SO CLOSE…and YET SO FAR AWAY

Sometimes, we’re SO CLOSE…and YET SO FAR from reaching a goal, a habit, a unique experience. It’s also true in sports…commonly.

…The sudden exit from the playoffs by the Cards was a prime example. Winning the NL Central easily would lead one to think that the Cards were SO CLOSE to World Series play. Yet against the playoff teams during the regular season the Cards were under .500 against most of the NL playoff teams—vs NY Mets 2-4; Phil 3-4; Atlanta 3-4; Dodgers 2-4. The Cards were 4-2 vs San Diego -their lone winning record versus an NL Playoff teams. Footnote—the Padres were missing star players due to injury during the series…   Soo…maybe, the Cards were SO CLOSE AND YET SO FAR AWAY from being a strong playoff team.

….Another factor to consider is the modified MLB schedule in 2023.  In 2022, the Cards had 76 games against their division (Mil, Cubs, Reds, Pirates). The Cards romped through the division easily as only the Cards & Brewers were actually TRYING to win by spending money on star players. That soft schedule often maybe it seem that the Cards were SO CLOSE to a long run.  In 2023, the number of Divisional games will drop to 52 total games. Each team will now play each AL team one series with the exception of their “natural” rival. For the Cards that “rival” is the Royals—a break for the Cards getting yet another feckless team. Competing against all the other 14 AL teams for 3 games each will definitely be tougher competition than the Cubs/Red/Pirates –cupcakes. That modified schedule may make it see…SO FAR AWAY.

…in some ways, Mizzou seems SO CLOSE to being a strong team in 2022. The highly competitive games against Georgia & Florida raised hopes.  But…ultimately, it isn’t who a team loses to that matters, who did they actually beat that matters. Their only two wins over Louisiana Tech & Abilene Christian makes one think that the road to success is SO FAR AWAY.

…The Billikens SEEM SO CLOSE to being a Top 20 team yet when one glances at the 22-23 season, SLU is rated as having the 97th toughest schedule. That made me feel like they were FAR AWAY from an NCAA Tourney bid until I looked a little longer. There are in fact 358 D-1 Basketball teams—sooo, being in the top 27% of all NCAA teams with the 97th toughest schedule for 22-23 schedules DOES make it SEEM CLOSER.

…Tyler O’Neill could be looked at as a SO CLOSE …YET SO FAR AWAY mode. His stats in 2021 were really fabulous-.286, 34 HR, OPS-.912, actually was 8th in the NL MVP voting. He looked SO CLOSE to being the star OF that the Cards needed—that 3rd “big” bat in the lineup. In 2022 he looked FAR AWAY from that performance. Due to injuries & non-performance he recorded these rather mediocre stats—just 96 games, avg-.228, OPS of .700 and an alarming strikeout rate of 103 strikeouts which was in 27% of his plate appearances. He’s eligible for arbitration this year. The Cards history shows that they don’t like getting entangled in salary confrontations.  With some budding OF players marching upward in the system, it seems to me that he’s likely trade bait for a starting pitcher (not that we need one or anything).

…This past weekend, I had the rare opportunity to watch LIVE a #1 vs #2 in the FCS football ratings.   The #1 No. Dakota State Bisons hosted #2 S.Dakota State Jackrabbits inside an almost capacity crowd the Fargo Dome. It was a tremendous experience, the crowd was alive & active (w/o being obnoxious) and urged on beautifully by the PA Announcer. After each Bison 1st down, the PA announcer would say “it’s another BISON…then he’d stop.. and the crowd would respond “FIRST DOWN”. The huge bands entertained at halftime. The atmosphere was really “alive”. N.Dakota state jumped out in front immediately-1st drive of the game resulted in 75 yd TD drive in 7 plays. The Bisons were up 21-7 late in 1st half but got stopped just prior to halftime. The “Jacks” looked like a different team in the 2nd half, they pounded the ball (usually to the left side) while blending in a short pass game. #2 S.Dakota St upended #1 N. Dakota State 23-21, The back-forth nature of the game, the engaged crowd made it very enjoyable. Yet, I had to think about HOW CLOSE these players (S. Dakota St had 10 players over 300 pounds) are to the “big time” and YET HOW FAR AWAY they are due to a fraction of a second slower in the 40 yd dash that the D-1 guys can post. Or maybe bench pressing 30-50 pounds less than the D-1 lineman. It was really enjoyable and couldn’t help but wonder how many other colleges had an Indoor Stadium(capacity 20,000)?

…Finally, Tony LaRusso had to know that retirement was SO CLOSE. Yet due to his success, love of the game, relationship with the owner, he probably felt like it was FAR AWAY. Unfortunately, LaRusso leaves with a bit of scar at the tail end of his career. Heart issues that impacted his stamina forced LaRusso into permanent retirement. As Tony struggle, the White Sox also stumbled in 2022 with a plethora of injuries to key players.

…..The Cards probably enjoyed 16 of his best seasons. He led them to 2 World Series Championships, 1 NL Pennant,7 Division titles. After leading the White Sox to a Division Title in 2021, as his health faltered—so did the White Sox. In his 35 years of MLB managing, he won 3 World Series & 6 League pennant while posting a lifetime record of 2902-2515. Ironically, Tony wrapped up his managerial career in the same place—Chicago White Sox.

…You’re probably feeling like the ending is SO CLOSE and not FAR AWAY…and you’re right! Thanks for the read!  I heartily welcome YOUR thoughts on any of the topics mentioned in this blog.  Either post them on my FB page (Bob Ryan) or send to me & I’ll post them for you.

I’m not asking you to react to the entire blog. Maybe, there’s a particular part of this blog that “touches” you (one way or the other). Have a great Week!!  Bob

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