Here\'s what the 2021 MLB season is going to look like

Create: 2021-02-09
Update: 2021-02-09
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Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Hey there! Happy Tuesday, friend ... hope you managed to survive yesterday's post-Super Bowl takes. We'll discuss some more leftovers from the big game here today -- including some of the key things we learned during the Super Bowl -- but we've also got some big baseball news. We're one step closer to a MLB season after the league and players association finally agreed to protocols for the 2021 campaign yesterday, so we'll go over what you need to know from that deal shortly. 
Also, it's that time of week again ... I'm asking for mailbag submissions. If you've got questions on sports, TV, movies, video games, pop culture, music, etc., feel free to hit up my inbox (pete.blackburn@cbsinteractive.com) and we'll have a fun mailbag section tomorrow morning. Get as weird as you want. If you haven't figured out by now, I cherish the weird.
OK, let's get to the good stuff.

📰 What you need to know
1. MLB, MLBPA agree to deal for 2021 season ⚾
If you woke up looking for a symbol of mercy this morning, this might do the trick: Major League Baseball and the MLB players association have come to an agreement on safety and protocol rules for the upcoming season, meaning we're just about set for a new campaign to get underway soon.
It was a bit of a bumpy road to get here, but it would seem that all the drama surrounding negotiations can be put to rest for now. So, what are the details? Here's a quick glimpse:
  • The 2021 season will look a lot like 2020, except that the plan is for a full 162 games
  • Doubleheaders will be two seven-inning games
  • Each offense will get a runner on second to start every extra inning  
  • There will be no universal designated hitter -- for now
  • Playoff field will feature five teams per league -- three division winners and two wild cards (one-game play-in between Wild Card teams)
It's still possible that the two sides could agree to add the universal DH or an expanded playoffs before the season starts but, as of right now, it looks like this deal is going to carry them into Spring Training in a few weeks. 
Maybe the ol' traditionalists will disagree, but I find it pretty disappointing that there's no universal DH in the mix this year. I'd much rather see skilled hitters take the box instead of an overmatched pitcher who will most likely lay down a bunt or wave at pitches aimlessly. It seems like the universal DH is inevitable, whether it comes this year or when the new CBA is negotiated after this season.
I get that neither side wants to give up concessions right now (especially ahead of those CBA talks), but it's just annoying for fans who are looking for the league to take a step forward. In any case, I guess we can be thankful that we're here complaining about the universal DH and not complaining over the two sides endlessly bickering and insufferably stalling negotiations once again this year. It's all about perspective.
2. Lessons we learned from Super Bowl LV 🏈
Super Bowl LV wasn't the most exciting or competitive championship game we've ever seen, but that doesn't mean that we can't learn anything from it. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The Buccaneers getting to the Super Bowl and then running away with the game helped bring some things clearer into focus.
The first crystal clear epiphany might seem rather basic and obvious: Quarterback play is pretty much everything. Pardon me for that scorching hot take -- we all know it's a quarterback's league in 2021 -- but it's hard to overlook how much better the Buccaneers got by upgrading at the QB position last last offseason and how much that played into them winning it all this year.
  • In 2019, the Buccaneers finished the regular season ranked third in both yards and points but Jameis Winston led the league in turnovers with 35 (30 INT, 5 lost fumbles)
  • Under Winston in 2019: The Bucs scored 48 offensive TDs and had a minus-13 turnover ratio ... they turned it over on 20.2 percent of their possessions (fifth-highest turnover rate in the last 15 years)
  • Under Tom Brady in 2020: The Bucs scored 58 offensive TDs and had a +8 turnover ratio ... they turned it over on 8.9 percent of their possessions (the sixth-lowest rate in the league)  
Allow our Jared Dubin to illustrate several other key lessons -- including the importance of offensive line depth, which players you should pay up for and which you should not and adaptability through the course of a season.
