EARLY or LATE….there is ALWAYS HOPE in the Sports World.  Very Shortly we’re ready to embark on the 5-6 week LATE season trip through the NCAA Basketball-M Tourney.  While it’s LATE  in the season, HOPES elevate several notches at his time of the year. Starting all over again in the NCAA tournament many teams see their HOPES of a good season reinvigorated.

… The top 3 teams as listed by the pre-tourney NCAA experts are Houston, Kansas & Alabama. Rounding out the Top 10, according to these experts, are UCLA, Purdue, Arizona, Baylor, Gonzaga, Texas, UConn. However, many teams are STILL KEEPING HOPE about winning it all despite some steep odds. The lowest seed to win March Madness was #8 Villanova in 1985. The lowest seeded team to reach the Final Four was @ #11. That has happened 5 times-George Mason-2006; LSU- 1986; VCU-2011; Loyola-Chicago-2018 & UCLA-2021. The lowest seed to reach the Men’s Elite 8 was #15– St. Peter’s in 2022.   

….Without question, Mizzou Basketball has HIGH HOPES this LATE in the year! 1st Year HC Dennis Gates completely revised the entire roster. His club is very good with quickness, speed & several talented long-range shooters along with strong depth. He uses up-tempo bball on both ends of the court. He, himself, brought in an entirely different style on the sideline. Standing intently along the sideline quietly (what a rarity these days). The Tigers are 24-9 after losing to highly ranked Alabama in the SEC tournament.  It was a terrific game! I’m hoping for a bid to NCAA. If not, his team would have to be seeded very high in the NIT Tourney. Mizzou’s administration  could see the HIGH HOPES that Gates was bringing to the program. Sooo… they tore up his contract & offered an instant raise.  Highly unusual but…. it seems like a wise move to me.

…Mizzou is still holding onto HIGH HOPES for an NCAA basketball bid. But, Mizzou’s NCAA Tourney history does NOT RAISE your hopes. The last 5x the Tigers made the “Big Dance” 2021,18, 13, 12, & 2011,each time MU lost their opening game. In 2010, MU won 1 game in the Tourney.  The Tigers have reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA just 4x (2009, 2002, 1994, 1976). MU fans still hold onto..as they should… the HIGH HOPES of some day reaching the Final Four with Coach Gates.  

…EARLY HIGH HOPES are flying and growing each week as StLCity SC continues their 1st season. By all accounts, the atmosphere in & outside the stadium (pre-game & post-game) for the Home Opener was truly unbelievable. Sure….on one hand we expected it…but….it REALLY DID HAPPEN. The early 3-0-0 with their win over Portland makes them the only MLS team w/o a loss or a tie. The City SC club & management HAS HIGH EARLY HOPES of reaching all sports fans. Between the long-time soccer fans who have been starving w/o any professional soccer in the Lou & the new fans who want to watch a winning team, City wants them all. A lasting partnership will likely develop between City & the growing StL soccer fan base.  All these developments really has our StL HOPES soaring!

…I have HIGH HOPES for you on today’s quiz.  This Cardinal pitcher has the lowest career Hits/9 inn ratio team history. He also has the HIGHEST Strikeout rate for a Cardinal pitcher for 9 inn yet he’s not in the Top 10 in Cardinal wins or in their Hall of Fame. Who is he?

….There are other EARLY  HIGH HOPES are in Jupiter Florida.  The Cardinals current Spring Training corp depicts those EARLY dreams. Two very young players, Jordan Walker & Masyn Winn, have shot their HOPES way up with their play in Florida. I don’t think that Winn has a chance at the start of the season as the Cards middle-infield has sevearal returning players, (Tommy Edman, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, Paul DeJong) battling for 2 spots. The other 2 positions (1b &3b) are locked up with Arenado & Goldschmidt.  As much as I admire his efforts, I think DeJong will be traded or released. The Cards DO have a very difficult time swallowing $6m but I think that their HOPES for a DeJong rejuvenation are fading. If Walker continues to be a “born again Albert”, someone else has to go. Masyn Winn came into camp with much less fan-fare but his unbelievable arm, speed & hitting are making Cards officials sit up & take notice as their EARLY HOPES RAISE for his future.

….Thus far the EARLY HOPE in the StL bullpen has taken a twist for 2 pitchers. Giovanny Gallegos is struggling with the time Clock. I’m a bit miffed…if I knew that I was a slow “worker”. I’d have worked on it all winter. Yet, here he is still “working it out” as we’re approaching mid-March. Another Card reliever has pushed his HOPES down the road. Genesis Cabrera had salary “issues” during the winter & it continues still up to today. It seems to me that the Cards Mgmt doesn’t care for this “hold out” stuff unless you are a real star. Cabrera is NOT a real star. Sooo….I don’t have HIGH HOPES for Cabrera sticking with the Cards past June 1. The Cards often seem very thin-skinned when a player becomes a “Salary Problem” even taking them to arbitration. RP Ryan Helsey took the Cards to arbitration… and lost. HIGH HOPES won’t be enough for Helsey…he’ll have to perform well or face a short, rocky road with the Cards.

…In A-10 baseball which opens up its conference play shortly, the SLU Billikens HOLD EARLY HIGH HOPES  as they hold the only .500+ record in non-league play @ 8-3. That seems encouraging for a good conference season for the Bills. Last season, the Bills finished 3rd place in the A-10 baseball conference. HOPES ARE HIGH for the Billikens to take the next 2 steps & win the A-10 Baseball Conference. Jr Ethan Sitzman currently leads the Bills with a .385 batting mark. The Billikens have won the A-10 title 4x previously—2006, 2010, 2013, 2018.

….More LATE SEASON HIGH HOPES for St Louis U! This time for the Women’s Basketball team who advanced the NCAA Tourney for the 1st time ever!  The Lady Bills won the A-10 Tourney (with its automatic bid) as they upset #1 Seed Massachusetts in 91-85 in OT! 

…The answer to the quiz is Jack Flaherty!  His lifetime H/inn is 6.741, Fred Beebe (who played from 1906-1916 for the Cards) is #2. Gibby is #3 @ 7.597!  Maybe… I should have HIGH HOPES for Mr. Flaherty but I don’t right now. Frankly, I’ve been “down on” him for a couple years. His body language comes across to me as arrogant & cocky. Since his durability  has been “spotty”, it doesn’t seem to me to warrant the Ric Flair cockiness level.  But…on the other hand…. knowing his stats…one would have to have HIGH HOPES for him. Those stats shocked me! It’s not too late for him to become a real star in the league. Although, he will be a free agent after this year. I would suggest it any of you got this quiz right, go out right NOW and buy a lottery ticket!  Your HOPES for a winner should be HIGH!!

…the  Cards have lived on HIGH HOPES for several decades now. Not so with many other teams. One team that hasn’t experienced HIGH HOPES for a long time is the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s shocked the baseball world by in 2022 by breaking the .500 barrier with a 83-79 record. The previous 4 seasons the O’s best % had been .417% (that was in the covid season!) Once a powerhouse in the AL decades ago, the O’s most recent division titles were in 2014, 1997, and 1983. That’s a looonnnggggg time between title drinks. The O’s have utilized their high draft picks of recent years to RAISE their HOPES HIGH with players like Anthony Santander (33 HR in ’22), Adley Rutschman (2nd in ’22 Rookie of Year voting); CF Cedrick Mullins a stolen base leader in last couple years & a Silver Slugger in ’21; arriving on the O’s scene this year as a ROY candidate is Gunnar Henderson. The Orioles have HIGH HOPES FOR ’23.

…Well, we’ve reached the end. I hope that these HIGH HOPES will push you to thinking of other HIGH HOPES for StL sports teams. If so… please share.   Have a super week with lots of HIGH HOPES!  Bob

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