As the kids would say, LFG!

1. It’s a new beginning for St. Louis City SC, and I’m excited to take in Saturday’s MLS season-opening match against visiting Real Salt Lake. In 2023, City stunned the circuit with its amazing success in winning the Western Conference as a first–year expansion team. The inspirational launch It was worthy of immense pride and celebration, but the lads must prove themselves all over again. Among the many things we learned last season was this: don’t pay attention to preseason forecasts. The predictions for St. Louis City SC are all over the place going into 2024, and that’s reasonable given the way the club faded late in its inaugural season. Including their first-round playoff skunking by Sporting Kansas City, STL lost its final four matches, getting outscored 11-2 in the process. It didn’t diminish the joy of a munificent first season, but I see no reason to take offense if the soccer literati are a bit skeptical over City in the second-year outlook. It’s the big leagues.

2. What I like: City’s plan to build out a more complete offense that doesn’t have to rely as heavily on the pressure-and-pounce tactics to score goals. The targeted roster upgrades on the back line and at midfield were on point. And then there’s the anticipated improvement of Samuel Adeniran and Aziel Jackson. They’re exciting talents capable of breaking down a defense.

3. Must improve: City has to be more accurate in its passing to create more scoring opportunities. Last season St. Louis ranked 28th among the league’s 29 teams in completed pass percentage, last in short-pass accuracy, 25th in progression passes (10+ yards upfield) and last in the number of passes into the final third. If the pressure game wasn’t swarming to force turnovers and quick-strike goals, City often struggled to make connections to move forward.

4. The concern: After a shaky start, opponents did a pretty good job of adjusting to coach Bradley Carnell’s pressure infestation as the season went on. This could make them more comfortable going against STL’s style in the second season.

5. Finally, good luck to all. Behold the magenta. Another round of thanks is in order. This old sports town was greatly enhanced by the inception of St. Louis City SC in 2023. A decades-long wait for a spot in the MLS paid off with the arrival of a precious gift. City Park is a wonderful venue. Every home match is a colorful street festival that moves inside the gates for more fun. The experience is pure happiness. Yes. I’m gushing. Nice win over Houston in the CONCACAF Champions Cup match earlier this week. Next up: instant MLS momentum with an opening night win over Real Salt Lake.

Moving Along …


We’ll have a better answer after the next nine games. The boys will play eight on the road. There’s a three-game road trip, a single home game, then five games on the east coast. Six of the Blues’ nine opponents currently hold playoff spots. Another opponent is four points out of a playoff spot. Two others are within five points of getting a postseason ticket. Six of the nine opponents rank no worse than 14th overall among the 30 NHL teams in points-earned percentage. The NY Rangers (1), Boston (2), Winnipeg (5) and Edmonton (10) are situated in the league’s top 10 for best points-earned percentage.

The Blues are tied for the No. 2 wild–card spot in the West. Their record (17-10-1) under interim coach Drew Bannister has generated a .625 points-earned percentage that ranks 11th in the NHL since the Blues fired Craig Berube.


I keep getting notes from folks who dismiss the quality start as a legitimate statistic for measuring starting pitchers. I think too many are hung up on the terminology. The “quality” part. That’s because the minimum standard for a quality start is at least six innings pitched with no more than three earned runs allowed. Fine. If your objection is to the verbiage, then call it a Decent Start instead. Or maybe a Solid Start works for you. But whatever you want to name it, these caliber of starts really make a huge impact on a team’s season.

Here I go again …

Last season, when MLB teams received a quality start in a game, they collectively posted a winning percentage of .688. When teams failed to benefit from a quality start, their collective winning percentage in those games was .398.

In 2023, the piteous Cardinals (71-91) were 33-15 when getting a quality start for a winning percentage of .687. In their 114 games without a quality start, the Cards were 38-76 for a .333 winning percentage. But quality starts don’t matter? Really? That’s what you think? Good grief.

