Monday, April 25, 2011

On vacation. See you May 1st

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rumors and more random thoughts....

Maty Mauk
If you don't follow football recruiting, then the name Maty Mauk won't mean a darned thing to you.  However, if you're a recruiting junkie it gets your palms just a little sweaty.  For those of you that aren't held hostage to this addiction, I'll tell you a little something about Mauk.  He's a 6'2", 185 pound quarterback from Ohio who's thrown for about 13,500 yards and 151 touchdowns in his first 3 years of high school.  He's one of the top 2 or 3 quarterbacks in the country, has offers from such programs as Michigan and Notre Dame, and there's a fair chance he's going to be giving his commitment to come to CoMO in 2012.  The Tigers have landed some pretty highly ranked recruits in Missouri, including guys like Blaine Gabbert, Sheldon Richardson and Jeremy Maclin, and recently starting picking up some 4 star kids out of Texas like Tristan Holt and recent verbal, Jonathan Williams.  But Mauk would be an anomoly.  He's from Kenyon freaking Ohio, not the normal Tiger recruiting ground.  Getting Mauk would signify that the Tigers are prepared to go head to head with anyone anywhere in the country for recruits.  The places Gary Pinkel has taken this program since his arrival is truly remarkable, even if there seems to be a head scratching loss every season.
Sheldon Richardson
And speaking of quarterbacks, we will, for the first time since August 31st when Brad Smith tore up defending Big Ten champion Illinois 33-20 in the first of 6 consecutive ass kickings Pinkel's Tigers have administered to the whining Illini.  You'd have to say that although James Franklin ended the spring period strong, that it's still way to early to call him the starter this fall.  Tyler Gabbert, and junior to be Ashton Glaser both showed signs this spring that they were more than capable of leading the Tiger offense.  While all 3 struggled at times, there's one thing you need to remember, and I'm dead serious about this.  The offense won't face many defenses as strong as the one they practice against.  If Sheldon Richardson indeed makes it on campus in June to add to a defensive tackle rotation that already includes guys like a hopefully healthy Dominique Hamilton, Terrel Resonno, Lucas Vincent and Marvin Foster to go along with the defensive ends, you are going to be a handful for offensive coordinators.  It's the kind of Missouri football I grew up watching and frankly, I can't wait.
Chris Freeman
I'm also hearing the Tigers will be committing more to rushing the football this year.  4 experienced tailbacks are returning and 4 seniors on the offensive line which was one of the best in the conference last year.  And what's even more amazing is the depth behind the starters.  Next year we'll be breaking in 4 new starters but will be picking them from kids named Gatti, Freeman, Demien, Meiners, Morse and Britt.  The Tigers are red shirting kids that would have come in as starters 5 years ago.   I'll be looking at more reports soon and trying to figure out what to look for this fall.  Until then, at least there's softball and baseball to talk about.  But now, I'm getting out of town for a few days much needed vacation.  Talk to you soon.  I'll try to keep up my scoreboard and some fun news stories and current events on my website.  I hope you'll stop by.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Random thoughts....

The Missouri Tigers softball team pushed their record to 37-5 following a sweep of the double header against SLU on Wednesday night.  The Tigers, currently ranked 8th in the nation have now won 10 games in a row as they took down St Louis U. 5-1 and 7-4.  Kristin Nottelmann threw a complete game in the nightcap to move her record to 13-1 giving up 1 run and 6 hits, but also issuing 6 walks.  That would be troubling if it weren't for the fact that she's going to continue to be the number 2 pitcher behind Chelsea Thomas.  The Tigers head to Lincoln this weekend to battle Lady Hick Nation in a conference match up, one of the last meetings between the 2 schools as members of the Big XII as Big Red Fan will soon be driving their combines to such locations as Ann Arbor, Columbus and Happy Valley.  Adios hayseeds.
Speaking of Nebraska, former Husker Alex Gordon appears to finally be fulfilling the promise that Royals fans dreamed of when he was picked 2nd overall in the 2005 MLB draft.  AG is currently hitting .351 with 27 hits in 77 plate appearances and 14 RBI's and a home run.  It appears that moving Gordon from 3rd base to left field helped his concentration at the plate as well as the extra time he put in last winter working with Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.  Whatever has changed this year, it's been a welcome sight for the Royals.  Yes, they have a lot of high profile rookies sitting in the minors, but Gordon, along with DH Billy Butler are a couple of hold overs that have plenty of upside and hopefully add some stability as guys like Hosmer, Moustakas and Montgomery make their way to the show. 
And continuing with baseball, MLB is taking over the day to day operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers from owner Frank McCourt, currently in financial trouble due to his divorce from hell from soon to be ex-wife Jamie.  Not content with the problems with his ex, it appears that McCourt will sue MLB in an effort to regain control of his team.  McCourt recently took a 30 million dollar loan from Fox to cover expenses into the next month and also may be having to answer some questions from the IRS about unpaid taxes on 145 million dollars they allegedly took from the team.  The attack on the San Francisco fan opening weekend, that left Bryan Stow in a medically induced coma also brings security measures into question.  This isn't exactly unprecedented as MLB took over the Montreal Expos from Jeffrey Loria until buyers could be found that moved the team to Washington.  However, the Dodgers are one of MLB's crown jewels.  It's probably going to get a lot messier before it ends and is an excellent argument for the marital pre-nup.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring game weekend. First one I've missed in years.

I love the spring football game.  I hated missing it this year but sometimes when we grow up things happen, and we have to do things that we don't love because we do things we just have to do.  By this time of year I'm pretty much in full withdrawal from football.  Basketball is ok, but the end of the season dramatics, courtesy of former coach what's his name, and it really wore me out.  I'm going to trust Mike Alden that we've picked the right guy, and I'm going to trust Frank Haith because it appears that he's made at least 2 home run hires for his new staff.  Baseball has started out great for us Royals fans, but it's a marathon, not a sprint.  I've seen enough quick starts that were followed by mid season collapses that I have no intention of investing too much passion right now. But we've got some history going with the football team now as they've won 48 games over the past 5 season.  So excuse me if I get excited reading practice reports and scrimmage statistics.
Maybe the biggest news of the day happened off the field as the Tigers obtained a verbal from Texas running back Jonathan Williams.  Williams rushed for over 2000 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior and is ranked as the 33rd best player in Texas and the 3rd best running back in the nation.  It marks the 2nd year in a row that the Tigers have snagged a recruit rated inside the Texas top 50, (Last year both James Franklin and Tristan Holt were members of this club) and shows that Mizzou is a serious contender for the top Texas talent.  Jonathan is the kind of kid that starts a domino effect with other kids and does show why, during the feeding frenzy of conference realignment last summer, he really preferred that Missouri remain in the Big XII where he and his staff had spent years developing relationships.  It also shows that hick nation is now going to have to work a little harder if they intend to keep mining Texas for recruits.  Williams is exactly the kind of back they're looking for in Lincoln.
As far as the quarterback battle goes, James Franklin will now officially enter the summer months as # 1 at the position.  James had a good day, going 13 of 21 for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns to go with a 139.7 quarterback rating.  Tyler Gabbert however was 8 of 22 for 48 yards and a rating of 45.6.  This isn't going to end until sometime next August at the earliest, but I fully expect the competition to make both of them better.  For complete stats, Dave Matter has an excellent breakdown in his blog. So now we'll be reaching for football news, but it's going to be out there and I'll try to find as much of it as I can.  Stop by and see my current event section on my web page.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More random thoughts

Generally we don't have a lot of Missouri athletics information coming out at this time of year, simply because things are winding down.  We're getting a nice run out of the softball team however so we've had that going for us.  And basketball have given us news, both good and bad since Mike Anderson flirting with Arkansas became evident to even those of us that were supporting him.  It's good if you write a Missouri-centric blog like I do, or if you write for a legitimate site like Dave Matter, Mike DeArmond or Vahe Gregorian, but frankly, I think a lot of our fan base needs a chance to chill.  I'm a member of 2 pay sites that are devoted to Missouri athletics and it used to be that you'd see posters less inclined to find fault with the athletic department than the free sites.  But now it seems that we're getting as many or more pissing matches on PowerMizzou as we do on Tigerboard.  I admit it's worn me down and I try to be selective of who I'm reading.
One thing most all Missouri fans can agree on is the new television deal announced with Fox Sports this week is going to play very nicely for the conference.   The new 13 year agreement will pump around 90 million dollars into the league per year and guarantees that a minimum of 40 Big XII football games, plus olympic events will be broadcast, giving the league a ton more exposure.  With the ABC/ESPN deal entering stages of renegotiation the conference could well be the largest money maker of the 6 BCS conferences at least until someone else negotiates a new deal.  It appears that with Nebraska and Colorado leaving the conference, revenue will increase for the remaining members, and adds a sense of stability to a league that many, including myself left for dead after the realignment talks last summer.
Frank Haith has announced 3 hirings for his staff at Missouri this week, and Tiger fan seems to be encouraged for a change.  Tim Fuller comes to CoMO from Louisville and has the reputation as a top notch recruiter.  He's been a long time friend of Coach Haith and has ties with the AAU circuit as well as Nike.  Lord knows with all the scholarships becoming available in the next 13 months, that we can use an aggressive lead recruiter.  Joining him on the bench will be Ernie Nestor, formerly the director of basketball operations at Penn State, who achieved a remarkable turnaround this year, qualifying for the NCAA tournament after going 11-20 the year before.  He's considered to be a good x's and o's guy and a nice compliment to all the youth on the bench.   Tordor Pandov also joins as the new strength and conditioning coach and comes to Mizzou with Haith from Miami.  2 more names will surface as there is still room for a 3rd assistant as well as a director of basketball operations.  I'm still holding out hope that we might bring in a guy with some St Louis ties.  The complete inability of mike anderson to recruit on the east side of the state was a huge disappointment to me.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

So far, it's been a beautiful spring

I'm not really talking about the weather, although that's picked up nicely also.  But Kansas City in the spring isn't usually something you look forward to if you're a sports fan.  It's almost the middle of April, about the time when you can realistically count the Royals out of the pennant race.  But when the boys in blue won 9-5 over the Detroit Tigers Sunday it moved the Royals record to 6-3.  I know there's only about 153 games to go, and more than likely the team will begin to swoon sooner than later, but if you don't mind, I'm going to enjoy this for a bit and do a little day dreaming about baseball in October.  After all, it's only been 26 years.
Outside of Kyle Davies, the starting pitching hasn't been terrible.  Hochevar went 7 pretty solid innings today following 6 innings by Bruce Chen yesterday.  The bullpen has been solid all season and the hitting has been timely.  Wilson Betemit let the charge yesterday, going 4 for 4 with a walk.  Cabrera, Francoeur and Escobar added 2 hits each and Luke Hochevar went 7 innings, giving up 4 runs and no walks.  He did give up 3 homers but otherwise it was a good effort.  The Royals have Monday off before starting a series in the Twin Cities against the slow starting Minnesota Twins.  Royals fans are dying for something to get excited about and right now the team is giving them reason to cheer.  Now if we'll just fill up the ball park for them.
Another reason to smile, especially if your a Missouri fan is the performance of the Tigers softball team.  The lady Tigers moved to 32-5 with a sweep of the Texa A&M Aggies Sunday by a score of 3-0.  Chelsae Thomas moved to 17-3 for the season with a complete game, allowing 4 hits while giving up 1 walk and striking out 9.  Rhea Taylor came out of her slump with 2 hits.  The Tigers are now 7-1 in conference and are a legitimate threat for a long run in post season play.  Yep, if you're living in Western Missouri, it's a good spring indeed.  If you'd like to read about these and other stories in depth, by some great journalists stop by my web site and hop over to current events, and let me know what you think.   

