Welcome to my place.
I call it “The Lair.”
Birthplace of The Bits.
1) Blues Lose To Nashville in OT, 4-3: Sorry, but you can’t take a 2-0 lead at home and fail to win the game. At least the Blues collected a point, but this should have been a two-point night for them … on the plus side, Jordan Kyrou had two first-period goals; he has three goals and two assists in his last five games … according to HockeyStatCard, which synthesizes all of the individual-player game metrics into one score, the Blues three best players were defensemen Calle Rosen and Justin Faulk plus Kyrou … the lowest-rated Blues player was defenseman Marco Scandella … the Blues were outscored 3-0 with defensive pairing of Scandella and Colton Parayko on the ice … pardon my bluntness, but the Parayko-Scandella pairing has been awful this season; most of that is on Scandella … goaltender Jordan Binnington didn’t have a good performance, allowing a goal from low-danger range and another from medium-danger range …
2) Blues Trends: Since going 5-0 at the start of the season the Blues are 3-2-2 in their last seven games. In the first five games the Blues outscored opponents 25-11 overall, and 15-8 at five-on-five. But during the 3-2-2 stretch, the Blues have been outscored 20-18 overall, and 13-10 at five-on-five. The injury to Brayden Schenn and the team’s Covid-19 conundrum are obvious factors. But the Blues haven’t been as strong as they need to be at five-on-five, and that’s been true since the start of the campaign. Based on shot quality and possession at five-on-five, the Blues rank 25th among the 32 teams with an expected goals-for percentage of 47%. But the bottom line is healthy; at 8-2-2 for the season the Blues rank fourth in the NHL with a points-collected percentage of .750.
3) More NFL Expansion Talk: Rumors are fun, right? Speaking to our friends Brandon Kiley and Alex Ferrario at 101 ESPN, the connected Denver sports radio host Benjamin Allbright dropped a wow-level batch of info. Here goes: The NFL is contemplating a move to an 18-game season at some point. And to set up a round-robin schedule format, the league would expand from 32 to 36 teams. Allbright said the league’s four potential expansion cities are London, Toronto, San Antonio and (you guessed right) St. Louis.
4) My comment on all of that: the NFL has floated trial balloons since St. Louis filed suit over the league’s corrupt relocation process that enabled Stan Kroenke to circumvent the rules and move the Rams to Los Angeles. But this is the most grandiose trial balloon lofted yet. The obvious interpretation: the St. Louis attorneys are kicking ass, and the NFL’s elevated anxiety is rising to an even higher level of dread. As I said earlier this week on my KFNS radio show, the reported $100 million settlement offer from Kroenke to St. Louis entities was just the latest confirmation of fear and loathing inside Kroenke headquarters. They clearly realize STL is winning. But there’s a long way to go, and if the NFL goes to trial and loses, they’ll run the verdict through the appeals process, and that won’t be a quick process.
5) What is the NFL’s intended message in the four-team expansion talk? This: Play nice, St. Louis. And if you play nice, we may have a big-cookie present for you. Just another way to angle and avoid being sacked in a courtroom. As for a team in San Antonio — um, has the league told Jerry Jones about this? The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans view San Antonio as their shared territory. As for Toronto: the Buffalo Bills are putting the squeeze on local politicians to fund a new stadium, and Toronto serves as leverage. I don’t think Bills ownership would want to give up their primary moving-location threat.
6) Speaking of Jerry Jones: This is a little old, and I apologize for that. In a recent guest appearance on the Cowboys’ flagship station 105.3 The Fan, Jones went full Pinnochio when asked about the St. Louis lawsuit.
“I can appreciate St. Louis’s concern or St. Louis’s interest in losing an NFL team,” Jones “And I see that. I know how special they are. And so it’s a product of that. I know first hand — first hand — I’m very familiar with Missouri, and I’m very familiar with how the Rams operated in Missouri.
“And Stan Kroenke’s commitment and the type of sensitivity that he had and his love for Missouri. I know all of that first hand. And it was outstanding. And so every opportunity was given for the Rams to remain in St. Louis, in my view. So having said that, hopefully this thing will seek its right level.”
7) My comments on Jerry’s comments: (A) he was the guy who moved the Rams to St. Louis, by throwing his power around and muscling the other NFL owners to approve the illegitimate relocation. (B) Jerry’s late father lived in Springfield, Mo. for decades and owned the 470-acre Exotic Animal Paradise just outside of the city. He had owned the park featuring exotic animals for a quarter-century. (C) Believe it or not — and it’s true — a young Jerry Jones lived and worked in St. Louis and sold insurance. When I knew him well, years ago, he had nothing but positive things to say about St. Louis. But that was a different time and a different Jerry. (D) When Jones talks about his boy Kroenke’s sensitivity and love for Missouri and how St. Louis had every opportunity to keep the Rams … well, please excuse me. I’m a little queasy. I have to take a break now. Need to get some wipes to clean off my laptop.
8) Prediction on South Carolina at Missouri: The Tigers are a one-point favorite, and for those interested in the over-under total, it’s 55. I plan to take the over. I’m waffling on the against-the-spread pick.
South Carolina is improving under first-year head coach Shane Beamer. After dropping 40 points, 284 rushing yards and 459 total yards on visiting Florida in their stunning 23-point win, the Gamecocks will enter CoMo with a season-high supply of confidence. And then there’s the Missouri defense that ranks 127th nationally in success rate, 127th in points allowed per possession, and 126th in allowing opposing-team offenses to score on 48% of their possessions this season. With that in mind … I’m outta my mind … because I’m taking Missouri and laying the point. Why? The Tigers, by their standards, were good against the run at Georgia last Saturday. And if South Carolina has to throw the ball, Missouri should be able to make enough stops to rustle a win. (I’m regretting the pick already. But I’m locking it in.)
