Rounding up the hot topics from columnist Jeff Gordon's weekly chat with St. Louis sports fans.
TURN UP THE HEAT ON A PETRO DEAL?
QUESTION: With hockey on hold indefinitely, wouldn't this be a good time to put the meat on the burner and get a deal done with Petro?
GORDO: His agency seems determined to play this out so he can test the market.
And here is a big complication: How will the shutdown impact revenues and the salary cap for next season? The early read had the cap going up significantly for next season. If that changes, it could really make things tight for the Blues.
For now I stick with my argument that eight years, $70 million is a fair offer from the Blues. If Alex wants to chase the last dollars and another franchise wants to pay him deep into his 30s, so be it.
HINDSIGHT ON YELICH
COMMENT: It pained me to see the Brewers extend Yelich for a reasonable 9 yr, $215 illion deal, which the Cards could have handled. A great No. 3 hitter for the next 10 years, and we let a rival get him. Another swing and miss for Mo: Ozuna and 3 prospects gone and the Brewers made out.
GORDO: It's unfortunate that the Marlins were refusing to move Yelich when the Cardinals were pushing hard for outfield help. But had the Cardinals passed on Ozuna and the Marlins kept Yelich, then fans would have lambasted the Cardinals for refusing to add a good hitter sitting there in a fire sale.
$200 MILLION OR MORE FOR FLAHERTY?
QUESTION: A lot of Cards fans are suffering angst about Yelich's $215 million deal. Do you think the Cardinals will ever pay a player over $200M? Personally, I think we had better enjoy Flaherty now because he is good as gone later.
GORDO: I believe the Cardinals could pay the right guy more than $200 million. DeWitt has some reservation about paying gigantic money to pitchers, due to the obvious injury risk, but Flaherty will test that resistance. Pitching talents like him don't come along often. Drafting Flaherty was like drafting -- and actually signing -- a Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg. And it's not like the franchise has a bunch of other guys due for huge dollars soon.
CARLSON TO THE MINORS? WHY?
COMMENT: Fowler hits .097, Bader strikes out in half his at-bats, as does O'Neill. But Carlson, who rakes, will go to the minors. Your thoughts on that?
GORDO: Here is a huge issue with baseball's shutdown: Guys like Carlson, with zero big league experience, did not get tested by real big league pitching this spring. That comes toward the end of the exhibition slate, when real big leaguers are pitching most of the innings and veterans are done tinkering with their mechanics and such. Carlson did well in the early spring, hitting .313, but he lost his chance to prove himself against better pitching.
Once baseball resumes, I imagine there will be very few exhibition games before the real ones starts. So personnel decisions will rely more on past performance. And, yes, that makes it more likely that a guy like Carlson might start in the minors.
CHANCES OF NHL RESUMING PLAY?
COMMENT: With full scale testing not even started here in the U.S., we're weeks away from knowing how many people are infected. Considering the close-contact nature of the NBA and NHL, it seems impossible that these sports could safely resume until new cases of the virus started to at least flatline in North America. Isn't it likely that both the NHL and NBA seasons get canceled, rather than postponed to a later date? Doesn't it seem like the best-case scenario for even baseball would be a 100-120 game season that starts in late June?
GORDO: There is always a chance that by the time we get to full testing and the weather warms up -- potentially slowing the charge of this virus -- that the picture could look a lot better here than it looks today in Italy. That is the hope.
I believe MLB going two weeks at a time is unrealistic, but there's a chance we could be sitting here a month from now believing we have dodged the worst of this. I don't know what those odds are, but there is enough uncertainty to validate a wait-and-see approach.
The NBA and NHL really, really want to have some form of postseason play to keep their industries humming. That could lead to a shorter 2020-21 season, due to the spillover of this season into the summer, but that would be worth it.
As for MLB, yes, it might be early June since teams will need some time to make sure their pitchers are ready to go.
GORDO'S PLAN FOR STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
QUESTION: With the NHL suspending the season, how will it affect the playoffs? Would the rounds be shortened to best-of-five? If you were the NHL commissioner, what would your plan be?
GORDO: I would expand the playoffs with best-of-three play-in series, all hosted by the higher seed in a four-day span, to resolve the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds on each side of the league. We would need that to be fair to the teams on the bubble when the shutdown hit.
Then I would go best-of-five in the next two rounds, then best-of-seven for the last two. Then I would clip 10 games off the next regular season and start it later.
