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Bernie Bits: Underrated Yadi, Shoutout to Aeneas Williams, John Elway ‘Smitten’ With Drew Lock, Wisdom From Dorothy Parker

Your Bernie Bits for this afternoon, and get them while they’re still warm…

It’s Jan. 29, 2019.

OPENING THOUGHT

“Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city.”

–Dorothy Parker

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Lori Chalupny, among the best soccer players to come out of St. Louis, is 35. The Nerinx Hall alum had a distinguished career as a defender and outside midfielder for the U.S. women’s national team in two World Cups and the 2008 Olympics. Chalupny amassed 106 caps for the U.S. team, and scored 10 goals in international competition. She retired in 2015 after enduring multiple concussions late in her playing career. Chalupny is currently the head coach of the women’s soccer team at Maryville University.

Aeneas Williams is 51 today. After being acquired by the St. Louis Rams before the 2001 season, the future Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back was a major force in turning round a shabby Rams defense that went from weakness to strength in 2001. Williams’ most memorable and impactful game came in the divisional round of the 2001 NFC playoffs when he returned two Brett Favre interceptions for touchdowns (and forced a fumble) in the Rams’ 45-17 rout of visiting Green Bay.

Former Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is 30. Shattenkirk helped propel the Blues’ power play for seven seasons; 36 of his 59 goals scored for the Note were scored on the PP. A pending free agent, Shattenkirk was dealt to Washington at the trade deadline in 2017, played out the remainder of his contract, then signed a four-year, $26 million deal with the NY Rangers. Shattenkirk has pretty much been a bust in New York; in 86 games he has seven goals (only three at even strength) and is a minus 23.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS HISTORY 

In 1936 the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted its inaugural class: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.

Jim Thorpe, Red Grange & George Halas were selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

In 1967, Branch Rickey — the immortal Cardinals’ GM and baseball legend — was elected to Baseball Hall of Fame.

TRENDING UP 

The Golden State Warriors have won 11 in a row.

TRENDING DOWN

For his next stupid human trick Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman — who got away with a blown coverage and two blatant fouls against New Orleans late in the NFC Championship — decided to insult New England QB Tom Brady.

“Yes. Yes. Age has definitely taken a toll,” Robey-Coleman said. “For him to still be doing it, that’s a great compliment for him. But I think that he’s definitely not the same quarterback he was. Movement. Speed. Velocity. Arm strength. He still can sling it, but he’s not slinging it as much. Whatever he was doing—because of his age and all that—he’s not doing as much of that anymore. He’s still doing the same things; he’s just not doing as much of it. And sometimes, it’s not the sharpest. But it still gets done.”

When quarterbacks targeted Robey-Coleman this season they had a 91.1 passer rating with four touchdowns and one interception. Probably not a good idea to draw a bullseye for Brady to aim at.

THE DREW LOCK TRACKER 

Two Denver Post writers kicked around the idea of the Broncos drafting Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock. Here’s big chunk of of the exchange between columnist Mark Kiszla and football writer Ryan O’Halloran…

Kiszla: Is Missouri senior Drew Lock a safe bet to be the next quarterback of the Broncos? The worst-kept secret at the Senior Bowl: John Elway is smitten with Lock. I’m not sold on him, but my vote doesn’t count when Denver is on the clock during the NFL Draft. Do you believe Lock is the QB being targeted by the Broncos? And should they trade up from the 10th pick in the first round to acquire him?

O’Halloran: A connecting of the dots would suggest Elway and Co. are trying to fall in love with Lock. Elway was at the Arkansas-Missouri game in November. Elway was at the Senior Bowl practices for three days and barely left the quarterback group. I believe the Broncos are targeting multiple quarterbacks (as they should) and Lock is probably one of them (as he should be). But the uneducated eye test tells me Lock is not worth trading up the board to select because of what it will cost the Broncos (their second-round pick and 2020 first rounder for starters).

