Nov 15, 2019

Axios Sports

๐Ÿ‘‹ Happy Friday! I'll be on vacation in Italy for the next two weeks, so this is the last newsletter you'll receive until Monday, Dec. 2. I'll miss you! Be back soon.

Today's word count: 1,435 words (5 minutes)

1 big thing: โšพ๏ธ Labor unrest lurks as free agency begins
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Data: FanGraphs; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

"The holiday shopping season is upon us, and what better way to bring cheer than by signing a free agent." MLB teams will be looking to do just that in the coming weeks, and some of the top targets are listed above.

Yes, but: We could be in for another long, cold winter, as many of the same forces that made last year's free agency so frustratingly slow are still at play.

  • Last week, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos made some questionable comments on a conference call, saying that Atlanta "had time to connect with 27 of the clubs โ€ฆ to get a sense of what [they] are going to look to do in free agency." (He later said he misspoke.)
  • MLBPA boss Tony Clark fired back, saying that Anthopoulos' comments "call[ed] into question the integrity of the entire free-agency system. The clear description of club coordination is egregious."
  • Meanwhile, baseball's current labor agreement is set to expire after the 2021 season and a work stoppage feels imminent given the relations between the union and management.

The bottom line: "It is within this strained atmosphere that baseball's offseason talent marketplace will play out," writes WashPost's Dave Sheinen.

  • "Business will go on, with 30 teams still hoping to address various needs and dozens of players still in need of new homes by Opening Day. But the labor unrest will never be far from the surface."

P.S. ... In other baseball news, Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger were both named MVPs last night.

  • AL voting: Trout (17 first-place votes), Alex Bregman (13)
  • NL voting: Bellinger (19 first-place votes), Christian Yelich (10), Rendon (1)
2. ๐Ÿšจ Headlines this AM
James Wiseman. Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images
  • ๐Ÿˆ Kaep's workout: As of yesterday, 11 teams had committed to attend Colin Kaepernick's workout on Saturday: Browns, Broncos, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Dolphins, Falcons, Giants, Jets, Lions, Patriots, Redskins.
  • โšพ๏ธ Sign stealing: MLB's investigation into illegal sign stealing is expected to expand beyond the 2017 Astros, and the penalties could be "unlike anything seen in the sport's recent history," per ESPN.
  • ๐Ÿ€ Wiseman update: Memphis has declared potential No. 1 pick James Wiseman ineligible and will keep him out of games while it applies for his reinstatement. What a mess.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Nike Oregon Project: Multiple runners have validated Mary Cain's claims about a toxic culture under Alberto Salazar, where females' bodies were ridiculed publicly, per NYT and SI.
3. ๐Ÿˆ This weekend in football
Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and others at the 2016 Heisman ceremony. Photo: Todd van Emst/Getty Images

Saturday: No. 10 Oklahoma (-10.5) at No. 13 Baylor

  • The backdrop: In 2016, Baylor head coach Art Briles was fired amid a sexual assault scandal, and the program was in complete disarray. Three years later, the Bears are undefeated and in the thick of the playoff picture.
  • New HC Matt Rhule: "This isn't about one game. It's about the last three years of work โ€” but also the next three years of work. โ€ฆ I keep telling our young guys: Learn the lessons now. Where can you be in three years? Where can we take the program if you guys will grind through success the way the older guys grinded through adversity?" Awesome quote.
  • Earlier games: Michigan State at No. 15 Michigan (-13.5), 12pm ET; No. 4 Georgia (-3) at No. 12 Auburn, 3:30pm ET; No. 8 Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa (-3), 4pm ET.

Sunday: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (-4)

  • The intrigue: 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and 2016 Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson will face off for the first time since Oct. 1, 2016, when Watson and No. 1 Clemson beat Jackson and No. 21 Louisville, 42-36.
  • The big picture: This game isn't just a matchup between two MVP candidates and two playoff contenders โ€” it's a showcase of where the NFL could be headed. Welcome to the "new era" of mobile QBs.
  • Later games: New England Patriots (-3.5) at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25pm ET; Chicago Bears at L.A. Rams (-6.5), 8:20pm ET
4. ๐Ÿ“ธ Last night in photos
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

CLEVELAND โ€” Myles Garrett was ejected in the closing seconds of the Browns' 21-7 win over the Steelers last night after ripping the helmet off Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph and hitting him with it (video).

  • Why it matters: "Garrett committed the closest thing we've seen to an on-field crime in the modern era of pro football," writes ESPN's Kevin Seifert. "Only one response will suffice. The NFL must issue the longest suspension for a single on-field act in its history, ending Garrett's 2019 season."
  • Garrett: "What I did was foolish, and I shouldn't allow myself to slip like that."
  • Browns HC Freddie Kitchens: "I've never seen that in my life. It's not good."
Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NEWARK, N.J. โ€” Cassius Winston (21 points) and No. 3 Michigan State held off fellow preseason All-American Myles Powell (37 points) and No. 12 Seton Hall, 76-73.

  • Meanwhile, in women's hoops: Nia Clouden scored a career-high 28 point as No. 16 Michigan State took down No. 15 Notre Dame, 72-69. Quite a night for Spartans basketball.
Photo: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS โ€” Paul George finished with 33 points and nine boards in his return to the hardwood following shoulder surgery, but the Clippers fell to Jrue Holiday (36 points) and the Pelicans, 132-127, as Kawhi Leonard sat out.

  • Speaking of returns: Mavericks star Kristaps Porziล†ฤฃis was booed heavily in his first game at Madison Square Garden as a visitor, which resulted in a rare Knicks win. Final: 106-103.
5. ๐Ÿฟ Now playing: "Ford v Ferrari"
Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

"Ford v Ferrari" tells the remarkable true story of American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British-born driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), who together built a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and took on Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Go deeper: "The 24 Hours of Le Mans is auto racing's Boston Marathon, a brutal test of endurance where competitors race stunningly fast cars for 24 straight hours at speeds that can exceed 200 mph." (Car and Driver)

P.S. ... In related news, the NASCAR title race is this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The four contenders: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

6. ๐Ÿ“Š By the numbers


๐Ÿ€ 371 days

A year and six days after he last suited up in the NBA, 16-year veteran and 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony has signed a contract with the reeling Trail Blazers. Could Portland be the place where Melo rewrites his final chapter?

๐ŸŸ 273 sellouts

Notre Dame's streak of 273 consecutive home sellouts is expected to end on Saturday when the No. 16 Fighting Irish host No. 23 Navy. It was the second-longest streak in college football history, behind Nebraska's still-active run of 373.

๐Ÿ’ 6 weeks

Penguins star Sidney Crosby underwent surgery for a core muscle injury yesterday and will miss at least six weeks. Go deeper on the science of sports hernias to see what he's dealing with.

7. Nov. 15, 1960: ๐Ÿ€ Elgin drops 71
Elgin Baylor after scoring 71 points. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

59 years ago today, Lakers star Elgin Baylor scored a then NBA record 71 points in a 123-108 win over the Knicks.

  • By the numbers: Playing on a court with no three-point line, Baylor scored 71 points (28-48 FG, 15-18 FT), grabbed 25 rebounds and recorded one assist in 45 minutes (box score).

The big picture: In the history of the NBA, only six players have scored at least 70 points in a game.

  • Wilt Chamberlain (six times: 100, 78, 73, 73, 72, 70)
  • Kobe Bryant (81)
  • David Thompson (73)
  • David Robinson (71)
  • Elgin Baylor (71)
  • Devin Booker (70)

Go deeper: Baylor's best career highlights (YouTube)

8. The Ocho: ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Hurling comes to America

Tipperary and Kilkenny during a match in Dublin in August. Photo: Piaras ร“ Mรญdheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The 2,000-year-old Irish sport of hurling comes to Queens, N.Y. this weekend for the first-ever New York Hurling Classic at Citi Field (Saturday, 12:30pm ET).

Details: The three-game competition will pit 11-man squads from four Irish counties: Limerick, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Wexford. It's a friendly, so it's not official (regular games feature 15-man sides and longer periods).

How it works: Players use curved wooden sticks called "hurls" to hit a leather ball called a "sliotar." The object is to get the sliotar into the other team's goal or over the crossbar to score points.

  • Players can carry the sliotar for three steps, then they have to hit it or bounce it on the hurl as they run around. Tackling is allowed.

Go deeper: Here are the last few minutes of the 2014 All-Ireland Final between Kilkenny and Tipperary. Non-stop action. Crowd going nuts. Hurling rules.

9. โšพ๏ธ MLB trivia

At 28 years old, Mike Trout is the second-youngest player to win three MVP awards.

  • Question: Who is the youngest?
  • Hint: He spent his entire career with the same team, with whom he won three World Series titles (1942, 1944, 1946).

Answer at the bottom.

10. ๐Ÿ’ฌ Feedback

Hey, it's me. How are you liking the newsletter? What's your favorite part? Where can I improve? Got an idea for a new section?

Reply to this email with your thoughts. I'll be spending some time on vacation thinking about how to make Axios Sports even better, so your feedback is huge.

Talk in December,

Kendall "Arrivederci" Baker

Trivia answer: Cardinals legend Stan Musial (won his third MVP at age 27)