The View From Mt. Airy

AND NOW…INTRODUCING…THE VIEW FROM MT. AIRY, and here to show you the view, HIS view, Phil Allen.

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PHIL:

That’s right Palmer….warn them……pack that radio in ice…….it’s going to get heated!!! 

Because somebody gotta tell me how, just how, Jose Oquendo is STILL the 3rd base coach after 17 years…..

How about this?

The year Mike Matheny was drafted by the Brewers , Jose hit .291 and played 163 games…… .994 fielding pct. Top 10 in hits, triples and OBP….

Let us not forget he was Whitey Herzog’s “secret weapon” and played 8 positions as a Cardinal in ’87 including throwing 3 shutout innings against the Braves (he lost in the 19th on a double by Ken Griffey, Sr.)

The very week he got the Cardinals 3rd base coaching job, Mike Matheny was released by the Blue Jays, could not hit, average defensive player who couldn’t beat out Darren Fletcher……
Comes to McGwire country and all of a sudden….he’s IRONMAN?

Hmmmmm?

Poor Jose. He stands in the 3rd base box for 14 seasons while Matheny goes to SF as a free agent, retires and is
coaching little league! Yet HE gets the call over Oquendo?

Yeah, let’s talk Cardinals….the conversation, unlike the team, will not be vanilla. See, we pay attention out here to “baseball heaven” and we have watched as the Cardinals have gotten very melanin free over the past decade. The franchise of Gibson, Flood, Brock, Ozzie, “Shake & Bake” McBride, Jeff Leonard, and more has how many black players today?

Hmmmmm?

While we’re asking questions, am I alone when I look at the rise of Oregon Ducks basketball and wonder when the sanctions hit? Ok, the rise of football at OU made them more high profile the resultant publicity aided recruiting and, Voila!!

NOT.

That would be that same program which is currently under investigation again and whose former head coach Charles (Chip) Kelly is banned from coaching in the NCAA for another year, and even then would have to apply for reinstatement? I also give you the Davin Bellamy and a group of coeds cuddled up on a couch with a bong. Prosecution rests with this final statement. I understand when a program lands a 5 star kid who elevates the team to new heights, we love that. An Artis Gilmore here, an Xavier McDaniel there. I get it. However, when you’ve add three or four over an 18 month period, my alarm breaks. Isolated campus plus success should not equal shenanigans but……..

MLB 2016 kicks off in a week. Here in Philly we’ve prepared for the 100 loss death march the Philadelphia Phillies wilk embark upon in April. This is a team in transition (no bullpen, bad outfield, thin starting pitching) and I’ll watch the kids like Mikael Franco and Nick Williams. There is a future here. The good news is the Phillies know there bad. They are offering a monthly pass. Cost $50 and gets you into every home game in April. There are 12, so thats $4.50 per game. Begging the question, would you rather win games at full price or get MLB at 1980 prices?

They should include a heated blanket and brandy for the icebox that Citizens Bank Park is at night until May! But if you are that hearty a soul get yours here. By the way, I heard its the Year of The Cubs? Can it be?

http://m.phillies.mlb.com/tickets/info/spring-pass

and that’s the view from Mt. Airy….

Follow me on Twitter: @MtAiryPhil

Follow N The Zone on Twitter: @NTheZoneShow

Ten For Tuesday: March 1 Edition

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(St. Louis, MO)

Shane Gray (@RealShaneGray)

Welcome to my new weekly column entitled “Ten for Tuesday”. I hope you all will enjoy the debut edition, which touches on yesterday’s Rams feature, the St.Louis Cardinals, why I’m not necessarily hyped about the prospects of MLS to STL, what Mizzou Football must do to regain elite their elite status, the good and bad of the NFL Combine, the mystery of NBA Pre-Draft Measurements, the wonder that is Stephen Curry and much more.

With that said, I hope you will enjoy week one of “Ten for Tuesday”.

Let’s get to it:

1- For those who missed it, I penned a feature yesterday named “Monday’s Missile: Los Angeles Rams Not Worthy of St. Louis’ Support”. It has proven to very controversial and his elicited very strong, passionate responses from folks all over the nation. If you haven’t yet taken a look at the rather brief read, I’d love for you to take a moment to do so. Whether you love it or hate it, I’d enjoy hearing your take on the feature. Hit me up on twitter via @RealShaneGray and let me know how you feel.

