What I’ve Learned So Far in St. Louis by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

For seven weeks, I’ve been a St. Louisan as the program director of 101 ESPN – one of the best sportstalk radio stations in America.  This is the first move my family has made in 18 years, and the first time as bona fide adults.  There is a lot to know, and I’m picking up as much as I can as quickly as I can, and it’s a challenge.

Here is a list – a bit of a primer – of the lessons for those considering a similar change in course:

Selling a house is not cheap, and it’s not easy – All those accommodations home owners make to the age of their home are exposed and corrections must be made.  We replaced or updated a long list of items that had been petty annoyances for years.  There is a feeling for us that we want those who trust us enough to buy our home to be very happy with their choice.  We owe it to the buyer to make sure everything is right, so we replaced faucets, carpeting, and shower doors.  Julie and Ryan worked their asses off to make the backyard the wonderful getaway that we always wanted it to be.  I wish we had done it years ago, so we could have enjoyed it more.

The best part of the house not selling in the first two weeks it has been listed is that we have absolutely no idea where we want to live in St. Louis.  City?  Country?  Near work?  Near golf?  In the woods?  In a town?  Julie, Ryan, and I have no idea where to land.

Driving 280 miles each way every weekend isn’t that tough – The drive between Indianapolis and St. Louis isn’t a bother at all.  I enjoy a little solitude now and then, and the almost four-hour drive is a simple and mindless jaunt without a metropolitan area in between.  101 ESPN has a huge signal – I can hear it almost all the way to Terre Haute – so listening uninterrupted is easy and because the product is high quality, very enjoyable.

With family in Indy, working is all there is to do in St. Louis – People always say that there is no such thing as work if you love what you do, and that’s true.  Maybe that’s why I don’t mind being in the office from before eight to after seven most days.  It also helps that my option is another night alone in my hotel room at the Doubletree.  Nothing against the Doubletree, but all things being equal, I’d rather be in the office.  When Julie and/or Ryan move out here, that will change a little bit as the discipline to devote time for family is every bit as important as the discipline of working hard.  I learned that while working in Indianapolis – accepting more and more responsibility as a manager’s faith.

Meeting new people can be joyful – I’ve never been a gregarious guy with new people.  It has always taken me a significant period of time to feel comfortable with strangers, but that seemed more a choice than a psychological disorder, so I told myself to ignore the impulse to dip my toe in the water before easing into the social pool.  I jumped in, and continue to get lunch with people as though they will be future friends rather than longtime strangers.  Let’s face it, I’m not George Clooney or Sam Bradford, so people aren’t going to tolerate my social reticence because in the end it will be worth it.  Fortunately, St. Louisans are a welcoming bunch, so I’m having a great time introducing myself to people I haven’t met.

St. Louis is a cool city (not in climate) – The people in St. Louis tend to stay in St. Louis, so there aren’t a huge number of ambassadors running around the midwest extolling the many virtues of the ‘Gateway to the West’.  That might be how St. Louisans like it.  The city is like some secret along the Mississippi that some very lucky outsiders occasionally wander into.  Getting around town is a challenge, but well worth it.  It ever a midwestern city was built for GPS, it’s St. Louis, but the rewards of a meal on ‘The Hill’, a trip to Rams Park for practice, or a game at Busch Stadium has all been more than worth it.  There are an endless series of suburban towns – some of which are forest filled and rural, while others are very typical.  The people, as I mentioned earlier, are very friendly.  People told me when we decided to move to St. Louis that its people are “very provincial”.  If they meant people are proud of their hometown, they were right.  But I got the impression that they meant the people were cold to outsiders.  I have found that purely false.

In a related thought, heat is relative.  It’s been really hot and humid since I got to St. Louis, but it no longer bothers me at all.  It’s not a dry heat, but it’s a heat that is easy to ignore.

St. Louis is a great golf town – I like golf.  Rather than a good walk spoiled, I see golf as a great hike enhanced.  St. Louis has beautiful and affordable courses.  The grasses are very hearty, so the divots are small.  My shoulders and elbows throb a bit after a round in Indy.  The turf is so loose that I can get a little deep with divots, and the shock of the impact causes some aches and pains.  In St. Louis, no such worries.

Baseball is good for sportstalk – During summers in Indianapolis, the only major league – and I realize I’m stretching the definition of the term ‘major league’ – is the WNBA.  That’s right, from the end of the Pacers season through the opening of Colts camp, the Indiana Fever are the only game in town.  St. Louis, with the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues, is a 365 day sports town.  People love all three teams, and all are committed to bringing in high character guys.  I love it.

