Leading Off …
One positive from the otherwise incoherent Baseball Hall of Fame voting for 2022: Scott Rolen is closing in on the mandatory minimum of receiving checkmarks on 75% of the ballots.
Of course, most of you know that already. I’m not presenting any new bottom-line information here. But the pattern – the rise of Rolen – is worth talking about:
– For the third consecutive year, no returning player on the ballot made a more substantial leap than Rolen. After picking up 17.2 percent in his second year on the ballot, Rolen reached 35.3% in 2020, then 59.2% in ‘21, and 63.2% this year.
– As Jayson Stark (The Athletic) pointed out, Rolen’s climb above 60% in his fifth year on the ballot all but guarantees induction. In the modern voting format, every player that scaled 60% or higher in the voting by Year Five has been elected into Cooperstown.
– The 2023 ballot provides a wide opening for Rolen to scoot into the Hall of Fame. The most notable newcomer to the process in ‘23 is Carlos Beltrán. He has the statistical bonafides to warrant selection but may be hurt by his significant role in Houston’s 2017 sign-stealing scandal. Other first-time eligibles include closer Francisco Rodríguez (fourth all-time in saves.) Other names are notable but won’t be elected: Matt Cain, John Lackey, Huston Street, Jered Weaver, R.A. Dickey, Andre Ethier, Carlos Ruiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jhonny Peralta, Jayson Werth, Mike Napoli, Ubaldo Jimenez and Glen Perkins. They’re non-factors in the deliberations.
– Returning candidates will receive increased voting support in 2023. That list is led by two players – first baseman Todd Helton (52%) and closer Billy Wagner (51%) – who ranked second and third behind Rolen for most votes gained in 2022. Other returning risers include outfielders Andruw Jones (41.4%) and Gary Sheffield (40.6%).
– Rolen, clearly, is in the lead position going into the 2023 process. Unless too many voters do something flaky – like Mark Saxon bizarrely dropping Rolen from his 2022 ballot after previously supporting him – I’m assuming the former Cardinals third baseman is standing on third, with a good chance of scoring.
Excluding Paul Molitor, who played 47 percent of his MLB games at spots other than 3B – Rolen ranks 9th in career WAR among third basemen.
If we’d slot Rolen in with the 12 Hall of Fame third basemen that had at least 5,000 career plate appearances at the position, he’d rank 4th in slugging percentage, 4th in doubles, 6th in homers, 6th in OPS, 7th in RBI, 7th in stolen bases, 7th in onbase percentage, and 9th in batting average.
Only Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt have more Gold Gloves at third base than Rolen’s eight. Schmidt and Rolen are only two third basemen in MLB history to rock 300+ homers and win at least eight Gold Gloves. In MLB history, only Brooks Robinson has more defensive WAR at 3B than Rolen. And Rolen is rated 68th all-time in WAR among the thousands of position players to have competed in the majors.
READING TIME 5 MINUTES
1) Happy to see that Our Town’s Mark Buehrle stayed on the Hall of Fame ballot for at least another year after being named on 5.8% of the ballots…
2) This year a record 14 Hall of Fame voters mailed in blank ballots, voting for no one. But when these buffoons send in a blank ballot, all they’re doing is damaging the chances of worthy candidates that have a chance to reach the necessary 75% threshold. A blank ballot is included in the entire tabulation, and reduces every candidate’s percentage of votes received. Turning in a blank ballot is a lazy and egotistical clown move. The lunacy that goes into this process is incomprehensible and diminishes the legitimacy of the Hall of Fame …
3) Might be something, might be nothing. But in his six games since returning from the COVID illness, Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington has a .877 save percentage, 4.77 goals-against average, and ranks 34th among 36 NHL goaltenders (minimum 300 minutes) in medium-danger save percentage and low-danger serve percentage. That .877 overall save percentage is 35th among the 36 goaltenders, and the 4.77 GAA is the worst among the 36 …
4) Smart move by the San Diego Padres, who hired deposed Cardinals manager Mike Shildt to their player-development staff as a consultant. Shildt made his reputation in the St. Louis system as a teacher and developer who had a sharp eye for talent. Shildt deserves another shot at managing in the big leagues, and that opportunity will come. By getting his cleats back on the ground at the team level, Shildt now has two jobs that will enhance his credibility and draw attention. Previously, he signed on with MLB as an assistant-consultant to Theo Epstein in the endeavor to recommend changes in the game to make it more energized and entertaining. And how Shildt will have influence in the shaping of the Padres’ future roster.