While on the topic of the aforementioned feature, I’d like to make a couple things clear that I didn’t touch on yesterday:

One, I wish no ill will whatsoever towards the Rams players. Obviously, they had nothing to do with the move. I interviewed several of them on different occasions over the last few years, and think the world of guys like Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn, free agent wide receiver Brian Quick and former Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, all of whom were great people, great interviews and wonderful assets in the community.

Two, I wish to congratulate any and all CLASSY fans from L.A. who will get to watch the Rams return to Cali. I don’t blame them for being excited. Not at all. As for those who want to bash St.Louis and the fans here, however, well… that’s another story altogether.

2- With the Rams moving on, I plan to turn more attention back to the St. Louis Cardinals. I will be honest and admit that much of my focus turned away from the Redbirds after the Rams came to St. Louis. As a child, though, I was an absolute die-hard, live-and-die Cardinals fan. They were my first true love in regards to a sports team. Somewhere along the way, though, I lost my passion for the game even after playing it in college.

As probably everyone is aware by now, the Redbirds are in the thick of Spring Training in preparation for the 2016 Major League Baseball campaign. Can they hold off the rival Cubs? Will the Pirates again make major noise in the division? That discussion will come on another day and I look forward to diving into some Cardinals coverage this year.

3- Switching gears, a group of prominent, local investors — including Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt and former #STLNFL Task Force co-head Dave Peacock, among others — recently united to form #MLS2STL and are exploring the possibility of bringing an expansion MLS franchise to St. Louis. (In case you missed it, here’s the full story.)

While I have nothing against MLS and am all for anything that would be a positive for the region, I do have one significant reservation about bringing an MLS team to the city.

Why am I so lukewarm on the MLS2STL? Here’s why:

I don’t believe St. Louis is currently viewed by many as a four team region. If true — and I have reason to believe that is indeed the case — I’d prefer our third professional club to be something other than an MLS franchise.

With the MLB and NHL deeply rooted in the Gateway City, that realistically only leaves room for one other major pro sports league/team, and I’d personally hate to reduce or remove any future hopes for an NFL expansion team with truly committed local ownership and a 30 year plus iron-clad lease, or even a chance at an NBA franchise at some point down the road in exchange for MLS. I could be wrong, but I think the presence of MLS would greatly reduce any chances of eventually making a run at having a team from either of those two more prestigious leagues,and if that is indeed true, that bothers me.

As for the NBA, keep in mind that Stan Kroenke relative Bill Laurie nearly locked up an expansion team even WITH the NFL and three other pro teams in town. With that considered, IF a legitimate effort were made at a time when there are but two major pro teams in town rather than three, I think it could certainly get done.

4- Speaking of the Association, Stephen Curry continues to amaze me. To me, he’s the best player in the League right now. He’s the best scorer and best shooter, he’s money in crunch time, he’s a willing and effective passer and he can D up when the chips are on the line.

In short, if there’s one guy in pro basketball that I’m paying to watch play right now, it’s Curry… and nobody else is a close second at the moment.

5- Last year, the Missouri Tigers football program fell off and fell off hard, going 5-7 in a year filled with off-field controversy, on-field struggles and the eventual resignation of Head Coach Gary Pinkel, who ran the show at Mizzou for 15 years, leading the Tigers to ten winning seasons, 10 bowl games, six bowl wins and a combination of five Big 12 North/SEC East Division championships.

After a down year, what does Mizzou need to do to get back on track?

To me, the most glaring hole on the Tigers roster a year ago — and something that was always a strong point during Missouri’s best years within the Pinkel era — was a deep, productive receiving corps.

Last season, the Tigers lack of depth and overall talent at receiver was undeniable, and the offense struggled to produce points and generate big plays largely because of it.

If Mizzou is going to get back to its winning ways and again become a power in the SEC, they need to get their wideout talent back to something close to the level it had been prior to the 2015 debacle.

6- I have always enjoyed the annual NFL Combine, and watched it extremely closely when covering the Rams and preparing for draft-related articles from 2011 through 2015.

That said, the Combine can be either a blessing or a curse for NFL talent evaluators and NFL teams — depending on how it is utilized.

When game tape is kept as the priority, the combine is a fine tool to further evaluate prospects. When the combine is used strictly as a complimentary tool to hone in on what a player has done on the field and fine tune evaluations, it is great.

