Happy Wednesday, all, and a preemptive "sorry" to all baseball fans.
Let's get right to it.
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It's not such a good morning for...
ROB MANFRED AND MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Major League Baseball and the players' association did not come to an agreement yesterday, and commissioner Rob Manfred has canceled the first two series of the 2022 regular season. It's the first time since 1995 that the league will miss games.
Owners had set a self-imposed Feb. 28 deadline before games would be canceled, but after a long day of meetings Monday, owners extended that deadline to 5 p.m. on Tuesday. When the deadline hit, MLBPA leaders unanimously rejected the last offer that came through, and Manfred announced that games will be canceled shortly thereafter.
Just weeks ago, Manfred said missing games would be "disastrous." Now disaster has struck, and Manfred is the central figure to blame, writes our MLB expert Matt Snyder:
- Snyder: "No foresight. No concerns about something bubbling under the surface with the players... Nah, just an air of condescension that anyone would dare to question his years of experience and self-assured expertise. ... Manfred had the chance to push owners instead of just being their mouthpiece. While the players made several concessions along the way... the owners didn't budge for months. It was a one-sided 'negotiation.' If Manfred is the great negotiator -- supposedly that was his biggest strength when hired by the owners -- why isn't he pushing the owners to meet more in the middle?"
Another big takeaway from this is that the Competitive Balance Tax continues to be a major issue. We went over the CBT in Monday's newsletter (and here's a full explanation), but it's basically a soft salary cap. Players want the threshold raised significantly because they want owners to 1) spend more money on rosters and 2) build winning teams. Owners -- even as revenue soars -- don't want a big increase. Here's a look at how far away the proposals are:
- MLB proposal: $220 million in 2022, increasing to $230 million by 2026
- MLBPA proposal: $238 million in 2022, increasing to $263 million by 2026
One player called MLB's proposal, "A slap in the face," and plenty of players took to Twitter to express their frustrations with Manfred, the owners and with the situation as a whole.
One last link on this: here's a deeper look at the reasons a deal wasn't reached. So... what happens next? Manfred described negotiations as "deadlocked" but not at an "impasse." With MLBPA representatives back in New York, the two sides will not engage in further negotiations until tomorrow.
Not so honorable mentions
- Jaylen Brown left last night's game against the Hawks with an ankle injury.
- Cain Velasquez has been charged with attempted murder.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE WISCONSIN BADGERS...
The banks clearly stay open late in Madison when March rolls around.
Wisconsin clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship in thrilling fashion when they knocked off No. 8 Purdue, 70-67, in an instant classic. Let's set the stage:
- With 49 seconds left, Purdue star Jaden Ivey drew the Boilermakers to within one, 65-64, with an acrobatic layup.
- With 25 seconds left, Wisconsin star Johnny Davis banked in a long, heavily contested two to extend the Badgers' lead to 67-64.
- With 10 seconds left, Ivey drilled a pull-up 3-pointer to tie things up at 67.
Wisconsin guard Chucky Hepburn then wrote his name into Wisconsin lore, pushing the ball up court, stepping back and banking in a 3-pointer with just over a second remaining. Yes, the Badgers' two biggest shots of the game banked in. No, they will not care one bit.
The Badgers are no strangers to winning nail-biters this season:
- 6-0 in games decided by one possession
- 12-1 in games decided by five or fewer points
They can clinch the outright Big Ten title with a win over Nebraska on Sunday.
... AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE VILLANOVA WILDCATS
No. 9 Providence may have snapped No. 11 Villanova's streak of Big East regular-season titles, but the Wildcats showed Tuesday that they're still right there in the conversation of best team in the conference -- if not leading that conversation altogether.
Villanova finished off a season sweep of the Friars with a 76-74 home victory and locked up the two seed in the Big East Tournament in the process. The Wildcats did all the things that will be important as March progresses:
- Four players scored in double figures, led by Caleb Daniels' game-high 20 points off the bench.
- They went 21-25 on free throws (they're the best free throw-shooting team in Division I).
- They committed just five turnovers (they have the fewest turnovers per game in the Big East).
Don't think this is a bad loss for the Friars, though. Far from it. Despite missing second-leading scorer Al Durham, they went on the road and took one of the nation's best teams down to the wire. They'll be just fine -- and hope they get a third shot at Villanova in the conference tournament.
- Other big college basketball winners last night: TCU beat No. 6 Kansas and No. 2 Arizona demolished No. 16 USC.
- Isaiah Thomas signed a 10-day contract with the Hornets.
Arians speaks on Brady return scenario; Colts noncommittal on Wentz 🏈
The NFL combine is much more than watching and meeting NFL Draft prospects. Teams also meet with player agents and talk with the media,. On Tuesday, they did plenty of talking.
One of the biggest storylines was Colts GM Chris Ballard being noncommittal on quarterback Carson Wentz. Earlier in the offseason, there was a report that Indianapolis would likely either trade or release Wentz, but Ballard said the decision-making process is still ongoing:
- Ballard: "I don't have a direct answer for you. We're working through it. Jim Irsay and (coach) Frank (Reich) and I will sit down over the next 10 days and figure out where it's going. Ultimately, we'll do what's best for the team -- for the Colts -- both in the short term and in the long term."
Wentz wasn't the only big-name QB whose name was brought up. Tom Brady retired but, if he were to return, the Buccaneers still have his rights -- and they won't just give them up. When asked if the Buccaneers would acquiesce to Brady returning and wanting to play for another team, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said, "Nope. Bad business." Arians said the asking price for Brady would be "five No. 1 [picks]."
As for other top Combine headlines:
- NFL insider Jason La Canfora's notebook has good insight on the latest with Aaron Rodgers and more.
- Jerry Jones revealed the Cowboys' offseason plans.
- The Chiefs are "likely" to franchise tag Orlando Brown.
As for the draft prospects, on-field workouts begin Thursday.
NBA Rookie Rankings: Scottie Barnes continues to impress 🏀
The Nets have seen enough of Toronto's Scottie Barnes.
The Raptors rookie scored 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in Monday's win over Brooklyn, earning the top spot in our NBA scribe Jasmyn Wimbish's weekly NBA Rookie Rankings. Then on Tuesday, Barnes had 18 points and 10 rebounds, helping Toronto complete the back-to-back sweep.
With OG Anunoby out with a finger injury, Barnes has stepped up in a major way:
- Wimbish: "It was expected that Barnes would be taking on more responsibility, specifically on the defensive side of the ball, but his outburst on offense this past week showed that he's more than willing to shoulder some of the scoring burden as well. ... Barnes' ability to put points on the board in transition, off broken plays or by crashing the offensive glass, makes him a difficult player to account for on offense."
The scouting report on Barnes coming out of Florida State was that he does it all, and he's lived up to that. He ranks in the top five among rookies in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals per game this season. Barnes has been a huge part of Toronto's surge -- 11-4 over its last 15 -- and is thoroughly deserving of the top spot over the past week.
What we're watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 Knicks at 76ers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 18 UConn at Creighton, 8:30 p.m. on FS1
🏀 LSU at No. 14 Arkansas, 9 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Trail Blazers at Suns, 10 p.m. on ESPN