Friday, April 8, 2011

5 biggest moments of MU athletics this year. Well, so far.....

I'm officially sick of talking about Mike Alden and Frank Haith.  Not that both these guys aren't worthy of discussion.  It's just that there's nothing to talk about right now.  Coach Haith hasn't even hired his first staff member yet, or gotten his first recruit.  There may be something if he manages to salvage something from this recruiting session, which suffered from inattention to former coach mike anderson.    As for Alden, as I've stated before, he's very unlikely to be fired due to the profitability of the AD, and the fact that most programs are doing as well or better than they ever have during his watch.  What I'd like to talk about are what I consider to be the 5 biggest moments for the athletic department for 2010-2011.  We may yet see something from the baseball, and even more importantly the softball programs, but those will be topics for another day.  So here are my 5 biggest, in no particular order.
1. The Catch
No, I'm not talking about Montana to Clark.  I'm referring to September 18th of 2010.  The Tigers season appears ready to derail before it ever gets out of the station as they trail lightly regarded San Diego State 24-20 with less than a minute to go.  Suddenly, out of no where, Blaine Gabbert finds TJ Moe for a 68 yard touchdown to save the season.   Without that, who knows where the season might have gone. 
2. The Return
If TJ saved the season, the return of the opening kickoff from Gahn McGaffie set the stage and made Missouri a contender.  ESPN Gameday was in town and Tiger nation had done itself proud, showing up over 18,000 strong to set a new record.  But what remained was the game against the # 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners, a team that head coach Gary Pinkel had never beaten.  The game opened with a lot of energy from the crowd, and the Tigers needed a good start to keep them in the game.  McGaffie supplied that with an 86 yard return of the opening kickoff and I've not been in Memorial Stadium where the volume was that loud since the 4th quarter of the 2003 game vs Nebraska where the Tigers ended 24 years of frustration.
3. Robin Pingeton hired 
I know.  Women's basketball isn't a major sport.  In the food chain at Mizzou, it ranks about even with golf and cross country.  But it was making a statement that the Tigers weren't giving up on any sports, whether it had a following or not. While I'm not sure I always agree with the philosophy, it is pretty much the mission statement of the athletic department, and I expect to see her bring women's basketball to a level of competitiveness that we just haven't see before.
4 Mike Anderson resigns
I probably shouldn't have capitalized his name, and I doubt that he's ever mentioned again, but the cowardly and deceitful way that former coach anderson left is something that I'm going to remember.  He did raise the bar of the program after the Quin Snyder debacle, but I hope that at some point he learns to tell the truth.  Frankly, I wouldn't believe the man if he said good morning.
5 Gary Pinkel's contract extended
This just happened today and I couldn't be happier.  Coach Pinkel signed a 2 year extension which means he remains in CoMO until 2017.  Coach signed the extension for the same money he was making, although he does receive an extra 100 k contributed to his annuity per year, and an extra 150,000 to be distributed among his assistants.  This may or may not be the last extension the coach signs, but I still expect to see a statue of him outside the stadium after he retires.   

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Random thoughts

Billy Butler hit a 2 run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning last night to tie the game at 6, and the Royals completed the comeback in the 12th inning when Melky Cabrera scored Chris Getz and KC moved to 4-1 with a 7-6 win over the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.  It's the 4th win for the Royals in their last at bat also, which is probably as many as they had last season.  I still am a long way from saying they'll be a contender.  Hell, I'm quite a ways away from saying they won't lose over 90 games this year.  But right now they're fun to watch and we're seeing some things from some guys that we need to compliment the young talent that's going to start coming in later this year, or I guess now since we have 5 rookies in the bullpen and one at first base.  The starting pitching is suspect, save for Jeff Francis who looked good in his first outing.   Alcides Escobar may be the best defensive shortstop we've seen in KC since UL Washington and may allow KC to move Mike Moustakas to 3rd base since I'm fairly certain Mike Aviles isn't going to be starting next year if he's in KC at all. 
If you happen to live or travel to the Los Angeles area and you see these 2 scumbags to the left, don't turn your back on them.  These are police sketches of 2 dreamboats that attacked San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow in Dodgers Stadium parking lot last Tuesday night.   Stow, a 42 year old paramedic was taking a dream road trip to watch his Giants and was beaten by 2 assailants that resemble these drawings so badly that he's in critical condition in a coma with a brain injury.  This has nothing to do with the Dodgers or LA residents in general.  This was a cowardly attack by 2 guys that need to be caught and put away.  My biggest hope is that they haven't already reproduced.  The gene pool isn't deep enough for a couple of bottom feeders like this.
New Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith may not have wowed the entire Missouri fan base with his first press conference as the head coach of the basketball Tigers, but he hit a solid triple.  I think that MU fan is willing to give him a pass until they at least see if he can recruit some solid players at this late juncture.  And for you guys that want to see Mike Alden fired for this.  While I've disagreed that he deserves to lose his job, I agree that he's really polarizing an already and always fractured fan base, it's not going to happen most likely.  The AD appears to be 14 million dollars in the black this year; one of less than 20 athletic departments in the nation that turned a profit.  He may get spanked by the curators sometimes but very few companies fire a manager that turns a large profit.  And one thing I'll say to Mike, and by the way I did email this suggestion...Leave Haith alone and let him run his program.  The guy graduated players from Miami and kept them out of the headlines off the court.  He deserves some latitude until he proves he doesn't.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'll take coaches you've never heard of for $500.00 Alex...

This wasn't the hire I expected.  It wasn't what anyone expected.  A week ago we were talking about stealing Matt Painter from Purdue and now we wind up with a guy that many of us never heard of.  Now to be fair, I really don't recall hearing much about Painter either, but a lot of people that I respect think this is nothing short of a bad hire.  Since being hired as the head man in Miami Haith has compiled a record of 129-101 (43-69 in conference) in the tough ACC.  He's taken the Hurricanes to 1 NCAA tournament and frankly, appears to be mediocre at best.  The talking heads have been pounding AD Mike Alden over this hire, led by former Tiger great Jon Sunvold who's disliked Alden since Norm Stewart was relieved of his duties in 1999.
Not since the day that Mike Anderson was announced as coach have I felt like Alden's job was in more jeopardy than it is today.  I've always defended Alden.  I think he's improved the overall athletic department incredibly, but you know, sometimes it's just best to move on.  That time may be coming for Mike, and frankly, I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing.  He's be accused of micro-managing the sports programs and there are indications that has been true, at least as far a men's basketball is concerned.  I remember when the youngest Rush brother was deciding on which school to attend and Alden over rode then coach Quin Snyder and forbid him to come to Mizzou.  Rush went to ku and played on their last national title team in 2008.  The firing of Snyder was handled as badly as it could have been, and even an Alden supporter like myself can't defend that.  You never hear any complaints from Alden's cadillac hire, Gary Pinkel, but the fact is that in the AD heirarchy Pinkel is the 600 lb gorilla in the room.
As for the Haith hire, there's a BOC teleconference this evening, presumably to discuss the final language on his contract.  I expect it to be resolved and we'll hear Haith announced as the 17th head coach of Missouri basketball tomorrow.  But, it wouldn't surprise me if we hear later tonight that Alden has been terminated and now we're looking for a new AD as well as restarting the coaching search.  I don't really think it is a good idea, but you know, I don't know that it's all bad either.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A little mini run to start the year. A reason to hope?

Before the season started, I expected the Royals to lose 94 games this year.  I'm not backing down from that but I do like some things I'm seeing from them just 3 games into the season.  The Angels aren't world beaters, but they're a semi solid club that certainly seemed the lowly Royals.  But the fact that we've only seen 3 errors in 3 games is certainly encouraging. The Royals aren't going to be good enough to give runs away and stay in games.  That was their downfall last year.  Billy Butler is hitting .300 but still isn't showing a lot of pop.  Chris Getz is hitting .429 and we all know that won't last.  Alex Gordon is 2 for 13 on the season, a blistering .154.  That can't continue if he intends to keep calling Kansas City home.  His clock is going to strike midnight pretty soon.
The starting pitching hasn't been terrible yet but it's been a long way from great.  The # 1 starter, Luke Hochevar, looks like a solid # 4 guy and Kyle Davies continues to prove he doesn't belong on a major league roster that intends to go anywhere.  The young bullpen looks good so far however, particularly former Tiger Aaron Crow that has thrown 3 innings in 2 games, giving up no runs and 2 hits while striking out 5.  Joakim Soria looks as solid as ever, with a 1-0 record to go with 1 save.  His strikeout numbers are low, non-existent as a matter of fact, but he's been workmanlike, throwing only 6 pitches in the save Saturday afternoon.  Better defense makes better pitchers when they're afraid to let the other team make contact for fear of an error.  Small things but something manager Ned Yost can build on while waiting for the hoped for barrage of heralded prospects to hit the major league roster the next 2 years.
I'm sticking with my prediction for now, but I reserve the right to up the losses to 100 if we see a return to the Royals baseball we've seen the last few years.  The first thing that needs corrected here is the losing mentality.  Zack Greinke admitted to it last year when he stated he didn't try his hardest since he knew he'd lose anyway.  Of course, Zack wasn't exactly a walking tribute to mental health to begin with.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Quick hits

Lost in the shuffle of the opening day loss, 4-2 to the Los Angeles Angels, something we're probably going to see a lot of this season, was the reopening of the George Brett Bridge in time for the first pitch.  It was really remarkable to me that the contractor, Clarkson Construction was able to get this done in the time allotted.  The bridge was imploded on January 14th, following the Chiefs final game, which was later than expected following a season that included a home playoff game.  Had the bridge, with it's I 70 access not been completed in time, it would have been all that much tougher a sell to get people into Kauffman Stadium.  Realistically the Royals could struggle to avoid losing 100 games again this year.  But it does make it easier for us to make a snap decision to head out to the park on a warm summer evening.
To Missouri fan who's self loathing knows no limit seems to be uninformed as to what is what's going on with Oklahoma's search for a basketball coach.  Athletic Director Joe Castiglione has now struck out with his first 4 choices after firing Jeff Capel.  Local media guy Kevin Harlan said on the Border Patrol said that coaches seemed to be running away from the job and apparently he's correct.  At last count Bruce Weber, Dave Rose, Lon Kruger and Buzz Williams have declined offers from the Sooners.  Apparently a portion of the OU fan base is worrying that they're about to drop into obscurity in the new Big XII conference and they'll become the new Nebraska, all football.  It's odd when so many of our fans wish we had Joe C. back in CoMO instead of Alden.  OU makes between 30 and 40 million a year than the Tigers and aren't having much luck showing anymore success.  And if you want to mention how far ahead their football program is to ours, may I at least remind you of the score last season.
Speaking of football, there was nothing going on with the students out on spring break, but there's a lot of speculation that James Franklin being the starting quarterback on September 3rd at the opener against Miami of Ohio may be premature.  Tyler Gabbert has continued to look good leading the offense and has moved into pretty much a co-number 1 right now.  Brad Madison, while not making people forget about Aldon Smith appears to be developing into a dominant pass rusher, and Kony Ealy may well move into the 3rd spot in the rotation.  Despite losing 3 starters the defensive backfield looks to have more talent than ever.  If Dominique Hamilton comes back from an injury and Sheldon Richardson makes it on campus this could be a very formidable defense.  Some questions still on the offensive side of the ball, including the young receivers moving up and threatening for jobs and whether one of the running backs will be able to stake a claim as the premier back.