Aaron Rodgers opens up about Packers drama | Lakers get even with Suns

Hi everybody! It’s Gabe back with another newsletter on this fine Wednesday morning. 

As a Ravens fan, hearing that Marquise “Hollywood” Brown would be wearing No. 5 this season with the league allowing skill position players to wear single-digits tore me up a bit inside. Joe Flacco is currently the best quarterback the franchise has ever had, and even though the dip in form after winning Super Bowl XLVII resulted in a lot of forgettable years, it felt weird that the team would be willing to give away his number like that. 

But after being on the fence for a bit, the Ravens posted photos of Brown wearing his new number for this upcoming season, and I immediately became a fan of how clean No. 5 looked on the young wideout. This kicks off my question for the day: what’s a sports-related aesthetic you’ve changed your mind on? For example, did you hate the cartoonish Raptors logo on the Toronto jersey when it came out in the 1990s, but grew to love it later on? Let me know on Twitter.

Anyways, let’s keep the football theme going as we dive right into today’s top stories.

📰 What you need to know

1. Aaron Rodgers drama grows and grows 🏈

The question of whether Aaron Rodgers will stay or go away from the Green Bay Packers has grown particularly interesting over the past day or so. First came the notable ESPN interview on Monday where he was directly asked if he demanded a trade this offseason.

  • Rodgers: “With my situation, look, it’s never been about the draft pick, picking Jordan [Love]. I love Jordan, he’s a great kid. A lot of fun to work together. I love the coaching staff, love my teammates, love the fan base in Green Bay. It’s been an incredible 16 years.”

The reigning MVP notably did not mention the front office with his compliments, but he also noted that the rift between himself and the organization was “put in motion last year.” Rodgers continued by appearing to insinuate that the Packers were tearing apart the foundation of the franchise’s culture, which is something he took exception to.

Then came Tuesday, where it was reported that five of Green Bay’s top receivers followed in the footsteps of Rodgers, and skipped out on OTAs. Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess and Equanimeous St. Brown were all no-shows at the start of this week’s voluntary program.

Rodgers’ future at Lambeau might be up in the air, but what isn’t uncertain is that notable players seem to be on the side of the team’s star quarterback in the rift between him and the front office. As OTAs turn into practices and practice turns into the preseason, this will only get spicier before the drama dies down.

2. Lakers take one back from Suns; Nets, Mavs go up 2-0 🏀

Getty Images

Now it’s time for our daily NBA postseason roundup, where we’ll be starting with the Los Angeles Lakers making up for the stinker they put up in Game 1 with a pretty solid victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. Lakers fans can at least be content with the fact that they’re now in the win column, which is more than some postseason teams can say (more on that later), but some of that camp, along with Suns fans as a whole, will be more focused on Chris Paul.

Here’s Brad Botkin on the situation.

  • Botkin: But Chris Paul is the story.

    Or should I say, Chris Paul’s shoulder is the story. They’re calling it a contusion, but it doesn’t really matter what you call it. What matters is Paul is basically playing with one arm. He looked a smidge more right-hand capable on Tuesday than he did after the injury in Game 1, when he could hardly keep control of the ball, but not by much. He took just five shots. Scored six points. Played just 23 minutes. Paul is one of the best clutch players in the world, and Monty Williams couldn’t even afford to have him in the game to close the fourth quarter. 

As Botkin notes, the Lakers, to their credit, did play stellar defense in a game that felt pretty urgent, even if it was only Game 2 of the series. But some of their success can be attributed to the Point God himself being unable to play meaningful minutes in the game. It’s also the latest in a string of bad luck for Paul in terms postseason injuries. The injury bug most famously bit him in the 2018 Western Conference Finals with Houston, and if the impact is even a fraction of what happened with the Rockets then, Phoenix should be gravely concerned.

Of course, even if Paul wasn’t hampered, the odds were with the Lakers the whole way. Since he joined Los Angeles, LeBron has led the team to a 6-0 record following a playoff loss. He’s quite the motivator.

Elsewhere, the Nets and Mavericks went up 2-0 in their respective series on Wednesday. The Nets’ position was a bit more expected given that they have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden in their starting lineup — not to say the Celtics aren’t talented, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can only do so much. The Mavericks, however, are a bit more eye-opening given that the Clippers seemed to drop games towards the end of the season to get this specific, and purportedly favorable, matchup. Now, the little brother franchise of Los Angeles has to complete a climb only six percent of teams in their situation have done, come back from a 2-0 hole.

3. Quarter-season MLB grades ⚾

Yesterday, you were treated to Matt Snyder’s current power rankings of baseball teams. Today, you’re getting a similar treat but with the bigger picture in mind. Our trusty baseball scribe went ahead and gave out grades to each and every MLB team as the season has passed the first quarter. 

For the full list of grades, and to find out which teams got A’s and which were given F’s, click the link above — the teams are listed in alphabetical order by city. Here’s a sneak preview of some of the more notable grades given in the column.

  • Dodgers: “They had a stretch of miserable baseball where they lost 15 times in 20 games. Other than that, though, they are 24-3. There have been some key injuries and several players aren’t playing up to their capability. And yet, they have one of the best records in baseball. How do we square them playing like an A+ for 27 games and playing like an F for 20? That’s tough, right? Grade: B” 
  • White Sox: “The White Sox had to deal with losing Eloy Jiménez nearly immediately before the start of the season and recently lost Luis Robert for most of the rest of the season. They’ve dealt with early bullpen meltdowns and some mistakes from the dugout while Tony La Russa shakes off the rust. Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel haven’t been good. However, Carlos Rodón, Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease have been great for the rotation while Yermín Mercedes has been a revelation for the lineup. There have been issues, yes, but overall this has been very good. Grade: B+
  • Yankees: “It’s the Yankees, so the expectations were always going to be high. This team was picked by many to win the AL East and even the AL pennant. As such, it’s a bit disappointing they aren’t in first place, I guess. Since a 5-10 start they’ve gone 23-9 and that’s the best record in baseball in that stretch. The offense is capable of better, notably in the power department where they are slugging a paltry .381. The pitching has been exceptional, though, and the trajectory here suggests the upside of a pennant is there. Grade: B+

4. Rays winning streak ends against the Royals ⚾

The second-longest winning streak of this season ended on Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Rays dropped one against the Kansas City Royals, 2-1. Before the loss, they were on an 11-game heater which was the second-longest in franchise history.

The one consolation for the team in defeat is that Rich Hill looked like an absolute stud on the mound. As R.J. Anderson noted in his write-up of the loss, Hill generated 18 whiffs on 34 swings against his fastball, which topped out at just over 91 mph, according to Statcast. As a whole, Hill got batters to whiff 27 times on the 55 times they tried to swing at his pitches.

The 11-game win streak served as a signifier to some that the roster-cutting, salary-dumping and starter-trading style that the Rays have partaken in was, in fact, worth it as even with all of that going on, they have still been able to put together not just a competitive team, but a team that looked downright unbeatable for some time. 

The Rays streak ended three games shy of the franchise record of 14-straight wins, which came in 2004, and two short of the 2021 MLB-best of 13 straight, which the Oakland A’s pulled off in April. To add insult to the injury of the loss to Rays fans, a report released Tuesday revealed that principal owner Stuart Sternberg was trying to sell off the team in 2014 to Montreal without informing minority investors, resulting in a lawsuit from those minority owners. So let that knowledge hang over your head as people try to make this team out to be a feel-good story.

📝 Odds & Ends

📺 What to watch tonight

🏒 Islanders vs. Penguins | NYI -300 | 6:30 p.m. ET

🏀 Sixers vs. Wizards | PHI -355 | 7:00 p.m. ET

🏒 Wild vs. Golden Knights | MIN -220 | 9:00 p.m. ET 

Best thing I saw on the internet 🏅

New Era released a line of MLB caps called the “Home Market” series. These gaudy hats were filled with a bunch of local signifiers representing the team they were meant to belong to, which included area codes, famous landmarks, and even state shapes. People roasted the designs on Twitter so much that they were taken down after being on sale for just a few hours.

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