Good morning and happy Wednesday to you, friend! Happy to be of service to you once again this morning ... not only do I bring all the sports news and analysis you need to know to start your day, but it's also a mailbag day.
Thanks to everyone who hit up my inbox with questions, plus those who just sent along some nice feedback. Some of you even wished me well on the TB12 diet journey, which is very nice (it's already a struggle, if we're being honest.)
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Also, I'm no financial guru but seeing as how GameStop stock is all the rage this week, I have decided to go ahead and invest my life savings into Blockbuster stock. We're about to strike it RICH. I'll be spending the rest of my morning shopping for yachts.
📰 What you need to know
1. MLB's 2021 Hall of Fame class is empty ⚾
Baseball Hall of Fame voting season has become one of my least favorite seasons on the annual sporting calendar. The grandstanding and discourse around the HOF voting has become just the worst. We saw it once again yesterday, when, for the ninth time in history, we found out that no players will be inducted as part of the 2021 HOF class.
Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds all received votes on more than 70 percent of the publicly available ballots, but none of them reached the induction threshold of 75 percent. All three have one more year of eligibility. Immediately after the results were announced, Schilling -- who had the highest vote total (71.1 percent) on this year's ballot -- became the main story. He published a letter to the HOF requesting that he be removed from the 2022 ballot:
- Schilling: "I will not participate in the final year of voting. I am requesting to be removed from the ballot. I'll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don't think I'm a hall of famer as I've often stated but if former players think I am then I'll accept that with honor."
Ah, the drama. Wonderful. Obviously, Schilling hasn't helped his case with the way he's carried himself off the field, while Clemens and Bonds are being kept out thanks to their alleged steroid use. Personally speaking, I think it's ridiculous that it's taken so long to put Bonds in.
The HOF can bury its head in the sand and try to pretend the steroid era didn't exist, but Bonds is in the record books as baseball's home run leader and he's indisputably one of the best to ever play the game. He was well on his way to a Cooperstown-worthy career before the steroids -- I mean, he was intentionally walked with the bases loaded in 1998 (a year before it's believed he started juicing) and that should be an automatic induction.
Instead of completely shunning these obviously legendary talents that were tied to a league-wide steroid problem, why not just start a steroid wing of the HOF and let them have a semi-tainted induction that matches their semi-tainted career? Anyway, prepare for the discourse to be even worse with next year's class.
2. How LeBron James has accidentally become MVP favorite 🏀
It should never come as a huge shock when LeBron James finds himself in the MVP discussion -- I mean, come on, we've been around long enough to know better. But LeBron finding himself at the front of the pack as the odds-on favorite to win MVP this season? Well, it's a bit more of a surprise than you'd expect, especially given some of the circumstances.
As pointed out by our Sam Quinn in a column this week, there are a number of factors that make it seem like LeBron has accidentally become the MVP favorite:
- James has put an emphasis on load management during the condensed season ... He's played in every Lakers game but is playing fewer minutes and expending less energy throughout those minutes
- He's also averaging only 83.1 touches per game (his lowest total since playing with Kyrie Irving in 2015-16)
- LeBron's competition has slipped -- Luka Doncic's team is struggling; Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have taken a step back; Nikola Jokic has strong numbers, but isn't great defensively; Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant have missed significant time
LeBron doesn't exactly need a lot of outside help to reel in individual awards, but he's getting some this year, and it's almost like the road is naturally being paved for him to win MVP. Of course, it certainly doesn't hurt that he's the best player on arguably the best team in the league.
Great players win MVPs, but only legendary players win them by accident.
3. Why some in NFL believe Aaron Rodgers will exit Green Bay 🏈
This has been quite the roller coaster week for Aaron Rodgers takes. We've already discussed the speculation around why Rodgers' future in Green Bay is up in the air, and we've also discussed why Green Bay is probably the best spot for him next season.
Now, it's time to discuss why some people -- including execs and agents -- believe Rodgers and the Packers are going to go their separate ways this offseason. Our Jason La Canfora (and his sources) seem fairly confident a divorce is looming:
- JLC: "No matter how many oddly-worded statements team president Mark Murphy issues, and no matter how many in the media want to discount Rodgers' ability to force his way out based on salary cap or contract or whatever else, I see an ugly offseason ahead in Green Bay. Too many people within the industry have read Rodgers' remarks from Sunday night – on the heels of a contentious two years since the ascent of a new front office and the hiring of coach Matt LaFleur – as the defining salvo of his looming exodus."
I certainly wouldn't count it out, especially considering we know how petty Rodgers can be when he feels like he's been wronged. The man knows how to hold a grudge. Hell, his MVP-worthy season this year was undoubtedly fueled in part by the fact that Green Bay drafted his eventual replacement in 2020.
