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.

    Greetings, chatters. Hope everyone is hanging in there. I'm back from a two-week furlough and eager to get up to speed on everything I missed. Baseball is still a Dumpster fire, I see. What a mess that SportsCenter special was last night, with every other pro league lining up in solidarity to give it a go versus coronavirus, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stumbling through more threats to players. Gross. Lots we can discuss today. Let's roll.
    What's your prediction for how the Blues will do when hockey restarts? Will they repeat as Cup champions? (Reasons why they will, or reasons why they won't?)











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    My (hypothetical) money is on the Blues to repeat.
    Craig Berube will have his guys as ready to go as they can be after this awkward layoff.
    No team in the league got a boost like a now-healthy Vladimir Tarasenko during the down time.
    It's crazy hard to repeat, and this tournament is going to be even harder due to the fact everybody as been off the ice for so long, but how do you not bet on the Blues?
    At this point, do you even care anymore whether baseball starts up?
    Uh, yeah. For lots of reasons. One is selfish. It would be good for my job, and not so good if St. Louis misses a baseball season. I'm not the only one in that boat, of course. Another reason? I like baseball, and baseball doesn't seem to realize how much it could be harmed by not playing in 2020, especially if not playing in 2020 leads to not playing in 2021 -- a lot of that depends on where we are with coronavirus and would could be worked out between players and owners the next go round if there are still limitations on fan attendance. And that leads us into 2022, which won't happen if there's a strike -- and what evidence do we have today to suggest the players and owners are going to be able to work out a new collective bargaining agreement? Their pathetic attempts to find a path back for 2020 was not supposed to be treated like a CBA negotiation, yet it has become just that, so imagine what the real CBA negotiation could look like. Baseball seems willing to cut off the nose to spite the face. Hopefully clearer thinking arrives fast. The sooner, the better. But some are already turned off by the rhetoric, and I don't blame them. Manfred's 180-degree turn between a guarantee of a season and last night's nationally televised uncertainty should be his last straw. He's officially a joke. But the most frustrating quote in that SportsCenter interview was him admitting he had not had face-to-face talks with players' union head Tony Clark in more than a week. What the hell are these guys doing? Where are the adults? Manfred is getting ripped, and rightfully so, but he's just an employee of the owners at the end of the day. The notion that he can become some great unifying voice is a farce. The owners need to step up. I'm disappointed that Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has used his platform to slam the players when he could have tried to emerge as the rational, reasonable voice. He should know better than anyone what baseball means to St. Louis, and what a year (at least) without it could mean. He let his fans down with his comments last week.
    What's a good debut season for Coach Drink at Mizzou? Hope for 6-6 and go from there in coming seasons? Or do you think this team could win 8, 9 or 10 games?
    I'm at .500 until I see what Drink can do on the field.
    He's done everything right off it so far, for sure.
    As of right now, what's the best major-college basketball program in the state: SLU or Mizzou?
    Best in terms of most likely to win a game if the two played one another? I'd pick SLU today. I think the Billikens are in for a special season next season. Goodwin and French made the right call in coming back for their senior years. There's a lot more unknown at Mizzou at this time.
    Could the owners just kick out the union and play the season with minor league players? I know it would never happen...but, I for one would love to see it. Sure, the owners are making lots of money. But, they earned that right. If you want to be an owner...buy a team. The owner of my company makes a LOT more than I do too. But, I'm happy to have a job that pays a fraction of what these spoiled brats make.
    That doesn't usually work out very well, and I don't think it would be a very appealing product to watch.
    But if there's a full-blown strike at some point and an interest in replacement players, I'm sure there would be some players willing to break the picket line.
    What I would love to see is the game's best players playing.
    At last check, that's what MLB is about. It's about the players playing. Not the owners owning.
    The seats face the field, not the front office suite.
    The players are not saying they won't play. They're saying the opposite. They're saying they want to make what they believed they agreed to make on March 26, which is the per-game portion of their normal salary for every game they play, whether that's 50 games or more. They're good with that, and they have asked the league to tell them when to report. The owners, though, are upset the players won't take less their per-game portion of their normal salary for every game played, and they are citing a clause in the March 26 agreement that opened the door to conversations about potential changes if games were played without fans.
    Players say those conversations were not supposed to be about salary.
    Owners disagree.
    Both sides have made bad errors during this process, but the biggest one was a March 26 agreement that neither can agree on now.
    Blaming one side alone is missing the point.
    Why did the owners agree to 100% prorated salary? That has to be the worst contract agreement in MLB history.
    They claim they didn't, and want an out through the language that described what could change if games were played without fans.
    But owners don't seem 100 percent certain they can win that debate, as evidenced by their angling to get the players to give away their opportunity to file a grievance.
    It's a mess, but it can't be said enough that these sides are so screwed up they can't even agree about their agreement.
    From what I've been hearing and reading, there may not be any college or pro sports until Spring 2021 at the earliest. I don't see
    the NHL, MLB, NBA, and NFL to reasonably believe that their season will continue.
    Every league but MLB has formalized plans to attempt to give it a go.
    If they are going to be stopped, it will be by the virus.
    That's how it should be, right?
    I can't predict what will happen with the virus, or how effective the individual leagues will be at keeping it from derailing things, or how many setbacks each league will be willing to have before they punt on their plans. Each one probably varies.
    BenFred, what did you make of DeWitts comment about baseball not being profitable? Keep in mind that 25 million people are unemployed.
    I think it showed his version of the truth, one that is incredibly off-putting, and rightfully so, to many fans who pump money into his organization through tickets, merchandise and various subsidies the Cardinals have benefited from over the years.
    I understand and appreciate president of baseball operations John Mozeliak's attempts to clarify the comments, and I do understand that the Cardinals reinvest a lot of their profits into the team in ways that benefit the product -- things like player development, foreign academies, etc. -- but the truth is the value of the team has grown incredibly over the years, and to not factor that into the conversation is a pretty massive oversight on DeWitt's part.
    It came across as tone-deaf, to be honest, especially after his family's acquisition of the much-discussed $8-plus million mansion in California.
    I don't care how DeWitt spends his money. Free country. But his continued comments about how baseball ownership is not financially rewarding is getting hard to stomach.
    DeWitt has the ear of the commissioner perhaps more than any other owner in the league. Manfred often works out of the Cardinals' spring training facility in Roger Dean Stadium. He was there the day he shut down spring training. I wish DeWitt would use his influence to help bridge the gap between players and owners instead of sticking to these tired, misleading talking points.
    He feels the need to stick up for his fellow owners.
    He should stick up for his fans and the game.
    Did you find "The Long Summer" to be a documentary or just a love letter to late 1990s baseball? To me it felt just as biased as The Last Dance. It barely even mentioned steroids.
  • I thought The Last Dance was A LOT more willing to dig into the darker topics than Long Gone Summer. Last Dance touched on Jordan's gambling, his bullying, his ego, etc. Long Gone Summer spent more time on the andro debate than it did McGwire's later confession to using steroids and HGH. But, I have read that it was not the point of the film. The point, per the director's comments in interviews, was to relive that wild summer, and I think the film achieved that. Personally, I don't think it's possible to relive that summer without thinking about how it was chemically enhanced, but I realize not everyone feels the same way. What is hard for me to ignore was that while it was the steroid era, there were players who were not using, and they were at a disadvantage. It's also hard to ignore that steroid use, which is a significant health risk, got such a national promotion to athletes who looked up to those sports figures. I played high school football and briefly baseball in the middle of Missouri. Neither of our teams were any good, and no one was going on to play at a Division I program, let alone getting drafted into the pros out of high school. But still I had teammates who used steroids, risking their health in the process. I would have liked to hear more about that in the documentary. What is McGwire's message to those kids out there who are considering trying to find an edge? He says he hopes they don't follow in his footsteps, but that's it? I would have been much more interested in a documentary that looked back on that summer through the lens of what we know now, but that wasn't the approach with this one.
    Looks like Mr. Manfred is caught in a little crossfire. How do you like that Rob!! He was so proud they he could force them to play because he put that in the March agreement and now he's scared they could file a grievance. No way would I concede that language. Reap what you sow. Reap it!!
    Or, he's delaying his imposed season until the players can't say as strongly that the owners did not do everything in their power to maximize the number of games this season. This has reached the point where no quote from him can be taken at face value. His 180-degree turn from guaranteeing the season to questioning its chances have eroded his credibility. Best to sit back and wait for a final verdict, because everything until that point is just smoke and mirrors. The spin is real.
    I hope you'll play along on this one: What do you think the name and the colors for our new MLS team should be? (Your colleague Hochman wants "Confluence" as the name. Borrrring!)
    I'd rather break the news than guess.
    And I'm trying. 
    But no luck yet.
    It's being guarded rather closely.
    And the people protecting it are also mindful of the problem the MLS has had with leaking information.
    There's a reason it has not been leaked.
    Very few people know, so few that if it does get out -- the league and team will kno how it got out.
    Do these undrafted free agents have any chance at the big leagues or are they just minor league depth guys?
    Too early to tell, especially with the complete unknown that is the minor leagues at this point. Development will be a must for all of them, and right now what that looks like is TBD. The constriction of the minor leagues is going to make it harder for long shots to break through. That's one of the downsides of this downsizing we are witnessing.
    Did you see over the weekend that the Chargers plane was in St. Louis? Any idea why?

    I feel like you must be surprised with how much the people of St. Louis want the NFL back.
    I saw a photo on Twitter of a plane with a Chargers logo, with the Twitter user saying the picture was taken in St. Louis, but I can't confirm that it was a Chargers plane, or that it was here. I was off the grid due to a furlough over the weekend. Got a text today that suggested the photo was not related to the relocation lawsuit. That's all I have on it at this time. I'm not surprised there are people in St. Louis who want the NFL back. Of course there are. As for how many, I don't know that number. Perhaps you can point me to one.
    owners and manfred just look bad. Baseball in 2021 be the best hope now
    I'm not ruling out the idea of an agreement for 2020 just yet. The owners might be surprised by some of this backlash today. They are used to seeing this kind of pressure directed at the players, not them. Stay tuned.
    Have you been keeping up with the segment of NBA players who are concerned about the NBA bubble in Orlando? I believe Kyrie Irving is the lead voice. However, other players have mentioned their concerns that the bubble will be easily penetrated. There is also a question of how living in hotels for months without families will affect the quality of play. What do you think of all that?
  • Of course Kyrie Irving doesn't trust the bubble. He thinks Earth is flat!
    Players in all sports are going to have a range of concerns on both ends of the spectrum.
    Some will push back against restrictions. Others will feel there are not enough. These are the same conversations our country is having, right?
    The good news for the NBA and NHL is that they don't have to play the entire season in this fashion, just the postseason.
    But still, I think it would be wise for leagues to offer players an opt-out if they don't feel comfortable. And if the players who opt-out due so for health reasons that would make them more at risk from catching coronavirus, some sort of payment should be considered.
    Those who are comfortable with the risk and the precautions in place should move forward. Those who are not should not be punished, but might not get paid. 
    In the end, it's going to come down to how good the guidelines are and how closely everyone follows the guidelines.
    And yes, there are potential landmines all over the place.
    Based on the way the owners and players have been during the restarting process, the new CBA negotiations are going to be even worse. There could be 2 straight seasons of shortened baseball. If that happens, there will not be many fans left to support them.
    We knew going into this conversation that the path back from coronavirus would set the stage for the upcoming CBA negotiations.
    It would either bring the two sides closer together, or drive deeper the wedge that exists between them.
    The latter has been the case.
    Let's say there is no 2020 season. What about 2021? If fans can't pack stadiums and things aren't "back to normal" then players and owners will be back in the same spot, one year closer to CBA negotiations. After the 2021 season ends, the current CBA expires. No 2022 season unless a new one is agreed upon. Chance of a work stoppage: High.
    This scary potential long-term view is the biggest reason I thought both sides would get in a room together and come up with a solid compromise for 2020, and that it might actually wind up being a positive for what will come after the 2021 season.
    That optimism was wrong.
    I don't know how either side exits this mess, no matter how it ends, feeling good about sending Manfred and Clark to the table after the 2021 season. This was a test, and these guys are not the leaders the players and the owners need.
    Why are the players waiting to file a grievance until after Manfred imposes a season? The union already has grounds so what’s the benefit to the players of waiting? Are they hoping the owners will be pressured into offering a longer season of say 72 games?
    Leverage.
    These negotiations aren't over.
    I asked Hummel Monday whether it was a minority of the owners causing the issue in MLB and he digressed to why should the owners open the books. Subsequently, it has been reported there are rumblings a small group of owners may not want a season because it could cost them more money. Is that the feeling you are now getting that the owners are not on one page and it is potentially a small group that is hijacking the whole season? I don't think the ownership group fully comprehends the backlash that may come at them if they can't straighten this out and quickly.
    I've read reports that there are owners who don't want a season in order to save money.
    I also read today that Sports Illustrated requested interviews with all 30 owners and received a thanks-but-no-thanks from all 30.
    So, figuring out where the owners stand individually is hard, and it's hard by design. It's one of the reasons the owners tend to do better in these types of public debates than the players. The group of owners is smaller, and they tend to be more like-minded. The group of players is larger, more diverse, and of varying backgrounds and levels of financial security.
    But if there is this so-called subset of owners that is trying to force the whole into leveraging its way into a canceled season, the owners who actually care about baseball and see it more than simply a business need to overtake the ship. Manfred should be the one to do that, but it's clear that he does not see his job as acting in the best interest of baseball, but in the best interest of the owners. 
    The owners who care about the game need to come forward now and lead.
    Period.
    With the NBA and NHL not having fans in the stands and not traveling, home court/home ice advantage are meaningless. Do you think those two leagues should do something to alleviate this?
    It would be cool to see something done electronically where "home" teams were encouraged by fans via Zoom or some other streaming service. I know a foreign soccer league has tried that. It comes with some obvious snags, like people being idiots on the stream, of course. I'd say there is still a bit of a home-ice advantage in hockey, as each rink plays a bit different, and players should be most at home on their home ice.
    Your thoughts on the Cards draft? Looks like they want to backfill the lower minors with the high school players. Any bona fide major leaguers?
    We are continuing to see the influence of Randy Flores on the draft process, and it makes sense to me. The Cardinals know pitching. They have it figured out. They can draft and develop it, trade for it, find it in a scrap heap if they need to. What they have lacked since Albert Pujols is a home-grown position player who anchors the team and the lineup. Paul DeJong has a chance to be come that guy. Maybe it's one of the rising outfielders. But in Flores we have seen the Cardinals go after draft picks who -- with a lot of work and a lot of luck -- could develop into special homegrown assets. Delvin Perez. Nolan Gorman. Now Jordan Walker. I like the idea of taking high-upside risks on targets you have had a hard time producing.
    On a scale of 1-10, 1 being that MLB will be just as popular as ever and 10 being that soccer and lacrosse will pass them up in popularity. how much doom and gloom do you have about MLB if they miss this season?
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