9) If John Mozeliak believes Paul DeJong hasn’t gotten a fair shake and will improve offensively next season, the view is probably based on a couple of things: DeJ’s ridiculously low .216 batting average on balls in play last season; that ranked last among 188 hitters that had at least 400 plate appearances in 2021. The overall MLB average on balls in play was .292 last season. No question, DeJong had terrible batted-ball luck in ‘21, and that should normalize to some extent going forward. Also, despite his dreary overall numbers in 2021, DeJong posted a career-best 10.6% barrel percentage. For what it’s worth the Steamer system projects DeJong for a .744 OPS next season; that would put him at his 2018 performance. And Steamer projects that DeJong will be three percent above league average offensively in 2022. (Based on park-and-league adjusted runs created That isn’t great, but the 103 wRC+ would match his 2018 season, when he slugged .433 with 25 doubles, 19 homers and 68 RBIs in 490 plate appearances.
Those numbers would have been better, but DeJong suffered a broken hand when struck by a pitch on May 17. At the time he was doing very well, with a .351 onbase percentage and .473 slug for a .824 OPS. But DeJong lacked strength and flexibility in the hand after returning on July 6. And he wasn’t the same hitter, declining to a .292 OBP, .413 slug and .705 OPS in his final 72 games.
10) Scattershooting. One BIG paragraph: Lefthanded reliever Brett Cecil announced his retirement on Instagram this week. The Cardinals signed him to a four-year, $30.5 million free-agent contract before the 2017. season. It didn’t go well or end well. Cecil pitched 100 innings over the first two years of the contract, posting a 4.86 ERA. That includes a 6.89 ERA in 2018. And Cecil never pitched again, becoming a non-factor over the final two years of his contract — with many injuries cited as the reason. The Cardinals cut him before the start of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the final year of his deal. Cecil thanked the Cardinals in his farewell message “for the opportunity to put the birds on the bat over my chest and experience all the history that came with it,” … Tim Healey of New York Newsday reported that the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cardinals and Angels are among the teams pursuing free-agent lefty starter Steven Matz. He’s good when he can stay healthy … the Blues are No. 8 in this week’s power rankings at ESPN … The Cardinals’ front office did a good job of identifying pitchers that profiled as potential bounce-back candidates last season: Wade LeBlanc, J.A. Happ, Jon Lester, Luis Garcia, T.J. McFarland. So perhaps we’ll see Mozeliak and GM Michael Girsch find another turnaround type of pitcher at a lower cost. The make Yosei Kikuchi is floating around, and yes, he’s in need of a bounce back … After the All-Star break in 2021, the Seattle lefthander had a 5.82 ERA, 5.02 FIP, and allowed a .301 average, .377 OBP, .533 slug and .910 OPS. And his second-half walk rate was a too-high 9.3% …sorry if this ruins your late lunch but NFL owners recently approved of a two-year, $128 million contract extension for Roger Goodell. That’s right: the NFL commissioner will be paid $64 million per year. Is he worth it? The NFL owners think so for obvious reasons …if the Cardinals are interested in free-agent starter Alex Cobb, am I supposed to be excited? Beware of the injuries. He pitched 12 innings in 2019, then 52 innings (which isn’t bad) in 2020, and had 93 IP and a 3.76 ERA in 2021. If Cobb can stay healthy, he brings a couple of nice things to the arena including a low walk rate and a high ground-ball rate … MLB insiders believe there’s a good chance that Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns will leave the Brewers after his contract expires at the end of the 2022 season. Destination? The New York Mets. Stearns is a New Yorker who grew up as a Mets fan and once interned in the team’s front office …The Arizona Diamondbacks have hired former Cardinal outfielder Peter Bourjos to work as a minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator. Bourjos is still only 34 years old … Albert Pujols, who turns 42 in January, is playing in the Dominican Winter League for Leones del Escogido. MLB.com reports that Pujols has driven in the winning run in two of his team’s six victories …
IT’S CLOSING TIME AT THE LAIR: In a state-of-recruiting piece written by David Ubben at The Athletic, Mizzou football coach Eli Drinkwitz received glowing reviews from high school coaches in St. Louis, Kansas City and elsewhere in the state. Here’s a sampling of comments:
— “He’s a little more outgoing than what we’ve seen from coach (Barry) Odom and coach (Gary) Pinkel. Pinkel, early on did a good job of establishing a culture and a system that kind of fed players. The Gary Pinkel tenure is one of the most proud times in the program, but Drinkwitz is more outgoing and has a high-level energy and relates to the kids in a way that maybe coach Odom’s staff lacked a little bit. That’s paying off for them.”
— “The way Drink does it now, he understands the climate and what kids need and want and how recruiting has evolved. He’s been really ahead of the game.”
— “The change (with Missouri) has been him. I would almost say he’s his own director of recruiting, like he’s the lead recruiter himself.
— “Just the visibility and accessibility. From the time he’s gotten hired, he’s spoken to high school coaches. A greater presence and more active on social media is another thing that Mizzou and coach Drink are doing really well.”
— “It’s a genuine relationship. It’s genuine, personality-wise and him getting to know you, taking interest in your program and what’s coming.”
Have a great weekend!
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
The “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is available at 590thefan.com
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz