Time to wake up and smell the sports, my friend. It's Tuesday and we've got things to catch you up on, so rub those sleepies away and give me a few minutes of your time.
Here's to hoping your Monday was nearly as good as Gonzaga's after the Zags landed the top college hoops prospect in the country. We'll touch on that story, plus chat a little about the Yankees, Dolphins and Alex Smith's retirement here this morning.
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Another Tuesday also means another chance for you to infiltrate my email inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the weekly mailbag. I'd love it if you threw some spice into my day by sending me a question or two or whatever topic you want ... sports, pop culture, current events, TV/movies, video games, etc. If there's anything you've ever wanted to ask me, now's as good a time as any!
OK, on with the show.
📰 What you need to know
1. Top recruit Chet Holmgren commits to Gonzaga 🏀
Gonzaga fell just short of completing a perfect season in college basketball this year and I'm sure that's going to sting for quite a while. However, there's no better way to wash the sour taste out of your mouth than by going out and promptly landing the top incoming recruit, and that's exactly what Gonzaga has done this week.
- Chet Holmgren, the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the Class of 2021, committed to Gonzaga on Monday. The Zags beat out Michigan, Ohio State and Minnesota
- Holmgren is a slender center listed at 7-feet-tall, 190 pounds
- It's Gonzaga's highest-ranked recruit ever and their second top-10 player from this year's recruiting class
- Our college basketball expert Kyle Boone: "His competitive spirit and energy on the court add to the mystique of his impact. It fits a similar mindset of Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs, who, like Holmgren, hails from Minnesota and, like Holmgren, is well on his way to being a top-five NBA Draft pick."
It's a huge get for Gonzaga as they look to build off this past season and compete for the national title again next year. Holmgren's commitment gives Gonzaga's already loaded recruiting class a boost from No. 7 to No. 3 in the 247Sports Composite rankings, and William Hill Sportsbook has the Zags as favorites to win the national championship in 2022.
As someone who doesn't follow college hoops recruitment all that closely, I was a bit stunned to see that the top recruit in the nation is built like a string bean, but his dynamic skillset is very apparent when you watch some of his game film. Looking forward to seeing him blossom (and hopefully bulk up) in the college ranks.
2. Four ways the Yankees can turn their season around ⚾
As noted in yesterday's newsletter, the Yankees have absolutely stunk out of the gate this season and, personally, I'm not all that upset about it. That being said, I recognize that I may have been a bit too harsh on them considering it's only April 20th and there's still plenty of time to turn things around.
As such, let's discuss what will need to happen if they're to find that turnaround and become the American League favorites that they were expected to be heading into this season. Our baseball guru Mike Axisa lays out the steps:
- Turn Aaron Hicks into a platoon player: The Yankees' offense is struggling mightily and Aaron Hicks has been a big part of that. From the No. 3 hole he's hitting .160/.236/.240 while only drawing four walks in 55 plate appearances. He's not hitting, he's not walking, and his defense has been sketchy too. He's not deserving of a full-time lineup spot right now
- Replace Jay Bruce with Mike Ford: Bruce announced his retirement over the weekend and now the Yankees have a chance to reshape an underperforming roster a little bit. Axisa suggests bringing in Ford and playing him at first base full-time (or at least against righties) while moving DJ LeMahieu to second base and putting Rougned Odor on the bench
- Call up Deivi Garcia: It's not just the offense that's underperforming right now, either. New York's rotation owns a 4.74 ERA and is averaging 4.56 innings per start in the early going. Remove Gerrit Cole and it's a 6.39 ERA and 3.97 innings per start. Axisa thinks it's time to give Garcia a shot, and if they slot him into the No. 5 spot this Saturday his first two starts would be against the Indians and Orioles
- Use Chapman more: Aroldis Chapman and his new unhittable splitter (15 batters faced and 11 strikeouts this year) has appeared in only four games this season. New York needs to start using him more to keep close, winnable games ... close and winnable
There you have it, that's Axisa's four-step plan to fixing the Yankees amid their dismal start. Personally, I think all of these ideas are bad and that the Yankees should just keep doing exactly what they're doing. I don't see a problem, really. I'm sure it'll all just fix itself.
3. Alex Smith announces his retirement 🏈
Another veteran NFL quarterback has decided to walk away from the game this offseason. Alex Smith announced his retirement on Monday, closing the book on a 16-year career just months after winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
- Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, retires as a three-time Pro Bowler
- He compiled a 101-72-1 overall record as a starting quarterback for the 49ers, Chiefs and Washington Football Team
- He underwent 17 surgeries after sustaining a compound leg fracture in 2018 and rehabbed his way back to starting six games for the WFT last season (He posted a 5-1 record)
Multiple teams were reportedly interested in signing Smith, but he chose to retire instead. Here's a piece of what he had to say in his statement yesterday:
- Smith: "Two years ago, I was stuck in a wheelchair, staring down at my mangled leg, wondering if I'd ever be able to go on a walk with my wife again or play games with my kids in the yard ... Even though I still have plenty of snaps left in me, after 16 years of giving this game everything I've got, I can't wait to see what else is possible."
It's hard to blame Smith for being hesitant to return for another season given what happened to him in 2018 and the grueling recovery he had to go through after that. It's awesome that he was able to make it all the way back and now gets to walk away on his own terms. That seemed like a lofty dream a few short years ago, so good for him.
4. Would the Dolphins move their draft pick again? 🏈
This offseason has been a bit of a wild adventure for the Dolphins, especially as it relates to the draft. The Dolphins have already made two big trades involving first-round pick swaps and, with the draft a little over a week away, they might just be in the market for a third swap.
- The Dolphins are reportedly fielding calls for the No. 6 pick and could trade down with a team that's aggressively pursuing a QB inside the top 10
- The Vikings (No. 14), Patriots (No. 15), Washington (No. 19) and Bears (No. 20) could all be in the market to move up and jump ahead of QB-hungry teams like the Lions (No. 7), Panthers (No. 8) and Broncos (No. 9).
- Miami originally owned the No. 3 overall selection, but has swapped first-round picks twice this offseason, first moving back from No. 3 to No. 12 as part of a blockbuster deal with the 49ers. Then they moved back up to No. 6 in an exchange of future picks with the Eagles
Miami has done a pretty slick job of analyzing the draft board and prioritizing asset management. They've recognized that they're in a position of strength to move around and continue building their capital, and now find themselves in a pretty ideal position. They can field calls on the pick and use their leverage against desperate teams, and if they don't find a deal they love then they just keep the pick and take the guy they want at No. 6.
Now we wait to see if they've still got more fireworks in store.
📝 Odds & Ends
- We've got our latest editions of MLB Power Rankings
- Scottie Pippen announced the death of his oldest son
- Troubled Seahawks pass rusher Aldon Smith is wanted for alleged second degree battery
📺 What to watch today
🏀 Nets vs. Pelicans, 7:30 p.m. | NO -2.5 | TV: TNT
⚾ Mets vs. Cubs, 7:40 p.m. | CHI +119 | TV: ESPN
🏒 Maple Leafs vs. Canucks, 9 p.m. | VAN +250 | TV: ESPN+
🥇 The best thing I saw yesterday
Infamous ballhawk Zack Hample wiped out HARD while attempting to grab a home run ball at last night's Giants-Phillies game. I imagine he lost some sleep over that one.