Happy New Year, chatters. Hope everybody had a safe and happy holiday season. My tree is still up, I'm embarrassed to admit. But it goes down tomorrow. I'm in the saddle for a few hours. Resolutions. Rage. Questions. Fire away.
The Cardinals are not dodging the obvious that the payroll will be able to be reset significantly after the 2021 season, when some of the current contracts come off the books. They still owe it to their fans to make improvements to the 2021 team -- if the goal is to compete instead of just get through the season. The Cardinals say they want to compete, so I think it's fair to expect reasonable attempts to improve. Everyone has a different definition of reasonable, I know, but mine is this: Bring back Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and find some way to improve the offense on top of that. The Cardinals are not going to jack up payroll significantly, but they would not have to in order to do these things -- and it would not cloud the picture much if it all beyond 2022.
Buehler? Buehler? Mozeliak said January is the new December, but it hasn't felt like it yet.
I have never really understood the rush to guess or assume what the Cardinals will do a year from now, or a trade deadline from now, before we see what they do now, for multiple reasons. One is that this team is pretty clearly in a year-to-year trajectory. The other is that whatever decisions come later will be influenced by what happens before then. The Cardinals are often hesitant to name a starting rotation before spring training begins, because it could change, and often does, by the time camp ends. So, no, I don't think the Cardinals are figuring out their 2022 plans before they figure out their 2021 plans. I do think they realize they will have some more financial flexibility in 2022, so they don't want to change that too much with whatever they do in 2021. I've said for a while now that assuming the Cardinals are going to break from their trend of adding an elite free agent on the kind of contract that demands -- or trading for that kind of massive salary and length of commitment -- is best placed in the believe-it-when-you-see-it category. My opinion on that has not changed.
Yep. In person once, too. During the Braggin' Rights game. He's very, very talented. A gifted passer with a great feel for the game, and a better scoring threat than I thought he might be in year one. He should probably shoot more often.
Wainwright and Molina make this team better in 2021. I don't think Pujols would. Plus, it would hurt his legacy here. His greatness is basically in a perfectly sealed time capsule with the Cardinals. Seeing him every day in age 41-season would do more harm than good.
I think the chance of that decreased around this time last season, when Ford and SLU quietly agreed to a new contact extension. SLU goes above and beyond to keep its terms private, but Chris May has stressed that it was a long-term agreement. Ford also recently got the locker rooms at Chaifetz upgraded, a good boost for recruiting and another sign the university is playing ball with his wishes. I don't know if Travis feels pulled back to the so-called Power 5 scene, but I think he is probably realizing he can turn SLU into whatever he wants it to be. He's recruiting. He's in a league that has the ability to put multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament. He's won the conference tournament once already. I'm sure there is always some school that could come along and offer a greener pasture, but I think the list of teams has been shrinking as Ford and SLU have moved forward together since he was hired.
I'm not laughing at the idea, or the hope for a peaceful resolution. But yes, I think it's a real and responsible fear. Two rounds of bickering between owners and players about what pandemic-affected seasons looked like before a contentious CBA negotiation is not ideal. However, if there is a silver lining it should be that both sides realize more missed games would help no one -- and do a lot more damage to the sport.
I don't think the number that should be eating away at Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. is Cubs-related. I think it's Cardinals-related. And perhaps Dodgers-related. The Cardinals are the NL leader in championships with 11. The Dodgers are gaining ground. They're at 7 after finally winning in 2020. But more importantly, the number is 10. This year will be 10 years in which the Cardinals have not won a World Series championship. A decade is not a number that can just be shrugged off for a team that leads the NL in championships. At least it shouldn't be.
Honestly I thought the Tigers might be poised to take a step back, because of what they are losing. But I'm starting to slow down on that kind of thinking. One because some key players, like center Michael Maeitti, decided to use that extra year of eligibility to return. And two because Drinkwitz is going to find answers for the holes that can help right away. Just today he landed Ohio State receiver transfer Mookie Cooper, one of those St. Louis area players who slipped away previously. Cooper was a top-100 prospect and the No. 16 receiver in the 2020 class, per 247 Sports. He did not catch a pass at Ohio State this year. I bet he will at Mizzou.
I'll be the first to admit I'm lacking in that department. My soccer plan is to get up to speed as the St. Louis MLS team gets up to speed. I know MLS is not the highest quality soccer in the world. But I'll be honest in admitting I'm not going to do a good job of following it like I should until a team I cover is playing in it.
I think your fear becomes more fair every day Kostin is not a piece of what the Blues are doing. Injury issues. Visa issues. It seems to always be something. He has not played enough to be eligible for the expansion draft, so his story won't restart in Seattle. If he doesn't break through soon, like this season, then it's fair to wonder if he will. The Blues can't and wont' wait around for him.
I think it's a sensible, sound hire. He should be a good fit there, and he's back in familiar Big Ten territory. Yes, Illinois is an uphill battle for football. A big one. Long is the list of coaches who could not get traction, and longer is the list of coaches who could not maintain it. Just cruise through the recent names and note how many were let go before their contracts expired. Bielema is not selling quick fixes. He's selling something that could work. Give in-state players a reason to consider Illinois. Go get big strong lineman to set the tone along the offensive and defensive lines. Take care of the ball and dominate time of possession. It's not sexy, but it can work. It worked for Bielema at Wisconsin. Very, very well.
A nice bounce back, indeed. Where has that Jeremiah Tilmon been? If that guy sticks around, it's a different team. Same for if the Tigers can get the Smiths -- Mark and Dru -- out of their funk. The key for Mizzou in March will be reaching the point where everyone is playing well at the same time. They're not good enough to make a run if they are firing on half of their cylinders. They can play with any team out there if they're all playing well. So much of succeeding in March is timing. The Tigers have had games where Mark Smith shoots the lights out, games where Pinson takes over, games where Tilmon dominates, games where Dru Smith looks like the best guard on the floor. If they can get games where elements of all of those things happen, they can make this season really memorable. Easier said than done.