It’s Friday afternoon … which means it is time for


Hitting some fungoes …

— Sure, the Blues should deal Pavel Buchnevich at the NHL trade deadline if (a) they receive an attractive offer, and (b) they aren’t fully confident about signing Buchnevich to a contract extension that goes beyond next season. Or I guess (c) the Blues can be delusional if they’d like. Buchnevich turns 29 in April. If the Blues sign him to an exorbitant long-term contract, GM Doug Armstrong will add yet another big contract the Blues will regret as Buchnevich ages.

Since the calendar turned to 2024, Missouri and St. Louis U have a combined 3-27 record in men’s college basketball. Good grief. And all three wins were notched by SLU. (Bragging rights?) Missouri is 0-15 in the new year.

Guilty pleasure: the second season of Tokyo Vice on MAX.

Current albums of choice: “Daniel,” the new release from Real Estate … “Polaroid Lovers” the new release by Sarah Jarosz … I’m going through a Marvin Gaye phase … my Brian Wilson playlist is getting a workout.

This is scenario is highly unlikely, but … if Tommy Edman (wrist) isn’t a full go early in the regular season, I want Victor Scott in center field.

Latest food-craving happiness: banana and peanut butter protein shakes. Just one a day. Hey, it’s healthier than a bag of chips.

Reason I stayed up so late the last couple of nights: watching the “best of” the late comedian/actor Richard Lewis on David Letterman. A lot of great stuff can be found on Lewis on YouTube. This neurotic loved Lewis the neurotic on the late-night shows.

Did any of you watch the Big 10 men’s basketball game between Minnesota and Illinois this week? The Illini won 105-97. The teams combined to make 60.6 percent of their shots from the field including 54.5% from three-point distance. There were only nine turnovers (total) in 40 minutes of play. No defense. It was an ABA game! Coach Brad Underwood’s team is talented and wonderfully entertaining, but I’m fretting over the Illini’s defense. Illinois has allowed at least 80 points in six of its last seven games. And according to the metrics at Bart Torvik, Illinois ranks last in the conference and No. 265 nationally defensive efficiency since Feb. 4. The good news? The Illini are ranked No. 1 in the conference and No. 1 in the nation in offensive efficiency over the same stretch of games. Bring back those red-white-blue ABA basketballs for the Illini!

I’m feeling it more and more … pitching prospect Gordon Graceffo will be a surprise for the Cardinals in 2024. He’s healthy and throwing at full throttle.

If there’s no room for him on the opening 26-man roster, Alec Burleson will not go down quietly.

Happy birthday (Saturday March 2) to Adolis Garcia, Johan Oviedo, Bud Norris, Wilking Rodriguez, Ron Gant, and Junior Fernandez. And also to the late Mort Cooper, the outstanding pitcher who was posthumously inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2019.


SIX INNINGS. A BIG KEY TO SUCCESS: Last season the Cardinals had a starting pitcher go six innings or more in 60 games. The team had a .583 winning percentage in those starts. When a starter lasted fewer than six innings in a start, the team’s winning percentage was .353. The 2024 rotation has four pitchers that combined for 76 starts of 6+ innings last season: Miles Mikolas (21), Sonny Gray (19), Kyle Gibson (19) and Lance Lynn (17). When the foursome provided at least six innings in an assignment, their teams went 47-29 for a .618 winning percentage. The 2023 Cardinals did well when Mikolas and other STL starters pushed through six innings or deeper. But the Redbirds didn’t have enough of those starts.

That should change – significantly – in 2024. If Mikolas, Gray, Gibson and Lynn can match their2023 totals of 6+ starts, the 2024 Cardinals would already have 16 more 6+ inning starts than they did a year ago. And that doesn’t include Steven Matz, Zack Thompson, Matthew Liberatore or others who start games for St. Louis this coming season.

Last season the 12 major-league teams that qualified for the playoffs averaged 72 starts of 6+ innings and had a .692 winning percentage in those games. As we mentioned the Cardinals now have four starters in place who combined for 76 starts of 6+ innings last season. That’s meaningful.

BLUE NOTE$: Blues captain Brayden Schenn didn’t score a goal during the first 11 games of the season. He later went 16 consecutive games without scoring, a cold streak that lasted a month and ended Jan. 6. Schenn is now stuck in another rut, with no goals in 11 straight games. For Schenn, that’s three different scoreless streaks of 11 games or more this season. He’s averaged 0.59 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 over the last two seasons. Schenn, 32, is making $8 million this season. And starting next season, he’ll be paid $30.8 million over the next four seasons, through the 2027-2028 campaign. Schenn will be 36 in the final season of his contract …

Through Thursday night, 3,063 goals had been scored in the NHL since Dec. 19. Blues forward Kevin Hayes has one of them. He’s banked one goal in his last 29 games. He has only two goals in 30 road games and his last road goal came way back on Nov. 26. The Blues are paying Hayes $6.5 million this season and will owe him $8 million (total) over the next two seasons. Nice.

