whoever says something about us, we are going to be there to defend us.” Grade: B+ … because Molina is utterly sincere. A bit over the top? Sure. But he’s genuine.

Moreover, I’m for anything that gives the Cardinals back their edge… their willingness to push back against any opponent — including the intimidating foes that love Taylor Swift and Junior Mints. The were obnoxiously but effectively edgy under Tony La Russa, but lost that edge — and turned, well, boring — under their previous manager. They’ll be sharpening up again under Mike Shildt.

Here’s another difference between Molina and Bryant:

Molina is a Cardinal for life.

Bryant is a conditional Cub.

Earlier in his career, Molina could have made a heck of a lot more money by waiting for free agency and grabbing the largest contract he could find. But Molina didn’t do that. He preferred to stay. Bryant has resisted the Cubs’ attempts to talk about an early contract extension, an reportedly rejected a $200 million offer from the team. He’s headed for free agency after the 2021 season. And he’ll chase the top dollar.

Molina is dead red, and that includes his posterior. He’s always up for a tussle. Bryant? Not so sure. Maybe we’ll find out when the teams meet in 2019.

I give myself a weak “D minus” for writing about this, but I couldn’t resist. And for years I’ve had a problem with the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry; it’s too nice. It’s a damn garden party. In true rivalries the insults — and even some punches on occasion — are exchanged by two teams that despise each other.

The Cubs and Cardinals are heating up, thanks to Kris Bryant inciting Yadier Molina. There’s nothing boring about mixing some bad blood into this civil rivalry.

CLOSING TIME AT BERNIE’S PLACE

Three shots.

Drink up you happy people…

1- Why the hell is the rugged Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson being scratched from the lineup when the Blues are playing the tough, big and physical LA Kings? Makes no sense.

2- As a football game, the Super Bowl matchup between the Rams and Patriots is compelling in a number of ways, and it should be a highly entertaining game. Looking forward to it. But as a convenient vehicle for the most extreme of the mewling and borderline cuckoo fans in St. Louis who are obsessed with Stan Kroenke to the point of temporary insanity …  Please get me to kickoff. I’d like to enjoy a football game, instead of having my mind and soul occupied by thoughts of the evil Kroenke over next two weeks. Just remember friends: as your Kroenke fever rises, as your night sweats increase, he wins again … and again … and again … and again.  I revile the man. But I refuse to allow him influence my personal happiness. Just my outlook on this.

3-  Some large praise for Mizzou QB Drew Lock by ESPN’s Todd McShay in advance of the Senior Bowl. McShay, who rates Lock third overall among quarterbacks in the 2019 NFL draft, lists Lock as No. 1 among the dozen QBs at the Senior Bowl. McShay wrote this: “Big athletic and equipped with a strong arm, Lock is a poor man’s Patrick Mahomes.”

Quite the compliment.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie