Surprises Galore!

We all love surprises….some bring us happiness, fun. Some makes us scratch our head. While others are disappointing in our daily lives. That’s also true in sports….
…the NCAA seems to always bring us SURPRISES—that’s 1 reason fans love it. Well…#4 seeded Illinois had a huge surprise against Chattanooga in the NCAA. Illinois faced Chattanooga. With a unique nickname of “Mocs”. This weird nickname was derived from the use of a water moccasin mascot that was used in the 1920s.The Mocs qualified for the NCAA Trny by hitting a buzzer beater in their conference tournament. Sooo….who expected a competitive game? No one! Anyway, the Mocs led all but 14 seconds of the game! When Alfonso Plummer made Free Throw to give Illinois its 1st lead of the game. The “Mocs” still got 2 more shots after the FT but missed each one & Illinois escapes with a surprising ecstatic win! Btw…the final 2 shots were taken by a StL area player, Malachi Smith, from Bell West.
…more surprises from the NCAA…it seems most years that there is a surprise “Darling” team. The darling this year is St. Peters. On Feb 20th this year, they held a 12-11 record. They had NEVER won an NCAA game in 3 games and now have become only the 3rd #15 seeded team to reach the Sweet 16. NO ONE expected them to reach this level—ahhh…the beauty of the NCAA – surprises. Looking into more Men’s Bracket Challenge Game data, of the 28,081 brackets only 1.53 percent of complete brackets had the Peacocks in the Sweet 16. Only 6 teams had a lower percentage this year in the brackets. On Yahoo, 0.7 percent of brackets had the Peacocks reaching the Sweet 16.
…another shocking NCAA surprise has been @ Iowa State. Last year the Cyclones were a pathetic 2-22. This year, they knocked off Wisconsin to reach the Sweet 16 & push their record 22-12!! 2 players graduated, 7 transferred out & 1 quit from last year’s team. 7 new players transferred in, 1 highly rated recruit arrived and most importantly, a new coach on the bench, T. J. Otzelberger. It gives the Mizzou fans some hope that a rebuild isn’t a decade long march.
….finally on the surprise side in the NCAA, both the SEC & Big 10 conferences saw many of their teams get pushed to the side w/o making the 2nd weekend. Big 10 had 9 teams entered @ only 2 remain. The SEC sent 6 teams to the NCAA with only 1 surviving the 1st weekend!
…A disappointing SURPRISE out of Jupiter…coming off of an oblique strain and a shoulder strain last year, nothing was heard about Jack Flaherty’s shoulder this winter. But…already he’s received a PRP injection to address a small tear in his right shoulder and will be shut down for at least 2 weeks. Reports are that he’ll won’t be available for the 1st month of the season. Flaherty, who had “rough” negotiations in 2021 & beat the Cards in an arbitration case. It was only the 2nd arbitration case for the Cards—EVER! Some wonder if the outspoken Flaherty’s personality just isn’t a good fit in the Lou. Maybe, the Cards will be hesitant to chase Flaherty now with the arm issues and his “free” spirit.
…a huge SURPRISE to NFL fans was the announcement that Tom Brady WILL RETURN for 2022 season. Bouncing back & forth in his decision makes it seem to me that his heart isn’t committed at the extremely high level that it has been previously. Personally, at this age, I was happy to hear of his retirement announcement prior to his career without it ending in a sad way – as many NFL QB’s seem to do. While it IS tough to retire while on the top of your game, its better than retiring after you’ve struggled and fans/players alike are happy to see you go.
…speaking of surprises….just one year after Colorado dumped 3b Nolan Arenado for 1 mediocre starter (Austin Gomber) & 4 prospects (of which only 2 look good enough to play MLB ball) seemingly to cut salary. Further the Rockies agreed to paying the entire 1st year of the 8 year, $260m contract of Arenado’s contract. It smelled like a money dump—big time. But…just 1 year later, surprisingly, the Rockies signed free agent Kris Bryant to a 7 year, $182m deal. Buster Olney (premier national reporter) said of the signing,” On a scale of 1 to 10, the industry shock over the Rockies’ deal with Kris Bryant has been turned up to 11.”
….After 12 years @ Atlanta and still bargaining as a free agent with the Braves, Fred Freeman learned SURPRISINGLY that his “team” has acquired 1b Greg Olson through the papers. No advanced notice to the 12 year vet who has spent his entire career at Atlanta. It may not seem like much to fans outside of Atlanta but consider Freemans career @ Atlanta. In Braves history, Freeman is 5th all time Braves history in OFF WAR; 6th all-time in OPS (on base + slugging); 6th in WAR position players (combined batting-fielding); 9th in games played. A comparable Cardinal player would be Lou Brock. Lou was 10th in WAR position players; 7th in Offensive WAR; 33rd in batting average. I realize that the business world can be cold….but really—no advanced notice to a long time star like this? Freeman recovered quickly and signed with the Dodgers so he DID land on his feet or rather landed in a pile of money–6 year, $162m contract.
…Despite their last place finish in the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins SURPRISED most observers by signing SS Carlos Correa recently. It’s a 3 year deal–$35.1m/year for the former Astro and does permit Correa to opt out after years 1 and 2. Probably overlooked by many, the Twins HAVE been in the playoffs 9x since 2000 but have yet to win a post-season series. The AL central is looked upon, by many, as the weakest division in the MLB and moving upwards in that division will not be as steep of a climb as it would be in other divisions. The Twins didn’t stop with Correa, they added valuable pieces in 3b Gio Urshela and starting pitcher Sonny Gray.
…a SUPRRISE has been the absence of Yadi Molina at Cardinal camp. He lives in Jupiter so travel isn’t the issue. The Cardinals have invoked their usual, close-mouthed, approach when unusual events take place in Red-Bird land. With the complete silence about the absence, one can only speculate about his “situation”. The immediate question is would Yadi have done this with an experienced Manager (like LaRussa) or is the very young, rookie manager being tested ?
…Well…no surprise here….all good things have to come to an end 😊 I’m interested in your reactions to these surprises ..or others. Put them on bob Ryan Facebook or send to me via email. rjryansr@charter.net. To catch up on past thoughts visit http://www.bobryansportsblog.com Thanks for your time & the read! Bob

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