A quick rant through the week in sports:
• Like a long lost friend, Major League Baseball returns today.
• This season is especially interesting for fans in the region. The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a World Series appearance, and the Kansas City Royals recorded their first winning season in a decade last season.
• St. Louis again must go through a competitive National League Central, but the Cardinals made some strong offseason moves. All six members of Sports Illustrated’s panel of experts have the Cardinals picked to win the division, and four of them predict St. Louis will win the World Series.
• Kansas City is trying to take the next step and earn its first trip to the postseason since 1985. To do so, the Royals will need Yordano Ventura to show signs of living up to the Ace Ventura nickname, Omar Infante to make good on his offseason contract, Mike Moustakas to develop into an above average hitter and Eric Hosmer to become an All-Star.
• Sports Illustrated’s panel seems to think the Royals are for real. Tom Verducci picked Kansas City to win the American League Central, and two others predicted the Royals will earn a wild card.
• There won’t be professional baseball in Joplin in 2014, but at least the city’s new American Association minor league team will soon have a name. The team’s naming contest recently ended, and a news conference will be held in April to announce the name and logo. The Joplin team will begin competing in 2015.
• One-and-done stars weren’t the answer for Kansas or Duke in the NCAA tournament. The two schools may account for the NBA Draft’s top three picks with Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, but the programs have fared better with teams that possessed less raw talent and more polish.
• Wiggins is headed to the NBA, and while Embiid hasn’t announced a decision, he’s likely headed that way as well. It will be interesting to see how they perform at the next level. Both have major upside, but few KU players have turned into NBA All-Stars. Beginning with the 1998 draft, KU has had 12 players selected in the lottery. Only one of those players — Paul Pierce in 1998 — has been an All-Star. Before Pierce, you have to go all the way back to Danny Manning. Before Manning? Jo Jo White, who was drafted all the way back in 1969.
• The lack of stars seems odd for a program as successful as the Jayhawks.
• Congratulations to the Missouri Southern men’s and women’s basketball teams on strong seasons.
• It wasn’t a perfect ending for longtime head coach Robert Corn, but cutting down the nets after winning the MIAA Tournament in Kansas City was a nice consolation prize.
• Now, new MSSU head coach Jeff Boschee seems poised to pick up where Corn left off.
• Interim head coach Ronda Hubbard led the Missouri Southern women to a 19-8 record and fourth place in the MIAA after being picked ninth in the preseason. It seems like she’s done more than enough to deserve having the “interim” removed from her title.
• ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has continued his infatuation with MIAA football. A year after raving about Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams, Kiper recently rated Pittsburg State’s John Brown as his “under the radar” receiver. Kiper referred to the Gorilla speedster as “a touchdown waiting to happen.”
• It’s good to see the MIAA, which is undoubtedly the best football conference in Division II, get some national attention. Lindenwood defensive back Pierre Desir is projected to be selected in the second or third round.
Mark Schremmer is a sports writer at The Joplin Globe. His email is email@example.com