Schuckman: Epic sports stretch begins this weekend and other rainy day musings


All eyes will be on University of Iowa guard Caitlin Clark this weekend as she attempts to guide the Hawkeyes to the NCAA women's basketball national championship. | Photo courtesy University of Iowa athletics

QUINCY — Random thoughts on another rainy day …

• The greatest stretch on the sports calendar is nearly here.

Over an eight-day span, three champions will be crowned, baseball gives us a glimpse of which teams are trending upward and the final playoff push in the NHL takes place. It begins this Sunday with the title game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament and ends April 14 with the final round of the Masters.

When it’s done, which of the three major moments — add the NCAA men’s basketball championship, which will be played Monday, to the women’s title game and the Masters — will have drawn the largest television audience? If Iowa and Caitlin Clark are playing undefeated South Carolina for the women’s title on Sunday, there might be your winner.

• St. Louis Cardinals manager Oli Marmol made a tweak to his batting order for Wednesday’s series finale against the Padres, sliding Willson Contreras up to the No. 3 spot and dropping Nolan Gorman down. That needs to be a permanent move.

Contreras may not be an ideal No. 3 hitter, but Gorman certainly isn’t.

You can’t put a hitter with a .235 career average and a high strikeout rate in that spot. The first seven games of the regular season is a small sample size, but Gorman has struck out 12 times in 26 at-bats. He’s on pace for 277 strikeouts this season.

You simply cannot have someone in that spot who doesn’t put the ball in play very often. 

The Cardinals have reached the World Series seven times in my lifetime, and not once has the No. 3 hitter in the lineout struck out more than 86 times in a season. None have hit worse than Tommy Herr’s .263 average in 1987, but he drove in 83 runs and struck out only 62 times.

Gorman may strike out 62 times by Mother’s Day.

Last season, Gorman struck out 148 times in 119 games. Project that over a 162-game season and he’s at 201 strikeouts. Only 19 players in major league history have struck out 200 or more times in a season. You can’t have someone who potentially could join that club batting third in your lineup.

• Should there be cold weather standards at the start of the spring sports season that mirror the heat standards that impact the start of the fall sports seasons? Sitting outside watching baseball, soccer or any sport when the temperatures dip into the 30s and wind chills go even lower is miserable for fans, but it’s rough on the student-athletes, too.

How can they put their best foot forward and compete at the highest level when it’s a challenge just to stay warm?

• The spring weather offers a glimpse into the value of having turf fields, but baseball and softball are meant to be played on the dirt and grass. There’s a feel to the game that’s just different when you can rub dirt on the ball, slide into a cloud of dust or smell the grass after it’s been mowed.

• If you haven’t checked out our newest podcast “This List,” make sure you do. We debuted the podcast last week with Quincy High School boys basketball coach Andy Douglas helping us rank his favorite University of Illinois men’s basketball players. This week, former Quincy University slugger Lance Logsdon helps rank our favorite baseball movies.

Next week, to help celebrate Masters week, golf will be the topic on “The List.”

You can check out all episodes of “The List” by visiting Muddy River TV+.

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