Matheny was pretty determined to do things his own way. For a while they worked pretty well . . . and then they didn't, in part because of wholesale player failure. He could be pretty stubborn and unmoved by advice from above. Had he been less defensive and more open to the ideas of others, perhaps he could have survived last season's storm.
Getting to six victories is possible, but difficult. Lovie Smith will be playing lots of kids this season, so he has that cover. And he has certainly raised the Illini profile in recruiting. I'd say if he can win five games and be competitive in three or four other games that could buy him one more year.
Pitching was always going to be the strength of this team. Ideally Martinez would return to the rotation at some point, but there is no guarantee that Hicks makes it all the way back to pitch at a high level again. And Gant looks like he could be real difference-maker by staying in the bullpen.
Carpenter has a lot of money left on that contract. So, no, the Cardinals aren't going to bury him. He will get another chance to get on track during the stretch run. Now, if he doesn't start hitting again and the Cardinals start drifting off the division pace, then life gets interesting for Shildt.
That's always true to a degree, but, again, burying players with big contracts and a lot of past success is an absolute last resort in this business.
No question, both franchises benefited from the loss of competition for ticket dollars and sponsorship dollars.
Those are two great players and much different players. Crosby is a highly competitive No. 1 center who makes everybody around him better. Ovechkin is a volume shooter who piles up goals and plays a robust game. Who do you draft? If you already have a No. 1 center, you take Ovie. If you don't, you take Crosby. Both guys have won Cups, both guys are headed to the Hall of Fame. But they offer distinctly different qualities.
Sure. The NBA is rocking right now. I could see the NFL slipping ala NASCAR. The league will have no choice but to make the game safer and safer -- and therefore less interesting. High school football programs are struggling in many places and eventually that will undercut college football, then the pros.
I believe Mark was pretty committed to family time at that point. Maybe he would have jumped at the chance to run his own team, but Shildt is a baseball lifer. Not only did he work very, very hard, he was open to all the new ideas coming into the game. He brought a more open and enlightened approach. For a while it worked quite well. And it could still work well if all of these veterans could perform closer to their career levels.
Like I said last week, Larry was at the news conference announcing Berube's appointment. At that time there was no other news on the staff makeup, other than the fact Van Ryn and Ott were returning. The loss of J.J. Daigneault from the San Antonio staff would seem to create more need for a Hall of Fame defenseman like Larry Robinson to help the organization.
Contender, because the standings say so. And there is time for guys to play to the ability. Just because they haven't done so thus far this season doesn't mean they won't. It could happen. I'm not super optimistic, but it could happen.
That Final Four run was significant. A lot of those guys were back at it this time around. There is no doubt that the Stillman-run Blues emerged as one of the NHL's better-run franchises. And, yes, that franchise is better run than the Cardinals these days. Doug Armstrong is on a roll and John Mozeliak is not.
I believe it is just Cup rings and Cup banners. But was interesting to see them dragging the conference trophy to public events, too. They want to show the world their hardware.
Smith has the reputation of making guys better with his ball distribution. If he can get Tilmon the ball at the right moment, that will make Jeremiah a better player. As many have noted, Tilmon gets in trouble when he tries to establish post position. The longer he has to battle down low while waiting for the ball, the more likely the guy guarding him will buy a foul by flopping to the floor. If Tilmon can stay on the floor and get into an offensive flow, he can big damage this season. And Mizzou can get back to the tournament as a middling seed. He will be surrounded by good long-term shooters, including the various Smiths.
Montero is hurt, so I wonder about his trade value. And O'Neill may be a long-term need for this offense, with Ozuna in his last contract year and Bader struggling mightily. Adding Will Smith would be nice, but this team would still quality add to the staff in my opinion to go on a big roll.
Trades! Alcantara, Sierra, Gallen, Weaver, Kelly, Mercado . . . those big assets went out the door. Bader and O'Neill moved up to the big team. Reyes, Gomber and Helsley were among the pitchers getting hurt.
That team was before my time, but I imagine a team with that kind of talent could do well amid the mediocrity of this division.
Well, the Cardinals spent a lot of money on guys who failed to perform to previous levels. Leake, Cecil and Holland were among those starting that trend and Carpenter, Goldschmidt and Mikolas have added to it this year. Mix in some big injuries and a lot of young guys plateauing well below star level and you have the recipe for .500 ball.
In the near term, guys who are earning big dollars need to deliver big performance. For now, that is the only way out. It's tough to contend year after year, as the Cardinals did. Now this team is proving just how hard that is. Many rivals have gone the tank-and-rebuild route. The Cardinals have refused to do that, so they couldn't stockpile great prospects through high draft picks and veteran-for-kids trades. Now they are getting stretched thin. The scenario is not hopeless, but it is challenging.
Well, the franchise has posted 11 straight winning seasons and has spent almost all of that period in the playoff chase. Let'; not get carried away here. These aren't the Cincinnati Reds.
I don't think this team has to tank and rebuild. I would try to extend Ozuna to create some certainty about the offense after this season. What choice do you have? To stay alive this season, I would try to acquire the best starting pitcher possible without trading Dylan Carlson or Nolan Gorman. Then I would do the same for the bullpen. None of that is terrible exciting or brilliant, but for now the best Cardinals play is hoping that their well-paid cornerstone guys come through.