The Cleveland MLB team lands new name; Nelson Cruz is dealt; and a Saints' star is out indefinitely

The Friday afternoon edition of "Six things to know before 6 PM" is here

Sorry for the delayed post (now going live at around 4:30 PM EST on this Friday in July), but I was watching the 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony this morning live, and had to do an errand that took multiple hours. Anyways - lots to get to on a surprisingly sports-heavy and busy Friday - as we now have a new name for the Cleveland MLB team from next season-onwards; a big MLB trade involving a former Baltimore Oriole; a star NFL wide receiver now undergoing surgery, just a week-plus before training camp begins; and an MLB first-half MVP on a major second half slump.

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1) Breaking MLB News: The Cleveland Indians have a new nickname starting in 2022!

We have the new nickname for Major League Baseball’s Cleveland team, set for 2022-onwards! This Ohio team will be known as the Cleveland Guardians. At first glance, this name sounds very… vanilla/generic, and does not seem to inspire any uniqueness about the city itself. Also, the nickname does seem kind of rushed, given that we got the news of a potential name change just this past December, and that the last five letters (‘-dians’) is identical to the current nickname (‘Indians’).

Regardless - it’s a wait-and-see approach for this name, as this story broke at 9 AM EST this morning, and the news is just trickling out. I do not mind the new name, but when I went to Cleveland two weeks ago and think about that name now, I do not know how the two (‘Cleveland’ and ‘Guardians’) fit together.

But for those curious as to the origin and how it joins with the city of Cleveland, here’s what Cleveland native (and fellow r/baseball Redditor) u/slyfox1908 said about the name:

“For other non-Clevelanders - Cleveland has landmark bridge connecting the east and west sides of town bedecked with giant Art Deco statues called the “Guardians of Traffic.” The bridge happens to end at Progressive Field. So the ‘Guardians’ have kept watch over the park for years.”

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2) Nelson Cruz… to the Rays!

The proverbial baseball’s ‘Hot Stove’ is heating up! That is when big-name players are being dealt closer to next week’s trade deadline. And boy, did the Tampa Bay Rays (the reigning American League champion) make a big splash! Normally, this AL East team is a ‘seller’ (a terrible team trading away their star players for prospects); but because of their recent success that has continued to this season, they are instead ‘buyers’ (a playoff-caliber team acquiring star player(s) for top minor league players).

The Rays received former Baltimore Oriole, 41-year old outfielder Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins for the Twins’ minor league players Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman (ranked by MLB.com as the #10 and #17-best prospects). This is a great deal for both sides, as the Rays add a lethal batter to their already-stacked, young lineup, while the Twins, who have fallen to 41-56 and are, at this point, far from playoff contention, sell-off their star veterans as they look to regroup and rebuild for the future seasons.

3) NFL issues statement - teams must forfeit games and players’ salaries if there is a Covid outbreak within a team; un-vaccinated players vent on social media

Yesterday morning, the NFL issued a warning to all NFL teams - that should the Covid issues escalate to such a degree that a team cannot follow-through with enough healthy players for that week’s game (and cannot reschedule), that team is forced to forfeit the game and both teams forfeit their salaries for that week.

This rule was made so that the NFL cannot and should not create a ‘nineteenth week’ of the regular season; as is, we are already getting an eighteenth week this coming NFL season. This new rule would not have impacted last season, but there were opportunities when a possible eighteenth week might have been enforced. This statement, of course, has NFL players (who are not vaccinated) up in arms, as this rule feels like they are being pressured into getting a vaccine that they do not want (based on their so-called ‘Facebook research’. Just look at Arizona Cardinals’ star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ since-deleted tweet that he posted yesterday:

A terrible take that was made worse when he replied to star Los Angeles Rams’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey as to why Hopkins will not take a free vaccine, saying essentially that his sister’s brother had health and heart complications after receiving the Covid vaccine - that Tweet reply also was deleted by Hopkins.