In the 28 seasons that Bill DeWitt Jr. has owned the Cardinals, the team has a .706 winning percentage in quality starts and a .384 win percentage when a pitcher doesn’t deliver a QS. Huge difference. But by now I realize there are hopelessly whacked-out deniers out there who refuse to accept facts.

The reason I’m dwelling on quality starts is because of the changes made to the St. Louis rotation for 2024. The Cardinals signed starting pitchers Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. Since 2014, Gray ranks seventh in the majors for most quality starts with 138, Lynn is eighth with 136 and Gibson is 11th with 132.

The Cardinals currently have four starting pitchers that rank among the top 32 in MLB for most quality starts over the six seasons: Gibson (12th), Lynn (16th), Miles Mikolas (22nd) and Gray (32nd.) And keep in mind that Mikolas missed 2020 and most of 2021 with a forearm injury. If Steven Matz can stay healthy, the Cardinals would be armed with five guys to crank out plenty of quality starts. And that would translate into plenty of wins. Last season only six MLB rotations had fewer quality starts than St. Louis.


ESPN’s Bill Connelly recently posted his 2024 college football preseason ratings based on his vaunted SP+ metrics system, and Mizzou was ranked 11th nationally and sixth in the SEC. The SEC teams ahead of Mizzou are Georgia (1), Texas (4), Alabama (6), Ole Miss (8) and LSU (10). Connelly’s projection has Mizzou with the eighth-ranked offense in the nation. Part of this is based on the players coming back from last season’s 11-win team; at 68 percent, Missouri ranks 31st nationally in returning players. The Tigers have 70% of the offense coming back which ranks 16th nationally …


That’s according to former Reds and Nationals GM Jim Bowden, who writes for The Athletic. The list, in order, is John Schneider (Toronto), Marmol, Derek Shelton (Pirates), Bud Black (Rockies) and Pedro Grifol (White Sox.)

“Last season was a total disaster as the Cardinals went 71-91 and fell to the bottom of the NL Central,” Bowden wrote. “In his two seasons in charge, Marmol has challenged 81 umpire calls and gotten 45 of them overturned, a success rate of (only) 55.6 percent.”

Bowden cited Marmol’s controversial and criticized early-season decision to bench catcher Willson Contreras, the manager’s tendency to call out players publicly instead of speaking to them in private, and the handling of rookie Jordan Walker.

“The Cardinals’ evolving analytics department probably had too much influence on Marmol,” Bowden wrote. “He was saddled with a bad pitching staff that finished with a 4.79 ERA, which ranked 24th out of the 30 teams. During the offseason, the Cardinals front office prioritized and invested heavily in starting pitching.”

Bowden’s conclusion: “Vegas has set the over/under at 84 wins this season despite the Cardinals’ 71-win campaign last year. If they are below .500 in the middle of the season, don’t be surprised if Yadier Molina is their manager come the All-Star break.”


Yes, this is how it’s going to be for the skipper in 2024. In another piece posted Friday by The Athletic, Marmol was listed at No. 2 on a list of managers under the most pressure. Writer Jayson Stark consulted a panel of 31 executives, former executives, coaches and scouts.

“The good news for the Cardinals: Our voters had mostly good things to say about an offseason in which they added Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson to their rotation — and added depth to their bullpen with Andrew Kittredge and Keynan Middleton,” Stark wrote. “The bad news for the Cardinals: Their entire rotation might be 33 or older — and we heard lots of concern about their manager, Oli Marmol, and his ability to navigate this vessel’s storms. One rival NL executive told Start the Cardinals would “be at the top of my list of teams most likely to make a change (of manager).” And that executive added, “Don’t go to sleep on the job Yadi (Molina) did managing (Puerto Rico) in the Caribbean Series.”


