Ben Frederickson Live

Ben Frederickson Live

Bring your Cardinals, Blues, Mizzou, SLU, MLS and St. Louis sports questions, and talk to Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.




    Greetings, chatters. Thanks for dropping by. My apologies for the absence last week. Took a week off to attend a family event and get a quick rest before spring training. I'll be heading to Jupiter the first week of March to join the crew down there. Plenty to discuss about that, and ... the Blues! They are proving me wrong. I thought it was over. So, I'll eat some crow today, I imagine. Happy to do it. Let's roll.
    One more thing before we get started. You will see the ad for the flash sale at the top of the chat today. You can grab a digital subscription to the Post-Dispatch this week for as cheap as we have ever offered one. Please consider. I'm not telling you what to do with your money, but we think we give you a pretty good bang for your buck. No better place to view that than spring training, where we have 2-3 writers plus photo and video team members on the ground from before the start, through the end. Your subscriptions help fund our travel to away games, bowl games, NCAA tournament games (when they come around) and more. We truly appreciate those who have signed up, and simply ask that those who have not spend some time this week considering the choice. Thanks! Now, away we go.
    Order has been restored in the universe. Ben Fred Live is back. Missed you last week. Things just seemed off.

    So, about the Blues...
    Thanks for noticing! I meant to give a heads up last week that we would be off last week. That's on me. Sorry about that. But not sorry enough that I wanted to run the chat from Palm Springs. ;) 
     
    The Blues! At the break, when Armstrong said the team would determine his direction with its play, many, including myself, wondered if he was just delaying the inevitable. It seems the team has given him the answer he was hoping for but few were expecting. Only the Sharks (26) and the Islanders (26) have more points than the Blues '25 since the calendar flipped to 2019. The Blues and Hurricanes both have 29.
     
    I think dads should be on the trips the rest of the season, and I think the Blues should continue to feed the majority of the starts to Jordan Winnington, I mean Binnington.
    Are these Blues for real?
    They're still so hard to trust, but give credit where it's due. They are finally playing like the team we thought they could be. The talent was never in question. It's been there all along. Finally, cylinders seem to be firing together, and not going dormant for stretches after a few things go wrong. I do think this team has hardened, in a good way, over the season. That's evident in the comments coming out of the dressing room. They used to get too high and too low too easily. Now they seem more mature and level-headed. Perhaps going through the roller-coaster to this point made that happen. Can it last? Who knows. But if the season ended today, they're in the postseason and one of the hottest teams in that bunch. It's much better to be hitting your stride toward the end.
    Alright Ben, I finally gave in and subscribed. $3 for 3 months was a big ask but it'll get me through ST. You got 3 months to convince me to stay on.
    I mean, this chat alone is worth it -- as long as Jim shows up.
    Do you feel that pace of play is an issue with baseball and how would you fix it? Follow up, is there any way they could keep the game moving along by eliminating TV commercial time? For instance, could they keep the game going in the upper right hand corner of the screen and run a commercial on the rest of the screen?
  • I don't think it's nearly as big of an issue as commissioner Rob Manfred seems to think. He's obsessed. But if this was that big of a deal to the league, it would look at the option you considered: trimming TV breaks. There is absolutely zero talk of that, so the obsession over pitch clocks and mound visits just feels a bit forced, to me. Recently, you have noticed some of the in-game ads that cause your TV to go split-screen or a screen within a screen, with the ad being smaller than the game but still present during play. I hate it, and I imagine most of you do too, but if there's money to be made, it's going to continue. That's the best metric. If it makes money, it will continue. And likely grow.
    I'm not sold that Berube is the answer at coach, but honestly I don't know what he could do to convince me. In your mind, what does Berube have to do in order to prove that he's the man that should helm our franchise going forward?
    To paraphrase Dory from Finding Nemo, just keep swimming, or in this case, winning. If Berube can take this team from the ditch it was in into a meaningful postseason, that's a pretty impressive line on his resume. It said something that GM Doug Armstrong wanted to see how he fared the rest of the season. Obviously, everyone wants Joel Quenneville. He's the best option out there. But what if he can't be had? Is Berube not more appealing than many of the other potential candidates at this point? It's not nearly as tough of a sell now as it once seemed.
    If MLB has a work (playing baseball is not work) stoppage I believe that the owners and players share the responsibility 50-50. I personally would not pay Harper or Macado the kind of money they want. That being said the other free agents may have a reason to wonder if the owners are being greedy or spending there money more wisely. I understand that the owners are in the business to make money and as a player you need to make the most of your playing time because it can be short. I also realize that the players do (or should) work hard at training and staying in shape during the off season. But they all need to realize that the cost of going to a game with a family of 4 has become very expensive and almost prohibitive for us working class or retired folks. Please remember the damage to baseball during the last stoppage. Baseball is one of the last remaining things that is still a memory past down for generations and the hope of many young ball players of a career. Players are not worth the money that is thrown around and owners do not need to make millions per year both at the expense of the working class fans who support them. Thank you for your time.
    Jim, thanks for writing. And I hear you when it comes to the distaste that bubbles up when hearing and/or reading about millionaire players butting heads with millionaire owners. It makes Average Joe Baseball Fan gag, as I wrote in today's column about the state of the game entering spring training. What you are not going to find is both sides agreeing to make less money. Baseball is big business, and it's making more and more in spite of declining attendance across the board. It's still possible to get into a game for a decent price. The Cardinals, for example, just ran a flash sale on $5 tickets that included an item from the concession stand. Busch Stadium allows soft-sided coolers to enter with fans, which offers a way to save money. Parking might cost you the most on those days, but you can find spots for $10 or so if you are willing to walk a bit. That's not a bad deal. But if you show up wanting to sit in a great seat, park close and eat at the park, yes, it's going to be a decent amount of money. But as long as there are people willing to pay those prices, they will remain, or even climb. The Cardinals, unlike many teams, are not hurting for attendance. And if they are, a quick sale on tickets or a giveaway can prompt plenty of buyers.
    Hi Ben! Personally I am trying to reserve judgement on Goldschmidt until I know that he is going to be around for more than one season and how he produces this season. I am expecting a slow start as he seems to have done that the last several years. All of my favorite players have gotten traded the last 3 years, it's hard to have all your favorite players on other teams but it does mean more games to watch :)
    I understand not wanting to get too emotionally attached to PG until he signs an extension.
    But let's examine this slow-start theory.
    He did start slow last season. No doubt about that. But these are his career OPS numbers in each season before the All-Star break. (Remember, his career OPS reads .930)
     