And, Hopkins is not the only player to feel this way, as we still have about 30-40% of the Washington Football Team not vaccinated yet - I bet a majority of them believe not getting the vaccine is a ‘personal decision’, with similar numbers with several other teams lagging behind in teams receiving the Covid vaccine.

NFL teams are not holding back and siding with the players, however, as I learned earlier today, as a Minnesota Vikings’ assistant coach was fired from the team after he refused to take the Covid vaccine; from an ESPN article this morning:

“After refusing to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, Rick Dennison is out as a Minnesota Vikings assistant coach, sources told ESPN on Friday.

Dennison, who had served as the Vikings' offensive line coach/run game coordinator the past two seasons, is believed to be the first NFL position coach to leave his team after choosing not to receive a vaccine.”

He’s not the only assistant coach fired due to Covid vaccine reasons today, as the New England Patriots parted ways with co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich:

This is a hot-button topic, and not the last time you will hear about the Covid vaccine with NFL coaches and/or players.

4) Saints’ wide receiver Michael Thomas out several months after surgery; will miss start of season

This is a huge blow for the New Orleans Saints, who were expecting their star wide receiver in Michael Thomas to be ready for the regular season after his season-long ankle injury setbacks a year ago. Just look at who the Saints lost last season, and who they expect to be without at the start of this season, including Thomas:

So, no Drew Brees (retirement), Emmanuel Sanders (signed with the Buffalo Bills), Jared Cook (Los Angeles Chargers) and now Thomas. Several key weapons gone, and only young and several unproven prospects to replace these offensive skill players. For the Saints, they will look for 4th year wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith to be the team’s #1 receiver, with second-year wideout Marquez Callaway to step up as the team’s #2 receiver. Another young player whose spotlight got brighter is second-year tight end Adam Trautman, who will look to be the Saints’ top TE (and possibly the top non-Alvin Kamara Saints’ target overall).

As for the fantasy football implications?

4a) The fantasy football fallout of Michael Thomas missing the first several months due to July’s off-season foot surgery

The impact is felt across the team, as this surgery would mean that Thomas would miss the first four or so months, starting today. He would be back around November, and by then, we would be already two-thirds done with the fantasy season. That means Michael Thomas goes from a sleeper in the late second to third rounds (in a standard 10-team league) to almost undraftable. And, that puts immense pressure on tailback Alvin Kamara to produce right out the gate. Kamara is already going in the top-5, but if I were drafting, I would have second thoughts on taking Kamara and instead drafting the likes of Ezekiel Elliott or Nick Chubb at around the same pick, given with the new quarterback (either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston) and younger, more inexperienced receivers around him. This Thomas injury means that players like Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway and Adam Trautman go from undraftable to possible late-round (like last few picks in the draft) sleepers.

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5) So much for retirement, Mercedes!

Remember the story that I ran yesterday, about how rookie Chicago White Sox catcher Yermin Mercedes decided to call it quits and step aside from baseball, as he was recently demoted two months ago? Well… so much for that, as he was in the starting lineup for the Triple-A minor league Charlotte Knights last night.

This is the perfect gif to describe Mercedes’ situation:

6) Remember how Soto has been red-hot since the All-Star Break? Ohtani has been ice-old at the plate since the Break

Well… so much for that blistering 34 home run start as we closed in on the All-Star Break; following the four days off, the Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani has been the exact opposite of hot - he has gone 4-24, with only 1 HR, 4 RBI and 14 strikeouts in the six games following the All-Star Break. Ohtani has been pressing, as well as pitchers giving him difficult pitches to swing at, causing him to try and force himself into impossible hits (and more swing-and-misses). Hopefully he will rebound soon (as most MLB players do after a slump like this).

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We are done with another edition of my Snippets on this July Friday afternoon. Enjoy the taped viewing of the Opening Ceremony in Japan at 7:30 PM EST on NBC tonight! I watched it this morning, and highly recommend you do the same as well. So, until next time, signing off.