It's here! It's finally here! The day we've all been waiting for!
What? Oh, baseball season? Yeah, sure ... that too. But I was more referring to the day after a Buffalo Sabres win. Congratulations to the Sabres, who beat the Flyers 6-1 last night in order to snap an 18-game losing streak and avoid the longest winless streak in NHL history. Now, when is the parade?
But yes, today is in fact Opening Day and we've got plenty of baseball talk to get to this morning. Not only is the season kicking off, but we also had a major piece of MLB news hit the wire late last night as Francisco Lindor agreed to a MASSIVE extension with the Mets.
It's easy to be romantic about Opening Day, but now that baseball season is here it's only a matter of time before we're annoyed by some of the stupid debates that come up each and every year. As such, I decided to get proactive and rank the game's "unwritten rules" based on how stupid they are. Please enjoy and feel free to bookmark for use later this season.
OK, now that that's out of the way ... time to get excited!
📰 What you need to know
1. Welcome to baseball season! ⚾
Ladies and gentlemen ... boys and girls ... welcome to Opening Day. The grass has been mowed, the dirt has been raked, the lines have been painted and now it's time to play ball.
As I mentioned yesterday, I'm back in on baseball this season this year and Opening Day may as well be a holiday. Not only does it mark the beginning of the season, it also essentially serves as the gateway to summer. Plus, it always gives us some tremendous pitching matchups (Jacob deGrom vs. Max Scherzer today? Yes please!) and an excuse to eat hot dogs/drink cheap beer. What else could you want in life?
Heading into the 2021 campaign, the Dodgers enter as favorites to win the World Series (again) but I've seen some people treating it as almost a certainty. If you're one of those people, stop that right now. Los Angeles has a great team, no doubt, and maybe they'll finish the regular season as the best team in baseball ... but there's a lot of reason to believe the Dodgers probably won't win the World Series again.
- SportsLine's model projects the Dodgers to win 111 games this season and a 39.8 percent chance of winning it all
- Of the 116 World Series that have been played, just 52 titles have been won by the team with the best regular season record (44.8 percent)
- Since 1995, when the Division Series was introduced as a third postseason round, the best team in the regular season has won the World Series just 26.9 percent of the time (including last season)
History is also not in LA's favor ... there hasn't been a repeat champ since the '98-'99-'00 Yankees
So while it's certainly fair to say that the Dodgers are the best team in baseball and have the best chance of winning the World Series, it's also very fair to say they probably won't win the World Series. They're just one of 30 teams and the field holds about a 60% chance of winning, according to the odds. Let's not give out the trophy on Day 1.
This is also a great time to lock in your futures bets for the season, so feel free to scan over our best bets for the 2021 MLB season and steal any picks you might like. Personally, I like Ronald Acuna to be the home run leader at +1500. That's some good value.
2. Francisco Lindor signs huge extension with Mets 💵
Not to pull the "I told you so" card, but didn't I say yesterday that Francisco Lindor and the Mets were going to wait each other out before coming to a compromise and striking an extension shortly before the Opening Day deadline? I did, and that's exactly what happened.
- Lindor and the Mets have reportedly agreed to a 10-year contract extension worth approximately $341 million
- He becomes the fifth player to sign an extension worth at least $300 million (Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton and Fernando Tatis Jr.) Lindor's deal is the third-largest contract in MLB history and the largest ever for a shortstop
- The contract includes deferred money and a partial no-trade clause, but does not include any opt-outs
- The Mets' previous offer (which the team initially claimed was its final offer) was for 10 years and $325 million. Lindor countered with an ask of 12 years and $385 million
I'm going to assume that it's not just a coincidence that Lindor's extension carries a total of $1 million more than the one that Tatis Jr. signed earlier this offseason. I like to imagine that he insisted on making more money than Tatis solely for the bragging rights to the largest shortstop contract ever, and I love that.
After being traded to New York this offseason, Lindor will play his first game as a Met today ... and it now promises to be the first of MANY. That has to make Mets fans feel great waking up this morning, especially considering how cheap the previous regime was known to be. This deal pretty much needed to happen, and our R.J. Anderson does a great job of summing up why:
"Lindor gets life-changing money, the Mets get a franchise cornerstone, and [Steve] Cohen makes good on the bravado he put forth early in his ownership tenure."
Wins all around.
3. Ranking every starter for the Final Four teams 🏀
It may no longer by March, but the Madness continues this week. We've got a couple days until the Final Four plays out and we learn which teams will competing for college hoops' 2021 National Championship, so that gives us some time to dive into the finer details of the squads that are still left fighting. As part of a fun exercise this week, our Kyle Boone ranked every starter for the Final Four teams from 1-20.
As for the criteria for the rankings, Boone considered overall skill and output on both ends of the floor, as well as recent performance. Here are some takeaways from the list:
- Gonzaga has three of the top five players, which is fitting considering the Zags have dominated the tournament (and the college basketball circuit as a whole) this season
- The highest ranked non-Zag is UCLA's Johnny Juzang, who is as hot as any player in the country right now. He's averaging over 20 points a game during the tournament
- Baylor's only player in the top five is Davion Mitchell, who's capable of taking your breath away on any given sequence
Even if you're No. 20 on this list (*cough* Flo Thamba *cough* ), it's still gotta feel pretty good knowing you're one of the 20 starters still playing college basketball this year, and every one of those starters has played an important role in keeping their title hopes alive.
On a semi-related note, did you happen to see that Gonzaga is currently sitting as a 14-point favorites heading into Saturday? That's a gigantic spread, and yet it doesn't exactly seem unfair given how good the Zags have been. It also makes UCLA the biggest Final Four underdog since 1985, so maybe that'll provide a little motivation.
4. Why LeBron James recruiting Steph Curry to LA won't work 🏀
It wouldn't be an NBA All-Star weekend without rumors and speculation that NBA stars were secretly attempting to recruit some peers to join forces in the offseason. This year, those rumors are (once again) attached to LeBron James, who reportedly is trying to convince Stephen Curry to join him in Los Angeles.
Curry, 33, is eligible for a max extension this summer but, if a new deal isn't reached, he could become a free agent in 2022. Are the Lakers a legitimate option for him? LeBron's influence should never be dismissed, but it's VERY hard to imagine Curry leaving Golden State -- and ditching the Bay for LA? Oof. Don't count on it.
- Curry has never expressed an interest in leaving Golden State, and the Warriors will throw as much money as they can at him starting this summer
- He would be eligible for a four-year, $215 million deal if he signs this offseason, or a full five-year max extension if he waits until the summer of 2022
- Brad Botkin: "As to whether Curry would ever ask out of Golden State toward the end of his career, I suppose one should never say never. But it certainly won't be before this next extension. The Warriors, whether it's realistic or not, expect to vault right back into contention next season when [Klay] Thompson returns."
You can never rule out a late-career change of scenery for even the best of players, even if it seems completely unlikely (Tom Brady is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, may I remind you.) But while the Warriors may seem semi irrelevant right now, they're still committed to contending with Curry and will be a lot closer to doing so when Klay returns next year.
With that being said, Curry doesn't seem destined to pack his bags anytime soon. And if he does eventually decide to do so, who's to say LeBron will even still be playing when that happens?
📝 Odds & Ends
- The NCAA had a rough day at the Supreme Court as justices questioned whether the amateurism concept holds up at all
- UConn's Paige Bueckers became the first freshman to be named AP Women's Player of the Year
- The Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds) announced their mascot costume was found safe after a suspected robbery
📺 What to watch today
⚾ Blue Jays vs. Yankees, 1:05 p.m. | NYY -177 | TV: ESPN
⚾ Mets vs. Nationals, 7:09 p.m. | WSH +135 | TV: ESPN
🏀 Nuggets vs. Clippers, 10 p.m. | LAC -1 | TV: TNT
🥇 The best thing I saw yesterday
Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon was ejected after throwing an opponent's helmet back at him during a skirmish.