1. Oli Marmol is preparing for this third year as manager of the Cardinals. But Oli’s contract expires after the 2024 season, and I’d be a little surprised if the team lets him wander into a lame-duck season. That would work against Marmol’s fervent desire to improve a clubhouse culture that had a bad twist in 2023. The 91-loss team lacked intensity. Too many dudes were unaffected by losing. A few others – such as third baseman Nolan Arenado – were too miserable to influence a positive change. It was just one of those years. If Marmol doesn’t receive an extension before the start of the 2024 regular season, it can be interpreted in a number of ways.
But here’s what I think: president of baseball operations John Mozeliak is trying to restore accountability. The early free-agent signings reflected Mozeliak’s urgency to change. If Mozeliak applies accountability to himself, then he certainly will apply it to the manager. Personally, I believe Marmol will learn from the hardcore, humbling hardship experience of 2023. I believe he will grow from it.
2. The Cardinals have enhanced their leadership by hiring Daniel Descalso as bench coach and moving Joe McEwing to an unspecified role in the organization. It’s nothing against Super Joe. It’s more about what the Cardinals need – and what Descalso can do for them. Descalso is very smart. He has an edge to him. He was influenced by his first big-league manager, Tong La Russa. In the La Russa way, Descalso will be more aggressive about challenging – and helping – players.
3. As TLR once said about Descalso: “He’s one of my all-time favorites because he’s a winning player. He has guts. Just a real gamer who will do anything to help his team win, plus he’s a terrific teammate.”
4. Descalso is following a Skip Schumaker trajectory. Former Cardinal. A La Russa guy. Never the most talented guy on the team – but just as resourceful and competitive as anyone. Respected for his commitment and toughness. And now he’ll be a bench coach for the Cardinals – just as Schumaker was in 2022 before the Marlins hired him as their manager before the 2023 season. Schumacher led the Marlins to the playoffs and was voted NL Manager of the Year.
5. Descalso is so intelligent he could also serve the Cardinals in an important front–office capacity. Descalso was working in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office when the Cardinals brought him home to handle the role of top advisor to Marmol.
6. And then there’s Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. Descalso played two seasons in Arizona, and Luvollo thought so highly of Descalso he told the infielder to manage the team the day after the 2017 D-backs clinched a wild-card spot. “He has a thorough understanding of the game and each player,” Lovullo said at the time.
7. When Descalso played for the Cubs in his final MLB season (2019) Joe Maddon called him “an under the radar guy who makes a difference with his presence. He’s been a respected player on winning teams and that registers with other players.”
8. Descalso had huge, timely hits for the Cardinals. I’m referring to the famous 2011 World Series Game 6 and in the decisive comeback victory at Washington in Game 5 of the NLDS. Descalso competed in 48 major-league postseason games – the first 44 with the Cardinals from 2011 through 2014. Descalso came off the bench late in Game 6 and went 2 for 2 against Texas with two runs scored. In the five-game 2012 NLDS against Washington, Descalso batted .316 in 22 at-bats and popped two homers with six RBI. Winner.
– I’m tired of the Baseball Winter Meetings. What an incredible waste of time and expense. MLB is hopelessly outdated when it comes to using the offseason to spark excitement and strengthen the game’s brand. The other major sports have free-agent offseason frenzies and big trades that happen in a rush to energize fans and leave them buzzing for weeks. This non-event in Nashville is a winter’s nap – and yet another wasted opportunity. In a related note: I don’t care about Ohtani and where he chooses to sign.
– Before the start of the meetings Jeff Jones – who does a good job covering the Cardinals for the Belleville News Democrat – wrote that the Cards were a “serious suitor” for the 25-year-old Japanese pitching phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto. I hope he’s right. That would be a helluva scoop by Jonesie.
– St. Louis Kyren Williams, a Vianney alum, is having a terrific bounce-back return for the Los Angeles Rams. The former Notre Dame running back emerged from injured reserve in Week 12, and went over 200 yards from scrimmage in a win against Arizona. And on Sunday, Williams did well against Cleveland’s top-ranked defense by rushing for 88 yards and adding 24 yards receiving with one touchdown. In eight games this season Williams has rushed for 687 yards on 124 carries, averaging 5.13 yards per attempt. He’s also caught 22 passes for 190 yards. In all, Williams has 10 touchdowns from scrimmage for the Rams and has delivered a big impact when healthy.
– Among NFL running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts this season, Williams ranks No. 1 in Expected Points Added (EPA) overall, is first in EPA per rushing attempt, is first in “boom” plays that go for a big gain, is second in average yards rushing per game, and is fourth in average yards per run. Outstanding!
– What’s happened to Saint Louis U. basketball, and what does it mean for coach Travis Ford? Going into Wednesday night’s home game vs. Drake, the Billikens are rated at No. 216 in the nation by Ken Pomeroy’s metrics-based system.
– Jordan Kyrou: 24 games into the season, the Blues’ forward remains stuck on four goals. He hasn’t scored since the team’s 14th game. All of Kyrou’s goals have been deposited in even-strength situations and he should have more.
– For Kyrou the opportunities are there; only four NHL forwards have more even-strength shots on goal than Kyrou’s 74. The scoring shortage is more glaring when we consider the rate stats: Kyrou is averaging 12.12 even-strength shots on goal per 60 minutes, and the only NHL forwards to top that are Nikita Kucherov (13.52) and David Pastrnak (13.09.)
– Despite Kyrou’s bountiful opportunities, his four goals are tied for 138th among NHL forwards this season. Only 5.41 percent of Kyrou’s shots on goal have resulted in a score; that poor low rate has him 163rd among 178 league forwards that have clocked a minimum of 300 minutes at even strength. Kyrou is in the first season of an eight-year contract that will pay him $65 million.
Thanks for reading …
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 access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
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