I think ultimately my biggest takeaway from this year's Super Bowl will be that it doesn't matter how good your quarterback is (or how good his weapons are) when he has no time to throw or get comfortable in the pocket. Of course, this is a lesson I learned in 2008 when Brady and my undefeated Patriots got pushed around by the Giants' front-seven en route to the most devastating sports loss of my lifetime.
As such, it's not a big surprise that Brady said he sympathizes for Mahomes having to play against a stack deck on Sunday.
3. How Tom Brady and LeBron James are reshaping the GOAT discussion 🏆
Yesterday we discussed the impact of ring No. 7 on Tom Brady's legacy and how it further solidified his status as the greatest to ever line up under center. We also wondered whether he'd now be considered the greatest team sports athlete of all time, perhaps elevated beyond the likes of Michael Jordan or others that are often thrown into the GOAT discussion.
With that discussion in mind, our Bill Reiter penned an interesting column yesterday that compares Brady to LeBron ... but not in the way you might think. Rather than stacking their achievements against one another, Reiter explored how Brady and LeBron have had similar paths to achieving greatness and reshaping the way we think about the GOAT discussion.
  • Reiter: "The parallels here between Brady and LeBron run deep. Both had to pass, in reality and in the mind's eye of all of us who together form the sports zeitgeist, a GOAT who had never failed in the Big One. Montana was perfect in his Super Bowls. Jordan was 6 for 6 in his NBA Finals appearances, a mark of perfection often held up as the reason LeBron can never pass him. The notion is wrong, but deeply held ... Brady has surpassed Montana with little legitimate argument ... Brady's example of durability and the mental toughness it takes to keep at this level so long make the case compellingly in favor of LeBron"
Anyone who tries to make the argument that reaching four Super Bowls and winning them all is more impressive than reaching 10 and winning seven is just silly, and I think there's a similar sentiment that can attach itself to someone who makes 10 NBA Finals and wins four versus someone who makes six and wins them all-- especially when you look at some of the teams LeBron dragged to the Finals early on, and then some of the teams he lost to later on.
Reaching/winning a title game is extremely hard, so I have a hard time discrediting someone for not having a perfect mark on the biggest stage ... especially when they've made double-digit appearances. That being said, the case of MJ vs. LeBron is still a bit more complex given the debate around super teams, ring-chasing and clutch factor. But LeBron certainly isn't done yet and there's a chance he renders some of that complexity irrelevant by the time he's ready to call it quits.
Regardless, I just hope people are able to enjoy active greatness while they can rather than expending all of their energy debating it or trying to invalidate it.
4. Multiple blue bloods are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament 🏀
With the Super Bowl in our rearview, the next big thing on the sports calendar is March Madness. As the NCAA Tournament inches closer and closer, the potential field is starting to come into focus a bit ... and there's a surprising trend this year: Blue bloods are having trouble solidifying their place in the big dance. 
In his latest Bracketology update, our Jerry Palm pointed out how some very familiar names may be missing from the field when Selection Sunday rolls around.
  • Kentucky: The Wildcats are currently 5-12 and in need of a miracle
  • North Carolina: They're the last team in in Palm's projected field of 68
  • Duke: The Blue Devils are in danger at 7-7, but there's still time if they can get hot and stay hot
  • Indiana: They're on the bubble, but Palm has them in the bracket ... for now
Palm also explores how all his "newbloods" are doing as well, so feel free to read up on that here.
📝 Odds & Ends
  • No, Jordan Spieth is not back (yet)
  • Part of the Raptors' front office is interested in trading Kyle Lowry 
  • Tom Brady apologized to Tyrann Mathieu via text after their heated confrontation in Sunday's Super Bowl
📺 What to watch tonight
🏒 Flyers vs. Capitals, 6 p.m. | WSH +105 | TV: NBCSN      
🏀 Rockets vs. Pelicans, 7:30 p.m. | NO -4.5 | TV: TNT
🏀 Celtics vs. Jazz, 10 p.m. | UTA -4.5 | TV: TNT
🥇 The best thing I saw yesterday
New Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jack Roslovic, who arrived in the Pierre Luc-Dubois trade last month, scored an incredible goal against the Carolina Hurricanes last night.
 
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