STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

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

    Hey, everybody. Sorry for the delay on the start here. Had to figure out a password glitch. Good to go. Thanks for making some time to join us. We can roll as long as there are questions. Let's get after it.
    Will there be any change in the slot money for this year's baseball draft?
    Right now, it seems like all options regarding the draft are in play. It could be canceled, pushed back or -- more likely -- altered. Some of this is going to hinge on if baseball can land on a plan to get games going.
    I do not see how any professional sports will be open until Covid 19 goes away and I am pretty sure it is not going to just go away. Why do people expect professional sports to open?
    I tend to disagree. The changes being adhered to now were, initially, made to help slow the spread of the virus so the health care system was not overwhelmed like it would have been if we continued life as usual. Once we are past the peak of the virus and have more adequate and available testing and treatment, there is going to be a balancing act about how things move forward, not just in sports, but life. Where sports ranks in that discussion is going to be really interesting. Some will argue it's an unnecessary risk. Others will argue national pastimes like sports are good for both the economy and the country's well being in terms of entertainment and mental health. Sports, especially the college and pro levels, have convincing voices in political realms. There will be advocates for getting sports off the ground, just like there are advocates for getting businesses off the ground. The hard part will be determining when it is acceptable to launch, but that point will come before Covid-19 is eradicated completely.
    Do you think Kofi Cockburn will remain in the NBA draft? He doesn't show up on any draft boards but his farewell letter sure seems like he isn't coming back.
    I'm not sure about what he will do, but I think what he should do is get the information from the NBA experts to use in his development moving forward, then pull his name out and return to school.
    He's not viewed as a first-round pick by most draft experts, and the chance to change minds about that is going to be impacted this year by the coronavirus-related challenges to the combine (will there be one?) and pre-draft workouts (are they going to be done on Zoom, or what?). 
    It only takes one team to think you are a first-round pick, and maybe Kofi will get the sense that one does.
    If that's the case, he should go while the going is good.
    If it's debatable, another year at Illinois would do him a lot of good.
    It's a shame the XFL had to fold. I thought it was entertaining and had several rules that were innovative and, frankly, better than the NFL. If a season long fantasy component could have been added I think the league would have made it long term. Thoughts?
  • The NFL should definitely beg borrow and steal some of the innovations the XFL debuted.
    I imagine it will.
    I think the XFL was a lot more fun and exciting in St. Louis than it was in the markets that had an NFL team.
    We had a skewed view here, and that helped the BattleHawks become the league's top team in terms of attendance, fan interest, merchandise sales, etc.
    We'll never really know if the league would have held up beyond a year or two. That's the truth.
    Those who rooted for the XFL to flop will claim the coronavirus pandemic presented a convenient excuse.
    Those who rooted for it to succeed will blame the virus.
    The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Sustaining momentum will always be a challenge for a pro football alternative in this country.
    Good morning.

    Comment and a question.

    It is time for us to realize there simply is not going to be an MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, et. al. season in 2020 and there may not be an on-time start to the 2020-2021 seasons as well. Ditto in terms of the college football season this fall and basketball season as well. Until there is a vaccine and/or treatment for this horrific corona virus, fans are not going to go to the games and playing before empty stadiums and arenas is beyond bizarre. DG did a great job of addressing this topic in his Monday Chat.

    Question --- do you believe colleges/universities will begin cutting "Olympic" sports to save expense dollars for the foreseeable future? Saw where the University of Cincinnati eliminated men's soccer this morning. Seems wise to me. What business continually has money losing products on its 'shelf"? Not a forever thing, but until we get to the other side of the pandemic. Understand there are NCAA and SEC rules that need to be addressed.

    Comment on the comment: I don't see the benefit of blanket statements like this, one way or the other. All of the sports you mentioned will absolutely play games in front of no fans if they get the green light to play. Bet on that. Some money is better than no money, and many fans are desperate for something to watch, and would be thankful to have the entertainment. A bunch of fans are going to be ready to go to games as soon as that's allowed. I'd bet on that, too. Figuring out when it should be allowed will be the hard part, not convincing the majority of people to come back.
    Comment on the question: Yes, I see that happening. Because big-time college sports have spent so greedily and made a bad habit of spending every dollar that comes in instead of building up proper reserves, the punishment now will fall on sports that don't make revenue. Prepare for big Title IX debates, and many more examples of how college sports pretends not to be a big business while conducting itself as one.
    So it looks like the XFL is dead for good. What is your takeaway from the league? What will be the legacy of the Battlehawks in St. Louis?
    I think the story of the XFL will be that we don't know what it would have become, sensation or success, because it was over before we really got a chance to find out. Five games doesn't tell us much. The long-term sustainability was always going to be the big X-factor, and a curveball no one saw coming changed the discussion drastically. The BattleHawks will probably be remembered as a fun blip in St. Louis sports history, a big what-if.
    An under rated reason on why the XFL called it quits is, at least my conspiracy theory, is this is a sign the NFL and college football will delay their seasons, cutting into the XFL season. Perhaps the stadiums told Vince McMahon this info.
    Makes sense to me. Another thing to keep in mind is that Vince McMahon is bleeding pro wrestling money as well at the moment. They were separate businesses, sure, but he only has so much money, and this pandemic was crushing both.
    I saw where it’s heck or high water for the Arizona plan once the green light is given. I think it will diminish baseball in the long run if done that way, but I guess I don’t have millions of dollars at stake.
    Jeff Passan of ESPN suggested that during a recent interview on the network.
    I'm not sure why that would be the case.
    The Grapefruit and Cactus League idea Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported on makes a lot more sense to me than sending 30 teams to the desert, where there is, what, one temp-controlled venue to play in?
    And I still think players will be reluctant to sign off on a hotel quarantine idea that does not include their families.
    Some will.
    Enough to play?
    Doubtful to me.
    And what happens to the guys who say no?
    I don't know why anyone in baseball would be saying "it's this idea or bust" in a situation that remains so fluid.
    All options should be on the table.
    So, when any pro sport comes back, if only one player tests positive again, wouldn't league play be suspended until further notice? The team that that player is on would be quarantined and you can't play that team against another in the meantime. Can play a schedule. So, seems pretty likely that one player out of hundreds would at one point or another test positive pretty much right off the bat. Or at least have the symptoms, and they would also have to suspend, right?
    That's the million-dollar question, and the one I asked Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak about weeks ago. I think "disaster" was the word he used. While there are reasons to be encouraged about improved testing -- rapid response rates compared to lengthy delays -- and more available testing and how that could help teams start to resume activities, there is still the problem that someone can be contagious before showing symptoms like a temperature. Are only players who show symptoms quarantined while fingers are crossed that no one else gets it? Are entire teams quarantined? Their opponents? All good questions, and ones that could have more clear answers as treatments/testing/etc. adapt. Data shows most pro athletes, because of both their age range and health, are not at significant risk of being killed by coronavirus. How much risk they are willing to take of getting it, going through it and getting over it is going to be discussed in any situation that involves a return. Hoping to stop every player from getting it is the goal, but it's probably going to be an impossible one, and one that is affected directly by what the players are willing to sacrifice, like seeing their families. It's not hard to imagine the end result of the discussion being, hey, this isn't possible until further down the road. But the conversation is going to be adapting in real time. Dr. Fauci has said time and time again that there is no flip of the switch when it comes to getting back to normal. This will be a rolling timeline. Where sports is on that timeline, and how it gets pushed forward or pulled back, is going to be a really, really interesting conversation.
    Over/Under: We know the MLS team name on July 4th
    That depends on how optimistic you are about the bounce-back from coronavirus.
    Carolyn Kindle Betz says here that any announcement is on pause until after STL gets on the other side of it.
    I hope we know before July 4.
    So St. Louis is back to square one - a city that calls itself a good sports city without professional football. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think pro football is dead forever in this town?
    My thoughts are that I don't correlate being a good sports city with having an NFL team, and I would think anyone who closely followed the reasons that led to the NFL no longer being in St. Louis would understand why.
    Any pro football league that paid attention to the BattleHawks' success saw that St. Louis has the passion for football along with the community and corporate support to make it successful.
    I don't think that will make the NFL want to come back, and I don't see any leader in the region working to try to bring the NFL back.
    If there's another XFL-type league that comes around, I would have to think it would be interested in St. Louis, based on what we saw with the BattleHawks.
    So if baseball returns, and returns with expanded rosters, Dylan Carlson STILL doesn't make the team? That's what Mr. Goold seemed to be saying. What do you think of that?