Kiszla: There are two things that bug me about Lock. No. 1: He threw more than 1,500 passes in college and completed only 56.9 percent of them. I would rather my quarterback be accurate than big and strong. No. 2: As a senior, in consecutive losses to Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia, Lock threw one touchdown pass and five interceptions. But you saw him in person at the Senior Bowl, and I trust boots on the ground. Tell me what I’m missing.

O’Halloran: I really believe the media is in Lock’s corner because he’s a good quote. Now, about Mobile. I watched him during Tuesday’s practice and his throws wobbled a bit and were off target, but I don’t expect much during those workouts. Quarterbacks getting a new playbook crammed into their brains and working with new receivers equal choppy play. No conclusions should be drawn (although many were) about his poor practice. I grant you the two things that bug you about Lock, but will counter that he improved his completion percentage from 57.8 to 62.9 and cut down his interceptions (13 to eight) as a senior. To me, that is a positive, that he took to the coaching and improved.”

(Bernie note: I’m not knocking O’Halloran’s analysis, but I feel compelled here to point out something here … the opinion on Lock from many other media outlets went the other way — with draft experts and writers giving positive reviews to Lock’s Senior Bowl work in practice and in the game. The praise and hype of Lock was so favorable that some of it seemed over the top.)

Kiszla: The Giants and Jaguars, two QB-needy teams, own the sixth and seventh picks in the opening round. So what are the chances Denver can get Lock without moving into the top five? Could Jacksonville make a play for Eagles vet Nick Foles, allowing Lock to slide into Elway’s grasp at No. 10? To be honest, there are a half dozen players I like better than Lock that could well be available with the 10th pick, from LSU linebacker Devin White to Alabama running back Josh Jacobs.”

READING TIME 8 MINUTES

Two columnists at the same newspaper/site (the LA Times) have opposite views on the town’s love of Rams’ football.

Last week we showed you a headline over a column written by the Times’ LZ Granderson, who took the fan base to task for its lukewarm support. That headline: “Rams deserve better than what L.A. fans have been delivering.”

Ah, but according to Times columnist Dylan Hernandez, L.A. has Rams fever or something like that. “This city has passion,” Hernandez wrote. “Real passion.”

Not just passion, mind you … but “real” passion.

The final word goes to Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times who tweeted: “The Rams play in the Super Bowl in six days and the top six most-read (LA Times) ports‬⁩ stories are about the Lakers, Dodgers and USC.”

Moving along …

MLB Network continues to reveal its “Top 10 Right Now!” lists. My apologies for running late on this, but for those who missed it: the Cardinals have (so far) several players recognized among the Top 10 at their position. I’ll add a brief comment after each position breakdown that includes a Cardinal:

Third base: Matt Carpenter, No. 6 behind Jose Ramirez, Justin Turner, Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon and Alex Bregman — and ahead of Matt Chapman, Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson and Eugenio Suarez. COMMENT: Seems reasonable enough, though Carpenter doesn’t get enough credit for his defense. He ranked tied for seventh among MLB third basemen last season in Defensive Runs Saved. And Carpenter was rated slightly better than Arenado defensively and as a hitter — based in park adjusted runs created.

Catcher: Yadier Molina was No. 6 behind Buster Posey, J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras — and ahead of Kurt Suzuki, Wilson Ramos, Mike Zunino and Salvador Perez. COMMENT: This is amusing. In 2018 Molina won the catcher Gold Glove in the National League, had more WAR than Posey, and was virtually even with POSEY in park-adjusted runs created. Offensively Mollina finished 14 percent higher than Sanchez offensively in park-adjusted runs created (a rate stat) and is a vastly superior catcher defensively. Molina finished three percent higher than Contreras in park-adjusted runs created and, well, you know — unlike Contreras won the Gold Glove. Grandal was benched by the Dodgers during the 2018 postseason.

