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Bernie Bits: Cardinals Prospect Watch, Blues Clues, Oskar Award, Ripping LA Rams Fans, ‘Army’ Moving?

Your daily dish of Bernie Bits

Jan. 24, 2019…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Former Cardinals pitcher Neil Allen, acquired from the Mets in 1983 in the trade for Keith Hernandez, is 61 today … former Cards pitcher Cory Bailey is 48 … Jefferson City native Justin Gage, who starred in football and basketball at Mizzou, is 38. After catching 200 passes, including 18 for touchdowns, at Missouri over three seasons (2000-2002), the big wide receiver had an eight-season NFL career with the Bears and Titans …unlikely Super Bowl hero Timmy Smith, a one-hit wonder, is 55. Smith was a surprise starter for the Redskins in Super Bowl 22 and rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-10 beatdown of the Broncos to cap the season… Gold-medal Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton is 51.

BORN ON THIS DAY

The late Mark Reeds, in 1960. Reeds was a great guy who played six seasons for the Blues beginning in the 1981-82 season. Reeds scored 45 goals and had 105 assists during a 370-game career with The Note, and later served as an assistant coacg for the Ottawa Senators. Reeds died of esophageal cancer in 2015.

DIED ON THIS DAY

In 1965 a weary Winston Churchill complained “I’m bored with it all,” moments before passing away. The distinguished former British Prime Minister was 90.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS HISTORY

George Sisler, the greatest player in St. Louis Browns history, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. Sisler’s many accomplishments include two seasons of batting over .400, winning the AL MVP award in 1922, and six seasons of 200+ hits. His career .340 batting average ranks 16th in MLB history … and in 1962, Dodgers’ immortal Jackie Robinson became the first African American elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

TRENDING UP

1) As they pause for the All-Star break, the Blues are 13-9-2 in their last 23 games, and headed to the rest stop after shellacking Anaheim 5-1 on Wednesday. The Blues are on a more positive track, and that should be noted and appreciated. But we’ve also learned that it’s difficult to truly believe in a team that frequently swerves and fluctuates. The Blues don’t make me flip-flop, and my knees and back make it impossible for me to jump on or off bandwagons. But as long as the Blues alternate between bad and good — good and bad — then my opinion will follow the bouncing puck. At least until I can put my trust in the Blues’ consistency.

2) Oskar Sundqvist? Yes. And it’s a beautiful thing. The Big Swede, 24, came into the season with two goals in 60 regular-season NHL games. All of a sudden, you look at the Blues roster, and you see only four players with 10 or more goals in the 2018-2019 campaign. Sundqvist has 10 goals in 41 games this season. That’s more than Brayden Schenn (9) … that’s more that free-agent acquisitions Tyler Bozak (7) and Pat Maroon (4) … Sundqvist’s 10 goals are more than Alex Steen (6) and Jaden Schwartz (3) have combined.

TRENDING DOWN

1) After thrashing Texas A&M on the road Saturday, Mizzou crashed again, blowing an early 13-point lead to lose 72-60 at Arkansas on Wednesday. After the 10:15 mark in the first half, when the visitors led 17-4, the visiting Razorbacks outscored Mizzou by 25 points (68-43.) Missouri turned the ball over 24 times, setting up 27 easy points for the Razorbacks. Because of the lopsided turnover disparity, Arkansas had 59 field goal attempts to MU’s 42. Missouri, 1-4 in the SEC, has two tough games ahead. The Tigers will host LSU on Saturday and go to Auburn on Wednesday. In the KenPom ratings Mizzou is 78th, LSU is 27th, and Auburn is 17th…

2) Losing for the first time in conference play, St. Louis U succumbed at Duquesne (77-73) on Wednesday night. The Billikens (5-1 in the Atlantic 10) were outstanding on the offensive boards (23 OR) and made 19 of 22 free throws. But SLU couldn’t overcome their turnovers (23) and horrible shooting (2 for 20) from three-point range. But here’s my concern: The Atlantic 10 stinks. The KenPom rates the A-10 as No. 10 in the conference rankings. The best team, VCU, is ranked 58th ahead of Dayton (73), Davidson (77) and SLU (94.) The other 10 conference teams are ranked between No. 111 (George Mason) and No. 274 (George Washington.) On the other hand, the A-10 was ranked 1oth by KenPom last season but still got three teams into the NCAA Tournament: Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, and Davidson. Based on that 2018 example, SLU certainly has a chance to qualify for the NCAAs as an at-large team — or, of course, by earning the automatic bid that’s the prize for winning the A-10 tournament. But hoping for an at-large bid is risky business. And SLU can’t afford to lose — even on the road — to Duquesne, which entered Wednesday’s game ranked No. 165 by KenPom.

WORDS FROM OUT OF TOWN

Headline, the Los Angeles Times:

“Rams deserve better than what L.A. fans have been delivering.”

Under that heading, Los Angeles Times columnist LZ Granderson wrote:

“Your Los Angeles Rams are in the Super Bowl but the ‘your’ part of the sentiment leaves a lot to be desired. Anyone who has ventured to the Coliseum for a game over the past three seasons knows it is not unusual to see a healthy number of visiting team jerseys in the stands … the divisional round game against the Cowboys may have been 40% Dallas fans — which is a huge improvement from the 2017 preseason opener matchup — but still a disappointing scenario for a team that went 13-3 and is full of star power.”

Wait a second … LA is a weak football market? Shocking news.