But when scouts and teams take the bait and move someone up or down a draft board based more upon the combine than what a player or players actually did on the gridiron, teams are asking for major problems.

The combine is fine to help refine grades on a given player, but when the grades become based more upon the combine stats than the football stats, teams are begging to end up drafting busts.

7- Speaking of the combine, the NBA Combine has always been fascinating to me in regard to the measurements, and — more specifically — the height measurements.

At the NFL Combine, players are measured only once, and in their bare feet. But at the NBA Combine, prospects are measured early in the morning (when players are 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch taller than they would be late in the day), and are measured both in their bare feet and in their shoes.

As many of you are probably aware, in-shoe heights are commonly used on rosters in college or pro basketball. One can argue about whether that makes sense or not, but its been a common practice in recent decades to either list players in roughly their shoe heights or add anywhere from a half-inch to over two inches to a player’s barefoot measurement.

For example, Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love was measured at 6’7″3/4 without shoes at the 2008 pre-draft camp, but has been listed at 6’10” throughout his pro and college career.

Former Cavs guard and rumored lover of Lebron James’ mom Delonte West was measured at 6’1″1/2 barefoot, 6’2″3/4 with shoes while being listed at 6’4″ for portions of his pro career.

John Starks, who starred for the New York Knicks during the Patrick Ewing era, admitted to a 6’2″height while playing with a 6’5″listing.

Finally, former Oklahoma State standout Byron Houston — from way back in the Big 8 days — measured just 6’4″ barefoot while being listed at 6’7″ both in college and the NBA.

On the other hand, there are always a few players who use their barefoot heights and are even taller without shoes than their listed heights. Longtime legend Kevin Garnett is one of those players, listed at 6’11” while being been measured at 7’1″ in shoes. Another future Hall-of-Famer, Kevin Durant, is listed at 6’9 but stands close to 7 foot on the hardwood in shoes.

In general, when you see a player’s height on a roster, you can bet it is either an in-shoe listing or roughly an inch to an inch and a half above their barefoot height, but it’s always interesting — to me at least — to see the extremes of the over-inflated listings or the few who utilize their barefoot measurement.

8- With the concussion issue coming to the forefront in the NFL, particularly after Will Smith’s blockbuster “Concussion” movie, has it changed how you feel about your son, brother, nephew or cousin playing the game?  I’d love to hear your take on the topic. Hit me up on Twitter (@RealShaneGray) and let me know how you feel about your loved ones playing football.

9- Speaking of movies, let’s play make believe for a quick second and pretend that YOU are going to star in a sports-related feature film. If you were the star and had your pick of women to play the role of your wife or girlfriend, tweet me her name and why you chose her using #NTheZone and #MyLeadingLady. It will be interesting to see what women y’all have been scoping out.

10- Finally, on next week’s N The Zone Podcast with Palmer Alexander (@thelegendkil) of the St. Louis American and Arlington Lane (@TheATrainSTL), we will be introducing a new segment entitled “Ask Shane/Get at Gray”. For those following me on twitter, DM me your question/questions, and I will answer a few of them over the air next Sunday. For those whose answers are chosen, we will let you know by tagging your twitter handle when tweeting out the segment. I look forward to the inquiries.

Thanks for reading…

 

The A-Train Rant – MLB All Star Edition

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This A-Train rant is devoted to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game…

