BERNIE BITS 

1–The Blues are at Vegas, and say hello to Alex Pietrangelo. As Las Vegas reunions go, this isn’t exactly Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, and yeah I used an ancient entertainment reference because I can, and I like it. The longtime Blues captain is in his early days with the Golden Knights, keeping busy with a display of all-purpose, all-around, total-hockey excellence that we saw in St. Louis for 12 seasons. I have no interest in litigating the contract kerfuffle that led to The Family Petro taking up residence in their own Las Vegas castle. The Blues offered a generous contract. Pietrangelo accepted another team’s generous contract instead. 

Pietrangelo claims to still love St. Louis, and though I believe him, he didn’t love it enough to stay. (His apologists can continue to babble about a dispute over a “no movement” contract clause. Great. I think that’s boring and irrelevant and I’ll pass on that. What, am I supposed to call Amnesty International?) 

And you know what? It doesn’t matter. I’m good with whatever Pietrangelo wanted to do. It’s his  life, his career, his decision. As a fan, I’m grateful for his elite play as a Blue, and it was enjoyable to watch him grow up here. We’ll always have 2019 and the Stanley Cup, and that means having positive overall feelings about Petro for the rest of our days. 

The Blues will have other contracts to deal with in the near future, so we’ll have more chances to skate around in circles again, arguing over the merits of one massive offer compared to another massive offer … and taking sides as if the next free-agent player’s health and life are at risk if Doug Armstrong offers a little less cash than another franchise. 

Frankly I’m much more interested in how the Blues will perform in their two-game set in LV. 

That and avoiding The Covid. 

Pietrangelo? Nothing to worry about. He has a wonderful life, and even though much of the local media is still in a bizarrely intense freak-out mode over the Blues’ 3-2-1 start, the Blues will somehow manage to stay in business, and mauve even win another game or two over the next few months. (Sarcasm alert. But still … to the people having convulsions over the 3-2-1 start … I assume you’ve forgotten about 2019? 

2–Will Scott Rolen get the necessary 75 percent of the votes cast to gain induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame? The results will be announced at 5 p.m. (or so) St. Louis time. I’ve presented the obvious case for Rolen’s Cooperstown-bound worthiness, but the voters are awfully finicky, just like the annoying people that take 25 minutes to select a few tomatoes at a crowded market, boxing other shoppers out like Nate Thurmond under the basket. (Google him, kids.) All I know is this: Among third basemen that played the position long enough to accrue 7,500 plate a[ppearances, Rolen ranks third in WAR Runs Fielding, and he’s sixth in OPS. 

When you’re the third-best defender and sixth-best hitter at your position in baseball history — this makes you a Hall of Famer. When you are only one of two third basemen in big-league history with the combination of 300+ home runs and at eight-plus Gold Gloves — Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen — that’s a Hall of Famer. When you are one of only seven third basemen in MLB history to post a minimum of 300 homers and a 120 OPS+, that’s a plaque in Cooperstown.

At the very least, Rolen will likely move into the 60-to-65 percent range in this year’s voting; he’s getting to Cooperstown soon … if not this time, then maybe next year. But the more I’ve studied this — and considered the weak overall ballot — I don’t understand why writers would decline to vote for Rolen this year. Then again: Same as it ever was. Don’t even bother to figure this out. 

3–Saint Louis U reenters the college basketball scene this evening, facing Dayton at Chaifetz Arena. Will this be the same team? Let the mystery begin. The Billikens haven’t played a game since Dec. 23, and the dreaded Covid layoff will complicate the remainder of their season.  There is so much to like about Coach Travis Ford’s team. When the basketballs were deflated, the Billikens were 7-1 and ranked 40th nationally (at KenPom) in offensive efficiency, 39th in defensive efficiency, 15th in effective field goal percentage, 7th in three-point shooting percentage, and 6th in offensive rebound percentage. That’s an impressive profile; nothing  fluky or random about it. Ford had mix-mastered a blend of seniors and developing players, and SLU was on the rise. Now what? They’re still ranked in the AP Top 25,  are ranked 20th in the NET ratings, and KenPom has them at No. 35. 

Now what? First, the return. Second, the restoration project … getting this team up to speed as fast as possible. And more than anything: health, health. Welcome back, Billikens.

“Well, you know, Travis has done a great job with that program,” ESPN’s Dick Vitale told me on my 590 The Fan, KFNS show. “They haven’t played since Dec. 23 and that is a big loss — rhythm wise timing wise. I’m glad they’re back. I’m sure the kids are all excited about getting going again. They have some good players, and they had some good wins early.” 

Vitale then told a story about Clemson’s team, which impressed him by rolling through a tough early schedule. But after beating N.C. State to improve to 9-1 and moving up to No. 18 nationally at KenPom, Clemson was shut down by Covid. The Tigers missed 11 days. Since resuming, Clemson has lost three straight games. The average margin of defeat is eye-opening: 24 points. Coach Brad Brownwell explained the Covid-related challenge to Vitale. 

“He attributed it to the fact that the legs, the rhythm, the timing, all of that really is affected,” Vitale said. “So now you’re asking about a (SLU) club that’s been out a month. I don’t know. I mean, it’s very difficult to put a finger on it, nobody can be an expert about it, but let’s put it this way — I don’t think it’s a positive.”

MY CONVO WITH CUONZO

Yes, the 73-64 win at Tennessee meant a lot to Missouri basketball coach Cuonzo Martin. It was a boost for his team. And it may have even been a boost to his morale, given that he was fired by Tennessee after enduring harsh criticism by Vols’ fans. 