Heading into 2024, the Cardinals haven’t advanced to the World Series since 2013. Since then 14 different major-league teams have competed in the World Series. Three teams have played in multiple World Series – Houston (4 times), LA Dodgers (3) and Kansas City (2). And there have been single appearances by San Francisco, the NY Mets, Cleveland, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Tampa Bay and Atlanta …

Eight different teams have won the World Series since the Cardinals did it back in 2011. San Francisco, Boston and Houston each have won two World Series over that time – and single WS titles were claimed by Kansas City, the Chicago Cubs, Washington, Atlanta and Texas.

That said, even with their horrendous 71-91 season in 2023, the Cardinals have MLB’s third-best regular season winning percentage (.547) in the 12 seasons that followed their 2011 World Series triumph. Only the Dodgers (.606) and Yankees (.562) have done better since the start of the 2012 season.


Pro Football Focus rated the Mizzou star at No. 1 on a top-10 list of best returning wide receivers in 2024. “If you’re looking for the next Deebo Samuel, look no further,” PFF wrote. “Burden has similar size to the San Francisco 49ers’ star receiver, and the two are at their best with the ball in their hands. Burden’s 725 yards after the catch were third among all FBS receivers last season and his 314 receiving yards after contact were the fourth-most. Burden also displayed impressive hands and body control this past season, dropping just four of his 94 catchable targets.”


The St. Louis son made the Pro Football Focus list of the best returning college quarterbacks for 2024, slotting the Mizzou QB at No. 10. That’s impressive considering Cook’s status after a disappointing 2022 season. Cook had to beat out Sam Horn for the starting job during the 2023 camp. By the end of the last season, Cook was the heralded starter for a fantastic 11-win MU team that finished with the No. 7 ranking nationally.

“Cook took a massive leap as a passer this past season, improving his PFF passing grade to an 80.0 in 2023 after earning just a 66.7 mark the year before,” Pro Football Focus wrote. “He’s also a dangerous threat on the ground, placing 10th among Power Five quarterbacks with 1,157 rushing yards since 2022. The biggest question is whether this is who Cook is as a passer now or if he’ll regress to his sophomore form. With Missouri returning wide receivers Burden, Theo Wease Jr. and offensive coordinator Kirby Moore, it’s a safe bet that Cook will have a similarly successful senior season.”


I enjoy watching the Fighting Illini, who are ranked No. 12 nationally at Ken Pom. But I wonder about a defense that’s been burned for 80 or more points in four of the last five games. The Illini do a terrific job of defending shots; they’re a top 25 team nationally in holding opponents to a low effective field goal percentage. But the Illinois defense isn’t disruptive, and that’s a problem. The Illini currently rank 360th in the nation in the percentage of opponent possessions that end in a turnover. And they are 351st in steal percentage.


* Thomas Saggese: Can the hitting-machine rookie infielder play shortstop and become a legit option for a backup role at shortstop?

* A passel of relievers: let there be swings and misses and strikeouts.

* Dylan Carlson: can he hit the ball hard? Believe it or not, this puzzling outfield talent displayed improvement in this area during an otherwise dreary 2023. But since his first look in the majors (2020) he hasn’t really smashed the ball with authority since the start of 2021. He’s muscled some four-seam fastballs, but that isn’t enough.

* Healthy lumbar regions: Wait … What? Yes. No one wants to see another outbreak of lower back-pain for the brothers Nolan (Arenado and Gorman.)

* Masyn Winn: Will the starting shortstop put up a hitting performance that can calm the restless souls who fret over his .172 average in his late-season MLB debut?

* Jordan Walker’s improvement afield: he’s worked overtime with instructors Willie McGee and Jose Oquendo and that should pay off in 2024. We’ll get our first look this weekend.

* Tommy Edman: will his recovering wrist be ready to go by opening day? You’ll have to excuse me for ignoring the Cardinals’ anticipated timeline. They have a history of being overly optimistic in these matters.

* Zack Thompson: The Cardinals need to have the inner peace that comes with knowing that they can count on having a solid sixth starting pitcher. Matthew Liberatore is also part of this discussion.