5) Interesting head-coach hire by the Chicago Bears: Matt Eberflus, who was Gary Pinkel’s defensive coordinator at Missouri for eight seasons, 2001-2008. (And Eberflus worked on Pinkel’s Toledo staff before that.) Eberflus goes to Chicago after four seasons as defensive coordinator for Indianapolis; in three of the four years the Colts were ranked among the Top 10 in the NFL for fewest points allowed,I wish Eberflus well, but this is a strange hire, and it’s hard to give the Bears the benefit of the doubt because they make so many ludicrous decisions that fail. But a lot of smart football people believe in Eberflus — Pinkel included.
6) Our friend Greg Wyshynksi of ESPN posted his NHL Contender Tier rankings on Thursday. The Blues were part of the second tier with Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Vegas. The top tier consisted of Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Toronto.
In writing about the Blues, the Puck Daddy wrote: “If the Blues get playoff-worthy performances from either Jordan Binnington, who is riding a nine-game postseason losing streak, and/or Ville Husso, who has never appeared in the postseason, then their sudden transformation into an offensive steamroller means they could win the Western Conference.”
7) Earlier this week ESPN gave the Blues an “A” grade for their performance over the first half (41 games) of the regular season. Wyshynski explained: “The Blues have a .662 points percentage in 40 games. The moves that GM Doug Armstrong made in the offseason — adding Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad, managing to hang on to Vladimir Tarasenko — have all been beneficial. They’re a top-five team offensively, in the top third of the league defensively and remain a physically grinding contender — provided either Jordan Binnington or Ville Husso gives them the goaltending they need in the postseason.”
8) Missouri: the men’s basketball team desperately needs a point guard for next season … while watching the fourth season of Ozark, I’m thinking Mizzou sports could attract some top transfers through some NIL arrangements with Marty Byrde.
9) In a reader-mailbag column at The Athletic, college football columnist Andy Staples was asked what he would do to alter the conferences, just by moving one team to a different conference. First, Staples would put Clemson in the SEC … which means moving an SEC team to another conference.
The Staples solution: MIZZOU to the Big Ten.
“This is where Missouri wanted to be all along, so let’s put the Tigers there,” Staples said. “If ‘Ozark’ has taught us anything, it’s that when something run out of the Chicagoland area sets up shop in the Show-Me State, it’s wildly entertaining.
“Missouri would have been a much better fit for the Big Ten than Rutgers, but Missouri already was in the SEC when Big Ten leaders chose the Scarlet Knights. (And at the time of the Rutgers-Maryland addition, the Big Ten was chasing the biggest cable-home footprint caches it could find.)
“Missouri could provide a natural rival for Illinois, and it’s easy to imagine rivalries developing with Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota as the schools chased the same football talent. Missouri also could continue dipping into Texas because the Big Ten’s brand is plenty strong. Let Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and LSU fight over the top talent in that state. Clash with the Big 12 schools for the hidden gems who probably would relish the chance to play massive name-brand opponents.
“From a basketball standpoint, it’s probably a wash. Missouri needs to get much better than it is at the moment to compete in either league. But Missouri has the potential to have an excellent basketball program, and a Missouri-Illinois hoops rivalry could be fun.”
After moving Mizzou to the Big Ten, Staples made a subsequent decision to remove Penn State from the B1G and ship the Nittany Lions to the more geographically correct ACC.
10) Nobody asked me, but: the Blues’ first-half MVP was Pavel Buchnevich. There are multiple worthy candidates, including Jordan Kyrou. And I took a hard look at Kyrou because of his team-best 13 goals and 27 points at five-on-five But Buchnevich is one of the Blues’ best forwards on the penalty kill and leads the team with 13 points on the power play with five goals and eight assists. When Buchnevich is on the ice in any situation, the Blues have outscored opponents 50-20, banking 71.4 percent of the goals. At five-on-five the Blues have a 27-13 advantage in goals when Buchnevich is playing. He’s had substantial influence on the team culture, having strengthened the Blues’ Russian identity by making such a positive impact on teammates Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev.
11) I wonder how the robo strike zone at Triple A in 2022 will affect the Cardinals’ better prospects at Memphis. Something to think about. Because if this system is an unreliable joke, it could mess with the development of pitchers Matthew Liberatore, Zack Thompson and Johan Oviedo and hitters such as Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, Alec Burleson … and possibly even Jordan Walker and Ivan Herrera. No thanks.
12) Our Town’s Bradley Beal is trying to keep his morale up as his Washington Wizards careen through an increasingly troublesome season. They have too many players in their rotation, which muddles the mix. They’re 13-22 since Nov. 16, and 23-25 overall. Tuesday night, the Wizards had a 35-point lead over the LA Clippers – and lost the game 116-115.
“For whatever reason, we relax, like we can just flip on a switch and be great,” the frustrated Beal told reporters after the stunning defeat.
Beal is shooting only 30 percent from three-point range this season after making 38% of his threes over his first nine NBA seasons.
Beal (Chaminade Prep) can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, but Washington has a major advantage that could prompt him to stay in D.C. In the maze of the NBA’s salary-cap rules, the Wizards can offer Beal $240 million over five years. Other bidders can offer him $181 million over four years. But is Beal worth $48 million per season to the Wizards? Yes, according to GM Tommy Sheppard who has said the team wants to retain Beal at any cost. And does Beal want to remain with the franchise?
“I have a lot of conversations with Tommy,” Beal told reporters. “We’re very transparent with what we want to do and what my future looks like. And yeah, the (trade) deadline is coming up, and I’m very well aware of how we’re playing and how other teams are playing and what my interests are. Granted, I’m giving this organization an opportunity to prove that and show that, and obviously I’m a big factor in that, too, in producing and playing well and performing.
“But I want to win, and we all know that. It’s just a matter of us doing it. We’ve got the pieces, we have the assets, we’ve got the depth — everything that we bragged about at the beginning of the year. Now let’s put it together and make it work. Speculations are going to be what they are. I can’t control that. But I know what comes out of my mouth, and I know where my heart is, and everyone will know.”
13) Here’s what’s on my menu for Sunday’s AFC-NFC Conference Championship doubleheader. We’re going with Chili that requires minimal chopping (just onion and garlic) and less than 90 minutes of cooking time. I found this a while back on the food blog Food 52.
One pound ground beef chuck
One pound bulk Italian sausage
One pound ground veal
The spices and gravy:
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
One and ¾ cups of low-sodium chicken stock
One 6-ounce can tomato paste
One 12-ounce bottle of lager beer
One 16-ounce can kidney beans, drained
Two tablespoons vegetable oil
1 and ½ cups chopped white or yellow onion
Eight large garlic cloves, minced
Five tablespoons chili powder
One tablespoon ground cumin seed
One teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Some freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely minced canned chipotle chili
1 teaspoon adobo sauce, from the canned chipotle
In a 7 to 8 quart, heavy Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic, with a large pinch of kosher salt, and sauté until softened. Add the ground meats and stir, breaking up the meat and cooking until the meat is no longer pink.
Add the spices, stir to coat the meat, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, beer, and the 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Simmer the mixture for about 80 minutes – or until the consistency is to your liking. Add the drained beans, the minced chipotles and adobo sauce, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
Feeds 8-10 … Adjust the spiciness with more or less of the chipotle … If you’re not into a spicy dish, cut back on the chili powder and go with three or 3 and ½ tablespoons of the powder instead of five … If you like sour cream and shredded cheese on top of your chili bowl, go for it.
Here’s a link. Keep it for future use.
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.
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