A Full Nine Innings–8/3/21
1st Inning—The Southeastern Conference has done it again. They are firing the first shot in what may become an arms race in College Football. With the announcement that Oklahoma and Texas will leave the Big Twelve Conference and join the SEC, the rest of the Power Five Conferences (and the Group of Five for that matter) must put a plan in gameplan in place fast or get left behind. There are rumors that the SEC has also been in contact with Ohio St. and Michigan out of the Big Ten and Clemson and Florida State out of the Atlantic Coast Conference, although the validity of those rumors is in question. With Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, it becomes a 16-team conference. Many think the SEC is wanting to be the first 20-team Super Conference in College Football. With the possibility of the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams, the SEC wants to have at least 4-6 teams in the playoff every year. Think about this, the College Football Playoff is 7 years old, which means there have been 28 “slots” available in the playoffs (4 teams each year). If Oklahoma joins the SEC, it will mean that teams that are in the conference have filled 12 of those 28 slots, or 43%. Getting 6 teams into a 12 team playoff would not be out of the question. Incredible!
2nd Inning—The SEC always seems to be ahead of its competition from the other Power 5 Conferences. They are always the leader in changing the College Football landscape and the other conferences are always playing catch-up. In the last 30 years, the SEC was the first conference to expand to 12 teams when Arkansas and South Carolina joined the conference in 1992. The SEC was the first conference to split their teams into Divisions–6 teams in the Eastern Division and 6 teams in the Western Division—also in 1992. The SEC was the first conference to have a Conference Championship Game at the conclusion of the 1992 season. They were the first conference to expand to 14 teams in 2011 when Missouri and Texas A&M joined Now, with Texas and Oklahoma joining the conference, the other conferences are caught by surprise again as the SEC becomes the first conference to expand to 16 teams and begin the process of creating a Super-Conference.
3rd Inning—Another major change in collegiate athletics that took effect on July 1 is the Name, Image and Likeness Laws that were passed in just about every state in the US. I hope I’m not overstating it when I say this will change college sports forever and I feel it’s inevitable that the rich will get richer. For example, the projected starting Quarterback for Alabama, Bryce Young (who to this point has never started a college football game) already has over $1 million in endorsement deals. Of course, Alabama Coach Nick Saban was quick to share that information with the media so top high school players all over the country would know how lucrative it can be to play at Alabama. My prediction is that the National Powers will further separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Saban is playing the game perfectly and will probably have his pick of the best players every year. Where that leaves a program like Mizzou is anyone’s guess. But trust me, college football as we know it will be a completely different game a decade from now.
4th Inning—Has the light finally come on for Harrison Bader? Bader came off the disabled list on July 1 and proceeded to have the best month of July of any Major League Player. The July numbers for Bader are fantastic: .357 Batting Average (30 hits in 84 at-bats), 18 RBI, 13 runs scored, 7 Doubles, 5 Home Runs, a Slugging Percentage of .619 and an OPS of 1.021. If Bader can continue to perform at anywhere near this level he may become one-third of the best outfield in baseball. If Bader, Dylan Carlson, and Tyler O’Neil can learn to be consistent, they each have the tools to collectively rank as the best outfield in the league.
5th Inning—The first week of the Tokyo Olympics is complete and there has been some drama. Simone Biles was applauded for quitting the competition due to stress. Call me old school but I don’t get why she is being celebrated for not competing. The real celebration should be for Suni Lee who did compete and won the Gold Medal in the Women’s Individual All-Around Gymnastics Final. And you have to love Katie Ledecky, who continues to be a dominant swimmer and won 2 Gold Medals and 2 Silver Medals. But the best performances of the first week went to two Florida Gators (there’s the SEC again). Caeleb Dressel dominated Men’s Swimming with 5 Gold Medals and Bobby Finke gave viewers the most drama with two come-from-behind wins in the 800 and 1,500 Free to win 2 Gold Medals. The University of Florida has more Medals thus far than most countries (6 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze).
6th Inning—Let me get this straight. Since March 19, St. Louis County (including the City of St. Louis) has had 150 deaths due to Covid 19. That’s the lowest death rate in St. Louis for a 20-week period since Covid started. And yet, County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones have re-implemented a mask mandate for anyone that is indoors in a public area. It makes no sense. The delta variant is proving to be less deadly than any strain of Covid. Most people don’t show any symptoms with the Delta Variant. The fact is Covid is here to stay. There will be at least one different variant every year forever—just like the flu. People are going to have to live with it and do what’s best for them—just like they do with the flu. There is a flu vaccination every year that is not 100% effective due to different variants of that virus. We don’t force everyone to get a flu shot every year. Why are we trying to force everyone to get a Covid vaccine? And this is coming from someone who did get vaccinated. I felt it was the best thing to do for me, but that’s my personal decision. I’ll let everyone else make that decision for themselves.
7th Inning—The list this week is 10 best Outfielders in St. Louis Cardinals History (Just one man’s list): 1. Stan Musial, 2. Lou Brock, 3. Enos Slaughter, 4. Jim Edmonds, 5. Willie McGee, 6. Vince Coleman, 7. Joe Medwick, 8. Curt Flood, 9. Ray Lankford 10. Matt Holliday.
8th Inning—I like to look back at previous coaching and managerial regimes in sports to see if the right choice was made when a team replaces the “head coach.” As they say, hindsight is 20/20. One interesting one to look at: Was replacing Mike Matheny with Mike Schildt the right choice? The easy answer is no, but its more complicated than that. Matheny had a .566 winning percentage in his first three full years in St. Louis with 275 wins and 211 losses. He also had a postseason record of 20-19. Thus far, Schildt has a winning percentage of .546 with 215 wins and 179 losses. Schildt has to go 60-32 in the next 92 regular season games to equal Matheny’s first three years. Schildt’s postseason record is 4-8 so far. The numbers definitely favor Matheny but numbers don’t tell the whole story. It could be argued that Matheny took over a more talented and veteran team in 2012 than Schildt did in 2018. Further, the criticism with Matheny was that he had a difficult time managing younger players. Schildt is known as a “player’s coach” and has done well managing a younger team. It seems the decision to let go of Matheny halfway through the 2018 season is a wash for now. Only time will tell is they pulled the trigger too quickly.
9th Inning—Inspirational Quote of the Week: “People are more impressed by the power of our example rather than the example of our power.” Bill Clinton