And so the roller coaster rolls on. Please keep your hands inside the ride at all times.
4. NBA quarterly grades are in 🏀
It may be hard to believe, but the NBA season is a quarter of the way over. Normally, a quarter of the season is a pretty small sample size to evaluate to begin with, but it's even smaller in this pandemic-shortened season. Still, it's a good opportunity for us to check in with teams across the league and take stock of where they're at in relation to the expectations that were set for them.
Our James Herbert has handed out quarterly grades for every team in the league, so here are some of the more notable teams you might be curious about:
- Brooklyn Nets: B -- "The main on-court questions facing the Nets now are depth and defense. Do they have enough of either? There's also the question of chemistry, and if all three stars will be able to coexist. Brooklyn should be a legitimate title contender in a couple of months, but they still have work to do"
- Los Angeles Lakers: A -- "Frank Vogel has managed to keep the minutes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis under control without sacrificing wins, thanks largely to offseason additions Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder ... L.A. leads the NBA in defensive rating by a wide margin, eliminating any thoughts of a post-championship hangover in terms of effort"
- Milwaukee Bucks: "Are the Bucks dominating teams like they've done the past three seasons? No, but they're still winning games and Giannis Antetokounmpo has maintained his MVP level of play. So far, the trade for Jrue Holiday has largely paid off ... he's been a perfect complement for Giannis and Khris Middleton on the other end of the floor."
You can find all the grades right here.
📝 Odds & Ends
- The entire Vegas Golden Knights coaching staff is in COVID-19 protocol, so their GM had to coach the team last night
- J.T. Realmuto has re-signed with the Phillies and Marcus Semien has signed with the Blue Jays
- Caris LeVert underwent surgery to treat kidney cancer and will be out indefinitely
📺 What to watch today
🏒 Blackhawks vs. Predators, 7:30 p.m. | NSH -175 | TV: NBCSN
🏀 Lakers vs. 76ers, 7:30 p.m. | PHI +2 | TV: ESPN
📝 Top scores from last night
John Wall dropped 24 points against his former team.
💵 Winning wagers: HOU -3.5, Under (234)
Austin Reaves scored 23 points and made two big free throws with 18.3 seconds left
💵 Winning wagers: OU +142, Over (143.5)
Max Pacioretty had a hat trick and Jordan Binnington made 42 saves.
💵 Winning wagers: STL +128, Over (5.5)
Now that "The Office" is off of Netflix, is there any series on Netflix that you'd recommend we watch or a series that you've been intrigued by? -Alex
Anything but "The Queen's Gambit" (I have grown to hate that show simply because of how many people tell me I "have" to watch it. Don't tell me how to live my life!) In all seriousness, I was a little late on this train, but I recently finished "You" and I really, really enjoyed both seasons. I've also been cruising through episodes of "Somebody Feed Phil," which is an incredibly easy and delightful watch for anyone who enjoys food/travel shows.
Also, I watched "In & Of Itself" on Hulu this week and I really, really enjoyed it. It's a unique experience that's tough to do justice in words, but essentially it's a documentary about a magic show that tells a story and reminds us to be better to ourselves and others. Highly recommend checking that out.
Who do you think won the Laine-for-Dubois trade, Winnipeg or Columbus? - Rhutsal
I don't think the trade did much for either team in an immediate sense, so it was a bit of a confusing deal. That being said, Laine and Dubois are both highly skilled stars that really wanted a change of scenery, so maybe the fresh start helps them both. But I think Winnipeg might come away as a bigger winner here because they've been searching for center depth for some time and now they finally have it. I'm not sure how thrilled Laine will be in Columbus playing for John Tortorella and without a top center. I wouldn't be that stunned if he didn't stick around beyond this year.
I saw you're on the TB12 diet. What has been the most surprising food that you realized that you can't eat without consuming sugar? -David
Granola. I thought I was being a good dieter by stocking up on granola and just picking at that when I feel like snacking. So much for that, because apparently it's loaded with sugar. I stink at this. Also, orange juice. Why does orange juice have so much sugar???
Would Tampa Bay be going to the Super Bowl if Tom Brady weren't their quarterback? -Liz
That's a good question, and it's one that's tough to answer. On one hand, I don't think the Buccaneers would have as impressive a roster if it weren't for Brady lifting their stock by signing there last offseason, and he's certainly still a very valuable presence on the field and in the locker room. But I also think that Brady chose the Bucs because they were already in a pretty good position to contend, and it's not like he's played all that well over the past couple of weeks.
He certainly hasn't carried them to the Super Bowl. Could another QB have done a better job and gotten them this far? Yeah, probably. But when the guy has made the Super Bowl 10 times in 20 years, it's hard to say they'd have a better chance with someone else.