THE VALUE OF LEADERSHIP: The Cardinals wanted to put better leadership in the clubhouse after last season’s smashup. They did something about it by adding respected leaders Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, Matt Carpenter and Brandon Crawford to the roster. How important is leadership at the player level?

“Some of it is organic, but ultimately player-driven teams are the best teams in my opinion,” first-year Cubs manager Craig Counsell said.

Counsell should know. As Milwaukee’s manager his underfunded Brewers won more regular-season games than the division-rival Cardinals and Cubs from 2017 through 2023.

Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson had a lot of good things to say on the subject based on his experiences in Atlanta and Chicago.

“All good teams have a very close bond and are able to develop relationships,” Swanson told The Athletic “It’s an ever-evolving thing. You could have the exact same team but there’s still so much growth and development. Guys are at different points in their lives. Guys may be in a contract year, first-year arbitration, first full year in the big leagues or myself, eighth season. It’s almost like in marriage. You’re not trying to recapture something, you’re evolving together. That’s how I see a team. Everyone is in a different spot and we’re all here to get better and become the best we can be as a group.”

BEST MISSOURI QUARTERBACKS? In his ranking of the Top 80 college football quarterbacks, ESPN’s Bill Connelly’s list included two Mizzou QBs: Brad Smith at No. 72, and Chase Daniel at No. 39. “One of the most accurate spread quarterbacks of his era, Daniel drove Mizzou to a brief No. 1-ranking for just the second time ever, finished fourth in the 2007 Heisman voting and delivered a top-five finish and two division titles for a program starving for such success,” … Connelly’s top five: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (1), Auburn’s Cam Newton (2), Texas’ Vince Young (3), Florida’s Tim Tebow (4) and LSU’s Joe Burrow (5) … former St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford – the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft – was 15th in the Connelly rankings.

DOOM AND GLOOM! doesn’t think much of the Cardinals’ planned 2024 rotation. On a scale of 1-to-10 writer Brian Murphy gave the Cardinals a high concern level of 9. The usual surface-level logic applied.

“The Cardinals’ starters turned in a 5.08 ERA last season, the franchise’s highest since 1913 when earned runs became an official stat in both leagues,” Murphy wrote. “The club responded by overhauling the look of its rotation, signing Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. But it’s fair to wonder if this group will be good enough for the Cards to win their division as FanGraphs projects. Lynn, Gibson and Miles Mikolas — all of whom are at least 35 years old — had an expected ERA of 4.80 or worse last year.” … Murphy also worries over Gray’s capability of repeating his strong 2023 season at age 34.”

In Murphy’s defense, FanGraphs projects 11.7 WAR for St. Louis starting pitching in 2024 which ranks 21st among the 30 teams. On the other hand, the ZiPS forecast has all four of the five declared STL starters pitching to a lower ERA in 2024. The only exception is Matz, but the slight projected increase isn’t anything worth talking about. The projected average ERA of the five starters is 4.17. That would have ranked 12th in the majors in 2023. The top priority is innings, and four of the five should provide that. With Matz it’s a question of health but the Cardinals (and Matz) are taking a smarter approach this spring.

I suppose I’m one of the few optimists out here who believes the Cardinals rotation will exceed expectations in 2024. They’ll be solid. But yeah, I agree, that blows up if injuries tear this rotation apart. That’s always a concern. And it also applies to all 30 teams.

Last season pitchers age 34 through 38 made a combined 465 starts and lasted at least five innings in 75 percent of their outings. And the old guys covered at least six innings in 45.3% of their starts.

WATCH THE CARDINALS: This, from David Schoenfield of ESPN: “Keep an eye on: St. Louis Cardinals. Coming off their first losing season since 2007, the Cardinals aren’t exactly a deep sleeper, but improving from 71 wins to the playoffs is no easy task, no matter your franchise history. Jordan Walker is an obvious breakout candidate after a solid rookie season, if he can learn to tap into his raw power and clean up his atrocious defense in right field. Rookie shortstop Masyn Winn is a work in progress at the plate, but he’ll improve the team’s defense. And don’t be surprised if Lars Nootbaar finally puts it all together and improves from 3.3 WAR to the 5.0 range.”

OBLIGATORY UPDATE ON TYLER O’NEILL: The former Cardinals outfielder is settling in during his first camp with the Boston Red Sox. “He moves in the outfield,” manager Alex Cora told reporters. “He brings an edge to the lineup,” … Red Sox media are asking O’Neill a lot of questions about his passion for weight lifting and his extensive list of injuries. “You live and you learn,” O’Neill said. “I can’t get away from the weight room. It’s who I am. It’s my identity. I need to be in there. It gets me right. It gets me going. But as you get a little older, things have to be modified. You can’t just go in there and lift heavy anymore like I used to,” … through Thursday, O’Neill had two hits in nine at-bats with a walk, two strikeouts and three runs scored.