The Tigers have a .354 winning percentage in conference games since making their SEC debut at the start of the 2012-2013 season. Frank Haith was the coach for the first two SEC seasons and MU went a respectable 20-16 in conference action. But in 10 combined seasons under coaches Kim Anderson, Cuonzo Martin and Dennis Gates, Mizzou is 54-119 in conference play for a winning percentage of .312. The last 10 seasons have produced only two winning SEC records including the 11-7 mark in Gates’ first campaign. But the Tigers have collapsed to 0-13 in the SEC in his second season. The Tigers haven’t defeated a legitimate opponent since defeating Wichita State by 10 points on Dec. 3.


The Athletic reviewed the new kits that will be sported by each MLS team in 2024. The St. Louis City “Confluence” kit wasn’t a hit.

“Inspired by the intersection of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers… and I can’t even finish typing this because I’m so exhausted by poorly-executed, over-thought kits like these,” Pablo Maurer wrote. “This thing looks like a topographical map, and not in any good way.”

Those meanies at The Athletic put the new St. Louis City SC kits in the bottom three of the MLS along with Houston and Orlando.


Writing in his newsletter, baseball analyst Joe Sheehan included the Cardinals in his assessment of the “most interesting camps” during 2024 spring training.

“The Cardinals enter camp off their worst season since 1995, their first 90-loss season since 1990 and their worst defensive performance since the 1970s,” Sheehan wrote. “Their 2023 campaign disintegrated early in a hail of line-drive doubles, assignations of blame, and lousy people management by Oli Marmol and John Mozeliak.

“It may have been the shock therapy the organization needed. The Cardinals, who for so long emphasized ground balls and pitching into the defense, are now trying to develop pitchers who miss bats. That’s not going to happen overnight. In the short term, the Cards have added a lot of potential power arms to their bullpen in Keynan Middleton, Ryan Fernandez, and Riley O’Brien. Unlike last year, when injuries and ineffectiveness exposed a lack of pitching depth, Oli Marmol has a lot of bullpen options to choose from this year.

“Show up in Jupiter by early March, and you’ll be set to see the live arms that represent the Cardinals’ future. Tink Hence and Tekoah Roby, the team’s top pitching prospects, are in camp. They’re joined by Victor Scott II, who isn’t a threat to crack a crowded outfield, but who will be fun to watch nevertheless. Scott stole 94 bases at two levels last season, and he showed more pop than your average speedster, hitting .303 with nine homers. And Jordan Walker, while no longer a prospect, comes in off a strong second half with high expectations that he’ll develop both as a hitter and outfielder.

“The camp questions are mostly about how playing time will be distributed. The Cards have some Team Pretzel options with Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan both able to play six positions. Should rookie Masyn Winn not hit enough to hold shortstop, the knock-on effects could open the door for Dylan Carlson to save his career, for Alec Burleson to start his, or for Matt Carpenter to revive his one more time.”


The former Cardinals manager is building relationships in his first spring training as manager for the San Diego Padres. He won over a Padres VIP — Fernando Tatis Jr. — when Shildt closely worked with the star during his baseball-training rehab from wrist surgery. And after being named manager in November, Shildt spent much of the offseason traveling around the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to personally visit with Padre players.

“He definitely cares,” Tatis told the San Diego Union Tribune. “I feel like he’s the right fit for us right now. He has been with us for the last two years. He has seen what’s been going on. He has a feel. He saw a little bit (of) what we were lacking, what we’re missing. I feel like he’s gonna bring that old-school baseball and be a good match with the new baseball.”

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak — who fired Shildt following the 2021 season — had good things to say about Shildty in an extensive Union-Tribune profile.

“Over that time, there was a friendship and a bond that developed,” Mozeliak told San Diego beatwriter Kevin Acee. “So to end up where we did was unfortunate. But there’s no turning back on what happened.  I am happy that he was able to get a second chance, because I do believe that people deserve that in life.”

Thanks for reading and please have a fantastic weekend.

Pardon my typos.


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.