MAKE-OR-BREAK YEAR FOR CARLOS?
COMMENT: I think I’m getting C-Mart fatigue. Martinez has electric stuff when he’s right. When he’s not he’s a batting practice pitcher. Maybe this guy just doesn’t have the mental tenacity to be a major league pitcher? Maybe a change of scenery would do him good? I’m not for giving up on him at this moment, but to me this is the make-or-break year for him.
GORDO: He did not end his spring on a good note. On the other hand, he did show up in much better shape and he did look sharp in his earlier performances. And even an unfocused Martinez is good enough to help this rotation. We're talking about a guy with a career ERA of 3.36. Pitchers like that are hard to find.
Can you trade him and get a better pitcher back? That is unlikely. And this team does not have so much pitching that it can afford to trade Carlos for, say, an outfielder -- since those guys are readily available through other means.
QUESTION: At what point do the Cards cut ties with Brett Cecil? I just don’t think the good Lord wants him to pitch in a Cardinals uniform. We know he's still owed money for this year but he has been totally unproductive. This has to go down as the all-time worst free agent signing -- $30.5 million dollars for nothing.
GORDO: I expect him to have a tough time sticking around. Unless his velocity magically comes all the way back -- or a bunch of guys get hurt before baseball relaunches -- he will have a tough time beating out all the competition.
I believe Cardinals management came into the spring fully expecting to eat his remaining contract.
O'NEILL IN LEFT? NOT SO FAST
COMMENT: Lane Thomas was starting to play better the last couple games while O'Neill was reverting back to his strikeouts. He might have stolen LF for opening day if spring training had not been cancelled.
GORDO: That could still happen. There is a lot of love for Lane Thomas in the organization. He could be in play for Bader's spot as well.
The truncated outfielder competition is probably the No. 1 drawback for the Cardinals losing the remainder of exhibition play. The situation remains unresolved. I noted in earlier chats that the outfield could remain fluid during the season and now the shorter spring training could contribute to that.
WHO STANDS TO LOSE THE MOST?
QUESTION: Who do you think stands to lose the most from this shutdown? (A) Mid Major conferences that rely on their cut of March Madness profits to fund sizable portions of their athletic budgets. (B) The XFL having to cut short its inaugural season when cultivating fan interest was critical to establish long-term success. Or, (C) the NHL, a league that collects 75 percent of its revenue from ticket, concession, and merch sales?
GORDO: I'm not sure of what the NCAA will do with its member leagues as far as lost NCAA Tournament revenue. That will be one of the stories worth following up on.
The NHL does rely heavily on the gate so it could take the biggest shutdown hit -- but I do not know what sort of fees rebate (if any) the NBA or MLB has in their TV contract. Those hits could be huge.
I believe the XFL will be OK because it showed enough to prove viable and it had a short season anyway.
DUKE AND KU BARK, NCAA ROLLS OVER
QUESTION: Surprising to see Duke and Kansas drop out of the NCAA tourney on their own. Did that force the hand of the NCAA to cancel March Madness?
GORDO: That helped trigger it for sure. The NCAA was resisting the tidal wave of shutdowns and it was willing to go with empty venues as a work-around.
But when Kansas and Duke tells NCAA leaders to sit up and and extend a paw, they sit up and extend a paw. The blue-blood programs run the Association, which also explains how they can get away with almost any rules violation.
LIFE WITH GORDO DURING A SPORTS SHUTDOWN
COMMENT: The shutdowns will show how much the U.S. is addicted to sports, both economically and psychologically. People will have to learn that there is more to life than following sports teams, which in the end are just a diversion from other more important things in life. Read a book or two! Spend more time with the family!
GORDO: I've actually got a lot of books. And I've got like 4,000 cable channels, including Sundance. But all I do is watch sports on multiple devices and track fantasy teams.
Starting tonight I enter a brave new world. Forty-plus years ago I was in college taking humanities classes, listening to chamber music and trying to appreciate art. Can I reclaim any of that or have years of clicking nervously from sporting event to event to event killed that part of my brain? We shall see.
Follow-up: Maybe the sports stoppage will ease domestic tensions by reducing the need for man caves.
GORDO: I dunno . . . now we're forcing men out of their natural habitat into the general population. This could be dangerous, like flushing Grizzly bears out of the woods and allowing them to ransack doughnut shops.