TOOTING FOR NOOT: Ryan Boyer of Baseball Prospectus put Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar on his short list of top rebound candidates for 2024. “Nootbaar was a popular breakout pick heading into last season, which may be why his year felt like a bit of a letdown,” Boyer wrote. “The batted-ball data clearly took a step back … he also struggled to stay healthy, making three separate trips to the injured list with thumb, back and groin issues.

“Still, I can’t help but feel there could be more in the tank from Nootbaar,” Boyer continued. “He has an elite command of the strike zone, boasting a walk rate in the 95th percentile, a whiff rate in the 88th percentile and a chase rate in the 98th percentile. He also showed in 2022 that he is capable of well above average quality of contact. That all regressed in 2023, and so did his flyball rate and pull rate … Nootbaar is probably never going to be a prolific power hitter, but he was on roughly a 20-homer pace for a full season in 2023 and that’s with a downturn in batted-ball data. If he can stay healthy in 2024 and his quality of contact returns at least close to 2022 levels, 25-plus dingers seems well within reach. Nootbaar would also be a candidate for 100-plus runs scored if he hits in the top-third of the Cardinals’ batting order.”

J. TATUM CHECK-IN: Our Town’s Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics are having one of the most dominant regular seasons in franchise history. They’re the No. 1 team in the NBA, standing at 46-12 for a .793 winning percentage. Only two Celtics teams had a higher winning percentage through the first 58 games of a season, and both went on to win the NBA Championship in 1964-65 (.828) and 1985-86 (.810.) The 2007-2008 Boston team that won the NBA title was also 46-12 through 58 games. Winning the championship is the standard, so the pressure is on Tatum and teammates. The Celtics have won nine in a row and are 17-3 since Jan. 13. They’re 15-1 against Atlantic division rivals, 33-6 vs. Eastern Conference challengers and have lost only three of 30 home games so far. If it holds up, the average margin of victory (10.43 points) for the current Celtics would be the best in franchise history. Tatum is leading the way by averaging 27 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

BOLD TALK FROM REDS CAMP: “This is the year we’re going to be a playoff team” Cincinnati second baseman Jonathan India told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “We all know it. We just missed the playoffs by two games last year. We’re not going to miss it again. We’ve got more energy. We’ve more confidence. And a lot of us have a chip on our shoulder. We’re going to win the division this year.”

OUTSIDE VIEW OF ST. LOUIS CITY SC: has St. Louis City SC at No. 13 in this week’s power rankings. City was No. 11 going into the season. “All told, St. Louis seem like a prime candidate to be a team that actually plays better than the previous season but catches fewer breaks,” J. Sam Jones wrote. “They could be improved and end up not matching their 2023 point total (56 points).”

MISSING BRANDON CRAWFORD: Giants fans really loved this guy, who played more games at shortstop than any player in franchise history. He also won four Gold Gloves, made three All-Star teams and was a major reason for San Francisco’s World Series titles in 2012 and 2014. Crawford is a Cardinal, but his popularity will be eternal among Giants fans.

Wrote Brady Klopfer of the McCovey’s Cove blog: “Farewell, sweet prince. We knew there was a chance that it would happen. And now it has, indeed, happened. The greatest shortstop in San Francisco Giants history — a man who had a nearly perfectly-written script — will play baseball for a team not affiliated with the Giants for the first time since suiting up for UCLA in 2008. Yes, Brandon Crawford is moving on, as he’s signing a deal with the Cardinals …

“It’s going to be very hard and very weird to see, but I want to make it clear that we should all be happy. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to barf, barf. If you need a beer, grab a beer. But while it slightly damages our happily ever after, it’s the continuation of Crawford’s. He wanted to keep playing. It wasn’t going to happen on the Giants. Now he gets to do so. We should all be very happy for him, even if deep down you wish that what he wanted was to retire and go enjoy rural Arizona with his great playlists and adorable kids.”

MOVING UP IN THE CHARTS: “In his new first-round mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Mizzou defensive lineman Darius Robinson going to the Arizona Cardinals with the 27th overall pick. “I moved Robinson into my Big Board after the Senior Bowl in early February,” Kiper wrote. “He was one of the best prospects during practices, showing lightning-quick get-off at the snap and power in one-on-one pass-rush drills, all at 286 pounds. And when I went back to study his 2023 tape, you can see his performance was no fluke.”

Thanks for reading …

Have a fantastic weekend …


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. A new Seeing Red for you on Monday, March 4.

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