READING TIME,  FIVE MINUTES

Five Cardinals have been named to Baseball America‬⁩’s Top 100 Prospects list: pitcher Alex Reyes (19th), outfielder Tyler O’Neill (36th), pitcher Dakota Hudson (74th), third baseman Nolan Gorman (75th), and third baseman Elehuris Montero (81st). The STL total of five is the fifth most among the MLB teams… The MLB Pipeline ranks Gorman at No. 7 among third-base prospects … and the Cardinals’ Andrew Knizner is rated 10th among all catching prospects…

Is Blues VP of hockey ops Doug Armstrong a stealth candidate for the vacant GM job in Edmonton? The respected hockey writer, Pierre LeBrun, had “Army” on his list of potential replacements in a piece for The Athletic. After noting that Armstrong has three years remaining on his Blues contract after this season, LeBrun wrote: “What if (Edmonton ownership)phoned up Blues owner Tom Stillman and asked the question? The Blues are having a very disappointing season. Would Stillman see it as a chance to change things up and have another team pick up the tab on his GM?”

Ticket sales for Super Bowl 53 — Rams and Patriots — are sluggish. According to media reports, the secondary market for Super Bowl tickets are selling at prices $500 to $1,000 lower than normal 10 days before kickoff. Here’s one big reason: Rams fans based in SoCal aren’t buying many tickets. They aren’t booking flights and hotel rooms. They’re sitting this one out at home.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, TickPick CEO Brett Goldberg said this about Rams fans’ commitment. “It’s clearly a bad thing for ticket sales because it’s a really long trip,” says Goldberg. “And that fanbase has only been around for a couple years. If you were a St. Louis Rams fan, this is no longer really relevant to you anymore.”

Goldberg added, “Given how many times the Patriots have been to the Super Bowl, and probably the lack of demand from Rams fans, this will be one of the least-desired Super Bowl tickets, from the fanbases, since 2014.”

(In that Super Bowl, Seattle played Denver in New Jersey.)

A CIVIL RANT

Prompted to take a look at this by an intelligent friend, I’m still thinking about Lance Berkman, the former Astro and Cardinal, being dismissed as a one-and-done candidate in the Baseball Hall of Fame voting. Berkam received only 1.4 percent of the total votes cast, failing to meet the minimum 5 percent to remain on the ballot…

Seattle’s Edgar Martinez was elected in his final year of eligibility. I’ve voted for Martinez, so I’m happy he made it in. But I’m struggling to understand why 84.5 percent of the voting writers voted for Martinez while bouncing Berkman from the ballot. I mean, is there really such a huge difference between the two?

Martinez had 860 more career plate appearances than Berkman, who lost time to injuries. It’s no surprise to see Martinez with 65.5 WAR (FanGraphs version) to Berkman’s 56 WAR. But it isn’t that simple.

Let me say that I don’t hold an anti-DH position; they’re worthy of the Hall of Fame. But unless he played right field (he was awful there), Berkman finished his MLB career as a plus 6 left fielder in Defensive Runs Saved … and a +19 first baseman in DRS.

Martinez started only 560 games in the field during his career (at third base) and started 1,396 games at DH. Berkman, on the other hand, started only 100 games at DH and 1,690 games in the field. And again: Berkman was a “plus” defender at two of his three positions. And he started only 342 games at his worst spot, right field …

Berkman and Martinez were very similar base runners in terms of advancing bases and making outs on the bases. Call it a draw.

Berkman (52.6) has an edge over Martinez (44.3) in Win Probability Added.

In park adjusted runs created (wRC+) and in OPS+ Martinez was 47 percent above the league average offensively. Berkman was 44 percent above average. Not much difference.

Counting stats? Despite having 722 fewer at-bats than Martinez in their respective careers, Berkman hit more homers (366 to 309) and drove in only 27 fewer runs than Martinez.

Rate stats? Martinez had the edge in OBP (.418 to .406) but Berkman out-slugged Martinez (.537 to .515.)

Postseason? In 148 postseason plate appearances Martinez had an .873 OPS. In 224 postseason PA, Berkman had a career .949 OPS.

Martinez was selected to the All-Star game seven times — one more than Berkman’s six selections.

Berkman received league MVP votes in seven different seasons. Martinez received league MVP votes in five different seasons.

If you want to use WAR: Berkman had more “big” seasons than Martinez, logging six years of at least 6.0 Wins Above Replacement. Martinez had only three 6+ WAR seasons.

My point isn’t to declare that Martinez is unworthy of the Hall, or to shriek that Berkman was a better all-around player who could match (or top) Martinez in most offensive categories.

I’m just trying to understand why Berkman — one of the best switch-hitters in MLB history — received support from only 1.4 percent of the 425 voters. Berkman deserved to stay on the ballot long enough to receive the proper scrutiny of his credentials. The perception — that Martinez was vastly superior to Berkman — is ludicrous and a terrible mistake. And extremely unfair to Lance.

CLOSING TIME AT BERNIE’S PLACE

Three shots…

Drink up you glorious people…

1. Lots of talk about how the STL Rams were cheated by the victorious Patriots in Super Bowl 36 in the final game of the 2001 season. One of the things that keeps coming up is how the Patriots allegedly “spied” on the Rams’ walk-through the day before the game. The Rams were working on the red zone offense during the time of the alleged “spying.” This sure makes for a superb cloak-and-dagger narrative. Umm, one problem: The Rams went 1-for-1 and scored a touchdown on their ONLY red-zone opportunity during that Super Bowl.

2. Edgar Renteria was underrated.

3. Since Jan. 5, the Blues are 5-1-1 when Jordan Binnington starts; he has a .936 save percentage and 1.57 goals-against average in those games. During the same stretch of schedule, the Blues are 1-3 when Jake Allen starts in goal; he has an .860 save percentage and 3.00 GAA since Jan. 5.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie