BERNIE BITS

I hope you are staying safe and enjoying this holiday season, even if it’s tough for so many people right now.

OK, let’s start with this: a Christmas present that hasn’t arrived … if it will ever arrive, which certainly is in question given the Cardinals’ annoying parsimony so far this winter.

The Gift of Tommy La Stella: C’mon now. Nobody of sound mind expects the Cardinals to thrust their way into free agency and sign, say, George Springer. But they can use La Stella, and signing him wouldn’t break any team’s bank. He plays second base. He can play third base. All of which means that La Stella can team with Tommy Edman at second base, or log some games at third base if Matt Carpenter has a dead bat. And should Carpenter continue to fade, a La Stella move would give manager Mike Shildt the flexibility to use Edman as his primary third baseman He’s even played some first base. And La Stella, who bats left, rips righthanded pitching. In 706 plate appearances vs. RHP since the start of 2017 La Stella has hit .295 with a .371 onbase percentage and .467 slug for an .837 OPS. His strikeout rate vs. RH over this time is only 9.6 percent, with a walk rate of 9.8%. You don’t see that kind of K-BB ratio very often. La Stella is 27 percent above league average offensively over the last four seasons when facing righthanders … and 41 percent above average vs, RH over the last two seasons. He’s a fit. Where’s the delivery truck?

READING TIME, 5 MINUTES: 

Of course it makes sense for Mizzou to withdraw from the Music City Bowl. But with the Covid causing problems and shortages for Missouri’s roster all season, did it make sense to even accept a spot in the bowl in the first place?

The network TV guys love to gush over Sean McVay. And he’s so adorable to the fellas calling the game, that sometimes you think they’d like to leave the booth and go muss McVay’s hair. But has anyone noticed that McVay’s Rams are 18-13 since losing the Super Bowl at the end of the 2018 season? Or that the Rams are 13-10 in their last 23? What happened to the dynasty?

Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes for the 2020 MVP award? Well, the Chiefs are 14-1 and you can’t go wrong by picking Mahomes. But it looks like Rodgers is heading to his third league MVP award. The Packers are 12-3 and a bit of a surprise. Rodgers leads the NFL in completion percentage (70.3%), passer rating (119.4), and is second in  2nd in passing yards (4,059.). Rodgers has thrown 44 touchdown passes with five interceptions; that tops Mahomes’ ratio of 38 TDs, 6 picks. And keep this in mind: the Packers; wide receivers lead the NFL in dropped passes percentage at 6.5%.

The Dallas Cowboys  have won three in a row, averaging 36 points per game during the hot streak, with Andy Dalton passing for seven touchdowns and just one interception. The Dallas run and Dalton’s success has has NFL pundits gasping, and soon we’ll be in for some hot takes about how the Cowboys should stay with Dalton and part with Dak Prescott. But in hyperventilating over quarterbacks, nothing tops everyone losing their minds over Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago. The Bears have won three in a row, with Trubisky playing well, and all of a sudden he’s Sid Luckman. But it probably is worth pointing out that three wins came over Houston, Minnesota and Jacksonville; they have a combined 11-34 record this season.

A DAZZLING DUEL OF MIZZOU QUARTERBACKS 

Well, not really. 

But it was oddly fun (and weird?) to watch Chase Daniel (Lions) and Blaine Gabbert (Bucs) compete on Christmas Day. In Tampa Bay’s 47-7 rout at Detroit, both starting quarterbacks departed early. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford injured an ankle during the first quarter and didn’t returned. Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady took a seat for the second half after the Bucs frolicked to  a 34-0 halftime lead. 

Enter the backups.  

We were treated to an All-Mizzou matchup: Daniel vs. Gabbert. Given the blowout mno-contest, it didn’t mean much. But Gabbert played well, throwing two touchdown passes with no interceptions. Daniel mostly nicked away with short passes, but didn’t really move the offense despite completing 13 of 18. Daniel was benched in the fourth quarter, replaced by third-stringer David Blough

The Missouri  “showdown” wasn’t exactly inspiring. But SI.com’s Gary Gramling was especially annoyed. He wrote: “Chase Daniel vs. Blaine Gabbert: At some point, the FCC had to step in and pull this off the air. The only explanation is that Gary Pinkel greased some palms in D.C. Follow the money, people.”

Give Daniel and Gabbert credit for holding NFL jobs for as long as they have. Daniel had a great career at Mizzou (2005-2008) and helped break in the true freshman, Gabbert, during the ’08 season. Gabbert succeeded Daniel as MU’s starter and excited NFL scouts with his play in 2009 and 2010. 

So give them credit for turning their admirable college careers into NFL jobs, and NFL money.

Tons of money.

In 11 NFL seasons Daniel has started only five regular-season games and played in 64 others. He’s thrown eight touchdown passes with seven interceptions for a career passer rating of 85.8 .. which is actually pretty good for a backup. Daniel has been employed by New Orleans, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New Orleans (a second time), Chicago and Detroit. 

In nine NFL seasons Gabbert has started 48 games for Jacksonville, San Francisco, Arizona and Tennessee. He never fulfilled the hype that came with the Jaguars choosing him as  No. 10 overall pick in 2011. But Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians had Gabbert in Arizona, and likes his work ethic and solid backup skills. So when Gabbert signed with Tampa Bay, he joined his sixth NFL team. Gabbert is 13-35 as NFL starter with a 72.3 rating. He 

Here’s the kicker: Daniel has been paid a total of $34.3 million by NFL teams. 

Gabbert’s career earnings are $22 million including a $7.6 million signing bonus paid by Jacksonville after the 2011 draft.

That’s a combined $56.3 million for the Mizzou men.

And that makes them a success. 

THIS MAY INTEREST ME, MORE THAN IT DOES YOU… BUT

This, from a recent reader chat with Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold at STLtoday:

Q: I used to really like listening to John Mozeliak back when he was assistant GM and his early days as general manager. Now he just seems to be condescending and likes to throw out meaningless word-salad answers. What are your observations of his evolution as the primary spokesman for the club?

Goold: “That he’s been thrust into a spot — and that he’s taken on that spot — where it invites fatigue from the fan base. That’s natural when the one voice on so many things is the same voice. The same phrases don’t resonate like they once did. The same jokes don’t play the 12th time you’ve heard them. Tony La Russa talked a lot about the 10-year limit on his message, and whether after 10 years the clubhouse tuned him out because they knew all his phrases, knew all his ways to motivate, and what once worked now was just tiresome.

“Mozeliak wanted to move into a different role as president of baseball operations, but this past year has thrust him back into the spotlight as the spokesman in a year, had it been normal, when Michael Girsch likely would have been more front and center on the roster. That was the idea. Then a pandemic came. Then Mozeliak deputized himself as in charge of the COVID response, and then an outbreak happened, and Mozeliak was the forward face of the organization. A year ago, at the Winter Meetings, it was Girsch that spoke to the media more often than Mozeliak — or at least as often. Not so in the past few months, and that has definitely added to what you’re describing.

“It’s something that is true in other realms, too. As a writer who has covered the team since 2004, I have to be aware of reader fatigue, too. Same phrases. Same way to cover. Revisiting same themes, telling the same story, droning on and on and on about the same stuff — that can tune readers out, just like it does fans.”

THIS DAY IN STL PRO SPORTS HISTORY: In 1998 Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire was named Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press … in 1926 the Cardinals named Bob O’Farrell is to replace player-manager Rogers Hornsby as the team’s skipper. The decision was made eight days after the Cardinals traded Hornsby to the Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring. Only two-plus months earler, The “Rajah” managed the 1926 Cards to a victory over the Yankees in a seven-game World Series triumph. 

AS OTHERS SEE US: 

Over at The Athletic, baseball writer Dennis Lin, who covers the Padres, was asked about San Diego’s interest in Yadier Molina. And apparently two Padres with STL connections are pushing for their club to sign the Cardinals’ free-agent catcher. That would be outfielder Tommy Pham, and bench coach Skip Schumaker

“San Diego is high on starter Austin Nola, but the former shortstop has yet to catch more than 75 professional games in a season,” Lin wrote. “That could mean more than occasional playing time for someone like Yadier Molina, who would come highly recommended by former Cardinals Tommy Pham and Skip Schumaker. Few catchers are as respected as the 38-year-old, and Molina, who went 6-for-13 against the Padres in the postseason, still looks like he has plenty left to offer. If you factor in Nola’s ability to bounce out to second base, it’s easy to see why the Padres would at least have a conversation. It will come down to the price, of course. Plenty of offseason remains, and I believe the Padres so far have only expressed their interest.” 

Thanks for reading The Bits, my labor of love for you…

-Brnie

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.