    First Half 2012: .920
    First Half 2013: .952
    First Half 2014: .949
    First Half 2015: 1.064
    First Half 2016: .930
    First Half 2017: 1.005
    First Half 2018: .920
     
    Last season, Goldschmidt had a terrible (for him) May. He slashed .144/.252/.278.
    And he still finished the season with a batting line of .290/.389/.533.
    He's not a slow-starter. Last season was an oddity worth examining, but not enough to earn him a label.
     
  • DO you agree that this current version of the Blues can beat anybody in the NHL, playoffs included?
    The Blues have already proven they can rise up and beat any team. Look at how they handled Washington. Their challenge has been finding consistency. They have never looked this close to grabbing a hold of it as they do right now.
    What is your favorite spring training facility in Florida?
    I like Jet Blue Park because of the mini Green Monster. It's cute.
    I'm not a fan of the Mets' place. So stinking windy, and combined with the outdoor press box, it can be a bit of a mess.
    But there is a nice elevator usher there who tells the same joke every year . . . 
    Me: How's it going?
    Him: I have my ups and downs.
     
    If Kyler Murray was drafted by, say, the Yankees instead of the A's, thinking he'd be playing baseball?
    Unless the Yankees were going to stick him in the majors from the start, no.
    This was just too tough of a competition for baseball to win.
    A first-round NFL draft pick QB is the definition of glamour.
    Grinding it out as a minor league outfielder is the opposite of it, no matter the money the team can offer or the fast track it can promise.
    If Murray played a different position, maybe. But first-round QBs get big guaranteed money, and baseball will always be waiting for him if football proves to be impossible because of his size.
    I would have done the same thing if I was in his shoes, and I heard Jack Flaherty say the same in a recent interview on Fox Sports.
    Why does the St. Louis sports media defend Dexter Fowler more than any other mediocre player? Y'all didn't give Tyler Wiggington and Khalil Greene this kind of defense.
    That's funny. If I recall correctly, I was the first person to write that Fowler needed to be moved from center field, and the first person to write that the Cardinals needed to cut ties if they could not commit to a plan with him. I also pointed out how a pursuit of Bryce Harper would make a ton of sense for the Cardinals, and that Fowler's contract commitment should not stop that interest. So, I don't think I have given Fowler a pass for his performance. But if you are looking for criticism that goes beyond concerns about his health and performance, you will have to find it somewhere else. Fowler, like any under-performing athlete and, in some cases, more than most, has had to endure a lot of personal attacks on social media during his struggles. I'm not going to go there, and am glad that my colleagues don't as well. Derrick Goold's conversation with Fowler during winter meetings was the most thorough, enlightening piece anyone has published about what Fowler was going through last season. You can't ask to know, then get mad when he said he was wrestling with mental health issues. If you want the truth, accept it. And maybe consider that these guys, like us, are people. They go through things. They are not able to turn that off when they get to the field. Ultimately, Fowler's fate here is going to come down to what he does or does not do in right field and at the plate. The Cardinals want it to work badly, in part because of the contract. He's getting another chance. If he struggles again, the Cardinals can't afford to keep trying to force it. They have too many intriguing alternatives in O'Neill and Martinez.
    Ben - Heard anything on the head coach for STL XFL? Any candidates out there that would be fun for you as a journalist?
  • I'm pulling for Isaac Bruce, and I think he might be interested. Bruce has been such a great ambassador for STL, and remained one after the Rams left town. He would be appealing to players and to assistant coaches. I really hope it happens.
    Related to your subscription comment, when you said my dollars would help send you to an NCAA Tournament game: Which do you think will happen first -- Mizzou will return to The Dance, or Mark Smith will recover from his ankle sprain?