“Well, really, you put it all behind you man,” Martin told me on my 590 The Fan KFNS radio show. “And I try to do my job to the best of my ability.  I’ll try to give you what you need Bernie but really at the end of the day, I’ve always looked at like as I’m hired to do a job so do the job to the best of my abilities if it doesn’t work then you move on. Shake hands you move on. 

“In that case I felt like I took over a tough situation. (Note: A reference to scandal and turmoil inside the Tennessee program.)  I was following the guy (coach Bruce Pearl)  that had success on the floor and I couldn’t understand why the fans didn’t really appreciate what we were trying to do, especially when we talk about operating with integrity and character doing it the right way, making sure guys will successful on and off the court. Well, what I had to come to grips with is, just because I believe that it doesn’t necessarily mean everybody else believes in that. 

“So, for me it’s  to do the job to the best of my ability stick to what I believe in. Make sure the student athletes get everything this is supposed to get out of experience and let the chips fall they may. Now, we’re talking about my experience I learned a lot there, I did. 

“And I’ve always known that on the surface that this is a business. They helped make me understand this business, and that’s what it is. And so, when I left that place out of true appreciation for what it is. It’s all business, not personal, and my family’s the most important thing in any decision I make whenever I make it so that part is clear to me.

“Now, yeah was gratifying (to win Saturday at Tennessee.) And hopefully we’re done with that. And for me, I think it was gratifying first because of (Tennessee coach) Rick Barnes and the man he is. If I had to name 10 guys in the profession that I respect, he’s one of them. And I said that before that game and after that game. I’ve always respected the way he’s went about his business.

“So that took away anything from the standpoint of negativity like it’s a street fight and you’re battling. That took it away because of my respect for him and how I talk to him outside of the game itself.

“At the end of the day, whatever happened or didn’t happen when they look up (at Tennessee), every time they look up those banners, they’ll see a Sweet 16, I was a part of that team. So however they want to look at it, I was a part of that. and I’ll leave it at that.” 

I asked Martin about the way Mizzou has been treated in some of the national  polls and rankings. For example: after winning two games last week, including the wire-to-wire victory at Tennessee, why did the Tigers show up at No. 23 in the NCAA Net Rankings? They were 23rd before beating South Carolina and Tennessee. Were the wins worth anything? Tennessee was No. 11 in the NET ratings when Mizzou came to Knoxville for the game. Moreover the Tigers are 5-1 against “Quad 1” competition. (The best competition.) As of Monday only Gonzaga (6-0) had a better Quad 1 mark than Mizzou … No. 23 Mizzou. Huh? 

“Well, there are a lot of things I could truly say that if we were hanging out in my backyard we could talk,” Martin told me. “Bernie it’s simply this, man. There are a lot of backdoor deals, side deals, buddy deals. ‘I’ll take care of you, and you take care of me.’ That’s part of it. That’s why our profession in college basketball is where it is. And there’s so much corruption, there’s no honor and respect at the level it needs to be. 

“So all that stuff goes on behind the scenes so it doesn’t surprise me. But what I’ll do is always fight my players and let the chips fall where they may. But other than that I don’t get consumed with it because you look at you look at how that thing moves is always shaky and I’m not going to consume myself with it.”

Well, at least there’s some extra motivation — right? 

Not that Coach Martin is lacking motivation. 

“Rest assured, every time I leave the house I got boxing gloves on,” Martin said. “So that’ll never change.” 

READING TIME 5 MINUTES 

Wait a minute … people actually still pay good money to watch Conor McGregor  fail to compete in UFC? God Bless America. The economy must be better than I thought. 

Even if you aren’t the PBS type, I highly recommend the new series “All Creatures, Great and Small.” And no it has nothing to do with the Blues’ defensive pairing of Colton Parayko and Torey Krug.

I looked at the even-strength numbers for each line formed and used by Blues coach Craig Berube. I’ll list them in order of most playing time to see who’s been good or bad or somewhere in between. And when I cite the Corsi percentage, it’s the percentage of shot attempts (on goal or not) that each line has produced compared to their opponents on ice. Anything above 50% is solid or good. 

Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kyrou: 38 minutes and 24 seconds; Corsi rating of 61.8%. 

David Perron, Ryan O’Reilly, Zach Sanford: 36 minutes 12 seconds; Corsi rating of 47.6. They’ve been outscored 4-1. 

Mike Hoffman, Tyler Bozak, Robert Thomas: 26 minutes 11 seconds. A Corsi rating of 38.2% … despite that they’ve outscored opponents by two goals. But with such a poor Corsi, that goals-advantage won’t last. 

Kyle Clifford, Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev: 23 minutes; a Corsi rating of 32.1%. 

Perron, O’Reilly, Schenn:  20 minutes, 27 seconds; Corsi rating of 35.3%. 

Bozak, Kyrou, Sanford: 13 minutes 12 seconds; Corsi rating of 52.4%. 

Schwartz, Sundqvist, Sanford: 10 minutes 29 seconds; a Corsi rating of 65.4. In shots on goal, they’ve blanked the other side 9-0 and have outscored them 2-0. 

Though the ice time is under 10 minutes for each of next batch of lines, here’s a quick look at some positive combinations … even if they played a lot together:  

Clifford, Barbashev and Sammy Blais: 71.4% Corsi.

Perron, Schenn and Schwartz: 70% Corsi.

Sundqvist, Barbashev, Blais: 70% Corsi. 

Hoffman, O’Reilly, Perron:  62.5% Corsi. 

Schenn, Schwartz, Thomas: 20% Corsi.  

Thanks for reading The Bits … 

–Bernie 

Listen to Bernie’s sports-talk radio show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS, Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. Listen online or download The Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app is available at your preferred app store. 

Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.