  1. It’s nothing but a popularity contest.
  2. The deserving players hardly ever get selected. It’s so bad that some athletes have decided to try and get fans to vote for them with tactics such as this one from Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
  3. Since the game is televised (I care less about the radio broadcast), the different leagues SHOULD look for SUPERSTARS for big-time ratings. Of course, they don’t deliver.
  4. Most fans of the all-star game know NOTHING about the participants.
  5. These games are just an exhibition and shouldn’t be taken seriously by fans. The players may play for pride/trash talk. Bud Selig decided to make the game serious because of a damn tie.
  6. MLB should learn the NHL’s approach for all-star games where the players have the most say for selections…sadly the NHL yields the lowest ratings of the 4 major sports.
  7. Or MLB should use the NFL’s approach where players and coaches are the ones that handle two-thirds of the voting…yet they have the 2nd lowest of the 4 major sports.
  8. Now MLB had its controversies with ballet stuffing, one was dated from the 1957 All-Star Game in St. Louis when 7 out of the 8 position players were all from the Cincinnati Reds (Redlegs back then). The lone player not from Cincinnati was the hometown Cardinals star Stan Musial.
  9. Why is St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Pat Neshek an All-Star?
  10. Mike Matheny will lose to John Farrell once again in the All-Star Game.
  11. There should never be a representative from every team in the game…if they are playing like crap, too bad, no selection for you.
  12. Certain superstar players should be able to play in the game until the end, especially when critical situations occur, forget the 2 at-bats and sit down deal. Example: The 1994 All-Star Game at the old Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
  13. I can’t wait till Bud Selig retires…it’s almost in the same light as David Stern’s retirement with the NBA. Get these OLD MEN out of the door.
  14. As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, the only deserving All-Star is Adam Wainwright. Matt Carpenter is a slight maybe. (NOTE: The Cardinals have 4 All-Stars)
  15. This game itself is supposed to fun and exciting to watch, at least that’s how I remember it. I barely watched the game last year and a few innings of the 2012 game that included the dominance of the National League (I checked the final score).

I’m done for now. I may do more All-Star rants in the future but this seems good enough. If you have something that burns your hair, leave an intelligent comment below.

Don’t forget to follow N The Zone Sports on Facebook

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And….on Twitter too

The A-Train

The Best Is Yet To Come (No Jokers Wild Card)

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Think about this… Baseball’s extra Wild Card element added for the first time this year gives more sports drama because of last year’s almost incidentally awesome last day. That last day of diligence, drama, and dreams was created in the unlikely but unforgettable last day of last year’s regular season that was happening in four different games.

Because of this extra wildcard now in 2012, teams like the Cincinnati Reds have a chance to shatter the Cards’ playoff dreams instead of just sitting pretty atop the Central Division waiting for a 1st round playoff opponent.

The Reds can be both division winners and Wild Card spoilers! This duality is the new reality of the 2012 postseason race.

The great schedule makers have Cincinnati meeting its division nemesis, the Cardinals, for a three-game regular-season finale of a series that begins Monday. Oh yes, plenty is at stake. Before the playoffs, the National League Central champion Reds can also bounce St. Louis from this new 2012 second Wild Card spot. The Cardinals entered the day with a two-game advantage over the surging L.A. Dodgers.

For the first time ever, the three headed monster of quality teams in the American League West can all battle it out for playoff positioning down the last few games of the season and two of the three will likely get in. Even next year all three teams could have a postseason game. This 2012 change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional cities in the great U.S.A. or Canada to experience playoff baseball each year, all while maintaining the most exclusive postseason in professional sports.

The National and American League Championship Series and World Series formats will remain the same, keeping baseball purists happy still.

Let’s get back to the National League playoff picture. Although the scenario is different this year for the Cardinals to get into the playoffs the revenge factor is intriguing from the standpoint of the Atlanta Braves. Of course The Braves want to get back at the Cards for last year’s epic failure when they held a double digit lead in the standings over the Cards and losing that lead ultimately on the final day of the season. Yes, the Braves ultimately controlled their own destiny but couldn’t hold off the surging LaRussa Lead legacy of champions.

As a St. Louis sports fan, I’ve been blessed to almost always find myself switching back and forth between meaningful and or playoff cardinal baseball and Blues opening season hockey on the same nights for a few weeks in October. Well this year with no NHL hockey and me not playing hockey due to my schedule I hope to see some games on the hockey schedule! But for baseball even the casual or impatient sports fans who often mock the game of baseball can’t help but respect what our national past time has done to help the fan experience exceed expectations.

On the hockey front; I think I’ll wait till’ some of my teammates are ready to get into the swing of the real winter season before I lace up my skates to play some real games. Oh and let’s not forget about the new college friend who will be needing an early season warm welcome back to STL with a pickup game or two in December.

Predictions– These baseball teams will make the playoffs: Senior circuit: Braves, Cards, Nationals, Giants, Reds – Junior circuit: Rangers, A’s, Yankees, Orioles, Tigers

World Series Prediction: Cardinals versus A’s

Prediction for my sports life: Time will be found to play hockey in our league with my teammates and time to play pickup hockey with old and new friends in between the grueling but grateful schedule of producing programing!

