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  1. Gary Pinkel ranked fourth best football coach in SEC

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    Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was ranked the fourth best coach in the SEC by Matt Hayes of the Sporting News.

    Hayes released his annual SEC football coach rankings yesterday. The only coaches in the SEC ranked higher than Pinkel are Alabama’s Nick Saban, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema.

    Here’s what Hayes had to say of Pinkel:

    “So much for that fluke 2013 SEC East division title. Pinkle took a less talented team that lost its best player (Dorial Green-Beckham) before the season began, and won another division title with an offense whose best pass option was the jump ball. Remarkable. It’s time to embrace what Pinkel has accomplished in Columbia (112 wins in 14 seasons), especially considering the four coaches before him won a combined 107 games in 22 seasons.”

    Tough to argue with any of that. Pinkel was previously 8th (2014), 11th (2013) and 6th (2012) in Hayes’ SEC football coach rankings.

  2. Kim English to join Frank Haith’s staff at Tulsa

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    Former Missouri basketball star Kim English will be joining former Missouri coach Frank Haith on Haith’s staff at Tulsa University, according to Charlie Hannema of News on 6.

    English played the 2011-2012 season under Haith. It was English’s senior year, and Haith was hired to replace Mike Anderson, who accepted the head coaching position at Arkansas.

    English averaged 14 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in his senior year, leading Missouri to the Big 12 Tournament Championship.

    English was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 44th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He spent a brief period with the Pistons before playing internationally in Italy, France and Venezuela.

    Tulsa has not made an official announcement on English’s hiring, and the school is not expected to do so until Mid-June, according to Hannema.

  3. Four star guard signs with Missouri basketball

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    Missouri has announced the signing of four-star shooting guard K.J. Walton.

    Walton averaged 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals per game as a senior at Brownsburg High School outside of Indianapolis.

    “We are excited to add K.J. to our Mizzou Basketball family,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said in a release. “He is an outstanding athlete who has the ability to score from multiple guard positions. In addition, he has the potential to be an elite wing defender. Playing for Coach Steve Lynch at Brownsburg High School, he comes from a winning program. We look forward to having him in a Tiger uniform next season.”

    Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com joined Brandon Kiley on The Sports Wire a couple weeks ago after Walton initially committed. Below is the full podcast of that conversation.

    Walton’s signing means Missouri has filled its limit of 13 scholarship players for the 2015-2016 season. Walton joins Martavian Payne, Terrence Phillips, Kevin Puryear, Cullen VanLeer and Russell Woods in the 2015 class.

    The full breakdown of 2015 scholarship players:

    Seniors (1): Ryan Rosburg

    Juniors (3): Wes Clark, Martavian Payne, Russell Woods

    Sophomores (5): Jakeenan Gant, Montaque Gill-Caesar, Tramaine Isabell, Namon Wright, D’Angelo Allen

    Freshmen (4): Terrence Phillips, Kevin Puryear, Cullen VanLeer, K.J. Walton

  4. Kansas City Royals and Johnny Cueto a perfect match

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    The Kansas City Royals take on the Cincinnati Reds tonight in a relatively mundane inter-league game. Mundane until you look at the pitching matchups, that is.

    Johnny Cueto will face off against Royals ace Yordano Ventura. On paper, it should be a good matchup. In reality, it’s a matchup that could make Royals fans painfully aware of the one hole on the roster.

    The Royals are 24-14. They’re a game and a half in front of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central. Kansas City is second in the AL in runs scored. They lead in the majors in bullpen ERA by a wide margin. They have more than twice as many defensive runs saved than the second place team.

    But the starting rotation is treading water.

    The Royals’ starting rotation is 23rd in the MLB in ERA. Maybe more importantly, they’re 24th in the MLB in total innings pitched.

    Yordano Ventura, whose 3.2 ERA in 2014 convinced the Royals to sign him to a five-year $20 million deal in the offseason, has given Kansas City a “quality start” in just two of his seven outings in 2015. Danny Duffy, who was pegged as the Royals’ number two starter in the spring, might be out of the rotation with another bad outing against the Cardinals this weekend. Jason Vargas, a solid if unspectacular veteran, is about to come back from the 15-day disabled list. Add in Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Young and Edinson Volquez and you have the makings of a deep, but rather mediocre and at times, bad, starting rotation.

    Insert Johnny Cueto.

    Cueto

    Cueto is a 29 years old. He is coming off of a season in which he pitched a National League-leading 248 innings. He’s backing it up in 2015 with another great statline: eight starts, 58.1 innings pitched (more than seven innings per outing), a five-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio and an ERA of 2.93. In short, Cueto is exactly the type of player the Royals need.

    And the trade talks are heating up.

    See, here’s the thing about Cueto – he’s on the final year of a four-year, $27 million contract. He’s in a situation much like Jon Lester was last year when the Boston Red Sox traded Lester to the Oakland Athletics. That deal, of course, brings up the argument against trading for Cueto.

