Live from Princeton Heights, which is already covered in a few inches of snow, let's discuss the latest and greatest in the world of sports. The first buffet of the new year will not wage war on topics such as traffic combustion in bad weather, four-way stop penalties, and the ongoing battle between writers and the Oxford comma.
Let's get into it, starting with some Cards talk.
Marcell Ozuna, Michael Wacha reach arbitration deals
I really like both of these one-year contracts. Ozuna's $12.25 million would have been a bargain in the 2018 season that saw high hopes for the left fielder's lineup talents come to rest on a modest plateau. Set to cash in on free agency next year, the deal offers both sides a sense of serenity. Right now, I do not see the Cardinals going long-term with the former Marlin. If he has a breakout year, it may not be worth such a large contract investment for the Cards. If he has a less-than-stellar season, the team will pass.
Wacha's $6.3 million contract is also a wise play. He gets a raise from 2018 and is set to hit free agency as well. Before injury wiped out his season, Wacha was primed to be one of the top starters not only on the Cardinals but in the division. He's found a new way to be effective but still has only reached 180 innings once in his career. There's more to be found there, but even if there isn't, the Cardinals could get one more steal of a season from Wacha. Give me 155 innings, 12 wins, and an ERA around 3.50, and we are square.
The Cubs Retain Addison Russell, invite scorn from league
You're better than that, Theo Epstein. Russell was suspended for domestic abuse from the Major Leagues, but the Cubs decided to stand by him recently. With the introduction of a new domestic abuse policy (ahem, public relations scam!) and "treatment" for Russell, they tried to save face and failed. Local Chicago writers called their bluff and disapproved. It's just not worth it.
Russell is a toxic asset that doesn't even make you that much better on the field. The Cubs and Epstein could have leaped forward considerably by drawing a line in the morality sand but chose to be cocky and push hard for that extra inch. They did it with Aroldis Chapman to get their World Series, and are doing it here. Too bad it won't even be worth it. Way to show what you really stand for Chicago.
Once again, don't embarrass yourself and compare Russell's abusive measures to Ozuna and Carlos Martinez getting into a fight outside a strip club. It's not the same thing. Hitting a woman is different.
Hello, Jordan Binnington
As I wrote for the sharp-witted St. Louis Game Time paper and their SB Nation website today, the Blues need to run with Binnington. It's nothing personal to Jake Allen, but his experimental difficulties are hindering the team's limited progress. He's not having a good year, and it's been going on for a while now. Whether it's the contract, overall pressure, or echoes of Jake Roberts' wrestling career weighing on Allen, he's not a #1 goaltender.
No one is saying the 25-year-old Binnington is either, but it's worth finding out what exactly he is. If the season is lost, which isn't a criminal accusation as mid-January approaches, the team needs to find out what they have in certain areas, because cuts and trades are coming. Binnington should finish out January in net. This should be the case even if the kid loses his way. If Allen got time, so should Binnington.
Let Allen cook the locker room chili. Maybe he can come off the bench for the Cardinals. The two teams have worked together so well since the Rams left town, so maybe they can find a way to get some use out of Jake the Snake. It's a joke, so don't choke on your French Toast.
Rick Nash retires due to concussions
The NHL can be a brutal place, with concussions forcing out some great athletes. Eric Lindros had to throw in the towel early at the age of 33 due to the head injuries, and today, former Boston Bruins forward Rick Nash called it a career at the age of 34. A six-time All-Star and a former first overall draft pick, Nash scored 437 goals in his 14-year career, which spanned 1,060 games and included three different teams, most notably the Columbus Blue Jackets. To Blues fans, he was the guy that T.J. Oshie once laid out in a massive hit, but to many other NHL fans, he was a reliable big-bodied winger who notched 12 seasons of 20+ goals scored. Under doctor's advice, Nash decided to retire instead of risk serious brain injury. A sincere hat tip to Rick.
Manny Pacquaio, 40 years old, aiming for one last "moment"
A week from tomorrow, Pacquiao, the Filipino icon, will climb into the ring on Showtime Pay-Per-View boxing, and take on Adrian Broner. A fitting opponent due to the fact that Pacquiao finds himself still in discussions for a rematch with "retired" undefeated champion, Floyd Mayweather Jr. Broner likens himself, unsuccessfully, to Mayweather's Jr.'s style of fighting, but I expect Pac-Man to handle this lesser version. Broner peaked years ago before losing his discipline and running into better fighters.
Broner's last two fights consist of a draw against Jessie Vargas and a loss to Mikey Garcia. He hasn't beat anyone of substance since Carlos Molina five years ago. Pacquiao showed some newly formulated power in knocking out Lucas Matthysse. He's hungry, reunited with Freddy Roach, and finding a comfort zone at the age of 40. Few fighters find big wins after that mark, George Foreman and Bernard Hopkins to name a few, so a win over Broner would be impressive, and perhaps set up a fight with Vasyl Lomachenko (bad idea) or Terence Crawford (slightly less bad idea).
I expect even a lesser, older, and slower Pacquiao to take care of Broner.
*Future New York Mets Hall of Fame outfielder Tim Tebow got engaged at Disney World.
*I'm not a college football fan, but I loved seeing Nick Saban's Bama team get crushed by Clemson. It was like seeing Tom Brady defeated by Eli Manning's New York Giants. Priceless.
*Dominic Leone is a promising candidate for sleeper of the year with the Cardinals in 2019. He also received an arbitration contract today and lost most of 2018 to injury. If he's anywhere near his 2017 self, the bullpen could be night and day from last year.
*Someone teach Vladimir Tarasenko a one-timer. I don't care about his shoulder surgery affecting his play. This is the NHL, fella. Toughen up and perform. Contract jumps to over $9.5 million in base salary next season, but the cap hit of $7.5 million remains the same. He needs to be more.
*Cheers to Fox Sports Midwest anchor, Dan McLaughlin, for putting up a great conversation with former Cardinal, Chris Carpenter. On Danny Mac's weekly "Scoops" podcast, Carpenter divulged stories about his time in the league, where he's at now, and looking back at his life. With the snow coming down a little harder than winter nostalgia, take a seat and listen to this chat.
That's it. Enjoy the snow. Watch a movie, make some hot chocolate, and relax.
Thanks for reading,