Presenting your daily Bernie Bits …
For Jan. 25, 2019 …
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
It’s hockey day! Retired NHL winger Rick Bowness is 64. He spent two seasons with the Blues beginning in 1978 … Retired NHL winger Paul Ranheim, who was born in St. Louis, is 53 today. He had 161 goals and 199 assists in a 15-season NHL career that began in 1988 … retired winger Esa Tikkanen is 54. A big part of four Stanley Cup winning championship teams in Edmonton, Tikkanen had 13 goals and 27 assists over 54 games with the Blues in 1994-95 (and part of 1995-76) … and longtime Blues’ rival Chris Chelios (boo!) is 57. The indestructible defenseman had a remarkable 26-year NHL career before retiring at the end of the 2009-2010 season at age 48. The Chelios name is on three Stanley Cups.
BORN ON THIS DAY
Longtime Los Angeles Rams wide receiver and St. Louis Rams broadcaster Jack Snow was born in 1943. He died in St. Louis in 2006 at the too-young age of 62. Snow made St. Louis his home and made many friends. Great guy. We miss him still.
Pop Ivy, head coach of the football Cardinals for their first two seasons in St. Louis. Born in 1916. Ivy was 87 when he passed away in 2003. The Cardinals went 11-21-1 under Ivy in 1960 and ‘61.
One of my personal favorites, Paul Newman — the actor and race car driver — was born on this day in 1925. He passed away in 2008 at age 83.
Another favorite — and a wonderful man — was iconic baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell. Born on this day in 1918, Harwell was one of the best baseball play-by-play artists in the history of the sport. A career of sustained eloquence and excellence that began in 1943 lasted through 2007. Harwell passed in 2010 at age 92.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS HISTORY
Kind of a slow day, really. In 1995, the defense gave its opening statement in the O.J. Simpson muder trial … in 2002, Ken Hitchcock was fired as head coach of the Dallas Stars despite an overall record there of 277-160-60-6, five straight division titles, two conference championships and a Stanley Cup.
Blues interim coach Craig Berube. Blues VP of hockey Doug Armstrong tells the great Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch that Berube will stay behind the bench for the remainder of the season. And why not? It’s not as if the Blues were ready to roll out The Next Great Coaching Hire. And Berube has done a good job since replacing Mike Yeo. With Berube, the players are (finally) being held accountable and the overall effort level has increased. No one is saying that Berube has earned the job beyond this season. But this is a positive — if symbolic — step for him. I think Armstrong made this announcement now for another reason: Showing strong support for Berube to get the players’ attention.
In 19 games with Yeo as coach, the Blues were tied for 15th in the Western Conference in wins and points. In Berube’s 30 games, the Blues rank 6th in the West in wins and points.
Since Berube took over here are the points-earned totals for each NHL Central team through Thursday:
Winnipeg, 38 points
St. Louis, 32
Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna.
Here’s how to damage your market value heading into your preparation for a free-agency cash-in opportunity following the 2019 season:
1) Unexpectedly report to spring training with a sore shoulder in 2o18 after the Cardinals trade four prospects to Miami to acquire your talents; that’s always a swell way to make a fantastic first impression.
2) Fall behind in your preparation for the 2018 season by being unable to throw well — if at all –in spring training. Excellent strategy.
3) Have the inflamed shoulder sap a high percentage of your power virtually all season. Good way to make that free-agent case. Continue to make awkward, weak throws from left field … potential free-agent bidders will be enormously impressed.
4) Oversleep, don’t show up in time for a day game. Stuff like this is exactly This why GMs of other teams can’t wait to have their chance to make a big offer.
5) Have a surgical cleanup procedure after the season … but not until a month after the Cards’ final game. Hey, there’s nothing like demonstrating great urgency to get other teams fired up about paying you massive free-agent dollars.
6) Do your rehab in the Dominican Republic instead of working — at least some of the time — with the Cardinals’ training-medical staff in Jupiter. Don’t stay in touch with John Mozeliak, the team president of baseball operations, who has no idea … in late January… if you’ll be ready to throw, hit, and perform at maximum level in spring training and at the start of the regular season. That’s got to be worth an extra $25 million in your free-agent deal.
7) When Mozeliak expresses concern over your condition, and lets it be known that he’ll be stopping by while in the D.R. to check on you, there’s only one way to react: go to social media and troll your boss on Instagram by belittling his justifiable anxiety.
Yep. The PERFECT way to score the largest possible contract offers next offseason.
