Daily Bernie Bits for Thursday, April 24...
Yes, the Rams have a tough schedule for 2014. That's a byproduct of playing in the NFC West, which is the home of the Seahawks and 49ers and the improved Cardinals. There are no soft spots, and six of the Rams' 16 games are within the division, so what do we expect?
I don't understand the NFL's specific structuring of the Rams' schedule. Putting a Monday night game in St. Louis during the baseball Cardinals' postseason (if they make it there again) is asinine. Having to end yet another regular season at Seattle is ridiculous. Stacking San Francisco and Seattle back to back for consecutive Rams' home games in mid-October seems excessive, especially if the baseball Cardinals' postseason is still a factor. And the eight-game stretch following the Rams' bye week is capable of ripping this team up.
Having said all of that, I don't feel sorry for the Rams. This is an organization that's put a losing outfit on the field for nine consecutive seasons. To this point, the not-as-new regime of GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher hasn't been able to break the streak. This will be their third year in charge. Their third year of coaching up and developing young players. They've had three free-agent pools to work with. This will be their third draft. They've had the benefit of extra draft picks because of the 2012 trade with Washington for the No. 2 overall choice.
Here's how you overcome a brutal schedule: you build a football team that's capable of standing up to it, and succeeding. The last thing the Rams need right now are people making excuses for them.
This is a franchise that's gone an NFL worst 43-100-1 since 2005 ... a franchise that has an owner that torments his own fan base by buying a piece of ground on LA during Super Bowl week to whip up the “Rams are moving!" hysteria … it's way past time for the Rams to get themselves right, and the last thing they need are enablers.
Indeed, the Rams have a very difficult schedule. The NFL certainly didn't cut them any breaks. I would like to see the Rams do well, so a softer schedule mix would be nice. But I'm sure fans and media are saying similar things in many (if not all) NFL markets.
This is Year 3 of the Fisher-Snead project. They should be able to handle tough schedules by now. And if they can't, then they can find other media people to hold their hands and express poor-baby sympathy. To Fisher and Snead's credit, I don't think they're looking for that.
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Speaking of the Rams: Interesting opinion from Mike Sando of ESPN.com: “An offensive coach from another team told me this week he thought the Rams should sprint to the commissioner with the card bearing the name of Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, a player the coach thought would finally give Sam Bradford the true No. 1 receiver he's been lacking. The Rams need line help on offense and they could certainly put (pass rusher) Jadeveon Clowney to good use, but adding a No. 1 wideout would help the team maximize 2013 first-rounder Tavon Austin as well.”
About the Mizzou basketball coach: obviously, go after Wichita State's Gregg Marshall. This is hardly a revelation. I don't think you'll get him, but try. Other than that, I don't have a strong opinion. But a couple of things: I'd never diss the hiring of Kim Anderson. It seems rather obvious that Anderson's name is being floated by Mizzou to gauge public opinion on his possible hiring. We'll see what develops. And though there was some bad roster turmoil at the end of his run at UCLA, I'm wondering why Ben Howland isn't getting more support for the Mizzou job. How many candidates on Mizzou's unofficial and speculative list have coached a team to the Final Four — let alone three in a row, as Howland did? Howland was fired after going 25-10 and winning the Pac 10. Unrealistic expectations in Westwood got Howland sacked more than anything. Again: I'm not endorsing anyone. Just asking questions.
Baseball's instant replay system is so weak, and I said and wrote that at the time it was revealed. It didn't have to be this way. Why do we need the Kabuki theater of a manager walking out to stall and engage the umpire in small talk while the team's replay supervisor checks the video to see if a challenge is warranted? Why not just use the college football system that eliminates all of this time-wasting, middle-man, forced drama? Just have an official (an umpire in this case) take a quick look at a close play, and buzz the field if it warrants a review. Then look at the play, and make a fast ruling. No interruption of game flow, no awkward delay tactics by sheepish managers. This is a quick fix. Make it happen.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. says Mizzou defensive end Michael Sam is limited athletically overall, but will bring value as a designated pass rusher. Kiper believes Sam will be chosen between rounds 4 and 7.
Quickie tour of the NL Central:
* The Brewers rested Thursday, having a day off after winning two of three from the Padres in Milwaukee. The Brewers own baseball's best record at 16-6. Remember when the Cardinals opened their otherwise awful road trip by winning two of three at Miller Park? Since losing the first two games of that series the Brewers rebounded nicely, winning six of their last eight. The Brewers haven't been a great team offensively, per se. But they have enough power to compensate for their weaknesses. The Brewers average 1.09 homers per game (5th in the NL) and are third in the league in extra-base hits. And Milwaukee's overall ERA of 2.52 ranks second in the majors to Atlanta (2.10 ERA.) “I can't believe what we're doing right now,” shortstop Jean Segura said. “We're doing some great things on the field, pitching, bullpen, closing. We've been perfect. We're going in the right direction.”
* The Pirates will be staggering (figuratively speaking) into Busch Stadium this weekend for the three-game series with the Cardinals. The Pirates lost at home to the Reds on Thursday and are 3-11 since April 11. The Pittsburgh offense has batted .225, slugged .357 and averaged 3.6 runs per game during the extended drought. The Pirates' bad stretch has included four blown saves and a starting-pitcher ERA of 4.53. … Lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez (knee) is on the 15-day DL, replaced by Brandon Cumpton … Francisco Liriano is 0-3 with a 4.22 ERA this month.
* The Reds have rallied from a poor start to win seven of their last nine, and the offense got a boost from move of Joey Votto to the No. 2 lineup spot. … leadoff man Billy Hamilton has picked it up a bit, but his onbase percentage remains too low, at .266 … after starting the season on the DL with an oblique strain, catcher Devon Mesoraco has returned to hit .477 with three homers, six doubles and 13 RBIs in his first 12 games... LF Ryan Ludwick and 3B Todd Frazier have heated up.
* The Cubs did their part to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field by blowing a lead and giving up five runs in the ninth to lose to Arizona 7-5 on Wednesday. How appropriate was that? "It's a big day; you want to show up. We had a good turnout with the fans and a lot of former players in the crowd, and everyone went out and battled and tried to get it done," Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. "It just didn't turn out the way we wanted to.”
Thanks for reading...