    Two teams commanded the headlines at the 2014 trade deadline: The A’s and the Tigers.

    The A’s traded slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for the aforementioned Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. They also traded high-level prospects for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Tigers traded pitcher Drew Smyly, outfielder Austin Jackson and a minor leaguer for pitcher David Price.

    They made the deals, but neither the A’s nor the Tigers made it out of the first round of the 2014 playoffs.

    That’s the type analysis you’ll hear a lot over the next few weeks. “Don’t make a big deal, or you’ll end up like the Tigers and A’s in 2014. They went all-in, and they got nothing out of it.” It’s an understandable argument, but it completely ignores the construction of the teams that made the big deals.

    The A’s re-shuffled half of their roster. They had three new starting pitchers, a new outfielder and a lack of pop in the lineup after the exit of Cespedes. All of the wheeling-and-dealing came back to bite them down the stretch, and the trades ultimately failed.

    The Tigers are a different case in a lot of ways. Detroit needed a front-line starter. They got one in David Price. But they also neglected the fact that their bullpen was among the worst in the majors, as has been the case for years. Not surprisingly, the Tigers’ bullpen imploded down the stretch and led to the team’s early exit in the playoffs.

    The Royals don’t have those issues. They wouldn’t be depleting the current major league roster in order to make a trade. Instead, they would dangle their minor league talent such as Raul Mondesi Jr., Sean Manaea and/or Miguel Almonte in order to make a deal.

    The other significant difference is that the Royals don’t have a major flaw like the Tigers did in 2014. The bullpen and defense are both considered to be the best in baseball. The offense, albeit in a small sample size, has been among the best in the AL. The starting rotation – namely, a number one starter – is really the only thing holding the Royals back.

    Cueto is a player that can fill that void. His talents will be on full display tonight at Kauffman Stadium, and Royals fans would be wise to pay close attention. 2015 may be the Royals’ best opportunity at winning a World Series.

    The best way to make it happen? By trading for Johnny Cueto.

  5. Former Mizzou defensive end Justin Smith announces retirement

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    “Mizzou: Where Smith is another name for sack.”

    It’s a statement you hear each and every Saturday at Faurot Field. And it all started with Justin Smith in 1998.

    Smith announced his retirement today after a 14-year NFL career.

    Smith was a standout in his junior season at Missouri, recording 11 sacks, 24 tackles-for-loss and 97 total tackles. His 11 sacks are 4th all time in Missouri single-season history, and he’s 2nd in Missouri history in career sacks.

    Here’s to you, Justin Smith.

    #MizzouMade

    From everyone at KTGR, we wish Justin Smith a happy retirement. We’ll miss watching him dominate on Sundays.

  6. Cardinals relying heavily on steady bullpen

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    The conversation surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals since it was announced starting pitcher Adam Wainwright would be out for the season has, understandably, been about the Cards’ rotation.

    It’s time we look at that conversation through a different lens.

    The Red Birds’ starters have struggled. This much we all know to be true. Since April 27th, two days after Wainwright’s injury, the Cardinals have played 19 games. Just three times has a Cardinals starter lasted at least seven innings. Two of those starts were from Lance Lynn, on May 1st and 17th, the other coming from John Lackey on May 7th. No other Cardinals starter has made it through more than seven innings since Carlos Martinez did so on April 24th.

    But despite the rotation’s immunity to longevity, the Cards haven’t taken a step back. In fact, they’re 13-6 over this span, and they’ve done so in large part on the over-worked arms in the Cardinals bullpen.

    The Cardinals’ bullpen ranks 1st in the National League in ERA. But they’re also second in a less appealing statistic: Innings pitched. In the 19 game span since April 27th, the Cardinals’ bullpen has been asked to pitch more than four innings eight times. And yet, the bullpen has shown few signs of cracking, allowing more than two runs just two times since April 27th.

    So, while the starting rotation will garner much of the discussion, let us not lose sight of the remarkable job the Cardinals bullpen has done in order to keep the Red Birds on track.

  7. Mizzou Softball Back to Super Regionals

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    A team full of seniors starved to reach the Women’s College World Series saw two sophomores deliver key games to take a big step towards Oklahoma City. (more…)

  8. Mark Simon: “Someone will strike out 21 batters this year”

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    Mark Simon does great work for the Sweet Spot Blog on ESPN.com as well as overseeing ESPN’s Stats & Info department. He joined us on The Big Show to discuss Eric Hosmer’s potential, Corey Kluber’s historic outing and why he believes someone will strike out 21 batters this year.

    Plus, he gave us this excellent Eric Hosmer heat map!

    Podcast:

  9. Corey Kluber Ks The Cards

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    The defending AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber has struggled to a 0-5 start in 2015…until last night when he struck out 18 Cardinals and allowed just one hit in 2-0 win.
    (more…)

  10. Royals Fall To Rangers

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    The Royals bats were held in check by Yovani Gallardo in a 5-2 loss in Arlington. (more…)