    DG said it's hard to predict what a team will do with its roster until we know what that roster size will look like, and I agree. As for reading tea leaves, I would point to the signs we have been given. The Cardinals saw Dylan Carlson rock spring training, and it did not convince them that they needed to break camp with him. That was clear in how the playing time was being assigned before spring training was canceled. The Cardinals were decreasing chances for Carlson. The foreshadowing was there that he was going to start the season at Class AAA, in part to give Tyler O'Neill and Lane Thomas first dibs at locking down left field, and in part to keep from starting Carlson's service-time clock. So, if whatever baseball looks like when baseball comes back offers that same situation, it's probably wise to see the Cardinals making the same decision. No matter how big the major league roster becomes, Carlson is likely only going to be on it if he's playing close to every day. He's not going to break camp with the team to sit on the bench in St. Louis, or Jupiter, or Arizona, or wherever else this hypothetical season could be played. Another thing to keep in mind is this: In what could be a significantly shorter season, slow-playing the promotion of a player who could be better than the players you are playing in the majors has a greater chance of making you wish you handled things differently.
    Do you have any optimism on the future of professional football in St. Louis? Or will the NFL lawsuit be the end of the relationship of pro football and this once great sports market.
  • I have optimism about the lawsuit. Lots. I think the NFL is dreading this thing, for good reason. 
    As for optimism about St. Louis getting another NFL team, I don't have any right now.
    That could change in the future I suppose, though I think the NFL is becoming more interested in expanding into different countries than returning to cities like St. Louis. And I think, long-term, pro football will become a shrinking sport instead of a constantly growing one.
    I'm really missing the trip downtown for the hockey games. You were a big part of the coverage last spring. What are four or five things about Blues games that you miss seeing?
    Oh man, everything.
    Playoff hockey is like an entirely different sport.
    There's always adrenaline on deadline, but it's a different kind in those games.
    The little levers Chief pulls around this time of the year. The national media trying to solve the riddle of Jordan Binnington. Watching Binnington's teammates watch Binnington in those settings. The surprise star that has a way of popping up out of nowhere. The slow burn of a series that somehow finds a way to get more pressure-packed every game.
    I was scheduled to be on the road with JT for the first round again, like last year at Winnipeg, and was obviously looking forward to it.
    Selfishly, that was one of the best parts about last season's Stanley Cup run, for me.
    I've known JT for a long time, back since my days as a regional writer at Fox Sports Midwest when those positions ended, but we had never really been on the road together.
    He's the best.
    We had a blast in Winnipeg, San Jose, Boston.
    I'm bummed we are missing that, that everyone is missing that.
    With the XFL no longer a thing, it is fair to say the Dome At America's center will never have a permanent client again. What is the future of the Dome in St. Louis?
    We are big on the absolutes today, aren't we?
    Lots of nevers and forevers.
    I don't know.
    Transfers targeted by Mizzou are choosing to stay at Bowling Green, picking Illinois-Chicago Circle over the Tigers, etc. Is Cuonzo's program THAT unattractive these days? What's holding back progress?
    Let's get the facts figured out, first.
    RayQuawndis Mitchell, the player you mentioned who is going to Illinois-Chicago, never had an offer from Mizzou. Saying you have one doesn't mean you do. And coach's can't comment on recruiting publicly, so this happens a lot. A good example is Alabama football. If every kid who said he had an offer from Alabama actually had one, then a lot more kids would be at Alabama. And no, I'm not at all comparing Mizzou hoops to Alabama football.
    The Bowling Green transfer that wasn't, Justin Turner, was a new twist. I've witnessed a lot of crazy stuff in recruiting, but a guy saying he was leaving via grad transfer then deciding not to leave was a new one for me. If that along makes Mizzou an unattractive program, then I guess you would have to say the same about Marquette and Iowa State, the other two teams Turner turned down to stay where he was. I wonder if things would have been different if Turner would have been able to have a more normal recruitment, with campus visits that were not conducted because of coronavirus concerns. Who knows.
    You didn't mention the one I think stings the most. Not a transfer. Josh Christopher is the cousin of Tigers strength coach Nicodemus Christopher. I thought that would be a good in for Mizzou, and he did list the Tigers along with Michigan and some others as his top choices. Then the incoming freshman surprised many by announcing he was going to Arizona State. Does that make Michigan an unattractive program?
    That said, it has not been the week Mizzou fans hoped for on the recruiting front. There's at least one more name out there we know about that is worth watching. Michigan transfer David DeJulius has the Tigers on his list of potential landing spots, but he would have to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules unless there is a waiver of some kind received.
    If the dust settles on the transfer scene and Mizzou doesn't have some perimeter scoring in hand, that's going to hurt. The Tigers can offer immediate impact. What they can't offer is a for-sure NCAA tournament team, or the most exciting environment to spend a one-and-done season, like some competitors. There has to be a connection with the staff, something like Mizzou found with Kassius Robertson, who made a huge difference in his lone season. The search continues.
    A report in the Belleville paper said that the Cards will have to honor two years of Fowler and Carps contract if the season is cancelled. I thought it would be one. Could you clarify?
  • Both Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler are under contract through the 2020 and the 2021 seasons. Fowler makes $16.5 million this season and next. Carpenter makes $18.5 million this season and next, and then has an $18.5 million vesting option that hinges on the number of plate appearances received in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. That vesting option has a buyout of $2 million the Cardinals can use if they don't want the vesting option to go into effect. Hope that clears things up.
    if sports aren't able to resume in 2020, is it possible that the nba & nhl just pick up where thet left off in 2021?
    The commonly shared opinion among the commissioners of the major sports is that it's better off -- if it becomes the only option -- to wipe clean the slate from current seasons in order to start future seasons fresh so things get back on the normal track moving forward. I don't think there would be any carryover from 2020 if we don't see games until 2021. They would be new seasons, starting from scratch.
    What in the world is going on with some of these football coaches and coronavirus? Leach, Gundy, Swinney. If what gets reported is just the tip of the iceberg of privately held beliefs which I can surmise given the use of tropes and buzzwords and blaming "the media", I often wonder how do they ever get players from diverse backgrounds to play for them to begin with? If you are a player good enough to play DI why stick around in programs led by these types of guys when there are other places to play?