    Well played. The Tigers won't be in the NCAA tournament this season without a shocking SEC tournament stunner. As for Smith's outlook, this is getting confusing. Not because of the amount of time missed (five consecutive games) but because of the messaging from Coach Martin. Ankle sprains are misleading, because a minor one might keep you out a day, and a bad one, especially a high-ankle sprain, basically feels like a broken ankle and takes a long time to heal. What's confusing is Martin says he thinks Smith is ready to go, then Smith doesn't play. One wonders if the coach is trying to motivate his sharpshooting guard to get back out there? I don't have inside info on this injury, but it's safe to say the Tigers are in serious trouble every time they are on the floor without Smith. They don't have enough talent and depth to miss a key piece for very long.
    Do you think the Cards should consider bringing back Norris on a short term deal to shore up the bullpen?
    That would be a mild surprise. I never got the sense Norris would be back. There could be another Norris-type in the cards to join the Cards, but I don't think it will be him, considering how he finished last season. The wheels were coming off a bit there toward the end.
    If you were a lunchmeat, which one would you be?
    Hard Salami. Because I'm buff.
    So.... About Dexter Fowler. We know he has something to prove, his job is on the line. But does he have what it takes? Is he showing up early for spring training, is he working hard, is he still trying to be loose and friendly and jazz the place up or has he realized now that, that is not how things are done in St. Louis and that he just needs to buckle down and do the work? At least he finally showed up for winter warm-ups that's better than nothing.
    I would not correlate being "loose and friendly and jazzing up the place" with not buckling down and doing the work.
    Baseball, believe it or not, is not a coal mine. Fun can be had. Some of the "hardest workers" do have "fun" doing the work.
    As for Fowler's whereabouts, he was in Vegas as of early this week, if his Instagram posts are accurate.
    Pitchers and catchers were the only ones who had to be in camp by today. Position players have a later mandatory report date, though many, including starting outfielders Harrison Bader and Marcell Ozuna are already in Jupiter.
    I would advice against factoring that news into your determination of what to expect from Fowler this spring. I'm much more interested in how he looks and performs once he arrives, and he will arrive before he is required to arrive.
    The Cardinals did check in with him throughout the offseason and got food feedback on his recovery and training.
    With Harper and Machado going down to the line on ST, might they consider a lesser deal?
  • That's the popular theory this week, starting with the Giants reportedly showing interest in Harper on a big-money, short-term deal. If a team can score Harper at that price, it's a genius move. But if I'm Harper, I don't know why I would jump at it -- if there are higher-paying, longer-term deals on the table like the reported 10-year, $300 million offered by the Nationals. Any player who bets on the market providing a better deal one year from now is not following current trends. What is more likely if you are in Harper or Machado's shoes? You have a down season or suffer an injury that hurts your free-agent stock after one season, or you play so well that you are suddenly more likely to get a mega deal after you are one year closer to 30? I think the former is more realistic, so I would advise those guys to avoid it. I understand the drive to set records, whether it's overall $ or $ per season. But at the end of the day, their goal should be to get the most guaranteed to set themselves and their families up for life. I would worry a lot less about raising or maintaining the mark for other players than I would getting the best monetary commitment I could find.
  • The season when his maturity will determine his future, C. Martinez shows up with RED hair. Is someone counseling this guy?
    I'm gonna hit on this one time this season. Everybody ready? Here goes. It's. Not. About. The. Hair. With. Carlos. What this season is about is proving he's a starter, proving he can stay healthy, proving he can maintain his body and his routine in a way that makes him more valuable as a starter than a dominant reliever, which we saw last season. It's about proving the Cardinals should stop low-key shopping him as trade bait. It's about reclaiming the spot at the top of the rotation that was once available for his taking. It's about washing away a confusing and disappointing 2018 season that included headaches on and off the field. It's about determining how he will be remembered in St. Louis -- as an under-performer who did not maximize his massive talent, or a guy who broke through some early stumbles to dominate. It's about all of these things, and none of them have a single thing to do with the color of his hair.
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