Left Field: Marcell Ozuna was No. 7 behind J.D. Martinez, Giancarlo Stanton, Ronald Acuna Jr., Tommy Pham and Juan Soto — and behind Michael Conforto, Khris Davis and David Peralta. COMMENT: Ozuna finished tied for 15th among MLB left fielders with 2.7 WAR. How about T. Pham coming in at the No. 4 ranking?

Center Field: Harrison Bader No. 9 behind Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Lorenzo Cain, Aaron Hicks, George Springer, Charlie Blackmon, A.J. Pollock and Starling Marte — and ahead of Kevin Kiermaier. COMMENT: Bader could have been placed a little higher on this list. After all Bader was an above-average hitter who saved 11 runs with his CF defense — one of the top scores in MLB- despite playing significantly fewer innings in center than the guys on this list. That’s because he didn’t play much early on, and mostly played right field until taking over in CF in late July. With 3.5 WAR, Bader was virtually even with Bellinger (3.5) and well ahead of Charlie Blackmon (2.8)

Related note: MLB Network analyst Eric Byrnes, who played 11 big-league seasons in the outfield, had this to say about Bader: “This guy is electric, he is the real deal. I like his approach at the plate, I love what he’s done in the outfield. You watch what he’s done in center field, which I think you need to keep him there, because he was playing some right field. This guy is a pure center fielder, he’s an athlete and he’s not afraid to leave his feet. Again, I think St. Louis fans are gonna be really happy to watch this kid for years to come.”

The Cardinals were understandably excluded from the Top 10 Right Now rankings at second base and right field. Still to come: MLB Network’s rollout of the Top 10 at first base, shortstop, starting pitching, and relievers.

Moving along … 

The Bleacher Report updated its MLB offseason report cards late last week, and for whatever it’s worth the Cardinals scored very well among the 30 teams. Writer Jacob Shafer gave the Cardinals a B plus grade that was topped only by the NY Yankees’ A minus. The Mariners and Nationals also rated a B+ from BR. Other report card grades NL Central: Cubs (D), Reds (C+), Pirates (straight C) and the Brewers (C minus.)

Here’s Shafer on the Cardinals: “The Cardinals sent notice when they acquired Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in early December. They understandably gave up a significant package for the best first baseman and one of the best overall players in baseball … the Cardinals have designs on signing Goldy to an extension before he hits free agency after 2019. If they can pull that off, this will go from a good move to a potentially great one.

“Elsewhere, the Cardinals are hoping lefty reliever Andrew Miller (two years, $25 million) can regain the form that earned him top-10 AL Cy Young Award finishes in 2015 and 2016 before injuries undermined his dominance. In all, it’s been an active offseason for the Red Birds—chock-full of risk, upside and intrigue.”

On this day in 2007 Ken Dryden’s No. 29 jersey was retired by the Montreal Canadiens. I mention this because Dryden was my favorite goaltender during my formative years as a hockey fan. And Dryden’s “The Game” is on my short list of the best sports ever written by an athlete.

CLOSING TIME AT BERNIE’S PLACE

Three shots …

Drink up all of you confused people

1. Confused as in: root for the Patriots, root for the Rams, root for bedbugs for R. Goodell, root for “none of the above.” (I think the third option would be a huge winner, with the bedbugs coming in second.)

2. I was thinking about this… given what we know now about the coaching-quarterback partnership of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, it seems preposterous (in retrospect of course) that the 2001 STL Rams were a 14-point favorite to rout New England in Super Bowl 36.

3. With just about two weeks to go until spring-training camps open, here’s a partial list of the unsigned MLB free agents who were available as of early Tuesday morning:

Bryce Harper
Manny Machado
Dallas Keuchel
Craig Kimbrel
Adam Jones
Mike Moustakas
Marwin Gonzalez
Josh Harrison
Gio Gonzalez
Jose Iglesias
Wade Miley
Freddy Galvis
Carlos Gonzalez
Logan Morrison
Ryan Madson
Edwin Jackson
Adam Warren
Tyler Clippard
Greg Holland
A.J. Ellis
Martin Maldonado

Nothing to see here.

Thanks for reading…

–Bernie