-Bryan Kreutz

A Train’s 2012 MLB All-Stars…Part 1

As the 2012 MLB All-Star Game approaches, the A-Train has provided you the fan some all-star picks that you can use for your ASG ballots. Some you might agree with and others you might just think I’m crazy.

But here it goes…Part 1 begins with the National League All-Stars for manager Tony LaRussa (yep, this is his last one…remember he won the World Series last year)

NOTE: This is from the catcher position all the way to the outfielders. All stats are as of 6/25/2012

Catcher – Yadier Molina (Cardinals) – Molina is on his way to a breakout season as a catcher. His .318 average, 10 HR and 39 RBI should keep Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves from getting the nod. McCann back in the 2010 game stole the show with his clutch 3-run single in the top of the 7th to help stop the American League’s string of all-star wins (since 1997) come to an end.

1st Base – Joey Votto (Reds) – Now that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are in a different league…Votto should be the starting 1st baseman of the NL All-Stars for a while. Another solid season for Votto (.359 average, 14 HR and 47 RBI) means that nobody couldn’t come close to getting this nod. Should be an easy pick for any NL ballot.

2nd Base – Brandon Phillips (Reds) – Here is another easy selection for this team. I mean come on…what other 2nd baseman in the National League is there…mind you…that qualifies to be on this all-star team. Maybe Aaron Hill of the Arizona Diamondbacks? Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves? While many people can’t stand this guy (mostly Cardinal fans), this guy is still an excellent fielder and hitter. To me, this was (like I said) an easy choice.

Shortstop – Ian Desmond (Nationals) – Yes, I am still not choosing Furcal. Desmond has the numbers which are the best of the NL shortstops (12 HR and 49 RBI)…all the other big names like Jose Reyes of the Marlins and Jimmy Rolllins…major disappointments. NOTE: Troy Tulowitzki (my first choice) is on the 15-day disabled list. So that would have made that pick irrelevant. Choose Ian Desmond.

3rd Base – David Freese – (Cardinals) – Now many people will disagree with this pick as well, but Freese, after his awesome postseason of last year is still doing a solid job (.279 average, 13 HR and 46 RBI). Don’t get me wrong, you have some good competition at 3rd like Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates (despite the .229 average), Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins, and of course David Wright of the New York Mets, who is batting .360. His defense has been much better and has provided some fielding gems that could (in my opinion) earn him a Gold Glove. This is NOT  just because I’m a Cardinal fan…I’M CALLING THEM LIKE I SEE THEM!

Outfielder – Carlos Beltran (Cardinals) – STRAIGHT BEAST MODE!! I mean this is rejuvenated Beltran that we are seeing here. But if he doesn’t START the all-star game, every Cardinal fan should be ashamed of themselves. Despite his injuries, Beltran is having a wonderful offensive season, tied for the NL lead in home runs with 20 and 56 RBIs, no doubt in my mind that he should be the starter. Better yet he should be the leading vote-getter. GET IT TOGETHER FOLKS, there is still time to make that happen.

Outfielder – Ryan Braun (Brewers) – Even though I can’t stand this dude, last year’s NL MVP gets a nod from me. This “cheater” (yeah I said it) is still putting together a solid season (.319 average, 20 HR, 52 RBI) without the likes of Prince Fielder to protect him. He still has an all-star presence despite his shortcomings. I would be really surprised if he’s snubbed as a starter. I really would. But then again, cheaters never prosper.

Outfielder – Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) – This was very debatable but this 25-year old star deserves to get the chance to start in an all-star game and define his all-star status. It’s his time. His numbers compare with the others (.340 avg, 13 HR, 45 RBI, and even 14 stolen bases), I mean I can’t see why he shouldn’t start. I MEAN REALLY! This is a 5-tool player…unless you see something wrong that I don’t. Put the votes in for him, his team may not be  doing the best but this a team of solid, young players. His energy to the game is what most young players should have and (by George) he’s got it.

Designated Hitter – Matt Holliday (Cardinals) – Holliday is putting up solid numbers even without Mr. Pujols (.299 avg, 12 HR, 47 RBI) . I can’t see him not being an all-star in any other capacity. He should get the nod for Tony’s team.

This team looks solid and could put together a 3-game winning streak for the National League. But those other guys in the American League might have something to say about that. Next time, I’ll provide for you my American League All-Stars.

A-Train