Press Box: What Missouri’s teams need for Christmas

Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune

I got a tennis racket for Christmas. I’m pretty excited about it, considering I broke mine over the summer while playing in the rain. (Something I wouldn’t recommend, for the record.)

But not everyone’s as lucky as me. Even among those that celebrate Christmas, not everyone gets presents, and some people do, but they just get socks.

People don’t typically give gifts to professional sports franchises, but I don’t think the five teams in Missouri (plus Mizzou football and basketball) would turn down these presents.

Here, in alphabetical order, is what I think those teams (and their fanbases) could use for Christmas:

Blues: A bigger net

The Blues are doing all right for themselves. Despite some early injuries, they still sit in second place in the Western Conference. They’ve been inconsistent, sure, but as a Blues fan I’m not so sure I even want the Blues playing any better in December. They always seem to peak too soon and then run out of juice come playoff time.

Still, there are certainly some offensive concerns. Despite having the league’s leading scorer in Vladimir Taresenko (tied with Jamie Benn with 22 goals), the Blues haven’t been able to find the back of the net all that easily. St. Louis is 10th in the league in goals attempted but a mediocre 19th in goals per game (2.53). Net play has been solid for the Blues — Jake Allen’s five shutouts are tied for the most in the NHL — so if the Blues could just get a few more pucks in the net, I’d be a bit more confident about their chances headed forward. (Well, as confident as one can be about the Blues.)

Cardinals: A bat

OK, yes, Jason Hayward is gone and that is a bummer. No reason to sling hatred toward the guy, but a bummer nonetheless. I’m happy to see the Cardinals haven’t overreacted by throwing wads of cash at some middle-of-the-road outfielder, but I would like to see some sort of reaction.

There’s young talent in the Cardinals’ outfield, sure. Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk could be really good players for a really long time. But there are plenty of question marks in that lineup, what with aging players like Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta.

I get that John Mozeliak has a very difficult job, and I’m not trying to oversimplify it, but this remains true: The Cardinals struggled to produce offensively last season. I’m not sure how that won’t be the case once again when you lose one of your most significant bats and don’t add a new one.

Plus, you can’t expect the rotation to be that stellar once again. And, oh yeah, the Cubs are getting better.

Chiefs: Health

What do you give the team that has everything — that is, the team that hasn’t lost since October and gets the Browns this week? Health.

Sure, the schedule hasn’t been brutal during the Chiefs’ eight-game winning streak, but this is starting to look like a team that could do some real damage in the playoffs. It wouldn’t hurt if pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston were back at full strength.

Most importantly, the Chiefs would prefer to not have to overcome another significant injury. Everything’s going so well right now, which means something has to go wrong soon, right?

These are the Chiefs we’re talking about. They haven’t won a playoff game since 1994. Go back seven years and tell a K.C. sports fan the Royals would win a World Series before the Chiefs won another playoff game. I’m not sure they’d believe you.

So maybe if Santa can’t give them health, he should drop off some good voodoo.

MU men’s basketball: Patience

This team is young. Kim Anderson knows you’re tired of hearing that. At this point, he probably knows that we’re tired of hearing about how we’re tired of hearing that. But it’s true. Now, youth doesn’t excuse everything — the Tigers have lost to young teams, too — and players getting older doesn’t mean wins will automatically come.

But the fact of the matter is this team is young and it doesn’t look like it’s going to do much winning anytime soon. There’s some exciting young talent to be sure, most notably freshman Kevin Puryear, but thousands of seats at Mizzou Arena remain empty and that’s probably not going to change between now and March.

Will Anderson be able to turn things around? That remains to be seen. He certainly didn’t take over a program in an enviable position. But if Anderson is going to be the one to make this team a winner, he’s going to need some time. Remember, Gary Pinkel took a few years, too.

Until then, Mizzou fans should be sure to appreciate the women’s team.

Missouri football: Some points

The good news for the Tigers is most of the offense is returning. Or is that the bad news?

Anyway, it’s no secret the Tigers were led by their defense last year. Some of that was to be expected — the wide receivers lacked experience to an almost egregious extent. But some of the struggles were surprising. The tailback position looked to be good to go with Russell Hansbrough coming off a 1,000-yard season, but a sprained ankle exposed the lack of depth at that position. The offensive line returned five seniors, yet had its own batch of struggles. And of course the team switched quarterbacks mid-season.

This year, at least we can take solace in the fact that we already know everything is up in the air. Who will play quarterback? Can Ish Witter carry the load in the backfield? Will the receivers make any progress? And, oh yeah, what kind of offense will new coordinator Josh Heupel run?

So if at all possible, Santa, the Tigers probably wouldn’t mind if you could sneak a few extra points on that scoreboard while no one’s looking.

Rams: A new owner, preferably one who can coach and play quarterback

Look, I don’t even know where to start with the Rams. As far as the big picture, they need a new stadium. I mean, they don’t “need” a new stadium. The Edward Jones Dome isn’t going to fall in on their heads like so many Scott Linehan gameplans. But the Rams either need a new stadium to stay in St. Louis or they need a new stadium to move to L.A.

As a St. Louis-based Rams fan, I’d say the most preferable thing would be a new owner. Because I’d like them to stay in St. Louis with a new stadium, but not if it’s going to be at the taxpayers’ expense. If only a billionaire owner could pay for his own team’s home … alas, that won’t be happening in St. Louis with Stan Kroenke.

On the field, the Rams have arguably been just a good quarterback away from winning for years now. Nick Foles doesn’t look to be that quarterback and I’m sorry, but I’m not sure Case Keenum is either. I’m baffled that Jeff Fisher likely will be keeping his job. He’s had six winning seasons in 21 years as a head coach. But NFL coaches rarely get the benefit of patience on the front office’s part, so maybe some continuity could pay dividends.

Royals: World Series Champions Blu-ray

$21.89 on Amazon.



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