The Cards are great – I know that as a lifelong Cubs fan, I’m supposed to somehow hate the Cardinals, but they play the game the right way.  Despite the Cubs current run of seven straight wins, they continue to run the bases like tools, miss cutoff men, and swing at pitches outside the strike zone.  Rooting for the Cubs, where no culture of winning exists, is a brutal exercise in futility.  The only culture is of unearned exorbitance.  The Cards are completely unlike the Cubs.  They play baseball the right way.  I have long thought that Albert Pujols is the best hitter I have ever seen, but watching him night after night it’s clear that his excellence extends beyond what he does with the bat.  While not fast, he might be the smartest baserunner I’ve seen since Roberto Clemente.  He wins games by taking the extra base, and that surprised me.  Maybe he is just on a great run of luck not getting thrown out, but over the last seven weeks, I’ve been stunned by his smart aggression.

All NFL teams are not run like the Colts – There is no denying the consistent excellence of the Colts over the last decade, but there is also no denying that their treatment of the media is more than a little off-putting and unnecessarily paranoid.  The Rams are the opposite.  I stood next to Rams GM Kevin Demoff for a half-hour the other night talking about all kinds of things, and it struck me more than once that doing the same with a member of the Colts front office would be almost unthinkable.  At one point with Kevin, I excused myself because practice was ongoing.  He said, “No, no, stick around.”  I have great respect for Bill and Chris Polian (and like both), but it’s nice to know there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to dealing with the media.

It’s hard to argue with the success the Colts have achieved, but I believe the same results (or better) might be gained by relaxing a little bit and enjoying the company of people who want nothing more than to help build the popularity of the franchise.

Working and writing are not compatible – I would love to write more often, but it’s impossible.  To those of you who enjoy this website, I apologize for not being more active here, but as I get more and more settled, hopefully I can find the time and energy to write things worth reading.

Advertisements


NL Central – Land of the Reds and Cardinals For Years to Come? by dustinlytle

By Dustin Lytle

The National League Central division is a two team race this year. The Cardinals are currently leading the division, but the Reds are right behind them. The two teams have been jockeying back and forth for most of the season, and likely will be until the end of the year.

The Reds are also leading the Wild Card race. It is still early in the season, but one thing that is strikingly evident is that the Reds are young and talented. They have an amazing infield and young stars that will be around for years to come. They are a storied franchise in a great city and have a chance to put up many division titles in the next ten years if everything goes well. What about the future of the other franchises?

The Cardinals will be a contender in the division as long as Pujols, Holliday, Molina and Wainwright are on the team, which will be for the forseeable future as they are just 30, 30, 28 and 28 years of age respectively. So where does that leave the Cubs, Astros, Brewers and Pirates?

The Cubs have a group of highly-paid under-achieving players and a fan base that is desperate for a playoff run.  They have a good deal of money to spend but can’t seem to buy the pieces necessary to win consistently and more importantly, overcome the Cardinals in the division.

The Astros show no signs of life as of now. They had their run to the World Series a few years ago and have fallen off the map since.  Their stars are old and it will be a few years before they can recover from that. Their current AAA team is miserable as well. For the time being, Houston is stuck in neutral at the back of the pack.

The Brewers are an interesting team in that they have a lot of young players who are good, but not enough of them to become contenders consistently. With limited spending money, they have to develop their farm system. Their AAA team is playing well. I think they will be more of a contender in years to come.

The Pirates are everyone’s loveable loser. No matter how good the players coming out of Indianapolis are, they are pitiful.  As soon as they get good talent, they trade them before they have to pay them big money. I understand they are a small market team, but the management and ownership need to own up and start paying these players. The list of all-star and future all-star players they have let go or traded is mind-boggling.

At least 6 or 7 Indianapolis Indians at the start of the season are in Pittsburgh currently. That should tell you all you need to know. They are essentially a young really good triple A team playing in the majors.  I don’t see the ownership owning up and paying the players any time soon, so expect Pittsburgh to be a major league farm system for the Yankees, Red Sox and others for many years to come. At least the players in Indianapolis know if they play for the Pirates, they won’t have to be there long. I guess that’s consolation.

In conclusion, this division is the Reds and Cardinals to lose in the coming years with the Brewers and Cubs in contention occasionally. If the Cubs decide not to overpay mediocre players like they have for years when their current contracts expire, they will be in contention every year. They have the fan base, good AAA team, and monetary means necessary to build a consistent winning franchise. They just need to stop overpaying players and get some starting pitching.

The Pirates and Astros will not win the division for the forseeable future and the Brewers have the chance to be good if they can get some more pieces around their core of young guys.  The Reds will be good for many years if there are not any unforeseen injury plagues or degeneration of players.  The Cardinals have a few years of glory left, but with their stars aging, they will decline a bit once they are in their late thirties (8-10 years). Their young players and AAA players have shown signs of brilliance in the past few weeks after given the opportunity to play due to injuries.  If these players play like they have consistently, this team could be good for a long time.  Of course Albert is the key to this team and it will highly unlikely they find a replacement for him when he retires.

It is the Cardinals and Reds’ division to have for the next few years, and that doesn’t bode well for Cubs fans. Who knows though, maybe they will find the right pieces to make it work in Chicago and contend. In baseball, it is never wise to count out a team with a lot of money to spend and great media exposure. One thing for sure is that there will be stiff competition every year.