    It boggles the mind to think Leach, who cultivates his own learned, wacky genius persona, could have not been aware that the noose tweet was inappropriate. It certainly engendered him to a faction of the fan support in Mississippi, whether because of the noose content or because he's now been assailed by "the media"
    Our smartest football minds are not our smartest minds.
    Another factor in play here is a trait common in college football coaches.
    They tend to be control freaks.
    This pandemic is out of their control, and their school's response to it is going to be out of their control, and their opinion about these things -- no matter how loudly they holler them -- does not really matter when it comes to this topic.
    Most of these coaches are the highest-paid state employee in their state, but they have been forced to the sideline by a virus they can't really get their arms around, and it makes them wanna holler.
    Holler away.
    Nothing wrong with it, really.
    Doesn't mean the people in charge are going to listen.
    I don't mind a coach saying he's hoping for the best and that he hopes games are back sooner rather than later.
    Who doesn't agree with that.
    I don't like when coaches with big platforms don't use their voice to try to encourage people to make decisions that will help us get a grip on this thing, because that's what's going to have to happen before games begin again.
    I have to concur with an earlier comment from Mike S. As long as people are still getting sick and their is no vaccination to treat this virus you can't logically restart any of the major sports. Even if you are playing in front of empty stadiums. The players still have to be confined together and God forbid one of these players gets infected and dies, or passes it to a family member who succumbs to it. I find it hard to believe the MLBPA would allow games to begin without some assurance this won't decimate one of their teams. I understand it's all about lost revenue, but sometimes Ben, it's not about the money.
  • Please don't imply I said it's all about the money.
    I didn't say that.
    I won't say that.
    What I will say is that I'm pretty confident that those who think sports are going to idle until coronavirus is wiped from the face of the earth are going to be incorrect.
    Sports could look different for a while. Maybe a long while. And there could be some things that change for good.
    But the question isn't if the process starts. It's when. When does the balance between risk and reward tip in the direction of moving forward again? The same conversation that is going to be happening for businesses, gatherings, etc., will be happening for sports. With some influential voices in the conversation.
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