READING TIME FIVE MINUTES
Dick Vermeil (age 82) won the Super Bowl as the St. Louis Rams head coach to cap a glorious 1999 season. And now Sean McVay (age 33) is attempting to become the first Los Angeles Rams coach to win a Super Bowl. Vermeil and McVay have become friends, with the old head coach staying in frequent contact with the young head coach …
“The remarkable thing to me is how a young fellow like that can do the kind of job he’s doing,” Vermeil told The Athletic. “It’s remarkable how well he has done. I really respect what he’s done. I know I compare myself at his age and there’s no way I could have done what he is doing. Looking back on it to where I was at that age, there was no way I would have been ready,” …
Trivia: As a 14-year-old teenager McVay was in the Georgia Dome as a fan attending the game, when Vermeil’s “Greatest Show Rams” won Super Bowl 34 by beating Tennessee in a close fight. McVay grew up in suburban Atlanta. It’s the only Super Bowl he’s attended — well, at least until McVay coaches in Super Bowl 53 next Sunday.
Here’s McVay on Vermeil: “I’ll tell you what’s so unique, is you get a chance to be in this role and the exposure that it gets you to people that you have so much respect for. Coach Vermeil is a guy that, he texts you after all the games and he’s been so supportive.”
Vermeil compared his STL Rams to McVay’s LA Rams. DV won the Super Bowl in his third season as coach. McVay has a chance to win a Super Bowl in his second season. “We built the team for the first two years, just like Sean has done with this Rams team,” Vermeil told The Athletic. “There’s a correlation there. But his team got better quicker than mine did. He’s built it to the point where it can compete for a world championship in two years.’’
Vermeil is rooting for the Rams to upset New England in Super Bowl 53. And before anyone has a tantrum over this, don’t forget: Vermeil’s first NFL coaching job was serving as the special teams coach for the Los Angeles Rams under Hall of Fame head coach George Allen. Vermeil has Rams roots — in both STL and LA. And his loyalty to the franchise is understandable.
Let’s check in with Mike Tanier, a superb football analyst, who wrote about Mizzou QB Drew Luck for Bleacher Report. Lock has been dazzling during practice week at the Senior Bowl, drawing comparisons to Patrick Mahomes.
Here’s Tanier’s take on that:
“The Lock-Mahomes comparisons originated with NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, who saw some similarities between Lock and the young Chiefs superstar entering the 2018 season,” Tanier wrote. “ESPN’s Todd McShay then called Lock a “poor man’s Patrick Mahomes” in his Senior Bowl preview last week.
“The comparisons are based on Lock’s Mahomes-esque tendency to extend plays, throw from odd angles and do what Lock called ‘funky stuff’ in the pocket,” Tanier continued. “So, there are some superficial similarities. Still, the comparisons are premature, misleading and a little unfair.”
By the way, keep an eye on the Denver Broncos. They’re said to be smitten with Lock. As Tanier notes: “The rumor that the Broncos are interested in Lock is so prevalent that it’s more of a foregone conclusion than a possibility. The Broncos need a long-term answer at quarterback, and team president John Elway likes quarterbacks with Elway-like attributes: a rocket arm, a quick release and extreme confidence.”
CLOSING TIME AT BERNIE’S PLACE
Three shots for you…
Drink up you weekend-loving people …
1. Omen? When the 2001 Patriots knocked off the STL Rams in Super Bowl 36 in New Orleans, Tom Brady was New England’s starting quarterback. And a first-time Super Bowl starter at age 24. The LA Rams will start Jared Goff at QB in Super Bowl 53 … he too is a first-time Super Bowl starter … and at age 24, no less.
2. If I ever grow up, run away and start a rock band, I’ve already picked out the name for the band: “Mystery Team.”
3. Before the start of the 2014 MLB season, the New York Yankees signed free-agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term contract. Ellsbury, 30 years old at the time, was talented but prone to injuries. The Yankees gave Ellsbury seven years and $153 million. In five seasons Ellsbury has hit 39 total homers and slugged a weak .382. He’s averaged 100 games per season — and missed all of 2018. And the Yankees still owe Ellsbury two more years at an annual salary of $21.14 million — then a $5 million buyout of a 2021 option.
Thursday the Los Angeles Dodgers signed a talented but injury prone center fielder, A.J. Pollock, to a free-agent contract. Pollock is 31, and less than a year older than Ellsbury’s age at the time he signed with the Yankees. But the best Pollock could do on the open market this winter was to sign a four-year deal for $50 million guaranteed. The contract could morph into a five-year deal for $60 million — but either way, that’s a big drop from Ellsbury money.
Baseball front offices have gotten a helluva lot smarter.
Thanks for reading and have a swell weekend.